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FO and MOS 10/52: Peggy Sue cardigan

13 Oct

I can’t hear the words Peggy Sue without hearing this song in my head. But this isn’t a story about a song. It’s a story about this cardigan. A looong overdue story about a cardigan I knitted all by myself.

So proud of myself for knitting a whole cardigan!

So proud of myself for knitting a whole cardigan!

This was my summer 2012 knitting project. After learning to knit Christmas 2011 and spending 2012 knitting baby clothes and slippers, I wanted to graduate to making grown-up garments. But I knew I’d want Mum around to help so waited until my Christmas 2012 holiday at Mum’s to crack into it.

I started looking at patterns and yarn months earlier, emailing links and scanned patterns to Mum for her perusal. Eventually we settled on Peggy Sue – the pattern was free (here from Ravelry) and Mum decided it was a suitable balance of easy but not boring with a couple of new skills.

I cast on on Christmas day 2012 with my new Knitpro needles (having swatched earlier and Mum giving me the right sized needles that day as a Christmas present!) The pattern was easy to follow and flew off the needles. I cast off on January 6 and sewed on my buttons and wove in the ends the day after, making this my first make of 2013. I was DELIGHTED.

My first day's effort. I knitted for about 8 hours straight after casting on at lunchtime.

My first day’s effort. I knitted for about 8 hours straight, after casting on at lunchtime.

I made some alterations to the pattern, all in the length. I shortened the stocking stitch portion so it finished just under my boobs, and did one or two sets less of cable ribbing so that the finished length sits on my true waist (which is naturally high). And I lengthened the sleeves so they finished just above the elbow as the yarn was so super smoodgy that I was worried it would be too warm for super short sleeves. Otherwise I knit it as written. I was exactly in between sizes so went for the smaller of the two to ensure a close fit.

I was determined to finish the cardi so knitted everywhere, including in the car on the way to Russel

I was determined to finish the cardi so knitted everywhere, including in the car on the way to Russell!

Although the vast majority of this is stocking stitch, it does have a cable rib section. This was my first time doing cable and I really enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to working more of this in the future.

I do want to stabilise the button band with ribbon to stop the ripply edge that the cardigan gets – this is in the pattern photo too so it seems to be the thing, but I don’t like it! So it’s been sitting in my mending pile all winter – better get on to that soon!

I love the cropped length and slightly longer sleeves

I love the cropped length and slightly longer sleeves

The yarn is Urban 8 ply machine washable wool from Skeinz, and it’s lovely. Unfortunately I haven’t worn it much. This year we had the most amazing summer in Wellington ever, stretching well out into what should have been autumn – then turning into winter almost overnight. I went from singlet tees to merino thermals without much lingering in the middle. However, as we head into spring now hopefully it’ll get a lot more use. I do still worry that the sleeves should be full length, in case as the finished garment is too warm for the sleeve length I’ve got, but I think it’ll be a great season transition piece – if we ever have seasonal transitions.

No bagginess at the back, yay!

No bagginess at the back, yay!

Although I’ve never knitted a traditional make and sew knitted top, so proper scientific comparison is impossible, I’m already enamoured of the top down all-in-one method as it’s great for fitting and it’s so exciting to cast off and tadah! Have a finished object sitting in your lap.

I have since cast on another cardigan for myself but progress this year has been SLOW. I’ve taken a leaf from Lladybird and started knitting in my lunchbreaks, although have inadvertently ended up agreeing to teach a colleague to knit as a result. Whoops! However, in the last couple of weeks since knitting at lunch it’s really started moving along so fingers crossed it’s finished soon!

A close up to shot the neat cable rib band at the neck and the moss stitch band

A close up to show the neat cable rib band at the neck and the moss stitch button band

The final set of photos were taken the same time as the photos from my skirt remakes, so once again heaps of thanks to Jo from Making it Well for wielding the fancy camera and Grace from Miss la Belle for the posing tips. It was so much fun hanging out with these guys!

And because of Grace's and Jo's influence, here is my knitting-does-pinup pose.

And because of Grace’s and Jo’s influence, here is my knitting-does-pinup pose.

FO and MOS 6-7/52: turquoise and denim skirts remakes

11 Aug

Originally when I knew Mum was coming to stay for a week I thought “excellent, a day or two to finish my costume and then we’ll do heaps of other stuff!” Of course, that didn’t pan out… the costume took so much work! But we still squeezed in some other fun stuff while we were together.

One of the things I managed to do was to refashion two me-made skirts that have been sitting in my repairs bin since last September, when Mum was last staying with me and helped me do a serious wardrobe audit.

The first is an A-line skirt made from dark blue denim covered in an oxblood red velvet flocking. I made the skirt back in about 2002 (yep, over 10 years ago!) from Butterick 3220.

Butterick 3220

Butterick 3220

It was one of the first things I made for myself after years of making Mum sew for me and I was pretty pleased with it (although I don’t think I did the zip myself but I can’t remember who did!) But I didn’t wear it often and I didn’t know why. I finally figured out last year that the body of the denim meant that the A-line retained its A shape, as opposed to falling into fullness the way drapey A-lines do; and that the shape of the skirt standing out from my body did not please me. So I decided to peg it.

