Thursday, October 16, 2014

a blocky sundress

I screen-printed this random murky-coloured block fabric last year, and have finally got around to making it into something.  At last!  The 5-colour print is my own  design; and in fact the dress is my own design too  :)   
Originally I had cut the ivory cotton into vaguely sheath-dress-shaped pieces to help me size and place the print.  Inevitable then, that I would go off the idea of a sheath dress ... and eventually I dreamed up, well; this!  It's a blocky sort of a print, and a blocky sort of a dress in design too, with all straight lines and edges throughout and not a single curve to be found!  The style lines have been marinating in my head for a few months now and so I'm happy it now has corporeal form.
Maybe I should make a pattern for this.  Be a designer.
Bwahaha, kidding! 
The side panels are two piece, with the lower one overlapping the upper one so as to create a simple pocket that extends into the side seams.  The design is fairly unstructured and unfitted, boxy enough that I can just pull it over my head without the need for closure.  Then to give it some shape I made two little arrowhead tabs that can button at the sides to pull in the boxiness and create a bit of shape at the waist.   The domed textured buttons were inherited from my grandmother's stash.
I think it will make quite a good casual knockabout dress.  The fabric is not soft, but quite stiff and thick and crisp and densely woven, so I think it suits this loose but structured boxy style quite well.  In retrospect I think I was quite ambitious with my print.  But y'know? I'm glad I did have a good go at something a bit tricky, and I like it despite the problems and imperfections.  Now I'm thinking I really should get out my screen printing stuff again.  Give it another go!
o hai there, watcha doing?
Dress; my own design, screen-printed by me as described here, on ivory cotton, stiff, thick, crisp

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mum. A blog hop. And a thank you.

First things first; I thought I'd open on a note both lovely and interesting, my mother wearing a creation made by her.  Mum knitted her top, the Jo Sharp sideways ribbed top using Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton in col. Pennant.  The whole top is knitted, or actually I should say ribbed? in one piece.  You cast on one sleeve end, rib the whole thing sideways all the way along to the end of the opposite sleeve.  An interesting and effective design idea!  Thank you so much Mum, for letting me share your gorgeous creation here.

Next; I have been invited by Yoshimi and Sara to join in the blog-writing blog hop.  Thank you very much to Yoshimi and Sara!

