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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…

MOS 5/52: I get my Moxie (or, my burlesque debut)

4 Aug

Of course, now you desperately want to know what the other Enormous Project was that took up all of my time over May and June, right? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway, so you might as well pretend.

I should warn you – this is long, detailed, and picture heavy.

Now, the observant amongst you might remember that I signed up to do burlesque classes (again) back in Feb. I’ve done the classes before, but always for my own benefit, with no intention of taking to the stage. But Miss La Belle offers a level 3, where students who are interested work on their own acts before appearing in a student showcase produced by Miss La Belle. I’ve never had any particular desire to appear on stage (actually, I have deep seated performance anxiety and stage appearances tend to reduce me to a whimpering shaking mess) so I’ve never done that. But… for a bunch of reasons I decided that this time, I would do it.

Yep, I would choreograph, costume, and perform my very own burlesque act in the June 2013 Miss La Belle’s House of Burlesque Frolic Lounge show.

Over the course of about 11 weeks.

And the show was one week after the market that I was making all the cushions for.

WHAT WAS I THINKING!

Once I realised that Mum was coming to stay for a week, I decided to take that week off work. And as it was the week between the market and the show, I decided to leave most of the costuming for that week so that my AMAZING mother could help me out. Because it’s every mum’s dream to help their daughter sew their debut stripping costume right? (Have I mentioned my mum is awesome?)

I am SO lucky Mum helped me. I wouldn’t have had a dream of completing both of my Two Enormous Projects without her. Knowing I had a week off available to complete my costume meant I could spend my free evenings and weekends before that time making cushions and rehearsing the routine and working on the basics of the costume, knowing all the complicated fitting and pinning bits could come later.

But even with leaving most of the tricky bits till the last minute, I still worked on my costume, juggling it around cushions. Because, you see, burlesque costumes have a lot of parts. There are layers upon layers of bits, and many of them have to be removable which adds new complexities. Not to mention the embellishing!

My concept for my routine was one I’d had ages ago. Being in the burlesque community, even as a non-perfomer, you see things or hear things or think things and go “oh, that’d be a great act!” And one day as I was watching Dr Who fight the daleks, I was looking at the funny little dalek arms and I thought “Oh, that’d be a great act!” Yep.

A dalek, the most famous of the villains in Dr Who, renowned for their desire to "Exterminate" all of humanity! Instead of arms they have two limbs, the death ray and the manipulator arm, often known as the egg whisk and the plunger.

A dalek, the most famous of the villains in Dr Who, renowned for their desire to “Exterminate” all of humanity. Instead of arms they have two limbs, the death ray and the manipulator arm, often known as the egg whisk and the plunger. Pinched from Google.

So when I decided to actually perform, naturally I decided to turn my boobs into dalek arms.

A key part of burlesque is nipple covers, known as pasties. Pasties can be simple or elaborate, beautiful or hilarious, but they’re always a key part of the costume. But despite the variation they’re pretty much always flat enough to fit under a bra. So how on earth was I going to (a) attach around 20 cm of projecting objects to my boobs, (b) make them stay there, and (c) hide them in my costume?

Yep, I not only had to choreograph and costume, I had foolishly chosen a concept that included some pretty major engineering.

There was much thinking and pondering how I would achieve these aims. There were thoughts of finding old radios and using the telescoping aerials in the middle of the pasties, so I could extend them. Lots of people suggested using something with some sort of spring tendency and strapping them down, so when the strapping came off they would sort of sproing right into shape. I thought about making the first layer of my costume a TARDIS so that I had a reason to wear something that wasn’t form fitting that I could hide by appendages inside.

In the end I settled on leaving them onstage in a box and velcro-ing them onto regular pasties at the appropriate point in time.

So, what could I make an imitation plunger and egg whisk out of that would be strong enough to hold their shape and light enough to remain parallel to the floor when they were held up solely by glue, velcro, and my naturally perky breasts?

I bought some supplies from Made on Marion but my original idea, to use dowelling, was a bust. To be light enough to be supported by my boobs, the diameter meant that there was virtually no surface area for adhesive. Mechanic Man suggested using cardboard, so I could cut little support struts into it. But before I could try that, the always amazing Miss La Belle magically produced just the right stuff. A thick layer of pliable foam with silver foil already adhered. Cut and rolled into a tube, and sealed with adhesive aluminium tape, I had the basis of my pasties in place. I made the rest out of pipe cleaners, cardboard, and tinfoil. Oh yes, it was one macaroni piece away from being a pre-school project! It’s amazing what you can get away with on stage.

