FO: the world’s oldest finished UFO* (or, the technostretch top)

26 Jun

*I have no actual proof of this. There has been no rigorous scientific testing (or indeed, any testing of any kind, scientific, rigorous, or other). But I’d like to posit that this ranks pretty highly.

Because I finished it in 2014.

And I started it in 2002. Give or take a year. I figure I can be vague on the details when it is more than a decade old.

Once again, lots of bedroom eyes because argh-the-sun-it-burns-it-burns!!!

Once again, lots of bedroom eyes because argh-the-sun-it-burns-it-burns!!!

This top was part of the transition from Making-Mum-Sew-For-Me to What-Do-You-Mean-I-Have-To-Do-It-Myself??? that occurred around the turn of the century, when my mum finally cottoned on to my devious undertakings. As such, I still hadn’t figured out a bunch of the finer details, such as the fact that the size on the envelope bears no relation to either (a) the size in your RTW or (b) the measurements the envelope suggests go with that size. I cut it, sewed it, discovered it was far too small, and shelved it pending a solution.

I also made this before my natural-fibre-snobbery had taken hold, and the fabric is a highly synthetic, very stretchy woven with a metallic sheen and a slightly plastic touch. The Arthur Toye of last decade sold it as Technostretch. My then-favourite RTW shop sold lots of pencil skirts and fitted tops and jackets in this stuff, and I was enamoured by it, so I coveted all the colours when I found it in Arthur Toye and finally bought this dark blue, shot with black.

When I moved to Wellington in 2003, this came too, and continued to languish in the corner while I fumbled around teaching myself things. Finally, in about 2005, I started going to weekly sewing group, which was amazing! It was a small group, and was not quite a sewing class. Each person made their own projects in their own way, but the teacher would provide advice, guidance, bail you out off difficulty, and provide some specialist tools. I decided to exploit her knowledge and asked her to help me fix this top. I dug it out and we had a look at it.

I used Vogue 7234 because I loved the panelling and princess seam details. The panelled nature of the top was my saving grace. I picked it all apart, and reconstructed it using 0.5cm seam allowances, and miraculously it fit! The suuuuper stretchiness was my other saving grace (are you allowed two? I’m having tw0). It’s a very forgiving fabric and this helps get the fit just right, without mock-up or adjustments (other than seam allowance). So between the changes it fit and I was stoked!

But… something still wasn’t right. The underarms gaped. So we shortened the straps slightly. They still gaped. We shortened. They gaped. Shortened. By now there was no more left to shorten  and it still gaped, so I abandoned it to my sewing cupboard, thinking I’d figure it out one day.

Stolen from the internet so I don't have to photo it, and uploaded to distract from a lack of photos

Stolen from the internet so I don’t have to photo it, and uploaded to distract from a lack of photos

I was privileged to meet MrsC and co-adopt each other in 2008. At some stage over the next year or two it occurred to me to ask Maryanne for her ideas on the technostretch top. Like the guru she is, she told me how to fix it! The top is faced with narrow binding and this had stretched a bit.  So I laboriously unpicked the binding and used her magical tape technique to stabilise the underarms. Tadah! It was now sitting great!

This highlighted to me the benefit of having lots of sewing mentors; and the difference experience makes. My teacher was a very experienced RTW machinist and taught at a fashion institute. She told stories of how when she started she had to sew 40 collars, 40 cuffs, 40 plackets, etc etc, and get them all perfect before she was allowed to start assembling garments. But as a RTW machinist, she’d never really had to worry about fit. MrsC on the other hand had garnered her experience from, amongst other things, theatre and custom bridal, where every garment is made to fit someone. She has all the tricks to making one garment conform to its matching body.

Once again heaps of thanks to Sarah for taking all my photos!

Once again heaps of thanks to Sarah for taking all my photos!