Doesn't really show how unflattering this was, largely because Mum took it at night and I was wearing all black with it and the light in my sewing room is awful. You'll just have to trust me that it wasn't good and several people agreed.

Doesn’t really show how unflattering this was, largely because Mum took it at night and I was wearing all black with it and the light in my sewing room is awful. You’ll just have to trust me that it wasn’t good and several people agreed.

First I tried the skirt on and pinned to mark the hip. Then I turned the skirt inside out, measured in from each side seam about 6 cm, and connected this in a straight line to the hip point with chalk.

Because the skirt was A-line, it had no vents or splits, so my plan was to convert the side seams into splits by simply not sewing my new side seam all the way to the bottom, and then cut the old side off, leaving an open seam at the bottom in which to make a split. I’d press the seam allowances flat on the split and top stitch over them. But I wanted to check the amount of taper before cutting off the excess but after sewing in my new seam lines. So I sewed the new side seam, following my chalk, to within a few centimetres of the bottom.

I put the skirt on and discovered something. Completely unintentionally, my new seam had turned the excess fabric at the hem into kick pleats! So taken was I with this that I decided to leave the kick pleats in place. I top stitched a line of angled stitching as is traditional in a kick pleat and trimmed off the excess seam allowance, and it was pretty much done! The only thing I decided to do was to add a row of tiny edge stitches to each pleat to make it nice and crisp, and the result was so nice that yes, I will go back and do this to my yellow skirt.

It’s still not really the ideal shape for my preferences, as I am still learning what I like on me, but now I have a new skirt with a nifty design feature that I’m happy to wear while I work on making things that are even better. And the first day I wore it to work, I got some lovely comments. I’d call that a win!

New and improved skirt. I'm standing on a bit of wood so my heels don't sink into the ground. Yes, I had to wear heels.

New and improved skirt. I’m standing on a bit of wood so my heels don’t sink into the ground. Yes, I had to wear heels.

I like hats but I don't wear them often. I should wear them more.

I like hats but I don’t wear them often. I should wear them more.

Trying some saucy poses. Hmm.

Trying some saucy poses. Hmm.

Nicely fitted through the seat.

Nicely fitted through the seat.

Drawing your attention to my unique kick pleats on my side seams.

Drawing your attention to my unique kick pleats on my side seams.

A close up of the kick pleat. You can see the original side seam forms one edge of the pleat and if you look really closely you can see the angled top stitching.

A close up of the kick pleat. You can see the original side seam forms one edge of the pleat and if you look really closely you can see the angled top stitching.

The second skirt was a straight pencil skirt that I made about three years ago from Vogue 8425 (View A) and wore it heaps. The pattern came together perfectly easily. I did toile it when I made it, and made some alterations to it but I can’t remember what they were! It was a fast and easy make and I will make it again someday. I’m also dead keen to do View C with that awesome built in belt thing.

But despite getting lots of wear out of it, I also decided in my wardrobe audit that I prefer tapered hems as more in keeping with my aesthetic and so this went into my repairs box for a spruce up.

Vogue 8425

Vogue 8425

It is made in a turquoise mystery fabric with a white slub. My awesome brothers gave me the fabric for my birthday in about 2005ish because they know I’m crazy about turquoise! At the time they were only about 12 and 10 years old, and they picked the fabric out themselves. It was bought from a shop that along with new fabric off the bolt sold fabric from deceased estates, which this one was, so I have no idea how old it is or what it is made from, but I do know my brothers know me well.

My attempt at a before shot. Also taken at night in bad lighting. Toughen up and deal with it.

My attempt at a before shot. Also taken at night in bad lighting. Toughen up and deal with it.

Another super easy fix! Because it was already a pencil skirt it had a rear vent, so all I had to do was take in the sides. To do so I marked my hip, mark my reduced distance at the hem, unpicked the hem at the side seam, connected in a straight line with chalk, and then sewed it in! A bit of hand sewing to re-hem the side seam and a favourite skirt updated to be even more favourite and released back into circulation.

And after, neatly pegged at the hem.

And after, neatly pegged at the hem.

I love this colour so am very happy to have this skirt back in rotation!

I love this colour so am very happy to have this skirt back in rotation!

Again, nicely fitted through the rear.

Again, nicely fitted through the rear.

Wellington wind and it's fine hair-helping best.

Wellington wind at it’s fine hair-helping best.

Like all things though, getting photos, especially in winter, is a hassle. Luckily as we ease towards spring we’ve been getting some great sunny days, and a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to host both Jo of Making it Well and Grace of Miss La Belle’s House of Burlesque for an afternoon of crafting and company. Jo had volunteered her amazing camera to take some photos of me, and Grace volunteered her superior experience in dancing and modelling to try and teach me how to stand so that I don’t look as much like a numpty in photos. Did it work? No idea. Did we have fun? SO MUCH FUN! Grace had all three of us giggling and carrying on as she directed the photo shoot. All photo shoots should be this fun!!!

When photoshoots go crazy. You should see the ones I didn't show you. Wait, that doesn't even make sense.

When photo shoots go crazy. You should see the ones I didn’t show you. Wait, that doesn’t even make sense.

This one is actually one of my favourite photos!

This one is actually one of my favourite photos!

