Wednesday 25 February 2015

Me vs J. Crew : Knock it off

The idea of the Hide and Seek dress with a button placket was one that was handed up to me on a platter. There had been some discussion on the Oliver + S forum of how one could adapt either the Hide and Seek or the Cinema dress patterns to have a front opening placket. Then Rachel sent me a link to this pin....

I didn't just want to make a dress like that one, I wanted that dress. I mean, navy and white stripes, grey chambray, snaps... It was perfect. So I'm linking up with Elegance and Elephants Knock It Off series with my J. Crew knock off
I'd seen the perfect half inch navy and white stripe knit at the local super cheap Vietnamese fabric shop, but she'd sold out of it about 24 hours before I got there! Still, the J. Crew dress is listed at AUD$99.10. I could have spent that much trying to get the right size stripe posted from the US, or I could spend $8 on 1.2m of the slightly too wide stripe. Done.

The dress is the size 3 Hide and Seek with the length of size 4. Both the yokes and the skirt panels were lengthened to the size 4. It's exactly the same sizing as my first Hide and Seek dress and I knew with the interlock knit it would be plenty roomy enough.

To get the long sleeves I pulled out my School Bus sleeve that was already traced off in a size 4. The Hide and Seek sleeve was much wider and only comes as a short sleeve. I kept the sleeve cap of the Hide and Seek, drew a half way compromise in width and used the length of the School Bus to create my new sleeve pattern piece.

They turned out to be quite a bit too long and I probably lopped about an inch and half off the bottoms before hemming them. I can see now that this dress has a bit of a dropped shoulder compared to the T-shirt and that's probably where the extra length came from.

Since I didn't know if I was going to be at all successful I kept it simple and avoided doing the forward shoulder seam adjustment and curved inner back yoke that would have given me a closer match to the original dress. Yeah, lazy I know. :)

The only other modification was to cut the side panels a little off the grain so that the stripes always remained horizontal. The pattern isn't perfectly suited to stripe matching if you pay heed to the grain lines. But if you take the red wine and caution-to-the-wind approach to stripe matching it works just fine!

So where are we and why so many pictures?

We took a quick trip into the city this morning before kindy to take these photos at the NGV Ian Potter Centre. The foyer has this wonderful installation as part of the Emily Floyd exhibition.

And then the perfect payoff for a well behaved model is the exhibition and kid's installation upstairs....

In one room is a huge pile of white plastic letters. Kind of like a literary sandpit!

Either she's going by an alias or couldn't be bothered finding the right letter!
Then to continue the theme the next room has a Small Press where you can create your own Manifesto with that near-extinct beast, the typewriter

And some quirky stamps... "Solve your personal problems socially"

Finally, when you've had as much as you can take of your mum taking photos, you can go into the members lounge for a biscuit! Awesome!!

We had a delightful morning out together and she's terribly proud that now that she's turned 4 she has to pay for the train ride. Big steps!

This turned out to be a very successful dress modification and one that I can see myself making over and over again. The tutorial for the front placket is over on the Oliver + S blog. My next post for them is also inspired by a trip to the gallery. It's a bit of a nuts idea, here's hoping it turns out cool, not just weird....

Hide and Seek Placket tute

Failing miserably at coming up with a clever blog post title, I present what I think is quite a clever modification of the Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress

Click on the image above to see the tutorial for adding a front placket to the Hide and Seek dress.

I made the navy/white stripe one first and surprised myself that it worked well. I hadn't taken any photos along the way as that would seem to jinx me, but I was so happy with the outcome I immediately made another to be photographed as the tutorial.

Of course that time, I muffed the placket and ended up sewing it left over right instead of right over the left, but thanks to the magic of Lightroom I flipped the images for the Oliver + S post and that can just be our little secret!

Here's A in her back to front placket dress:

I was particular about the fabrics for the first one as I was working to a specific brief. I'm hoping to get some good modelled pictures of that dress and share more of its origins tomorrow.

For this second dress it was a case of whatever fabrics were in the stash that I thought would work together. I had bought this cotton interlock from Spotlight a little while ago with nothing really in mind, the chambray is more of the table cloth (?) that I used here, and the orange is a quilting cotton that happened to match my fish nicely.

Apart from my reversed placket can you spot the other "mistake"? this one I knew about but thought I could get away with...