The downside of solving the underarm gape was that I realised the strap shortening meant the underarm binding now sat right up in my pits, slowly rubbing and driving me crazy. ARGH! Luckily one of the things I was taught a long time ago is never to throw out your scraps until a garment is completed (and I tend to hold onto them even longer than that). I had no scraps long enough to cut new straps BUT I did have one actual strap I’d made and left scorch marks on when pressing! I’d also recently  bought some rectangular rings** for bag making wit mum, and I realised that that was the solution! But the rings were at Mum’s in Auckland, and she didn’t know where they were. And I forgot to dig them out when I was next at her place. And forgot the time after that. And forgot and forgot etc etc yadah yadah yadah.

Finally, she found them and posted them to me! Yay! Of course, I then lost them for at least six months. And then sat on the project awaiting motivation for another, oh I don’t know, year, or two, or three.

And then about March I finally dragged the top out, unpicked the two straps at the front, sliced off the scorched part of my surplus strap, sliced the remnant in half and inserted the halves. Then I figured out where the rings go, cut off the surplus, stitched them in place, and WHOLLY FREAKING MOLY I FINISHED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, I then realised that the scorched strap was ever so slightly wider than the new two. And the straps are fractionally too long now. And it doesn’t quiiiiite have enough room for my ass so it rides up a bit at the back.

Butt induced wrinkles

Butt induced wrinkles

Don’t care. DON’T CARE. It is done and I love it. Now I just need summer to get here so I can wear it on days that aren’t freak weather anomalies! (Who am i kidding. It’s Wellington – I’ll need freak weather anomalies during summer too!)

**I am aware that by their very nature rectangular rings can’t be rings. But I don’t know what else to call them!

I'm still feeling guilty about the lack of photos, so here is Minerva being adorable. This is the chair in my sewing room she likes to sleep in while I work.

I’m still feeling guilty about the lack of photos, so here is Minerva being adorable. This is the chair in my sewing room she likes to sleep in while I work.



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!

The tale of 12,000 beads

23 May

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away About 14 years ago, as a uni student, I got a part time job in a costume jewellery shop. It was a tiny store, owned and run by one woman. It stocked costume jewellery, bags and shoes made from matching leather, hats, and gloves. Basically everything you needed for a bridal party, mother of the bride, school ball, or other fancy schmancy event. Or you know, for fun.

Although some of the costume jewellery was bought from wholesalers, some of it was designed and made by the owner. I worked one and a half days a week, sole charge, and on those days one of my jobs became to make replacements for any jewellery sold during the week. The owner would leave me with a box of supplies and her design specs, and in between customers I would make jewellery. This was where I learned the basics of jewellery making, skills I still use!

Eventually, the owner decided to close the store. It came up in conversation with the owner that she had heaps of old supplies she’d inherited from the previous owner and had never sorted or used and she was going to give them away. I pounced – perhaps I could have some? She said yes!

Being a destitute and now unemployed student, my aunt agreed to be my cargo driver, so we bowled up to the owner’s house together.

There was a room haphazardly carpeted with over a dozen huge boxes of supplies, all jumbled up, no sense or structure or even labels. We didn’t have time for a through investigation so my method was simple: glance in the box; if the box looked more than half interesting take it; if it looked less than half interesting, leave it.

In amongst all the supplies there was one thing that kept catching my eye. There were dozens of small plastic containers laden with hand painted glass beads. They looked liked lollies and were just as enticing. I had to have them ALL. I’d open a box and see them and claim the box. My aunt would say “but you’ve got those” and I’d point out that these ones were DIFFERENT.

Beads like lollies! There were black ones and blue ones and green ones and red ones and purple ones, in lots of shapes like teardrops and eggs and hearts, and they were all hand-painted with gold swirls and little jewel-like drops of colour. I loved them.

Beads like lollies! There were black ones and blue ones and green ones and red ones and purple ones, in lots of shapes like teardrops and eggs and hearts, and they were all hand-painted with gold swirls and little jewel-like drops of colour. I loved them.

