Thursday, November 20, 2014

Grey Pleated Dress

The dress I'm sharing today is Butterick 5559. I've had this pattern in my stash for a while, I think I bought it at one of the Clegs pattern sales. While preparing to make my frocktails dress, after making the muslin and before buying the fabric I had some spare time so cut this dress out. By the time I'd sewn the pleats on one of the pieces I had my frocktails fabric so this got put aside for a little while before I finished it.

The pattern is really clever; there are darts on the bodice front and skirt back, hidden beneath some of the pleats. The pleat almost at my waistline is also actually a seam, so you cut the bodice and skirt out as separate pieces.

I tried the dress on without sleeves, but decided to add sleeves, which I left the just above elbow length in the pattern

I found the pleats quite simple and relaxing to do. I just took my time with marking them and sewing them. I probably should have stitched them with grey thread rather than black though. I managed to match up some of them on the side seams, but some of them just didn't match; I don't know if that was a sewing, cutting or drafting error, but the distance that some of them didn't match by seems bizarre, and a little frustrating.

I used the neck facing that came with the pattern, and top stitched it down around the neckline to stop it flipping. I also took the pattern in a bit along the side seams (including up into the sleeve) as I'd bought the larger set of sizes (because past-Rachel naively trusted the size chart on the envelope). This could possibly have contributed to the issues with matching the pleats, but I don't think explains all of it.

The fabric is a double knit that I picked up from the GJs remnants table. Unfortunately the fabric snags ridiculously easily; the first time I wore the dress I managed to snag the front of the skirt on a bag (visible in the above photos), and have since snagged more and more of it, including along the back just from wearing a backpack with the dress. I had some more of the fabric left but I think it will be relegated to muslins.

So overall, the pattern worked out quite well and I've since bought some more fabric to possibly make another version. I'll probably keep wearing it a bit longer even though it's snagged too, because it's really comfy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holiday - Fabric Purchases and Happy Snaps

I've recently been on a 2 week holiday to North America. We had an amazing time, visiting Toronto, Montreal, Seattle and Vancouver. I thought today I'd share a few of the pictures that I took while we were away, but first, the likely reason that you're here... the fabric I bought...

I got this stack of fabric from DressSew in Vancouver. Visiting this store was a perfect example of how fabric stores breaks the space-time-continuum; somehow many hours elapsed between when we entered the store and when we left.

Physics-breaking glitches aside, despite a questionable first impression when I walked into the store due to all the fancy dress costumes the selection of fabrics was impressive. I was particularly taken by the wool suiting selection, which was far cheaper than anything I would get in Melbourne. Unsurprisingly, the majority of what I bought was wool fabric. The original pile was quite a bit bigger than this, but I knew we had limited suitcase space.

I've sketched up some of my ideas for this fabric in my fashionary, shown here...

Left: Some slightly textured khaki fabric, which will become either another Ralph, or a Moss skirt.
Right: Some dark green ponte to make another B5559 (first version to be blogged soon).

Left: Green wool suiting, which I would like to make a blazer from
Right: Aubergine wool suiting, which I'm contemplating making a biker-style jacket from

Left: Some lovely lightweight striped jersey, which I will probably try making a Plantain t-shirt from.
Right: Some Animal print flanelette, which will become some PJ bottoms for the boy.

Left: some cross-hatch suiting, which will probably become a dress, I'm not sure what style exactly.
Right: Some grey wool suiting, which will likely also become a dress of some variety.

In addition to fabric shopping, I also got to meet up with some awesome North American Sewists.

Firstly, the lovely Gillian organised a meet-up in Toronto:

I then met up with the lovely gMarie in Seattle, but have realised that I forgot to get pics :(

And then while I was staying in Vancouver I was super excited to make a trip to SewaholicHQ:
While visiting Tasia I was lucky enough for her to show me some sneak peeks of her upcoming designs, and let me tell you I am SO EXCITED to see them released, there are some fantastic patterns coming up!

Sadly for you, the only sneaky photo I took while there was this one of the view out of Tasia's office window.

