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  1. A Jaunty adventure with Tadah Patterns

    September 16, 2018 by rosie

    The ‘Jaunty’ Dress by Tahdah patterns

    Now that our little Miss is (scarily) hurtling towards being a 4 year old, she is becoming more and more vocal about what she wants to wear. At the moment, it’s all about having big twirly skirts, and tutus. She only has one of each, and they are on high rotation in the washing machine…they are the only things she’ll deign to wear. They often end up being worn to bed, and it’s then a full-on meltdown when I need to get them off her to wash them the next day.

    Unicorns, horses and fairies and are all highly coveted, particularly if they are pink, pink, pink! So when I found this French Terry in Spotlight a few months ago, I knew it would be a hit.

    This was my first time using French Terry – I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it in Spotlight before. It’s nice and fuzzy/fleecy on the inside, so it feels soft and cosy, and while it’s cotton, I think it had a little elastane (maybe 5%) so it was comfy and stretchy too.

    I’m actually not a big unicorn fan, so I can’t say I love this print, but the design on the only other French Terry on offer was really quite weird, so it was the only viable option. The musky pink background combined with the unicorns is quite overly saccharine, but at least it doesn’t have sparkles and glitter all over it. And, in the eyes of my almost-4yo, it’s gorgeous.

    Fairy wings and head garland entirely optional

    This pattern is from an Australian indie company, Tadah patterns, that I’ve only just discovered. Evidently, I’m very late to the party, as I realised when I joined their facebook group (TahDah Pattern Party). Thousands of people have used these patterns, and there are some gorgeous and inspiring versions of the designs that people have posted. It’s made me all enthusiastic, and now I have dozens more projects added to my mental to do list. It’s amazing how much time can be spent scrolling through the Facebook feed ooh-ing and ah-ing over all the beautiful dresses people have made! It also has made me purchase quite a lot of the patterns. But that’s OK – as I pointed out to my husband, I love that I’m supporting an Australian business.

    I’ve only recently discovered the whole indie pattern thing. I’m not sure how I stumbled onto Tadah Patterns, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve been listening to the British podcast, “Stitchers Brew”, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, and it’s made me realise that the whole indie pattern thing is an entire world in itself.

    First, you don’t have to drive to a shop to get a pattern! Or wait days on end for the post to arrive if you order a physical one from one of the big 4’s online. Secondly, you can literally buy an indie pattern online, and BAM! the PDF is in your inbox instantly, ready for you to print off and get sewing. Yes, you have to print off a lot of different pages and tape them together, but honestly, its not as bad or as time consuming as I expected.

    The perfect dress to wear when taking dolly for a walk.

    So, this is the “Jaunty Dress” by Tadah patterns. The instructions are super clear and thorough, and the whole dress is very quick to make. I read through the instructions to begin with and then pretty much went ahead and made it without referring to them again. It does recommend using an overlocker for all the seams – I decided to give this a go, and on the whole, it wasn’t as traumatic as I was expecting. The seam allowances are very overlocker-friendly at 6mm, so that helps. And I learnt a new trick – the “overlocker flip method”, which helps give a nice clean and secure finish at the end of the sleeves, something I’ve struggled with in the past. Another revelation was using a rotary cutter instead of scissors to cut out the fabric! Brilliant!

    I must admit, this isn’t my best handiwork. I botched one of the seams –the bodice and skirt side seam don’t quite match up, but because it was all overlocked, I wasn’t about to unpick it!. I also managed to make a complete mess of the twin needle topstitching around the neckband. I have NEVER managed to do a good job on this, but this one was so bad, I ended up unpicking it all and calling it quits. If you look closely, you can see where the stitches were, but luckily this is of no concern for its wearer!

    In conclusion, this pattern is great – the full circle dropped waist skirt is comfy and flattering over little tadpole tummies, and affords full twirling capacity for all the ballet/fairy/princess moves. It’s comfy and easy to wear, and comes with quite a few sleeve variations (so I’ll be making some more for the warmer weather – if it ever gets here!). The final garment was, thankfully, met with approval by its fussy recipient; after wearing it all day, she insisted on wearing it to bed as well.

    The circle skirt enables full twirlage

    Did I mention it’s good for twirling?

    This is a size 4 – I made no adjustments to the pattern aside from doing a slightly smaller hem on the sleeves in order to make them a little longer. I probably should have made a 5 so that it would fit next year too, but I didn’t think of that until after it was all cut out. I suspect there will be many more Jaunty dresses in my life for the next few years!

