Happy Easter

Sunday 31 March 2013

How has Easter been for you all so far? I've managed to avoid too many chocolate eggs, but I did make a chocolate fudge cheesecake (from the current issue of Super Food Ideas if any of you fellow Australians have it) which was so sweet my teeth are still aching!  I have to share a photo because for once my baking didn't go wrong and in fact turned out perfect - my cheesecake didn't crack, sink in the middle, burn on the edges or generally turn into a mess!

Anna's been a bit cranky with me lately because I've been making dress after dress for myself and none for her - every day when I pick her up from daycare she asks me if I had made something special for her and when I say no there's a bit of foot stamping and crankiness let me tell you! So I decided to whip out a simple dress for her, and even let her pick some fabric out last time I was in Spotlight.  Unfortunately she picked out a polycotton that is such poor quality that after prewashing it already felt rough and pilled, and a little bit faded which is annoying but given she'll no doubt grow out of this in millisecond I decided just to make it quickly to keep her quiet (ie to stop the whinging so I could go back to sewing for me!).

I used New Look 6960 which now seems to be out of print, which is a pity because it is a lovely dress that is easy to sew, with a couple of variations and is drafted with sleeves which is important because her daycare has a no sleeveless clothes rule as part of their sunsense policy.  I've made this pattern before and knew that it would fit her because as usual I was sewing when she wasn't available (usually I sew when she's sleeping or at daycare) and I didn't want repeat of the last badly fitting dress I made for her.  She wore this to daycare during the week for their Easter Hat parade, although this year she didn't want a hat at all, just some bunny ears much to my disappointment.  Nor would she behave and let me get a decent photo either!   

Just for you Sandra I included a photo of our front fence (and overgrown lawn).  At the first Sydney social sewists meet up Sandra mentioned that whenever she saw a white picket fence she's reminded of my house which has appeared only a few times on this blog, which is very sweet!

And now back to sewing for myself.  Thankfully it's a public holiday tomorrow because otherwise I would be back at work - yes my child free and work free time has come to an end.  It's Toby's first birthday on Friday, this year has just flown by.....

Shirtdress love: Vintage Simplicity 6155

Thursday 28 March 2013
I've been wanting to make a shirt dress for quite some time, in fact since I bought this lovely blue floral fabric from The Fabric Shop last November at our first Sydney social sewist meetup:

Shirt dresses are great because they can go from very casual to smart casual with just a change in shoes and accessories, and are a great solution for when you are breastfeeding and still want to wear a dress (not that Toby is nursing very often during the day anymore - he's more a midnight snacker).  I have quite a few shirt dress patterns in my stash from various eras and with slight design variations, but I picked out a vintage Simplicity pattern #6155 from 1974 because I like the a-line shape of the skirt and the button band down the front:

I even cut out the paper pattern and had the pattern pinned to the fabric, but didn't progress any further because I was so consumed with my Burda sewing and everything else I've made in the last three or so months.  Before I knew it summer was over and I've started thinking about winter clothes so I almost unpinned the pattern and put it away.  But we've had some crazily hot days lately, and then I spied the lovely shirt dresses velosewer has been making (here and here) and decided that I should use my last week of child and work free days to make one last summer dress.  So glad I did, because I think this dress is really lovely and worth the effort.

Check out the gloriously 1970s wide collar:

And I even made a matching fabric belt using this special iron on interfacing and a self covering buckle, both which came from an op shop:


That interfacing made making the belt itself so quick and easy, if I ever see any of this stuff in a shop again I will buy several metres because it's really useful.  The belt is necessary because without it the dress is rather shapeless and frumpy:

The fabric is a lovely soft lightweight cotton voile, with a narrow woven stripe running through it as well.  It was a bit transparent though, so I lined the dress with a light grey cotton poplin which I also had in the stash.  Looking at these photos I can see that a fraction of the hem is peeking out especially on my left side so I'll need to fix the hem - thank god for blog photos!

I had to use a few brain cells about how to best attach the lining, but thankfully Maria had posted a picture of the inside of one her shirt dresses so I could see the best way to do it was to attach the lining to the dress at the sleeves, neck and front opening and treat it as one (ie underlining), but leave it hanging loose on the side seams and hem.  The inside looks like this:

No fancy bound or French seams inside my dresses I'm afraid! This method worked well on this pattern because the facing/button band are sewn on as a separate piece which gave me an easy spot to join the lining and dress fabrics together, as well as around the shoulder seam.