And lastly, as promised, here are some general holiday snaps:


Niagara Falls:




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Upcoming knitting projects and a request for advice

Having finished my Myrna, and with a holiday coming up pretty quickly (knitting on the plane FTW!), last weekend I pored over Ravelry trying to choose my next knitting project. I eventually managed to narrow it down to 6 options. So on Sunday I dragged the boy to Morris and Sons to look at my yarn options, make a decision and buy the yarn.

After much indecision, I ended up buying yarn for two sweaters and a beanie. I blame the boy for ending up with yarn for two sweaters; he encouraged me to get them both if I really liked them, rather than going through all this indecision again next time. As seems to be my new usual, all the yarn is merino.

"Scarlet Twist" Corazon Sweater
This Morris and Sons Empire 8ply yarn in "Scarlet Twist" will be made into the Corazon pattern, a lovely simple lace detail raglan sweater I've had my eye on for a while. Previously I've been concerned that I won't wear sweaters with a high neckline like this one, but after making the Aiken and seeing how much I wear that I don't have that concern as much any more.

Some more Morris and Sons Empire 8ply yarn, will become a Lysa Sweater, with "Seascape Twist" for the main colour, and "Biscuit" for the contrast. This pattern has also been in my favourites for a while, but I was a little cautious about the colurwork as I've never done it before. However, my knitting confidence is slowly growing so that doesn't scare me too much anymore, the only potential limitation was choosing a nice colour combination. 

As soon as I saw the grey(ish) colour that's for the main body of the sweater I loved it; it's made of a twist of pale blue and beige threads, so it's a really interesting colour up close. We spent quite a while choosing the contrast colour, there were many different possibilities. I didn't want anything too strong a contrast on the pale solid as I was worried how that would look, giving an illusion of footballers shoulders or something. I also wanted to keep the sweater neutral. There was a lovely olive green yarn that looked great with the grey, but I'd told myself that I wasn't going to make another blue or green knit. In the end we settled with the 'biscuit' colour as it complements the beige colour in the grey twist, and hopefully will stand out just the right amount.

Lastly, this Manos Maxmia in Royal will become a Aesderina beanie. I'm inspired by Tasia's versions of this pattern to give it a go, and will hopefully knit it up before, or on the way to, my upcoming trip to Canada, so that my softy Aussie-aclimatised head will be kept warm while we're there.

Since buying the yarn on the weekend I've knit a couple of gauge swatches; stockinette for the lysa and the lace for the corazon. The lace for the corazon seems spot on for the pattern. However the stockinette isn't quite right for the Lysa. It has the right number of stitches (19) but the rows aren't quite right - I have 28 stitches over 4" but the pattern calls for 26.

And here comes my request for advice...

Knitting experts; is this different enough to worry about adding extra rows to the pattern or will I be ok? I'm mostly concerned about the circular yoke and raglan section of the sweater, as I'll work out exactly how long I want the body and sleeves of the sweater to be and check the numbers of rows.

I've checked the pattern, and there are about 51 rows in the shoulder section before I split for the sleeves. In the correct gauge this would be 7.85", and in my gauge it's 7.28". I'm currently thinking of just following the pattern as written, knowing that it'll be a little shorter, but figuring that I have fairly small shoulders for my bust size and therefore it'll hopefully be ok being a tad smaller. Does this seem reasonable?

I've not made anything in this kind of style before (circular yoke), so I have no idea how to measure myself to work out the sizing for the shoulder area ... any tips or useful links for this?

Similarly, does anybody know of any good books about sizing (or design) of knitted garments? I've got a couple of knitting books but they're fairly basic and not helpful in this case.

But, to end with something a exciting rather than a problem, I had a little practice with the colourwork design with some scrap yarn and it's worked out really well, hooray!

Thanks for any advice!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Royal Blue Myrna

Today I am sharing my latest finished knitting project. The yarn is Morris & Sons Empire Merino in 10 ply in "Imperial". I originally bought the yarn to make another Miette as my first two have been such successes, but instead of the cotton I'd used previously, I wanted to try using some wool.