These are pasties, that are adhered onto your nipples in a variety of ways. For the record, I used spirit gum. Normally they're heavily and beautifully embellished, but mine have velcro dots..

These are pasties, that are adhered onto your nipples in a variety of ways. For the record, I used spirit gum. Normally they’re heavily and beautifully embellished, but mine have velcro dots…

...that matched the velcro on the underneath of my feature pasties. This was to ensure that I could slap these things on mid routine and they'd stay put!

…that matched the velcro on the underneath of my feature pasties. This was to ensure that I could slap these things on mid routine and they’d stay put!

The feature pasties! Featuring pipe cleaners and tin foil.

The feature pasties! Featuring pipe cleaners and tin foil.

Once that was made, I still had the rest of my costume to go. In burlesque, there is often a transformation in a reveal (reveal being a burlesque phrase for revealing plot elements, costume, or skin by removing a piece of clothing or moving a prop). I  decided to start as Doctor Who and transform into the dalek.

Now, I wasn’t cosplaying, so supreme accuracy was NOT the name of the game. I decided that the most recognisable Doctor Who costume of all time (feel free to disagree) was Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor’s striped scarf.

The Fourth Doctor's iconic, super long (12 to 14 feet), striped scarf. And look, daleks! Pinched from Google.

The Fourth Doctor’s iconic, super long (12 to 14 feet), striped scarf. And look, daleks! Pinched from Google.

I decided that I wanted at one point for my costume to be nothing but the scarf. So how does one turn a scarf into a dress?

I bought five different colours of polyester satin that tied roughly into the original colour scheme and cut it into different width strips, then sewed them together in a random order to create a striped satin scarf, finished width about 80 cm, finished length about 2 metres or so. It took me ages to cut all that satin and sew it all together! (On a side note, polyester satin frays like nothing else. When you have 5 metres of it cut into about 50 strips, that is a LOT of raw edges. I was pulling polyester thread furballs off everything I owned for days. There’s still some embedded in my carpet. Today I found some in a pillowcase, after I’d washed it.)

My awesome Mum hemming the long edges on my scarf dress

My awesome Mum hemming the long edges on my scarf dress

I experimented with a few different ways of wearing it, but what I settled on was having the scarf run up the front of my body, loop loosely around my neck once, and then run down the back of my body, with snaps on either side to shape it to me. I could rip open the snaps to whip the dress off .

Part of my striped scarf dress, showing the snaps that convert a rectangle into a me-shaped dress

Part of my striped scarf dress, showing the snaps that convert a rectangle into a me-shaped dress

A shot from one of the fittings of the scarf dress. If you look closely you'll see where it loops behind my neck, and the edges of the front of the scarf snapped into place along my sides

A shot from one of the fittings of the scarf dress. If you look closely you’ll see where it loops behind my neck, and the edges of the front of the scarf snapped into place along my sides

In between the scarf and the pasties though I still needed another layer, and I settled on a metallic silver bra, underbust corset, and a-line skirt. The underbust corset and skirt would remain on for the final reveal, to become the dalek body. I settled on making the skirt from scratch but covering an existing bra and corset.

The skirt was one half clever drafting, one half pure luck. I used a super stretchy metallic foil covered knit to make the skirt, corset, and bra. I decided on a simple A-line, elastic waist, no darts or shaping required due to the knit. I decided the width of my skirt waist should be equal to my actual hip measurement so I could get it over my hips and then drew identical triangles to use for front and back, extending from my waist width to my desired hem width, and cut a rectangular stip to use for a casing for the elastic. But when halving my desired finished waist width in order to draft my pattern, either Mum or I had a moment of stupid (she swears it was me, I reckon it was her!) and halved it wrong, making the waist too small! Amazingly, it ended up being the absolute perfect size, the stretch in the fabric means I can get the skirt over my hips and the fact it is smaller than we intended gives it a sleeker finish at the waist, with much less gathering.

I cut it to length by bending over and Mum estimating how short I could get it and still cover my butt, and I didn’t bother with hemming it.