    A very happy customer!


  2. A not so Kwik Sew K3977

    August 24, 2018 by rosie

    Let’s ignore the fact that I haven’t posted anything on here for, well, ages.
    I am attributing this to a whole range of reasons – including increased working hours, juggling a three-and-half year old, a ridiculous amount of sickness this year, and also a bit of an identity crisis triggered mainly by the devastating realisation that I need to wear orthotics, and, consequently, chunky sensible shoes. This has severely impacted what style of clothing I can wear and, consequently, my sewjo.

    Anyway, moving on.

    Behold Kwik Sew 3977. I haven’t used Kwik Sew much before. The styling and cover art of this is a bit dated – I’m always a bit behind the times, catching up on fashion trends just as they are fading away.

    Knowing that there was the distinct possibility that this could turn into a frumpy mess, I thought I’d give it a go regardless. I wanted a long-line, easy, comfy and casual jacket I could just throw on over jeans etc.

    Of course, I had nothing appropriate in my stash of fabric, but a trip to The Fabric Store in Brunswick Street solved that problem. The fabric suggestion on the pattern envelope is a bit confusing – it says it is designed for heavyweight stretch fabrics, and then it suggests fleece or boiled wool. I didn’t realise that boiled wool was considered a stretch fabric?

    Anyway I found a double-sided wool/cotton that was quite thick and also had a bit of stretch to it. One side is a plain reddish colour, the other a checked blue and red. I thought given that both sides would be visible in the design, having the contrast would work well.

    I checked out Pattern Review, to suss out how other people found this pattern. I was thankful for the recommendation somebody suggested to increase the seam allowance on the centre back neck, so that the edges could be finished properly, as this seam may be visible, depending on whether the collar sits up or down. The original pattern only allows for a 6mm seam allowance – I think it assumes people will overlock all the seams, negating the need for much allowance. That kind of freaked me out a bit – I’m just not used to working with such tiny allowances.

    Anyway, I did make the seam allowance on the neck larger (the normal 1.5cm), and I ended up finishing this by tucking under the allowances and stitching down through all thicknesses so that both sides of the collar had a neat appearance.

    As for adjustments, I graded out across several sizes to accommodate my small bust and wider hips; I also lengthened the sleeves a bit, and thank goodness I did! They only just ended up long enough.

    This should have been a really simple, speedy sew, but it ended up taking much longer than expected, due to the fact that:

    1) It took me ages to cut out the pieces, because I was trying to pattern match the checks, as well as waste the least possible amount of fabric. Turns out I didn’t do a particularly good job of this, and I had to fudge the side seams a bit to get the horizontal stripes to match all the way down.

    laying out the pattern pieces and trying to match the stripes

    2) I hated how messy the inside was at the seam that joined the shoulders and collar ( stitched all in on). So I ended up cutting a strip of the same fabric and hand sewing this down on top to create a sort of binding. That took much longer than expected. It also ended up being a bit bulky by the time the edges were folded under, but I think it’s ok. It’s a bit wonky, but at the very least, it’s an improvement to the original seam!

    The finished seam of the collar contrasted with gross seam of the neckline (with a whole heap of tailors tacks still there!). I ended up stitching a bias strip over the neckline seam to neaten up – but forgot to take a photo of the end result!

    3) I couldn’t deal with the suggestion to leave all the edges unfinished (un-hemmed). So I decided to bind the sleeve and all the way around the edge of the jacket. I made a trip to a posh expensive store in the city on the quest for woollen binding to use. The lady offered to help me, and suggested a red binding. It wasn’t QUITE the same red, but I thought, “well, if she thinks it’s ok, it must be”. She then offered to help me measure the jacket to figure out how much of the binding I needed. As I was watching her, I was thinking to myself “I don’t think her measuring or her math is right”. But then I thought, “well, she’s the expert, not me”.

    Of course, when I get home that night, I find I have nowhere near enough binding. And it became evident under my lighting that the choice of red was completely off.

    Frustrated with the lady and annoyed that I didn’t trust my own judgement, I refused to go back to the store or spend any more money on the project. By this time, I was pretty over the whole thing anyway.