I say intended because when I checked my gauge with the merino it was waaaay off for the required gauge for the miette; while the stitches were right, the rows were out by a LOT. So, rather than risk ruining the cardigan, or try and work out how to alter the raglan sleeves of the miette pattern to work with the number of rows I have, I decided to use a different pattern; the Myrna.

Another beautiful pattern from Andi Sutterland, the myrna is knit in one piece, top down, with set in short row sleeves. I'm a really big fan of this method of construction, as the one time I've tried seaming I really didn't like it. And, since I've actually learnt how to pick up stitches properly (I found this video really helpful), and also used the tips in this post.

I really like the simplicity of the pattern. The row of holes around the edge gives the cardigan some interest but it is still a nice 'basic'.

I knit the small, which is probably a little too small across the bust, but the next size up would have been too big. If anybody has any tips on how or where I'd add some extra stitches into the front to give a tad more ease I'd be very grateful.

I omitted the keyhole in the upper back and also added a couple extra repeats to the length.

Wearing it with a dress it's a good length, but wearing it with a skirt this week it was that tiny bit too short, and I think for wearing with skirts I would prefer it about as long as the ribbing again.

How do you decide on your ideal length?
Do you think this cardigan would be too long with dresses like this if it were longer?
Do you have skirt cardigans and dress cardigans?


The last change I made to the pattern was the sleeves. I wanted long sleeves on this cardigan, so I substituted in the sleeves from the Aiken pattern, which Andi assured me on Twitter would work out fine and it thankfully did. To make the sleeves the right length I just kept going, at the same rate of decreases until they were the length I wanted.

I was really pleased when I'd finished the sleeves, until I realised that I had forgotten to add the row of holes before the ribbing... I asked my instagram followers if they thought I should fix it and it was a unanimous YES, so I begrudgingly unravelled the ribbing and added the holes into the sleeves.

And lastly, the buttons. Oh the buttons. They really are so beautiful. The buttons are glass buttons from Buttonmania, that I was informed are from the 1940s. They have a lovely flower pattern in them with a foil back which makes them really shine.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Blog Hop...

The lovely Jen from The Stitcher and Gatherer has nominated me for the blog hop that's doing the rounds at the moment... I'm a little delayed in posting my answers, so hopefully she'll forgive me!

If you haven't visited Jen's blog, you really should. I only discovered Jen and her blog at Frocktails, but had the pleasure of sitting with her for dinner and have pronounced her one of my new friends.

Anyway, onto the questions...

Why do you write? 

There are three main reasons that I write:

  1. To share my sewing adventures with my Gran
  2. To document my sewing progress so that I can come back to remind myself of stuff later, basically a creative diary/journal.
  3. To be able to participate in the amazing online sewing community. Definitely one of the nicer parts of the internet, and in combination with other mediums such as twitter and instagram it's allowed me to connect with others from all over the globe that have this shared interest in sewing.

What are you working on?

I've had a few things on the go lately that I'm slowly working away at when the mood strikes. A quilting project, a knitted project (that I finished yesterday, woo!) and a dress (in progress pic shared on instagram shown below because I couldn't bear a whole post with no pictures).


How does it differ from others of it’s genre? 

I don't know, and you know what? I don't care. Sorry, couldn't come up with a more elegant answer to this question!

How does your writing process work?

Process is a bit of a grand word to use for how I write blog posts... Usually I get the pictures I want to show together first, then start writing down my thoughts, and slot the pictures in where they seem to best fit, As mentioned in answer to the first question, my blog is basically my creative diary/journal so I just write what comes to mind.

So there you go, my quick answers to the four blog hop questions. I would like to nominate Sarah of SewSquirrel and Oanh of Unique Schmuck; I'm looking forward to hearing your answers ladies!

PS: Social Sewing dates for 2015 (aargh! scary!) have been booked, and are all listed on the social sewing page.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Frocktails Dress - The Sydney Edition

After the roaring success of Frocktails in Melbourne last year, this year we went interstate, and the lovely Kat organised for us to repeat the experience in Sydney.

