Thursday, 14 November 2019

Melbourne Frocktails 2019 - The String Edition

Melbourne Frocktails. That annual event where clever people from all walks of life outfit themselves in something they've made themselves and then turn up for cocktails, canapes and chat.

It always seems the perfect excuse to go all out and try something a bit different. And so I did....

With my "experience" of a couple of baskets, one hat and one scarf, I decided I could crochet a dress.

I never would have though to do that, except that I found a giant cone of Italian viscose tubular knit yarn for sale on String Harvest's Instagram outlet site. It seemed too good to pass up and once it arrived it was obviously way more than I'd ever need for a string market bag*

* although I have made one out of the leftovers - yet to be photographed

I found a free pattern online called Grace in Lace by Drops Design, which is the pattern arm of Garn Studio who sell yarn. I swatched my yarn and from memory I went down a half a hook size and it was pretty close to correct. I made a size smaller than I measured as I think the swatch was still fractionally bigger than intended.

If I'm sounding vague it's because I made the dress during winter. I would often find myself sitting up watching the European cycling on the TV late into the night anyway, and it was easy to be doing something with my hands. How long did it take? Certainly all of the Tour de France, and possibly most of the Vuelta a Espana as well.

I followed the pattern dutifully until I was below the part where the sleeves would later attach. Then I made my own increases and decreases, trying it on every few rounds. I wanted it to be tighter and more sheath fitted than the original pattern which is almost A line.

I also added more length in the mid body section so that my waist line detail was actually at my waist (it's quite high on the pattern) - I later discovered the downside of this was that I couldn't wear hold-'em-in nanna pants underneath as they'd show through. Rightly or wrongly I also decided to forego a bra. With not much underneath and Melbourne plunging us back into cold weather I was grateful for the venue having heating and awnings to keep the wind out!

Not owing a nude coloured shoe I decided that if my dress was $35 worth of string, my shoes could be a treat. I found these Charlotte Olympia shoes at the Luisa outlet and they are something else. I've nicknamed them my measles shoes as they're covered in spots and the heels are sharp enough to vaccinate someone.

And then, when I was visiting one of our event Sponsors, Torb & Reiner, I found this equally pockmarked piece of leather and decided I had to have it to make an Ida clutch (free pattern from Kylie and the Machine)

Back when Kylie was finishing up with selling kits to go with the clutch pattern I cleaned up on a sale of the hardware. Happily, I had the tan zipper, the D ring and clip and the tassel maker thingy all in my stash.

To complete the theme of everything beige to go with my green dress, I even found some little stone earrings at a shop in the city on the Saturday afternoon just hours before Frocktails.

So, you could be mistaken for thinking the only sewing I did for Frocktails this year was a small, leather purse....

Did you see the shirt that our photographer (my friend JB) was wearing in the first picture? Well I made three of those!

Lisa (my co-organiser and preserver of sanity) and I decided that we needed assistants for the door this year. Someone to help with checking in tickets and drawing prizes and then handing out the stash bags at the end. Lisa was suggesting some discounted tickets to people who wanted to come, but I thought we needed totally disinterested parties who did not want to be there! that way they wouldn't get distracted by old friends, pretty dresses or sewing chat. they'd just do their job... Who better than husbands! Meet our doormen for Frocktails 2019!

We convinced out own fellas and one other mutual friend (who's partner was going to be attending anyway) to be our doormen. Lisa's man prefers a fitted T-shirt (for obvious reasons!) to a shirt, so she made his top. I sewed three shirts: two for the doormen and one for the photographer.

We had the fabric printed by Next State Print, also one of our sponsors, and it's a cute little detail of our logo on a grey background. I used the Liesl & Co All Day Shirt and made Flipper (left of pic) his usual size L and the other two a size M.

