Archive | November, 2012

Wellington sewing bloggers’ meet-up (they think I’m a real blogger?)

30 Nov

Last Saturday I was privileged to be invited to the Wellington sewing blogger meetup.  It was a privilege firstly because calling me a sewing blogger seems like a stretch – there’s only been 9 posts (including this one) in 11 months after all. Putting my dubious credentials aside, the real reason it was a privilege was because I got to spend a delightful afternoon with six brilliant people, four of whom I’d never met before, and all of whom are lovely, friendly, and talented.

We started at Martha’s Pantry, a Wellington institution renowned for its uber saccharine girly sweetness. It’s all sparkly cupcakes and lemon tart and milkshakes served on mismatched vintage floral crockery and souvenir silver spoons, and every teapot comes with a knitted tea cosy. Despite its iconic status, I’d never been before so it was fun to get to finally try it, and I have to say, my milkshake was tasty. Especially because it was topped with hundreds and thousands (must try that at home).

The spread at Martha’s (photo courtesy Mel)

Tasty pretty milkshake (photo courtesy Nikki)

Mmmmm… (photo courtesy Nikki)

The place is decorated with hats that guests can play with and there was some talk of a group photo all wearing hats, but between the arrival of tea and cake and milkshakes, and I suspect some relative shyness, it never happened properly. Both Juliet and Mel were brave enough to play though!

Juliet was brave enough to wear a hat! You can see the rest on the wall behind her (photo courtesy Nikki)

After stocking up on tea and shakes and all manner of pink frosted things, we (with the exception of MrsC who had shop duty) headed off to shop up a storm down Wellington’s funky shopping strip, Cuba Street.

The first two or three of us trotted right past Unearthed, a new vintage/junk shop, but something caught someone’s eye and the last of our group lingered briefly. Like a rubber band the leading edge slowed then snapped back to join us. We ogled the initial eye candy then unanimously decided to enter and explore. A quick diversion we agreed…

It was only a quick diversion to look at the knick knacks and trinkets in the rest of the shop, but someone’s pattern-dar went off and they unearthed an entire box of vintage patterns in the back corner. No wait! 2 boxes! 3? 4? It was 5 boxes of patterns that were promptly hauled out and dumped on a table in the middle of the shop.

Heads all bowed over the patterns (photo courtesy Mel)

Like a bunch of kids who’d learned to play nicely, we took turns to scour the boxes and shove our picks under our arms. No fights broke out, no hair was pulled. Once we’d all eyeballed every envelope, we all went through our armpit stash and compared, critiqued and budgeted. Unearthed is NOT a cheap place for patterns. There was much mournful putting back of pretty-but-likely-to-never-be-made-but-I-would-have-bought-for-the-eye-candy-and-the-dreams-if-they’d-been-a-third-of-the-price patterns.

But we all left with something.

The only sewing pattern to make the trip home with me is this gorgeous 1958 Simplicity sheath dress with overskirt. It’s pretty simple and is probably riffing on a theme I’ve got 10 of, but ohhhh the glorious green artwork. And the size is almost mine, which is rare! I so want to make this. But it is the most I have ever spent on a vintage pattern by at least double.

So pretty. Had to be mine. Also, that overskirt is a giant gathered square apron and would look ridiculous in real life but I still love it.

I also picked up a 1964 sewing book hilariously titled “Six Months to Ninety: A Dress Pattern Book.” I love it because it is a New Zealand printed book, targeted at high school students but also “suitable for the home seamstress”.

My new book. Comes complete with an envelope of pattern related treats!

It has instructions for making a dress block, which is cool, but only one or two fit alterations (as the rest, apparently, won’t be needed if you draft the block from measurements. Hmm.) What I really like however is not the fit instructions but all alterations to make sleeves and darts and necklines and add yokes and change skirts and replace darts with tucks or fullness etc. And it comes with an envelope of pattern bits (although I haven’t investigated its contents yet.) Exciting!

Why I like this book – lots of ideas for shapes and silhouettes you can do to a basic block.

Worryingly, I remember laughing at the title once before and am worried I own it but I can’t find it on my shelf. Oh well, if I ever do find that I have two copies I shall have to give one away!