The dress that I made for and wore to the Sydney Frocktails has been stewing in my mind for about a year now. I tried on the below dress in the Rachel Gilbert Store and sadly (but not surprisingly) I didn't fit. Ever since then I have been planing to use this inspiration to make a similarly fabulous dress...

Obviously the design itself is fairly simple; a shift dress with a centre front and centre back seam, with the left and right halves made from different fabrics; ruched chiffon for one half and sequins for the other.

The design is about where it's simplicity stops... anyone that follows me on instagram will know that the construction process was incredibly time consuming... (and apparently I'm a glutton for hand-sewing punishment when it comes to frocktails dresses)

I used my basic block pattern that I'd converted into a dress for my 2 metre challenge dress, but altered the neckline to suit.

Both halves of the dress are underlined in a drill fabric, with the chiffon hand ruched and stitched onto the underlining fabric (which I had stitched the darts into first). This was a very time consuming process, I definitely lost count of how long it took, but it was surprisingly relaxing to do.

After some trial and error of the best way to go about it, I decided that the best way was pins, pins, pins and more pins. I found it was quicker and more accurate to spend the time pinning each little tuck and then going through doing the stitches once it was all pinned. I also found it useful to pin the underlining flat onto my ironing board to hold everything flat and still while I was pinning.

Progress was slow and steady but I felt very accomplished once I'd finished the two pieces. I didn't cut the chiffon out until after I had ruched it on, at which point I cut out a rough seam allowance around the edge of the piece.

Overall with the construction I used a lot of techniques I learnt from the Couture dress craftsy course, like basting my stitching lines and basting the seams before stitching them properly. Unpicking my lines of basting was tricky though, apparently my stitching lines were extremely accurate and went almost exactly over nearly all of my basting.

For the sequined half and joining the two halves together I was glad to have hand basted the seams first, as it stopped any slippage. Sewing the sequins wasn't too bad, again I adopted the ethos of slow and steady. I did break one needle, and when cutting the sequined fabric made sure to wear glasses to protect my eyes (tip from Mel from her experience sewing sequins).

As is seems to be my ilk these days, and certainly fitting for a dress with so much hand sewing, I hand picked the zip into the centre back seam. And as shown in the picture above, it's barely visible. Definitely the best zip insertion method to choose for a dress like this, as the only other kind that wouldn't leave top stitching would be an invisible zip, which I'd be concerned about the ruching and sequins getting caught in the zip (and also the zip breaking, because, y'know, invisible zips suck)

Once the dress was in one piece, it was a massive mess on the inside (big seam allowances, lines of hand stiching, all sorts. So first I finished the arm and neck holes by hand basting the seam allowances down, then I hand basted all the rest of the seam allowances down to make it all sit nice and flat inside the dress.


Lastly, I added a lining. The lining served two very important purposes; firstly to make the dress look pretty and neat on the inside, and secondly because the sequins are horrifically scratchy, so covering up the sequins in the seam allowances was definitely essential.

I hand stitched the lining into the dress (are you seeing a theme here?). I pressed back the seam allowances, and did tiny careful stitches right at the edge of the fabric on the arm and neck holes, making sure that the lining was just on the inside of the dress so wouldn't be visible when wearing.


Along the zip opening I again pressed back the seam allowances and did little prick stitches about 5mm away from the edge along the zip. I did this rather than stitches at the edge of the lining to hold the lining flat and away from the zip to reduce the chances of it getting caught in the zip when opening or closing the dress.


The last step was the hem, which I bagged to allow for movement when wearing the dress and reduce strain on the lining.

The lining transformed the dress from incredibly uncomfortable to a dress that was a pleasure to wear. As I told the girls on the night, the combination of the lining and comfortable amount of ease in this dress means that if I wriggle while wearing it, it's like the dress is stroking me. So comfy!


And so ends a long description, of an even longer process, and now I'll be on the hunt for more opportunities to wear this dress...

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