Simple A-line silver skirt

Simple A-line silver skirt

The corset was a bit trickier. I had a white cheap, plastic boned, not-really-a-corset corset as I wasn’t up to making a corset from scratch, and we stretched the silver foiled knit over the top of it, stitching it in place. Mum cleverly figured out how to fold extensions in the cover to hide the busk and grommets, but leave space for the ribbon to come out. I replaced the white ribbon with grey.

The covered corset. The silver fabric stops before the sticky out bits of the busk, but extends on the other side to cover the busk once done up.  Unfortunately my camera doesn't really give you the full effect of how SHINY this stuff really is!

The covered corset. The silver fabric stops before the sticky out bits of the busk, but extends on the other side to cover the busk once done up. Unfortunately my camera doesn’t really give you the full effect of how SHINY this stuff really is!

Inside the corset, showing all of the hand stitching Mum invested in it. The right hand side shows the loop bits of the busk hiding behind their cover.

Inside the corset, showing all of the hand stitching Mum invested in it. The right hand side shows the loop bits of the busk hiding behind their cover.

The back of the covered corset, no white fabric or eyelets on display

The back of the covered corset, no white fabric or eyelets on display

The flap over the eyelets on the back of the corset, hand stitched between each eyelet for security but allowing the ribbon to extend out.

The flap over the eyelets on the back of the corset, hand stitched between each eyelet for security but allowing the ribbon to extend out.

The bra was perhaps the hardest thing to make. I stretched and manipulated the foil knit over the cups of a moulded bra, then carefully stitched it in place in the inside. I didn’t dart or shape the knit, just manipulated as much as possible. The cover is marginally smaller than the bra itself, meaning the bra collapses a little when empty, but when filled with what a bra should be filled with, the knit stretches into a pretty smooth surface. Once it was stitched in place, Mum trimmed the excess fabric back and did a second row of hand stitching around the inside of the cups to keep the folded over fabric lying flat.

The front of my dalek bra. It is less wrinkly when appropriately filled.

The front of my dalek bra. It is less wrinkly when appropriately filled.

The inside of the dalek bra, showing all of the painstaking hand stitching that keeps it covered.

The inside of the dalek bra, showing all of the painstaking hand stitching that keeps it covered.

For the gore (the little bit between the cups) I carefully cut the oddest shaped little piece of fabric and wrapped it around, hand sewing it all neatly and covering the edges of the cup fabric.

Hand sewing onto the bra was super hard work as the bra was moulded so very thick. I used my thimble heavily, but not being a thimble user I was awkward and slow.

After covering the cups, I had to cover the back band. Now, how to do this without losing the stretch inherent in the bra?

Enter Mum and her belly dancing costuming experience. This was so amazing to watch I have to share it with you.

First, I put the bra on and Mum DREW the shape of the band onto my back. Honestly. Here’s proof.

Not a photo I ever thought I'd put online.

Not a photo I ever thought I’d put online.

Mum then transferred this onto paper by tracing it off my back, and then cut two out of the foil fabric for each side, carefully marking where the shoulder strap extended. She machine sewed the bottom and the top up until the point of the shoulder strap then bagged it to make a band shaped cover.

She slipped this over the band, and hand stitched the top between the shoulder strap and the cup, then stitched the edges to the cup front and back.

Confused? These pictures might help. This method results in the band being covered with a tube that is longer than the band when it is off, but the perfect size when the bra is on and the band is stretched.

front of the fully covered bra band, all wrinkled up.

Front of the fully covered bra band, all wrinkled up. The little bit of embellishment was to cover the bit of band that couldn’t be covered as the hooks are underneath

Inside of the fully covered dalek bra band, showing the cover all wrinkled as the strap is not fully stretched.

Inside of the fully covered dalek bra band, showing the cover all wrinkled as the strap is not fully stretched.

The silver layer, pre-embellishment. Over my merino tights because it was damn cold that week!

The silver layer, pre-embellishment. Over my merino tights because it was damn cold that week!

After my bra was covered, I had to embellish it. I considered all sorts of sequins and beads and fringing, but eventually settled on minimal embellishment – I mean, I was wearing an outfit with the reflective value of the sun;  I decided it didn’t need much.

Mrs C has, in her shop, a plastic stuff that is a gridlike mesh of faceted sparkly surfaces. I added a triangle of this to the gore. The straps were tricky – like the band, they need to be stretchy so sewing or gluing anything on would reduce that. I settled for cutting the mesh down into pairs and hand sewing over the centre of each pair. By anchoring in only one place, I kept the straps’ elasticity.