My final purchase from Unearthed was the 1981 book “Knitting in Vogue.” It’s hilarious and shows the power of styling. It has at least 40 or 50 odd patterns from the 1930s to the 1980s, and each is shown with the original vintage picture and the made-for-the-80s version. Apparently you can make anything look bad with the right styling! I didn’t go through the book thoroughly but assumed that there’d be some gems in the 1930s to 1950s patterns. Apparently however the editors went out of their way to find vintage knitting patterns that would translate well to the 1980s and even in their vintage incarnation some of them are pretty horrid. Still I like it for the hilarity and there are a few patterns that will make up nicely I think.

My new knitting book. Evidence of how important styling is.

Glamourous 1955 pattern…

…reduced to 1980s blahness

Next we went to Minerva, a bookstore specialising in books and magazines relating to fashion, textiles, and crafts. I instantly fell in love with a $178 coffee table book all about Dior but didn’t buy it. The Lanvin book was only $150, a steal in comparison. Sigh. I left empty handed with the smell of fresh paper in my nose. My unfulfilled fetish for coffee-table books will remain unfulfilled a while longer.

Next stop was the always glorious Global Fabrics, home of All The Pretty Silks. I’d bought a few pieces earlier in the week on a one-off sale day (yay for 30% off!) so I was very well behaved, restraining myself to merely petting the fabric, and the occasional full on fondle. I left with a sample that I’m still eyeing up at home. Quick someone talk me into it! Or out of it!

Global Fabrics, such a marvellous place

Patting fabric

I believe one should always snuggle up to fake fur that feels like real rabbit at any opportunity. Even in public.

Finally we made it to Made on Marion for the swap and rejoined MrsC . We spilled our excess patterns and fabrics onto the table, snacked on tasty biscuits provided by Juliet, and divvied up the goods. Once again everyone played nicely. There were a couple of rounds of rock paper scissors but mostly it just worked out perfectly.

The swap taking up a table in Made on Marion

I scored a heavy black wool (or possibly wool blend) self-textured with circles, but it photographed rubbish so you’ll just have to believe me. This was kindly relinquished by Nikki, who laid eyes on it at almost the same time as me, but having acquired some burn-out was feeling charitable. Thanks Nikki!

All swappers having fun

I also scored 8, yes 8, patterns. I feel so gluttonous yet satisfied all at once. Check them out.

My swap haul patterns. Don’t look like much but…

…check out the line art on the left hand one!

OK, I’m pretty sure I only like the right hand one because of this awesome colour combo and styling. That hat is amazing. But can anyone actually wear that collar in real life?

More swap haul!

And more swap haul! And most of them are, or are close to, my size!

It really was an amazing afternoon, and what a wonderful bunch of women to share it with.

My companions! Photo taken by Mr C.

Left to right, back to front:
– Me! /Joy/Joie de Vivre
– Mrs C – Sent from my iRon
– Jo – Making it Well
– Nikki – Nikki’s Stitches
– Juliet – The Crazy Gypsy Chronicles
– Kat (and sweet baby Drake) – Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Mising from the photo was Mel – The Curious Kiwi  who had to leave in a hurry as her chariot arrived.

A final note – have you noticed that I posted precisely NO photos that I took of the day? That’s despite the fact that one of the reasons I took to blogging was to teach me to reach for a camera in these situations, it just didn’t really occur to me. And they still call me a blogger…

Anyway, stay tuned – there will be something exciting in my next post! I hope you think so anyway!

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The flame dress – fancy photo shoot

23 Nov

Wow, thanks to everyone for the fantastic comments on my last post! Considering that I’ve only just recently started posting, and sporadically at that, I didn’t really expect anyone other than my close personal friends to ever actually read it let alone comment. But then all the bloggerati showed up and said amazing things! And then the lovely Scruffy Badger went and mentioned it on her blog! Oh my goodness! It’s all a bit much to believe really. I came over positively faint. Really. So thank you everyone for your comments and kindness and for giving me the taste of the warm glow that comes from interacting with the blogging community. What awesome people.

I hope you don’t mind if I carry on with the theme. I thought of including these in the last post but decided that this story, and Sarah in particular, deserved its own separate bit of space.

As I’ve said before, I decided in my teens that I HATED being photographed and would happily spend the rest of my life avoiding cameras. And I succeeded in this for the next decade. Then something strange happened. Firstly, I decided that I wanted to have a few more photographic records of things as I realised that a decade with virtually no visual history was actually kind of sad. Secondly, I decided to confront a bunch of my fears and uncertainties head on and decided to include photos in that. Both of these meant making friends with cameras.

