Happy Halloween

Wednesday 31 October 2012
Celebrating Halloween isn't really a big thing here in Australia.  Growing up on a steady diet of American sitcoms and movies, I was insanely jealous that kids got to dress up, roam the streets at night and get bucketloads of lollies.  My dad is a Type 1 insulin dependent diabetic, so the only lollies in our house were for emergencies and not for us kids - probably why I have such a sweet tooth now!

Retailers here are trying their best to get us into the Halloween tradition, but each year the predictable laments start about the Americanisation of our culture, which is quite funny given that Halloween is based on a pagan tradition from ye olde Europe.  Anna is too young to go trick or treating so it's not something I have to take a stand on just yet, but when her daycare decided to have a spooky dress up day I started to think up some cool costume ideas - Wednesday Addams, Pippi Longstocking or the like but Anna was pretty set on being a plain old witch.  Sure I could've gone and bought an outfit so plasticky it might spontaneously combust, but as an overachieving crafty mum I was loving the opportunity to make something instead.

And I just happened to have a costume pattern purchased not long after Anna was born just waiting for the day when I could start making dress up costumes:

Because it's pretty hot here, I made her witchy dress from a lightweight cotton voile and polyester organza both out of the stash, with short sleeves and a mid calf length so she wouldn't trip over:

Accessorised with a store bought hat she pilfered from her aunt (saved me messing around with boning and fabric to make a pointy hat), and some cardboard buckles she looks quite cute, if understated.  My favourite bit are the red stripey socks and black pointy shoes:

It seems the witchcraft community has undergone the feminist revolution too, and the broom has been left at home with the other cleaning implements.  The modern witch gets about town these days on a zooming scooter:

Little brother wasn't to be left out either.  I was given a Tigger outfit as a gift that so far has been too big, but is perfect for a Halloween dress up:

And the best bit about this diversion is that it's given me more time to think about what fabric to use for the cowl neck dress.  You all gave me so many good reasons to go in many directions that I'm still mulling over the comments - thanks everyone, I knew you'd all have some good ideas.  I just didn't realise there'd be so many good ideas. 

Sydney sewists meet up

Tuesday 30 October 2012
The lovely Christy over at Little Betty (how can she not be lovely with a name like that, even if it starts with a 'Ch'!) suggested a meet up of sewing obsessives here in Sydney sometime soon.  I am all for that, not having any real life friends who are into sewing nearly as much as I am, it will be great to fondle fabric and natter away about sewing with like minded people.

So if you're from Sydney, near Sydney or even just happen to be in Sydney in November please join us on Saturday November 24.  The plan is to meet at Tessuti's in Surry Hills at 12.30pm, then onto The Fabric Store and finishing up for a coffee/drink somewhere nearby.

It's going to be a little weird meeting people for the first time when you already know so much about them from their blog, but I'm sure that just means we'll all feel like old friends that much quicker. 

And now I'll have to find something to wear.  You know how we all comment that no one else would notice some little flaw that we pick out in our made garments - well this will be a group of people who will notice, not least because they read your blog where you point them out ha ha ha!

Finally, to all of you in the USA who are in the path of post-tropical hurricane Sandy my thoughts are with you and your families.  Stay safe everyone, and look after your sewing stashes!

I'll leave you with a photo of my two little hurricanes, on the gorgeous quilts made for them from the very generous and thoughtful Jean who blogs over at Sewing Along Life's Seams. Thank you Jean - these quilts are beautiful and I assure you very well loved!

Opinions please

Friday 26 October 2012
I know that none of you are shy in coming forward with your learned opinions, so I'm putting this out there seeking some advice.

For my October Burda challenge I'm making the cowl necked dress, #118A:

I was very, very tempted to make this dress in a soft grey colour fabric like the magazine picture, because I do have more than enough grey fabric to choose from.  But I'm still trying to embrace colour wherever possible, and I found in my stash this lovely soft and drapey teal cotton with a multi-coloured plaid woven pattern. 

However I was a bit concerned about matching the plaid at the side seams, and in fact how the dress would fit if I changed how the pattern would be cut out.  You can see from the pattern layout diagram that the cowl part of the front bodice is cut on the straight grain, meaning that the majority of the dress would be cut on the bias:

I wanted to cut out my fabric with the main part of the dress on the straight grain, and just the cowl on the bias so that I could pattern match at the side seams.  So I decided to make a muslin to test it out.  Yes, another muslin! I'm slowly coming around to the benefits of making them, although I still hate the time it takes.  But I suppose it's also a good way of getting rid of some less than lovely fabric from the stash too.  Unfortunately I didn't have any other plaid in the stash, so for this muslin I picked an ugly stripe cotton fabric that has similar weight to the fabric I want to use.

