Sunday, December 8, 2013

More dressing up

It was my husband who suggested a little black dress for my daughter's farewell to school cocktail party.  I am so glad he did as I felt very elegant and it provided the perfect showcase for the black wool damask I bought in Barcelona a few years back.

I used Simplicity 2648 as my base but made some changes to the neckline by deepening the front and inserting a V-shape at the back.

I wish I could claim it as my own, but I did not make my daughter's stunning off shoulder kaftan.  It is from Australian designer and old girl from her school Camilla Franks. 

Having made both her Valedictory dinner and formal outfits I felt I owed her a ready to wear piece that was unique and worthy of my hard earned cash.

I love the lining of my dress, which is black at the top and a satin animal print for the skirt.  My edgy little secret.

I've been taking drafting classes with Anita McAdam from Studio Faro.  The dress below is a sneak peak of my first attempt from my basic dress block.  After I ran this up, Anita  helped me make a few tweaks to perfect the block.

I hope to finish this and a few travel essentials before I head off to Italy in mid December.  Via tessuti!  If I don't have time to blog before departure, I'll be back in late January with tales of ancient cities, wine, fabric, leather goods and shoes.  Meanwhile happy holidays and happy sewing. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

How to break your mother's heart

I must admit that I was surprised when my darling DD chose sequins for her formal.  She is not a  girlie girl, very pragmatic about clothes and from next year will commence studies for a career that requires hob nailed boots rather than heels.

I should have offered caution about the bling factor.  When she started to make comments that she felt the sequined top was too much, I thought that she would come around eventually. But she persisted and stubbornly taking piece of black silk from my stash, threatening to wear it unsewn, wrapped around her.

I've got to admit, I admired her creativity and tenacity, but couldn't allow the inevitable wardrobe malfunction.  So two nights before the event, I stopped crying over my couture work and gave in.

I cut the same design in the black silk. The workmanship is sloppy and it breaks my perfectionist heart. But my DD is happy and confident.  After all it was her night!

I wore a new silk Satuki from Victory patterns to the pre-party.  It is a great pattern and the perfect party frock for Sydney summer.  I'd already worn it to a cocktail party the week before but don't have any proper photos yet.  Highly recommend the pattern if you need to whip up a quick dress.  My fabric width was narrow so made the flounce as a separate piece.  This works very well.  As you can see from our smiles, I am speaking to my daughter again, who promises to wear the top to a party soon.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

by blingo!

 The top half of the bling 'dress' is completed (except for a closure at the back of the neck) and mother and daughter are very happy with our progress.  There is something so luxurious about the quality of outer fabric - randomly shattered sequins on a double layer of deep grey silk georgette.  The bottom half is made in sheer silk organza, to avoid bulk when tucking the top into the skirt and to create a different look if worn out over jeans.  The lining is grey silk.
I've included a lot of couture finishes on the inside including handpicked under-stitching of the lining and the hem on the organza skirt also has been hand finished.  Thanks for the advice about providing extra support for the neck band.  I ended up using horsehair lining and using tiny tailoring tacks to hold in place.  The layers of thickness resisted turning so only the top and ends were machined and bottom held together with tiny slip stitches.
I've removed all the sequins from the seam allowances - hundreds of sequins coming off with my snip scissors.  Four more long skirt lengths to go...and I'm almost crazy.  There is a lot of love in this outfit!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The bling dress taking shape

 A completed muslin, a happy teen...and a secretly relieved mother.  With Anita's help my drafted pattern needs very little adjustment. I will take 1 centimetre from the underarm seams.  I also had an issue with constructing the neckband which is proved too narrow to turn while it was attached to the centre front.  Just love the bra straps which won't feature on the evening...
It is still inside out in this picture.   My  plan is to sew the outside edges, clipping where it joins the front, machine the front seam, then hand stitch the facing in place.  Does anyone have a better idea?    I will use stretch interfacing on all of the outside edges of the top and skirt split to avoid stretching or sagging that might cause 'wardrobe malfunction'.
This weekend is a long weekend in Sydney, a great window to commence construction. I'm excited, are you? 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pattern pyramid winner and THE frock

After another long absence I'm happy to announce Rhonda from as the winner of the pattern pyramid.

I've been working on the 2013 big event dress - my daughter's high school formal - inspired by this fabulous gown worn by Lea Michele.  Actually given the likelihood of her wearing her formal gown again, we have agreed on a floor length sequinned split skirt and a halter top that can be worn later over jeans or a mini skirt.

