Monday, December 21, 2009

Beat the heat dress

Thank you all for your lovely comments on the formal dress.

Now I'm back I'm trying to put together some summer and corporate clothes for me.

I made this dress very quickly as a trial run for Simplicity 2622 using very cheap $1 a metre fabric from the stash. The fit is fine, but this style is not recommended for anyone over a B cup. Having the bodice cut off cut below the bust point and drop straight is "stoutening" (a lovely word found in my 1950s dressmaking instruction book). Definitely just a house frock. But I do like the lace insert on the hem - I'll do this again when I find the right sundress pattern.

If anyone would like to swap this uncut project runway pattern for another uncut dress or blouse pattern contact me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Picture of perfect youth

It's late and I'm off to Melbourne for a week of R&R in the morning. But I did want to show off DD's dress. It comes with matching BF! She looked sensational don't you think?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Purple dress saga

I am proud to announce the birth of a beautiful purple formal dress. Only slight birth defeats that will only be noticed by the most scrupulous observer. The birth was long and arduous. It comprised a number of steps that few expectant mothers would be prepared to endure.

1) invisible zip inserted - too tight to do up. Tears, teenager tanti "Practice your @@##$ sewing on someone else..My formal is days away and I don't have an @@##$$#dress!"
2) applied black tape and handsewed zip onto this. Still tight and at risk of popping.
3) uppicked all of the above and tried unsuccessfully to use hook and eye tape. Pop, pop, pop - hopeless disaster both visually and practically.
4) sought professional advice - added two panels of the purple fabric to create a new area to apply the zip. Created a 1 cm channel of fabric on either side of the zip. Visually this looked good, but still a little tight.
5) unpicked other side seam and let out they .5cm. - and it fits!
6) complete handstitching of linings, stitching beaded waistband and machining the hems.
7) have a gin and tonic and swear never again.

Having fixed all this up, ready to get on with my paid work and my @@@###*** computer has broken down. No pictures until after the big night on Wednesday.

Thank you all for your supportive comments. I would not have completed without you all cheering from the sidelines. I have two years to recover before my younger DD's first formal.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Short black

This is one of two formal dresses that I'm making for my DD. It is a refashion from a French lace pencil skirt that I've had since before she was born. I bought it from a recycled fashion store then, so I think is from the mid 80s.
The base is the original skirt cut at the hips and pleated in to fit the bodice.
The bodice is made from my self drafted pattern using Thai silk and cutings of the lace for a modern, edgy look. I've used boning and it fits well except for just under the bust. This could have been cinched in more.
I was really reluctant to take it in further because we had a disaster with the purple gown. After inserting the zip, it was too tight to do up. The combination of DD going "tighter Mum, tighter" and the gathering in effect of my pleating made the bodice much smaller than the original fitting. After shedding tears, I got out the seam ripper, added some black tape very close to the edge of fabric that the invisible zip will now sit on. I also removed the waistband and added some absolutely gorgeous purple and pewter beaded trim. I will definitely finish it a day or so. It is being worn on 9th December so I am running out of time.
I don't think I'll get my outfit finished - but I have plenty of party frocks. Besides, I'm the Mum. Who cares what I'm wearing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nearly there

As you can see DD's formal dress is nearly done. The linings needs to be sewn in by hand at the zip edge and the side seam, hem and skirt to top lining. But I need your advice on a couple of things.

FIRST QUESTION: How to handle the skirt lining? My original plan was to attach a silk organza skirt lining to the hem and attach it by hand to the upper lining at hip height. I still want to use this method but my trouble is silk organza is ridiculously expensive (much more than the silk fabrics used in the garment!) Should I use left-over chiffon (which would have been a kaftan for me...oh well not really my colour) or an acetate lining? I have left over silk from the underskirt and upper lining, but it is too heavy for the purpose.

SECOND QUESTION: Embellish the waistband ro not? To me this waistband screams home made and is my least favourite part of the garment. I've seen some very high quality diamante trim in Tessutis and Bollywood Trims also has some interesting trims in purple and silver.

Next up, I'm refashioning my 80s vintage pencil skirt in this beautiful black French ribbon lace into a strapless cocktail mini for DD's other leaving school function. The top half in in black Thai silk and I'm trying to integrate some of the lace cut from the top of the skirt. We're using the same pattern as the formal dress but with a higher back. Straps may or may not be added depending on how different the two dresses look.

I'm also trying to finish two garments I started on my sewing weekend away with Sharon and her sewing buddies, so that I can look nice too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Before Patty Palmer there was....

