Tuesday 29 September 2015

Carnival of the Animals: Part III - The Scrub Hen

As chaperone to the cheetah and the zebra it was fast becoming apparent that I was expected to choose an animal for "dressing up" to go to the opening night of The Carnival of the Animals.

The kids pestered me to pick one and, thinking I could just wear a simple, drab brown dress from out of my wardrobe, I nominated a "scrub hen".

That was too vague an answer for P, who wanted to know what exactly a scrub hen was. I wasn't even sure there was such a thing, it just sounded like a nice, plain brown, barely noticeable female bird. Somewhere along the way the answer got changed to Brush Turkey. The turkey part made the kids laugh so we went with that - although a Brush Turkey is actually quite a striking (in a weird turkey way) bird.

For the twitchers out there, what I was imagining was definitely more Mallee Fowl (the fact that you can barely see the birds in those Wiki pictures is perfect!)

OK, so you're probably not reading this blog to learn about Australian native fowl, right? Let's talk about this dress!

Although before we do, here's a close up of my earrings that I made myself with some feather trim and little metal crimps. I'd initially thought I'd make a feather decorated headband or "fascinator" type thing but that seemed like too much bother. These are pure costume jewellery and appropriately cheap and easy.

I had fallen in love with the Vogue Vena Cava dress when I saw Liesl's version. I tracked down a copy of the pattern which is out of print and not too easy to find. I had no immediate intention to make it, but when I saw this variegated brown jersey at GJs fabrics I knew I had my scrub hen dress.

I had correctly bought the larger of the two pattern sizes and I spent a few days looking at the pattern pieces and wondering how on earth I could merge from one size above the waist to a larger size at the hips (my usual required adjustment). They are decidedly odd looking pattern pieces!

Eventually I decided to stick with one size and just use a smaller seam allowance on the skirt part if needed. Then I looked at which size to choose and realised I was about 2-3" larger in all my measurements than the largest size! What?!! oops.

Oh well. I drafted off the largest size and cut it out anyway. It's stretchy fabric, and at $10 metre I was ready to fail if that was how it was to be.

I scared myself further as I spread the fabric out on the carpet where I do most of my cutting, pinned the pattern tracing and then cut. As I cut each piece it "pinged" back to the size it was before I'd carefully spread it and suddenly seemed considerably smaller than the traced pattern piece. It would seem the carpet was too grippy and had allowed the fabric to be stretched and stay stretched until cut.

Understandably I was feeling quite ready to fail with respect to producing a wearable dress. I decided to enjoy the process and learn from the pattern anyway.

I'm kind of habituated to sewing knit garments quickly and using the overlocker. The way these pattern pieces were going to go together that wouldn't be possible. I slowed down, followed the instructions and really enjoyed making the dress. This in progress Instagram photo shows the fun of having no idea how it's going to come together!

I kept the skirt's side seams as per the pattern due to the pocket construction, but I sewed the centre front (pointless with all that gathering) and centre back seams with a narrower seam allowance to give more wiggle room. I've no idea if it made a difference but I was worried if the backside was too tight there might be too much visible undies line.

I'm not the first one to say it, but it would probably be wise to drop the back hem a bit as the skirt has a tendency to lift at the centre back. Especially in contrast to the front that sinks a little with the weight of the long ties.

I also read other sewing blogs where it was noted that the sleeves sit lower than the pattern illustration. I wasn't fussed to change that as I kind of liked the idea of a bit more sleeve coverage. I didn't trouble with the topstitching of the sleeves as it would have been lost in the print, but I'd definitely make this dress again in a solid and do the topstitching as per the pattern.

The verdict? I love it! It's as easy to wear as t-shirt, it looks pretty dressy and it's brown. Perfection! Add in that it was a joy to make and I had no expectations of it working out and I really am quite delighted.

We were at the zoo on Monday morning before the theatre that night and a good friend kindly took some photos of me in my natural habitat, the "scrub".

Here I am using my big turkey feet to tend to my nest! :)

And then, in the evening, the kids and I headed off to the theatre. Our little animal tribe.

We had a great night out, the music was lovely and the acrobats amazing. I like to think we were the best dressed creatures prowling the city streets that night! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Monday 28 September 2015

Carnival of the Animals: Part II - The Cheetah

Mean mum that I am, I vetoed my son's suggestion of a fake fur animal onesie to wear to the theatre tonight. But, for opening night of the Carnival of the Animals he was allowed to choose any animal for his clothes. He chose the cheetah.

 The original plan was for a pair of cheetah jeans. I'd hoped they'd be subtle enough to double for everyday wear. Scouring the interwebs I found endless cheetah print fabrics that were silks or chiffons but nothing that would be hard wearing enough for boys pants.