The embellishment on the bra gore. This stuff is amazing. Go buy it from Made Marion.

The embellishment on the bra gore. This stuff is amazing. Go buy it from Made Marion.

The little bits of mesh sewn onto the strap

The little bits of mesh sewn onto the strap

So that was my costuming feat. All in all, I had to make: two base pasties, two dalek feature pasties, one silver bra, one silver underbust corset, one silver skirt, and one striped convertible scarf/dress. At the same time as I was making a squillion cushions. While also choreographing and rehearsing the act. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?

Thank goodness for Mum. She was amazing. She helped me make the skirt, she painstakingly handsewed the fabric onto my  corset while I started handsewing the covering on the bra, she then finished handsewing the covering on the bra, she completely designed and handled covering the back bra bands, she hemmed all four sides of my scarf-dress, and she handsewed all the snaps onto my scarf-dress, while I wore it. Yep, I stood there with my hands in the air while she knelt at my side and sewed snaps onto my dress, as it was the only way we could get them in the right place to ensure a good fit and the right shape. We did this last task about 4 hours before I had to be at my hair and make-up call for the first show. She was an absolute trooper, creative genius, and emotional support, and she totally saved my ass. I LOVE YOU MUM!

The show rolled around on the Friday and Saturday night in the middle of worst storm to hit Wellington in something like 40 years. But the show must go on, and go on it did! The lovely Claire of The Vanity Case did my hair for me using star clips I made at Mrs C’s suggestion, I slapped on enough makeup and false eyelashes to be mistaken for a drag queen (entirely intentional, those girls know how to do stage make up), got kitted up in all of my many costume layers, added my coat and hat (two things NOT made by me, hurrah!) and then proceeded to take half of it off in a room full of people. Who’da thunk it.

Unfortunately, due to the somewhat awkward nature of my costume (I couldn’t move too much for fear of busting my snaps open, and the coat was too hot to wear backstage until right before I went on), I have no posed snaps in full costume. What a doofus brain I am! Two nights and never managed to get snapped while posing, in full make-up and costume. Sigh.

So you’ll have to settle for what I’ve got, shots from me mid-act.

The coat layer of my act. I've already tossed the hat aside, but there are no photos with the hat on that aren't super blurry

The coat layer of my act. I’ve already tossed the hat aside, but there are no photos with the hat on that aren’t super blurry. You can see how the loop on the front of the scarf dress sits over the coat, to make it obvious I am wearing the Dr’s scarf under the coat. Photo courtesy Jon McGavin

But wait, it's not a scarf, it's  a dress! You can see the cowl effect I used to put over the top of the coat.

But wait, it’s not a scarf, it’s a dress! You can see the cowl effect I used to put over the top of the coat. Photo courtesy Jon McGavin

Wait, now its a scarf again!

Wait, now its a scarf again! Photo courtesy Jon McGavin

Hard to get a non-blurry photos of a shimmy

Hard to get a non-blurry photos of a shimmy. Photo courtesy Jon McGavin

Getting ready for the transformation into a dalek. And look at the cute star clips in my hair!

Getting ready for the transformation into a dalek. And look at the cute star clips in my hair! Photo courtesy Jon McGavin

As for the dalek pasties… well, you’ll have to wait until I next perform and come and see it for yourself! (Hey, some things I don’t want to put online!)

I had an absolute blast and got so much positive feedback afterwards that I positively buzzed for about a week. And who knows, I might even do it again! It was a pretty big moment, and certainly counts as one of my creative Moments of Satisfaction. In fact, I could probably count it as several, but as it was really just one large project, I’m counting it as one.

I know you’re all desperate to know the answer to the question I posed last time – what stage name should I use? So, let me introduce you to Moxie Fizz… she sparkles, she effervesces, and she needs all the moxie she can get!

And even more importantly, what did I dance to?

Well, this of course!

MOS 4/52: The Grand Cushion Adventure

26 Jul

Want to know about one of the Two Enormous Project that consumed all of my time recently? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.

You see, recently, a clever creative type decided to set up a vintage enthusiasts’ event for Wellington called Vintage-Orama. Vintage-Orama was going to have a vintage market, dance classes, demos, and cool events. When I found out about it I had sudden visions of a market stall, selling retro, kitsch, and rockabilly cushions and other items, all made from beautiful and quirky prints.

