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FO: Cat lady sewing challenge top

8 Nov

Who doesn’t like a great sew along or sewing challenge! Well, actually, me. I participate in very few of them (outside of WSBN ones!) as it doesn’t tend to work with my creative process, although I love looking at the results.

But there’s this great blog out there called Miss Crayola Creepy and Erin came up with the great idea of a Cat Lady Sewing Challenge – make something with some form of cat reference in the fabric print. Cat sewing!!! Now there is something I can get behind! I knew INSTANTLY what I was going to make too.

My blue leopard print bustier top, for the Cat Lady Sewing challenge

My blue leopard print bustier top, for the Cat Lady Sewing challenge

But this is not that garment.

This is a garment I started in January, also inspired by an animal sewing challenge, Jungle January led by the truly brilliant Anne of Pretty Grievances and whose origin goes all the way back to last November and Sophie-Lee of Two Random Words and this pencil skirt.

Sophie-Lee and I both eyed up this blue leopard denim at Arthur Toye’s closing down sale (sniff) but I decided to refrain. Sophie-Lee went ahead and made that gorgeous skirt, but had about 80cm left over. We were chatting about what to do with it and I suggested that .8m was just enough for a bustier-style top. Sophie-Lee loved the idea but decided she’d never wear a blue leopard bustier and offered me the fabric so that I could do it, so very kind of her.

Fast forward to Jungle January and I decided it was the perfect time to make my leopard bustier, from Butterick 5680, a great ’80s pattern.

I used View C, the blue bustier top middle with skinny straps. I want to make the off the shoulder view top right as well. Who says the 80s have nothing to offer us!

I used View C, the blue bustier top middle with skinny straps. I want to make the off the shoulder view top left as well. Who says the ’80s have nothing to offer us!

I made a mock-up and eek. This thing needed fitting! Unfortunately (fortunately?) I have no pics of the misery that it was.

The lovely Jo of Making it Well helped me with a couple of iterations but it was still far from perfect and I ran out of time to finish it for Jungle January and it got shelved, and instead I finally blogged this skirt, also leopard print.

And then Erin’s challenge came along. As I mentioned, I knew exactly what I wanted to use, this awesome Japanese inspired quilting cotton featuring a fish-scale scallop pattern and lucky cats, or maneki-neko.

My awesome maneki neko fabric, bought from MrsC's shop Made on Marion

My awesome maneki neko fabric, bought from MrsC’s shop Made on Marion

I mean, lucky cats!!! It would be perfect! But in my attempt to curb my stash-building behaviour I had bought only a metre, and it is only 112cm wide. So, what’s a girl to do with a tiny bit of fabric?

Lots of lucky cats!

Lots of lucky cats!

And I recalled my unfinished bustier mock-up, started because of fabric restrictions, and decided to finish fitting it and use that.

And then I discovered I had 1.5 metres of my lucky cats fabric. And I couldn’t bring myself to use it on the bustier when I had enough to make something bigger and show more of the print.

And then I recalled that the fabric I’d earmarked for Jungle January was blue leopard, and Erin had said cat-fur prints counted. It seemed only sensible to finish my blue leopard top! And I did.

I had no idea waht to style this with, but a picnic in the park demanded something practical so black jeans it was

I had no idea what to style this with, but a picnic in the park demanded something practical so black jeans it was. I’d like to try it with pencil skirts and circle skirts. Photo courtesy Jo at Making it Well.

Before I even made my first mock-up I enlarged the pieces at the waist and hips, but not enough. Thankfully it fit pretty well at the bust so I slashed the mock-up open along the front princess seams and pinned extra fabric into them and transferred the extra back to these seams. But my second bodice had  too much in the hips, so I pinned some back out of the princess seams and made another version. The third version was still a bit gapey but I decided it wasn’t anything I couldn’t fit on the finished garment and went ahead. Sure enough, I had to trim more out of the front princess seams on the finished bodice.

I would like to make this top again as I LOVE this style of garment, so now I have to use my off-cuts to transfer my changes back to the pattern! I might also lengthen it next time. I add 3cm to the neck edge for slightly less cleavage but I think it needs more at the bottom too, as despite these jeans being “high waist” (whatever, they’re still below my natural waist, but at least they cover my butt unlike most modern jeans) I still get a crescent of bare kidneys when I sit or bend.


The back covers my jeans standing, but needs extra length for bending and sitting.  Photo courtesy Jo at Making it Well


Gratuitous side shot.

Construction was easy but I did make a few changes. I subbed in an invisible zip (from stash, I do love having a zip stash!)  instead of the back buttons and disregarded the boning and lining the pattern called for. I drafted a facing for the neck, and did a standard hem. I had so little fabric that I had to cut the straps on the cross grain and interface them, and they’re still a bit stretchier than ideal, and I had to piece the facing along the same seamlines as the bodice itself as I was working with scraps by this point. I chose not to line as the fabric is a super stretchy denim and I didn’t have a lining with the right weight and stretch factor, and I made the straps wider than the pattern called for as well. I taped the entire top edge of the top as per MrsC’s tutorial  but when I make this again – and I will –  I will also take a tiny bit out of the side seam at the top, as even with the tape it is a tiny bit loose at the underarms. But not enough to alter this one!

Jo said "do something cat like" so I stuck my leg in the air and tired to lick my thigh. What, my cat does it all the time! Photo courtesy Jo at Making it Well

Jo said “do something cat like” so I stuck my leg in the air and tried to lick my thigh. What, my cat does it all the time! Photo courtesy Jo at Making it Well

Jo said "not like that, try cat ears". I remain unconvinced these look cat ear like.

Jo said “not like that, try cat ears”. I remain unconvinced these look cat-ear-like. Photo courtesy Jo at Making it Well

The Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network all got quite enthusiastic about Erin’s challenge and we decided a picnic was the best way to celebrate. Wellington spring tends to alternate rapidly and frequently between gorgeous summers’ days (like today!) and blisteringly icy cold winters’ days and the forecast for our picnic was right on the border of the switch. But the day dawned beautifully and although it was a bit gusty it was warm and sunny so we tucked into a picnic at The Dell at Wellington’s Botanic Gardens. Laura at Laulipopnz volunteered her 6 year old daughter to take group photos of us and she took these artistic snaps of us. Given her size and the fact the camera was bigger than her head, the fact our heads are all in frame is pretty impressive!

WSBN picnic attendeees! L-R Teresa, Laura, Mel, Alison, Juliet, me, Sandra M, Sophie-Lee

WSBN picnic attendeees! L-R Teresa, Laura, Mel, Alison, Juliet, me, Sandra M, Sophie-Lee. Photo courtesy Laura at Laulipopnz (well, her daughter).

Attempting whiskers! L-R Teresa, Laura, Mel, Alison, me, Sophie-Lee, Sandra M, Juliet

Attempting whiskers! L-R Teresa, Laura, Mel, Alison, me, Sophie-Lee, Sandra M, Juliet. Photo courtesy Laura at Laulipopnz.

Jo flew into Wellington that day so arrived late, so we took more photos when she got there, but after Alison had left. L-R: Sophie-Lee, Laura, Mel, Teresa, Juliet, me, Sandra M, Jo

Jo flew into Wellington that day so arrived late, so we took more photos when she got there, but after Alison had left. L-R: Sophie-Lee, Laura, Mel, Teresa, Juliet, me, Sandra M, Jo. Photo courtesy Laura at Laulipopnz. 

I included this because I have no idea what happened in this photo.

I included this because I have no idea what happened in this photo. Photo courtesy Laura at Laulipopnz

Just as we finished eating the grey clouds rolled in and the air turned cold, so we went into the Winter Gardens, right next to The Dell, to take more photos in the inside tropical heat, and then finished up with a super thick thickshake and a quickie visit to some fabric stores. That is how you have an awesome day.

Teresa kindly took a couple of snaps of me and Jo together, just cos

Teresa kindly took a couple of snaps of me and Jo together, just cos. Photo courtesy Teresa. 

More cat ears! Yes, they're cat ears, not devil horns. We are bad at catting.

More cat ears! Yes, they’re cat ears, not devil horns. We are bad at catting. Photo courtesy Teresa. 

