Sunday, August 30, 2015

an all Western Australian dress

OK; it's done, the second and arguably the most time consuming component of my one year one outfit project!  
Can I just interject right here... WOOOOHOOOOO!
Phew!  so, just saying, but I'm tentatively predicting that this one piece could well be my piece de resistance for the year.  I made the dress, and not only did I make the dress but I made the fabric too!  previously post about making my fabric from Western Australian Corriedale fleece here.  
And I hand-embroidered it, with a motif of my own design.  Also the dress is of my own design.  Is this a little insane? probably.  
Ok, YES.
So, the dress.  As mentioned, it is fully embroidered with kangaroo paws.  Why kangaroo paws, you may ask?  Well, the kangaroo paw is our state floral emblem and my project is an all-Western Australian deal, so it seemed like a pretty appropriate choice.  I sketched a stylised kangaroo paw design based upon one from one of my own photographs.  I drew a few in different sizes and then for each section of the dress drew up separate, big all-over patterns.  Some of the paws wrap around the side seams from front to back, which was planned since I wanted to kinda tie the design together as well as I could.
my muse
This style of all-over embroidery is obviously inspired by the Alabama Chanin style, but the design is all mine.  I chose to incorporate embroidery for a few reasons; firstly to give some added strength to my felt, since the felt seemed just a touch fragile on its own.  
Secondly, for decorative impact too, of course!  My felt is quite textured already, but I really liked the idea of something more, and a white-on-white design.   I embroidered the under-dress, below, in a regularly spaced and repeating pattern of identical kangaroo paws, while the overdress, above, has a more random appearance, with different sized kangaroo paws, placed non-regularly and more artfully; as if someone had taken a bouquet of kangaroo paws and scattered it across the piece.
For the embroidery: I used natural, undyed Western Australian Corriedale yarn, handspun here in Perth by a lady named Beverly.  I bought this from Bilby Yarns.
The side seams are hand-stitched and hand-fellstitched in a thinner version of the same yarn.  I left the lower edge of the dress with its naturally wobbly self-edge, just as how it came out from the felting.
As per the one year one outfit strict criteria, I could not use anything in my dress that was not locally sourced; meaning no thread or zips.  So, I could have used buttons, since I still have some lovely ones made by my Dad using wood from my parent's block... but I decided to go with a dress that I could just pull on over my head and with no closure required.  I used my standby plainy-plain dress pattern, Burda 8511 and drew up a wide, midi-length, loose, A-line dress pattern; two layered and with slanting asymmetrical hemlines.  The under layer is a full length dress; and the over layer is a shorter and briefer one, one-shouldered with a diagonal top edge disappearing into the side edge/armpit.   I cut out "facings" for the top edge, and these are fused/felted to the inside of the dress, underneath the single layer part of the under-dress.  Meaning, the dress has two layers of fabric all over, which I fused together by felting nearly all over after embroidering.  The front has felted-together layers to waist level, while the back has the layers felted together to below bum level.  The remaining lower portion of the overdress float free, and the only parts that are a completely single layer are the lower portion of the underdress.
Clear as mud?  Yep, I thought so!
Also: it may superficially look like the dress has not a skerrick of shaping, with no visible darts or piecing, but actually that is not the case! It is shaped... with invisible darts!!! yes, really invisible  :) The shaping is not drastic since I needed some looseness to enable me to get the thing over my shoulders ok...  but the shaping is there.  I cut out the bust darts and back waist shaping darts, and closed them together by hand-felting the layers together with a felting needle.  This is a clever little needle, long and with tiny serrated point.  You jab it in through the layers of your felt and its serrations enable the wool fibres to meld and mesh together thanks to their own naturally barbed nature, albeit microscopic.  This is how felting is even possible, of course!  Thanks to this wonderful property exclusive to wool, my dress has a nice subtle shape but with no visible evidence of such shaping, such as darts or seams.  It's also how I felted together the two layers of the dress, all over.
It's like magic, I'm telling you.
running stitch edging, and invisible bust dart
Once I had completed all my wool embroidery, I went over and painstakingly hand-felted those upper and underdresses together as described above.  Then the very final step was to run a simple running stitch around the neckline and armholes.  I wanted a nice subtle edging to these areas, not only for some strength, as the running stitch is almost like stay-stitching if you like, and stabilises these vulnerable areas that might otherwise get stretched out every time I pull the dress over my head and push my arms through those armholes.  The edging also provide a nice visual border that that does not compete with my embroidery... and obviously I want my embroidery to have the biggest visual impact. 