I knew this was A Bad Idea (The time! The cost! The risk!) but was consumed by enthusiasm and an itch to make-and-sell that I couldn’t scratch. So I caved, paid for a stall and bought lots (and I mean LOTS) of fabric online.

My fabric arrived just after I finished my seriously yellow skirt. FIrst up there was prewashing. Lots and lots of prewashing. Thankfully a beautiful sunny, windy, if cold winter’s weekend in early May meant I could get it all done pretty quick! I did get a picture of all of the beautiful fabrics billowing in the breeze, but then lost it. Oops.

Although I had visions of cushions, scarves, bags, ties, all sorts of grand ideas, I decided to start with what I was most excited about, cushions. I had figured out my pattern piece dimensions so I knew how much fabric to get but due to a slight issue with my brain malfunctioning I had completely over ordered fabric (hmm, lemme see, it’ll take 1 yard of 112cm fabric to make a cushion as that’s how much I’ll need to cut two fronts and two backs… oh, now that I’ve ordered I’ve realised my cushion design doesn’t HAVE TWO FRONTS and I can get a whole cushion out of half a yard!)

Of my fabrics, 4 or 5 had prints unsuitable to my cushion size, but 18 I knew were going to be perfect, and due to the excess fabric I decided to make two cushions out of each of these. Yep, I was planning on making 36 centre-back zip cushion covers.

In about 5 weeks.

While also in the middle of my other Enormous Project (to be disclosed separately…)

LET THE SEWING COMMENCE!

My cushions were all retro, kitsch, or rockabilly, with pin-up girls, day of the dead and sugar skulls, old cars, roller skates, tattoo art, leopard print, anchors, skulls, flamingos, moustaches, and comic strips all making an appearance. This is just a selection of the 18 designs I featured!

My cushions were all retro, kitsch, or rockabilly, with pin-up girls, day of the dead and sugar skulls, old cars, roller skates, tattoo art, leopard print, anchors, skulls, flamingos, moustaches, and comic strips all making an appearance. This is just a selection of the 18 designs I featured!

But how was I to manage both Enormous Projects? Luckily, I had a secret weapon. Mechanic Man went away on holiday for a couple of weeks to the bach up in Whangarei, and offered to bring my mum home with him, as she lives near there.* This meant I could focus primarily on cushions for the first few weeks, as Mum would help me with Enormous Project 2 (EP2) when she arrived. So I sewed as much as I could, while still working on EP2 as needed knowing that Mum would rescue me. I managed to make 24 cushions.

This is one of my favourtie designs. I might have bought enough of this one to make a shirt or skirt too. The cushion design is 14 inches/36cm wide, with a "frill" made by using a French Seam technique in reverse, otherwise known as topstitching a couple of cms in from the outer edge to enclose the seam allowances and create the flat frill.

This is one of my favourite designs. I might have bought enough of this one to make a shirt or skirt too. The cushion design is 14 inches/36cm wide, with a “frill” made by using a French seam technique in reverse, otherwise known as topstitching a couple of cms in from the outer edge to enclose the seam allowances and create the flat frill.

All of my centre back zips were lapped. I am so glad I got a new zip foot for this exercise, it made a huge difference - and Sunni's Craftsy zip course was helpful too!

All of my centre back zips were lapped. I am so glad I got a new zip foot for this exercise, it made a huge difference – and Sunni’s Craftsy zip course was helpful too!

On Friday before the market, Mum arrived in Wellington, having braved 13 hours over two days in a van with Mechanic Man (“does your mum like Pantera? Well, she will soon!”)

I got home from work on Friday night, so excited to see Mum, and promptly dragged her out to a rock and roll social gig, organised by Feet With Heat and featuring The X-Ray Cats, one of the official Vintage-Orama events for the weekend. It was great fun to whirl and twirl away and mum watched and took photos, and the vintage crowd turned up dressed to the nines!

When we got home around midnight, we picked up the last 12 cushions and started sewing. Mum helped by pressing and unpicking the zip basting as I stitched away. Mum flagged about 1.30 and by 4am I realised I conceded that I had sewn all I was going to sew and gave up to snatch 2 hours sleep.

By the day of the market, Saturday the 15th, with the help of my amazing mum (and an awesome new zip foot), I had made 30 of 36 cushion covers.