At The Fabric Store I found a great light grey / dark grey denim and bought some, but he declared it was very obviously jaguar, not cheetah - and then gave me a lecture on the difference. OK, stash the jaguar print and get back to searching for proper cheetah fabric.

I found this cotton sateen at Spotlight and thought if he could wear bold cheetah print then why not cheetah print with a slight sheen!

The pants are the Art Museum Trousers by Oliver + S. I threw in black topstitching everywhere I could to try and make them look more like jeans and less like Hugh Hefner's pyjama pants.

I didn't think to focus on them for a photo, but you can just see on the edge of the picture above that I put little pyramid rivets at the base of the slant pockets.

The welt pockets were initially almost invisible and so I stitched around them to give them some definition. This takes a little bit of thought to prevent yourself accidentally stitching the pocket closed. The stitching needs to be done in two sections: the top horizontal line first with maybe one stitch taken into the vertical line. Tie those threads off, then start again with the pocket lifted upwards and out of the way. Now you can topstitch the sides and the bottom of the welt.

The pattern suggests just one belt loop at the back slightly offset from the centre. There is enough of the belt loop tube to create two, so I always do.

The only other modification was to line the trousers:

It would be possible to sew the lining to the waistband facing, but I didn't think of that. I basted the lining to the trousers before attaching the waistband, then finished the waistband facing with some left over bias binding that was just the right rust colour.

On a city street the pants look pretty loud and out there, but up a tree they almost do look camouflaged!

They're a straight size 7 and this is one pants pattern that definitely does not need length added, they are very generous in the leg length.

Don't ask me about the modelling. He was working it! :)

The top is the Parachute Polo again which I'd made here as part of my practice run for this outfit. Same size, same extra sleeve length.

I thought I'd done a great job turning the collar and rolling it so that the upper collar was slightly over the under collar, but then when I topstitched it it all seemed to want to curl back up. The perfect collar really does need two separate pattern pieces for the under and upper collars but I would hardly be bothered with that for a kid's polo.

Like I said, don't ask, I just don't know! :)

I really like this polo as the placket can be mostly hidden which is a nice point of difference to my own polo experiment. I'm happy to say that both the trousers and the shirt have been worn on their own and are really not that hard to bear when mixed with other everyday clothes.

His mask was from the local party shop and I used fabric glue to cover it. Nice and easy!

Ready for some cheetah action?

I'm a bit of a culture snob when it comes to attending the theatre. It's definitely a nice dress or shirt with a collar type of place. I think my little cheetah is sufficiently well dressed and plenty animal enough!

Of course the cheetah had to chase the zebra a bit, but luckily just for hugs, not to eat her...

And then it all got a bit confusing as the cheetah was still giving the camera Blue Steel while the zebra started roaring too

We're off to the theatre in a few hours and tomorrow I'll share what I wore.... See you then

Sunday 27 September 2015

Carnival of the Animals: Part I - The Zebra

The sewing around here has definitely taken a wild turn with lots of animal print, and here's why: Tomorrow night, the kids and I are going to the Playhouse to see The Carnival of the Animals.

It's opening night and kids are invited to dress up as an animal. So, I let the kids pick which animal they'd like to be, and then set out to make some theatre worthy clothes to represent their chosen animal.

First up is our little zebra ballerina:

The brief for this dress was exactly that; a zebra ballerina dress. It had to be obviously zebra, and as sticky-outey as possible in a dress that isn't actually a tutu. Beyond those requirements she gave me free rein.

The dress is my favourite party dress (one, two, three and four), the Fairy Tale dress by Oliver + S. I'd like to say I could make this dress with my eyes closed now, but I always seem to press the waist seam allowances the wrong way and then attach the zipper before realising my mistake and ripping it out again. The instructions are perfectly clear, I just seem to like making the same mistakes over and over.

Even though it was sewn twice it's still an invisible zipper that I can be happy with. I couldn't possibly try to match the patterns at the back after cutting the fabric to centre the front pattern. But I can't complain about how the bodice part lined up as it looks every bit as good as if I had tried. Freaky sewing luck strikes again!

Initially I searched online for a zebra fabric. There are a few quilting cottons that looked OK, but I was holding out hope for something that had a bigger print rather than tiny repeats of an irregular stripe. I was also hoping for a luxe or shiny looking fabric.

Most local fabric stores I tried were devoid of shiny zebra print fabric until I stumbled on this stuff on Sydney Rd. The selvedge has "100% pure silky italian style" written in a font that's reminiscent of African stick figures. There's nothing silk-like or stylish about it, it is pure ethno-polyester and it is perfect! Since I've made this dress I've seen a zebra print cotton sateen in Spotlight, so maybe the shiny zebra is an upcoming trend.