So!  This is merely part two of my one year one outfit project, part numero uno was my knitted alpaca jacket/cardigan, posted here, and I have a couple more components still going in the works.  What will they be? we shall see, we shall see...  :)
I may have a few surprises still up my sleeve, mwahaha! 

Dress; my own design based upon Burda 8511, of self-made wool felt with wool embroidery of my own design
Ugg boots; from some ugg boot shop, forgotten which one

Ahhh, the uggies.  I know they're pretty awful but I just could not resist!  Seemed only fitting.  I'm gahn the full Strine here, mate.  :)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

forest green twist top

I’ve made a new top.
This is, as my title oh-so subtly suggests, the twist top from Pattern Magic; and is my fourth iteration of this top.  First three are here, here and here.
Clearly I love this design. And I’ve often pondered upon how much I would like to have one in every colour.  Except that would be excessive and wasteful.  Bad me, for even thinking it.  Bad, extravagant, greedy, covetous me.  I guess one good thing about making everything yourself is that you are constrained from having an overly huge wardrobe by your own free time, or lack of it; by having to physically make each and every darn thing yourself.  I like to pretend to myself that this factor introduces some carefully considered introspection into the matter. 
Ha!  We can but hope! 
I bought this length of stable, slightly stretchy, thin-but-warm, forest green ponte from Potters Textiles, from the $2 remnant bin.  Hmmm, don’t you just HATE when someone brags about how cheap their fabric/pattern/clothing/whatever was?  Yeah, me too.  Loathe it.
Anyway, it’s the kind of project that you can start and have ready to wear in about half an hour, flat; even including weaving those bitsy overlocker ends back in.  Fabric out, pattern down, cut, vroom through the machines by turn, a few minutes of weaving and neckline-hemming.  Done!
Believe me, I needed something fast and brainlessly easy, as a little bit of light relief from my 1year1outfit project.  Honestly, that’s been a far bigger endeavor that I originally anticipated.  But the good news is that the second component of my outfit is actually and finally finished!!!  WOOOOOT!  To be appearing here very soon.  Very very soon.
In the meantime, this. 
So, in a nutshell…
One of my favourite designs; check.
One of “my” colours; check.
Is it seasonally appropriate… oh bum.  No. 
Winter’s practically over and it’s actually getting comfortably warm around about these here parts.  Oh well! There’s always next year!  As if I have any reason at all to complain about the return of warmer weather, no sirree, not I most definitely do not.  Summer, oo yeah baby, bring it.  I am so ready!!!
OK I got nothing else!  Tootles!

Top; the twist top from Pattern Magic, forest green ponte
Jeans; Burda 7863, brown stretch bengaline, details here and my review ofthis pattern here
Socks; handknit by me, details here
Shoes; Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Saturday, August 15, 2015

reversible infinity, or twist, dress

I love working out convoluted construction puzzles in the process of sewing something and this new dress ticked that box very nicely.
It looks kinda plain upon first glance, but it's actually based upon a very unusual twisted design by Anita, of Studio Faro.  
And now I have to apologise right here because I've just searched forever for the design on Anita's blog to link to it, and I find I did not even pin it... so I cannot. I'm sorry! but I'm pretty sure I saw the sketch for the pattern piece on either Anita's blog, studio faro well-suited, or her Facebook page.