It was quite a job keeping all three piles of shirt bits separate so that I didn't sew a L collar into a M neckline. I work on a square dining table. One place was my machine and the other three seats were for each shirt. I would work around the table doing the same step to each shirt before moving on. By the time I came to sew all 36 buttonholes and buttons my machine finally blew a fuse and died and the last 5 buttons were sewn on by hand!

I bought some extra Kylie and the Machine labels to sew into the guy's shirts!

While I was waiting for the fabric to be printed, and so that I wouldn't start second guessing the crochet dress, I also made Flipper a pair of trousers. They're a mystery wool blend from a local Vietnamese fabric shop.

The pattern is the same Jutland pants I'd previously made in a drill and this time I thought I'd line them. Something went disastrously wrong and they were way too small. He literally wore the drill ones to work and then came home and couldn't squeeze into these. I've no idea.

Anyway I took the lining out and then used every bit of seam allowance left to make them bigger. I also ended up stitching the front pockets closed as they were tending to gape. I'm less enamoured of the pattern as the instructions for lining and the zipper fly was disappointing. It would have you baste the lining to the trousers and then construct the fly - but that means all that ugly fly flap construction ends up visible. I pulled out the Liesl & Co Hollywood Trousers for the perfect lining/fly instructions (but then had to pull all the lining out anyway)

I also feel that the pockets need some kind of pocket stay that anchors them to the midline fly section so there's no tension on the pocket opening. Either that, or I needed about three sizes bigger! :)

All that said, how gorgeous do these guys look!

I think they had fun, and having them there made the evening so much easier for Lisa and I. Although, with 150 guests I still don't feel like I managed to chat to even a tiny portion of the crowd, and those I did chat to I was so busy talking I failed to notice their outfits. I'm only now catching up through all the pictures I'm seeing on the #melbournefrocktails Instagram page. Thank heavens for our photographer!

And then the guests arrived! There are so many wonderful photos, but similar to last year there were lots of lovely blue/greens, so we all piled in for a picture. The backdrop at the Hophaus bar was just too good!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Secret Valentine Exchange Part IX - Falling Leaves Necklace

Gosh, I've got so much to share and I'm moving like a cartoon animal whose limbs are a blur...

But here I am, pausing for a second, to update the blog, as I'm delighted to announce that my October instalment in the year of giving (in lieu of the regular February Secret Valentine Exchange) has been received.

When I first put out the call for what to do with my rest time on our annual January holiday, I was delighted with one of the responses: Make me a macramé necklace thingy, said Deb (or words to that effect)

I've been following Deb on social media for many years now. She's a sewist and knitter of extraordinary talent, but I was also captivated by her photography. She would sew the loveliest clothes for her grandkids and pose them on a mannequin, in the snow, in her garden, and a deer would stroll past and be in the frame.

She's moved to a bigger city now so the photos of tapping maple trees are gone, but the recent snap with the Northern Hemisphere* leader we all want, Trudeau, was equally breathtaking.

* qualifier required, as down here in the south we all wish Jacinda Arden was our head honcho

Deb also throws the best looking dinner parties and goes to exatrordinary lengths to get the table, and the attendees, all turned out nicely!

I knew that even if my necklace turned out more costume-y than elegant, and it is string and rock after all, she could make it work for a fall themed dinner party.

So in the heat of the Australian summer I started knotting...

The stone cabochard and 1mm nylon threads came from a bead shop: Wholesale Beads. It is open to the public and you check you handbag in a locker, take a bucket and then wander over two levels finding all the things you need. Good fun for a craft nut!

Following a pattern from the book Bohemian Macrame, I spent our summer holiday knotting away and over the following week I finished all the leaves. Then I let it rest through Autumn

Attaching and knotting each leaf together took a little longer than I'd anticipated, but was a nice 1hr per night in front of the telly, kind of activity.

The back looks a hot mess as all the ends of the threads are cut and melted (the reason it needs to be a nylon thread)

I was delighted to hear it arrived in Canada, and Deb, who rarely shows herself on Instagram posted a lovely photo of her wearing it.