The BookServer is a growing open architecture for vending and lending digital books over the Internet. Built on open catalog and open book formats, the BookServer model allows a wide network of publishers, booksellers, libraries, and even authors to make their catalogs of books available directly to readers through their laptops, phones, netbooks, or dedicated reading devices. BookServer facilitates pay transactions, borrowing books from libraries, and downloading free, publicly accessible books.

I decided to check if they had any sewing books and found an absolute treasure trove of 82 sewing books from the 1890s to 1921 that were sourced from Harvard Library. My favourite and by far the most useful is the Butterick Publishing Company's 1921 edition of The New Dressmaker. It is 176 pages of text and illustrations covering every conceivable hand stitch and machine sewing technique (albeit invisible zips and knits weren't invented yet) as well as complete pattern drafting instructions.

If you are teaching anyone to sew, the site has school sewing manuals from throughout this period. I think I'm doing sewing at the level of the 6th grade based on these books!

The best part is that they can be downloaded as PDFs or epubs free of charge.

Will post shortly on my sewing away weekend and update on the formal dress (nearly there!)...but just had to share my excitement about this.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

All you need is love

The dress is slowly but surely taking shape. Next steps: attach the over skirt and pleated waistband, finish attaching the linings and handsew the zip. I'm planning to use the couture method of attaching a silk organza lining to the hem and hand sewing it to the upper lining.
I love how this dress has developed. I sewed all weekend and migrated the project to the living room to get this far. There are nearly 1000 handstitches in this garment already...I really love my daughter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Formally speaking I'm making progress

I'm prepared to concede at this point that the dress will not look like the original design drawing. That design could only be achieved cut straight at the top which my DD didn't want as she was fearful of the "uniboob". DD also decided that strapless is more timeless than the faddish one shoulder look. As for me I'm having fun seeing where the fabric takes me.

Each row is set individually with tiny handstitches which add to the ruffly marshmallow effect. I love the waves that have formed. The other side will run upwards in the other direction.

Next big embellish the waist band or not? What do you guys think?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cup glamour

Here are my picks in the satorial stakes at the Melbourne Cup

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And remember turbans

The Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation and a celebration of fashion. Check out this short video history of Cup fashion. I wore this fascinator and frock ensemble to a charity MC luncheon today. As you can see, I'm 'following trend' but very low key. I have a another 2 metres of this fabric which I hope to make into a more casual long dress featuring the spots on the sleeves in a panel down the centre front.

And the cryptic title of this post? Comes from a piece of Cup fashion advice from the early 70s that my friend Di and I still giggle about.

And here are a few more work in progress shots of the formal dress. I am getting faster.

Some skin on the bones

I'm feeling dangerously smug. All is going well. I'm making the garment in stages - front first, then the back. It will be fitted and secured with a hand-picked zip at the side seams.
While I was most worried about the boning and shell, these tasks were relatively simple. The draping is another matter. The little bit shown in the picture is the result of three hours work! I have a whole front and back bodice to do. It is hand stitched onto the upper bodice, being careful not to go the lining. Progress is not helped by Mini-Me becoming agitated that I'm not following her design drawing. Indicative only I tell her. Which is my way of saying, I don't know what I'm doing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bones take two

I've restarted the project. Thanks to KBenco's tip off, I've now read Susan Khalje's article in the latest American issue of Threads and have a better idea about boning the undercorset. I also gained useful insights from Gorgeous Fabrics lace bustier tutorial. I'm now using muslin (I didn't have any more fine tuille) and rigalene boning from Tessutis. I've made the casings from biased binding and ribbon that I already had rather than buying anything new. It gets covered anyway. But the major revelation came to me in one of those ah ha moments. If I am connecting the draping from the side seams I need a side zip, not a centre back zip. This required redrafting and reshaping the back. In doing so, I was able to take the excess ease out the of pattern and achieve a much better fit. The skirt muslin is now completed and tomorrow night we cut the silk. I'm terrified and excited!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

That darned corset, footloose and Heathcliff

I've completed drafting DD's formal dress, made a muslin and fitted the bodice. Now the work has commenced on a boned corset sewn on very fine tuille that will sit between the lining and the underlining. The rationale for this is that I need to construct the front and back of the bodice separately to enable the draped sections to be secured on the side sides. The separate corset allows me to attach the outer lining and ensure that the draping follows the correct shape - in theory.

The corset fits perfectly on her body (not my dressform). However I am concerned because the boning was bought in readymade casing on a roll and is curling up when not worn. Will this be alright when I attach it to the lining? Or should I start again making my own casings and inserting the boning? I have tried iron it under a rajah cloth.