I am so pleased with my two “new” skirts! Now to tackle the approximately one gazillion other remakes and repairs in my repairs box…

FO and MOS 3/52: The seriously yellow pencil skirt

1 May

Being the terrible blogger that I am, I have a backlog of projects with no photos or posts to show for them; a backlog of drafts waiting for photos; and funnily enough some old photos that I never wrote anything to go with.

I had planned to tell all these stories in something resembling a sensible order, but this one got bumped to the head of the queue. Why? So that I could submit it to Cation Design’s stashbusting challenge for vibrant colours.

You see, my skirt, it’s yellow. Seriously yellow. Blindingly, happily, unashamedly yellow.

Outside a school in the inner city, with some amazing art etched into these support poles. paired with turquoise and navy becuase one vibrant colour is never enough. Photo courtesy Kat.

Outside a school in the inner city, with some amazing art etched into these support poles. paired with turquoise and navy becuase one vibrant colour is never enough. Photo courtesy Kat.

So, imagine if you will that I’ve already told you all about drafting my pencil skirt pattern from scratch (this one I actually wrote and WordPress ate it); and all about making my first skirt from it in a Mexican corazones hearts print; and you’ll just have to wait patiently (oh so patiently) until I actually do tell you those two stories.

So this, my second pencil skirt from my self-drafted pencil skirt pattern went together reasonably well. (Ok, fine, spoil the backstory post I have yet to release – the tutorial I followed is here).

It is made from cotton-with-a-hint-of-spandex sateen (one of my favourite fabrics) in yellow covered with a print of dragonflies, stars, and cursive French text in black and grey. This was actually a short turnaround from fabric to make – I think I bought this fabric in November or December! I was enticed by the vibrant yellow and just had to have it. Even though this is a short period (given my oldest stash fabric is 16 years old) it still fits my definition of stash – it was bought with no immediate project in mind and went into the cupboard for “later.”

Thank goodness for the kick pleat so I can bend my knees!

Thank goodness for the kick pleat so I can bend my knees! Also, what amazing school grounds to be right in the city. Photo courtesy Kat.

Overall, this was a fast make for me. I washed, dried, ironed the fabric, cut, and assembled it in the first three days of April, and THEN discovered that Cation’s challenge was vibrant colours! I was so pleased that I’d have this ready in time. But I had to wait for a while to hem it, then to get photos, then to write this up… you know how it goes! So hopefully I just get to slip it in, and I couldn’t have done it without Kat of Modern Vintage Cupcakes to take my photos.

Despite being a fast make, there were, as always, things to be learned along the way. After the hilarity of my first one (yeah, I know, telling it out of order, I’ll get there) I didn’t make any of those mistakes again. I made a whole new set though!

The pattern is straight forward, centre back lapped zip, facings, kick pleat, and it all came together well. This time I did a small sway back adjustment to my paper pattern after noticing that the waist on skirt-one sat high at the back. I did this by just dipping the waistline at the back from nothing at the waist to about 1.5cm at centre back. This has mostly worked really well, although it also appears to have resulted in my side seams now no longer being perpendicular to the floor and I have no idea why.

We found this fantastic old car parked in front of these brilliantly painted doors and decided that more colour was even better. Plus this shows how well this skirt fits my rear. Photo courtesy kat

We found this fantastic old car parked in front of these brilliantly painted doors and decided that more colour was even better. Plus this shows how well this skirt fits my rear. Photo courtesy kat

But, I don’t think I’ve ever combined a lapped zip with a facing. My other lapped zips have all had waistbands, and my faced skirts have all been invisible zips, both easy combos. On an invisible zip, it is really easy to fold the facing to the zip tape. I usually do this with machine and then turn, giving it a beautiful neat finish. But you can’t do this with a lapped zip as the facing would join to the overlap, neatly sandwiching the zip teeth and making them impossible to reach. I spent time Googling and poking at it and getting frustrated at the incomprehensible instructions online before I stuck with my normal facing method and sort of poked the facing out of the way when hand stitching it down. This has left a weird little tuck in the facing but I can wear it and that is what counts. The waist is a little uneven at the very top of the zip but I couldn’t quite get it any better and I’ve decided I don’t care. I did add a wee hook and eye to ensure that there is no gaping at the top of the zip.

Unlike skirt-one which had a vent, this time I tried a kick pleat. I’ve since decided that this wasn’t the best idea as the sateen doesn’t hold a neat crease at the edge of the pleat so it just sort of sits open in a weird way. I might top stitch a pleat into it to give it some definition or open it out into a vent. Or maybe I won’t. Whatever. It was perfectly easy to make though, so yay for making my first kick pleat!

Finally, skirt one, despite being drafted with some wearing ease, was very snug fitting. So, thinking I had learned from that I sewed this one with an extra centimetre at each side seam. But after wearing it once or twice I discovered that this was too much and painstakingly took it back in to the original size. I am not sure if the different in comfort and fit between the two is because this is a stretch fabric where version one was a solid cotton, or if it’s because I forgot to interface the facing (sigh). The reduction in side seam was perhaps the most difficult part of the whole make – I had to unpick the hand stitching where I’d anchored the facing to the side seams, unpick the under stitching on the facing, unpick the facing from the skirt, unpick the turned-up edge on the facing and unpick the overlocking that I’d turned up, take in the facing, take in the side seam, re-overlock the side seam allowances, re-overlock the edge of the facing, re-turn up the edge of the facing, reattach the facing, and re-understitch the facing. I have yet to re-anchor it to the side seams with a couple of rehand restitches.