1. Why do you write?
I have no idea! since I'm not very good at it.  I got middling marks for writing at school.  In spite of that I still enjoy writing, just quietly and for myself.  I even wrote a novel once.  Don't worry, the world will never ever be subjected to that particular load of nonsense!  It was a detective/murder mystery.  A pretty bad one.
I started keeping a blog to document all my handmade things, when I realised at one point that I had sewn/knitted/whatever, tonnes of things that had been made, loved, worn with pride until they wore out and then got tossed, things that lived in my memory alone, never photographed.  I felt a bit sad about that.  I must have talked about it with my sister-in-law because she mentioned that she planned to give me a photo album for a birthday present, in which I could keep a visual record of my handmade things with a short description.  She was searching for a suitable one, and in the meantime I commenced taking photos of the handmade things I still had.  I can't remember what happened next, I think she couldn't find a good album, then I discovered a few daily outfit fashion blogs which I really enjoyed and decided to start something similar about my sewing and how it related to my personal style.  It was just a quiet and playful thing for me, like a diary, and for ages I barely knew any other sewing blogs existed!  I wrote about many silly trivial things that amused me at the time.  Discovering and joining Wardrobe Refashion was a huge turning point.  I signed up for three months, then six months, then For Life.  That big BIG pledge to never buy ready to wear clothes, ever again.  Hehe, I made that pledge so carefree-ly and lightly and it's taken me a few years to realise how huge it was!  Obviously I then became a lot more serious and intentional in my sewing.
Lately my writing mojo has dropped off a bit.  My sewing mojo and knitting mojo is going as strong as ever but I am struggling to write posts.  It's silly, because I can write quite freely and easily if I know no one is going to read it.  Sometimes I ask my husband and he says to just not write anything if I don't want, and just have the pictures.  I've got to admit, it's tempting.
2. How is your blog different to others of the same genre
I think my blog is quite plain and ordinary, and I am perfectly comfortable with its plainness.  It has nothing that makes it stand out at all.  However maybe it is also unique, in the same sense that everyone's blog is a unique expression of their own particular self?  Stating the obvious, there. 
I don't know.  I do my own thing and don't really follow the pack.  
Ok, I thought of something!  Parentheses are almost non-existent in my blog.  Because excessive and unnecessary use of parentheses is a secret pet hate.
O I know.  Lame.
3. What are you working on right now
Usually I am pretty disciplined about only working on one thing at a time, in an organised manner, finishing and dutifully cleaning up before allowing myself to start on the next thing.  Currently I happen to be working on two things, but one is knitting, one is sewing so that's kind of OK in my mind.  I pick up the knitting and churn out a couple rows in spare moments, whereas the sewing project is a bit more intensive and requires Proper Undivided Attention, ahem.
OK, so.  The knitting project, that is very different and interesting, in my opinion, a patchwork design that I happened upon while knitting the boys' Icelandic jumpers, fell in love, and I just had to get some wool and start on it.  Even though summer is just around the corner.  Hehe.  Totally illogical!
In sewing, well I have recently finished a sundress to be photographed and blogged about very very soon, and am now partway through drafting and muslining a rather challenging and very interesting dress.   When/if I finish it, then I Shall Reveal.  *said with maximum drama*  Of course it may well be so disastrous that I decide to not waste real fabric on it... in which case I will move onto any one of the next few things on my mental list, a pretty summer blouse, this year's bathers, a big pfouffy skirt, or an Issey Miyake ensemble.
4. What is your writing process
Oh dear.   Writing process?  I just sit down and start, usually very awkwardly in some clumsy clunky opening sentence that later gets deleted in self-disgust.  I write a bit more, then a bit more, then loosen up and manage to be slightly less clunky, freely associate, get on a bit of a writing roll.  Writing a tonne of silly nonsense that all gets deleted later.  Actually, upon reflection, I will usually delete and/or re-write maybe 80% of what I have written before hitting "publish".
I proofread for spelling and grammar like a maniac and often will obsessively go back to correct things like a typo, an errant comma or an extra space; after publishing.  
Primarily, I really try to be factual, informative and fair, and for my blog to be something that I would like to read.

Now I am passing the blog hop baton onto Sue, of fadanista, and to Megan of create with wild abandon, two other sewing bloggers also from Perth.  I'm looking forward to reading their answers to the same questions!

Oh, one more thing!  I just want to say, a big Thank You So Much to whoever nominated me for Burda's 50 best blogs list, and also to everyone who voted for me.  
Thank you thank you so very much!  I was totally thrilled to be notified that my blog is on the list.  I'm so happy that people like it, and am so very honoured to have received your votes of confidence!  :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

the children's choice

So recently I had a birthday, and my children gave me a perfectly lovely surprise!  fabric of their choice, for a particular pattern also of their choice.  
It's like Sew Bossy all over again!! haha, I jest, of course in all seriousness I'm absolutely thrilled that they thoughtfully gave me something that they know that I really love ie. a sewing project, and also for me, this is a very interesting insight into their vision of me, the kind of thing that they "see" me wearing.
Well, specifically, I suspect Cassie did all the choosing and so this is therefore her vision of, and for, me.  She snuck quietly into the laundry and chose this pattern from my stash, Vogue 1281, and then zipped off and secretly bought the fabric from Fabulous Fabrics.  
An interesting concept  no?   *adopts deep thinking stance*  If others choose your clothing for you without your input,  then does the result say more about you and your style, or about the chooser and their taste?  or maybe it says something about the relationship you have with them?  Food for thought, hmmm... 
The previous, first time I made up this pattern I used old Tshirts and banged it together a bit,  then pretty much tucked the pattern back into the stash; a mental "been there, done that!" ticked off in my head.  For this new version the fabric was a obviously just a wee bit more precious to me, and I took my time, carefully and lovingly getting everything just as right as I could  :)
Some thoughts and technical bizzo:
My original flippant assessment was that this is a very unusual pattern.  Revisiting the pattern has only reinforced this assessment.  This really is a unique design in amongst my very extensive collection of unique patterns.
Firstly; I sized down.  This pattern is LOOSE!
The structure of the dress is all reliant upon the "lining", which is essentially a thing that we call here a "boob tube".  Or if you prefer, a bandeau bikini top.  Basically the whole dress hangs upon that!  The first time I made it, I made it quite differently, NOT going with the separate boob tube but instead joining the dress and lining together totally at the top.   I don't think one way is superior to the other.  Just observing that this dress is constructed as intended, with the boob tube lining kept quite separate.
In my opinion, if you are making it as intended then it is essential that the boob tube lining fits as perfectly as possible, and it is easier to do this if it is made separately.  
My fabrics are all stretchy, so I didn't put a zip in the back but just stitched up that centre back seam.  IF doing this, my recommendation is that the strap be attached to the dress and not to the boob tube lining at all.  I then secured the top of the dress to the boob tube by discreet hand stitching at a few key points; centre back seam, the general underarm area, and underneath the straps at the front.
A fitting tip, with my bodice fabric being quite stretchy, I still had to take in quite a lot of excess width from the bodice.  I did this fitting adjustment all through the centre back seam and modified the placement of the right strap accordingly.