If you want to check out the blogs of the WSBN people mentioned here, here are the links:

Jo at Making it Well
Teresa at Adventures of a Girl from the Naki
Sophie-Lee at Two Random Words
Mel at The Curious Kiwi
Sandra M at Flossie FT
Laura at Laulipopnz
Juliet at Crazy Gypsy Chronicles
Alison somewhere awesome

Thanks to Erin, Anne, Sophie-Lee, Jo, and the whole WSBN for being awesome, and thanks to the sewing blogging communities for giving me the top that the internet built! And now I have regular leopard, pink leopard, and blue leopard in my repertoire. Only another gazillion to go to have the whole set!

FO: pink leopard cape and petticoat

28 Aug

Are you sick of pink leopard yet? Cos I’m not and there’s more to come!

Social rock and roll is a hot and sweaty affair and freedom of arm movement is paramount, so all of my ball dresses are sleeveless. But the ball is also in winter so a wrap or cover-up is essential between vehicle and venue, and even sometimes when you’re daintily evaporating at the tables between songs. In the past I’ve just used a regular old cardi out of my wardrobe. But really, surely with 11m of pink leopard I could do better?

At the time, the WSBN were planning their next sewing challenge and capes were the topic. Mel, Kat, and Juliet debuted their capes, using the free online Peppermint pattern (scroll down the linked page to find the pattern), and Eureka! A cape was just the deal!

I’m going to cut to the chase, for once. I didn’t get it made it time. It was soooo close, but I had to let it go.

But I returned to the project after the ball and finished my pink leopard cape. Check it out!

Practical pink leopard cape. Ok, maybe practical is pushing it!

Practical pink leopard cape. Ok, maybe practical is pushing it!

The Peppermint Cape is super easy to make. My only real issue with it is the sizing. It’s multi-sized, yay! But I could find no information on what people sizes each pattern size was meant to represent. It’s Aussie based so I assumed the sizes were similar to RTW and then assumed that Aussie RTW was similar to NZ RTW so cut the 14. It’s perfectly acceptable but I do wonder if it’s a tad loose around the elbows. But never mind.

As demure as it gets in pink leopard.

As demure as it gets in pink leopard.

I also found it impossible to ease the shoulder caps in without gathers, but that could be my choice of fabric. But I decided I liked the gathers so that was an easy solution anyway.

The one part I agonised over for ages was the closure. I’d seen a nifty RTW trick that had a fake frog closure made from buttons. A button is sewn either side of the opening, and the tails of a loop of ribbon are caught under one button. The loop then slips on and off the other button.

But try as I might, none of the buttons in my stash worked, and none of the ones I bought to try worked either.  What to do?

My solution had a roundabout way of arriving. The neck of the cape is bound with self bias. In order to use the scraps (afterall, I only have another 8 metres so I need to be stingy), I had to piece the binding. One joined, my final length of bias was much longer than needed, so I positioned it on the cape so the join was at the back, leaving the raw excess hanging at the front. I used this to tie the cape in place one day and realised this was my solution! But on closer examination, one end wasn’t quite long enough to use for a neat and tidy bow. Determined to use the ends somehow, I canvassed for opinions and a genius friend (which one I can’t remember) suggested making a Chinese ball out of it! Brilliant! So I hand sewed the raw edges of the bias together to make tie ends, mangled one piece into something approximating a Chinese ball, and turned the other end into a loop. Perfect. Except you can’t see it clearly in the photos. Sorry.

I kind like the silhouette of the wide cape across the elbows, much to my surprise!

I kinda like the silhouette of the wide cape across the elbows, much to my surprise!

I decided to line it with polar fleece to give it some warmth and softness against my Wellington-wind exposed arms, and found the perfect pink fleece at Arthur Toye.

Fuzzy wuzzy hot pink lining!

Fuzzy wuzzy hot pink lining!

Although unintentional, one of the great things about this cape is that it is reversible! For when pink leopard on pink leopard is too much.

Oh yes, much more subtle.

Oh yes, much more toned down.


Almost toned down.

Postively subtle in fact.

And what does one do with leftover scraps of hot pink polar fleece? Put it on the couch for Minerva to sleep on of course!

The other thing that rock and roll needs is petticoats. My collection has increased since I made my first one with MrsC! But this is my only white petticoat and started life as two hand-made petticoats.

Not an apron, but my white sparkly petticoat, layered over a locally made pink one.

Not an apron, but my white sparkly petticoat, layered over a locally made pink one.

I don’t have much to say about the construction that MrsC hasn’t already covered. But I do have some tales, of course! It wouldn’t be me without them!

Almost immediately after making that first black petticoat I decided I needed a white one to wear with my pink and white skirt. And a blue one and a purple one and a pink one. So I went to Fabric Warehouse, found a huge roll of white nylon tricot (which apparently dyes really easily), discovered it was hugely reduced (as in, under $3/m) and bought 36 metres! It puts my 11 metres of pink leopard to shame. And I have yet to make more than this one petticoat out of it! But I did make one, a simple single frilled one using a worn white sheet fine white cotton for the yoke. In the black one we stitched the yoke of the petticoat onto a straight slip in a far more robust knit, and turned the edge of the slip to make a casing. But the yoke in my was one much curvier than the top of the straight slip, and in such a thin fabric my attempt to turn it under to make a casing was… unsuccessful. I also had no white elastic! However, I was making it in anticipation of a dance competition that was, of course, only days away so I gave up, plunged on, and stitched the yoke straight to the elastic in the ugliest way possible.

I also made a second petticoat, with sparkles on it, that I love! This was all serendipity, not planning though. You see, once upon a time there was a TV show called “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” that followed British Gypsy and Traveller families as they prepared for their daughters’ weddings. In this culture, weddings are hugely competitive and the usually very young brides pour vast effort into making the dresses bigger and crazier than their peers’. Tulle. Butterflies. Sequins. Rhinestones. Hoopskirts. Trains. Even LEDs! A friend threw a “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” themed party and told her guests to turn up in their craziest, blingiest costume. I sadly couldn’t make it, but afterwards one of my friends approached and this ensued:

“I bought this hideous sparkly white tulle for the My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding party because it was the tackiest thing I could find and it is hideous. I don’t want to keep it and realised I could give it to you.”

“Squeeeeee!!!!! I LOVE it!”

“I knew you would.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it is always good to have a friend of dubious taste to offload your tacky stuff to. I am that friend.

Having got it shortly before the competition I made another petticoat out of this, but I had now run completely out of elastic so I threw a casing on it and added a drawstring! And then I competed in these petticoats, complete with ugly elastic, drawstring and safety-pin.

They went into my good-intentions pile shortly after that, where they languished. But one day my fantastic friend The Sewphist was over at a craft day and had run out of tasks and asked if I had anything she could help with. The petticoats had risen to near the top of the pile, so I fished them out and she fixed them by stitching them both onto a single rectangular intact casing and inserting white elastic!

So now I have a single white petticoat, two layers, soft tricot underneath and sparkly tulle on top, and when I dance the sequins glitter as my skirts twirl. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Unless it is this outtake.

I don't even know what I was trying to do here, except make an idiot of myself?

I don’t even know what I was trying to do here, except make an idiot of myself? But I’m entertained and I thought you might be too!


FO: pink leopard rock and roll dress

31 Jul

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m stoked to be able to share my pink leopard rock and roll dress with you!

Bedroom eyes!

Bedroom eyes! Or psycho eyes. We weren’t sure. Photo courtesy Sarah

Like my skull and roses dress and flame dress before it, this was my annual make-the-most-crazy-dress-I-can for the Feet With Heat Dancer’s Ball (see here and here).

I first found and fell in love with the fabric at Global Fabrics (now The Fabric Store) a few years ago, but managed not to buy any. Then the fabulous MrsC gave me a remnant for my birthday a few months later!

Skip forward a couple of years and I’m planning my ball dress. I decided I want pink leopard and am hunting for a quilting cotton in the perfect shade of hot raspberry when I get a text from MrsC – “Global still has the pink leopard, and it’s HALF PRICE!!!” Although not the shade I had imagined, one does not look a pink leopard gift horse, err, leopard, in the mouth, so I strode in. As luck would have it, I ran straight into MrsC who was also succumbing to the sale (although, not on pink leopard) so she supervised as I took the bolt to the counter.

“4m please” I said. That’s plenty for a rock and roll dress.

MrsC cleared her throat. “She’ll take 10m thanks.”

“10m! Have you lost your mind!” I screeched.