Totally worth it. It fits so much better now!

Aiming for a pin-up look. Pencil skirts always make me feel slinky. Photo courtesy Kat.

Aiming for a pin-up look. Pencil skirts always make me feel slinky. Photo courtesy Kat.

I also took advantage of the time I spent dicking around with it to peg the skirt, so it tapers from hip to hem. This worked great although there is now a tiny bit of puckering on the side seam that there wasn’t before. But only I can tell (I hope) and I definitely prefer the pegged shape.

Because I drafted this I did something odd with the hip curves and so the hem doesn’t quite match up, so I decided to get it levelled from the ground up and the awesome Sarah and I did a levelling swap (I did the hem on her amazing Victorian skirt). This has resulted in a really weird hem when lying flat; the back is about 3 or 4 cm longer in the centre back than the centre front. Worried that this wasn’t right, I conned Mechanic Man into double checking it and got the thumbs up. So I tried on a RTW skirt that I have and got him to check that. Sure enough, even though the RTW skirt is perfectly level when flat, when on it is shorter in the back than the front. Levelling for the win!

This made me think though about skirts with interesting hem details like gores or godets (my RTW has box pleats the whole way round). One couldn’t really level that from the floor up as the features would all end up out of whack. Then again, I’ve never noticed that my RTW skirt looks terribly odd being longer in the front than the back either. So I’ve decided that all featureless skirts will get levelled from the ground up, and any featured skirts will be hemmed on the flat on the basis the differential isn’t that noticeable, I hope. We shall see anyway!

Vital statistics
Pattern: self drafted
Year: now
Fabric: cotton spandex sateen from Global Fabrics in Wellington
Notions: zip, thread, hook and eye, and forgotten interfacing
Made when: April 2013
Techniques used: lapped zipped and incorrect facing method,
Stash duration: about 4 months
Wearability: comfy, bright, fits my aesthetic love it – it will get lots of wear.
What I learned: don’t forget to interface your facing; a sway back adustment might mess up your side seam angle; the amount of stretch in cotton spandex sateen might be enough to require less wearing ease than an identical skirt in non stretch fabric
Unsolicited compliments: so many at Fabric-a-brac I started to blush!

I do love this old car! Photo courtesy Kat.

I do love this old car! Photo courtesy Kat.

My only remaining gripe is that I think I would have liked it longer, but this was as long as I could get. So overall, I’m pretty pleased with this, and expect to see some more vibrant pencil skirts soon!

FO: The Adversity top

4 Apr

Note: I finished this garment January 1st 2012. Yep, over a year ago. But this post sat around waiting for pictures. Then I had photos taken in June 2012, by the wonderful Sarah. Yep, 9 months ago. Then this post sat around waiting for me to upload the photos. And then kind of got forgotten. So for my amusement if not yours, here it is…


Looks good if you don't look too close! I love this shape with a pencil skirt. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Looks good if you don’t look too close! I love this shape with a pencil skirt. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Courtesy Google.

Courtesy Google.

Pattern: Butterick 4988
Year: 2007
Fabric: teal blue crinkle stretchy synthetic something
Notions: buttons
Made when: October 2011 – January 2012
Techniques used: princess seams, experimenting with the mock overlocking stitches on Mum’s fancy sewing machine, crying and coughing until Mum fixed my mistakes
Alterations made: shortened the straps; interfaced the straps; and lengthened the button placket to be the same length as the top.
Wearing history: not worn much yet (EDIT: not worn much since)
Likeability: love the colour and shape so much!
What I learned: do not sew while sick

It is a miracle that this top exists and is vaguely wearable, as it has been nothing short of a tale of woe.

This top was one of two garments I started in October 2011 as part of my ill-fated holiday at mums. The other was my leopard print circle skirt, yet to be blogged (EDIT: still yet to be blogged).

I really wanted this top to fit me well. I really wanted this top to be made well. Although it doesn’t quite hit the score on either count, given its story of creation, I am just pleased it exists.
I started this during what was meant to be a crafting holiday with my wonderful Mum. I had great plans – I had two weeks to spend at her place, I’d packed my suitcase full of patterns and fabric (with a small corner left for my clothes and toothbrush), and we were going to sew up a storm.

This photo shoot was so fun, Sarah had great fun finding angles that gave me all the right curves. Photo courtesy Sarah

This photo shoot was so fun, Sarah had great fun finding angles that gave me all the right curves. Photo courtesy Sarah

I’d been (successfully, I thought) fighting off a cold over the couple of weeks before my flight to Auckland. The day before my flight I was feeling great! The day of my flight I woke up feeling a bit rubbish. I determinedly ignored it and took my fabric- and pattern-laden luggage to the airport. But by the time my plane landed an hour later I knew I was going to have a doozy of a head cold. And I woke up the following morning with that head cold which rapidly became bronchitis. I spent the rest of my holiday coughing, panting, wheezing, and living off a great assortment of drugs.