Dress; Vogue 1281, rayon/poly and bamboo/poly stretch jersey knit.  Thin, liquidy, flowy  cool.  The beige is very fine, soft and matte, the print is a bit thicker and springy.
Sandals; Zomp, from Zomp boutique

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

raspberry Alabama Chanin tank dress

I've finished a handmade dress.  It's dyed, printed and stitched together entirely by me.  
This is a fitted tank dress, the pattern is from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, by Natalie Chanin.  I dyed shocking pink linen jersey knit to fortuitously achieve this rather nice, motley, deep raspberry pink, which I loveand the print is the Abbie's Flower design from the same book, enlarged by hand and screen-printed in deep burgundy textile paint, all described here.
So.  I should be pleased with it, but actually I'm teetering on not I'm pleased it's finished, let's put it that way!  
Actually I'm borderline depressed with it.  See, I did have grand plans for further handwork and embroidery.  Those plans came to nought.  
I trialled several different embroidery and even beading ideas but everything I tried just looked awfully heavy-handed   The size of my print is quite petite, and it's also detailed and well defined and more than a bit busy, and so doesn't really lend itself well to the embellished Alabama Chanin look, I think.  Eventually, frustrated, I ceased diddling about, picked everything off, and just sewed it together.  
So I was pretty over it even before the poor thing got sewn together.  Probably why I shoved it into the cupboard and all but forgot about it until my recent wardrobe spring clean.  Hey, new dress! Guess I should wear this thing, hmmm.
The seams are all stitched and felled by hand, and the simple armhole and neckline binding applied with herringbone stitch by hand.

Also, I'm undecided that the tank dress silhouette is very flattering to me.  It's a funny thing really because I totally adore my long AC skirt and matching tank top worn together, a combination which one might argue could pass at a short distance for a tank dress just exactly like this.  Somehow having the break between top and skirt is a huge improvement to my eye.  As a dress, with a continuous unbroken fall of fabric from shoulder to hem; I dunno, I just don't like it as much.  It's irrational and I can't explain it.
This is why I'm probably always going to wear it with a little cardigan, as above.
It's not out of the question that I'll refashion this into a separate skirt and top one day.  In the meantime I don't mind it worn over my Metalicus petticoat like this.  I'll see how it goes for a while.
Maybe it'll grow on me.

Dress; fitted tank dress from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin, in linen jersey, hand- dyed, printed and stitched by me
Petticoat; Metalicus
Cardigan; Country Road
Thongs; Havaianas

