Friday, April 3, 2015

A new shirt for Bear

Back in 2009 I made a nightshirt for "Bear" and he's been wearing it ever since, except for the odd occasion when I've washed it for him, and it's showing its age.

[Left: 2009, Right: 2015]

Therefore, I've been scheming for a while to make him a new shirt. However, everything I've made that's had big enough scraps to squeeze out a shirt for him hasn't been a very flattering colour for his blue-grey fur, so it's taken me a while.

However when cutting out the bright pink merino recently I managed to cut him a shirt out as well. Constructed almost exactly the same way as any of my shirts, except smaller, I made this one production-line style along with my pink merino plantain of the same fabric.


And so, the two of us have our matching shirts, and bear is looking much better dressed!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Colour Blocked Kimono Tee

The real reason that I made the blue kimono tee is to test the pattern out as a candidate pattern for this shirt.

This shirt all started when I was preparing to cut out my pink merino plantain. I laid out the pattern pieces and saw just how much left over fabric there would be if I just cut the one shirt out of the fabric. I tried seeing if I could get a shirt and a singlet out of the fabric, but failing piecing one of the pieces of the singlet it wouldn't fit. I had thought of adding a horizontal seam across the back of the singlet to make the pieces fit, and asked other's opinion on instagram, at which point the suggestion of colour blocking came up.

I did some searching, and with some moral support from Jen I decided to have a go at making a shirt like this one I found on a google image search:

I selected some grey merino jersey from my stash that didn't have any immediate plans as the other colour for the colour blocking.

I considered a few patterns for this, but settled on the kimono tee as the most promising prospect, but decided to first make a wearable muslin.

As mentioned in this post I extended the sleeves to just above the elbow, to similar to the inspiration pic. Following the wearable muslin I also took a wedge out of the centre front and centre back, about 1" wide at the top tapering to nothing at the hem. I also adjusted the angle of the hem on the sleeves slightly.

Then I altered my base pattern to cater for the colour blocking, splitting the front and back pattern pieces in two, by drawing a line starting about 1.5" to the edge of the neckline on the shoulder seam and ending at the centre front at the hem. I then added the seam allowance to these new pieces.

If I were to do this again I would start closer to the neckline and make the seamline continue across past the centre front.

This time around I finished the neckline with a narrow strip of the grey merino and it's a much nicer finish than the clear elastic I used on the blue one. (I used the 85% rule for the length of the strip)

Overall, it's not as similar to the inspiration pic as it could have been, I probably could have added more ease through the bust. However, it's very comfy to wear as pictured here with jeans, and also works tucked into a skirt, so overall I'm pretty happy with this experiment.

Pattern: Modified Maria Denmark Kimono Tee
Fabric: Merino Jersey from the Fabric Store
Notions: Thread

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Couple of Merino Plantains

I love my first plantain. I am still surprised how much I love the cut. Before making it I was expecting it to be too full around the hips and not flattering. However, if I cut a straight size despite my hip measurement falling in the next size up, it's not as full in the hips on me as drafted. It's just the right amount of hip skimming.

Since my first version has become one of those tops pulled first out of the pile after washing, I decided that some of the merino jersey in my stash should become plantains. Merino is perfect for the plantain pattern as it has beautiful drape to it. It's definitely suited more to drapey patterns than clingy ones.

The blue version is made from some merino we got for much cheaper than most of the merino. I don't know why it was cheaper, perhaps it was the previous seasons stock or something, as there's absolutely nothing wrong with it that I can tell. It's the merino I tried screen printing on for Darren, and is essentially my "muslin merino".

When cutting out the pink version I couldn't stand how much fabric was going to be left over so squeezed some other things onto the piece, so keep an eye out for those in coming weeks.

A few people have commented about the relevance of merino jersey in hot climates (with merino being wool). While yes, it's great to wear in cold weather, it's also great in hot weather. It absorbs moisture and is breathable; ideal! It really is a wonder fabric in my eyes! (I even took the blue version on my recent trip to the gold coast, and actually found it more refreshing to wear than the cotton/lycra tanks I wore on other days)


I still have a pile of merino jersey in my stash, so we shall yet see what it becomes, more plantains or something else?