I also lengthened the sleeves to be three-quarter length because I like the extra coverage for sun protection (plus hiding my tuckshop arms is a good thing) but also because I think it's a ladylike length that really suits this pretty dress.  The sleeves are unlined though, so it shouldn't be too hot to wear it.

And now funnily enough the weather forecast is for a cool Easter weekend and rain next week, so I've probably tempted fate by churning out another summery dress!

Jumping on the Bloglovin' train

Monday 25 March 2013
Well it seems my post on spam has hit a note with many of you and we're all suffering from those pointless and annoying comments.  I did consider not allowing anonymous comments, but I decided not to because I do often get valuable comments from legitimate readers who post as anonymous (usually with their name in the comments) because they don't have a blog or a google account.  I will look into alternatives, but for now unfortunately Captcha it is.

In another piece of housekeeping I've signed up to bloglovin' so you can follow my blog that way if you like.  I'd been dragging my feet hoping that Google would reconsider, but after an email from the lovely Ruth in Alaska who wanted to know what I was planning I decided to jump on the bandwagon with a lot of other people and have chosen bloglovin' as the alternative to Google Reader.

And I'm also on Pinterest if you'd like to follow me and my random, eclectic pins. Don't worry though, I can't be bothered with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram or all those other media platforms - I think this blog is more than enough of my thoughts!  I do love Pinterest though, so many good ideas but so little time.  It's where I saw this beautiful painting by the artist Kathryn Trotter, and discovered she has a whole range of fashion inspired pieces - I can see a home for one or two of these in my future sewing room.

Dancing in the Rain 2 by Kathryn Trotter via pinterest

blog housekeeping

Wednesday 20 March 2013
My apologies to everyone who had to see those horrible explicit spam comments in the last few posts - normally I get nonsensical but benign spam comments that I remove eventually but I really should have acted faster to get rid of those disgusting comments. 

Actually I have been getting inundated with the anonymous spam comments to the point where I can't really keep up with removing them so unfortunately I've had to reinstate word verification to leave comments.  I know that the word verification is sometimes difficult to read and can be painful to use, but please don't let that put you off commenting - I appreciate every comment and love the two way conversations starting to develop here on my blog.

And since I don't like to post without some eyecandy, here's an inspiring thought to brighten your Tuesday:

March Burda of the Month: 3-2013-#110

Monday 18 March 2013
Thank God it's Monday! I know, it's not usual to sing the praises of a Monday but for me Monday is a daycare day so I finally get a few hours of peace and quiet, plus my husband is finally home from his boys weekend away.  We had an unusually busy weekend too, which made it doubly hard since it was just me ferrying the kids instead of hiding out at home.  I did have a nice dinner out at the fancy schmancy Doyles at Watsons Bay on Saturday night with some friends (and the kids), which was made all the better when out of the blue a lovely lady came over to our table to say hello and that she loved reading my blog.  Hi Suzanna - it was great to meet you and my dining companions were suitably impressed at my fame!

So, my March Burda project.  Both wearable and finished in the actual month of March.  Actually I finished sewing it about 2 weeks ago now, but only sewed on the trim last week after deliberating for quite a while on what colour ribbon to go with.  In the end I was heavily influenced by the colours chosen by Burda, what can I say sometimes I'm a sheep.  Baa! I decided to make the ribbon dress, 03/2013 #110, which is only a simple a-line skirt dress with a wide scooped neck bodice but I think the ribbon detailing lifts out of the ordinary:

From deep within the stash I found a lovely fabric that I've been waiting a long time for the right fabric: a rather heavy textured cotton in a colour that is somewhere between peacock blue and teal blue.  I was planning on using some navy blue grosgrain ribbon for the trim but I could not find any in the skinny widths in several fabric stores I went to so I chose to go with a silvery-brown colour instead (officially colour is platinum) just like Burda did.

There's not much to be said about the dress itself, being just a simple fitted bodice and gently flared a-line skirt, but I like the angled darts which are a little different to the usual.  At first I wasn't going to add the ribbon trim thinking it would be more versatile just to add a belt but the dress looked a little blah without so I went with the pattern as designed.

Although, looking at these photos I think I may have sewn the ribbon on too high - it would probably look best starting beneath the bust point, not on or above it as I seem to have done.

I made a size 34 for the bodice, grading out to a size 36 for the hips and I am pleased with the fit.  I don't know if my swayback has disappeared after giving birth to Toby the giant baby (can that happen?) but I am finding that the dresses I've been making lately fit the small of my back really well without needing a sway back adjustment. 