Monday, September 29, 2014

a "Norwegian" jacket

I've made up my Norwegian souvenir fabric.
Pining for the fjords? me? well, maybe just a little  ;)
I bought this divinely thick, strong, and sturdy cotton drill in Oslo during our Scandinavian holiday, with dreams of  making a boxy, nautically flavoured little hoodie.
And done, and dusted.   :)
I used pattern 108 from Burdastyle magazine 10/2009.  In the magazine it's made in felted wool, is lined, and has a fur-edged hood.  I fancied it made up as a lighter, warm weather thing, and knew it would work out perfectly ok in that role too.  Mine is unlined and I finished all the raw edges off using my overlocker so it all looks nice and neat inside.  The fabric is beautiful quality, actually quite thick and wind-resistant; so even sans lining it's turned out to be a rather cosy little jacket.  Brisk spring breezes? ha!  I laugh in your general direction!
The pocket, pocket flap edges and the interesting shape of the yoke pieces are all highlighted with navy blue piping, for which I used readymade bias binding.  I've had this in my stash for decades, no kidding, and thought, yay! I'm finally going to use this up!  Obviously, I then did not have quite enough, which meant I had to buy a bit more.  Which meant now I still have some in my stash.  Doh!  It's a conspiracy!!!
I ummed and ached about the front and pocket closure... first thinking I would put in big white chunky zip, rejected that; then thinking metal dog-bite clips, but the ones I found weighed quite a lot and would've dragged the jacket down.  I wanted something a bit different, but it still had to be lightweight.  The magazine version called for toggles, since it was supposed to be a wintery thing, and finally I thought a summery version of a toggle would be a fun thing to have.  
I made mine using cotton twill tape and cotton rope.   My Dad made the lovely wooden buttons, aren't they beautiful?  Many years ago I asked if he could make me one for my little brown cardigan, and he generously made several so I would have a selection from which to choose.  And I'm thrilled I had enough to finish this little jacket.  Thanks Dad!
I had bought enough of the cotton rope to put in the hood as a drawstring, so I sewed miniature teeny buttonholes in the hood front and inserted the rope in the self-facing casing.  The hood seams are flat-felled.

Doesn’t scream Norway?  Well, I can hear it quietly whispering Norway, in my shell-like ear at least  :) 
I put a lot of time into getting that piping and those toggles positioned just exactly right and I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I particularly love having Dad's wooden buttons on it!

Jacket; Burda style magazine 10/2009, 108, cotton drill from Norway
Dress; Burda 8071, made from an old polo Tshirt, details here
also white/navy blue Tshirt underneath, details here

Saturday, September 27, 2014

a bobbly little top, and some others too

I've made a few new tops...
Top un; a cosy little pom-pommy top, using pattern 111 from Burdastyle magazine 04-2014 in a bobbly stretch fabric the colour of whipped cream from Fabulous Fabrics.  The design has quite an interesting and unusual shape already and I further toyed with the proportions, shortening by about 15cm at the lower hem and lengthening the sleeves by 3cm.  This was only like, the easiest thing in the world to run up and I think it's rather cute too!  The oversized floppy neckline manages to be all of comfortable and even a little dramatically designer-y too.
The design, while a very easy project, still fits happily into the interesting category for those of us who like that sort of thing... The body is a one piece tube with one piecemeal seam down the right side.  The sleeves are have different shaped sleeve caps from each other and their positioning and individual insertion methods creates a slightly skewiff shape to the top when worn.  Cool!  Completed, it reminds me a little of my Pattern Magic twisted top, which is illogical since this one is both boxy and has the oversized cowl and is cut on-grain, and... well, technically speaking is different in just about every respect, really.   OK, forget I ever compared the two.  
And to pre-empt an inevitable concern; yes, the sleeves do feel different to each other but it is not uncomfortable.