I'm having a lot of fun making things for people and sneaking them off in the post. Only three months left before my 12 months is up. Have you made something unexpectedly for someone? It's quite fun.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

A Lush Fabrics T-shirt: McCalls 6963

Sometimes a sewing project has to jump the queue.

This was definitely one of those. Did you know I'm one of the co-organisers of Melbourne Frocktails? It's a cocktail party for people who sew. It all started here in Melbourne about 6 years ago and a friend and I took over the running of the event with last year being our first one.

This year we found some new sponsors, or rather some of the new sponsors found us! An unexpected contact from Lush Fabrics over in WA led to them joining Melbourne Frocktails as a major sponsor and donating a cut of fabric for every attendee to take home in their stash bags. Um, hello, seriously, all 150 of us get 1m of fabric!!They were even kind enough to throw in two spare cuts in case we organisers would otherwise miss out.

The crappy rental we're living in has a particularly LUSH lawn right now (let's see if we can keep that alive through summer, eye roll) so I thought I should take my Lush photos on the grass.

The fabric I chose is a drapey rayon knit. It was very hard to choose as there were cotton knits, solids, prints, French terry, textured knits... All sorts of gorgeous fabrics in those five huge boxes.

Anyway, I figured a drapey knit would suit McCalls 6963 which was in my pattern stash and as yet unmade.

I've made the View B which is the deeper neck drape and short sleeve. I was leery of the pattern's description as "close fitting" as nothing ever seems to be, so I went down a size. Well it is quite close fitting and either this size or the one above would have been fine. But there's nothing worse than too wide shoulders on a top pattern with such an open neckline.

I hadn't paid much attention to the length of the body, and it's long! Of course because I was using the border print, I wasn't about to shorten it, but be aware that it's a good, tunic length and I'm 170/6'7".

Searching for somewhere other than on my back on the lawn to take some pictures we wandered around, found some washing on the line and then gave up. But there you go. It's a T-shirt, the main point is it was free fabric and there's enough for everyone!

Exciting times. Frocktails is only two weeks away and I have a truckload of sewing to do! Bye.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Henri Joggers - Playing with the boys

I was fully prepared to photograph these plain, grey trackpants on a coat hanger...

But I was told there's only ONE way to model grey trackpants. So, stick a Kenny Loggins B side on the turntable and let's do this! I promise, this was entirely HIS idea!!

This wasn't meant to be some kind of weird homoerotic TopGun tribute... He just needed some tracksuit pants for lounging around the house and so I obliged.

The pattern is the Henri Trackpants from Jalie. Straight size as per measurements and no mods. The first pair were in a lovely dark, blue grey, heavy rib knit from Fabric Deluxe.

The fabric was a bit narrower than a regular knit so there wasn't enough for the pockets. I used a lighter weight cotton knit and then some more of that for the drawstring. In attaching the waistband the 2" wide elastic got stretched out. Probably because I'd tried serging the edge of it to make it look nicer. The waistband is wrapped around the elastic but doesn't enclose it fully. That's great to stop it twisting, but hard to get a really neat finish. I like the wide elastic but I'm not entirely sold on this as a waistband finish.

These ones were being worn so much there was a risk they'd never come off for the wash, so I grabbed some cheap sweater fleece on sale at Spotlight and made a second pair. I obviously wasn't all that bothered by the waistband finish to change anything. These are also straight up.

What's not straight up are the muddled character references in our volleyball shoot :)

Who was in a hurry for his date with "Charlie"? Well that was Maverick checking his watch, sure, but he wasn't wearing grey trackpants...

He was in jeans.

And the only one who wore a T-shirt was Goose and when you play at Top Gun it's a truth that nobody wants to be Goose...  (the kids and I did offer to fake tan him and spray him in oil to be shiny sweat, rofl)

Also vetoed was giving his hair the Iceman peroxide treatment.... So Slider it is - and in fact he's the only one who actually wears grey trackpants. But let's not let reality stand in the way of a man's trackpants modelling dreams!!