I did have to put some darts in the back neckline though because it was gaping a little, something I would have discovered if I had made a muslin first but as usual I didn't bother.  It doesn't look too bad though, and from what I've seen a lot of vintage dress patterns have darts in that spot anyway.

The main annoyance for me came from sewing on the grosgrain ribbon - it puckered the neckline and made it jut out because it was sitting flat before I sewed it on.  But now I realise that's because I used grosgrain ribbon instead of petersham, I think petersham ribbon can be steamed into shape better and probably would sit flatter.  I might sew some bra clips into the shoulder seams though to make sure my bra straps don't slip out because the necklines is very wide, but not low cut unusually for Burda.

I still have quite a bit of this fabric left over and I'm fighting the urge to make a matching jacket.  I'm trying to break out of my matchy matchy ways and try new combinations, but I've been watching Season 5 of Mad Men and am loving the sharp 60s suits so it is tempting to make something like this:

image from www.slate.com here

Necessary, but boring sewing

Friday 15 March 2013
As much as I don't want to spend my precious child free days doing something boring like cleaning, there's no denying how much can get done when there aren't little people around wanting attention or worse, undoing what you've already done.  But with us planning to sell our house later this year it must be done, so I've decided to dedicate one day a week to clean a room each week.  Ah the joys of being a grown up with responsibilities!

A few weeks ago I decided to organise the bathroom, which I've only just finished because I sort of flagged halfway through and really had to force myself to go on.  It's unbelievable how much clutter can accumulate in such a small bathroom.  I threw out two large garbage bags of empty and nearly empty bottles of toiletries, old and well past it cosmetics and moved some less than fluffy towels into the laundry for dog washing duties. A trip to Ikea and Howards Storage World for some little boxes and containers and a frenzied session with my label maker has mostly corralled all of the bits and pieces in there.  I also managed to incorporate some sewing into the bathroom declutter, although it's just pretty boring but useful.

When we bought our house 10 long years ago now, the bathroom was original meaning it was about 50 years old with the only work done on it comprising a toilet squeezed in sometime in the past to replace the outdoor loo.  It was teeny tiny, literally the length of a bathtub, there was no storage and it looked dirty all the time no matter how much I cleaned it.  And it was all shades of green, with a lovely view of a fence and our neighbour's house through a poky window:

We rearranged some bedroom doors that were adjacent to the bathroom door in a foyer area so we could use the foyer area to make the bathroom bigger, and then we totally gutted the bathroom to come up with this:

One of the best things we did was to build a huge linen cupboard which you can see in the photo above (so that we had enough room to accumulate all that clutter of course!).  My husband built a slide out rack to hang some laundry bags from in the bottom half of the cupboard, all that was needed was for me to sew some laundry bags.  We did that bathroom renovation in 2005 or 2006, and I'm ashamed to admit that I only just sewed those laundry bags today.  I have no reasonable excuse or explanation, just pure procrastination mixed with laziness!  It seriously took me only a couple of hours to make these so I don't know why I didn't make them earlier.

Before: big jumbled mess with mounds of washing, a foot spa and some bath toys shoved in there out of sight.

After: well organised and pretty space, but still the same mounds of washing though!

still haven't removed the price tag stickers off those doors yet either!

They are literally just some square bags sewn from some bleached calico which I happened to have in the stash, and I used iron on transfer paper to put those 'light' and 'dark' labels on the front.  I used some snaps on the tabs that wrap around the pull out timber frame so that I can take the full bag from the bathroom and out to the laundry on wash day (which these days seems like it's every day).

Anna is so interested in the new laundry bags that she is actually going hunting through the house for dirty laundry to put in them, although she does have to check with me on each item which side to put it in.  Her dad is still pretty bad at putting his washing in the correct bag (seriously how hard is it to tell what is light or dark), so I shouldn't be too hard on Anna I guess!

Checking my calendar today I'm quite dismayed to see I only have two weeks before I'm back at work. Time certainly flies when you're having fun, especially so when you're trying to cram lots of things in each day.  Plus my husband has been travelling a bit for work lately so I've been doing some solo parenting which is hugely time consuming not to mention tiring.  He's off this weekend to the F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne for a boys weekend away (well more than that - Thursday to Monday) so I'm planning on getting plenty of me time next weekend to make up for it!