“Trust me. This is like a SIGNATURE print for you. I’ve never forgiven myself for not buying more of that rose printed silk-cotton that I made the dress out of that I wore until it disintegrated. You’ll use it. Or you could sell it if you change your mind later. And it’s such a good price. Trust me…” she wheedled.

I have many mottos but one is never argue with your Wise Woman Advisor. I asked for 10 metres.

The assistant unrolled the fabric. At 4 metres we discovered it was cut. MrsC gave me the gimlet eye so I ask to to take the 10 metres in two pieces. The assistant measured out the remaining piece and there was only 7 metres on the bolt. MrsC now turned her gimlet eye to the assistant and suggested they give me the entire 11 metres – but only charge me for 10, due to the cut.

They obliged. And THAT is why you never argue with your Wise Woman Advisor. You want her on your side.

Dainty shot

Dainty shot. Photo courtesy Sarah

The fabric is cotton spandex blend, but heavy, more of a twill weave than a sateen weave. I settled on Butterick 5033.

Butterick 5033

Butterick 5033, I chose View A

First up, the mock-up. I did my normal trick of finding the finished measurements (for Butterick, printed on the bustline and waistline on the tissue paper) and graded between the sizes that looked the best, completely disregarding the size chart. After a hilarious episode where I attempted to teach Mechanic Man to pin the centre back closed (honestly, the man can strip and rebuild an engine, but explain to him that the pointy bit goes in and comes out parallel to but 1.5 cm away from the edge and he’s completely lost), I got into the bodice. And WOE! Woe is me! The bottom wouldn’t even touch.

My first bodice toile. Oh no!

My first bodice toile. Oh no!

I mournfully looked at the photo that Mechanic Man took for me and started mentally calculating the potential-faffing-about-factor, and resolved there was only one solution.

One does not have a Wise Woman Advisor in the family just for fabric peer pressure. I took my bodice to MrsC.

I’d already resolved the shoulder seams needed to be reduced to 1cm, and did this on arrival. Then I got pinned in (with much more efficiency) and waited for the diagnosis. MrsC, in the magical ways of Wise Woman Advisors throughout the ages, clicked her tongue, produced a ribbon, tied it around my natural waist, cut off the fabric under the ribbon, and pronounced it fixed.

No, seriously. It was a perfect fit. Just Like That. (Wise Woman Advisors – you should get one).

Swishy shot

Swishy shot. Photo courtesy Sarah

It was a piece of cake after that. I lined the bodice with some hot pink stretch cotton poplin I fortuitously bought at the same time I bought the black stretch cotton for the bodice of my flame dress with the startlingly acute realisation that pink would feature in my future (and likely will over and over again). I measured the seamline on my new bodice and the skirt and they were so close I decided not to adjust the skirt, but to make as per the pattern and take in the side seams if needed to meet the bodice. It’s not like the skirt of that volume would suffer.

I did however discover the underarms sagged quite unattractively. So I used MrsC’s taping method and eased it on quite aggressively. Perhaps too aggressively, there are some little puckers when I’m not wearing it, but I’m totally pleased with the effectiveness of this technique.

Armhole before taping, You can see that much of my bra because of the gaping.

Armhole before taping, You can see that much of my bra because of the gaping.

The other side, already taped, and fitting close to the skin

The other side, already taped, and fitting close to the skin

The skirt was a bit of a deliberately brave move for me. It has a centre front seam and three knife pleats either side. Did I really want pleats in the centre front or should I stick with a circle skirt? Did I need the extra bulk right of pleats and all that additional fabric right over my prominent tummy?

That was the thought that did it for me.  As a body positivity enthusiast, but not yet very experienced self-practitioner, I decided to give a silent SCREW YOU to whoever decided that women only look good with tiny waists and wear the skirt because I like it and that is the only opinion on the face of the planet that matters when it comes to what I wear. Plus, you know, I’d never made pleats before.

The pleats were easy, the skirt sewed up really straightforward (although I did get worried at one point as I attempted to maneouver the entire skirt across my sewing table that I was going to get trapped under it and weeks later they’d finally find me buried under 3 tonnes of leopard print) and the dress was done!

More swishing. Big skirts plus petticoats demand it.

More swishing. Big skirts plus petticoats demand it. Photo courtesy Sarah

I had originally decided to do the cutout, for a few reasons. First, it’s on the pattern. Second, I like cut-outs on principle. And third, I need lots and lots of ventilation in a dancing dress. But after putting the bodice together, I was worried about attempting the cutout. What if I hated it? What if I cocked it up? I certainly couldn’t undo it! So I made a sample to test out the method and the look. I wasn’t convinced.

So I took my sample along to the WSBN meet-up at the Home Sewn exhibtion at The Dowse Museum (which I never blogged about but others did). The conclusion was pretty universal. Cut out plus pink leopard might just, well, go in a direction that I didn’t want to go in. So I abandoned that. But one day, I will make this dress (or a variation thereoff) and the cutout WILL happen! (Entertaining side story, as well as passing my sample around, MrsC did an impromptu bodice fitting in the middle of The Dowse, in a room filled with hundreds of people, to the entertainment of the WSBN members watching.)


Twirly! Photo courtesy Sarah

The weekend of the ball I had my regular monthly craft day at my house, and my lovely friend Miss La Belle attended. A couple of days before, at class, a fellow dance student asked if Punk Flatmate and I would be wearing matching outfits again, as they’d loved the matching flame outfits, and almost the same day Collette released their tutorial for a men’s necktie. Miss La Belle was looking for a project to do and volunteered to make the neck tie out of the scraps of my dress, and it came out AMAZING. But her awesomeness doesn’t stop there. Inspired by the pink and chocolate combination, she also made me two pairs of earrings and a necklace in that colour combo! I wore the studs on the night.

Lots of skirt!

Lots of skirt! Photo courtesy Sarah

The day of the ball rolled around, and as I normally do, I booked the skilled Claire of The Vanity Case to do my hair and makeup. Miss La Belle decided not to stop her awesomeness just with a necktie and jewellery and came over on the day to day Punk Flatmate’s hair pink to match and also painted my nails for me. IN PINK LEOPARD. Hell yeah!

Oh yeah. Pink leopard fingernails!

Oh yeah. Pink leopard fingernails!

I think it was one of the best hair and makeup jobs Claire has done yet, and I couldn’t believe it was really me in the mirror when she was done. Unfortunately, she’d had a really slim window to come over before I had to leave for the ball, so I skipped photos at home, thinking I’d use the event photographer to make up for it. She did take this snap on her phone though.

Hair and makeup by The Vanity Case

Hair and makeup and photo by The Vanity Case

Unfortunately, there was no event photographer! So Punk Flatmate and I asked some friends to take some snaps, but none of them really turned out spectacularly, but I’m still pretty sure you can get the idea that WE LOOKED FREAKING AMAZING HELL YEAH WE DID.

We're looking at two different cameras, whoops! But check out that awesome tie and matching mohawk! Isn't he gorgeous!

We’re looking at two different cameras, whoops! But check out that awesome tie and matching mohawk! Isn’t he gorgeous! Photo courtesy Julian. Or Chris.

But the lack of event photos means no action shots of my skirt and petticoats flying and flashing my hot pink knickers I bought for the occasion. But I can’t leave you without a twirling pic at all can I!

Obligatory mid twirl photo

Obligatory mid twirl photo. Photo courtesy Sarah

Guess what! There are two more items for this ensemble to show off. But given my complete inability to blog in 50 words or less, I’m saving them for the next post!

FO: Corazones pencil skirt

1 Jul

Some posts fight the writing. This is my third-and-a-half attempt at this.

First, I typed a massive draft into WordPress, which ate it, leaving me paranoid. Then I organised for a friend to grab some photos, but they came out rotten. So, more than a year after I made it, and benefiting from the magic that was sunshine plus skilled and willing friend Sarah plus camera, I finally started again! Except I got half way through THIS draft and had to dash to the hospital to collect punk-flatmate who’d busted his leg and when I came back, WordPress had mangled it again! Can I get to the end successfully?

Assuming I have, then may I present to you my Corazones heart pencil skirt!

So damn bright! And once again, massive thanks to the wonderful Sarah for helping me to pump out all these photos. She's awesome!

So damn bright! And once again, massive thanks to the wonderful Sarah for helping me to pump out all these photos. She’s awesome!