To get as much "poofiness" in the skirt as possible I chose the cheap, stiff net stuff rather than the nice soft bridal tulle. Then I used three layers of it rather than one as per the pattern.

Gathering that much netting to the skirt was not easy and it took a lot of patience not to snap the bobbin threads. I've heard dental floss is good for gathering this kind of thing and I wish I'd remembered to try it. Once I'd sewn the lining to the dress at the waistband the seam allowances wanted to stick up too much. I ended up sewing the tulle seam allowances down to the lining. Bit like understitching them. Exceedingly fiddly to do but it worked to keep the skirt lying nicely.

The lining is a simple white voile cotton from the same shop. I think I spent a total of $25 on fabric. I overbought on the pure silky stylish zebra fabric so that I'd have enough for the skirt panels. However the fabric was wide enough that I could cut the skirt in one piece and not have to match panels of print. Sadly that means I have quite a bit of zebra fabric leftover. I may have to "lose" it somehow. :)

The dress is mostly view B, but without the giant sash and bow. I would have been happy to have no belt but A requested the little belt and bow like her other Fairy Tale dress. It's a size 5 but with about 3" added to the skirt length to bring it down to knee length and balance out the big print on the skirt.

We were all going to have animal masks to match our outfits (yep, I'm getting in on the animal dress ups too!), but I found trying to glue this fabric to anything was impossible.

Instead, I turned to the wonderful tutorial by Marie-Michelle on the Oliver + S blog and made a Dior Rose to attach to a headband.

Those little rose buds were fun to make. I made it more time consuming than necessary by doing it all by hand, but I caught up with some TV watching while hand sewing.

There was a sneak peek of this dress on the Oliver + S blog as we're having a monochrome sew along. I've got some more black and white things cut out and I'm starting the sewing. But there will be more animals to introduce first....

Be sure to come back soon for Carnival of the Animals: Part II

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Little Elephants and a baby possum

If you're not into cute then look away now. This month the blog is going to go all animalistic, and I'm kicking off with a pair of little elephants followed by a baby ringtail possum.

This is P and his buddy Charlie on the night of their school concert dressed as elephants. They sang a sweet little song about an elephant serenading his girlfriend in the moonlight and then came off stage on such a high. Thanks to Adelle for snapping some photos.

The boys made their elephant ears and bow ties and the requirement was to wear a grey, navy or black tracksuit. P had none of those, and while he could have worn his navy school pants I still would have had to make a top to match.

May as well make a grey elephant tracksuit, right?

I went out to Eliza fabrics and bought some lightweight grey marle sweater fleece. I bought two metres for $10 and quickly realised I'd have enough for two tracksuits. Hence Charlie got one to match.

The top is the altered, up sized, Flashback Skinny T that I did last year for school jumpers. In the stash there was just enough nice Ottobre ribbing for the waistbands, neckbands and sleeve cuffs. From memory it's the size 6 length with size 9/10 width and a little extra height added to the shoulder and corresponding depth added to the sleeve.

The pants are the Oliver + S Nature Walk pants. I went with a straight size 7 but it was obvious that P's were going to be quite a bit too short once they were hemmed. I added a pants cuff of the same fabric to give an extra inch and a half beyond the normal finished garment length. I could have left Charlie's without a cuff as he's shorter than P, but I thought they should match. Equally importantly if I used a cuff on the hems then the whole lot could be sewn on the overlocker and the sewing machine need not come out of the cupboard at all.

I cut about an inch and a half off the bottom of Charlie's pants so that even with the cuff there was no added length beyond the pattern.

The fabric is nice and soft in the way that some cheap, synthetic fabrics can be and the boys have both been using their new tracksuits as winter pyjamas!

Later that week we had someone bring a baby ringatil possum in to work. They had already been told by another vet clinic to put it back in the tree it had been found under and leave it be. They'd done that, but with the possum inside a bag. Unsurprisingly the possum parents failed to untie the bag and rescue their infant and since it was still there the next day they decided to bring it to another clinic.

We check they're healthy and well and then pass them on to a wildlife carer who looks after it until it's big enough to be released and fight for a patch of its own in this possum crowded city.

But it can take days for a carer to become available and since it was the weekend and the clinic was closing I took him home to keep him warm and fed for a few days. The kids didn't mind a bit!

It happened that Monday morning was my rostered turn to "stay and play" at A's kindergarten. I went along for a while, then ducked home to get the possum and brought him back to show the kids. We talked about nocturnal animals, what they do, what they eat and how all they really need is to be put back in the tree away from dogs and cats. Throw in a reading of Possum Magic and the kids were spellbound!