My Chanel jacket is nearly finished. I am hand stitching the lining and the trims. I had hoped to complete the jacket this weekend,
but Mini-Me and I did the Seven Bridges Walk, a 25km saunter around Sydney's beautiful harbour instead. It is an annual event - unfortunately this year the weather conditions were not favourable. For most of the course we walked in heavy tropical rain and thunder but it didn't dampen our spirits. The walk took us through so many foreshore parks and high street villages that we had never visited before. Mini-Me is a good distance runner and she urged me on to complete the course. I was so deliriously weary by the end that all I was up for on Sunday night was a BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights. Surprisingly I'm not sore, but have a shocking 'wet socks' blister on the sole of my foot.

The day has reignited my lifelong ambition to walk from Sydney to Melbourne. I'll have to buy a copy of Gillian Souter's new book Slow Journeys: the Pleasures of Travelling by Foot while I contemplate about what a silly idea this really is!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I was looking on Ebay at patterns and saw this dress pattern from 1972. I made this dress (yes the really short version) in 1972 in purple voile. Oh my I thought I was stylish. I remember the dress being very well made, but that didn't impress the nuns when I wore it on a free dress day to my convent school.
I showed my daughter who is the same age as I was in 72. She was not impressed. "You wore that?" she asked incredulously. Strange, I'm asking myself the same question

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Careful what you wish for..

You just might get it. My eldest is daughter is wishing for this formal gown to wear to her Year 12 formal on 5th December. It was designed by her talented 13 year old sister and will be made by her mother the "sewing elf". In fact the whole family will be involved because her daddy will pay for the acres of purple silk chiffon required to make it!

This design will test my skills but I like a challenge. I think that it will require a boned underlining and draping for the bodice with a gathered overskirt. I'm combining several patterns that I have, plus using my pattern making bible Patternmaking for Fashion Design for the bodice.
So by next weekend I plan to have a pattern drafted perhaps with some help from my old pattern maker/tailor. Then we make a muslin and then, and only then, do we buy fabric. My DD would prefer to avoid these steps and go straight to fabric purchase. All that preparation is soooo boring.

DD also wished for a "quick 'n dirty" dress to be made from some pretty floral in my stash. Mother duly complied and whipped it into shape despite her misgivings about the design. I really wanted to make BWOF 07/09 116 but she as insistent as only a teenage girl can be that she wanted a tank style top with a high waisted gathered skirt. Well, as she tripped out the front door wearing it, she announced that it needs splits in the sides so that she can walk properly in it!

Meanwhile I have actually begun sewing my Chanel jacket! I'll post a progress pick on the Chanel Sew along site shortly.

Monday, October 5, 2009

News from Mars

This is the DVF smock that forced me onto the treadmill! Target is to fit into it on 4 November when I'm attending a charity Melbourne Cup luncheon. I'm not usually a "lady who lunches" but I get a kick out encouraging some of my snobbier friends to raise money for people they would normally would not want anything to do with.

I've decided that the neck is cut a little high, so I'll fiddle with that in the meantime. This is one of the rare occasions when I'm happy to show the dress inside out...French seams, silk lining and silk bound sleeves. There is not a raw edge in sight.

It has been a wet long weekend in Sydney, so I've had quite a bit of time to sew. Dianne's 50th birthday blouse is finished. It was given the royal treatment with French seams and bound armholes, but I'm now worried that I attached the neckpiece upside down! The piece fitted perfectly when attached this way ... but now I'm thinking that it looks wide at the top. I just don't know. Di lives in Queensland so I can't see it on her. Let's hope that she likes it.

I also went to Newtown and wondered all the way down King Street to Bollywood Trims in the Indian Quarter. The fellow I spoke to on the phone assured me they had Chanel style trims. Yes Memsahib we have whatever trims you are looking for. No such luck, but if you are looking for bling, 589 King Street is the place to be. Hidden among the hideous were some abolutely beautiful embellishments. I may go back for the formal dress. I ended up going to Spotlight and buying the standard trim that I was trying to avoid using on the Chanel jacket.

My next projects are to: to finish a long dress I've been making for Rachel (very quick and dirty!); start my Chanel jacket and work on the pattern and muslin for Rachel's formal dress. A chance meeting through a mutual friend has led me to an old Jewish pattern maker and tailor who is willing to help me with pattern for formal dress. I hope that he may be interested in teaching me some tailoring techniques too. My father-in-law also was a tailor, but unfortunately he died in 1986 and had not interest in passing on his skills to me.