I’ve already told you about my seriously yellow skirt, and for those of you who obsessively commit my posts to memory, you’ll recall I hinted at a backstory to come. This is that backstory.

I decided at the beginning of last year to pump out a bunch of pencil skirts in a row. I figured that way I’d get to perfect the fit and the technique, and as I thrash my RTW pencil skirts I knew they’d be a winner. I managed two; this one and the yellow one. Best laid plans and all that. But I love them both so it was still a win!

My hem isn't quite that crooked, I simply have my leg bent.

My hem isn’t quite that crooked, I simply have my leg bent.

As part of this plan to assembly line some skirts, I decided to draft my own pencil skirt block first. And I did! I used these two tutorials to do so. The first time it didn’t work out so good as I didn’t get the hip point right. The instructions suggested that the hips, should be 20cm below the natural waist as this was about standard “unless very tall” but I had come to the conclusion that my natural waist was higher than average (a conclusion I’m not so sure about now, more on that another day) so I drafted my hips in lower. That didn’t work so I redrafted it following the instructions and the fit was much better! However it’s not perfect: there’s a slight tilting of the side seam (that I didn’t notice) and a slight puddling of fabric at the top of the zip.

While not a huge hassle for this skirt, I decided to correct for the puddling at the top for the yellow skirt by carving out a tiny crescent moon, in effect deepening the back waist curve. What I noticed on the yellow skirt though is that the waist fits better but the side seam tilt is worse! So, more fine-tuning of the draft to come.

My back seam is also not crooked and that is also more bent legs causing issues!

My back seam is also not crooked and that is also more bent legs causing issues!

What is a bit of a hassle on this skirt is that it is very snug. I did do a muslin, but didn’t stay-stitch the waist and I think that allowed jut enough bias stretch to disguise the firm fit. However, I still frequently wear this – just not if I’m going out to lunch or dinner, heh.

Again, I adjusted for this on the yellow skirt by reducing the seam allowance – and then took it all back in again! Then again, the yellow skirt is stretchy, and this most certainly is not, given the quilting cotton and lining.

The cotton is ‘Corazones Hearts’ by Alexander Henry from the Folklorico range, and depict Mexican sacred hearts. I don’t know much about Mexican sacred hearts other than that it is Mexican-folk-art-meets-Catholic-iconography, but neither of these was why I bought it. I bought it because I love the colours. It features many of the jewel tones I love to wear, including red, purple, turquoise and teal, and I pair the skirt with all of them. Sometimes at the same time! Note the red shoes, purple tee, and turquoise jewellery!

I like my pencil skirt to come to just below the knee, and that was one of the advantages of drafting my own. RTW skirts all seem to be far too short for my preferences!

I like my pencil skirt to come to just below the knee, and that was one of the advantages of drafting my own. RTW skirts all seem to be far too short for my preferences!

I lined it with what I think is an acetate, acquired from Global-that-was when they had a sale and I decided to stock up on lining. I liked the abstract print. Which turns out to not be an abstract print but “DKNY” in lots of different directions. I don’t like wearing branded clothing, so this won’t ever end up as a visible lining, but it’s great for skirts!

Construction was mostly pretty easy as I’ve done lots of skirts and they all work the same way. I did have to look  up the vent in my trusty Reader’s Digest book, but what was very straightforward. I also had to do some Googling for inserting a lining into a skirt as I hadn’t lined a skirt before. This resulted in me cobbling together a bunch of tutorials in a rather daft way. Somewhere (Threads??) I read about a technique to not have to interface a facing by cutting the lining in full and inserting it between the facing and skirt, top-stitching the bottom facing edge over the top before insertion, and therefore using the lining as the strength layer. I thought that sounded clever. I also read in Sunni’s tutorial about lining  about not darting a lining, but pleating it, so as to give the lining a bit more room to move. That also sounded clever. And because I didn’t want to do any more measuring or drafting, both of them sounded easier than chopping the facing portion off the lining and attaching the lining to the bottom of the facing. But I foolishly tried to combine the two, which meant I ended up with all the extra give from the pleats being totally superseded by the overlapped facing! Whoops!

My accidentally DKNY lining

My accidentally DKNY lining


I also didn’t know how to line the vent, and although Sunni’s tutorial seem very comprehensive it seemed very comprehensive, if you know what I mean, and I couldn’t be assed, so I simply cut a vent sized piece out of one side of the lining and hemmed the edge! Lazybones! I will do it properly in another skirt, one day.

You know, when I get around to it!


FO: Peggy Sue slouch beanie

11 Jun

So, an awesome combination of things happened Sunday before last.

  • It was insanely sunny and warm, especially given it was the first day of Winter as we do our seasonal reckoning
  • My talented photographer friend Sarah visited me
  • She brought her camera
  • She agreed to take lots of photos.

And lots of photos were taken of lots of things! So I can finally catch up on masses of unblogged creations!

I’m going to start you off with something simple. Some awesome knitting.

It was really really REALLY bright. I'm avoiding looking at the sun at all costs.

It was really really REALLY bright. I’m avoiding looking at the sun at all costs.

Well, mostly awesome knitting.

After finishing my Peggy Sue cardigan, I had some yarn leftover and wanted to do something simple while I mentally laboured over the planning for my next cardigan (which I’ve now just finished too!) So I grabbed a simple knitted-flat-and-seamed beanie pattern and cast on. I didn’t bother swatching, just sized up the same way I had for Peggy Sue, and got into it.

Arrrgh I need to trim my fringe!

Arrrgh I need to trim my fringe!

I did have to frog quite a bit on my first attempt as I missed the itty-bitty-but-really-important piece of text that said “knit in stocking until it measures 16cm” and so I started my shaping immediately after the rib band, resulting in something a little like a yarmulke, whoops! But after ripping back the shaping and checking the pattern, I was away.

I’m not sure I was very good at measuring the 16cm though, because this has happened.

Do I have short head? Can I not measure? Is it a typo? Regardless, this is not what I was expecting!

Do I have short head? Can I not measure? Is it a typo? Regardless, this is not what I was expecting!

I wasn’t frogging it a second time though, so I’ve decided that it’s not a beanie, it’s a slouch hat, and the extra height is perfect for going over my pony tail. Sometimes in the wind it slides down into my eyes, so I’m just going to have to wear it with a bobby pin or two to secure it at a jaunty angle.


I could fix it by wearing it with the brim turned up

Normally my blog posts have lots and lots of words (so much so that the next post I’m drafting I’ve had to split into two) but somehow this one doesn’t warrant it. Consider it a reprieve until my next overly wordy post appears!


Or maybe I'll just wear it like this!

FO: Sew Bossy Hummingbird top and skirt

15 May

Do y’all remember Sew Bossy? It was created by Closet Case Files and Oonaballoona waaaay back in March 2013. The idea is you pair up with someone and each of you picks a project for the other and provides all the gubbins you need to make it happen. It’s a great way to try something you might not have done otherwise.

Sew Bossy Initiative

Well, I thought it was a cool idea, but I didn’t go looking for someone cos I am always busy! But then I got an email from the fun and fabulous Kat of Modern Vintage Cupcakes asking me if I wanted to partner with her. And how could I say no to that awesomeness?

Especially when she mentioned that Oonaballona herself had suggested the match – I just about popped. Oona had heard of me? Holyfreakingmoly!

Fangirl squeal!

Fangirl squeal!

We agreed a few constraints (neither of us wanted to have to make trousers; Kat needed baby-feeding suitable top half; we wanted natural fibres if at all possible; and we agreed a budget) and then got to planning.

Shortly afterwards, Kat gave me my kit, all bagged up and ready to roll. It included the the Cake Hummingbird pattern; a merino/nylon blend with a textured stripe in raspberry (for the top); a stable woven purple and black houndstooth in uncertain fibres that I think are largely cotton (for the skirt); skirt lining in navy blue; pink lace for the skirt hem; and a trouser bar and hook for the skirt.

I LOVE peplums (even before they were cool) and skirt flounces (so much!) and raspberry and houndstooth so this was an exciting combo for me!

Pink and purple and flouncy

Pink and purple and flouncy

But, as is always the case, I’m so freaking busy that it sat for ages.