Later edit; thanks to Emily I found it, Anita's original design is here.
Anyway.   In making it, I realised it was just like an infinity scarf, but in dress form.  Unique!
And, my dress is fully reversible! with all the seam allowances enclosed and tucked away neatly between the two layers of the dress.  The construction technique to make it reversible is one that I worked out myself and not something I've ever seen in any pattern or design before.  This was the part of it that kept me on my toes, brainstorming a way to make it happen.  I'm super chuffed that it did work out.  :)
In my initial plans; it was not going to be a reversible design and I wanted to use double-sided fabric for my dress, but the only ones I could find were kinda expensive, and much as I craved the actualisation of that idea I just couldn't justify the cost...  economy can often be the mother of invention, non?  Eventually I settled with a double layered dress using two lightweight fabrics, and then while I was fiddling about with the two layers I realised I could actually make it a completely reversible dress, meaning I could wear it inside out just as easily ... and ta da!  this is the result!

Right way out; I wanted the white at the front and red at the back.  The way the infinity twist goes; the dress is actually mostly open at the right side seam, but the way it crosses over there is a restriction in the drape of the hemline so that it sits with the opening closed quite securely; and there is absolutely no danger of the drape falling open and exposing your knickers at all.  I tried to move and sit in it a few times to see if I could possibly get humiliated from any hint of exposure in the dress and am happy to say I could not make it happen.

The one single pattern piece looks like this, and you rotate the "upside-down" part around clockwise and up, to lie over on the "right-side up" part.  This naturally forms an infinity-twisted drape at the side, and the wrong side of the fabric against the right side, front and back.
   Any straight or sheath dress design could be used to get this pattern piece;  I used my old standby Burda 8511 as my sheath dress sloper.  It's one I've made enough times over the years to have tweaked and fiddled with it enough to have fine-tuned the fit to my pear-shaped self just about perfectly. 
By the way; if you're at all interested in creating your own pattern manipulations like this one, and this goes for just about all the Pattern Magic designs too; my recommendation is make a sturdy, fabric sloper.  It's a good idea to have one for a sheath dress, a bodice and possibly a skirt too.  You could use a well-fitting, tried and true pattern like this one, if you have one; in any case get a basic pattern and make up a few samples to fine-tune your fit.  Once you've fiddled and diddled enough to discover the perfect adjustments for you; get some strong fabric that's not going to rip or fray easily, like an old sheet... these often have the most fabulously high thread count making them super-tough!  Then cut out your perfectly-fitting pattern pieces.  Using a clear, easy-to-see marking pen of some sort, mark on the sloper pieces the waist line, hipline, bust points, back dart points, the straight grainline and the bias grainlines going both ways.  I used bright red marking pen.  This sloper can be kept rolled up with your patterns for whenever you have new ideas and want to play about with making new designs for yourself  :)
Why fabric, not paper? well obviously so you can baste it together and put it on!  wearing a paper version of a thing is absolutely nothing like the real fabric thing, we all know that!  Paper has zero drape, plus it rips all too easily  :D
The middle, joining piece goes from the waist to the hemline.  I left off all shaping darts, so the "dress" portion is a kinda shapeless sack, a base-point which I think is a good criteria for a double layered reversible design.  I also cut it so that I can just slip the dress over my head, eliminating the need for a zip.  Obviously that feature is essential in a reversible dress too!
I used a lovely rayon crepe from Fabulous Fabrics, in red and white, and needed 1.8m of 150cm wide fabric in each colour.  Having the nice wide fabric meant I could cut my pieces on-grain and with no joining seams in the pieces.
The white is quite sheer, and just about all seam finishes except for French looked absolutely dreadful underneath it; so after a bit of experimenting I went with seam allowances done like this:
Firstly I stitched the seam allowances with a regular 1.5cm(5/8") seam allowance.  Pressed to set it, pressed open to get the crease set, then pressed back closed again.  Secondly stitched a second pass of stitching just inside the seam allowance.  Lastly, trimmed the seam allowance to an even narrow width.  This should be pretty secure and stable with the double stitching.  And the "ghost" of this seam allowance as it appears showing on the white outside looks quite nice, almost like a French seam.  
By the way, I did consider trying to do actual French seams in this dress for about a hot minute, before I got sensible and realised in that way insanity lies and I would be tearing my hair out and frothing at the mouth in no time at all....  in any case, the reversibility of my construction technique means that all my seam allowances are enclosed with the two layers of the dress, so there's no danger of any seam allowance coming out on view anyway.  The ultimate in neat-looking insides, yay!
There are only three bits of almost invisible hand-stitching closing the layers: the two inside shoulder seams, and a short length on the inside hanging drape; through which I pulled the entire dress in the very last step before closing it up.
The drape can be adjusted to sit in different ways; like pulled completely through to the front as in the top picture.  I also like it pull it back through on itself a little bit, and have it sitting more balanced.  It does look nice like this, but it does eventually tend to slip naturally back into its default position, probably because my fabric is quite slithery and slippery.  If it were made up in linen, which is more "grabby", it would probably hold a different position better.
The dress does have a front and a back, the only way to tell them apart is by holding it up at the shoulders so you can see the lower scoop of the front neckline.  However I can wear it with a red front and a white back if I like by pulling it inside out and wearing it with the lining side out... hello, reversibility for the win!  Below is the dress worn in reverse; i.e., with the "lining" on the outside.  It doesn't look that different to if the dress was worn back to front, just in small details.  Unless you looked closely at the shoulders and saw that they were hand-stitched closed, you probably couldn't tell this was the inside of the dress!
Although I really like how the dress looks, I'm not completely happy with some of my construction in this one...  I found to my cost that one majorly important aspect is to make sure that the two outer, left side-seam edges are exactly, and I mean exactly the same length!!  This is the boo boo I made; mine were out by a mere 1cm, which was enough to put my side seam out by a touch, so it hangs a weeny bit too wibbly-wobbly for my taste.  So I'm thinking of this one as a kind of prototype or wearable muslin, and want to make another "proper" one for myself, although I will wear this one a lot too.
Maybe if I make it again I'll do a proper tute on how it all goes together, reversibly.  

