Sunday, 29 December 2013

Top 5 of 2013: Workhorses and Show Ponies

And now for the hits - hooray!

I'm pretty sure Gillian* said we could bend the rules... so I'm going to split the hits into two groups. Work horses and show ponies - two lots of hits!

* speaking of whom, can anyone tell me how to comment on her Tumblr blog? 

Let's meet the workhorses:

Workhorses are garments that got heaps of wear - they're comfortable and practical.

1. Stretchy

Surprise, surprise; stretch jersey dresses are comfortable and easy to fit. And they don't generally need ironing (except prior to blog posts), which is fabulous when you accidentally sleep in and then have a mad rush to get the kids to school and yourself to work - no time for ironing!

I had lots of stretch dresses in high rotation this year, but the absolute hit of the bunch was the Poppies and Tulips Dress.

The Poppies and Tulips Dress was a bit tight when I first wore it (these pics), but I lost a few kgs soon after - and then the fit was much better. I would have worn this dress regardless though as I just love the print to bits. So good to be able to make a unique dress!  

2. Drama

I wish I had better photos of this jacket - I wore it pretty much constantly over winter. It fits really well, and the dramatic collar and lovely shaping elevate a plain outfit into something dressy. When I'd just made it, I didn't think I was going to wear this jacket much - the wool was a bit itchy on my neck, and it was such a huge collar - but it turned out to be the perfect weight for a Sydney winter, the mild itch factor wasn't a problem with a scarf, and hey, I like dramatic clothes.

3. Vintage

The surprise workhorse of the year was this vintage dress - not only a vintage pattern (V8811), but also a quilting fabric!! Perhaps an unusually good quality quilting fabric though? 

To the Gallery has a lovely long swishy skirt which catches whatever small breeze is around, and it's about as dressy as I want to be on a hot day. 

4. Cotton

I think my picks this year are being prejudiced by recent memory. It's summer here of couse, and the Starry, Starry Gabby dress is a very summer-friendly flared shape - plus I love being able to walk around wearing this amazing fabric!

4. Classic

Every wardrobe needs one of these! Actually I've worn this Kirsten Kimono t-shirt so much I should have cloned it - maybe every wardrobe needs two? Although I tried to re-make the top in several other fabrics, none came close to this one...

And now, the show ponies:
Show ponies look good but only get taken out for special occasions.

1. and 2. Fitted

This year I made a few fitted sheath-style dresses, and most of them get a lot of wear (perfect office attire!). However, there are two standouts: the Out of Darkness dress, which I love so much that I prefer to be the one who gets to see it rather than being seen IN it, if you know what I mean:

And my latest - a stripey Brasilia dress - probably the best fitting of the bunch! I can't wear the dress to work yet because I like it too much, so that makes it a show pony! [Do you make clothes you like so much you can't bear to wear them?]

3. Class

This cape-jacket makes me feel uncommonly classy and well-dressed. Perhaps too well-dressed for my job though...

I'm so proud of my plaid-matching - it was a big effort, but I matched horizontally AND vertically, and the plaid aligns just about everywhere I wanted it to.

4. Dressups 

This year I made my daughter the costume of her dreams, a personalised Princess Aurora dress. Although both the final dress and the hand-decorated muslin have several outings, my daughter is so proud of these dresses and her input into their making that they aren't being thrashed and mistreated the way regular costumes are.

This is probably the first time I've managed (or tried?) to turn a drawing into a dress - so satisfying! I suspect drafting dress details for a child's dress is a lot simpler than doing the same for an adult, but maybe I'll have a go at the adult stuff in 2014.

5. BodyCon 

My Cosy Dress didn't get too many wears - too bodycon for everyday - BUT when I did wear it out one evening, several friends separately asked me if I could make them one! That's never happened to me before.. so either it's a great dress or someone hadn't told me it was be-nice-to-Gabrielle-day.

Phew - lots of hits! Do you have a favourite?

If I can come up with anything, I'll post my Top 5 reflections, inspirations and/ or goals in the next few days - and I also have to tell you all about a lovely Christmas ornament exchange soon.

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Top 5 or so of 2013 - the Misses

I'm taking part in Gillian's 2013 "Top 5" for sewing bloggers link up. It's a great opportunity to review your sewing year - hits, misses, reflections, inspirations and goals - and frankly it's also going to help me avoid sewing a bag!

Let's start with the misses - much more clearcut than the hits (as I'll explain in a separate post).