Pattern: Deer and Doe Plantain
Fabric: Merino Jersey from the Fabric Store
Notions: Thread

Thursday, March 5, 2015

On the hunt for the perfect fabric pouch...

Firstly, thanks to everyone that has filled in my little measurement form from my last post. If you haven't filled it in yet, please hop over to the post to get the details and link.

And onto the business of this post...

We potentially have some travel coming up, so I've been contemplating options for organising our things in a flexible and portable way. One obvious option is sewing up some fabric pouches for storing things in.

I quickly made up this Open Wide Zippered Pouch from the tutorial by noodlehead from fabrics etc from my stash to try out the style.

I quite like the pouch, as it has a square base so sits nicely on surfaces, and you could even line up a few in a drawer for example and when open they'd tesselate together quite well. I'm not sure if this size is the right size for my needs, but overall I like the pouch so far, I've found it quite useful for ferrying things various places.

Does anybody have any other zippered pouch patterns or tutorials they can recommend?
I would like to try out a few before settling on my favourite and making multiple.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Will you share your measurements with me?

Will you do me a quick favour?

I am hoping to collect some data on women's measurements, so I've created a quick form to collect this data. I am collecting four core measurements, along with another 5 optional ones. If you'd grab a tape measure and take a few minutes from your day to help me I would be incredibly grateful.

Even more good karma will be sent your way if you share around the link to other women you know.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A quilt for Neal and Helena

Today I am finally sharing a very special quilt. This is the project I alluded to as my 5th hit in my hits of 2014 post. It is now with its intended recipients so I can blog about it all I like. This is a very special quilt, and a true collaboration between myself and my Gran.

My cousin Neal got married to his lovely wife Helena in November of 2013. The wedding was on the beach on Stradbroke Island in Queensland, and it was absolutely beautiful (see above), a really lovely day to be part of. If I'm remembering correctly they had requested/suggested a quilt as a wedding gift from my Gran. Granny and I decided that I could help with the quilt, so we started working on it when she was visiting Victoria for the first few months of last year.

Granny wanted to make a medallion quilt design, so we sat down with some paper, a ruler and pencil and experimented with a few designs. I had learnt with the previous the medallion style quilt I've made that it's a lot easier to design the quilt if you have a base unit of measure that each border is a multiple of. We tried a few variations and different borders and such, and eventually settled on the design you can see in the photos, involving quarter square triangles, squares, flying geese, applique and plain fabric borders.

Granny knew she wanted to include turquoise as one of the main colours (the main colour chosen at the wedding, for the decorations, bridesmaid's dresses and groomsmen's ties), and also wanted it to go well in their bedroom, which has a royal blue wall and a lovely painting on the wall with some orange in it (which isn't the room pictured here). From here we had our main colour scheme so went hunting for fabric.

All the fabric was bought at GJs Discount Fabrics, and we tried to pick a range of colours, from pale to bright to dark, and a range of print sizes, from large prints to small prints to solid colours. I particularly like the addition of the orange with the blue and turquoise, I think it's made for a really fresh looking quilt.

One of the fabrics we chose had a larger floral motif, that Granny decided to applique onto the large turquoise border, along with some bias strips and similarly cut out leaves.

Granny did the majority of the piecing of the quilt, although I helped with a little bit of it and with some of the cutting. For the quarter square triangles in the middle we used this method and for the flying geese we used this method.

Once the piecing was finished, I was in charge of quilting, and I ended up doing a combination of free motion quilting and straight line quilting, varying the quilting design to suit each border. We discussed a few different options, and quickly settled on stippling on the quarter square triangles in the centre and the border of squares. It took a little more thought for the other sections.

Darren made the fantastic suggestion of cross-hatching the background of the applique border, so I stitched all the way around the edge of the applique, and then marked the cross hatch lines at 1" intervals, first doing one direction then the other. There was quite a bit of quilt manhandling required to do the cross hatching, as I went back and forth along the lines but I am thrilled with the outcome so glad to have bothered. Having spent my time basting properly and using my walking foot, I didn't have any issues with puckering of the fabric when I was doing the second pass of the crosshatching, which I had been a little concerned about.