Dress; a variation on Burda 8511 and based upon a design idea of Anita from studio faro; in red and white rayon crepe
Sandals; Zomp, from Zomp shoes

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

a bit of re-colouration

I've just been updating a few bits and bobs in my wardrobe...
when I get bored or dissatisfied with a particular item but it's still in perfectly good nick or I still kinda like it because of a good shape/style or I put a dangload of effort into finishing it off particularly well or whatever; I will not toss it out.  Instead I 'avvago at re-vamping it somehow. 
And this often includes dragging out ye olde dyepot and potions, aka dyes, eeeeeeeEEE heheheheheheheeeeee!!  That was an evil witch's cackle there, just in case my written word did not adequately translate to the spoken word, ahem.

So, revamp-eroonie; DONE. 
Exhibit A; my little yellow cotton corduroy skirt.  Absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I was just getting meh about it.  Plus the clear yellow colour was a bit sharp and not one of "mine".  Since my khaki dress I have been thinking more about "my" colours and having more of them in my wardrobe.  Sorta de-wintering my wardrobe and autumn-ifying it some more, if you will.
I used iDye in Brown and a tiny touch of the True Red, and got this rather wonderful deep caramel colour, in the top picture.  Hehe, it's funny; because actually I was aiming for mustard! important moral of the story; you should never ever never dye something that you are so much in love with that you couldn't bear an unexpected outcome.  Potential dyers, engrave that on your dye pots as it is one of the Commandments of Dyeing.
Anyway, I could not be happier with this super yummy, albeit unexpected, colour.  
Unsurprisingly, the poly satin I used for the lining and bias binding did not take up the dye one tiny little bit.
woa, crack out the sunnies!

Exhibit B; while in the mood for dyeing, I also got out my pale blue, supposedly silk shirt (all original construction details here) and gave it a facelift.  Supposedly? well it was sold as silk, but its mild lack of enthusiasm for taking up the dye speaks to some synthetic content, ahem.  Not that I mind! it's been a wonderful blouse and I love the shape unconditionally.  Just that it has faded drastically and its colour was now palling on me; or should that more accurately read, appalling on me?  Yeah, probably.
Anyway, it got treated to iDye in True Red.  
Much better!
Now; compare the new colour of the previously same coloured cotton bias binding ... that strong red was what I was aiming for, although I like this warm tangerine colour just fine.  I'm just going to enjoy it as this colour for a while; and if I still want the deep true red colour I'll pick up some red dye suitable for synthetics and give another whirl.  See how we go.