Eventually we exchausted our stamina (and more constraining, my aunt’s boot space) and we left. I had claimed 9 banana boxes of supplies. Now, in fabric that might not be much – but this was jewellery supplies. Tiny tiny things. So imagine how many supplies were in those 9 boxes!

The boxes went into storage for a couple of years while I moved around, but once I settled I dug them out and started the laborious process of sorting the contents. Like went with like: beads with beads, chains with chains, clasps with clasps, etc. Then I sorted inside each of those categories, by colour or type or similar. This significantly reduced the amount of space it all took up (as I threw out bags and bags of snaplock bags that weren’t needed), got me familiar with my haul, and appealed to my ‘must-organise-all-the-things brain.

As I did this, I grouped the plastic containers of glassy lollie goodness together. And eventually discovered I had over 60 of these plastic pots, each with a different design of bead in it. It was, to use a technical term, LOTS.

How they were stored. There are more in the drawers and those are more underneath too.

How they were stored. There are more in the drawers and those are more underneath too.

I was a little overwhelmed by the quantity. I could never make enough jewellery to use them all. And they hadn’t been cleaned, meaning the holes were filled with glass dust and using them required cleaning the holes out first. So although I made one or two pieces I mostly just moved them around the house over and over again trying to make them take up less space then they did without the use of a TARDIS, with limited success.

Eventually I realised my tastes had changed and I was no longer drawn to these beads – and even if I made them all into jewellery I could never sell it all, so l decided to sell the beads.

I sold them at markets. I sold them on TradeMe. I sold and I sold in packets of 10 and 20, and after a while I sat back and realised… I’d barely made a dent. So. Many. Glass. Beads.

The beads had stopped being inspirational and exciting and started being a millstone, taking up both physical and mental space in my life. They sapped my creativity, made me feel guilty and uninspired. I had to get rid of them but was out of ideas.

Then one day I was reading some unsolicited mail from the Child Cancer Foundation, asking for donations. They told a story of a young child who had undergone so many procedures, and made reference to their Beads of Courage programme, where they give away a bead for every procedure, so that every child has a long strong of beads to mark their history. I looked at the photos of the beads and thought “they’re so pretty. They’re just like mine.” And like that, I made the connection.

I contacted the Child Cancer Foundation and asked if they would like to have my beads. They were so excited! They’d love to have them, we just had to get them to Auckland.

Could I post them? they asked.

No. No I cannot. There are lots.

Could they put them in someone’s carry on luggage? they asked

No. No you cannot. There are LOTS.

Sorted out ready for packing. I couldn't get them all in a close shot. Still haven't figured out how many there are?

Sorted out ready for packing. I couldn’t get them all in a close shot. Still haven’t figured out how many there are?

Eventually we agreed that we’d wait until Mechanic Man was heading north and load them into the van for him to drop off. It took a couple of months but eventually he was ready for a trip north.

I hauled all the beads out and tried to figure out how to pack them in a way that was transportable and could be carried by one person, and as I did so I decided to do a quick bit of maths.

Based on the average weight of the bead, and estimating the number of beads in each container, I worked out I had 10,000 to 12,000 beads, weighing about 70 kilograms and taking up over a cubic metre of space.

That, people, is the very essence of a LOT of beads.

Does this help?

Does this help?

Mechanic Man dropped them off to the Child Cancer Foundation, who has arranged an army of volunteers to clean all the holes and anneal the beads to make them safe for children and their families. The people there were so excited, I wish I could have been there to see it! I asked Mechanic Man to take a photo with this post in mind, but he’s not that way inclined and forgot. So you’ll just have to imagine it.

It's hard to tell, but the three large cardboard boxes stacked around the motorbike? They're ALL BEADS.

It’s hard to tell, but the three large cardboard boxes stacked around the motorbike? They’re ALL BEADS.

So I have divested myself of 12,000 beads. Of 70 kilos of beads. Of over 1 cubic metre of beads.