But finally, in November, I decided to knock out the top. It was a simple knit design, and Cake was supposed to be this super easy successful fitting thingy, right? I decided to go in cold, no mock-up, use the fabric Kat gave me, and follow Cake’s instructions throughout to see how fabulous and revolutionary the patterns were. But it wasn’t the cakewalk I expected. (Like what I did there? Hehe).

Firstly, there were 2 or 3 errata in the pattern which caused me a bit of grief until I figured them out, the worst being the neckband needing to be cut on the fold – but there being no foldline marked on the tissue, and the instructions to cut on the fold in the layout info were a bit hidden away. Of course, I figured this out because the first neckband I cut didn’t fit! But once I got past those minor issues, I sewed it up. It went together well and quickly.

But the pattern for the top explained to use your size according to the chart for a standard fit, up a size for a relaxed fit, and down a size for a firm fit. I didn’t want to be stuffed into this thing, so decided to go for a standard fit. And it came out HUGE on me. But, maybe we just have a different interpretation of standard fit for a knit top?

And the peplum was completely in the wrong place, far too low! But maybe I just measured my length wrong for that one though.

And the sleevebands and neckband were hideously applied! But I think that might have been my technique (I reduced my foot pressure for subsequent rounds which improved it, thanks for the tip MrsC!)

And I hated the neckline and wasn’t sure about the length of the sleeves, but that’s definitely just personal aesthetics.

Oh it's awful, why am I putting this on the internet!!!

Oh it’s awful, why am I putting this on the internet!!!

So with all of those things annoying me I shoved it into the naughty corner for a month.

I finally took it out to remake it on my Christmas break. At which point I mostly abandoned the pattern and winged it.

Photobombed by Drake, natch

Photobombed by Drake, natch

Firstly, I decided to unpick the peplum so I didn’t have to cut a new one. But lightning stitch, the one recommended by the pattern, can NOT be unpicked. I must have spent well over 3 hours working on it and managed to unpick less than a quarter, and was tearing holes in it as I went. So I gave up and cut the peplum off entirely. I used a bit of ribbon tied over the top to find my new waistline, and cut to suit. Then Mama Magpie pinned in new side seams (which extend to under the arm, to make the sleeves snugger) and I sewed them in place. Because of the impossibility of unpicking the sideseams, I did the sideseam alteration without unpicking it and reapplying the band in the flat, so after putting the new seams in I chopped off the grotty bands and had to re-apply them in the round, and had to figure out the length myself (as I’d changed the size by taking in the sleeve). I did the first one by eyeballing it as I sewed, and then cut the second one to match, I thought. But I cocked it up so it was a different size and was visibly looser than the first one. After some tears, Mama Magpie chopped off THOSE bands and redid them both for me. Thanks Mama! And as a bonus I much prefer this sleeve length!

I swear my hair was combed when we left the house

I swear my hair was combed when we left the house

We fixed the neckline by the simple method of pinning where we thought it should be and cutting it. Similarly to the sleeves, I had to reapply the neckline band in the round but at least I didn’t have to make two matching ones so eyeballing it worked.

I then recut the peplum but forgot to account for the smaller sideseams and cut the same sized waist hole as I had for the first version. I “fixed” this by stretching the top slightly as I added the peplum, but it leaves the seam a little bit rippled. Luckily, I much prefer the top styled with a belt, which hides that sin.

Basically, if I was ever to remake this pattern, I’d have to make a completely different size to the one I started with, and I’d still alter the neckline. So, at this point I’m undecided about its place in the make-again pile.

Proof the wind was real. This photo isn't staged, I really pull that face!

Proof the wind was real. This photo isn’t staged, I really pull that face!

But enlivened by my semi-success, I decided to plunge on with the skirt. I always start with separating the pieces from each other and making a pile of the ones I’m using in my make. As I did so I discovered pattern piece J was missing! I tore the house apart, thinking I’d thrown it out or lost or moved the piece, but to no avail. I considered asking one of the WSBN girls to borrow their pattern, but luckily discovered on the web (while looking something else up) that the missing piece was a production issue and if you ask nicely, Cake will send you the missing piece. A download is also available but I didn’t want to tape it together so I filled in the request for the paper piece and waited.

Unfortunately, Steph, the woman behind Cake, was ill and it was about a month before she was able to reply and send out the piece. So the project languished once more.

The piece finally arrived, and after a couple of very busy weeks I cracked into the pattern. Again, it sewed up nice and quickly and the pocket bags are made in a cool way.

But… it was beyond too big. It was HUGE. ARGH!

Excuse the lousy selfie, but look at that size difference!

Excuse the lousy selfie, but look at that size difference!

Again, I’d decided to plunge in, no mock-up, following Cake’s instructions. The pattern goes up in 5 inch increments for the hip, and the pattern suggests if you are between sizes, to cut the next size up and then take it in in the “mid-construction fitting step”. The sizes available were a 45 and 50 and I have a 46inch hip, so duly cut the 50. What I didn’t check (and I normally do) was what the FINISHED measurements of the garment were. If I had done so, I would have discovered this skirt is drafted with about 3inches of wearing ease, which is much more than I like, and would have realised that a 48inch finished measurement was about right. As it was, the 53inch skirt literally fell off me.

Fun tail flounce.

Fun tail flounce.

It went back into the naughty corner while I fumed at the frustration of it all. As eluded to briefly last post, I’ve been having a low-jo time of late, and getting this skirt out was a bit of a drought breaker. The disastrous result sent me back into why-am-I-even-bothering mode for a while.

But my amazing sewing friends came to the rescue. I vented to the WSBN group who were uniformly encouraging and understanding, and then my friend the fabulous Sarah agreed to pin the side seams in.

The amount to come off was so dramatic we also decided to take a bit out of the top of darts at the back and the panel seams at the front. There’s a darts-worth of shaping in each front panel seam, so this alteration was just taken out at the top then tapered into the straight seam. By the time we’d finished the alterations it was still a bit looser than I normally wear in a straight skirt, but I was worried about how it would look it I took more off the sideseams without altering the size of the centre front panel so I decided that it was just a bit more wearing ease and I’d cope.

Tail flounce! Umm, ignore it being unhemmed, OK? And also, I swear it doesn't look that puckered and crappily sewn in real life! I'm pretty sure...

Tail flounce! Umm, ignore it being unhemmed, OK? And also, I swear it doesn’t look that puckered and crappily sewn in real life! I’m pretty sure…

Part of my challenge from Kat was to insert a lining, which was easy. Kat has written a great tutorial here, but I did it slightly differently. Rather than sew a dart into the lining, I put a pleat in. And because I’d cut the lining before altering the side seams and “darts” of the skirt, I eyeballed the pleat by inserting the lining into the skirt, sewing it to the invisible zip tape, matching and pinning the sideseams and centre front, and then pleating out the excess in the lining so that it fitted. Easy! Thankfully.

I particularly like the silhouette from the back. But it still looks puckered! Now I'm going to have to go check it...

I particularly like the silhouette from the back. But it still looks puckered! Now I’m going to have to go check it…

I followed the instructions for the waistband and found another issue with the pattern, one of the most significant in my opinion. The pattern calls for the waistband to be sewn in using stitch-in-the-ditch. Cake has put a lot of effort into beginner-friendly-ising their patterns, with clever and cool use of icons and clear explanations. But the instruction to “add waistband using stitch in the ditch” wasn’t explained at all. With the years of exposure to sewing I’ve had, I’d heard of the technique, but it had been a long time so I Googled it to make sure I remembered it correctly. It’s a technique that requires absolute precision in ironing, pining, and sewing, and mistakes are obvious. I am surprised that this would be included in a beginner pattern, and especially without instruction or reference!

Normally I slipstitch my waistbands in place, but I thought I’d try the stitch-in-the-ditch to see how it went. As my first attempt, it’s pretty lacklustre. I struggled to get the stitches perfectly in the ditch, and it only requires the slightest deviation from the stitching line to make it ugly. The underside of the band wasn’t perfectly parallel with the stitching, resulting in an effective but unattractive inside. I’ve since figured out I used a stitch length that was probably too long, and I will try the technique again, but after trying it out I was baffled as to why it was so causally slipped into the pattern and wondered how many truly beginner sewers have had issues with this when they came across it.

Pocketses! With the amount that came off the side seams, this should have hade a slider smaller centre panel and therefore slighter wider pockets, but they actually still work.

Pocketses! With the amount that came off the side seams, this should have hade a slider smaller centre panel and therefore slighter wider pockets, but they actually still work.

But once the waistband was on I was hitting the home stretch. But I was running out of time before our photo date, and at this stage it is still unhemmed and without the flounce inserted in the lining! (Which I might not do, as a friend suggested slipstitching the lining to the flounce seam on the skirt instead).  But on the day it was close enough to finished to catch up with Kat (and Drake!) and take these photos in a little park in Newtown that we walked to from Kat’s place.

But I decided, while wearing the skirt for the day with Kat, that the additional wearing ease is driving me crazy and I hate it and I need to take it in more. I was devastated at the thought of taking the waistband off, but Kat has pointed out that there’s no reason I can’t have side seams in my waistband, so I’ll eventually unpick the waistband just at each side-seam and take out more from the skirt. And finish the lining. And hem it. And add the lace. And THEN I’ll wear it. Promise.

All up, the experience with Cake was… interesting. Some really clever ideas, but little annoying niggles too. But, I would make the skirt again – and make the 45inch hip as my starting size!

This is just for your entertainment!

This is just for your entertainment!

As for what I got for Kat… around the time we agreed to this crazy game, Kat posted about her trip to Wellington Fashion Week. She mentioned that she liked the fitted and flared silhouette, and also that she was really taken by the colour blocked pink and yellow, and pink and orange combinations but didn’t tend to colour block, so that’s what I decided to use as inspiration for her kit. She also mentioned how much she liked zip-front tops so I decided that had to happen too.

Unfortunately by looking only for pink and yellow or pink and orange combinations, my options were limited, so I didn’t get anything as suitable for a flared floaty skirt as I wanted. But I did find this absolutely beautiful pink micro-cord, and some orange cotton sateen and decided to work around that. I used MrsC as my personal spy to pick out buttons that Kat had been eyeing up in Made Marion, and decided that the zip needed to be pink to match the skirt. I hunted forever to find the zip, and despite my preference to shop local eventually had to use eBay.

I loaned Kat patterns from my stash as I couldn’t find anything new that perfectly matched my vision. The skirt in particularly is special: it’s from a Burda magazine pattern, and the one that started my addiction to Burda mags. Mama Magpie gave me the magazine years ago and I fell in love with this skirt. But I’ve never made it.

And I don’t care now that I didn’t get the original vision of a floaty skirt. Because I think this pink skirt looks SMOKING HOT on Kat in a jaw-hitting-the-ground kind of way. Smoking. Foxy. Stunning. Gorgeous. Take your pick. So, hopefully she won’t mind that I bought some of the same pink cord for me… and might make the exact same skirt from it! It’s about time I made that pattern!

Kat looks amazing

Kat looks amazing

I mean, she looks really amazing! (And I'm not just saying that because our shoes match!)

I mean, she looks really amazing! (And I’m not just saying that because our shoes match each other’s skirts!)

Go check her post out here!

Sew Bossy breathed some interest and fun into my sewing. I wouldn’t have picked out either of these fabrics myself, but the colours and patterns are fabulous and I’m enjoying having them in my wardrobe. And I enjoyed seeing someone else produce my vision for them. I suggest you find a buddy and organise a Sew Bossy swap of your own, even if you don’t blog. It’s great fun!

FO (from the archives): leopard print circle skirt

5 Apr

Hello strangers. Well, really, I’m the stranger around here. It’s been a while. Why? Well, lately, my sewjo has been absent. As has my knittingjo, craftingjo, and bloggingjo. In fact, the only jo I’ve had much to do with is Johanna from Making it Well, who I have been lucky enough to have a couple of play dates with. Thank goodness for that Jo!

But it’s time to get back on the horse (completely switching metaphors there). So, here’s an overdue post on an overdue post. The photos were taken in January. The garment was finished 2 years before that! It’s a meta-archival post.

This is my leopard print circle skirt. I love it.

Leopardy goodness

Leopardy goodness

But it is a tale of woe. And a tale of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Settle in for the telling.

I started this skirt waaaaay back in October 2011, on the same holiday I started my blue top of adversity. In case you haven’t committed all my posts to memory (the shock!) and haven’t clicked through the link (the horror!) the short version is I’d booked a sewing holiday at my wonderful mum’s house, got bronchitis the day I arrived, and spent my entire holiday in an illness-induced brain fade, and attempted to sew anyway. This was a bad idea. Do not sew when oxygen deprived – it turns out you need your brain for sewing.

Everything that could go wrong, did. The top bore the brunt of it, but my simple circle skirt did not pass unscathed.

I still love leopard and blue as a combination

I still love leopard and blue as a combination

First the fabric itself. Wow, this project was a real stashbuster! Mama Magpie gave me this cotton for my birthday about 12 years earlier (yes, 12) and I decided I finally knew what to do with it. That, the blue fabric, and half a dozen or so other fabrics all went into my suitcase.

The first thing I did on arriving was throw all my fabric through the washing machine. That was the first of many bad moments over the course of that holiday. One of my pieces was red and all of my fabric came out pink rinsed! Argh! A quick trip to the pharmacy for run remover (and drugs) and two passes through the run remover mostly fixed it all up. The white on some of the prints still has a vaguely off-white cast to it, but not so much that you’d notice if you didn’t know.

In one of the few successful moments of the trip however, I decided I preferred the leopard with the pink rinse. It softened up the white in the print into something more flesh toned, which I thought went better with the caramel and gold tones, so I left it like that!

Twirling action!

Twirling action!

The next issue came with the cutting out. Being a craft cotton, the fabric was quite narrow,so I knew I’d have to check my yardage. I read the pattern envelop BUT – the pattern includes a version with a contrast band at the bottom, and that was the version my fuzzy brain read. I had just the right amount! Or so I thought. It was only when I went to cut out the second half circle on the correct line, and couldn’t fit it onto the fabric, that I realised what I’d done. So I cut both half circles at the shorter length too, but now I needed a contrast strip for the skirt!

Mama Magpie had to do a days work in Auckland, about 2 hours south of us, and my original plan was to go with her to Auckland and spend the day in  our Auckland office. Being too sick to do this, I lay at home for a day while Mama worked, and she very kindly fabric shopped for me in her lunch break! She couldn’t find a coordinating cotton, but did find a beautiful chocolate linen to go with it.

more twirling action!

more twirling action!

To ensure the contrast band remained the same width all the way around and wasn’t affected by the bias dropping, I left the skirt to hang for a few days without the band, and then Mama levelled the skirt for me. As the levelled hem isn’t perfectly even (given my uneven body), I then pinned the skirt out on a cutting board and painstaking drafted a band that was the exact same shape as my skirt. Except I forgot to add seam allowances. Which I only realised after starting to cut. So then I had to check I had enough fabric left to cut it correctly (which I did, just) and cut it out again. Then, Mama’s fella gave me a couple of items to use as fabric weights, but one of them was a box that had an oil container in it that he’d forgotten about, and it leaked oil onto my fabric. Luckily most of it was outside the cutting zone, but I was starting to despair ever getting it finished!

So Mama in her ever so helpful way offered to sew the bands on to the skirt for me – but I told her the front and back the wrong way around, so all of my careful drafting was for nowt, and the side seams didn’t match up!

Whats a girl to do with a twirly skirt but show off a bit off knee?

Whats a girl to do with a twirly skirt but show off a bit off knee?

To top it off, I didn’t have enough leopard print left over for the correct length waistband, so there’s no underlap – instead, the edges abut perfectly and there are 4 hooks and eyes along the edge to do the waistband up.

Sometimes, just finishing something is an achievement!

But despite the agony and the irritations and the tears (and between this and the blue top, oh there were tears), I love the finished skirt. And then for some reason I never got around to taking photos of it. So when Juliet of Crazy Gypsy Chronicles arranged and WSBN meetup at the zoo to coincide with Jungle January, and I was too busy to make something for it, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to get my lovely leopard skirt the photos it deserved.

The awesome ladies of teh WSBN at the zoo: L-R Jo, Juliet, me, Zara, Sophie, Kat, Sandra, Gemma

The awesome ladies of teh WSBN at the zoo: L-R Jo, Juliet, me, Zara, Sophie, Kat, Sandra, Gemma

I had a fabulous time at the zoo with members of the always-awesome WSBN. Ladies, it is always a pleasure and privilege to hang out with you!

And of course, there were SO MANY CUTE CRITTERS! (Other than us of course, hehe).

OK, not my skirt - but LOOKITHEMEERKATS!

OK, not my skirt – but LOOKITHEMEERKATS!

Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I have no photos of it with the blue top, which I had intended to wear together – the blue top has already been harvested of its buttons and disposed of. One day I will make another beautiful blue top to go with the leopard (which we all know is a neutral, right?) but until then, I’m enjoying wearing it with blue tops that have given me much less grief!

FO and MOS 14/52: green maxi matchy dress

5 Dec

green dress

Sometimes when I see fabric it screams to me “I AM A PENCIL SKIRT/WIGGLE DRESS/BLOUSE” and sometimes it is silent, holding its mysteries quietly. Regardless, once it’s made up I often can’t imagine how anyone else in the whole world could have made anything else out of the same fabric – obviously it was that and only that all along! So wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that fabric made up in lots of the possibilities?

Earlier this year members of the WSBN were talking about this and we agreed that it’d be cool to all make things from the same fabric to see the other personalities lurking inside it. Although it was a great idea, trying to find a fabric that we all liked seemed impossible so it was shelved.

Then, Kat of Modern Vintage Cupcakes did a “swap your stash” series and featured Juliet of The Crazy Gypsy Chronicle’s stash, which included a green self-striped silk/cotton lightweight fabric. I piped up in the comments to say that I also had that fabric in my stash! And then someone else commented that they liked it too. And I knew that someone else had it as well. With it already appearing in so many people’s stash (helped by it’s ridiculously good price no doubt) we settled on that for our matching mission. Other willing participants ran out to buy the fabric, and we promptly cleaned Global-that-was out completely of their stock, with 10 of us all lined up to make matching garments. Needing a great name, we settled on “What’s the deal with all the teal? The ultimate matchy matchy mission”, but, to be honest, I don’t think it’s teal.

But rhyming is IMPORTANT, guys.

Anyway, although this all happened in February, we decided to give ourselves some time to plan and acquire patterns, and then due to the weight of the fabric we decided it was a springtime thing and chose September to have our meet-up and grand reveals! Lots of time would mean that everyone would turn up, right? Unfortunately other commitments and illness felled our numbers, so 6 of the 10 of us met up to show off our green makes, but that was still plenty for a great day!

All six of us in our matching makes.

All six of us in our matching makes. L-R: Juliet, Nikki, Holly, Emma, me, Johanna

From the side!

From the side!

And the back!

And the back!

The WSBN can’t meet without food being involved, so we’d originally planned for a picnic to celebrate springtime and our floaty silk/cotton. But given Wellington’s notoriously changeable springtime weather the day dawned grim, so we had the “picnic” at my place and then took advantage of the afternoon’s window of warm dry weather to go to the park and the beach by my house for a photo shoot, photos taken by my dear darling friend Sarah.

We had so much fun on the day, mucking around and taking silly shots like this. I saw it first!

We had so much fun on the day, mucking around and taking silly shots like this. I saw the fabric first!

She fights dirty!

She fights dirty!

Of course, despite having the better part of six months to do the challenge, we pretty much all left it to the last possible minute! So there were some safety pins and hand tacking and other shortcuts on the day. I was frantically sewing right up until people arrived, and then the darling Sarah (did I mention she’s awesome) did the hand sewing needed to get it to wearable, while I made chocolate mousse (this is important. Mousse is always important. Especially my mousse). And I didn’t get it hemmed though so it drapes artfully over my feet in these photos! Luckily I wasn’t the only one unhemmed. But despite all the unfinished bits, everyone looked great and we had a fantastic time. These women are awesome!

We all got our "cruise ship" photo taken on the deck of the wooden boat climbing frame in the park

We all got our “cruise ship” photo taken on the deck of the wooden boat climbing frame in the park

Perfect dress for lounging

Perfect dress for lounging

When I was stroking the fabric in store (what, don’t lie, you do it too) it told me it had to be a maxi summer dress, with lots of the floaty goodness billowing around me. When it came time to make it up I contemplated by Hand London’s Anna pattern (which I’ve fallen in love with and will make lots of, but which didn’t exist when I bought my fabric) but the fabric had told me the dress needed to be quite bare on the bodice, with exposed shoulders, open back, and low neck. And well, the fabric knows best! I went through my pattern stash about five times but much to my surprise I couldn’t find anything that met all my criteria other than a vintage patterns about 93 sizes too small. I was frustrated and tried to talk my fabric into other options, but it was stubborn. So I decided to go through my stash one more time, this time pulling out EVERY dress pattern for extra close scruntiy. I spotted Butterick 6463 and realised it was perfect! I’d dismissed it the first squillion  times as an evening dress, but actually, I realised it had all the features I was looking for and made up in the green lightweight fabric rather than a crepe or satin it would be transformed into the perfect summer dress. The fabric had been right to hold out.

Butterick 6463

Butterick 6463

Making it up was surprisingly easy. I did my current trick of finding the finished measurements on the tissue and grading between sizes as needed, and then making a toile. My toile revealed that I needed some length taken out of the back straps and a tiny bit shaved off the princess seam to get a great fit, which were easy fixes. I self lined it and the lining went in easily. The pattern called for the whole thing to be lined, but I cut the skirt lining to just on the knee to allow the bottom of the skirt to be floatier and a bit more sheer, to really drive home the “sundress!!!” point.

summery dress in spring weather

summery dress in spring weather

There are buttons and rouleau loops on one shoulder, but after making it up I figured out that I don’t really need them to get iton the dress, so I hand stitched the opening closed. I decided to work with the summer theme and chose cute wee strawberries for the buttons. The buttons sit right on top of the shoulder though so they’re not easily visible, so I’m thinking of putting one in the middle of the neckline too. Next time I’d just not bother with the whole shoulder button feature at all and just sew the straps closed on both sides, but I do like knowing the strawberries are there!

My strawberry buttons

My strawberry buttons

I use MrsC’s taping method (which I LOVE) on the sweetheart neckline and across the back to help stop sagging and gaping, and as always, it worked great. But I didn’t do the best top-of-an-invisible zip insertion ever, unfortunately, as the rest of the zip is great. I narrow hemmed the outer layer with my sewing machine, but I used the rolled hem feature on my overlocker on the lining as a bit of an experiment. My old overlocker had a rolled hem setting but I‘d never used it as I’d never made anything for which it would be suitable. So this was my first time doing this and I love the finish.  I can see this cropping up more in the future.

I really like the shape of this at the back

I really like the shape of this at the back

...but up close you can see the top of my zipper isn't the best. Oh well.

…but up close you can see the top of my zipper isn’t the best. Oh well.

I didn’t get solo photos on our meet-up day as I wanted to wait until I’d hemmed it, so I finally got another set, also taken by dear and darling Sarah. I’m lucky to have such great sewing and photographing friends!

We saw some cool grafitti/art at my second shoot across the road. There were stars...

We saw some cool grafitti/art at my second shoot across the road. There were stars…

...and kitties (and cleavage)...

…and kitties (and cleavage)…

... and Pokemon!

… and Pokemon!

If you want to see more of everyone elses makes, go check them out:

Juliet at Crazy Gypsy Chronicles
Nikki at Nikki’s Stitches
Holly at Polycraftual
Emma at The Takahe Bites
Johanna at Making it Well

and our/my awesome photographer Sarah, the artist behind every photo on this page, photo blogs at Capital Adventures

It was two fabulous days, and so much fun to see everyone else’s interpretation of their fabric! It was great to see what the same fabric whispers in the ear of different people. I’m going to half to talk to mine again. I was so dedicated to the idea of a long floaty dress that I bought about 4 metres, and despite making and half length self lining a full dress I still have nearly a metre left! So a  top of some description might show up at some point too. Although, at the moment, my fabric is remaining really quiet about exactly what that top might look like.  At least I have lots of inspiration for it though!

FO (from the archives): red knit dress

10 Nov

As I’m still waiting to take photos of my last few makes, I’d thought I’d dip into the archives and share some pics of a garment I made a couple of years ago. I plan to try to document as much as possible from my old makes, for my own pleasure, so you get to enjoy/endure the ride!

The first is the red funnel neck knit dress.

All photos courtesy Sarah, of course. Taken at the beach at Balaena Bay. I love the Wellington coast!

All photos courtesy Sarah, of course. Taken at the beach at Balaena Bay. I love the Wellington coast!

This dress is from Vogue 2756.  

Vogue 2756, some great pieces in here

Vogue 2756, some great pieces in here

I chose the pattern for the two curved darts on each side and the darts in the neck, as I’m a sucker for unusual darts or seams. I like a good funnel neck too. 

The awesome dart details I loved

The awesome dart details I loved

I made it in an oxblood suede textured knit. It’s lovely and textural, so soft to the touch, and although the colour is outside of my normal jewel tones there’s something about it that I really like.

The curved darts gave me all sorts of trouble initially. I marked the matching points, but I couldn’t eyeball the curve between them and get them all to match, so it ended up sitting in my UFO box for over a year. Then I discovered carbon paper and tracing wheel and that worked fantastically, so I dug this out and finished it off. Other than that it was super easy to sew. I also didn’t cut the waist according to the pattern. I know that my bust/waist/hips ratio is not pattern standard, but didn’t know then what the best way to address this was, so I simply cut the fabric in a straight line from waist to hips and after it was all assembled I got a friend to pin the waist to fit.

Despite the fit and construction issues, I love this silhouette, fitted and below the neck.

Despite the fit and construction issues, I love this silhouette, fitted and below the knee.

Despite this custom fitting, I didn’t love the way this dress fitted. The zip was beautifully set to look at BUT it buckled and warped on me. I realised straight away I should have interfaced the zip seam allowance, and that it had probably set during the setting process, but was despondent at the thought of unpicking my beautiful zip and cutting the interfacing and resetting it. The back of the funnel neck was a bit high as well. So frustrated was I that I decided to take it to a tailor and get them to reset the zip and lower the back of the funnel neck.

I paid my money and they did the zip. They did a great job too. BUT – I still don’t love the dress.

For the record, photo shoots on beaches are fun.

For the record, photo shoots on beaches are fun.

The zip still forms a dowager hump on me. I think that the dress is too tight in the hips or too long in the body, and either way the dress is riding up just enough to make the zip bunch up. I can tug it down and it flattens out, then over the next wee while, it rides back up into the hunch. The use of the belt helps with that but not enough to make it go away. In addition, the arm hole isn’t in quite the right place, and it was my first time sewing knit after a long spell and I didn’t get enough stretch in the armhole seam, so I can feel it cutting in when I move my arms. So overall, it doesn’t have the comfort I’d expect a knit dress to have. And it is super staticky and clingy too!

I did a great job on the split and the hem, I'm pleased! But if you zoom in you can see the humpy zip.

I did a great job on the split and the hem, I’m pleased! But if you zoom in you can see the humpy zip.

So in my recent wardrobe audit it got a solid B: enough for it to stay, for now, in case of sartorial emergencies (I have very few long sleeved things) but definitely not a long term keeper – as soon as the niche it holds is filled by something better, out it goes.

And it did indeed do well for a recent sartorial emergency – I wore it to World of Wearable Arts this year, on a cold and windy night, and dressed up similar to these photos. It was cosy and stylish. Just not super comfortable!

It was windy. It's often windy. You can almost see the dart details in this, and you can definitely see the drag marks from the tight armholes.

It was windy. It’s often windy. You can almost see the dart details in this, and you can definitely see the drag marks from the tight armholes.

So, you win some, you lose some. And although this was a long make, and one I threw money and a tailor at, I learned heaps and I don’t regret it. My sewing skills are a lot further along since then, and one day I will have another crack at it and the lessons I learned here will be reinvested. You know, eventually.

FO and MOS 11 – 13/52: a necklace, cushions, and tees

28 Oct

As I’ve said, not all of my 52 moments of satisfaction have to be big things. Sometimes the small things are important to do.

So here is a round-up of three projects I’ve done so far this year.

Grace’s necklace

When I wore my flame dress to the 2012 Feet with Heat ball, I didn’t really have any suitable jewellery. My dear friend Miss Busty La Belle kindly lent me a necklace, earrings, and flowers for my hair. But when I took the necklace off I noticed it was broken in one place. So I held onto the necklace, dismantled it, and remade it for her as a tiny token of thanks. Easy and satisfying. And of course, now I need to make something similar for me to wear as it worked so well with my outfits!

The chunky red necklace I remade for Miss Busty La Belle. It's red semi-precious stone of some variety and tiger tail.

The chunky red necklace I remade for Miss Busty La Belle. It’s red semi-precious stone of some variety and tiger tail.

Velvet cord cushions

Another dear friend wanted to learn to sew, and I offered to show her the basics. So in 2012, when she had new curtains made, she decided to make matching cushions out of the leftovers. She brought over the cushions and the offcuts and we set about making the cushions. We decided we wanted an offset back zip, and drafted all the pieces while I told her the basics as we went. But starting to sew is a slow business. We cut out all four cushions but made only one of them. She was thrilled to take that home but the rest stayed at my place.

The same day she told me she was pregnant! (I’ve since given her knitted booties). Since then we were both so busy that catch-ups were infrequent, with certainly no sit-down-and-sew time.

Much later I came across the cushion inners and cut out fabric while tidying up and thought to myself. “She’s only weeks away from birth. She’s up to her ears in renovations. Eight of her relatives are coming over from the UK in a couple of weeks and they’re all staying in her house. And then she’ll have her baby. Yeah – she won’t be sewing any time soon.”  So I decided to finish the remaining three cushions for her as a present.

The fabric is a rusty pumpkin velvet-like cord and a pain in the ass to deal with, as most fabrics with a pile are, shifting all over the place regardless of pins. I wasn’t going to hand baste cushions for crying out loud so I ended up using double sided fusible hem tape to “baste” the seams in place, and stitched just inside the tape. Even with the stuffing around with the hem tape the covers came together in only a couple of sewing sessions, and their new owner is delighted to have cushions in their freshly renovated lounge. I’m thrilled to have helped her out, thrilled not to be storing the project any longer, and delighted that my three centred zips came out great!

One velvet cord cushion! I'm never sewing with this stuff again.

One velvet cord cushion with perfect zip! But I’m never sewing with this stuff again.

The velvet cushions scattered on my friend's sofa, matching cushions behind. I really have to work on my photography skills.

The velvet cushions scattered on my friend’s sofa, matching cushions behind. I really have to work on my photography skills.

Heat set vinyl tees

Last year a friend told me he really wanted a “Han Shot First” tee and as I was looking for ideas for a birthday present for him, I mentally pinned that. But after some googling I didn’t really find anything that hit the right balance of coolness and price. So, of course, I decided to make him one. I asked around some friends for recommendations of getting shirts printed and found a friend of a friend with a vinyl cutter who offered to cut some heat set vinyl for me.

Thrilled by this, I extend my plan to include a tee shirt with an in-joke for another friend of mine, and a teeshirt for my Mechanic Man partner branded with his business logo.

I asked another friend, a graphic designer, to put together the digital files needed to talk to the vinyl cutter and emailed them off.

Then one lovely night I went around to vinyl-cutter friend’s house and watched as she set her machine a whirling. Then we companionable sat and talked while she showed me how to prep the vinyl and helped me iron the vinyl onto some RTW teeshirts – which requires a surprising amount of muscle.

And ta-dah! Three custom designed and printed tees. Now I know in some ways I didn’t actually make anything – one friend made the digital files, another operated the vinyl cutter, and the tees were ready made, but I’m claiming this as a project because I’d been thinking about it for ages, it was all my idea and my coordination, and because it’s my blog and my head and my life and what exactly are you going to do about it?

Well, he did.

Well, he did.

It's an in-joke. I guess you had to be there.

It’s an in-joke. I guess you had to be there.

The back of my Mechanic Man's tee, with the friend who cut the vinyl and helped me apply it looking triumphant

The back of my Mechanic Man’s tee, with the friend who cut the vinyl and helped me apply it looking triumphant

Mechanic Man was so delighted with his tee that it took another three months before it was off him long enough for me to iron on our logo to the front.

The front of our tee. The little white squiggle in the corner is the logo of the friend who helped with the vinyl cutting, as an acknowledgement.

The front of our tee. The little white squiggle in the corner is the logo of the friend who helped with the vinyl cutting, as an acknowledgement. Another lousy photo, WTF am I doing?

They may only be little things, but they made me happy to do, and that is what it’s all about, right?