A professional photo shoot in 2010 broke my habit of running in terror when I see a camera lens pointed at me, meaning I started showing up in candid shots from social gatherings. But I still feel pretty awkward being photographed.

I got lucky and met Sarah shortly after my professional shoot. Sarah is amazing. As well as being kind, smart, and witty, she sews without fear, creates beautiful things, and is a very passionate and talented photographer to boot. And she’s actually a real astrophysicist or something like that. Sarah is the delightful friend who pinned flame appliques to my bodice, and then late at night tacked flames onto my flatmate’s shirt just because. She blogs her photos too.

Sarah quickly became the photography lynch pin in my amazing circle of friends (about to get their very own post) and between her camera and the amazing costumes my friends create there has been more than one photographed dress-up day.

I’ve found these awkward but have done my best to learn to get comfortable around the camera and Sarah has been great, letting me screen photos before she posted them. Sarah is keen to improve her portraiture, and I’m keen to progress from no longer being uncomfortable to actually being photogenic, so we decided between us to get together and practice. Photos from some of these shoots will show up soon!

Recently Sarah decided to hire a photography studio for an afternoon and get a lesson in using fancy-pants studio lighting. And she asked me to be her practice model for the day. And she asked me to wear the flame dress.

And she produced some amazing photos.

Trying to be ladylike

Is it just me or does this look like an old-fashioned school photo?

Trying to show off the skirt

A bit of leg

Playing with movement

I twirled so many times to capture it in a photo that I got dizzy

Rosie the riveter inspired

As well as these, Sarah took some arty photos of me in various costumes out of our mutual curiosity to play and experiment. This is one of my favourites.

I love how she created such amazing lighting, especially for her first time playing with fancy lights! Might be a bit of a naughty shot but it was all about skin and light and learning 🙂

She also kindly took some family shots of me with my mum and her partner, who were staying with me at the time. I don’t think there are many photos of me and my mum together, which is a shame as we are so close. I won’t share them as I don’t think Mum would approve!

Really, I can’t say thanks enough to Sarah for her time, her generosity, and her friendship. And these photos.

Now I’m awfully worried that I’ve set the bar too high and showing you all ordinary clothes in ordinary photos will be somewhat of a let down. I’ll do my best though!

Finished object: the flame dress (or, things MrsC tells me to do)

12 Nov

I was going to write about some regular projects first, but at MrsC’s request I’m sharing my most recent make, my flame dress. I’m worried I’m peaking early, but what MrsC wants, MrsC gets. So here is this year’s dress for the Feet With Heat ball.

Posing at the ball. Photo courtesy Julian Thomson.

After last year’s skull and roses dress, I wanted this year’s dress to be suitably subversive and in your face. Subtlety is so over rated – for me at least. Despite my pledge to sew from stash, I decided that I had Nothing To Wear and hit up my old trusty eQuilter. I started my search by looking for Alexander Henry designs. It wasn’t long before I found a fabric covered in hot rod flames, fell instantly in love with it, and knew this was it.

Showing off the skirt before I left for the ball, and getting a good eyeful of the hot rod flames. Unfortunately the photo is lousy. This is what happens when it suddenly occurs to you to get a photo so you give your boyfriend your phone just before you walk out the door and don’t pay any attention to where you are standing. The things blogging is making me learn!

Next was picking a pattern. MrsC demanded suggested I try Sewaholic’s Cambie, thinking that its pear-shaped block and the way the sleeves attach to the back might help with my fitting issues. Despite a dislike of gathers, I duly ordered it (along with Minoru), thinking I could always do flat sleeves, and waited for everything to arrive.

The dress in action out on the dance floor

I had already decided that the super busy print would work well with a contrast black bodice with flames flickering up from the skirt, so while I waited I bought a black cotton sateen with a hint of spandex ( I may accidentally have bought much more than I needed for this dress, just in case, and also some in white and some in pink, because you know, I could.) I also used the wait to start making my bodice toile out of an old sheet. Not one to let circumstances, like no longer working together, get in my way, I hauled my completed bodice into to MrsC’s shop so she could, in her role as my fitting minion mentor, pin and draw my alterations on. Not quite the same the ladies’ loo at our old work but still effective.

We had to significantly deepen the darts, raise the waist seam at the back a good inch or more, and redraw the side seam as on me it was wildly angled. I have yet to figure out if I needed to raise the back waist seam because I have a short upper back compared to my front, or if I’m just full busted enough to make the front of the bodice rise up in comparison. Things to think about in future. For now I just do as MrsC tells me.