Tops deux and trois are the Nettie pattern, by Closet Case Files, my now go-to tshirt pattern. I upsized to an 18 from my usual 12, because a slightly more relaxed fit is desirable in a summertime thing.  The fabric is a fine, off-white jersey knit from Fabulous Fabrics.  
One has short sleeves and a fun little pocket.  The pocket looks like a cute design decision but is actually covering a hole that I had accidentally snipped right in the middle of the fabric oooops!!  Thoughtless, overconfident me, snipping away wildly and with carefree abandon! Iwas in a REALLY awkward, unavoidable spot, so I sewed the hole shut and reinforced it underneath with a bit of scrap, but it still looked way too obvious and ugly.  Rats.   So when cutting out I cunningly managed to finagle it in breast pocket position, plonked the pocket on top, and then had to cut short sleeves for the tee.  Hmmf, but well, at least I managed to get the two tees out of my fabric piece, in spite of the snip.  No one will ever know!
The other is completely unremarkable, apart from that all the seams and hems sit on the outside and are simply overlocked with navy blue thread.   Why did I do this?  *shrug* dunno, something different from my gazillion other white tees.
 Oh, this old thing, tshirt quatre.  I'm taking the opportunity to finally blog this one I made about two years ago.  It's annoying that I never blogged it, because when I'm wearing it in a daily outfit and linking to my blog posts it's not there.  So here 'tis!  It's beige and boring, and therefore incredibly useful.  Made using my own custom fit Tshirt pattern, which apparently I seem to have chucked out at some point.  Double rats.  Yes, I've been doing a lot of careless silly things lately.
So, while stuffing the new creations into my Tshirt drawer last weekend I spontaneously embarked, as you do, upon an epic wardrobe spring clean-out.  As in, I emptied every single one of my drawers and took everything out of my wardrobe.  And went through methodically trying on, sorting, assessing and sifting out only the things I really truly wanted to keep.  Discovering forgotten treasures!  New, cool, outfit combinations!  Tossing hideous things into big rubbish bags!  Purging!!!   It took a few hours but man, it was great.  Felt SO GOOD.
This house, is clean...
OK.  My first, same old conclusion; I have a LOT of clothes.  And I love most of them too. I have very few unloved things and those have been weeded out now.  A few undecided things are going to be worn on a trial basis and assessed over the next few weeks.
Second conclusion, and slightly surprising, to me at least; I do not need to make nor buy basic Tshirts for, like the rest of my life, probably.  Why is this surprising? because after my first and second me-made months four years ago, my biggest conclusion was that I severely lacked basic tops and tees.  Well, obedient little me has diligently been making basic tees ever since and has rectified that lack very adequately now.  Thank you, me!  This is good, because while I don't mind making Tshirts, lets be real, they are bread-and-butter.  Without the butter.  Not the most inspiring things.  Obviously instantly gratifying projects can be fun and fulfilling in their own way.  But my last couple of more in-depth projects have been a hugely more satisfying to me, on every level.  So I'm pleased that a full complement of basics means that I can relax about Dutiful Wardrobe-Building, and just happily spend my time and energy on the kind of more complex, involved, longer term projects that are truly enjoy enjoyable.
So, yay!!
Now on to something more interesting...  :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

chunky two tone sandals

I've made my second pair of shoes! suede and vinyl, medium heeled, clog-like sandals.
I really like them stylistically.  In fact dare I say, I even love them a little bit!  My general criteria with my self-made stuff is: would I buy this if I saw it in a shop? and in this case: hmmm,well y'know I think I would be attracted enough to pick them up, at least!  Actually buying? well apart from the definite whiff of eau de homemade about them... ;) My cobbling skills are low to non-existent but so far that doesn't really bother me all that much.  I'm learning by doing.
I actually do love them, they feel solid, modern and somehow honest.  I am really going to enjoy wearing them  :)
The how...
They have a wooden base, made of pine from Bunnings.  I cut and glued two layers together using interior/exterior PVA glue, then cut the basic shape of the shoes rather roughly using a bandsaw.  
Further shaping, fine-tuning and sanding was done on a belt sander using 40, 80 and 120 grit sandpaper.  Once I was happy with the shape and had sanded it all nice and perfectly smooth, I applied three coats of varnish; exterior grade, satin finish.
By the way, I've gone back and added some extra "progress" pictures to my previous shoe-making post just in case that sort of thing is interesting... sewstylist commented that progress pictures would not be boring, and thank you for saying that! so I've put in a few more pictures this time too  :)
The upper is made of caramel-brown suede (from Skindhuset, in Copenhagen) and pale grey vinyl (Spotlight).  The suede is eked out from the leftover scraps from my caramel suede jacket.  I cut backing pieces from old bed sheeting, which is a thick and very strong fabric, and glued the uppers and backing pieces together before topstitching all around the perimeter in matching threads.  These uppers were nailed to the wooden bases using 15 x 1.6mm blued tacks (Bunnings).  I chose these partly because I liked the rustic look of them, also because they were the only nail option in this size, but now the non-uniform appearance of the heads bothers me a bit.  I hammered matching copper-look snaps (Spotlight) to the straps that close around the back of my heel.
For the soles, I cut adhesive cork liner sheets (Spotlight) to size, glued them on and applied five coats of satin varnish to strengthen and harden the surface.  
Things I would do different again: In the future, I would save time and brush-cleaning by applying the cork sole before doing any wood varnishing; and then just apply three coats of varnish to the wooden base and cork sole together.
Bed-sheeting, even though it has very desirable qualities of being very strong and inflexible, is probably not the most wonderful choice for backing the uppers.  It's good but is a bit thin and "fabricky", if that makes any sense.  I was worried that vinyl would be too thick for the job, but in retrospect I think it might work well.
Obviously, I have already started planning the next pair...  :)