In the end, after trying a few different options (including in this baby quilt) I decided to just stitch in the ditch of the flying geese. I just went back and forth in a zig-zag along each side of the geese to reduce the rotation required of the quilt.

For the larger blue outer border I had decided very early on that I would just do concentric squares around the border, and when deciding how far apart to do them I decided to make them progressively further apart as they reached the edge of the quilt.

The quilt is finished with some orange binding, and it has a turquoise backing (from the backing section at GJs so we didn't have to piece the back, hurrah!)

A big project, and I'm absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. I was secretly hoping that Neal and Helena wouldn't like the quilt and I'd be able to claim it. Sadly that wasn't the case, so it has a happy new home with them.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Felicity Dress

In January I pattern tested Jennifer Lauren's newest pattern, the Felicity Dress. The timing was great, because I ended up with a lovely summer dress that's seen a reasonable amount of wear already.

The bodice is cleverly designed, with the shaping through the centre front seam and neckline gathers. The dress is unlined and the arm and neckholes are finished with bias binding. I made up a quick muslin of the bodice, and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that in general the bodice fit fantastically as drafted! I have since learnt that Jennifer drafts for a D cup, something I didn't know before. For reference, I made a size 12.

Now, I'm a rebel. I knew I wanted to make the 3/4 circle skirt view, but the pattern states that I need 150cm wide fabric tor this. However, I wanted to make the dress from fabric from my stash, and selected this lovely cotton lawn that I've had in my stash for aaaages (it was originally going to become a Jasmine blouse before I decided that Collette patterns aren't for me as they require too many alterations to fit me). The problem was that the fabric I selected was only 115cm wide. The limiting factor with the fabric width is the front skirt piece, so to make it work with my narrower fabric I added a seam down the centre front of the skirt.

Because of this I disregarded the cutting layout. I made two layers by folding the fabric lengthwise, cutting it in half and rotating to preserve the direction of the print. My fabric was 2.4m long, and was the perfect amount for View A in size 12.

With regards to the pdf pattern, I like how Jennifer has separated the pattern pieces for the different views, so you can easily print just one view. However I missed the existence of ‘markers’ to line up my pages while I was sticking them together.

The one thing I don’t like about my dress is the pockets. I find the functional part of the pockets too small/shallow and am concerned as to the security of the stuff in my pockets when wearing the dress (I’m a big pocket user), at minimum my phone lives in my pocket. I think that my issue with the pockets is primarily due to how low the top edge of the pocket scoops down, so if making this again I would raise the top edge of the pockets by at least 1-1.5” at the side seams, and potentially also add some extra depth to the bottom of the pocket. To check dimensions I think I would compare it against another pocket I know I like, for example the Hollyburn pockets, to check these alterations.

I made some small adjustments to the bodice, which I would do again for subsequent versions. I shortened the bodice by 2.5cm and raised the bottom of the armholes by 1cm. Jennifer has actually raised the front bodice at the shoulders by 1cm after the pattern testing was completed and by 0.5cm at the front waistline, so if I were to use the final version of the pattern I wouldn’t need to adjust the armholes, and would only need to shorten the bodice by 1cm. However, I would need to bear in mind that the neckline is 1cm higher than on my version.

I also took the bodice in by about 3cm total (8mm at each side seam) at the waist. I don’t know if this is an artefact of my fabric, because the maths on this don’t make sense, as there’s only 0.5" ease drafted for the waist, and my waist measurement is the same as that for the size I made. This alteration I wouldn’t make on the pattern, but would play it by ear during construction in case it was an artefact of my fabric.

I found the bias binding instructions confusing in the pattern testing version, however they've been rewritten and look much better now. One thing to note however is that I purchased 25mm binding as I couldn't find 20mm in the right colour so planned on cutting it down (I figured this would still be easier/cheaper than buying fabric the right colour and making my own). However, when I measured my 25mm binding flat it was the desired 40mm width, so just repressed it without cutting it down. So there’s a tip for you; always double check the flat binding measurement too, in this case you want 40mm binding.