But I was determined I was going to sew damn it. Oxygen be damned!

Note to self. Do not sew when you are oxygen deprived. The bronchitis messed with my brain. I couldn’t think. I got puffed while sewing. I had to keep having a lie down so I could function. And I stuffed up my sewing constantly.

I am glad I lengthened the placket, much nicer than the envelope picture! Photo courtesy Sarah.

I am glad I lengthened the placket, much nicer than the envelope picture! And lookit! Pretty crystal-effect faceted flower buttons! Photo courtesy Sarah.

Up close you can see that it pulls a bit around the sides when tucked. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Up close you can see that it pulls a bit around the sides when tucked. Photo courtesy Sarah.

I started by making a mock-up out of a sheet. I successfully cut the pieces, but damned if I could get the first princess seam to fit together. Why was there so much ease on one piece? Why was the shape so off? Mum eventually took over and figured out that I had reversed one piece so was sewing the right side of one to the wrong side of the other, and therefore the princess seam on one to the centre front on the other. She fixed it, whipped it through, and ta-dah! But that was just the start…

I finished the mock-up, making more mistakes along the way. Once it was done, I threw it on. Satisfied with the fit as it stood, I cut the top and got started. But I stuffed up another two seams the same way as I had on the mock-up. I had to unpick one button placket because I forgot to interface it. Then I discovered I’d made the two plackets different lengths. I cut two straps the same so had to recut one strap. Mum and I spent about 6 hours trying to get the shoulder straps to sit right because although I did a mock-up, I didn’t include the strap and they were too wide set for my frame. We spent ages pinning then basting then adjusting to try to get them to sit nicely. Of course, that included the time I spent basting the straps on only to discover I’d put them on back to front. I think I did that twice.

Every seam has been undone and redone multiple times.

While this was happening, every half an hour or so I’d get too puffed from coughing while hunched over the sewing machine and would have to go and lie down and have another shot of ventolin, my wonder drug of choice. And then when I returned to my sewing I’d discover another mistake I’d made.

The weird puckering is where the front facing is pulling on the slip stitching to the princess seam. One of the few things I can probably easily fix. Photo courtesy Sarah

The weird puckering is where the front facing is pulling on the slip stitching attaching it to the princess seam. One of the few things I can probably easily fix. Photo courtesy Sarah

Really, I should have given up on day one and stuck with surfing the net and coughing on the couch and watching Mum sew. But it was my sewing holiday goramit! I WAS GOING TO SEW

So with Mum’s help through the tears and the mistakes and the brain fog and the trips to the doctor and the pharmacy I persevered and got most of it done. I bagged it in the UFO pile until my Christmas holiday, when I took it back to Mum’s and hemmed it and added my pretty flower buttons. And  just like that, it was done! And it was made nicely! And the fit seems mostly ok! Yeah!

See, just short enough to show a bit of belly when untucked. Photo courtesy Sarah.

See, just short enough to show a bit of belly when untucked. And look at what that strap is doing! Photo courtesy Sarah.

I’ve noticed two trends in the blogosphere for referencing garments. The first is the practical, named by style or colour or pattern. “My Mcalls 1234 dress” “My pink and black skirt” “The scalloped blouse.” Then there are those who name their garments with something a bit more creative – “The Daisy Goes Wild dress” – “The Cow Jumped Over The Moon pants.”

Me, I refer to most of my garments the first way. There are posts for my “pink polka dot skirt” and “The skull and roses dress”. But although this top should probably be called my “blue sleeveless top,” I am branching out and calling it my Triumph Over Adversity top. I am just so pleased to have got through the struggles and have this to show for it!

And that’s the post. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end well though. After wearing it only once or twice I realised thatthe fit issues were worse than I first thought. Although it’s meant to be fitted blouse I could pull it on and off without undoing the buttons. The straps STILL don’t sit right and annoy me immensely. In my attempts to make the straps sit well I think the top got hoiked up too high under my arms and it rubs just a fraction too much. Despite lengthening the button placket and checking the overall length it untucks when I wear it tucked in and shows my belly button when I wear it untucked. But I was determined that my perseverance would not be in vain and that I would wear it! And OH I love the colour!

The extra width that it has acquired in the back. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The extra width that it has acquired in the back. Where did this come from?! Photo courtesy Sarah.

But the last time I wore it I had it on for about 10 minutes before I took it off in anger and shoved it in the rejects pile. No more. It may be a triumph over adversity that it is constructed, but is not a triumph in fit.

I think that the crinkle in the fabric has relaxed, making it looser. I suspect the fabric has stretched across the centre back from being worn un-faced (and un stay-stitched) for hours while Mum and I futzed with the straps. I think that my mock-up wasn’t really examined well enough to identify if it actually fit me properly. And I think a series of stitching errors just combined to make it just not fit right.

See the armscye is a bit too affectionate with my underarm. Photo courtesy Sarah

See the armscye is a bit too affectionate with my underarm. Photo courtesy Sarah

Its fate is yet to be decided. At the most ambitious, I’ll take off the facing, add a centre back seam to reduce the back width, and try to get the strap placement more effective again. Most likely I’ll harvest the buttons and add the fabric to my craft scraps box.

