An elaborate hack…

This has to be one of my favourite makes to date. It has enough features that people think it is RTW, but was really easy to knock out, airy for summer, but thrown on with jeans looks much more dressed-up than a tee.

Pattern: Simplicity 2365
Made before? I’d made one version in a similar 100% cotton, but without as much hacking, and definitely got a lot of wear out of that in Summer. 
Will make again? Absolutely. I left the pattern back home in Aus, but I’m considering just buying it again to make a few more.
Fabric: 100% cotton I bought from Spotlight, designed by Cloud 9

pleated top worn

The original pattern is a tunic or shirt ending at the hips, with short or long sleeves and a mandarin collar. It features princess seams and five pintucks on either side of the center front. In this version, I cropped the two front and back pieces to where the waistline was marked on the pattern. I then sloped off the neckline into a v, starting from the mark at center front where the split in the original is meant to start. I finished the armholes and neckline with bias binding. The ruffle was simply made from a long rectangle – as long as I had fabric for – gathered and sewn in. Inside seams are finished with overlocking.

pleated top details

Can we talk about this fabric?! Spotlight has such a great range of cottons, chambray, and tencel. It’s definitely something I miss in Scotland – I can’t seem to find any beautiful prints like this unless they’re Liberty and prohibitively expensive. I also can’t find any tencel – which is such a shame, because I think a floaty tencel skirt in the same khaki as those little leaves would be perfect with this shirt.

I’m a huge fan of the pintucks too. The instructions which come with the pattern, being a big 4, aren’t fabulous. I followed a tutorial in my handy sewing bible, and after that it was easy. Particularly in 100% cotton, you just need a lot of steam and heat. And a ruler.

I’ve read online that you can also create pintucks in fabric before you cut, then cut out pattern pieces with them finished and use that as a textural element – I’d love to explore this, I’m just not sure of what pattern to try it with. Ideas?

Do you have any favourite pintuck patterns for me to try? Know where I can get some quality but affordable tencel in the UK? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy sewing! H xx

 

What?! A blog post?!

I know, I know, I know…it’s been a while! Sorry everyone. I have a huge backlog of makes. But finally I have somewhere to shoot photos, so here you go… one post a week, that’s my aim!

Pattern: Simplicity 1370
Made Before? yes, a black work skirt as a mock-up.
Will Make Again? Yes
Fabric: stretch bengaline from Remnant Warehouse

skirt back small

This skirt was a story of trial & error. I’d made this pattern in a black stretch cotton before, as a mock-up and for work. It was a little too big – so when I made it from this bengaline I did a size down. Unfortunately, I was watching a really good movie when I cut it out – and so the stretch runs vertically. Oops.

Once I’d sewn up the side seams, I also realised it was going to be reallllly short when hemmed. Cue two months stagnancy on my sewing desk.

Eventually after a very succesful op-shop run, I decided to use this reclaimed zip to make an exposed zipper back, which would preserve just enough width in the skirt for it to fit perfectly. I bias-bound the waist and hem to save a bit of length there as well.

skirt front small

Let’s be honest – there’s a lot of sewing in this garment that is less-than professional. I still love it though! It’s so 60s – my favourite fashion decade. I’m hoping to ‘aquire’ some bowling shoes to pair with it.

I definitely want to use this pattern again – once I sort out sizing. Unfortunately I’ve left it at home in Australia, so it won’t be until I get back. I’d love to find some really beautiful brocade or jacquard, maybe something with parrots…you can see some of my inspo for further projects over on my Pinterest.

What’s your favourite fashion decade? And do you think I should go full 60s with this one – some bowling shoes, a vintage cardi, beehive…? Let me know in the comments! 

Happy sewing! H xx

Unfinished Sewing Projects…

Helen says…

I’ve found there are usually three reasons why I will abandon a project partway through. Most commonly, after cutting it out and sewing most of it together, I will find it doesn’t actually fit very well. I’m not experienced with placing darts, making muslins, or adjusting patterns – so these are definitely skills that I need to learn this year.