Which brings me onto my next comment, the neckline and armhole have a 10mm seam allowance, which is marked on the pattern pieces. However, the finished edge isn't actually 10mm from the edge of the pattern piece, but is exactly the same as the pattern piece, as you stitch bias binding enclosing the edge of the fabric. That felt like a convoluted sentence, hopefully it made sense.

The instructions have you do a lapped zip. I tried following the instructions and my zip was a massive fail, somehow my seam allowance wasn't anywhere near wide enough for the lap to actually work. I'm not sure where I went wrong, but in the end I just unpicked the whole thing and did a hand-picked centred zip. While I’d always thought you should do a 2cm seam allowance for lapped zips, my failure is most likely due to me and shouldn't reflect badly on the pattern. I understand that Jennifer is going to be doing a detailed photo tutorial of the lapped zip insertion method as part of her sewalong for the dress, so I look forward to reading that to see where I went wrong.

I also made a change at the top of the zip at the centre back, changing the order that I folded the bias binding under as I think my order made it a bit neater. I also hemmed the dress differently to the instructions, just overlocking the edge and then folding it over once with a 1cm seam allowance and topstitching. This is my go-to hemming method on full curved hems on a lightweight dress like this. It made the dress 1.5cm longer than drafted, which I'm also happy with as I love the length I've ended up with.

Pattern: Felicity by Jennifer Lauren
Fabric:  Cotton Lawn from Spotlight
Notions: Thread, Bias binding, 24" dress zip

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Instructions for PDF patterns; how do you read them?

I've been using quite a few PDF patterns lately and therefore I've been needing to make the decision about printing the instructions when I print the pattern. Most of the time I haven't bothered printing the instructions, because unless I know I'll be doing most of the sewing away from home (e.g. at a retreat) I don't usually print the instructions, and instead just read them from my laptop. If I happen to be sewing without my laptop and need just a few steps of the instructions (e.g. at social sewing) I'll look it up on my phone.

Thinking about it now I have had a thought that I could potentially load the PDFs onto my kindle for use when I'm not near my laptop.

And so, it's gotten me wondering if I'm the norm, or if most people print their instructions. Also, perhaps someone has a clever approach I've never thought of.

How do you usually read the instructions? 
Do you print them out along with the pattern or do you save the paper and read them digitally?
If you read them digitally, how do you do that?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kimono Tee

While trying to sew clothes that I know I will wear, it's easy to fall into a 'safe' zone and repeatedly make very similar items. I've been trying to keep at the back of my mind a push to mix in some experiments where I try things that aren't necessarily part of my safe zone.

This project is one of those that's very slightly outside my safe zone. The pattern is the Maria Denmark Kimono Tee, a free pattern that you can get by signing up to her newsletter. I know it really probably does still seem very safe, but I sometimes find it tricky with clothes that have positive ease but are still flattering.

I made the BL size, lengthening the sleeves by about 11cm (as described here). I may yet cut them down to the drafted length to see how that feels. We'll see.

The top is quite long, but I quite like the 'bunched' look that it gets as it comes to a rest at my hips.

I also tried finishing the neckline with clear elastic, which I probably wouldn't do again as it isn't sitting all that well, with fabric of this weight at lest.

I showed this top to Darren mid-construction and asked him what he thought of the fit, and he said it looked good except asked if I would be taking it in at the waist. Uh-oh! Despite his comment, I didn't take it in at all, as I wanted to try the loose style, as I hoped it would also make a good blousey fit when tucked into skirts. I think I've achieved this, and think it looks alright both un-tucked and tucked in.

I haven't actually worn this yet, but look forward to it. Hopefully the merino will make for a nice cosy but adaptable work top.