Exhibit C; not a biggie, but I switched the yellow buttons on my forest green Miette cardigan for new deep green ones.  
I think it's going to be a tonne more mix 'n' matchable like this, since previously it pretty much went ONLY with my mustard dress below, or with all-white ensembles.  The yellow buttons were a distraction, I can see that now.  My mistake.  Also, I think the lacework shines a little more than it did before.

So, that's it!  
In my current sewing news; I'm still struggling away with embroidering my felted wool, for my 1 year 1 outfit ensemble.  Every now and again I have to lay it aside and do something else.  It's wearing me down a bit but I am certain I am going to love the finished piece and am quite excited to see it all come together.  Ever onward and upwards!

my tutorial on basic dyeing here

Thursday, August 6, 2015

ziggyzag madness

buzzy buzz
I've made some zigzaggy bumblebee pyjamas, but not for me.  This was a request.  It is nice to get a request! well, every now and again I mean.  Not too frequently, hehe.   
I know they look pretty baggy on me but I'm happy to report that they do fit their actual owner very nicely.  :)
The cotton flannelette is from Spotlight, and the colour and print were the choice of the recipient.  Fortunately I pretty much had design carte blanche; the only stipulation was the yellow zigzag for the bottoms and the black for the top.  I was worried about it all being a bit bland and/or strange looking, so decided to insert some piping from the other colour onto each piece for a bit of interest and to tie them more to each other, make it look more like a "set".  And it's funny, because the fabric didn't turn me on much at first, but doing that piping detail really turned them from "meh" to "hmmm, I think I likey!" for me!  Now they're finished, I even think, ahem; maybe I love them, just a little?
Serendipitous discovery of the day; chevron makes a rather attractive piping insert.
 The yellow cuffs  might look like an interesting design decision but were really a necessity born of lack-of-fabric, because I barely had enough of the black to squeak out the pieces for the top, and the pyjama-recipient wanted lovely long sleeves.  Much longer than I had enough fabric for! eeeek!  One thing I've learnt to my cost is that the Spotlight range of flannelette is very narrow; annoyingly so... grrrrrrr!
Although once I put those yellow cuffs on I actually love them too.  I was very worried they would look weird too.  Miraculously I think they do not.  The top actually looked rather blah without them.
So woot!  New jammies to keep my loved one beautifully warm and cosy for these last nasty days of winter, and I can tick another item off my list.
Also, I discovered there's nothing quite like a set of oversized pyjamas for bringing out the diva supermodel in one's posing repertoire...
The pyjama pants are traced from off of a previous pair, and have a faux fly, elastic waistband, side seam pockets and a folded cuffs with piping insert.  The top is based upon Burda magazine 10/2009, top 121, with a minor modification; namely for the neckline to have an almost grandpa-like buttoned placket, but made with a front and back inner facing.  The buttons are navy blue, also as chosen by the recipient.  They work surprisingly well with black and yellow!
I've used this same top pattern twice before, firstly for my very own winter jammie top here, and secondly for my olive faux suede top.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mississippi Avenue