My triumph over adversity is short-lived. I am defeated. Now, it is just the Adversity top.

Luckily, my other make from the same period (the leopard print skirt), while as plagued with issues, is a fabulous garment that I’ve worn and worn and worn. Yay! And that happy story will come soon.

Tell me, have you ever had a garment that you’ve laboured over and cried over and then, after it was done, STILL had to abandon? Do you have any ideas for resurrecting this top that you’d like to share?

This is a gratuitous shot to show off Sarah's talent.

This is a gratuitous shot to show off Sarah’s talent.

FO: pink and white floral circle skirt

13 Mar

Finally! I’m sharing my first circle skirt. Which I first made in March 2011. Yep, 2 years ago.

Unlike my second circle skirt, which was a heavy cotton sateen with quite a lot of drape, my first circle skirt was a lightweight cotton voile. Despite being hung for a week before being hemmed, it quickly dropped in one place and sat around for months waiting to be re-levelled and re-hemmed. Then when it was re-hemmed I didn’t have anything to wear it with for ages, and it was too lightweight for winter besides. So this summer was my first chance to really truly wear it. And wear it I did. It was glorious to wear in the heat of summer. All of these photos are from my Christmas holiday in KeriKeri, taken on a day trip to Russell and Waitangi, where it was perfect.

Daintily arranged to show off the print, on the hillside just below Russell's famous flagpole.

Daintily arranged to show off the print, on the hillside just below Russell’s famous flagpole.

I LOVE the print on this skirt. I love the vibrant colours and the painted look of the giant flowers and the fact that it doesn’t look like a floral at first glance. I love this so much I have the same fabric in an electric-blue-on-white colourway, waiting for the right pattern to become a two piece full skirted dress.

Was thrilled to see a bottle of Mello Yellow for sale while in Russell! Limited edition, exactly the same label from my childhood. I had to buy one (even though I wasn't a huge fan when it was out.) My mum decided that the retro style bottle went great with the skirt and retro-ish sunnies.

Was thrilled to see a bottle of Mello Yellow for sale while in Russell! Limited edition, exactly the same label from my childhood. I had to buy one (even though I wasn’t a huge fan when it was out the first time and not much has changed.) My mum decided that the retro style bottle went great with the skirt and retro-ish sunnies.

The skirt (dropping hem aside) was easy to make, as all circle skirts are. I used McCalls 5811 again, put in an invisible zip and a lapped waistband with a trouser hook, and wham bam that’s a skirt! The second time around hemming, I used wide  white bias tape to give it a bit of support at the hem and that was perfect.

This giant sundial offers 360 degree views over bush and ocean with the Russell township nestled in one piece. But rather than show you the beautiful views, I'm showing you my skirt. Oops.

This giant sundial offers 360 degree views over bush and ocean with the Russell township nestled in it. But rather than show you the beautiful views, I’m showing you my skirt. Oops.

Because I had to level this twice, I got worried about it being crooked. Which was probably why I noticed, when folding it after finishing the hems, the the side seams were a good inch different in length. I freaked out – I did NOT want to hem this again! But I tried it on, and no,it looked all good, nice and straight. So on a whim I looked at my other two circle skirts, (my polka dot skirt and the third yet to be blogged about). And each of them also had an inch discrepancy on the side seams, with the same side seam short in each case. So either one hip is lower than the other or one butt cheek is rounder than the other but either way, my body is not symmetrical. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, and is why I always get my skirts levelled on the body rather than on a dress form!

Holding my skirt to catch the breeze

Holding my skirt to catch the breeze

The sky was that colour everywhere.

The sky was that colour everywhere.

Posing in the Waka House, Waitangi, where we had great fun exploring

Posing in the Waka House, Waitangi, where we had great fun exploring.

I love wearing circle skirts, even though I’m still not sure they suit me. But I love how they feel and that is the most important thing. The one downside of circle skirts is that I live in a windy city and the breeze can be a bit naughty sometimes. I get around this by wearing things of which I do not know the name. They’re like leggings but only come to the bottom of my thigh. When I was at school we called them bike shorts, but that can’t be right because these aren’t the hi-tech cycling shorts you’d see on people who are actually riding a bike. I still call them that in my head but what do you call them? Either way, they’re not quite right, the lace abrades a little and I’d like them a bit longer too, so I’m thinking of making tap pants or bloomers instead.

And I’m not showing you the photo of my skirt caught by the breeze, up around my ears, butt to the camera, white [insert name here] on full display!

FO and MOS 2/52: Best-friend’s-wedding dress

10 Mar

No, I didn’t make a wedding dress for my best friend. That would be my best-friend’s wedding-dress. See how important punctuation is?

What I did make was the dress I wore to my best friend’s wedding, which is scary enough anyway. And I was her maid of honour. Way to raise the stakes there!

You want some photos of the wedding right? Everyone likes wedding photos. Apart from the people who don’t. You know who you are.

Casual shot on a cell phone after the ceremony. Yep, I had purple leopard sunnies. It was bright!

Casual shot on a cell phone after the ceremony. Yep, I had purple leopard sunnies. It was bright! You’d think there’d be lots of photos – it was a wedding afterall – but most of the unofficial snaps are of the brides and we’re still waiting for the official snaps to come back that will have a bit more of me!

