Monday, 28 February 2011

A lovely winter LBD

Here is a dress that I made and love, despite its imperfections - the fabric is such a cosy, gorgeous heavy wool, the pattern is rather good, and the dress feels so nice on!

I finished this late last night and was unable to get a decent photo of it on me with the camera timer. Then today dawned sultry and overcast, tending to showers, and my kids (6 and 3 - is mastery of low-light photography too much to ask of them?) were also struggling to get a decent photo.  By the time my partner was home it was just a bit late (but thanks for offering in advance yesterday).

Thank goodness for a dressmaker's dummy (with stand). 

The pattern used: Vogue DKNY 1194, initially made up in a straight 14 with the only changes being omission of centre back seams (ie I cut on the fold instead) and not twisting the waist band in the front.  The size 14 turned out to be pretty big on me - I should have read all the pattern fitting discussions and pattern reviews over at pattern review first. The above pictures show how the dress looked after I tried to address my fitting problems.

My fitting problems were generally common ones for this pattern, ie the neckline was too low -  rectified by re-sewing the centre bodice seam to end an inch higher - and the whole bodice was too wide - so I took in about 1cm on each side seam, tapering in from the upper arm seams down to the upper opening of in-seam pockets. My third fitting problem was that the back bodice was too wide, especially at the neckline (perhaps exacerbated by the weight of the wool). This made the shoulders slip off and made the v-neck at the front become a wider V than it should have been. To fix this I added a strange invented dart, widest at the neckline (taking about 3 inches out at the neckline) and tapering to nothing at waistband. I only sewed this with basting stitches as I am not sure this is the best solution - if anyone has a wise suggestion here please let me know, but it does now seem to fit my narrow shoulders and for what it's worth, my partner says it looks fine from behind.

note the photosynthesis experiment on selected camellia leaves

cranky-face returns for the self-timer...
I am not really as cranky as I look in photos - promise, cross my heart. 

Me Made March starts tomorrow, and I am not feeling ready. I think it's time to review my wardrobe rail and hit the iron!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Blue Linen Skirt

I said I was going to "make a start on a couple more knee-length skirts, and ... see if there's anything useful in my UFO pile".  Well, ever the optimist when it comes to sewing!

Here's what I made: a blue linen skirt:

The fabric has been sitting in my stash for so many years that it even survived years of no sewing. As a consequence I have no idea where it's from. It seems to be a linen but quite a heavy one, and one that's very hard to iron, so apologies for the crushed look but I did have two attempts at ironing this, and even used lots of spray starch.   

I didn't use a pattern for the skirt but basically it's like my poppy skirt but with a waistband added and deeper pleats.

I think this fits me better than the poppy skirt but doesn't hang as nicely :-(  in the front.  

Anyway it's very comfortable and it's unlined, so should be useful when the weather is hot and the dress code informal.

I did also manage to dig about in my UFO collection. There were some surprises there - some projects that will take very little time to complete! Doesn't mean I'll get to them though.

And then there was this 1/2 made jacket:

Now theoretically this jacket, being of the same fabric, could go with the skirt above - and then there would be a (casual) suit. But honestly - just look at it!

This was one of the first sewing projects I embarked on when I started sewing again.  It's pattern 115 from Burda magazine 2/2009, which is usually sent to Australia by rowboat, so I would probably have started this in about June 2009 or later.  The shoulders look particularly amateurish even with shoulder pads in, but the collar is also shocking and I think I cut the sleeves too short (they're supposed to be 3/4 length).  I'd love to tell you I'll be fixing this up pronto but it's low on my priority list as I'm pretty sure it would be a lot of effort.

Next post I hope to be able to show you another skirt or a dress; I have some nice new silk twill that's all washed and ironed and ready to go.  No promises though as I am also way overdue on a knight's costume and a 3-year old's dress.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Commitment - March 2011

I've made the pledge over on Zoe's blog to participate in Me-Made-March this year. 

I, Gabrielle from, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-March '11.  I endeavour to wear one handmade piece of clothing or accessory for the duration of March 2011.

To be really honest, I should have lots of "me made" clothes that I could wear... but every day??? Commitment is hard.

I decided to check what I had and whether it would really be enough for 1 homemade garment per day for 31 consecutive days, the bulk of them work days.  Everything needs an iron , but this is what I found:

4 long sleeve knit t-shirts (1 has shrunk, 1 needs a side seam repair):

5 casual t-shirts, and 1 sleeveless t-shirt (only 3 t-shirts are photographed as 1 is missing, 1 is badly stained, and the sleeveless t-shirt is in the wash):

about 12 other tops (includes a couple suitable only for unpopular beaches or pulling weeds or something):


about 10 dresses (2 not photographed), mostly for casual wear, and 2 of them are incredibly ugly on me:


6 skirts (1 too tight, 2 borderline too tight, 2 too loose, and the other makes me look like a ball on legs),
1 pair of trousers and 1 probably too small jacket, and 1 handbag (not photographed):

It looks like enough, with some double-ups, but I think homemade skirts that fit will be a challenge. This weekend I'll try to work on that problem - I want to make a start on a couple more knee-length skirts, and I'm going to see if there's anything useful in my UFO pile. The other problem may be dressing nicely enough for work 5 days a week...  I guess if it all gets too hard I can carry my handmade handbag, can't I!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Black Linen Dress (Vogue 1025)

Please excuse my horrendous after-midnight photos, but here's the dress I'm talking about:


I started this dress in November I think, but of course the pattern has been around for years.

I thought this dress looked practical for sticky summer work days, so despite my whinging about the recent heatwave, in a way I hope we get some more warm weather out of summer.