PS...I'm doing 1 hour of exercise a day now and feel so much better for it.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A red sky in the morning the planet's warning. Oy vey the weather we have been having in Sydney is enough to stop climate change denial in its tracks. The dust rolled in from the Western desert on Tuesday morning. We woke to an eerie glow of red that faded to grey as the day wore on. There was so much dust in my house that you could write your name on floor. Got cleaned up only to be hit by another storm of lesser severity on Saturday morning. While we are calling it dust, it is actually top soil - an absolute disaster.

With the eternal dusting and Jewish High Holidays I have been doing more reflecting than sewing. The DVK dress is beautifully made, but too tight across the bust. It was so stupid not to make a muslin first. I used a tried and trusted pattern for knits, but it didn't have enough ease for a woven fabric.

The HHs are a time of reflection and resolution. My resolution - to look after my body more. I've been piling on the weight since my 50th and I hate it. So I say to myself, lose 10kgs. I will feel better and will have an entirely 'new' wardrobe of clothes that currently don't fit. Dianne's blouse still is not finished. I've been tired and busy and hope that she will understand. Will post pictures of the DVK soon - it is worth showing off, just not on me!

PS today I went to the gym!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm so lucky

My lovely blogger friend Cindy sent me 2 1/2 yards of beautiful silk tweed for my Chanel challenge jacket. The colours are much more muted than they appear in the photograph. It arrrived from the US just in time as my muslin is completed.

Spring is on the way here, so I am making a three quarter sleeved version of Simplicity 4954, a simple classic Chanel style with no closure. I am considering plaiting three colours of super-fine pleated chiffon for the trim. I want a light and feminine feel. The plan is to wear with a matching chiffon blouse and white trousers.

I'm also working on a BWOF June 09/108 blouse which is 50th birthday present for my friend of 37 years Dianne. I really need to finish this before the weekend. I'm using fabric almost identical to the one published in the magazine. She lives 700 miles away, but we spent a girls weekend in Noosa recently and I was able to do a tissue fit.
My other major project is my dress for DD's valedictory dinner. I went into David Jones (major department store) and tried on a Dianne Von Furstenberg dress in this style.
While it looks rather simple in this picture, the one I tried on was in a beautiful floral silk and worn unbelted, looked very elegant and understated. At $545 I couldn't contemplate buying it, but will make my own. I have a gorgeous piece of silk in beige, red and pink that I will use. I am drafting the pattern at the moment. Interestingly the workmanship wasn't too great for a garment of that price. While it was lined, the sleeves were attached only with an overlock stitch. I will wear the dress with my Sophie Kyron necklace that I wore at my youngest daughter's Bat Mitzvah.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Little black dress

I am so happy with this dress which I made for my oldest daughter.

I used BWOF June 2009 115 and added sleeves from dress 129 - all Burda sleeves seem to be cut the same and can be interchanged with sleeveless dresses. There is nothing fancy in the sewing but the end result is fine. The seams are overlocked and it is lined with stretch jersey that I bought for $1 a metre. The fabric is from my bargain pile from the Remant Warehouse. It is black with flecks of blue in the lace. The total cost $7.95!

While my DD doesn't look too happy in this photo, she does love the dress. Possibly she'll wear it to her graduation dinner later this month. I'm now working on designs for her graduation cocktail function and her formal. I need dresses myself for the dinner and cocktail function.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Scrap of Honesty

Becky nominated me for an "Honest Scrap Award". Hhmm do I want to reveal 10 honest things about myself. Well why not - afterall I enjoy reading about my blogging friends.

The rules are as follows:
I must thank the person who gave me the award and list their blog and link it.I must list 10 honest things about myself.I must put a copy of The Honest Scrap Logo on my blog.I must select at least 7 other worthy bloggers & list their links.I must notify the bloggers of the award and hopefully they will follow the above three requirements also.

So here goes...

1. I grew up in a working class suburb of Brisbane (Australia’s Little Rock), one of six kids. My home life could kindly be called "dysfunctional".
2. I first left home at 16. By the time I was 19 I was working in London. Two years later I drew Israel out of a hat. I didn't want to go there, but it came out of the magic hat three times in a row. Rather than heading for Africa (where my heart was sending me) I went with the fates and met my future husband there.
3. My husband and I spent two years hitchhiking across Europe and Asia to Australia. We maintained a long distance love affair for several years before settling in Sydney. We did not marry for 11 years.
4. I did not realize that I was a high school drop out until I met Americans in Europe who told me that I was. I knew that I was smarter than them so I did something about it. I now have more degrees than a summer’s day.
5. I am no longer a hippie and am embarrassed about some of my youthful ideals. I did inhale.
6. I am a bit of a helicopter mother, overcompensating for my own childhood and youth. I want my two girls to have a better start than I did. Sometimes they don’t appreciate my concerns about making the most of your opportunities
7. I love New York. No I LOVE New York.
8. But I also love the feel of the sand between my toes, and swimming in warm, clear seas so Australia is not a bad place to live.
9. I dislike religious fundamentalism of any creed, but I am religious. I find racism and jingoistic patriotism abhorrent.
10. I’m worried that I don’t read as much as I used to.