Sunday afternoon was spent in a studio session at Studio Faro where I learnt more about pattern drafting and worked with Anita to create the pattern.  If you are based in Sydney or can visit, I can't recommend Anita's classes and workshops more highly.  She is an extremely knowledgeable and generous teacher.

The muslin was cut last night and I sewed the top. Magic fit first go.  It just needs a small gape dart in the section directly above the bust.  Hopefully I can finesse the skirt muslin this week to be ready to start sewing the 'real deal' on the weekend.  Working with $80 a metre, totally fabulous Tory Burch sequins the old adage of measuring twice, cutting one rings true.  Nay, make that measure THREE times!  

The skirt factory has been in full swing with two completed skirts - this geometric print ponte which I wore to my sewing guild meeting last Saturday and a plain black unlined pencil skirt that is wonderfully practical, lovely to wear but way too boring to post.  I've also made a cropped jacket that I don't love and is awaiting the right buttons that may change my opinion. 

Meanwhile...happy sewing!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Grey pencil skirt

 It has been a long, long day but I reckon my new grey wool pencil skirt has stood up to it better than the Ponte jacket.  This is the first of my self drafted pencil skirts which I'll be wearing as part of my corporate 'uniform'.  The drafting instructions from Studio Faro  include a zip guard - photographed below.  At first I was worried about how to insert a zip guard behind an invisible zip but it was really very easy.  You simply stitch the fashion fabric side of the guard to the seam allowance for the zip then fold back the seam allowance of the lined side and hand stitch to the lining.  The advantage of having a zip guard is a zip that glides up and down easily and a luxurious, comfortable garment finish.

I didn't use a zip guard on the lace skirt as it has no waist band.  In retrospect this was a mistake as I have to be extra careful not to catch the lace in the zipper teeth.  I used two layers of lining - one as underlining catch-stitching the seams to ensure that they sit flat and the second inner lining, which creates a clean finish with no visible seams.  I plan three more of these skirts - the geometric Ponte print from my original print, one plain red and one basic black.

So happy sewing and don't forget to make a comment on my previous post if you are interested in receiving the Pattern Pyramid.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Valedictory victory and something for you!

The sewing fairy has been active at my house, but the blogging fairy flew away while we celebrated high school graduation, valedictory dinner, Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement.
So what has the sewing fairy been up to?   Drafting pencil skirts based on a block being sold online by the lovely Anita McAdam at Studio Faro.  
So far I've made one in  pale grey wool and this yellow and blue guipure lace skirt for my daughter's valedictory dinner.   The fabric was a roll end from the Fabric Store in Sydney.  I love the skirt but I lost some of the tapered effect through ensuring that the scallops matched at the hem line. No biggie.
I am very pleased with my daughter's dress - a 'frankenpattern'.  The bottom half is from Vogue 8928 and the top half from vintage Vogue 9539.  I changed the back view to mirror the cutaways in the front.  The fabric - a cotton sateen - was bought a few years ago for about $3 a metre from the Remnant Warehouse in Sydney.  I lined the skirt with the same fabric and the top half with navy silk, creating a very clean finish and super comfortable  against the skin.  I'll post some interior photos of each of these outfits along with my grey skirt soon.

I also have to tell you about it the pattern pyramid I've won and must pass on.

This pyramid of patterns has had quite a journey down under travelling via Karen at Did You Make That? to dottie doodle to jessie kay makes to Down the Retro Rabbit Hole  to Rachel of House of Pinheiro to Almond Rock to Oanh of Unique Schmuck to the curious kiwi  to The Perfect Nose, and finally to Clio and Phineas where I won it. 
The idea is that you take one item and add at least one item before sending it on to the next winner.  Clio took the shirt pattern in the original group picture and added these two great patterns.
I was torn between the Burda magazine and one of Clio's  additions - the Anne Klein pattern. 
So I decided I would take both and add three patterns.  A great coat pattern Vogue 8862 and evening wear New Look 6401 and a vintage offering (pictured below) which I think still has resonance today.
To win the pattern pyramid just post a comment on this site.  I'll draw the winner in a week.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slow and steady wins the race

Despite my best efforts sewing hasn't featured highly on my radar this month.  My six piece wardrobe comprises just two pieces - my dress and my new jacket (Patrones 298).                        
But I've run my first marathon - not a great time but better than 49% of the competitors in my age bracket.  I've helped my DD get through HSC trials (Americans think SATs, Brits A levels) and visited some remote Aboriginal communities for my work.  All interesting, character building exercises.

I made a muslin of the jacket for last month's sewing guild workshop with the lovely and talented Anita McAdam at Studio Faro. She suggested reductions in the shoulder width that I hadn't really noticed.  Her workshop on altering commercial patterns was excellent and I can't wait for the two drafting workshops I've signed up for at her studio later in the year.

Now my new jacket is by no means perfect, but I love the fit and the easy feel of a stretchy ponte outer with an equally stretchy jersey lining.  The cut is very flattering and I like the angled seams from the arm towards the lapel.  I inserted a welt pocket just below the seam which isn't visible in this photo.

As for the rest of the planned wardrobe it goes like this:
1) the graphic print skirt in the same fabric as the dress will be underway shortly.  I've recently trialled a pencil skirt drafting instruction sheet for Anita. I've cut and half sewn a test garment in grey wool (a charity shop remnant) which  looks very promising. 
2) the Burda rouched cardigan.  I've gone off this idea as I think a plain long sleeved tshirt will work better as it can be worn alone or under the jacket.
3) the black tshirt - will definitely happen but it can wait.
4) no nobody noticed this, but my original 6 pack only included 5 items!

I'm also working on our "special events outfits''.   I've made a muslin of my daughter's Year 12 formal dress and her valedictory dinner is even closer - 4 weeks!!!  I need an outfit for the dinner too, but have options if I don't manage something new.   Extremely excited about the formal dress - 3mtrs of Tory Burch gun metal grey sequins side split floor length skirt with halter neck top (with sheer chiffon below the waistline so that it tucks into the skirt without bulk and looks cute worn over jeans for a party.  Still negotiating designs for the VD dress.

So happy sewing ladies...and the odd gent.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Easy business wear

Strictly entre nous I love my new dress.  It is part of a six piece business wardrobe I'm working on.  The key elements are trans-seasonal wearability, easy wear/easy care and colour.  I've blogged before about my loathing of grey and black business wear.  My six pieces are the dress Burda Sept 2012 121; a Patrones 298 jacket in Teal ponte (pictured below); a black Palmer Pletsch mock wrap t-shirt McCalls 6513 view C; a pencil skirt in the same graphic print as the dress and teal jersey rouched cardigan both from Burda March 2013.  These fabrics are still available from Tessutis.
When I look at Burda's batwoman interpretation of this dress I can see why it hasn't been a popular choice with sewers.  A few tips - cut the side panels as a detached piece and dispense with the extra layer in the Burda design.  If using ponte or a reasonable weight fabric you don't need to line it.  Use piping to highlight the centre panel and sleeve edge.
I'm not sure if I have the discipline to sew all six pieces in sequence - I need a party dress for an occasion in September, but I'm mad keen to start on the jacket.  I love the style and will wear it with pants, skirts and the dress.
Off to make a muslin.  Meanwhile happy sewing!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Curvy girls can colour block too!

Ok I'm smiling.  Is it because I'm thrilled with
my new Burda (February 2012 117b) colour block dress?  Well 98 per cent thrilled.  The colour combination gives me cheer on a winter's day and the use of a slightly heavier, firmer black ponti at the waist has a corseting effect that makes me happy.  I'm also happy with the 'trans-seasonal value' of this dress through adding a black spencer underneath.

Where does two per cent dissatisfaction come from I hear you ask.  Simple, I forgot to make my usual 1 cm sway back adjustment.  Big mistake on a garment that has a huge zip at centre back, creating a bump that too closely resembles a roll of fat!  So provided I stand with my back to the wall,  I just love this dress.

PS I'm not sure I could ride a bike in it.  It is well ...figure conscious.  Hoping that there will be less of me to cling to come summer. 

I'm working on a new skirt and blouse set which I hope to show you all soon. 

Meanwhile, happy sewing!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Frocking up for High Tea

Thanks to the fabulous organisation of Kristie at Lower Your Presser Foot the Sydney sewers braved the wet weather to attend high tea at the American Club. 

For those of us who don't have many friends or colleagues who sew, it was such a pleasure to meet with so many like minded talented and creative women.

I'm pictured with Maria wearing her very special Laura Nash design Fifth Avenue dress.  Maria is member of my Australian Sewing Guild Group.

My dress is a bit special too, made for the occasion from Butterick 5521.  Its a reversible polyester brocade, so I had the opportunity to play around with the design by using the pattern reverse on the side panels and the sleeves.  The dress is fully lined with a lightweight polyester lining.

I highly recommend the pattern and will definitely make a sleeveless version in summer.

Also enjoyed meeting Lizzy who wore an exquisite 1950s lace dress  and Christie who suggested an informal fabric and notions swap and ensured that I left with more fabric and patterns than I arrived with! 

There were many other lovely women present and I hope that I will see them again - making my sewing world less virtual. 

Next up I have a Burda colour blocked ponte dress under construction and need a blouse to wear with my new Burda pencil skirt, so that I can show it off.  Happy sewing to my real and virtual sewing friends!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Its a jungle out there

I look a little cross don't I?  Well I won't tell you what my husband said as he took this photo.

My annoyance has nothing to do with my new jacket - Burda February 2009 109 which I'm rather pleased with despite its awfully long gestation.  Firstly taking four years to trace off a pattern I loved, then taking four attempts to overcome some construction problems. 

Everything was going remarkably well until I attached the collar and neck facings.  Despite very carefully marking out my seam lines and joins with tailor's tacks I couldn't make it fit into place.  Four unpickings and some further adjustments later I finally tamed the beast into submission.

I've had the fabric for while, vintage heavy cotton that doesn't crush easily and performs well under the needle.  The lining also came from my favourite fabric charity.  It was also great to use my favourite buttons in stash which I bought on sale years ago with no particular purpose in mind. They are rather flash black with greyish mother of pearl centres and I had just the right number for this project.

I have some left over fabric and eventually will make a tie belt for the jacket so that I can also wear it open over a singlet for a more casual look.  Not sure when I'll get around to it.  Winter has arrived in Sydney and I need some warm weather gear.  I've made a short list of potential projects and will cut something out tomorrow.  I've been travelling a bit for work lately which takes me away from the sewing machine.  When I'm in country NSW I try to buy something from the local fabric store or haberdashery.  Never is  it more of a pleasure than in Armidale when I visit Fabric Fair.  The range and quality is stunning. I bought a beautiful piece of gold guipure lace and a lovely print jersey and if I wasn't running for plane would have bought more!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A quick win

At work we talk a lot about quick wins and I don't see we can't build them into sewing speak. 

My latest blouse Vogue 8747 was a quick win in that it was easy to fit and complete, but my credibility fails when I tell you that it sat is my old sewing room as a cut out pattern for nearly two years! I had forgotten about it and  found it at the bottom of a box when I moved into my daughter's old bedroom. 

The photo doesn't show up the details that well, so let me run you through them.  The fabric is a John Kaldor paisley print remnant bought from a charity store.  Australian sewers will know Kaldor as a homeware fabric maker but I don't think this high quality lightweight polyester was intended for curtains.

The pattern includes princess seams and light gathering at the bust.  It is from the Customfit range with A,B,C & D cup fittings included.  I made a 14 D straight out of the pack and the fit is good, but like my recent jacket I could do with an extra centimetre wearing ease.  This time not at the bust, but just above the waistline.

Thanks for all your comments on my last post.  It means a lot to me.  Next up, I just can't decide.  Off to think it through.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tribal art

I've been missing in action a while.  Most of my sewing has involved unpicking and resewing skirts that were newly made but no longer fitted.  Thanks for your encouragement - your support helped me shed 7 kilos in 8 weeks.

I completed this jacket recently from a linen silk blend purchased in Lincraft last summer.  The pattern is a self draft cloned from an old Ignazia silk jacket that I bought second hand and wore to death...literally.  It is lined with white cotton batiste and has an interesting three quarter sleeve.  The original sleeve was masterfully drafted, pleated into a narrow band that attaches to the pleated lining sleeve.  Clever and very comfortable.

I love the side inseam pockets and I'm very pleased with my pattern matching, especially the centre back which is a seam finish.

The fit is somewhat aspirational at the bust.  I could do with an extra centimetre ease but I am still 6 kilos from my goal weight.  
I'm quite sure where my sewing is taking me next. I moved my sewing area into my eldest daughter's abandoned bedroom and in the process I found a blouse I started a few years ago which I'm now finishing.  Next up I think a tailored shirt is on the cards having just finished the excellent course.

Meanwhile happy sewing!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Evolution blouse

My sewing seems to have a back story lately.  Don't get me wrong I love my new blouse, but it evolved in order to survive.

Nature intended for the blouse to follow Anne Klein's design Vogue 1294.  But somehow I didn't get the instructions and couldn't figure out how the collar worked.  It was also a little low cut for my liking.  So evolution stepped in and the blouse metamorphised into a necktie blouse with a ruffled front that extends around to the back.

By the time I got to sleeves I was feeling a bit smug and creative and added a fringe trim cut from the fabric selvidge.  Not so sure about the evolutionary benefits of this stage, so perhaps the wings will be clipped!

The best thing about the blouse was that I was able to cut the pattern straight from the pack without my usual 3cm fba and large adjustments.  Weight loss is a beautiful thing.  5 kilos down and more to go.

Not sure where my sewing is going next.  I have the most beautiful cyclamen wool to match this blouse but tailoring will have to wait for the 'new me'.   So happy sewing while I go upstairs and decide!

Friday, February 15, 2013

'Rom Com' dress

I'm calling this my 'Rom Com' dress.  You know the story.  Boy meets girls, initial attraction, boy displeases girl, misunderstandings are overcome, girl loves boy and they live happily ever after. 

Translated into sewerlese the story goes.  Girl is instantly attracted to fabric which is not conventionally handsome but definitely attention seeking.  Fabric does not behave as planned.  There is not enough of it for starters, forcing girl to sew shoulder panels across the cross - not recommended for silk faille.  And to the definition of silk faille...Heavy in weight yet maintains a shallow, graceful drape...we must add ##@@!! slippery and full of static, beware of cutting error!  Pattern Butterick 5415 runs large and long.  Much snipping and trimming and repeated unpicking brings dress into a loveable state.

Getting to know my rom com dress better.  We quite like each other now, but remaining static electricity in the fibres (is it actually silk?) leaves me unsure about any happy ever afters.  Worked well for Casual Friday.  Not casual I know, but not corporate is the best a suit can do.

Weight loss is progressing well, 3 kgs lighter and 2cms smaller.  I've finished my daughters lace skirt, but won't have a photograph until the weekend.  Next up...something with princess seams as I think this might be the easiest garment to downsize.

Love to hear about your own "Rom Com" dresses.  Happy sewing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Just like a sailor


You know the old saying about sailors having a girl in every port, well I'm a bit like that too.  A sewing pal to meet up with wherever I roam.  On my recent holiday to Tasmania I had the pleasure of meeting up with Carol of Sew I've been thinking over a few glasses of wine. 
I've included a shot of my new beaded kaftan dress, worn under denim in chilly Launceston. 
I made the white cotton voile top seen on a beach in the Freycinet Peninsula for a trip to Israel and Jordan in 2010.  Its a very practical traveller.
Throughly recommend Tasmania as a holiday destination, especially for those needing to recharge the batteries and get in touch with nature.  Walking in Cradle Mountain was a highlight, and I'm proud to say I climbed the peak in the right hand corner of the shot.  Hobart has much to offer especially the MONA gallery.  I've visited many galleries around the world and rate it among the best.  This is largely due to the interactive technology used, creating a very different intellectual and sensual experience than simply viewing images.
Sewing?  A little tricky at the moment as I've rejoined Weight Watchers in a bid to shed 10 kgs.  So tailoring is out for several months.  I'm making a loose fitting silk dress to wear to a party in a few weeks, finishing my daughter's lace skirt and then will reevaluate my plans.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Heat beater

Sydney has experienced its hottest day since 1939 and Australia is sweltering from bush fires and off the gauge temperatures.  So my  sewing year has begun with a heat beating cotton tunic dress using my go to kaftan pattern Simplicity 2696.

After completing the machine sewing, the finished garment looked too much like a nightdress, so I gathered up some plastic beads that my daughters used to play with when they were younger and set to work on some Indian style beading.

Totally therapeutic and much quicker than you imagine.  I completed the beading over three nights of watching television.

I also have been working on a gorgeous lace mini skirt for my daughter which is waiting on zipper and hemming.  I've also finished a simple bamboo tshirt for my daughter and new black skirt for myself - an exact clone of one I sewed here, but this time will more sewing expertise.

I'm not sure that I'll get much more sewing done this month as I'm going down to Tasmania for a holiday and have booked my machines in for servicing while I'm away.

I plan to cut a knit top and piece together a muslin for a jacket to keep me occupied until the machines come home.  Thanks for all you encouragement about my huge to do list. 

This current offering is both a kaftan and a dress.  Do I deserve two ticks?!

Happy sewing.