The details: my version is made from black linen, with black lining. I started with a size 12, which fitted me around the shoulders, and did a dodgy grading up job as required around waist and hips. I added to the length midway down the skirt (in fact I don't think I needed the extra length), but left the high waist where it was and sewed a 1/2 belt and vintage fastening to the front waist. Otherwise I think I followed the patern instructions to the letter.

Since it's so hard to take photos of a black dress in the middle of the night, I tried the dress on my dear dummy (still sans post). I hope you can make these out but if they just look like black geometric shapes let me know and I'll have another go at taking photos within the daylight hours.

That funny little second hand belt buckle is my favourite detail!  I handstitched the underside of the upper edge of the grosgrain ribbon to the dress so it wouldn't sag or move out of place. 

This dress is not a dazzler, but I'm happy with my sewing work (if not my ironing) and the dress even looks presentable on the inside.  And it's always good to have another option to wear to work, especially one that fits - and especially with Me-Made-March approaching!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Cushion Therapy...

What with the record heat wave and then a really long flu (which I still have) I just haven't been able to get into sewing for a while.  Even immersing myself in my fabric and pattern stashes didn't work!

Enter "cushion therapy": the cunning use of near-instant gratification sewing to switch motivation back on.

First of all I felt obliged to make at least part of my dad's birthday present, especially seeing as I never made him the bag I promised him last year (he eventually bought one).  To make this cushion cover I used a small (1/2 metre) piece of designer home dec fabric seen at No Chintz but bought (cheaper) at Material World.  Dad liked the colours...

... then I made a couple of reversible "night and day" cushion covers for my son. These are made using two medium weight cottons from Kokka:  "Hello my friend - flight at night"; and "Hello my friend - flight in the day".  I bought this fabric  online from earthgirl fabrics and it's cuter in real life than in a photo.  These are a hit, and one of them was getting a nice cuddle tonight at bedtime.

Finally I whipped up a couple of "story" cushion covers for my daughter - that's Rapunzel in pink, and the Owl and the Pussycat in blue.  These Heather Ross "Far, Far Away" series fabrics - a linen/cotton blend with natural tones - again came from earthgirl fabrics.  If you're in Australia the postage is free and the delivery is super fast. Again, a hit!  My daughter has replaced her regular pillow with two new little cushions.

I don't know about you, but I do seem to need to make t-shirts, cushion covers etc to recharge between more complex sewing projects. Happily by the time I'd finished five cushion covers I was itching to sew something more interesting, and I'm now back on track and actively finishing V1025.

Before I go, here's a close-up showing the grosgrain belt with vintage fastening that I'm adding to the front of V1025 - I hope to be able to show you the whole dress within the next few days.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tailored Boy's Shorts from Patrones Ninos

Here are some black linen tailored shorts I've just finished for my son - too late for the heatwave, but who could sew when it was so hot for so long?

Perfect for jumping in, apparently!

The pattern is number 13 from Patrones Ninos 288, made in a size 6 width and size 8 length.

I can't read Spanish and the pattern instructions (as you can see above) looked brief, so I didn't bother trying to translate but just looked at existing RTW shorts and followed David Coffin's general approach to trouser making and his details for making a proper fly (and I did better this time around than for my trousers :-)). The only conscious change I made was to add pleats in the front to narrow the waist for my string bean -  otherwise I think my shorts look pretty much like the pattern.  There was one pattern piece left over at the end (a rectangular piece that isn't a waistband or pocket flap - left of the shorts in the pic below).  I suppose it wasn't essential...

The fabric is a lightweight black linen from Tessuti fabrics, left over from a UFO dress started a few months ago. 

It's hard to see what the shorts look like when they're jumping about, so here they are laid flat:

front view
back view

velcro closing pockets
adjustable waistband

I don't tend to make too many clothes for my son so am glad to have made him something that was a bit more effort than a t-shirt.  The waist is adjustable so I'm hoping these will fit for the rest of this summer and next.

see ya later alligator!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Will this cool me down? The winter version of V8486

Apologies for the quiet period - I think I got a bit run down and didn't have energy for much sewing for a few weeks. I'm at home today with a very irritating flu, and it has been so disgustingly humid and hot here (35 - 40 C, which is to say 95 - 106 F) that just about the only thing that's fun is cold water: beach or pool, sprinkler or hose. Or someone else's air conditioned home :-).

Maybe this sticky heat can be better endured if I think of winter.  I mentioned in that post about my intended Christmas Day dress that I'd also made the pattern up earlier in the year as a winter knit. There are no pics of me wearing this dress, and there is absolutely no way I will put it in this stinking heat, so maybe this is the right time to unveil my new assistant:

front view
inside out front view
how I'd wear it in winter - layered, perhaps also with a long-sleeve black t underneath

This stripey knit is a rather transparent material that I found lurking behind more recent rolls of fabric in Tessuti Fabric's York St, Sydney store.  The dress turned out to be too see-through so after the fact I cut a slip from grey lining fabric, on the bias, to line up with the facings I'd already sewn.  It took a bit of hand basting to get the bias-cut lining and and straight-cut facings matched up and hanging properly, but thankfully I'd given myself generous seam allowances.

My new assistant is this helpful figure:

My mum went to a friend's house for lunch recently and spied the Sew Easy box outside her friend's front door. Her friend said she was chucking it out! Amazingly it's the right size for me (well, as good as I could have hoped for, although my partner Stu noted that it doesn't have a stomach paunch - compliments, compliments, that's what I'm hearing). I'm finding it such a treat to be able to hang a muslin in the dress form and play with the fit - so much easier than sticking pins into myself.  Unfortunately the stick had been separated from box but it's been found and will be coming in a few weeks.

BRRRRRRRRRR am I cold yet? I can't wait for this heat to break!
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