Since this is just a muslin that won't be elevated to wearable muslin like the previous dress, I haven't hemmed this, sewn on the sleeves or attached the back neckline facing so just ignore the somewhat unfinished state of this dress.

burda 10/2012 #118

burda 10/2012 #118

The good news: I love this dress.  It's so flattering and looks lovely with those gathers at the side.  Changing the direction I cut the dress out didn't seem to cause any problems at all. The only change I made to the pattern is to grade out from a size 36 at the bust to a size 40 at the waist and a size 42 at the hips, yet look at that lovely fit at the back.  I didn't make any swayback adjustment, nor did I deepen the vertical darts and yet it fits wonderfully.  Maybe giving birth to a ginormous baby has altered my body in a good way as well as ruining in it other ways!

burda 10/2012 #118

The bad news though is that I'm not too sure about the way the fabric curves to the side at the cowl neckline - would this look a little wrong or messy in a plaid? I was thinking I might need to use a solid or a non directional print, but after looking at this photo I'm rather liking the way the stripes curve to the side at the top.

So here's my question to you all: would you use the plaid, a solid or perhaps a print instead?  On the Russian Burda site, there are several of these dresses in solid colours, and one in a brocade style print which looks really striking, so now I'm quite undecided and need your help!

Burda of the month: 9/2012 #109.....sort of

Tuesday 23 October 2012
My latest Burda project has finished up quite different to the pattern, but I did trace out and use the pattern so it still counts for my Burda challenge, right?!  And the funny thing is that I actually made a muslin because I knew a lot of changes would be required to the pattern, but I liked the muslin version so much that I ended up finishing it properly and not bothering to go on and make the dress from the fabric I intended.

Ok so first up, the September issue - I love love love this one! So many good patterns that I will definitely be using next year when our weather cools down (one of the disadvantages of being in the opposite season) or when (if?) my waistline finally gets back to pre-baby measurements.  Like these gorgeous dresses:

or these funky tops:

The pattern I selected, #109, is a very simple shift dress with minimal shaping, just two curved darts on the front:

burda 9/2012 #109

The reason I picked this pattern is because I really wanted to use that funky striped ponti knit I bought a little while ago from Spotlight, and I thought that this pattern would pose minimal interruption to the stripes and would also look casual in a funky kind of way.   

The problem however with this pattern is that I don't particular like shapeless shift style dresses - as a pear shape such a style emphasises my wide hips and obscures my waistline so I really don't know what I was thinking!  I knew I'd need a sway back adjustment to get a nice fit in the back so I decided to make a muslin first which was a good move because now my fabulous fabric is still sitting there waiting for the right pattern but I've also ended up with a dress I like, a real win win situation.

I pulled out a mysterious double knit fabric from deep within the stash, which I think may have come from my grandma's stash that I inherited because I don't recall buying it.  Since my grandma seemed to favour plasticky polyester type fabrics I didn't realise until I was sewing and pressing this fabric that it is actually a nice ponti style knit that presses really well and drapes quite nicely.  And here's my finished version:

burda 9/2012 #109

burda 9/2012 #109

My version is sleeveless partly because I didn't have enough fabric to make the three quarter sleeves, but mostly because it was only after I had sewed it up that I realised this dress was a keeper, and then I discovered that the sleeves are actually sewn on in two pieces (the cap sleeve) or with a split in the middle of the cap, and are sewn onto the front and back separately, and then joined with one seam from the neckline, through the shoulder and down into the sleeve.  I was just too lazy to undo the neck facing and shoulder seams to sew the sleeves in, so sleeveless it remained!

These photos make the dress look a lot looser around the midsection and neckline than it is in real life, but I think that it's because this is a clingy knit which I didn't line.  But look at this awesome fit at the back, and pretty ok fit in the front:

burda 9/2012 #109

I did make a swayback adjustment to the pattern of about 4cm before I cut out the fabric, which helped reduce fabric pooling I usually get in my lower back.  But to get that close fit I also put in two vertical darts parallel to the zipper, and I also had to put in small darts at the back neckline because it was gaping a bit.  The back looks a little messy, but I can live with it since it fits well now:

burda 9/2012 #109

I also ended up shaving quite a bit from the sides so that dress is a closer fit to my waist and hips and not the straight line of the original shift pattern.  And what I've ended up with is a nicely fitting sheath dress that has a graceful a-line skirt that falls in nice folds thanks to the drapiness of the fabric - all good but not the loose fitting shift dress of the original pattern though!

I know that the dress, despite being well fitted and in a glorious deep blue colour, is a little boring as it is.  I toyed with the idea of piping or contrasting top stitching, but instead I had a dress up session while Toby was having a sleep and decided that any one of my numerous scarves, or a colourful belt + shoe combo, or my absolute favourite asymmetrical cropped jacket (from Veronika Maine many seasons ago) jazz the dress up enough to leave it as it is:

burda 9/2012 #109

burda 9/2012#109

So about the pattern itself - it's super easy to sew, and is even the illustrated sewing lesson in the magazine if you're a beginner and need some assistance.  If you like this style of dress then this pattern is pretty good.  But since I don't particularly like the trapeze/swing shape of a shift dress I doubt I'll make this pattern again, although I did note down all the changes I made so I could use this pattern as a fitted sheath dress again in the future I suppose!