The second most common hiccup is that I have run out of thread, don’t have a zipper or button, or other notions I might need. Even today, I have been working on a shift dress that I first had to put on pause because I hadn’t bought a zip, and now my thread has run out (and it doesn’t fit well!). With a little organisation, this could be easily fixed.

The third reason is that I crave instant gratification. I long for 2-hour dresses and skirts. If only all commercial patterns were made simply and for my exact size so that I could just piece them together, literally in a jiffy! So often I will start a day with a new project, hoping that this one will be more simple than the dress I started the day before that isn’t quite working properly. Then I will end that day with 2 partly finished projects, no instant gratification, and the feelings of frustration and incompetence.

 

Sewing should be fun, and should provide satisfaction and finished projects, as far as I’m concerned. For too long I have been doing things half-arsed, as something to do, and giving myself more frustration than joy. If I want to enjoy this blog, and a me-made 2016 wardrobe, something has to change. I need a goal, and a plan.

My goal is to end 2016 with no unfinished projects.

My plan is;

  1. To make lists of sewing to do and unfinished planning in Evernote, and be scrupulous in updating these
  2. To stick to the patterns I own, as repeatedly making and adjusting them will allow me to eventually ‘learn’ the pattern and be able to complete it more quickly
  3. To book in for a casual sewing class with my local seamstress when I need help to finish a project – for example when something needs darts put in or to be taken in
  4. To buy all the notions, interfacing, and thread at the start of a project, before even cutting it out, so that I don’t have to stop halfway through to go and get them.

 

So for the moment, here is a gallery of the unfinished projects I will be working on, for this first quarter of 2016:

 

 

Self-portrait with Frida

Catherine says…

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I discovered the work of Frida Kahlo but her stern self-portraits with their challenging, sometimes even hostile gaze, enchanted and disturbed me. I read a biography of her and was charmed by her suffering, her wildness and her impetuosity. Back then I believed in art and style, and thought that suffering might well be a necessary part of that equation. My own physical suffering was limited and I read about Kahlo’s with grim, vicarious interest.

me-and-my-parrots

I grew up in Brisbane – in the sub-tropics, and I’d been to Central America when I was fifteen, with my step-grandmother. I’d visited Mexico and seen beautiful pottery in a museum, I’d see women weaving by the roadside in Cusco and walked through markets in Guatelmala. Long after the details of the trip faded, the vivid colours, handweaving and playful pom poms remained in my memory. I wasn’t brave enough to buy anything other the ubiqutous poncho, but when I became interested in Frida Kahlo I had a tactile memory of the clothes she wore in those self-portraits.

If I had a style back then, it was eclectic and based more on economics, reading and a wistful imagined life, like those I read about so voraciously – Anais Nin, Colette, Colette2Kahlo and others. A phrase from a novel could inspire me – D. H. Lawrence’s mention of coloured stockings in Women in Love sent me on a search for coloured tights – I don’t think I found any in Brisbane in the early eighties! I bought a pale blue Country Road dress because I imagined it was the colour of a prairie sky. I wore khaki overalls I found in Paddington Market in Sydney and which I’d embroidered with an illustration from Le Petit Prince.LePetitPrince

At eighteen, I purchased a hand-spun, hand-knitted shawl – it was unbelievably expensive and ate up a good deal of my student allowance, but I had it for years. There was something about the quality of the undyed yarn that I’d coveted. I had a spinning wheel and could spin then, but I wasn’t a knitter and this shawl, with it’s lace border, gave me a sense of what I could aspire to, one day.  I was delighted with the old-fashioned nature of the shawl as a garment. Wrapped in it, I could imagine walking on the moors, composing heartbroken poetry as I laboured against the wind and the rain to reach my home and the meagre warmth of a small fire.

My relationship with clothes was like that – I had an exiled Russian princess dress, an ‘Edwardian’ silk blouse, a Colette French dress and an androgynous corduroy jacket that was part Annie Hall, part Radcliffe Hall.Radclyffe_Hall I op-shopped keenly but was just as capable of imbuing new clothes with the same glamour – a sequinned boob tube was my answer to Nicholas Roeg‘s doomed protagonist in Bad Timing – a movie I saw at least three times. I didn’t wear it much – the sequins scratched and the stretchy elastic flattened out my already flat-chest. Still, when I put it on, I was Theresa Russell in my head, if not in my mirror.