I showed up at Vintage-Orama, in my flame dress, with my mum and my cushions and set up shop. It was great fun! I really enjoy selling at markets so this was a great way to spend the day. Years ago Mum and I ventured into the market scene for a while selling bags, so the last of our stock got hauled out and taken along too; and I also put out some fabric for MrsC.

Blurry cell phone photo of my table at Vintage-Orama

Blurry cell phone photo of my table at Vintage-Orama

Of course, I poked around the rest of the market, which was great fun, where I scored an enormous haul of vintage patterns which was very exciting (if somewhat profit reducing…). And quite flatteringly, I had my picture taken for street style blog Little Death!

One of the many vintage clothing sellers at Vintage-Orama. I've got lots of photos of the event, but they're all universally terrible.

One of the many vintage clothing sellers at Vintage-Orama. I’ve got lots of photos of the event, but they’re all universally terrible.

Of course, I didn’t sell all 30 cushions, so last weekend I had my first stall at the Wellington Undergound Market in Frank Kitts Carpark, at their Retro, Recycled, Restored theme market. I made the last 6 cushions up in time for that and once again had a great time.

My stall at the Wellington Underground Market's Retro, Recycled, Restored theme market.

My stall at the Wellington Underground Market’s Retro, Recycled, Restored theme market. Also blurry. Need to stop using my cell phone for important pictures. 

 

I still have more cushions left, and of course heaps more fabric, so I guess I’ll have to find more markets!

All in all, Enormous Project 1 –The Grand Cushion Adventure was great fun, if somewhat exhausting, and I am now an absolute whizz at setting lapped zips! But the craziness only got crazier after Vintage-Orama, as then I had to go home and start on the final countdown for Enormous Project 2!

Stay tuned…

*How fabulous is it to have your mum come and stay!? I am a HUGE fan of my mum.

FO: Eve slippers

9 May

Having learned to knit in December 2011, I’d been looking for simple, quick projects to practice on. When I was at Rocking in the Hutt in February 2012 with D, a camping enthusiast, he mentioned he was looking for thick socks to wear in his tent at night. My craft-gift-opportunity alarm went off and I knew instantly that this was a prime knitting opportunity! Slippers!

I spent a lot of time on Ravelry searching for the perfect pattern. The slippers had to come up to the ankle (so many slipper patterns leave the top of the foot bare, why???), but it had to be free, had to be knitted in the flat, and had to be simple. This was my first make after my doll after all!

I searched, favourited, emailed to Mum for review and approval, settled on a pattern, and bought the yarn.

As it was my first solo knit project, mum said she’d knit the pattern through first so that she could give me advice over the phone. So when I bought my yarn (Naturally Naturelle, 100% wool 14 ply and super thick and bouncy) I bought enough for her as well and posted it up. Mum knocked out the first slipper in about 2 hours, rang me up, told me about the typo and told me to go for it.

Knitting solo was tricky. Mum attempted to teach me over the phone how to make one by picking up the bar below, but I got it wrong. Luckily Google came to my rescue.

I also decided to make the slippers bigger, as D has good sized feet and the pattern was for medium. So I guesstimated how much extra to cast on, tried it out, decided it was wrong, frogged it, re-guesstimated, cast on, decided it was good, made up one slipper (yes, just one), was disappointed that none of my other male friends I could easily access had the right size feet to test it out, and posted that lonely slipper  up to Mum too. Her partner, SB, had the right sized feet and success! The slipper fitted!

I quickly knitted up the slippers proper and really loved this pattern. The short row shaping creates really cool ridges and makes a fantastic shape, and it is fast and easy to knit. I did make one change – the pattern calls for a garter band at the ankle, but when SB tested it he said it made it tricky to get on an off, so I replaced it with a band of rib.

I took this before I added the tape but it's the only front view I have. You can see the clever ridges up each side of the foot from the short rows

I took this before I added the tape but it’s the only front view I have. You can see the clever ridges up each side of the foot from the short rows. I stuffed these with tissue for this photo.