Another action shot, showing a bit of thigh this time! I branched out this ball and wore a full circle petticoat with high waisted knickers and no slip, which is what competitive dancers wear, but I did feel a bit odd showing so much leg! And knickers! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

I made another bodice toile and again trotted into the shop for review. I’d always intended on replacing Cambie’s gathered skirt with a full circle skirt, but after seeing version 2 of the bodice, MrsC suggested I ditch the waistband as well and put the skirt straight on the bodice. I of course did exactly this.

With MrsC’s approval of the bodice, I set about making it out the black sateen. The Cambie bodice is a great construction method and comes together really quickly. I even kept the gathers! Again at MrsC’s suggestion I used cotton tape to strengthen the sweetheart neckline. I actually ended up constructing part of the bodice in her shop during a social gathering MrsC hosted there. Nothing like wandering around a shop after hours getting people to pin you in and out of your clothes while eating cupcakes and gossiping! Of course, the danger of this is that I also left with several metres of artificial horsehair braid and a promise to put it in my hem. That woman has the gift of the barrow.

And another shot from the floor. I love the way the flames are so vibrant when they move. Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The skirt was actually cut out by a friend of mine, The Sewphist. Ism renowned for my carefully organised stash, and The Sewphist had offered to sew for me if I organised for her. Knowing the weekend I’d put aside for my skirt sewing was the last chance I had to help her out for a while, I suggested we trade that weekend. Because of the directional print combined with the narrow craft cotton width, each half circle has been pieced, with a small section on each corner added on. The Sewphist did a great job of matching prints as best she could with the meterage I had available (something I hadn’t taken into account when ordering) and she finished cutting with only 10cm of fabric remaining. Perfect.

After she made up and attached the skirt, I took the dress home and put in the invisible zip. Normally I’m very proud of my invisible zips but I will admit that the zip in this is NOT my best work. I didn’t pay enough attention at the time or I would have seen that I hadn’t stitched close enough to the teeth, but luckily the black on black is disguising anyway. Still, every time I see the zip I get annoyed at myself.

Sick of action shots yet? This is the last one. I’m finally getting good at maintaining eye contact with my dance partner, but J here is particularly fun to make eyes at. As you can tell from this photo! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The Friday night before the ball, after the skirt had been hanging all week, my good friend Sarah came over to help me appliqué flames to myself. I decided it was better to position them with the dress on so I stood and gave artistic criticism while she shoved her hands in my bodice to best position flames over my boobs. She also positioned my flames on my back as well.

My punk flatmate, who also dances, was also called in for artistic opinion, which somehow transformed into an eleventh hour idea to dress him up to match. Sarah cut a couple of extra appliques and tacked them onto his shirt while I vliesofix-ed and hand stitched it all in place.

Me and my flatmate at the dance, showing off our matching outfits.

And a shot of the matching appliques on our backs.

And a close-up of our matching hair! I rubbed the red colouring into just the tips of Punk Flatmate’s bleached hair and it gave it a vibrant orange warmth that perfectly matched my orange and yellow flowers.

The Saturday was much like last year’s Saturday – getting my hair done in victory rolls (by a professional – I still suck) and hemming my skirt. Where it differed was using the horsehair for the first time, and helping my flatmate bleach out his green hair stripe and then dye the tips of it red so that it matched the flame outfits. He’s totally awesome and we looked… hot… together. Sorry, couldn’t resist!

A 1am self portrait of my hair and feather eyelashes before I dismantled it for bed.

The night was totally awesome and I had a great time dancing up a storm! The dress has since been worn to a Grease Sing-a-long at The Embassy, the cinema that is about to host the world premiere of The Hobbit. While there my studio-mates and I danced before the movie as ambient entertainment, and we taught the hand jive at intermission. I wanted to wear it to a burlesque ball the following night but couldn’t get it dry in time.

Punk Flatmate and I playing for the cameras.

Most people’s favourite photo of the night. I had to ask the photographer what we were doing as I couldn’t place it. He reminded me… that I’d asked Punk Flatmate to shorten my bra strap as it kept sliding off while I danced!

And my favourite photo of the night, Punk Flatmate and I posing together.

I love wearing this dress but it does leave me with two dilemmas. First, how often does an opportunity to wear a flame embellished dress come along? I don’t want to let this languish. And second, how on earth do I choose a fabric next year that could top this!!! Ideas welcome!