The drawcord on these ones is some of the recycled denim cotton cording that I bought from String Harvest without nay particular project in mind. It's perfect for drawstrings but I want to give the rest of it a much more exciting purpose than that.

The kids had a blast at the end of our photoshoot going for the accidental ball-to-head outtake. It took a lot of goes to get it just right, hitting the wrong part of the head wasn't good enough for the kids, and I was laughing too much to actually get the photo in time.

Anyway, grey tracksuit pants. There you go. Much love to Flipper who fully earned these two pair of trackpants!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019


Finally we've finished our house move and have a computer plugged in and internet access. Time to catch up on everything I was sewing when I was meant to be sorting belongings and packing boxes!

There's no better distraction from real, grown up, life chores than a bit of costume sewing.

At the end of the gymnastics term they always have a dress up theme (previous wild animal and circus themes) and this time it was superhero theme.

What better way to show off my superhero mum skills than to disregard all the tedious jobs and whip up a leotard entirely from stash fabrics and patterns?!

I had been gifted some leftover bits of lycra from the lovely Jorth and whaddaya know, it was all the supergirl colours. Along with my small bit of leftover gold I was set.

The pattern is a mash up of the top half of Jalie 3136 and the bottom half of Jalie 3466. I doubled the skirt so it would have both a front and back portion rather than just being a skort.

The navy fabric was only just enough for the sleeve length to be elbow length, but then I had the inspiration to continue the gold and red blocking and I think it turned out better than plain navy long sleeves would have been.

The leotard was cut and sewn in a day and then I tried plugging in the Silhouette Cameo that I still have on loan. Something was going wrong with the software and the recognition of the connection. The resident IT guy (Flipper) remembered it had been an ordeal the first time and couldn't recall what he'd eventually done. By the time we'd both given up I had handcut a stencilled superhero logo and was ready to iron it on.

Luckily, amongst the few A4 sheets of Picture Perfect Iron on Vinyl I had were yellow and red. Super stashing powers right there, right?!

There's no doubt I impressed the kid. She was delighted! There's a bit of leg creep in the shorts and I think elastic leg holes might be more successful than hemmed boy leg shorts. I noticed her tweaking them all the time which kind of ruined the supergirl vibe. I mean Superman never seemed to get a wedgie, did he?

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Ottobre boy jeans

The reason I ended up with a couple of Finnish and German back issues of Ottobre magazine was that I'd been on the hunt for a new boy jeans pattern.

My previous favourite, which I still love, was Burda 9406. I made a few of those for P (here and here), and then topped out last year with the final size 10.  And they're now outgrown...

I often read of the difficulty of sewing for opinionated tweenage girls, but how about lovely tweenage boys who will happily wear almost anything but are overlooked by pattern designers? 

So many kid patterns top out at about size 12, or less, and most grown up patterns won't do until at least 16 or so. There's a little gap there for the boys, and Ottobre seems to be one of the only companies that's filling it. 

These are pattern 36: Straight Cut Jeans from Ottobre 1/2016. I'd purchased this magazine and the other I used for A's tops because they both had a boy's jeans pattern, going all the way up to size 170cm. This one for rigid denim, and the other one for stretch denim.

And I just happened to have some great black rigid denim in the stash. It came from Rathdowne Fabrics ages ago as water damaged stock, but after a wash it looks perfect to me.

There are some cool topstitching details like the extra pocket yoke, and the knee darts which are actually shaping darts not just decorative stitching.

The back pocket pieces are chopped apart, seam allowances added and then stitched back together to cool effect.

You've got to love topstitching to make jeans and I always do. At least up until attaching the belt loops and then it all gets a bit sweary. Using a shim helps a lot but it's still a pain.

That, and hammering in jeans buttons. I hate that job so much that I have now tracked down a die set adapter for my older style snap press and a set of jeans buttons dies. Next time it's going to be a breeze!