We have a few flowering gum trees in our semi-wild, urban, native garden so our little visitor was well fed over the weekend, even if he did resent having to "sing for his supper".

Friday 4 September 2015

Make It (not quite) Perfect - Skippy Dress

A couple of months ago I made myself another Skippy dress. This time I wanted long sleeves and the cowl neck option to make it a wearable winter dress.

But I didn't end up making the wearable dress I'd hoped for. My mistake was using a thick ponte and not considering the size. I just made the same as my first one, and due to the fabric's lack of stretch it's really a size too small....

If I'd got it right here's what I think I should have done - feel free to chime in if you know about fitting, 'cause I sure don't.

I think the shoulder size is good. I need a little bit more around the bust and upper back. Probably not an FBA, but just a half size bigger below the armscyes. The back strains the same amount as the front, so I get those bra strap lines that I abhor.

The waist is OK most days, although there are always those days when a close fitting garment just can't be tolerated and then this one definitely stays in the closet.

Finally, I definitely need a size bigger in the hips and upper thighs.

The PDF patterns that I've taped together are stored rolled up in tubes and there are quite a few patterns per tube. I discovered that I hadn't traced the long sleeve option and I couldn't be arsed trying to find the pattern and then get it to lay flat, so I reached for my beloved Metro T sleeve.

I created my own long sleeve using the top part of the Skippy dress, tapered to the Metro T width and then used the Metro T length. If there's one thing I got right with this dress it's the sleeve length. I might not have bought this dress if I'd found it in a shop due to the tightness, but I would have been delighted with the sleeve length and I would have wanted the rest of it to fit better.

I kind of wish I'd used the top half of the Metro T sleeve as well as I'm not really liking the fullness of the sleeve cap. It's cute and puffy in the short sleeve version, and looks great in a summer dress. But I think for a winter dress a flatter sleeve cap would have been better.

I'm not quite ready to chop it up and repurpose the fabric yet. If I was to forgo a few muffins and drop a kilo or two I think I could really like it. It can hang in the closet for a while, and maybe come out on those days when I'm feeling hot-mama enough for something tight and clingy. We'll see.

Pattern: Make It Perfect Skippy dress
Size: L
Alterations: Sleeve mash up with the Liesl & Co Metro T
Fabric: Spotlight Ponte
New Boots: I finally accepted that the long, black boots I bought in Venice in 2001 are at the end of their life. These new ones are from the Luisa outlet. I think when you go almost fifteen years between boots it's OK to spend a bit. Right?!

Tuesday 1 September 2015

On Macrame, my muse and The Monochrome Project

A few weekends ago I had the luxury of a Saturday morning learning a new craft. Add in that I did it with superb instruction, with like minded people, in a beautiful building and with tea and cake provided and it was a pretty fabulous experience.

I spent the morning at the Handmaker's Factory headquarters, in the Ink and Spindle studio with macrame tuition from Kate of Scout Gathers. It would have been hard not to have been inspired!

I made this macrame necklace and then dip dyed it. Initially in a China Blue dye and then in increasingly strong denim dye colour to get the ombre effect.

I confess I was surprised by the scale of the necklace. It's seriously chunky. You get no impression of that from a hanging on the wall picture, right? Wait for the link to it being worn....

Even before the workshop I knew that I wasn't likely to wear it, but I knew who could. And not just wear it, but wear it well. I went along to learn macrame with Ute as my muse!

Of course if you have a fangirl style crush on someone's style there's no guarantee they'll like what you've made for them. Or not find the whole unsolicited gift thing a bit weird. I put a sneak peek on Instagram and she took the bait! Private message sent, address given and it winged it's way over to Germany. And here it is being worn, exactly as I'd imagined it, by a beautiful woman in a simple linen dress. Yay!

As a bit of practice I made a necklace for A using kitchen twine and some leftover buttons and beads.

I really enjoyed making the necklaces and I'll happily add macrame to my list of skills I love to learn but have no great desire for the finished object. I just can't imagine my house covered in wall hangings or pot plant holders.

However, I confess to having just bought a book and some cotton cord off Amazon. Watch out anyone having a birthday in the next year or two!

What else is going on?
I'm over on the Oliver + S blog talking about sewing kid's clothes in black and white. The Monochrome Project is a sew along using Oliver + S patterns and no colour whatsoever in your sewing!

I kicked off with a black and white dress, which, even though it lacks any colour is perhaps one of the "loudest" things I've made in a long time. I'll show more of the dress here soon, but for a sneak preview and to see lots of great black and white kid's clothes go take a look at the blog: