Saturday, 6 February 2016

Bright or Beige: Butterick B6182 two ways

A bit of a dry spell on the blog there and I pass on my apologies to everyone who left lovely comments about my Frocktails dress as I'm only just getting back to you now.

The Monday morning after the Frocktails weekend we headed off on our family holiday to end the summer holidays. We rode bikes, swum in the river, bushwalked in the mountains, read books and were, by virtue of appalling internet connectivity largely cut off from it all.

Perfect for summer holidays I had finally come on board with the "sack dress". This one was my first make of 2016

After all the pre-Christmas muslin fitting of my Frocktails dress I felt I needed a little breather and something simple before I actually cut into my fancy fabric.

I'd been enjoying wearing my Lisette B6182 top and thought I'd give the dress a go. All it required was tracing the bottom half of the pattern and I was ready to sew.

In a moment of either inspiration or madness, jury's still out, I'd picked up this very colourful rayon print from Spotlight with the intention of making a simple summer dress.

It's a very loud print for me but I'm kind of liking it. We're having a holiday to Queensland around Easter time and I'm sure in those parts it will look right at home. And it is summer, I suppose I shouldn't wear grey, black and brown all year round..... although I do, and I like it that way.

The rayon is nice and light and floaty, but perhaps not so well suited to a hot weather sack dress as it feels a bit sticky. In cutting the fabric I was mindful only of not landing a red flower on any one of three anatomical points on the front. Otherwise it was just folded and chopped and stitched up in an evening.

After my Frocktails dress had come together I had a spare evening and decided the Sunday morning recovery breakfast was also an event worthy of a new frock. This time I stuck with my usual colour palette, and perhaps my Frocktails 2016 theme colour - beige ;)

I cut into my Nani Iro Spectacle fabric that I'd bought at Tessuti and stashed away. There had been so many different ideas for what to do with this fabric, and I was at risk of never using it for all the planning and thinking.

Another one night sew and I had a dress to wear to ride my bike into the city - yep this is a cyclist approved pattern. Only hitch was that I hadn't counted on the Cotton Undies Double Gauze Interface Issue (or CUDGII).

I had my perfect light, floaty and breathable fabric this time, but it did want to keep catching on my knickers. I wore a slip underneath and ended up overheating in the summer sun afterall.

The pattern has these neat bust darts from the centre seam that give it just enough shape. The sleeves are a kind of dropped kimono sleeve with a cuff, and then the neckline is finished with a little facing. Truly a lovely dress to sew.

I knew I did not want it to look like I'd matched the print across the centre front and back seams, so I cut out all four body pieces singly. That allowed me to offset them and still scrimp on fabric.

In considering the print, the brown "bushy" part obviously had to be put where it wouldn't offend. There is also an occasional background watercolour "puddle" of yellowy brown that could easily look like a spilt coffee if it ended up on the front bodice, or a much worse accident if it was poorly placed down below. More pitfalls than you might expect!

Pattern: Lisette B6182
Size: 16 (1 inch added length at waist)
Fabrics: Rayon print from Spotlight and Nani Iro Spectacle from Tessuti

Again? For sure. I can easily see how the sack dress gets sewn over and over again whichever pattern you choose. I'm loving the shape and sleeves of this one.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Frocktails 2016 - Vogue V1233 the lowdown

I made a fancy dress.

I wore it last night, in a room full of beautiful women, wearing beautiful fancy outfits, that they too, had made.

Edit: this is a long one. go get a cup of tea and settle in, or just skim through the pictures if you prefer :)

The event was Frocktails. As you can probably surmise, that's cocktails, in frocks. An incredible group of makers gathered to drink, nibble and talk fabrics and patterns into the wee hours. I had met only one person there in the flesh before, but in a room full of sewers you can never feel lonely, right?

Formal, fitted dresses was a whole new ballgame for me, but this was definitely the occasion to inspire me to give it a crack.

Enter Pamella Roland Vogue V 1233

Vogue 1233 link
I loved the big collar and safari suit vibe of this dress and knew it had to be made in some kind of tweedy beige fabric. The perfect fabric (and fancy lining) was found at The Fabric Store and just as I was wondering if I could do it, there was an email from Kate at Buttonmania to notify of her upcoming holiday and if any covered belt orders were required to get in quick.

Just like how paying for race entry used to make me ride the most technical mountain bike courses, when really, I'd felt like getting off and waiting in the car. I figured that by paying for Kate to make the belt I would be obliged to follow through and make the dress.

of course, she also had the most perfect buttons...

I've never been fond of yellow gold. I avoid gold jewellery and knew that I wasn't going to play up the goldness of the fabric. The fabric has both gold and silver metallic threads (more like thin tinsel strips really) through it and I wanted a button that was silver, with a bit of gold.

The sheaf of wheat and the word "country" was just icing on the cake! They are etched, reportedly from a famous German button house, and cost more per button than some garments I've made.

Kate also found the perfect buttons for the lower part of the dress. These are very flat and just a simple burnished silver.

The dress closes with a full button placket, but those buttons below the waist go into a hidden placket. It's neat and I'd never sewn this kind of placket before, but it's not entirely functional...

You see, the edge of that placket is just pressed, and if you sit down it opens up. I ended up handstitching the full length of the placket about a 1/4 inch from the edge. With the texture of my fabric it was easy to take just little pick stitches of the outer fabric and not have them show, but with a smoother fabric it could be problematic.

The ideal fabric for this dress would probably be something a bit stiffer too. I was worried that without some fitting and structure my fabric could easily look like old curtains. Kate suggested horsehair canvas and while I'd never done that before I figured this was the project to try it on. I shot off a few help me emails to those that I thought would be horsehair canvas dab hands. Turns out they're just naturally smooth, firm, gorgeous women whose dresses look like they're boned and supported, but aren't. Lucky ladies, huh.

I did what I usually do and made it up as I went along.

I guessed that including the horsehair in seams would be disastrous, so I cut all the bodice panels in horsehair without the seam allowance, then hand basted them to some thin cotton and underlined the dress panels.

It was starting to feel pretty hefty, a bit like Queen Victoria's corsets, and I watched the weather forecast nervously. A hot night would certainly require a plan B or I'd be fainting!

I dealt with the bust dart by cutting a wedge out of the horsehair, and sewing the dart into the underlining. I've since learned this is exactly what you're meant to do. How lucky is that!

I stopped the horsehair at hip height and then cut a facing shaped piece that was about 2" wide for the hem. That left the bottom part of the skirt unsupported and it looks a bit wavy and limp because of it. But really, this dress was becoming like a quilt!

Fitting the bodice wasn't too tricky, thank goodness. I made a few 1cm dart reductions to the pattern tissue to get rid of the fabric puddle just above my bust that I've noticed seems to be my trouble spot.

The only other bodice adjustment was the centre back neck. I shaved off 1cm width at the top of the centre seam, tapering out over about 8cm, and then after I'd attached the collar I still had a little horizontal wrinkle. I unpicked about 10cm of collar, hoicked the centre neck up into the collar by a centimetre or so and then restitched the collar.

Thankfully, all the rest of the bodice seams required no adjustments at all.


But then came the sleeves. The sleeves as per the pattern are just wrong. They are too full, too high and too short to look anything like the picture on the pattern cover. Sadly I hadn't paid attention to that when I cut the muslin and it was only after I'd set one sleeve in that I realised how horrid they were.

On the left is the original pattern sleeve. On the right I've pinned out width - 1cm at the top of the sleeve cap and about 3cm at the hem. I baulked and only removed 2cm at the hem in the end, but I should have stuck with the pinned version.

I ripped out that first sleeve and recut them. I added horsehair into the sleeves initially, but that just seemed to exacerbate the gathering and warping rather than making them flatter as I'd hoped. I took the sleeve off again, removed the horsehair and went for round three. By this time I was wishing my second cut had included more length. They need to be a good few centimetres longer on me, but as you can see from my face above I was getting kinda grumpy, the shoulder was fraying more and more with every attempt, and the third sleeve attempt was going to be the last no matter what.

This was my altered sleeve pattern piece:

With that compromise, the dress was done.

On a makers high, I decided I needed a brown clutch that would match my shoes.

I'd never sewn leather before either, but if you read my blog, or have even read this far into this one post, you know what happened next.

A $25 gift voucher from a friend (for The Fabric Store) bought me exactly the right amount of leather, some lovely gold fabric for piping and the inner yoke and a zipper. With 30 cents to spare!

The pattern was one I already had;

Straight Stitch Society - In a Clutch
To make it more formal I wanted to set the zipper lower into the bag. The modification was just to cut the lining the same as the outer bag and a second set of yokes, then sew the zipper in between the two

The lining bag, with the bottom left open for turning, was then put over the outer bag, right sides together and the top edges sewn. However that was a lot of layers of thick leather and the whole thing became a twisted mess and there was no way I could neatly edgestitch the whole circumference.

Adding magnetic snaps into the inner yoke before sewing the lining closed allowed me to neaten it up enough to pass for a respectable clutch in a dark room.

I don't usually wear any makeup, and I was perfectly prepared to accept that as a dark art which I had neither the tools nor expertise to master. I went into the city and had my eyes done at MAC. I took the fabric with me and some images from the web and the lovely young woman instantly got my silver/gold/bronze idea.

Sometimes it pays to have your eyes shut in photos!
Katie did my hair for me and I was delighted with what felt like my everyday ponytail, but had quite a bit of added glamour. Thanks!

I had a wonderful time. I met so many amazing women. Sometimes I looked so long and hard at their dress I forgot to make a note of who the woman wearing it was. Other times I got so engrossed in conversation with a new friend that I forgot to clock what she was wearing.

I'm looking forward to the official photographers photos and the who's who list of Frocktailers. Meanwhile, a million thanks to Kat and the team behind organising Melbourne Frocktail 2016

Dress pattern: Pamella Roland Vogue V1233
Fabric: Silk/cotton/metallic tweed and acetate lining from The Fabric Store
Belt and buttons: Covered belt and buttons from Buttonmania
Size: 16
Alterations I made: as detailed above
Alterations I wished I'd made: 2" more skirt length - it should be just below the knee and I never thought for a minute I was tall enough (5'7") to need to add length. Muslin the full thing next time dummy.
Extra length on the sleeves.
Again?: Not like this, cause how many safari cocktail frocks can a girl have. BUT, imagine the bodice, with an invisible zipper up the back, front seam closed and a scooped neck, or Peter Pan type collar. Maybe sleeveless. I think I have my perfect dress bodice. 
Clutch pattern: In a Clutch Cosmetic Case
Fabric: Leather, actetate lining and gold voile from The Fabric Store. Thread and snaps from Leffler Leather
Modifications: recessed the zip into the bag for a more formal look

I'm off on holiday tomorrow. Taking the road bike (kids' bikes and Flipper's mountain bike) and the family off to the mountains for a week. Please excuse my silence. xx

Saturday, 2 January 2016

That's that and what next

Wow, I've just had a look through my photos for the year and I've counted one hundred and five sewn garments. Considering I've counted pyjamas as only 1, and I do keep on making pyjamas, there's probably half a dozen more...

I'm not going to rehash everything here, and it's hard to do a winners and losers post when you sew for small kids. Who's opinion matters more? theirs or mine? I'm running with mine when it comes to the idea and the fun of making it, and theirs only if they're enjoying wearing it. So, every kid's garment was a winner!

I do always like to put together some collage photos of my Oliver + S sewing, so I can litter some pictures throughout my ramblings...

What about me? Well, a lot was sewn. Not everything was successful, but considering that I am dressed every. single. day. in something I've made then one of two things must be true: I'm dressed really badly, or I'm beginning to get around the idea of sewing for myself. Possibly both are true at once. I'll keep working on it. :)

What's on the plans for 2016? Let's start with P. I've just handed his School Days Coat down to his nephew, so he'll need a new winter coat. Undoubtedly there will be more navy school pants/shorts throughout the year. First up though, I found a boys euro style swim trunk pattern in an old issue of Ottobre which I'll try to get around to before summer is over.

And A? Well, she is about to outgrow the first of the Oliver + S patterns which only go up to size 5. There's a couple that I really want to revisit before bidding them farewell. She needs navy skirts for starting school and could do with some shorts. Odds are I'll sew pretty dresses too! I also bought an insane costume pattern that I'd like to make her for her birthday. We'll see how time allows for that plan....

For Flipper I really must make the shorts I've been mulling over for years. I have two pants patterns from Thread Theory and it's just a matter of finding the exact, correct weight of fabric, then adding all the cargo elements and tabs that he likes. I reckon I can nail it, if only I could be motivated to bother. Sorry, honey, you may get bumped to the back of the queue again.

For me? Well, as I'm typing I really should be working on my frocktails dress. Then, if time allows I've decided I need to make my own leather clutch bag to go with it. I'd love to squeeze in a summer knit dress or two and then I've been buying coat patterns like nobody's business. I love winter dressing and I've certainly been more successful in my winter sewing, so here's holding out for colder weather dressing.

And for everyone else? Well I can never resist making gifts. I love Sanae and Ute's valentine exchange and hope to be apart of that again. I've really enjoyed learning some cross stitch, and now macrame, so I'll be inflicting that on anyone who cares to be a recipient. I'm sure I'll sew for kid's gifts as well. Of course I'm also still planning to sew things for my monthly Oliver + S blog guest posts. Not much of an idea yet as to where that will take me this year.

For the blog I need to get around to adding the free cycle bootie tutorial and pattern that is more than 18 months over due now. The blog remains a place to document what I've made and as much as I wish my IT guru would build me my own domain, I'm happy to keep this an ad free, simple place to babble on, an on, and on...

So that's 2016 looking every bit as manic on the making front as 2015 was.

Yee ha. Saddle up!! I love having you along for the ride.
Shelley xx

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Gift Sewing Part IV - The Shaky Man's BBQ Apron

The last Christmas gift I made hadn't been planned, but suddenly popped into my head as an idea that just had to be made.

I'd asked my mum what my dad might like for Christmas and she suggested a barbecue apron. I thought about a standard BBQ apron and where I might buy one, but then I thought more about how my dad would, or could, use it....

My dad has Parkinson's disease and while he's perfectly capable of wielding the BBQ tongs I figured tying apron strings in a bow behind his back would be impossible. And that would mean a regular BBQ apron would just never get used. Time to make one, right?

I wanted some nice elastic and an easy to do up buckle. The straps could cross behind and then buckle in front. I knew exactly where I would find nice elastic and a good variety of buckles - Jimmy's Buttons.

I zoomed across town and found exactly what I needed. As I was describing what I was making to Jimmy himself he was enthusiastic and when I mentioned needing a denim or canvas he went upstairs and found a bolt of very dusty, but perfect denim. He cut off a metre or so from the uneven end of the bolt and gave it to me for free! Awesome - I was on track to make a $13 apron.

You don't get to see my dad modelling it, and Roger wasn't available this time, sorry.

I kept it pretty simple and measured up Flipper to get a rough measurement for two rectangles. Each is hemmed on three sides before being joined with two waistband sections.

I cut the waistbands to be the same width as the elastic so it could exit cleanly out the short ends, then topstitched the whole lot.

Flipper was now having some input and suggested a pocket (good call), then I decided it needed to be monogrammed.

It turned out to be too hot for firing up the barbecue on Christmas day but my brother gave the apron a test run in the kitchen on Boxing Day - cooking our dinner, while consulting Jamie Oliver on the 'net and drinking.

It may be that this is the only time the apron will be used for cooking. I rather think dad liked the idea of taking it out to the garage where he has a pottery wheel and paints and so on.

Christmas day was so very hot. We moved our table to the carport for shade, strung some bunting and made it as festive as it could be. Only cold food was served, lots of drinks then a round or two of Wet Head....

 Here's what Christmas lunch looked like:

I think that needs to become a new southern hemisphere Christmas tradition!

The last of the handmade Christmas gifts weren't made by me, but I really want to share them here as I think they're brilliant. I discovered Odds and Ends Handmade through her instagram feed and fell in love with her quirky little cacti and succulents.

On our kitchen window was a ceramic pot that Flipper had made some time back in primary school - let's say more than 35 years ago. He'd kept it, or rather his granny had kept it for him and now we had it. It needed a plant, but our track record with plants is poor. I contacted Odds and Ends for a custom order and was delighted to discover that she's a local. There's a cactus knitter in my neighbourhood!

It's such a cute little cactus and perfectly designed for the pot. Thanks Andrea, we love it!

My brother and his partner have a new house so, with another cactus, a house warming and Christmas gift could be combined and it wouldn't matter that their "houseplant" would be in a suitcase for a month or two.

This little one has the softest, fluffiest feel!

When I put them both together for a few photos I realised that I really want another to keep for us! Good thing I know where to find the cactus knitting lady now - if there isn't one in your neighbourhood then hit the internet and check out Odds and Ends.

That's it for this year. Hope you're having a great New Year's Eve. If you're still sweltering from today's heat then come on over. There's beer in the fridge and the Wet Head game ready to play!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Gift Sewing Part III - Little Drummer Boy (and dad)

My one and only nephew has never escaped a Christmas without something handmade by me. This year would be no exception.

My brother and his family live in Germany, so we only get to see them once a year, if that. Two years ago his "thing" was astrosaurs (apparently they exist) and now, I'm told, he's a veritable child prodigy on the drums.

I figured a drum kit would be a fun stencil to cut and paint. Google images provided the silhouette of a drum kit and then I made up the Beatles-esque font myself.

There's a fun and free way to get a couple of words in any font you like. If you use you can search for a font that suits your purpose, type in your words as a tester and then just right click and Save Picture.

The all caps font that I liked didn't have the variation in height of the Beatles logo, so I just fiddled a bit with my M and L in 'til I got it looking right. I traced the image onto freezer paper and then set to with the scalpel.

Saving all the little cutout bits and getting them back in the right places is fiddly, but kind of fun too. Paint away, let it dry, peel the paper off then iron the heck out of it to make sure the paint sets and is wash proof. Easy!

I'd been stuck for what to give my brother for Christmas, until I decided he could have a T-shirt too. Same drum kit image, only seeing as he's not the star of his own show anymore.....

...he got the Roadie's version.

I couldn't possibly cut the stencil all over again in miniature, so this one is T-shirt transfer paper. I had no end of trouble with our new home printer bleeding across the T-shirt transfer paper. Eventually I printed this at Flipper's work. Technically the printer there is a laser printer and the transfer paper is intended for bubble-jet printers. The image was sharp, but annoyingly the background is very slightly yellowed. For a last minute gift that was kind of a gag I was satisfied.

Both were received very well and worn almost straight away with the sizing being just right. Milo also inherited the Darth Vader stencilled T-shirt that I'd made P back in 2013 (previous astrosaur link), along with other clothes and the second School Days wool duffel coat that's been handed down to him. They don't get a lot of wear in our climate and so it's as good as new and will be worn a LOT back in Berlin.

and that makes me a happy Christmas gifter!

Patterns: Oliver + S School Bus T-Shirt & Liesl & Co Metro Men's T-shirt
Sizes: Size 5 with 6 length ('cause it was drafted) and size XL (likewise!)
Modifications: None, but I would take half an inch off the neckband of the men's T-shirt if I could remember to next time.
Fabrics: Leftover knits from the stash
Paint/transfer: Setacolour fabric paint in black. Canon T-Shirt Transfer Paper

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Vogue V1307 - Summer Happy Pants

Or are they Hammer pants? Or clown pants?
Don't know. Don't care. They're so darn comfy. It's like wearing pyjama pants that are fancy enough to step outside in:

 I picked up this pattern in the recent Vogue pattern sale at Spotlight. I'm trying to learn to see past cover illustrations and decide if a pattern could work for me. Certainly not in neon green animal print, but maybe the shape?...

 I figured in a black rayon they would be cool, swishy, slightly fancy but also very easy to wear in summer. You know, for those days when it's hot but my legs are a day away from being groomed and fit to be seen.

I've found only three other mentions of this pattern in blogland. One lady who made a pair (The Mahogany Stylist) and two who, in their pattern opinion pieces, voted it the ugliest pattern released that season.

It's not easy to photograph the details of black pants, and perhaps that's a good thing...  The yoke ends up being four layers on the front and two on the back and it would seem that my lining yoke is sewn on slightly short as the outer yoke is billowing a bit.

I began by hand sewing the lining yoke to the main yoke/pants seam allowances but it was late at night and I was getting a bit fed up with these slow to sew pants, so I stitched in the ditch around the yoke. Worked perfectly but perhaps I needed to worry less about the top waistband rolling out and more about the lining not pulling.


 The pattern instructions suggest making a muslin of just the yoke pieces to check the fit. I did that and in calico it seemed the yoke would be good if maybe a touch on the tight side. I cut the pants out with no alterations to my size based on waits and hip measurements.

Something weird happened as I sewed and the pants yoke ended up growing, or perhaps I was shrinking. At the front there are two layers forming the front and pocket, one layer for the facing and another layer for the lining. I cut all the layers from my black rayon as it seemed thin enough not to need to bother with lining. Then there is some interfacing around the upper waist edge to help further prevent any stretching out. Four layers of fabric plus interfacing and somehow the pants were growing?....

 I ended up bringing in the back yoke with a 3/4" sewn dart (1&1/2" reduction) at the centre back and two 1/4" darts (1/2" reduction) on each side.

The pants are sewn on to the back yoke before it's linined and finished, so there's the opportunity to play with adding darts or adjusting the centre back seam. I made the same changes to the yoke lining then called it a night.

An invisible zip on the left side closes the yoke. Under the top of the zipper is a button loop and button just to make it easier to zip closed the pants by buttoning the top edge first.

Seemingly I don't know when to call it quits and go to bed, 'cause in my second night of late, late night sewing I decided I definitely did need to topstitch the cuffs at the bottom. I think it was worth the extra lost sleep.

I was feeling very pleased with them and after finishing them last night I wore them for most of the day today. Maybe it was due to the change in undies, or the weather, or who knows, but today they felt even more baggy and low riding in the front. I may need to run a strip of elastic inside the top edge of the waist just to give them a bit of lift.

With the pleats all pressed they can certainly pass as fancy pants. Fit for a night on the town, but mostly I think I'll be wearing them (slightly) low slung, loose and easy with t-shirts and sandals. Perfect for the hot summer ahead.

In Xmas sewing support news I've finished all my gift sewing. I've two projects still to share here but there's a possibility of the recipients seeing a blog post, so the blog will wait until after Christmas. I hope you all have a wonderful time. I'll be lounging in my pants!

Pattern: V1307 view A
Size: E (will drop one full size if I make them again)
Fabric: Black rayon from Spotlight
Alterations: Small back - centre seam plus darts