What a privilege to be the maid of honour at my best friend's wedding. KT is on the right and her lovely new wife is on the left

What a privilege to be the maid of honour at my best friend’s wedding. KT is on the right and her lovely new wife is on the left

Enough about weddings, what about the dress?

Luckily, my only criterion as maid of honour was to wear purple. It could be any fabric, any style, even any shade of purple so long as I turned up in purple. You’d think this would make life easy, seeing as how I have a stash out the wazoo, but did I have a length of purple fabric suitable for such a dress? NO. So off shopping I went. Now, I can’t walk into a fabric shop without falling over a squillion bolts of fabric I adore. But going looking for something specific is hard work! There was pretty much nothing out there in a beautiful, proper purple. Not purply pink, not fuchsia, not magenta, but a rich violet or iris purple. But a I did eventually buy a beautiful tissue weight dark purple silk with big black polka dots and matched it with a pretty pattern I already had (Plan A). But when I got it home, and added up the amount of time I had to make this, with the giant spectre of Christmas Holiday in the middle, I decided that faffing around with slippery silk was officially A Disaster Waiting To Happen. Nope, it had to be cotton.

Just finished, no makeup or shoes, pleased as punch with the fit of the bodice (not so pleased with dart points)

Just finished, straight off the machine onto the body, no makeup or shoes! Pleased as punch with the fit of the bodice (although not so pleased with the dart points)

After more hunting, I finally I slunk into Spotlight and found a plain purple basic cotton. I packed the fabric and my shortlist of patterns to take with me on holiday to ponder. See, being someone who likes blindingly bright colours and prints (along with gothic black outfits, but that is for another post) I kind of worried the fabric was, well, blah, and I was agonising over what to make. I thought about making it into something svelte and slinky to up the oomph factor, but I wasn’t sure how well a basic cotton would make up slinky. So I thought about blinging it up somehow, and had thoughts of piping and studs and lace and whatnot in my head and even bought a bunch of black piping. Finally I settled on a pattern that I thought would do it justice, princess seamed with a bit of flare at the knee and a nice seam detail that might suit piping (Plan B).

But I knew I’d need to muslin, I was worried about it not being the right pattern, would I look good at the wedding, etc. As I prevaricated and panicked, time slipped through my fingers and eventually I abandoned the untested pattern and decided to make something that I knew would fit me – a Frankencambie, made from the redrafted pattern that resulted after several rounds of mock-ups for my flame dress. I also decided to skip all the possible embellishments to make sure it was made in time.

Story-to-make-you-laugh-at-me-number-one. I had problems with cutting out. My modified Cambie bodice pieces are sans seam allowance and I stuffed up the cutting twice. The first time was because my new piece was upside down so I didn’t see my written reminder to add allowances. But what was stupid was the second time I stuffed up. I was cutting a second bodice front for the lining. I had the first bodice front still pinned to the paper to use as a guide for the seam allowance. Which I successfully did on three sides – and then, on the last, I cut against my paper piece, promptly chopping the seam allowance off both shell and lining! Grrr.

Once I’d cut another two bodice fronts, making it was pretty easy so soon after having made the flame dress so I’m not going to dwell on it, apart to note that I’m not overly happy with my dart points. Oh well, nothing’s perfect.

Story-to-make-you-laugh-at-me-number-two. While on holiday a local petticoat retailer had a sale. I have lots of fabric to make petticoats, with the idea being to dye each one a different colour, but there was a purple petticoat that was an exceptional price and it was a colour I didn’t already have made up, so I impulse-bought it. I had NO idea what I was going to wear it with when I bought it. I had no purple clothes! A couple of weeks after buying the petticoat I went to Made on Marion to buy a zip and thread for my dress. My good friend Busty La Belle worked there part-time and was on duty so I had a wee chat with her. She asked me if I’d seen the sale and I said, “yep, I bought a purple petticoat. NO idea what I’m going to wear it with. It’s a pretty colour, let’s see, about the colour of… say… this zip I’m holding. That I’m putting into a full circle skirted dress. Huh. I suppose I could wear the petticoat with the dress I’m making.” Yep, I had bought a purple petticoat at the same time I was making a purple dress and did not connect the two events in my head. My only defence was at the time I bought the petticoat I was still on Plan B, a completely non-petticoat compatible concept.

Story-to-make-you-laugh-at-me-number-three. Once the zip was set in and the lining was in, but before inserting the sleeves into the front neck, it was the first chance I had to test the fit, and the bodice fit like a glove! I ran out of the house to show my Mechanic Man. Of course, Mechanic Man had a customer over, poring over a bike in the workshop. This didn’t stop me from barrelling up to both of them, sleeves fluttering behind me, tips of the sweetheart falling forward to show flashes of bra, squealing “IT FITS!!!!!” Mechanic Man was suitably complimentary. Customer was surprisingly sweet about the half-crazed partly-dressed woman cackling with glee.

So yep, it fits. And I wore it (with the petticoat) at my best friend’s wedding. And I got a few compliments too. I also wore it to the wonderful Wellington blogger’s meet up.

A photo from the bloggers' meet-up. Photo courtesy Nikki.