So after 14 years, I created physical space in my home, mental space in my creative juices, and made a bunch of people very happy. It’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done with jewellery. And to top it off, I got a Christmas card from them saying that they’d been giving the beads away to parents and siblings of their child cancer clients, who were making their own necklaces, or earrings, or even Christmas decorations out of them.

I did keep one bead of every design, for sentimental reasons, of course!

Now don’t get me wrong – these weren’t the ONLY beads I got that fun day 14 years ago. I’ve kept all the others, so I can still continue to create jewellery, but the ones I’ve got left take up much less space and remain exciting to work with. But clearing out those beads? That was truly a moment of satisfaction!

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!

Looking back, looking forward

10 Mar

I drafted most of this about two months ago, so it was late then. Now it just seems ridiculous. But I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway, because I want to be able to read this next year and remember my thinking. Feel free to come back later when there are exciting sewing, knitting, and other craft projects to look at!

I’ve been enjoying everyone’s wrap up posts over January (edit: and a few in February!) but… I’m not doing one. Not like those anyway. I haven’t made enough to pick a top 5 of anything, and it’s getting on a bit (edit: a lot!)  in the year anyway! But I have been reflecting, as I always do this time of year, about last year, my goals and successes, and what I want to do this year and thought I’d capture it so I could refer back to it later. You’re welcome to have a read too if you’re curious.

Looking back!

Last year I had two major goals to help me make more room for creating in my life, and so I’ve been thinking about how well I achieved these.

Goal 1: Spend 15 minutes a day, at least, on creative endeavours.

This was to try and carve out a bit more time doing the things I truly love, and a bit less time surfing the net or snoozing my alarm or channel surfing. Was I successful?

Yes and no.

I used a calendar for the first few months to track my success. There were more days then I hoped when I simply dithered my way through the day and missed out. But also, when I took into account ALL of my hobbies – rock and roll classes, social dancing, burlesque classes and performing, and writing this blog, as well as sewing, knitting, and embroidery – I did cover a lot of ground. This was reassuring that my life was much more full of delight than I gave it credit for. It’s a reminder that confirmation bias creeps in and turns subjectivity into negativity, where confirmation bias is that I NEVER do ANYTHING FUN and my WHOLE LIFE is just BORING STUFF. My lesson is that I should take more delight in all the fun things I do do, and remember them when I am feeling down.

Yoda on confirmation bias

I also learned that if  I go more than a couple of days without doing something creative I get grouchy, and conversely that if I am grouchy or stressed that picking up a project or going dancing is the best relief. I know, right? Who’d’ve thought that doing what you love would have a causal relationship with mood. Yeah, you can all shut up now. For me, it was a revelation and something to remember when I need a mood altering experience.

Two great lessons! But the true goal –  of getting into the habit of squeezing creativity in here and there, of making it second nature to pick my sewing table over the computer table, to (quoting from last year) “feed the creative beast, just make stuff” made less progress. It was far more like binging. I’d pour hours into a project over a few days then go a few days without. So, this year I’m going to continue to work on this philosophy, to try to keep creativity active, alive, and constant in my life.

Goal 2: 52 moments of satisfaction.

I wanted, over the course of the year, 52 moments where I sat back and thought “hell yeah. That rocked. That was awesome. That was worth it. I DID THAT”.

You know that feeling. Yeah you do. I wanted more of it. But did I get to 52? In a word, no. But I’m not in tears about it. Because some of these moments were HUGE.

I made 36 cushion covers for one moment. Embellished three tees for another. I made (with help) an entire burlesque costume for another. All of my baking moments were days where I made three or four cakes and treats. I fixed six necklaces one day. And I fixed, or altered a bunch of things in my fix it box without even bothering to count them. So, if I count individual objects, I well overshot the 52 mark. And in terms of hours, some of those moments represent dozens of them. And there was some impressive progress made on some WIPs that didn’t quite make it onto the list. So it represents a solid year of work. (And I do have plans to blog several more items, once I get photos! I really need a camera…)

What was the final list?