Pattern: Maria Denmark, Kirsten Kimono Tee
Fabric: Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store
Notions: Thread, clear elastic

See Also: SewSquirrel, Crafting A Rainbow, La Sartora

What about you, do you try and sew outside of your safe zone? What proportion of your projects are 'safe' vs 'experiments'?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bathers! I made Bathers! (The Bombshell Swimsuit in fact)

[How amazing was the view from our hotel? We were on the 18th floor]

Why is it that getting photos of bathers is infinitely more weird than photos of anything else? The sneak peek I posted on instagram suggests I finished these in October 2013 (below left), so it's been well over a year now, eek!

These have been well worn since completing them, coming with me on not one, but two beach holidays to Queensland (another instagram piccy shared on the first of those trips, above right), and worn on a few afternoons that were spent lazing in the pool at my old flat.

I tried taking some photos on a weekend trip to Warrnambool, where my friend's family had a spa we took advantage of. However, photos in the spa still felt weird. What I really needed was a beach. Thankfully, another opportunity presented itself, with my second beach trip to Queensland, this time to celebrate my Gran's 90th birthday (Happy Birthday again Granny!). In case you're wondering, these pics were taken on the beach at Coolangatta, which is just on the Queensland-New South Wales border.

[apologies for the squinty face, it was really bright!]

Despite the long period between completing this make and this post, I am still excited that I made bathers though, BATHERS! (For the international among you, 'bathers' is a fantastic Aussie term for swim suit or bathing suit, which I have eagerly adopted into my vocabulary)


The fabric was from Rathdowne Fabrics, and the lovely lady that served me helped me pick out a lining fabric to use too. This wasn't my original choice (which I also ended up buying and is waiting patiently in my stash to be transformed) but I decided that this print would look better ruched.

The pattern is the Bombshell Swimsuit from Closet Case Files. I picked the view with the halter, as I thought it would be more supportive and flattering than the other view. However, rather than get strain on my neck from the halter straps, I extended the straps and after crossing them over attached them to the back. This worked really really well, and the swimsuit feels both really secure and comfortable when I'm wearing it, which is exactly what I was after.

I also added some width to the top section of the pattern to give some more coverage at the sides, and didn't leave a gap between the two pieces at the centre front. The only other change I would make next time is to be more careful with the back gathers, focusing the gathers further up, as I get a bit of gather 'sagging' right at the bottom which I think could be avoided.

When choosing which bathers pattern to make, I was concerned about the front skirt-like part of this pattern and how practical and comfortable it would make the bathers, as I've never owned anything like this before. I have to say now, I'm completely converted! It's comfortable, doesn't go anywhere you don't want it to, and (I think) flattering. A big 10/10 from me.

I stitched the bathers together using the triple 'stretch' stitch on my machine, and then zig-zagged over the raw edges to keep them neat. The stretch stitch is great, it's really secure and also just as stretchy as overlocking would be. I had done lines of basting stitches to gather the ruched panels and it was really fun stretching out the pieces after stitching the seamlines to break the basting/gathering stitches to make them easier to pull out.

I followed the instructions as written, albeit with a lot of complaining about the formatting of the instructions. The instructions are incredibly comprehensive (which is good), but I found it frustrating that there are multiple steps per point. This led to the requirement to re-read each section multiple times, meaning it took longer and required more brain power than necessary, to make sure that I didn't miss anything accidentally. I would prefer it if the instructions were broken down into a step per point.

Incidentally, I have the same issue with the recipes in the Jamie Oliver cook books that I have, where I have actually missed a step in the middle of a big paragraph before, leading to a ruined dinner. If I were to make these again, or any other patterns with similar style instructions (I don't know if the other Closet Case Files patterns are the same), I would do what I now often do with Jamie's recipes and re-write out the instructions breaking down the paragraphs into their individual steps.

Pattern: Bombshell Swimsuit by Closet Case Files
Fabric: Swimsuit Lycra from Rathdowne Remnants
Notions: Swimsuit Lining fabric, clear elastic, thread

See also: The Hand Stitched Files, Sewaholic, Sallieoh

Have you made bathers (or whatever you would call them)? Can you explain the weirdness behind getting photos of them??
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