I've made a straight size 150 as per his measurements and they look like they should fit for a little while, yet there's no elastic and they're not falling down. Moving away from elastic in the waistband of your pants seems to be the young male rite of passage as far as home sewing goes!

Having said that, his favourite pants to wear, that he reaches for every time, are the elastic waisted Oliver + S Field Trip cargoes. And thankfully I've still got a size or two left in that pattern.

Anyone else sewing for a tweenage boy? Any favourite patterns out there?

Monday, 9 September 2019

Secret Valentine Exchange Part VIII - Raffia hat

It's time for the September instalment in my year of the Secret Valentine Exchange.

In case you're not familiar with the original concept - two wonderful women organised a gift exchange between makers all around the globe. A short bio of who you are and what you like was submitted and a giftee would be assigned to you and someone else would receive your name and become your gifter. We made our small handmade things, whatever they may be, and posted them around the world in order for our giftee to receive it on Valentine's Day. A kind of insurance against feeling left out on that most crass, commercial day of celebrations.

With the illness of one of the organisers, the Secret Valentine Exchange is in hiatus this year and so I put out a call for ideas of things to make during my January vacation - when I'm usually crafting my gift to post at the start of February. The list was so long and there were so many fun ideas I decided to run with it all year. So here we are in September with the 8th instalment in my year of the S.V.E.

I'm particularly fond of this month's creation for the way it came to be.... The recipient @rou2an1_made politely put in a request for a straw hat like the one I'd made P way back when he was a gondolier for Italian Day.

I'm not going to pretend I wasn't flattered, but I quickly doused her flames by saying that had been far too much work, and I wanted to stick with using materials I already had.... In short, I told her she'd overstepped the mark :) But the idea stuck.

And then I was enjoying learning to crochet... And then Flipper came home with a ball of paper raffia that someone had given him to pass on to me.... This could just happen...

Except that I didn't have much of that paper raffia, and so as you can see it became a table mat instead.

I was really wanting to make this hat now, and in August I was off to the Gold Coast for a conference with nothing to do in the evenings. Perfect hat crocheting time. I put in an order with String Harvest for some of the Mondofil paper raffia: a large cone of speckled paper raffia in the cream colour and a smaller cone on the speckled brown, and had them delivered to the apartment I was staying in.

The hat came together over the week with a few late crafting nights and a few conference sessions where it came with me and prevented me from nodding off to sleep during the duller moments :)

The pattern is the Walk In The Park raffia sunhat from ABC knitting patterns (link here). I reduced from the suggested 3.5 hook to a 3 hook in order to get the tension about right. When I'd finished it was quite loose on me, and I consider myself someone on whom hats are usually tight...

I took a trip out to Torb & Reiner (who had assisted me so well with that ambitious straw boater project back in 2014) and purchased some Petersham ribbon and Hat Stiffener.

I sewed the Petersham ribbon such that it would be tight on me, then panicked and thought it was too small, so I ripped it out and made it a bit looser. It's still a tight fit for me but not too tiny. I hoped it would be right for my giftee. I knew nothing about her head size due to her tendency to never show her face on the interwebs and instead hide behind bunches of celery and other produce (#posingwithproduce)

Thankfully it turns out I got it just right!

I used my Hat Stiffener mixed 50:50 with Hat Thinner (very Alice in Wonderland) and painted the crown once and the brim twice to get a good amount of stiffness to the raffia. - and the table mat got a single coat too.

I delivered the hat today and we met for a lunch and had a lovely chat. She has already written a much better tribute to my hat than I could, so check out her Instagram post here.

I might need to make myself one of these hats since I never can find hats that fit me well, and in searching for this hat pattern I found a different super cute one I'd like to size down and make for A.

I'm sadly on a bit of a craft break as we pack up and move house to do some renovations. I have a bit of a blog back log though so while I'm not making I can hopefully catch up here. Or maybe I can leave one hook and a bit of string out of a box... ;)