I seem to have 4 categories of sewing fails:

1. Who am I?

If the Dot Fits (polka dot pussy bow top)

Nice top, but just not my style. I wanted to like it, but when I wore it to work it felt like I was dressed up as someone else!   I probably need to donate it, but I'm not yet ready.

Colourful Sarong Dress

Oops. I haven't worn this since making it - although it might seem good for the beach, it's not really the sort of thing I wear to the beach. Or anywhere. It looks better on that I'd remembered, so I might try to give this dress another chance when the summer heatwave returns.

2. Nigel no-friends jackets

Lil' Black Jacket

And this, on the other hand, is a make that I really like, but that I can't seem to place with the rest of my wardrobe. When I made it I thought it was going to fit in brilliantly, but it never seems to go with the things I want to wear it with. Maybe I need to sew something to help it out!!

Unreasonably Unseasonal: Summer Jacket

And I like this one too! This one goes nicely with a couple of dresses that remain a bit tight... which means it too never gets a wear. Very annoying! Do I need to start planning my sewing to get outfits that work together???

3. Franken-error

My Yellow Dress is Just All Wrong

I made this dress by mashing up a couple of patterns - modern and vintage - and made a bit of a mess of it. It was initially too small, then I added some narrow strips of fabric (yes, how amateur) to widen it. Now it's too big and I haven't worn it. I absolutely adore the fabric - even though it's a bit heavy for the dress - so I'm keeping it in case my weight goes up dramatically (which has been known to happen - my personal best is 10kg gained in 10 days. Thank you thyroid. )

4. Just. Plain. Boring. 

Denim + Stripes

God this is a boring outfit - so dowdy, so bulky - yuk! I tried to wear the top a couple of times but it's just too big for me, so I gave it to my mum who has much bigger shoulders than me. The skirt is sitting in the 'refashion' pile in my sewing room awaiting lots of work. Maybe I should just donate it - there could be someone out that it works on :)

The errors have been observed, I hope I can learn from them!


I'm sure this will be my last post before Christmas, so I just wanted to finish up by wishing you all a terrific Christmas or holiday. Have a lovely day, and remember to leave out a treat for Santa!

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Unintended Tote

I've cut out a Moss mini, I've measured up for Burda pants, and I've crafted some extremely simple Christmas ornaments for Kelli's Christmas ornament exchange (I'm not much chop as a crafter, I'm afraid, so don't get your hopes up for something gorgeous or original). 

But that's about it - pretty disappointing. 

I'm supposed to be sewing up a document bag for my daughter as a practise run for the scientific instrument bag my sister-in-law ordered, but I'm just hating the process. I knew I didn't like sewing bags, but I'd assumed that if I gave myself the rule of "no selfish sewing till the bags are done" I'd get them whipped up in a trice.

Apparently not.

Surprisingly though, a third bag* crept in - a simple tote.

* I originally wrote "bad", then corrected it with "nag" - hello Freud!

Totally illogical!

I can explain...

It was my dad's partner's birthday last week, and I had a lovely hardback Middle Eastern cookbook for her.  I sat down to wrap it late the night before and then remembered how much she hates the wastefulness of wrapping paper. The right thing to do as a conscientious sewist was to make a quick, reusable tote.  Oh no!   

And that's how it happened.

Front view, with an unattractive crease

There were a couple of reasons to prefer this tote to the much-delayed zippered, pocketed bags:

Back view, with seam in centre back
1) self-drafted - even for something as simple as this tote bag, that was a pleasant little bit of exercise for the left side of the brain. I had just enough of a scrap of Corben & Blair canvas for the body of the bag, and I had some bright orange webbing bought for a Cooper (hmmm don't know if that's ever going to happen); and

2) simple - right side of the brain could just take a nap

I rather like the combination of prisoner-orange with muted black and taupe. Like a crazy hairdo on top of a severe business suit :).

The stitching is rather imperfect, but I'm very happy to say that my dad's partner loved this simple tote. I am not a convert to bag sewing, but hopefully this small success will help with the other two bags so that I can get back to the fun stuff soon!

See you soon - I hope

- Gabrielle x

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Starry, Starry Gabby

Another dress - arghhh! Summer is upon us, and a loose cotton dress feels perfect in the heat...

Especially when the fabric is so pretty :) and so mathematical-looking! Triangles, tesselations, networks, constellations - take your pick!

Yes, the fabric is amazing (embroidered cotton from Tessuti Fabrics, Sydney Sewists meet-up, and originally intended for a skirt), but let's talk about the dress.  Do you recognise the shape? I made this same dress in a stretch fabric not so long ago - it's the Gabby Dress.

This time around I was again limited by my fabric metrage, but I decided I didn't want any piecing - I wanted as straightforward a dress as could be. I re-measured myself at the bust level and re-measured my size S pattern pieces, and found I could remove 1cm on the fold at centre front and centre back - that's 4cm in total! This makes for a good fit at the high bust and shoulders, and it meant I had enough width in the fabric for the full flare of the dress. The fit is probably helped by the fact that the fabric has a bit of that springiness you find in a seersucker.

I sewed the sleeve and dress lengths as drafted in the pattern, as I didn't have the fabric to do any lengthening. They felt just a tad short on my limbs (must be getting old - I'm going off minis) so I sewed bias binding close to the length, and turned and pressed the binding into hems. Actually I used bias binding on the neckline too - as you can see in this next photo. The crazy white overlocking and stitching were intentional - I was so taken with the white embroidery that I wanted even more white stitches, even though I had coordinating thread - I've managed more subtlety in the top stitching though.

When I wore this dress for the photos I wasn't sure about it - I thought it might be too flared and too short (note to self: photos with the camera placed less than 2 metres away on the ground make everything look too short!). I gave it another go this weekend and it felt perfect - really comfortable and a good length, plus I'm happy to have more blue in my wardrobe.

So - an easy dress, but a cute and comfortable one!

I have so, so many interesting dress patterns stored away, but a simple pattern like this that can let the fabric shine is probably one that I'll come back to again and again. I think it'd be really nice in a silk twill... or as a couple of layers; maybe organza on top of silk?

Next up? Well I'm planning pants, conceiving Christmas ornaments, and working on some bags - but it's going slowly. I seem to hate making bags for some reason! However, my sister-in-law desperately needs a made-to-measure bag, so I'm making a garish muslin before I start tweaking the pattern to fit the dimensions needed. Maybe the muslin can be a Christmas present for a little someone - yes, that's something else I'm running behind with!

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Converging Lines: Brasilia-Style!

When Rachel announced her Brasilia dress and asked for a few pattern testers, I jumped. 

There was already a stampede. For a few anxious hours I thought I was too late; too many volunteers had jumped in before me and the time difference was doing me no favours, but HOORAY (ie time to dance like a loon), I was IN!

wandering off with a rock in hand - cheap prop, that's all! 
And as you can see, I've now made myself a very fetching, very stripe-some Brasilia dress. Very fitted too, and that's the fit the dress is designed to have - honestly, for once I feel like I've nailed the fit. With some of that fabric that no one won at my giveaway - huhWell if you won't take it, I'll have to sew it myself, so there! 

first jumping, now dancing?
As you can see, this is a fitted sheath dress, but it's got these really interesting details - bust darts that emerge from the centre front, and triangles at the side that came about when Rachel played around with fish eye darts. I loved the look of these details in the tech drawing, and I thought stripes would really show them off.  

My dress didn't need radical modifications from the original pattern - but I started out with a toile down to hip level made out of some funky black stretch fabric (hmm, this might also have been left over from my giveaway). I sewed all the seam lines and dart lines in neon lime thread against the black so it was really easy to see where I needed to adjust the pattern, and since I don't have a handy late night fitting buddy I sewed CB together and pretended my zip was going in CF.

I took off about 3cm in total in bodice length and added that to the skirt length, and took in the upper bodice at CF and CB (I have really narrow shoulders). And I ignored the grainline recommendation to cut the side triangles at an angle. Other than that it was just tinkering.

I did consider adding a waist seam, so that I could cut the front skirt on the fold and also cut the front bodice with the stripes in a different direction (I really wanted the upper bodice stripes to splay out towards my shoulders rather than converging), BUT this would have made the bodice stretch the wrong way. As it is, I felt like I was pushing it by cutting out those side triangles at an angle... but I really, really wanted those particular lines to be angled in towards my waist - optical illusion, hey - with the darkest (green) line running along the lower edge of the triangle.

And I have to admit I toyed with the idea of some sneaky pockets extending down from the triangles inside the skirt, but I reckon they would have looked pretty awful in stretch sheath dress. Maybe if someone makes this dress with a bell skirt they'd have room for pockets.  

Rachel's pattern doesn't include seam allowances, and even though I've sewn Burda magazine patterns before, this felt like a first for me (usually when I trace a Burda pattern I'll add the SA as I trace). Interestingly this felt really liberating - it was great to really see where the stitching line was supposed to sit instead of imputing it, and I felt like this gave me a better chance of success with any adjustments.

So, what else to say? Well, with a fabric like this and a pattern like this, both all about showing off interesting design lines, obviously you have to take a lot of care with how the lines meet up. I took a lot of care over my cutting out, but CB and CF were danger zones.

I'm really happy with the way my CF darts line up, but as you may have noticed in the pics above the skirt part of CF isn't perfect - and I'm kind of tempted to go back and take it in just a smidgen to make the stripe width running down the centre of the skirt consistent with the widths to the left and right.

On CB I really wanted my invisible zip to be invisible, and my first attempt failed because I just sewed it in assuming the lines would stay straight. Second time around involved a huge amount of basting (I basted CB so I could iron some fold lines to follow, and then I basted in each side of the zip).

Rachel's pattern doesn't include facings (easy to draft your own or use bias tape) or instructions (well, it's pretty easy once you've sewn a few sheath dresses!).

Trickiest sewing was those triangles; they went in perfectly in my toile but were uncooperative in the stripes. I ended up doing some judicious clipping and also basting the curves in place by hand, and this did the trick.  I didn't stabilise these seams though perhaps I should have... we'll see how the dress fares over time. 

And the end result? 

A dress that I love.

Rachel, what a wonderful pattern! I'll be in touch with some more detailed feedback, but overall, this dress was an absolute delight to sew :)

See you soon!

- Gabrielle x

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Pine-Lime Splice Dress

I've finished another dress - the dress-making binge continues.

I didn't plan on making this dress - I'd actually planned a different dress... Well, to be completely honest I had a couple of different dresses planned (always plenty of competing priorities on the sewing list!).  But then I got sidetracked by the splendid lime fabric.

The Splendid lime fabric..

Thinking back, way back when - about a week ago, tops... 

I'd popped into Tessuti Fabrics for something mundane, glanced at the remnants table and WOAH! evidently someone that just my taste had been in recently, buying up big time, and leaving some delicious remnants behind.

Top left to bottom right, here's what I found bought: 

and here's what I planned:  

a fitted sheath dress (coral), cigarette pants (black), a beach coverup to coordinate with my daughter's swimmers, a Splice dress (lime), and part of a swimsuit (the black lycra I'd popped in for).

The following photo shows the lime fabric colour really well (ignore what looks like a crankiness, please, it's just the sun making me squint!):

The fabric is a viscose-elastane stretch fabric, and probably a bit thin and clingy for the dress by itself, so I'm wearing a cotton voile slip under it.  I made this slip a few years ago to go under a dress that has since left the wardrobe, but the slip seems to be the perfect length to accompany many other dresses :)

And the pattern is one that's been made by many other sewists before - Vogue 8870, in the Very Easy series. It's an easy-to-wear style - loose, gathered at the waist - and just a little bit trendy with its high-low hem.

I started the dress in a rush, without checking Pattern Review (oops, if I'd read nicegirl's review I'd have known to watch out for the front bodice - shorter in the middle than on the sides!), and without checking the suggested fabrics (stretch fabrics aren't listed).

The changing bodice length doesn't seem to be that noticeable in real life, and I think the pattern works well in a lightweight stretch fabric.  Having said that, obviously making this *woven* dress out of a stretch fabric necessitated a few changes in technique - I used a walking foot and a twin needle in some places, for example, and instead of sewing a casing for the waist elastic I stitched the top edge of the elastic, stretched out, close to the seam between bodice and skirt.

The dress is supposed to have side pockets, and of course I'm in favour of pockets in everything, but in this fabric I left them off - I thought the pocket openings would get saggy. I also took out 2cm at centre back to try to reduce the risk of wardrobe malfunctions in the front wrap. 

The waistline elastic has ended up a bit loose, but the dress is super comfy and looks a lot better on than expected, so I'll be leaving it loose for now.  And I wasn't sure about the high-low trend (late to this party) but the low part of the hem in this fabric has a soft, swishy, caressing feeling against my back calves when I walk or when a breeze blows - is this sensation what the trend is really about, do you think :)?

I always like ogling other bloggers' shoes, so here's a closeup of mine. Nothing flash, but I'm very keen on the colour and the chunky sole.

Finally, for those of you unfamiliar with the Pine-Lime Splice, one of my top 3 summer icypoles, here's a photo of one. Refreshing and icy on the outside and creamy in the middle - I'll leave you to make any amusing visual comparisons:

See you soon

 - Gabrielle x

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