1. Red knitted Peggy Sue cardigan
2. Banana seat cushion
3. Purple frankenCambie for best friend’s wedding
4. Three vinyl printed tees
5. Three red velvet cushion covers
6. Red necklace for Miss La Belle
7. Peggy-Sue leftover beanie (to be blogged!)
8. Corazones heart skirt (to be blogged!)
9. Yellow dragonfly skirt
10. Aviatrix hat (to be blogged!)
11. All of the cushions (36 to be exact)
12. Dr Who burlesque outfit
13. Dr Who burlesque performance
14. Turquoise pencil skirt (alteration)
15. Flocked denim skirt (alteration)
16. Bananarama baking day
17. Mama’s jewellery overhaul
18. Bead donation (to be blogged!)
19. Pink leopard rock and roll dress (to be blogged!)
20. White petticoat (to be blogged!)
21. Pink leopard capelet (to be blogged!)
22. Pumpkin booties (to be blogged!)
23. Green maxi dress
24. Lemon cordial, lemon krummeltorte, chocolate cake (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
25. Ohm sweet ohm cross stitch (to be blogged!)
26. Christmas banana baking (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
27. Christmas cordial (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
28. Grace’s pin-up cushions (to be blogged!)
29. Rockabilly aprons (to be blogged!)
30. All the repairs. So many repairs. (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
31. Passed gold medal rock and roll dance exam (do you want to know about this?)
32. Pink hummingbird top

Let’s break this down a bit. Cos pie charts are fun and a picture seems like a nice idea.

2013's moments of satisfaction. There's always an "other" category...

2013’s moments of satisfaction. There’s always an “other” category…

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to have a list of 52, just cos I said I would, so it’s not without a tinge of disappointment that I acknowledge that I didn’t make it. There are things that exist in my head that I wanted to exist in real life. And I really hope they exist in real life one day. 

But there is real pleasure from looking at this list and realising all the things that I did manage to do. For this reason, I’m going to continue to keep an annual list of satisfaction, to remind myself of what I manage to fit into a very full and busy life.

Looking forwards!

So, what about 2014? Anything new? You betcha!

While I’m going to take what I’ve learned from 2013 and work it into my daily life, I have a new focus for 2014. I’m not the first to come up with it, and I won’t be the last. But this year, I want to sew with a plan, known by some as SWAPing.

I have a stash full of beautiful fabric, a mountain of patterns, and a computer full of inspiration pictures. But I’m not able to dress myself from my wardrobe every day in an outfit that makes my heart sing. It’s not entirely a lost cause! Occasionally I’ve worn ensembles that made me walk with a swagger as I collected compliments and checked out my reflection in passing shiny surfaces (and got busted doing that once by a colleague. Whoops). But often I just feel, well, meh. I’m not naked or cold so I’m dressed functionally, but otherwise, well, meh. I want to change that. I want to get distracted by my reflection every day (although I’ll have to learn to be more subtle to avoid embarassing converstaions). I want to walk with a spring in my step because I know I look good. I want my clothes to reflect my personality and my lifestyle. It may seem vain or shallow to some but to me it is about bringing joy and fun and self and confidence into what I wear, which I think translates into everything else. My plans for SWAPing are formulating in my head, but I’m going to give them a post all of their own. And then, you know, eventually start posting about sewing and knitting and stuff. Stay tuned, your patience will be rewarded!

And as this is a very text heavy post with no exciting photos, here is Minerva being adorable.

How can you not want to rub this? But it's ok, because you can!!!

How can you not want to rub this? But it’s ok, because you can!!!

Then that Christmas thing happened…

12 Feb

Holy moly it’s been a while since I’ve got all chatty up in here. But you know, December happened. Complete with The Great Hard Drive Failure of 2013, All of The Christmas Parties, The Massive Paperwork That Comes With Our Busiest Business Period, The Holy Crap If Im Going To Fit 4 Relatives In My House I Better Do A Lot Of Tidying Housework Blitz, and The How Did Christmas Get Here So Fast? Shopping Mania.