Once I’d made the slippers, I knew I wanted to make them just a little bit special, as D was about to go overseas to go tramping through Europe. He’s a big fan of the MMORPG Eve so I decided to give them “Eve cred”. I know all RPGs have equipment or apparel you can acquire in the game which gives you more points on a particular attribute, so I contacted my great friend Ares, an Eve addict, and got him to help me out. We settled on Rogue CY-2.5. This piece of equipment, in the game, increases navigation skill, which I thought was appropriate for someone travelling alone with little more than a tent, a laptop, and his wits. Another friend, The Sewhpist, used her fancy sewing machine to machine stitch the letters onto cotton twill tape, and I sewed it onto the heels of the slippers, where they double as little loops to help get the slippers on.

The tape after my friend finished machine embroidering it. It took a lot of attempts to get it to work

The tape after my friend finished machine embroidering it. It took a lot of attempts to get it to work

I hand stitched the cotton tape on with silk thread.

I hand stitched the cotton tape on with silk thread.

After the tape but without stuffing to hold them in place. This slipper tends to collapse inwards in an ungainly fashion if there isn't a foot to provide shape

After the tape but without stuffing to hold them in place. This slipper tends to collapse inwards in an ungainly fashion if there isn’t a foot to provide shape

Ares also looked up D’s character and got his character’s address in the Eve world, and provided me with a logo of one of the shops in the game you can buy the equipment from, which I used to make the presentation perfect. I designed a “product insert brochure”  which went with the slippers, wrapped in tissue, into a box. I added an address label, a logo, and a seal to the box and it was done! Gamer geek cred slippers!

The "product insert brochure" I designed, typed up, and glued onto  card

The “product insert brochure” I designed, typed up, and glued onto card

The slippers in tissue...

The slippers in tissue…

...then I folded down the tissue and added the insert...

…then I folded down the tissue and added the insert…

...then I sealed the box by cluing the supplier logo over the opening, and added another supplier logo and his character's address

…then I sealed the box by cluing the supplier logo over the opening, and added another supplier logo and his character’s address. The rubber bands were only on while the glue dried on the seal.

I gave them to the recipient in May 2012 and they were very well received.  I’d call that a win for a knitting project!

Oh and don’t worry – I eventually got around to knitting one more slipper to go up to SB to go with his test slipper. Can’t have the man having one slippered foot!

Ravelry notes here.

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!

And then there was knitting…

22 Apr

I’ve been surrounded by knitting my whole life. My Nana is a particularly prolific knitter. She was actually a professional knitter when my mum was a kid, doing piece work at home, and knitted garments that ended up photographed for the front of Sirdar’s patterns! As a youngster I remember that if Nana was sitting, she was knitting. There was a phase during her 60s when she cut back on the amount of knitting because she got really busy hiking, kayaking, abseiling, and tramping in the Himalayas, but then the youngest of my cousins was born (the first girl since me, 20-something years earlier) and the needles came out again, and I don’t think she’s stopped since. Don’t worry; she hasn’t given up on adventure and still walks at least an hour a day (I’m not entirely sure we’re related).

Mum has also always been a knitter, then a few years ago started getting into it with gusto and since then her stash and her output have both increased exponentially, although I’m not even sure of the physics of that. Seriously, her stash is AMAZING.

But despite being surrounded by knitting my whole life, I did not have any desire to knit. I picked up all of my other crafty instincts from Mum, but not that one. Mum tried to teach me when I was young, but I didn’t enjoy it as a process. I thought a lot of knitted stuff was ugly. It seemed like a slow and tedious process to produce something. And really, as someone who sews, makes jewellery, does cross stitch, does silk ribbon embroidery, and potters around with craft in general, and has a stash for each, I needed another hobby like I needed a house to fall on me. Mum was disappointed as she really wanted to teach me to knit, but I was determined. I Would Not Knit.

Then three things happened.

First, I had a few occasions to wish I had a nice, portable craft that didn’t require complicated machinery, specialist tools, or careful focus.

Second, my interest in vintage inspired looks and the vintage blogs I follow often showed lots of lovely pieces of knitwear that I would actually be seen in.

And third, seemingly en masse, the sewing blogs I follow all started sprouting knitting projects. Beautiful, not ugly, knitting projects.

So December 2011, three days before Christmas, on holiday at Mum’s, I announced “Mum, I have terrible news. I want to learn to knit.” Mum squealed, she hollered, she did cartwheels, she booked a skywriter and fireworks. Gloat much Mum?

Between my announcement and Christmas Day, Mum procured a learn-to-knit kit that made it under the tree with my name on it. And then on Christmas afternoon, we sat there and Mum taught me to knit. I banged a bunch of different stitches together as she taught me different techniques and I ended up with an odd “sampler” of my learning.