With only one metre of the fishy interlock I had no choice but to cut the sleeves upside down. I stared long and hard at the fish and finally decided they looked the same either way. What I only noticed as the scissors cut the fabric was that their bubbles should, of course, go up not down. Oops, not so interchangeable after all. It gives the curious effect of looking like the bubbles are coming from the other end of the fish....

So there's my Hide and Seek Fish dress with farty sleeves!
(perhaps that should have been the blog post title)

Sunday 22 February 2015

Camas in Marsala (and a nice GSM)

As soon as I had made my trial run of the Thread Theory Camas blouse I was on the hunt for the right fabric for the next one. I was imagining a kind of metallic, bronze (that would be brown, right! :) ) knit, but couldn't find such a fabric. What I did find was accidently on trend, so here I am in something very close to Pantone's colour of 2015: Marsala

The temptation to do something different with the yokes of the blouse is very strong, and I really like this one with sequins, turning it into evening wear. I wanted one a bit more dressy than my cotton interlock, but I didn't want to limit its usefulness for everyday wear. Obviously, it's a pattern to make over and over again!
The fabric I found is a 4 way stretch matte knit (rayon/lycra?) that almost feels like it could be used for swimwear (with some lining!). It's very comfortable and slinky to wear and nice and cool in the crazy weather we've been having lately.
Feeling a bit awkward, as always, posing for photos I decided the sun must be over the yardarm somewhere and cracked open a Grenache Shiraz Mataro. Perfect as a prop (literally and figuratively!) and I thought it would co-ordinate nicely with my top!

I dropped down one size from my first Camas blouse, so this one is a size 12, and I added 1 inch of length at the waist. The rest is as per the pattern. I like the curve as it kicks out over my hips, but if you're a bit straighter in the torso, or simply don't have a wide arse as I've been proven to have, you may want to shave a bit of width off at the bottom.

OK, let the posing continue...

I interfaced both the outer yokes and the yoke linings, so the shoulder sections are pretty stable. The blouse is slinky but not feeling like it's going to stretch out of shape and slip off my shoulders. That's extra important when you're rocking that plunging neckline! The pattern gives some very detailed finished measurements, so if, unlike me, you know how to interpret them, you could tell whether you'd be happy with how low the front may go.

There are just two points I'd make about the construction: Firstly, you really do have to sew the long, outer curve of the placket to the shirt. It does not seem to want to go that way and it's one of those awkward opposing curve moments in sewing. It would be very easy to do it the wrong way, but then you'll end up with a placket that sticks up at the back a bit like a Mandarin collar. Pay attention.
Secondly, there is a slightly misleading diagram regarding stitching down the placket. The written instruction says to topstitch near the placket/shirt seam, but the diagram appears to show topstitching closer to the placket edge. I did my first one as per the picture and while it looks fine, it is possible to peek under the placket on the inside and see the seam allowances in there.
I'm blaming the slippery fabric, but my placket was not looking all that even in width on this one, and I thought topstitching would only make it look worse. I ended up stitching in the ditch of the placket/shirt seam in order to stitch the placket down. I think that's a nice solution for a more formal version of the Camas.

These buttons seemed just perfect! I did do functioning buttonholes again, but I haven't ever undone any of them. There's no need for operational buttons, so don't let your sewing machines temperament with knit fabrics put you off the pattern.
Edit: I forgot to mention, Morgan has done a great blog post here showing how to use Tear Away Stabiliser to sew buttonholes onto delicate fabrics.

Thanks again to Thread Theory for giving me a copy of the camas blouse to sew.

Thanks also to my parents for their wonderful dining room backdrop, and my brother who stood in as lighting test subject and then took these pictures for me.

The best finish to a blog post involves small photobombers, so here's my brother dealing with photobombers as only he could!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Secret Valentine Exchange - receiving

I'm not usually lost for words....

... but seriously,.....

I'm struggling to express how absolutely delighted, and floored, I am by the Secret Valentine gift that I received in the post yesterday.

My gift was made for me by the uber-cool Monika of Schneidermeistern. As soon as I saw that blog name I knew it was familiar but couldn't immediately think why (embarrassing admission that I was only peripherally aware of just how awesome she is). then I realised: Schneidermeistern is the genius pattern designer behind this fabulous sweater dress and these insanely cool pants that I'd seen show up in Ute's Flickr stream.

So there's my second embarrassing admission: I'm still using Flickr, when, by all reports, it's dead, gone and buried. (as I learned just today :) thanks Janice)

So what's in the package that had me in raptures?...

Just the most awesome little zippered bag!

Not everyone gets excited about grey. But really, I totally do! And I mean, this is the most gorgeous charcoal with pinstripes, the zipper is brown (double love), and hang on, check out that BICYCLE!

Monika took inspiration from my blog logo and stitched a mountain bike for me! I am completely speechless. Not only is the idea brilliant, but she used a brand-new crazy, free motion quilting foot and just went for it, and nailed it! For the record I have one of those things and I find it so completely out of control. I am in awe.

From memory my snippets of personal information were as follows: Favourite colour - brown and grey, can't decide. Favourite fabrics: Neutrals and plain, natural fabrics. Linen, wool etc. Other: I like useful stuff, and "doing" things. I may have mentioned being bicycle mad, I can't recall, but it's pretty obvious once you follow the links to here.

Not very specific or useful on the hobbies was I? But check this out for usefulness:

The lining is a waxed canvas, making this little bag simply THE BEST toiletries travel bag ever. And yep, the lining is a kind of taupe-y beige! I couldn't be happier!!

But wait, what's that in the bottom of the bag?...

A little zippered pouch! Also lined in the same polka dot waxed canvas, and with a little Schneidermeistern tag. Honestly, it couldn't be better. This is exactly the right size for a large phone, some coffee money and ID card and is exactly what every cyclist needs in their jersey pocket - While I know my phone would be perfectly protected by the waxed canvas, I'm just not sure I could bear to get the outsides of it sweaty! It's beautiful.

Of course, the pouch wasn't empty either!...

It contained a little packet of tea and some rock sugar. The kids were suddenly very interested in my gift and were about to relieve me of my sugar lumps, when I opened the card and found the instructions for the perfect cup of East Frisian tea. Apparently three cups is just the right amount and so those sugar lumps are all mine (rack off kids!)

And at that moment Flipper came home and was obviously genuinely impressed. If you have one of those non-committal-craft-disinterested partners you'll agree that their enthusiasm is indeed the highest praise there is.

I can't say enough how grateful I am for the gift and how flattered I am by the thoughtfulness that went into it. It's perfect, and I truly am speechless (did I say that already?). I managed to string together a few words straight away and got myself an Instagram profile (lightningmcstitch) so that I could comment on Monika's photo of the gift. And of course stalk her and all the cool kids that hang there. The Secret Valentine makers won me over. Instagram really is a great way to share photos of what you're creating. Check out all the Secret Valentine makes by searching for #2015sve, or here via that ole workhorse Flickr.

Thanks Schneidermeistern!

Sunday 15 February 2015

Secret Valentine Exchange - Giving

I received word that my Secret Valentine Gift had been received, so I thought I'd share more of it here. I found out it had arrived just in time (having posted it on 29th Jan) via the carrier pigeon of the internet, Flickr. Apparently I really should be on Instagram....

My Secret Valentine partner that I was to sew for is Meagan (Blog, Flickr, Instagram). Just like a real life, awkward blind date we get/give little snippets of personal information. I knew Meagan liked bold colours, especially blue and green, did not like leather, worked for an historic theatre and had a lovely family including two (?) dogs!

The "rules" of the exchange are that you should work with what you have such that the cost of postage is the only real expense, and that it should arrive as close as possible to Valentine's day. I received my partner's information about 5 days before a week long holiday and I knew I'd have to post my gift within a few days of returning home.

And so I chose a project that would be mostly hand sewing while on holiday with a bit of quick assembly back at home. The main fabric is a shot weave blue/red furnishing fabric that I think is probably silk. It has a very dense weave and a crisp, almost paper like quality. Apart from it being the only bold, solid blue (or green) fabric I had, I thought the curtain-ish look was sort of reminiscent of a theatre. Then of course I went through the crisis of confidence when making a gift for someone else, and I consoled myself that if she didn't like it at all, and wouldn't carry it to the theatre, she could donate it as it would probably make a good prop for the wardrobe department. Right-o, worries cast aside I started stitching.

The soluble canvas is one of those absurdly fun things (right up there with iron on vinyl, freezer paper stencils and other sewing "highs" :) ) I'm sure there is a proper way to do cross stitch but I was learning from a Japanese embroidery magazine without speaking a word of Japanese and safe in the knowledge that my bag would be lined and no-one would ever see the back. Let's just say it's not as pretty from behind.

After I'd done the first side and then started on the second, I realised I'd mistakenly left a little bit off the bottom of every flower that faces to the right. There's the imperfection that is the badge of handmade, right?!

Back home I was second guessing myself about the lining I'd originally chosen. This multi-coloured stripe was well out of my comfort zone and I was very close to using a beige/olive mini floral instead. I managed to overrule myself and go with the bold and then threw in a lime green pocket just to ramp it up a notch.

The construction was confusing to say the least. I realise now what I was meant to do to have the handles at the edges of the top band, not set in slightly as mine are. I really need to scribble some notes in English in the margins of the magazine. I also wonder if I somehow misread the measurements for the handle width and top band width. In the magazine's photo it appears to have a wider band at the top and the handles on this bag are oddly wide.

Anyway, Meagan wasn't to know any of that. I hoped she'd like it. In case she was lukewarm, I thought I'd win the dogs over by throwing in a sample pack of Vet's Best rewards. I mailed it off....

There's something really lovely about sewing for someone else. It's very satisfying to create something that you can be proud of and then send it off to be received on the other side of the world. While there's lots of opportunity for nerves, I've no doubt that the creative people who join these gift swaps will always be gracious in receiving. There'll be something to admire; The style, the fabrics, the workmanship, or just the generosity of spirit.

Of course, there's also the opportunity to "meet" new people. I found quite a few new blogs to read and sewers to follow through this exchange last year and I'm sure I will again. I'm going to go stalk all those Instagrammers by using Websta to search for the #2015sve Secret Valentine tag. (I can't wait to show you what I'll be receiving when the post finally arrives)

Thanks to Sanae and Ute for organising the exchange and creating this international whirlpool of creative friendship.

Sunday 8 February 2015

As she wished

When we were at The Fabric Store and rummaging through the remnants I showed a piece of fabric to A and she was instantly smitten. This was to be the birthday dress.

Kid's Clothes Week crept up on me, and while it wasn't on theme with the upcycling idea, I decided to take most of a week to sew a dress...

The pattern, of course, is the Fairy Tale dress by Oliver + S. It really is the perfect special occasion dress. I had envisaged a simple collarless, sleeveless version, but the birthday girl wasn't going to let me off that lightly.

She wanted the curved, Peter Pan collar and the tulip sleeves (view A). Just like her previous Cinderella dress which she had adored. (happily that dress has been handed down as it was getting indecently short and rather tight). Her previous Fairy Tale dresses were size 2. This one is a straight 4. What happened to my 3 year old? It seems I lost a year of sewing there.

I had recently received this beautiful Fairy Tale hand me down dress from the other side of the world and I was very impressed with the piping. I figured if I had to sew the collar and sleeves I needed something to break up all those abstract flowers.

At the back of the neck it was a tight corner to pipe around and I went back and had a look at Melanie's version to assure myself it could be done. The fuchsia satin (which is a better colour match in real life than it looks in these pictures) was relatively thick and perhaps not the best choice for piping, but with lots of snipping I got there and I'm delighted with how it worked.

While the accent fabric was sturdy, the main fabric was as slippery as a wet, buttered fish. I didn't keep the cardstock that the fabric came with but I'm pretty sure it's a silk and it wanted to bend and stretch in every conceivable direction.

I used my new invisible zipper foot, and that, along with the brilliant Oliver + S instructions meant I nailed that zipper first time. And then I nailed it again the second time when I realised I'd pressed the bodice/skirt seam allowances up instead of down and had to unpick a bit and redo it. :)

The cute little bias strip belt and bow is perfect for breaking up the pattern and covering the skirt attachment. Given the satin was thicker than ideal, turning that sucker was not easy!

And because a birthday party dress has to have "poof" I used two layers of tulle. The pattern suggestions the super wide American stuff which is ever so soft, and I think a single layer would be a bit of a non event. For the record, it would be perfectly OK to get the narrower width cheaper stuff because you don't use so much that the extra width matters, and the skirt is lined such that even scratchy tulle wouldn't touch bare legs.

Other than the piping at the collar and sleeves, the only modification I made was to cut the skirt (and lining and tulle) as one big rectangle to avoid any side seams. Saves time too and I think I'd always do this from now on.

It's just gone through the wash to get the pencil marks off and then I'll wrap it and give it to her for her birthday. Modelled photos on a big 4 year old to come soon!