But it did get here fast and I had a wonderful time. Mechanic Man and I stayed in Wellington for the first time since we moved here 10 years ago, and my parents and brothers came down and stayed with us. The weather was mostly crappy but the food, adventures, crafting, and especially the company were awesome. (I’d bombard you with photos but I’m sure you don’t care and I can’t be assed editing them. Use your imagination.) And now I’m slowly emerging from the chaos and getting my house and head in order for a new year.

And I got an extra special Christmas present I can’t wait to tell you all about!

Meet Minerva. Min, Minnie, or Minnie the Moocher for short.

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, that I used to list her on petsonthenet. She's not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she's adorable

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, which I used to list her on petsonthenet. She’s not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she’s adorable. Look at those extra long whiskers!

Min adopted us at Christmas. And by adopted us I mean turned up and demanded to live with us until we caved and said yes. I’m madly in love with her.

Let me tell you the story. (It’s a long story. I suck at short stories. Short on time? Here’s the short version. SPOILER: We got a cat.)

We often have neighborhood cats wander through our yard. Most of them are skittish or shy and if you get too close they run away. Occasionally friendly ones will come by for a pat and a play. Mechanic Man and I love cats but MM has always been reluctant to own one so we take the pats from local kitties when we can get them. But we’ve always strongly felt that encouraging someone else’s cat to stray is mean, so we never feed neighborhood kitties and we never let them in the house.

We thought Min was a neighborhood kitty. She’s super friendly and loves pats and would come by the yard every now and then for attention, and had been for a couple of months before Christmas. But we never fed her or let her in the house, and she never tried to get in.

A few days before Christmas she came by for a pat and was rewarded with an outpouring of attention from my four newly arrived cat-crazy relatives. She started hanging around constantly and was never far away. After a couple of days we noticed she was sleeping in our little lean-to by the shed. We thought nothing much of it at the time. But then it all started to change when a couple of days before Christmas she started coming inside. Every time she was promptly chased out. We had a family meeting and agreed to lay off the attention so she’d be encouraged to return to her family.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

She responded by turning up the demands. She came into the house constantly and started sleeping on our furniture. She’d mewl at us when we went past and started a new game where she’d run into the house then run straight to a different door so we’d let her out that side. I started to wonder if maybe she didn’t have a family after all.

Then on Christmas Eve she cried outside for ages, on both sides of the house, and we could hear her trying to get in our locked cat flap. On Christmas Day we emerged to find her asleep on the deck under the cat flap. That day she jumped though Punk Flatmates window three times. She cried again that night and slept in the lean to.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

We didn’t want to encourage what was obviously a friendly, experienced domestic cat to stray and wondered why she was so reluctant to go home. We surmised that maybe her family had gone away for the holidays and locked her outside with a bowl of food and she was simply lonely, and although I was worried we decided to continue to keep her outside and not feed her, but that we’d keep an eye on her to make sure she was ok.

She stopped crying after only a couple of days, but then she got listless. Previously she’d always come running if you called her for a pat but now she wouldn’t leave the little bed she’d made in the lean-to and if you went to her she wouldn’t really move. We wondered if maybe her owners hadn’t left out enough food or had a catsitter who was unreliable. Torn between our duty to her owners and our duty to her, we discussed and agreed to feed her, outside only, and decide what to do next after New Years.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she's still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she’s still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

She was delighted to be fed and after a day or two perked up, back to normal. We still thought she must have a family somewhere, probably on holiday, and it was a temporary care arrangement so she still wasn’t allowed inside.

Of course, that was quite irrelevant to her and we’d frequently find her in the house acting like she owned it. She was completely unafraid and attempts to chase her out were often met with a raised paw so she could lick her bum.