11. I am a rule rather than nominating 7 particular bloggers, I invite all my followers to have a go at this. I promise to read with interest!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ethical fashion - a rebuttal

Somehow I know that I am going to regret this post...but here goes....

Recently I posted a comment raising reservations about anachronistic 50s fashion on Gertie's blog that brought forth an avalanche of comments making me feel like the judgemental and humourless boiler suit feminists of my university days. The jist of my comment was that I am concerned about the return to 50s fashion because it was not a great time for women and why would we want to go back there. While these fashions are extremely glamourous (and presented so in the equally ambiguous Mad Men TV show), they are also physically restricting and convey messages about women as frivolous, decorative and perhaps submissive. A theme among the retorts was that women still experience discrimination today so why focus on 50s fashion.

My instinctive response is why make it worse for ourselves? Virtually all of the women who wear these frocks in Mad Men are wives, secretaries, models, or waitresses. The one professional woman in the piece, Peggy, is at the bottom of Sterling Cooper’s white-collar hierarchy and knows it. Today's professional woman didn’t merely reject this world. She burned it to the ground and danced on its ashes. But there are many who would welcome 1950s values and discriminations to rise phoenix like from these ashes.

Then there are those who took the view that whatever feels good is ok. But is it? I've been mulling over this last point for a week now and have concluded that it is not. I'm not confining my thoughts to vintage fashion. Rather than doing any more 'tub thumping', I just want to put forward some questions that I've been discussing with my daughters and my friends.

  1. How can we enjoy fashion and glamour without being overtly sexualised in what we wear?
  2. Are stratispheric stilleto heels or wedges the modern equivalent of foot binding?
  3. Should we consider not just what a store bought garment looks like and costs , but where it is made and by whom?
  4. If we make garments, what should we know about the environmental and social impacts of the fabrics that we buy?
  5. How many clothes do we really need? Just because we make them ourselves is it ok to be so acquisitive?
On the last point, I read an interesting piece in the Herald about a New York girl who wore the same dress every day for a year. Apart from the obvious questions of hygiene, it is a little bit thought provoking about how much we really need.

Well that's enough for one day from the old boilersuit. And if you don't agree, don't kick too hard...It hurts.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Boho start to spring

I can't believe the weather we are having in Sydney. It is blue skies and 26 degrees celcius. I'm having a week off in between contract work, so went over to the Remnant Warehouse and bought loads of fabric. This dress took one and half hours to complete. It is made from mesh fabric that cost $3.50 for a 3 metre roll. If you have any ideas for the metre I have left post a comment.
I used the same self-drafted pattern that I made for my navy t-shirt. This time I added bell shaped sleeves. This picture doesn't show the details well. My daughter took it while talking to her boyfriend on the phone, so you can image who received the attention. The entire garment is serged, with a double layer of contrasting fabric for the hems.
I guess this dress is part of my overall experiment with colour. I like it, but don't love it.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Still seeing red

I've been on a t-shirt binge. I purchased Melie Purdie (absolutely the best quality) jersey in red, navy and khaki from Tessutis. Each colour was carefully selected to match skirts from my collection. So far I've finished the red one, which goes with absolutely everything, and the navy which I love with my silk sarong skirt. I'm still finishing the khaki which I plan to wear with a very unusual brown embroidered skirt I bought in Paris about four years ago. The t-shirts pictured are self drafted. For the khaki I'm using Vogue 8546.

Unfortunately the navy one is just a little bit tight - an incentive to shed those excess kilos I've been lugging about all winter.

Speaking of seeing red, I pulled the red dress out of the magic cupboard and I hate the top half more than ever. Toting up the cost of the fabric and realising that I will never wear it as it is, I am remaking it into something else, so watch this space.

The Missoni coat has been worn three times now. I absolutely love it. Last night I wore it over the red t-shirt and my vogue black skirt (which I've worn to death). It felt great to be wearing a complete ensemble made by me.

What's next? I need to make my daughters and husband (if he will let me...prefers the ragged hobo look) some clothes and then I will get on with my spring/summer wardrobe. Sydney is hot after November so I want lots of white and beige linen, cotton tees and dresses. I also need some special occasion dresses as my daughter is in her graduation year and there are a few gladrag functions to attend.