A photo from the bloggers’ meet-up. Photo courtesy Nikki.

Also from the bloggers' meet-up. Thanks Nikki!

Also from the bloggers’ meet-up. Thanks Nikki!

Couldn't resist playing with some of the crowns at the Coronation cafe.

Couldn’t resist playing with some of the crowns at the Coronation Cafe.

BUT I’m not sure I love it. I love this colour. I love sweetheart necklines. I love circle skirts. My only ever reservation about the Cambie was the gathered shoulders (as generally I dislike gathers) but I even like that in the black of my flame dress. But together, I feel that these features and this colour come across as too sweet and young somehow. I bit too… well… 1980s bridesmaidsy!

Is it just me?

And if not, what can I do to fix it?

One of the ideas I had originally had was studs. I found some small dainty star shaped studs at Made on Marion and thought that a row of little silver studs along the neckline could be a bit different – sweet-meets-a-tiny-bit-punk. I’m keen to give that a go.

Or maybe some turquoise ribbon along the hem? Sequins? Feathers? Or just wear it with a belt to give it a bit more edge? Or just stop being so damn fussy and wear the damn dress?

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!

Finished object: pink polka dot circle skirt

20 Mar

My first completed project post! I’ve been held up on posting by a lack of pictures of me posing prettily-ish in any of my finished works. But I’ve decided to plunge ahead with this post with only action shots and see how it goes. If I get around to getting some appropriate posed photos, I’ll add them in!

Pink polka dot skirt

Me and the pink polka dot skirt on the dance floor

McCalls 5811Pattern: McCalls 5811
Year: about 2010
Fabric: cotton sateen with a small percentage of spandex, in stash for about 6 months
Notions: zip, trouser hook
Made: Finished March 2011, started not much earlier (a fast make for a change!)
Techniques used: lapped zip, slip-stitching waistband
Time to complete: A couple of hours maybe?
What I learned: doing something for a second time makes it easier. I can do lapped zips afterall – and YouTube is your zip techniques friend.
Wearable? Worn as often as I can get away with it! But it’s not on high rotation as I have a theory that really identifiable garments shouldn’t be worn out all the time – otherwise people will think I don’t have any other clothes!
Likeability: I love it! 10/10
Unsolicited comments: “You look like Minnie Mouse.” Hmm, not sure about that one. But I get lots of other lovely comments, and my favourite was “you look like happiness.” Aww

This is my second circle skirt. My first circle skirt has dropped (despite being hung) and needs to be re-levelled and hemmed so I’ll post about that skirt (and more about actually making a circle skirt) when it is re-finished. Grr.

Circle skirts are already easy to make and being my second, this one came together in a cinch for a nice change. The heavier weight cotton was easy to work with and the project seemed to fly by. I did my first lapped zip in years (my last few zips have all been invisible zips) and even that turned out perfectly fine with no hassles, thanks to a quick refresh with the help of Google and YouTube. All in all it was a pleasant sewing experience!

I love circle skirts! As well as being easy to make, they are so much fun to wear, and (at least I think so) very flattering. And I love dancing in them! I do rock and roll dancing (at beginner level) and there are lots of twirls and spins, and circles skirts are the finishing touch needed for such frivolity. Of course, such spinning and twirling shows one’s knickers quite a lot, so before I debuted this skirt, MrsC at the Hectic Eclectic helped me make a ruffled, super froofy petticoat with built in slip, and did a great tutorial on it here.

The dance studio I go to for rock and roll (Feet with Heat) had their Christmas party and medal presentation in December 2010. I went with my dear friend Miss La Belle, wore my polka dot skirt and had a blast!

Me and Miss La Belle

Miss La Belle and I get a photo on the way into the party. My knees are bent as I am a lot taller than Miss La Belle (due only to my stomping heels) and the photographer needed our heads at the same height!)

Me, and the skirt, in action.

Pink polka dot skirt in action

Just starting or finishing a spin, with the skirt at almost full altitude.

Not the most graceful set of photos but they do show the skirt in full flight!

Pink polka dot skirt in action 2

More spinning!

The top is from a clothing swap, but I love it with its great flutter sleeves so may take a pattern off it one day.

Pink polka dot skirt in action 3

It's all about the spins!

Earlier in that day, I did something amazing, at least for me. I did a dance exam. Yep, I sat the beginners level dance exam for rock and roll. This is amazing if you knew my reputation (poor) for having any level of coordination, combined with my abject terror of any form of exam. For rock and roll the beginners exam is called a bronze medal test and if you pass, you get an actual medal. It isn’t quite as scary (and therefore cool) as it sounds though. The exam consists of one minute slow dancing and one minute fast dancing, with my teacher as my partner. But I shook like a leaf before, during, and after. I have to admit I didn’t wear my circle skirt for the exam – I didn’t want the examiner to think that I thought I was all that and mark me harsher for it, so I wore my birdie bridesmaid’s dress, still to be posted.

Not only that, but in between my medal test and the party, I did something else amazing, at least for the camera-shy me. A retro kitchen pin-up shoot, in my skulls and roses dress! I’ll post pictures from that when I do my skulls and roses dress post.

All in all a great day featuring a great skirt. Roll on more of my new wardrobe!

All photos courtesy of Julian Thomson