I've made a little sundress for myself  :) in very fine, light handkerchief-grade linen from Fabulous Fabrics, deep browny/olive green.  I asked my husband how to describe the colour and he replied immediately "Sherman tank", haha.  Hmmm!
I've been told a zillion million times that I should wear drab colours, but I struggled with them for years.  My teenage self desperately loved pretty feminine colours, hey it was the 80's; and I thought muddy sombre colours like this were horrible and ugly, like the exact opposite of pretty.  *sigh*  Anyway.  I've learnt to embrace couleur de Sherman tank.
I added a little bit of pretty in the form of some cream lace-y motifs appliquéd around the lower hem edge.  I cut the motifs from a quite thickish, lace-y fabric and hand-stitched them on to look kinda random and rambling and lending some semblance of froth and frivolity... I think the lace was maybe from Spotlight originally, but honestly I've actually forgotten where it came from exactly.
I sewed all seams throughout as French seams
The pattern is the Mississippi Avenue top/dress by Sew House Seven, a pretty, easy-to-wear little number with a modest V-neckline and skinny ties gathering the shoulders up.  It's a satisfyingly quick and simple project that goes together easily, and I think it's all of sweet, cool, casual and flattering.  The very thorough and helpful instructions are aimed at the beginner. 
And it is included in the bundle of patterns to be sold as a set for Sew Indie Month.  
What is Sew Indie Month? do I hear you ask? well it is in September this year and has a charitable component, yes, we all joke about sewing selfishly and this is seamsters trying to give a little bit back!  The lowdown...
  • The idea behind Sew Indie Month is to create a global community sewing event, sort of like a big, online sewing workshop, if you like, while simultaneously supporting small women-owned businesses and raising money for charity.  During the month of September, pattern designers are collaborating on the Sew Independent site to put together blog posts and informative tutorials; and a terrific bonus is a sewalong contest with prizes!   Sew Indie Month is co-ordinated this year by Mari from Seamster Sewing Patterns
  • The pattern bundle is available to buy here, and the sale will run from Monday 3rd August to Wednesday 12th August.
  • 20% of bundle proceeds will be donated to the International Folk Art Alliance, which provides education and exhibition opportunities to folk artists from around the world. Just a few examples of what the International Folk Art Alliance has been able to accomplish by helping artists create stable, year-round livelihoods includes helping shelter women from domestic violence in Ecuador, building a school for children in Pakistan, empowering women in repressive cultures around the world, and feeding villages in Niger.
  • You can check out all the details and information on participating patterns and the pricing options, here; on the Sew Independent site
My fellow participating seamsters who will be making their own lovely and unique creations using one or more of the patterns are:
I also added slanted front pockets to my dress... because, well, pockets.  Where there's a will there's a way, mwahaha.  I did these same sort of pockets for my blocky sundress, and it's an easy feature to add when the front is already in 3-panels like this.  For this reason, my method could also work in a princess seamed dress.  I took a few piccies this time to illustrate how I put them in...

Mark on the pattern piece a slanted line where you want the top of your pocket to sit, and another horizontal line to mark the bottom of the pocket edge.  Instead of cutting the side front as one piece, cut three pieces: 
1. piece at left, upper S (side) front, from the top edge of the pattern piece to the bottom edge of the marked pocket allowance, plus seam allowance,
2. middle piece, pocket; from the top edge of the slanted pocket line to the lower edge of the pocket allowance, plus seam allowances top and bottom.
3. piece at right; lower S front; from the slanted pocket line plus seam allowance, to the lower edge of the pattern piece.  It's a good idea to add an extra, say, 4-5cm in length to the lower edge to allow for possible boo-boos in seaming, just in case.
Transfer all notches and new marks to all pieces.
Stay stitch the slanted edges, and then stitch the pocket piece to the lower S front piece, right sides together, along that top, slanted edge.  Press seam open, turn out, under stitch inside the pocket.
 Lay lower S front/pocket piece over upper S front piece, aligning notches, pin along side edges.  
Lift aside the lower S front piece and check how well the lower edge of the pocket aligns to the lower edge of the upper S front piece.  If they differ, trim them to match each other.

 Stitch lower edges of pocket and upper S front piece together in a French seam.
 Pin the three layers of upper S front, pocket, lower S front together at side edges, baste.
 Lay the original side front pattern piece over and trim any excess length off the lower edge.  From now on just keep on putting the dress together just as normal.
Voila! slanted front pockets!
btw; please know that, as always, there are no affiliate links on my blog and never will be.  I received the patterns free, for me to make an item to help spread the word, and I chose to use the Mississippi dress pattern :)

Dress; the Mississippi Avenue dress by Sew House Seven; in deep olive linen with cream lace appliqué
Hat; Vogue 8844, cream cotton corduroy, details and my review of this pattern here
Shoes; Bronx, from Zomp shoes