My learn-to-knit sampler, a hodge podge of stitches and techniques

My learn-to-knit sampler, a hodge podge of stitches and techniques

Surprisingly to both of us, I picked it up really quickly. My tension was tight, but even. I would make mistakes and ask Mum to fix them and she’d laugh and say “well, yes, that is a mistake for what you’re trying to do – but it’s actually an advanced technique you’ll get to later”. We covered knit, purl, and a variety of standard combinations, cast on and cast off, increases, decreases, and some lace techniques.

The kit included yarn and instructions to make a stocking stitch scarf with a garter border. But after knitting my sampler, Mum decided the scarf was too easy and would bore me, so she dug around in her stash and produced the pattern and yarn for a doll. Mum figured a doll was a chance to practice the basic stitch combos, increases and decreases, casting on and casting off, and seaming, but it didn’t need to fit anyone at the end so tension was less important, and any mistakes I made would be tolerable. And it was something she could produce the materials for from stash that very minute, so I could start straight away!

So here is my Cinderella topsy turvy doll. I don’t have any progress photos as I started her before  my decision to document my work, but I’m really pleased with her.

Cinderella in her rags, complete with apron and little patches, all knitted separately

Cinderella in her rags, complete with apron and little patches, all knitted separately

The bag of Cinderella in her rags. Mum crocheted the apron straps for me.

The back of Cinderella in her rags. Mum crocheted the apron straps for me.

Cinderella in her princess get up. I spent almost as much time embroidering those blasted flowers as I spent knitting the whole thing. But Mum crocheted the tiara for me.

Cinderella in her princess get-up. I spent almost as much time embroidering those blasted flowers as I spent knitting the whole thing. But Mum crocheted the tiara for me.

Cinderella in her princess get up, showing the little pseudo bow from cross the belt at the back.

Cinderella in her princess get up, showing the little pseudo bow from crossing the belt at the back.

If you’re asking why there are two dolls when I said I made only one, this is a topsy turvy doll, two dolls in one! You just have to pull her skirt up to reveal the other end, and the other doll.

See! Under her skirt is the other end of the doll

See! Under her skirt is the other end of the doll

So you don't have to try and rotate your head...

So you don’t have to try and rotate your head…

After I finished my doll, over the course of 2012 I knitted a pair of slippers for a friend, of which I am so proud they’ll get their own post, three pairs of booties (of which I only got photos of two) and a baby hat.

Learning blackberry stitch on booties. I gave these to a very dear friend for her firstborn.

Learning blackberry stitch on booties. I gave these to a very dear friend for her firstborn.

The blackberry booties from the side

The blackberry booties from the side. These were knitted traditional bootie style, top down and then picking up stitches to join the sides

The third pair of booties I knitted and gave away. These are knitted flat, using short rows for the shaping on the bridge of the foot. This was actually an adult pattern  for 12ply yarn, but I used 4ply and little needles and ta-da! Booties!

The third pair of booties I knitted and gave away. These are knitted flat, using short rows for the shaping on the bridge of the foot. This was actually an adult pattern for 12ply yarn, but I used 4ply and little needles and ta-da! Booties!

The pixie hat I knitted for a colleague. Want to know what it is modelled on?

The pixie hat I knitted for a colleague. Want to know what it is modelled on?

Me of course!

Me of course! It’s not meant to roll like that on the edges, my ladder effect lace inset was too tight for the rest of the hat, but I’m sure it looks fine on the bub.

The pixie hat came from this 1966 Woman's Weekly

The pixie hat came from this 1966 Woman’s Weekly. What the hell is that cover model wearing on her head! Best part – the article describes it as “alluring.” If you want the pattern, just let me know…

The layette the pixie hat was part of.

The layette the pixie hat was part of. You’ll note the ladder effect lace inset doesn’t pull in the way it does on mine. This section is much tighter than the rest and there is a huge increase and decrease on either side of this section, but it obviously wasn’t enough to cope with me!

Yep, I’ve well and truly got the knitting bug now. At least I don’t have any other new hobbies!

Although, after Mum taught me knit, she looked at me and said “next is crochet.” At this point I am still resisting, because crochet is often ugly (in my opinion) and I definitely don’t need yet another hobby! But there are some nice things cropping up… and I loooove amigurumi… ARGH!

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!

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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?