A couple of days before New Years it bucketed down. Worried about her, we moved her food bowl from the lean-to to our conservatory and made her a wee bed with an old towel, and left the conservatory door open so she could gain access, and she happily moved into the new pad. But she still wasn’t allowed inside.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I've since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I’ve since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

Over the next few days we put photos of her online at, put an ad in the supermarket, and took her to the local vet to be scanned, which returned a nil result. I was reluctant to surrender her to the SPCA as they limit attempts to reunite to seven days, and with it being the holidays I was worried that wasn’t long enough to find her home. The thought of a family getting home from holiday to find their cat gone was enough to want to avoid this. So we kept feeding her, and re listing the online ad, and waiting.

On 11 January I decided that I wanted to have her in the house. We’d either find her owners and then we would know where to return her to, or we would keep her. I begged Mechanic Man but he was still reluctant. Feeling that adopting a fur baby requires both parties to be willing I let it be. Then out of the blue, the following day, he let her in and brought her to me as I was doing paper work and she slept at my feet for about three hours. I was ecstatic.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

That was probably the first day we started thinking of her as ours. But just in case she had a family nearby, after a week of having her in the house we put a collar on her with our number, assuming that they’d either cut it off or call. A couple of weeks later and she was still wearing our collar and no one had rung.

But the day we truly acknowledged that we are now owned by a cat was in late January, when we were planning our annual budget. Mechanic Man piped up with ” we better budget for cat costs”. Well, if she’s in the budget, she must be ours.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man's lap. He's such a softie.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man’s lap. He’s such a softie.

But no drama is complete without a twist at the end! As a new, responsible, budget-allocating pet owner we decided we’d get her checked out properly and microchipped. We booked her in with a different vet (not having liked the first one) for last Saturday. As a matter of course, the first thing they did was scan Min for a chip. And it beeped. We were shocked, but really pleased that we’d finally found her owners, as surely they were missing her like crazy. The vet rang the owners and told them we’d found her, and arranged to hold her in their care until she could be picked up. I was pleased and yet… I’d grown really attached to her. So I asked if I could say goodbye for a few minutes, and then once the vet left us alone I promptly burst into tears! I spent a few minutes patting her and gathering myself together, and when I saw the next appointment arrive, I popped her back in her cage, got my stuff, and prepared for the knock on the door. Sure enough, the receptionist gently tapped on the door and came in. But instead of ushering us our, she was holding the phone and said “the owner’s have just rung back. They have talked it over and want to know if you are interested in rehoming her.”

I was too emotional to speak so Mechanic Man took the call. Long story short, they’re virtually our next door neighbours! Min had wandered off a couple of times previously as she wasn’t at all fond of the newly-mobile toddlers of the family, and this was the longest she’d not come home. They decided that she was probably much happier with us! And so she came back with us to her new home.

And her original name? Vespa, appropriate, given Mechanic Man’s love of motorbikes!

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

But we’ve kept the name Minerva. Why? Minerva is the Roman goddess of sewing of course. And Minnie the Moocher is a great nickname, given she’s mooched her way right into our lives and love.

And that is my Christmas present from the universe. Minerva sleeps on our bed at night (although it took a couple of weeks for Mechanic Man to allow that), comes when she’s called every time, plays chasing games with us until we cry laughing, and meows around our ankles till we feed her. And she’s the only cat I’ve ever met who loves belly rubs. No tricks, no wait 30 seconds and then shred your hands, just purrs. In fact, if she’s outside in the sunshine she actively encourages belly rubs by stretching out on her back adorably. And she’s super mellow. We can tease her and she just relaxes and ignores us. We’ve spent hilarious minutes while she’s sleeping stretching out her legs and tickling her and patting her paws to see what will make her move. The answer is nothing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she'll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she's bathing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she’ll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she’s bathing. She just kept on licking.

She’s wonderful. And she’s ours now. Or more accurately, we’re hers. And she knows it.

Minerva is stretched out along the length of my body here, for an afternoon snuggle

Minerva and I stretched out together for an afternoon snuggle.