Theresa Russell

What has all this to do with Frida Kahlo? I’m now at an age when I can unravel and embraace my own style and eccentricities. I’ve long since relenquished any notion of being ‘groomed’. I just don’t do that well. I love colour, texture, an eye-catching handcraft feel which isn’t too shoddy. One of my favourite garments is a black wool stole my mother bought for me on my twenty-fifth birthday. The folkloric embroidery is a vibrant mix of colours – it’s very Frida.

Last year I found some machine crocheted material at Spotlight in a similar mix of colours. I snapped up a metre. Helen looked at it with disdain and my best friend tried to hide her scepticism. When I put on that skirt with its carnival colours and scalloped festivity, I feel happier and braver in Melbourne’s grey winter. It’s very Frida.

12607117_10153415744100698_893093648_nThis year I’m restriciting my purchase of new clothes to necessary items I can’t make. I might add a couple of warm basic garments in winter – I have my eye on some available from a local store, that are made from beechwood. I might have to spring for a new bathing suit – if I can find anything that is a flattering one-piece, rather than a tankini. I will buy boots in winter – that’s as inevitable as catching the winter cold. Other that that, however, I’m making things or buying clothes on ebay. In the making department, I’m embracing colour, texture and eye-catching handcrafted detail. I can no longer get away with an exiled Russian princess dress, but I can add appliqued exotic flowers to the hem of a black linen shirt. I can afford a ruffle. I can ditch balance for assymetry, factory banality for handstitched details and make some flowers to attach to my hats. It can all be a little Frida – at least in my own head!Frida2

 

Sewing Plans

Helen says…

We’re expecting it to be quite a hot Summer in Australia this year, and in fact we have already been blasted by heat a few times. So over the next few months I’m going to focus on heat-resistant clothing – simple shift dress shapes, shell or airy tops, and slightly longer skirts which aren’t uncomfortable when you’re sitting on sweaty seats.

 

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  1. This Burda cropped top is so cropped! I have made one in a striped linen which looked lovely, except it’s impossible to take advantage of the cool a-line shape when it is this short and you have to wear something underneath it. I can’t wait to try this again though, extending the front to my hip line. Not sure which fabric I’ll choose for this one.
    2. Catty found this pattern at the op-shop for 25c! Such a bargain. I love high-waisted slim trousers. For Summer, I’m hoping to make it work with a shorter length, cut just below the knee.
    3. I originally had this pattern to make trousers from, but actually I think the pattern Catty found is much more sleek and attractive.
    4. So this is my fabric for the first go at these trousers. It’s a simple cotton gingham, but the little daisies are kind of sweet.
    5. A while ago I bought a black linen pencil skirt off ASOS that finishes below my knees and features a split at the center front. It’s very flattering, cool in Summer, and doesn’t let you stick to seats! I’ll be making view C, with a slim waist and a bit shorter than shown here.
    6. This is the soft chambray I will use to make the pencil skirt. I’m going to try and find some dark wooden buttons to match this fabric.
    7. Ever since I watched Lisa from Sew Over It UK’s vlog on her shift dress collection, I’ve longed for a shift dress pattern. I hate printing and cutting out patterns from all the A4 sheets though, so I haven’t bought her pattern. Instead, I’ve found this one with my favourite v-neck, and a couple of others to round out my options.
    8. Originally I was going to make this into pyjamas, but I kind of think the fabric is too unique and interesting for something hidden. So I’m going to showcase it with the shift pattern, and try and find some white embellishment for the neck.
    9. Aren’t the cape and jacket adorable?! I can’t wait to make them in Winter. This is another potential shift dress pattern, for when I don’t want a v-neck.
    10. I’m going to give this a go without sleeves or the belt. I’m trying to dress more bravely like Catty does – so I think the option for contrasting fabric will be a subtle way of achieving this.
    11. Vie Domestique has made the most beautiful interpretation of this dress! That’s why I bought the pattern. Again, there is the opportunity to use a contrasting fabric.
    12. So, this is actually an old sheet of my step-dads…Because it is so old, the fabric has become so lovely and soft. I have always loved the print too. This will become a simple shift that’ll be great for heatwaves.
    13. Again, an old sheet. I’m not sure what I’ll make from this – another shift with contrasting yoke in the blue?
    14. So this is the most versatile fabric I have ever bought and I am In. Love. I also have it in grey tones and it was only $5!! A meter! At spotlight in the upholstery section. I have it in these greens and also in  grays. I might make a shift dress from this, or another open back tank top, or who knows…
    15. I think this will be a really useful pattern to wear under sheer shirts with high-waisted trousers or skirts. I love vintage patterns, as you can probably tell. I don’t like looking all pin-up or all rockabilly though. Something like this is great for me, because I can pair it with very modern shaped shirts, leather-look jeans, etc.
    16. I think this fabric is so adorable, it reminds me of a Kimya Dawson song. I’m going to make it into the halter top.
    17. O.K so this fabric was originally a tulip dress, which was never very flattering on me. The bodice is beautiful, and I’m thinking of leaving it intact and just adding some matching halter straps, again to wear under sheer shirts.
    18.Another little halter top will be made out of this, to match a full circle midi skirt that I have already made. This will probably be my first go at the halter top pattern. This fabric is synthetic something, and not the nicest to touch, but it does look nice and it’s not super uncomfortable. But I still don’t mind wasting it if the pattern doesn’t turn out right.
    19. This open-back tank has been an absolute lifesaver during the couple of heat waves we’ve had already this year. I’m definitely making more!
    20. I got this as a remnant for $1.65, and it matches a Zara shirt I just got perfectly! It’ll be a simple, high waisted straight skirt.

I mean, that’s not too many projects…right??

 

Catty says…

Plans for 2016 sewing (with a little bit of knitting!)

IMG_8971.JPG

  1. Beat the heat – I love Marcy Tilton’s cirque dress & have made three now, all collarless. I’m planning on making another two out of summer weight fabric & a third for winter to wear with long sleeved t-shirts.
  2. Merchant & Mills factory dress – I ordered this pattern ages ago but it wasn’t until I saw a version that had different fabrics for the bodice & skirt that I decided I had to make it. I also want to make some more from the All Season Wardrobe Workbook.
  3. Working on finding a good long-sleeved t-shirt pattern for winter. I’ve tried a Burda boatneck & might modify that.
  4. Working also on some good cardigan patterns for winter & in-between
  5. Also want to find a good short- & long-sleeved top pattern, suitable to wear with skirts & jeans. At the moment, I’m tempted by Style Arc.
  6. I also want to try the Marcy Tilton patchwork dress for an in-between seasonal dress.
  7. More leggings! There was a beautiful cherry red velvet pair in one of the Poirot series which made me crazed with envy – I am definitely on the look-out.
  8. The long-sleeved Marcy Tilton shirt might be one of my shirt answers, too. I have a pale blue chambray denim for this. I plan to have feature buttons.
  9. A pair of knitted socks each month – how hard can that be?
  10. More hats – I won’t actually make these….but I might make the patio lounge pants to go with them.
  11. Knickers – part of my waste-less year. Beautiful knickers from scraps.
  12. Spinning! Yes, please….

 

2016 sewing is going to be about colour & texture & handstitched details. It’s going to be flowers & appliques & artful patches. It’s going to about fabric combinations that are unexpected & pleasing, buttons that draw the eye. I want hats for summer, shawls for winter & berets with pins. I want bold tights, gorgeous leggings & colourful socks. I want strappy summer sandals & stompy winter boots, boots & more boots! Marcy Tilton may just be my favourite designer at the moment, but I’d like to give Merchant & Mills a run for their money & I will be returning to Style Arc & Burda, too. This is the year I’d like to trace patterns, keep better track of patterns & make pattern notes. I’d like an organised stash, an organised workspace & a mending basket. I’d like to reduce impulse buying, but be bold about colour choices & fabric mash-ups.

I want to also try my hand at some fabric printing – oh the plans, the joyful plans. Now, if I can just ditch my day job….