Oh and check out how big my little wombat is - he just turned 6 months and is growing at a rapid rate!

Not your usual wedding dress.....

Thursday 18 October 2012
Lizzie asked in the comments to the last post whether I'd ever blogged about my wedding dress that I made.  Well I did - it was actually my second ever post on this little blog, way back on 12 February 2008! It's funny you should ask, because not only was it our 7th wedding anniversary just two weeks ago but I also had my wedding photos out (still in the box not in an album!) because I had a coupon for greatly reduced canvases so I thought after all this time it would be nice to have one of them on the wall!

But I'm happy to oblige and repost some pics since you asked so nicely ha ha ha! And whilst we didn't have a wildly unusual or bizarre wedding, I didn't wear a standard white dress with bouquet in a church either.  We had a civil ceremony in the beautiful Chinese Gardens in Darling Harbour here in Sydney, followed up with a thirteen course banquet in a very fancy Chinese restaurant on Sydney Harbour.

Because spring in Sydney can be very hot (and indeed it was an extremely hot day), I decided to make a knee length dress in a traditional red colour:

I used McCalls 9395 (now OOP), with no modifications other than to lengthen the sleeves.  When I tell people that I made my wedding dress they think that I'm a highly skilled couturier until I tell them that the dress was just a very simple sheath dress with a mandarin collar! And the dress I wore was actually meant to be a practice version - it's made from a polyester brocade that I bought in Spotlight and it turned out so well that instead of remaking the dress it in a nicer silk brocade I just left it at that.  So my wedding dress cost me about $20 in the end!

I also chose not to carry a bouquet for the simple reason that I thought it be too much effort carrying around a heavy bunch of flowers all day! My bridesmaids and I made wrist corsages which were much easier to wear.

Speaking of the bridesmaids I also made their dresses from the same McCalls pattern, in a lilac brocade they selected from an Asian fabric store out in Cabramatta, which is fabric store mecca here in Sydney. I had to make the frog closures for their dresses from some silver cord because I couldn't find any to match the gold ones on my dress, but I think I did a pretty good job on making them.

Of course we had to have the obligatory Sydney Opera House shot:

And the reason why my husband is sitting in most of our wedding photos? 'Cos I'm a dwarf even in the highest heels compared to him!

Simple summer dresses

Tuesday 16 October 2012
Wow, thanks everyone for the many and lovely comments on the dress in the last post.  You know you're on a winner when even the lurkers are lured out of lurkedom to comment! I'm a notorious lurker too, usually because I'm blog surfing whilst holding a baby in one arm and swiping my ipad with the other - not conducive to typing meaningful comments I'm afraid....

Sophie Miriam asked which patterns I was referring that are similar to that one but I think are easier to sew (ie a one piece bodice with darts).  Well there are loads actually since it's really just a fitted bodice with a full skirt.  Burda magazine has had quite a few over the years, and in fact in the very next issue there is dress #116 which is very similar to the one I made, sure it has princess seams and not a once piece bodice but that is still easier than sewing in those bodice insets:

photo from paunnet.blogspot.com
Simplicity has a Project Runway Pattern (#2444) which has some interesting darts and a few variations:

Simplicity also has a Cynthia Rowley pattern (#2215) which has a button front but is still pretty much the same style:

New Look 6143 has sleeve variations and a sweetheart neckline option:

Butterick has a lovely reissued vintage pattern (#5748):

McCalls has an off the shoulder version (#6462) which interestingly is designed for moderate stretched knits:

Vogue 8766 has a number of full skirt, slim skirt, strapless, long sleeve, three quarter sleeve or straps which almost makes the usually very expensive Vogue patterns really good value in this case:

From my own stash I've made vintage Simplicity 4930 in a turquoise striped cotton version (blogged here):

and vintage Simplicity 3918 which I made in a graphic black, white and red print which won a competition over on Sew Retro a while ago (blogged about here):

and one of my favourites, Butterick 3076 (now OOP) which I've made three times in a polka dot cotton, a pink floral cotton, black cotton lace and a pale yellow cotton (blogged about here):

Thanks Sophie for asking, because now I've discovered that Cynthia Rowley pattern which would be perfect for me being a button front and nursing friendly.  Yes Katharine it was brave (or silly) of me to make a non nursing friendly dress when I hope to continue b/feeding Toby for another 6 months or so, but I've been wearing this out and about on short trips only so it hasn't been a problem so far.  Soon though I'll be able to retire the 'girls' and wear clothes without a second thought!