Sewing on a whim: New Look 6968

Monday 11 March 2013
So all this talk of fabric stashes, and whether we'll use them in our lifetimes, whether we have the space for them, whether we find them overwhelming and so on has overlooked one of the best things about having a large and varied fabric collection: the ability to sew something on a whim without the need to go out to the fabric store.

I have finished sewing my March Burda project but I am trying to find the right trim to finish it, so it's still clogging up my sewing to do list.  But last week when I was cleaning up the fabric shelves a bright pink and yellow ikat print cotton sateen jumped out and literally landed at my feet.  Since we also had a night out with some of my husband's work colleagues at a Mexican restaurant in the city on Friday night it seemed like the perfect reason to sew up a dress that was very much not on my to do list just because.  Luckily I keep a number of invisible zips in basic colours in the stash too, so  I was able to whip this dress out very quickly.  I used New Look 6968, which I've made twice before (here and here) and is very much one of my favourite patterns because it fits my pear shape and sway back wonderfully with very minimal pattern alterations:

I did try to avoid the dreaded "headlight" effect that occurs on certain prints, but even though I made sure to place the point of the bust darts in the dark pink coloured area, I still ended up with two of the circular patterns front and centre, albeit a little lower than where the girls actually are:

Oh well, I can certainly live with it because as you've all said before no one should be looking in that so closely anyway, plus it's likely only us sewists would notice such a thing anyway.  You can see from the side view how closely the dress hugs the hollow of my lower back:

I chose to line only the bodice with a white cotton voile to avoid having to use facings at the neckline, because the fabric is thick enough not to require a skirt lining. Even though the skirt is not too tightly fitted, the skirt has a centred vent which looks neat and gives enough walking space:

Clearly I didn't pay enough attention to pattern matching at the back, but the print is so busy that it's not that noticeable that it's slightly off.

Admittedly this fabric was not a long term stash resident - I bought it in October last year from Spotlight during one of their frequent sales but it was handy having it in the stash because in the space of half a day I had a new dress to wear out.  At dinner  quite a few people remarked on my dress which is always a good sign of a winner, so I can guarantee that you'll see this dress again sometime in the future.

And now on to finishing my March Burda project.  I went to Spotlight this morning because they are having a 30% off storewide sale and didn't buy any fabrics at all but I did get some interfacing, some threads and zippers, several trims and a trolley bag for my sewing machine in readiness for the next ASG sewing day.

More stash loving

Wednesday 6 March 2013
from Pinterest of course!
I am so pleased that (most of) you love your stashes, big or small, and I happily accept your admiration for mine! Although I'm sorry Lesley S for destroying that nice image in your head of my neat fabric stash, hopefully I can get back to that state soon.

Actually all of your comments have given me a new perspective, I no longer think of my fabrics as a stash or a hoard but rather as a collection and essential tools of my trade.  As Stephanie said, it's not like we can sew without fabrics.  And now that I've been clearing out the less lovely pieces it's become a carefully curated collection, only containing those pieces I love (clearly I have a large capacity for love ha haha).  But unlike the stamp collector who'll never post a letter with them, or the wine collector who'll never drink a bottle or even the vintage toy collector that will never play with the toys I do actually plan to one day, piece by piece, use as much of my collection as I can.

And the final word on the collection goes to Paola (who has recently started her very own sewing blog La Sartora), who so wisely said that it's better to spend your money on the things that make you happy.

Jane at BallesBazaar - we're planning to sell our house in spring this year (6 short months eek!) so that we can build a new house for my husband's parents to live with us.  They are both getting quite elderly and need more care than we can give them since they live so far away.  Plus my husband is the first born son of Chinese parents, so it's sort of expected.  I really like my inlaws so I don't mind the planned living arrangement, and I've already told my husband that a large sewing studio for me is non negotiable, so whilst I'll be temporarily packing up the stash while we build it will be totally worth it in the long term.

As to the cataloguing of my collection I'm afraid I have no impressive tip to share.  I'm going the very low tech route of using an excel spreadsheet with photos inserted into the row, listing the width, length, fabric type and cost/place of purchase if I can remember it.  I did think about using the FabricStashXL app to record it all, but I have read mixed reviews about it's functionality on the iPad so for now I'm sticking with good old excel, especially since over the years I have kept a few scattered records in excel that I'm going to amalgamate.  Plus with excel I could in theory, if I wanted to, calculate exactly how much fabric I have (do I want to know exactly though?).

Far - the fabrics on the bolts are mostly bought from The Remnant Warehouse, a fabric shop here in Sydney that sells fabric by the roll for quite reasonable prices, especially on their two for one Tuesdays.  I also ask at the fabric stores for any empty tubes they don't want so I can use them for storage of slippery fabrics or really long lengths of fabrics, and I've quite often found bolts of fabrics from opshops too.

I'm in the midst of sewing a dress from the fabric I bought at the first Sydney social sewists meet up last year but had to pause while I searched for and and then prewashed some grey lining material.  Perfect timing to clean up the grey shelf, which looked like this before:

And now looks like this:

Hmmm, you all know how much I love my grey fabrics so there's no surprise that this shelf is still pretty full after a clean out.  But at least it's neat and tidy once more.

The Great Stash cover up

Monday 4 March 2013
So, remember a few posts back I said I love my fabric stash and that I had no intentions of curbing my fabric purchasing while there are still so many lovely fabrics out there? Well, that is still true but even I have to admit that my fabric stash is a bit out of control and whole lot messy at the moment.  I'm still going through my whole house having a major declutter and clear out before our intended house sale later this year, so it's only fair that my sewing room, and my fabric stash in particular gets some attention.

Once upon a time, my stash used to be on the smallish side.  Back in 2007 before I had kids and my sewing room was in what is now Toby's bedroom, the closet in that bedroom used to house most of my stash, scraps and projects in progress:

Shamefully most of those projects hanging up in the right hand side of the top photo are still languishing in my UFO box.... And this photo was taken back when my sewing patterns fitted into only one chest of drawers - now I'm busting out of two of them!  If you're interested, this post has the info on how I store my pattern collection.

And then in 2010 when we finished renovations and additions to our house I got my very own sewing room, by which time my stash had exploded thanks to inheriting my grandma's stash, lots of opshopping and garage sales, as well as a lot of fabric shopping in general.  At that time it was very neatly organised on open Ikea shelves like this (originally posted here):

Don't worry, I did hang curtains on that window straight after setting up these shelves.  But look how neat those piles are! And how much space there is on each shelf still!

Fast forward a few years to the present and I have added a little bit more to the stash, and it has become extremely messy from rummaging and pulling fabrics out of those piles for use (a good thing right?!):

To shield my eyes from such a mess, to reduce shock to non sewing visitors to my sewing room and to protect my stash from the sunlight I pulled some fabric out of the stash (how apt!) and using bulldog clips at the top of the shelf posts I hung the fabric across like a curtain:

Much prettier, except for those rolls of fabric standing upright in the corner and all the stuff on top of the shelves.  This is just some Ikea fabric I bought a few years ago to make some bedroom curtains but my husband didn't like the pink skeleton bird print so it has sat in the stash until now.

I've also decided to go through my fabric stash, UFO box and refashioning pile, one shelf at a time to weed out fabrics that are lovely but not something I'll ever sew something from, or just plain awful and shouldn't be sewn into anything, not even muslins of which I make relatively few anyway. I decided to apply this philosophy of William Morris as a rule to judging fabrics in my stash, as well as to any future purchases:

lovely print available to purchase from A Two Pipe Problem
Starting with the purple shelf, I weeded out fabrics that were cheap and nasty and should never have been produced in the first place, let alone be sewn into a garment.  I have been given a lot of fabrics from people, as well as inheriting stash from my grandma which is where a lot of those fabrics came from, but I am guilty of buying fabrics because they were cheap (either new or from opshops/garage sales).  I also pulled out fabrics that are lovely but I just can't picture them in a garment or they just aren't me.  These fabrics I'm going to bundle up and donate to the Fabric Cave to help with their fantastic fundraising activities.

The purple shelf before:

The fabrics that are on their way out:

And the purple shelf after:

A small start I know, but a start nonetheless! I have also started to photograph, measure and catalogue the fabrics I'm going to keep so I know what I have when the stash goes into storage at my parents house later this year when we sell our house.  This is taking ages but I just love fondling fabric so it's not an unpleasant task.

So for all of you that are overwhelmed by your stash, I hope this has eased your worries a little - I totally don't mind if you compare your stash to mine and feel better about yours.  For those of you with a stash of a similar size (I'm thinking about you Carolyn and Katie in particular!) I'm sure you're nodding along in recognition of a fellow fabric tragic.  And for anyone who is going to leave a snarky comment, which I have received in the past, I've been sewing for about 16 years so that's a long time to be collecting fabric, I've never spent money on fabric that I couldn't afford and my fabric stash makes me happy so that alone is worth it!

Is anyone else game enough to reveal their stash?