    So I found an old remnant of navy wool crepe in my stash and cut out my own bias binding. I had to join it together in quite a few places, as it was a rather small piece of fabric.
    I then decided to hand stitch it all down to finish the binding – I feared that I couldn’t top stitch that accurately through such thickness on a sewing machine. Again, this was quite time consuming – from memory, at least 2 episodes of Mindhunter on Netflix.

    Hand basting the binding in place before hand-stitching it permanently down.

    The final product – see how low that pocket opening is?

    I couldn’t be bothered putting in two pockets, so I just did one, made from some navy cotton drill I had left over from a previous project. To me, I feel that the pocket placement is slightly too low – it almost hangs down further than the hem of the jacket, and the pocket opening seems a bit too far down the body to feel natural.

    A pocket!

    All in all, I’m reasonably happy with the end result. It doesn’t look too bad, and it’s surprisingly warm. Turns out though, I’ve hardly got anything that goes with it!! I think I’ll have to make a few plain separates next, so that I can actually wear the jacket!

    The back – I did end up getting those strips to match, with a bit of wrangling.


  3. Vogue 9177 – Bishop dress

    June 4, 2017 by rosie

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    Smocked dresses instantly remind me of my childhood. My mother was always smocking dresses for me and my sister. Every special occasion was marked by the arrival of a new masterpiece: violin performances and eisteddfods, the annual Mildura show, and sometimes even Christmas and birthdays. It was always exciting when mum brought out the smocking ‘machine’ – a mysterious contraption that seemed to be capable of miracles, as the fabric went in one end taut and smooth and came out the other with perfect pleats, ready for mum to work her magic.

    Aside from the nostalgia, I’ve discovered that I find the act of smocking quite relaxing and addictive. I’ve only made a few things so far, but they have been fun to do, and surprisingly speedy (relatively speaking). Two Christmasses ago, mum got me my very own smocking machine – she bought it off an old lady who didn’t have use for it any more (I think her eyesight may have been failing) – when mum told her it was for her daughter, she was thrilled that it was going to a young person who was keen to learn and carry on the tradition.

    I’ve only been able to use the machine once so far, but I’d love to get it out again soon. I was planning to make a dress for Little Miss A’s 2nd birthday. I was on track for it too – all I had left were the buttonholes when my sewing machine decided to cark it. Six weeks passed while I waited for it to be repaired – needless (and needle-less!) to say the birthday came and went and it was a while before I got back into the swing of things and managed to finish off the dress.

    Vogue 9177 is my first attempt at a Bishop dress. This basically meant that the front and backs are sewn to the arms prior to putting it through the pleating machine. There is a fair amount of fabric involved and I was worried that it would be tricky and fiddly and that it wouldn’t go through smoothly – especially through the French seams- but, I was pleasantly surprised with the results, especially as it was my first foray into using the contraption.

    Here’s a picture of the unpleated dress, with the sleeves attached to the front and backs. So much fabric for such a little garment! It gets all rolled up on a piece of dowell, ready to be put through the pleating machine.

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    Here’s the dress going through the pleating machine. Magic!
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    After the fabric is pleated, it needs to be ‘blocked’ on an ironing board and steamed into shape. This was the most fiddly part of the whole process..

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    After it’s been steamed and blocked for a day or so, it’s time for the fun part! Smocking!6

    The pattern came with instructions and a design for the actual smocking stitches, which meant that I didn’t have to think too hard about making up a pattern. I am slightly annoyed that I didn’t centre the design properly, even though, as you can see, I started in the centre of the garment! It doesn’t really matter, and I don’t think you can really tell, but the fact that I failed to figure this out prior to starting really bugs me. Next time!

    I decided to keep the dress simple and just use plain white embroidery floss for the whole thing. I vaguely toyed with the idea of using red instead, but the lady at the local sewing shop told me that would look tacky, so I stuck to my original vision.

    I have to say, it would have been helpful if the pattern included instructions for using a smocking machine as well as the method of picking up stitches by hand. I had to consult online and a few reference books (thanks mum!) to work out the order and method for pulling up the pleats on the smocking machine.

    I also think that without the additional diagrams and instructions I found in reference books, the instructions that accompanied the pattern would have been a little too vague, at times, to follow properly.

    The satisfying thing about making a Bishop dress is that, once the embroidery is complete, there really isn’t that much extra sewing to do before you have a completed garment! Just a neck binding, sleeve binding, side seams, hem and buttonholes and buttons and that’s it!

    Little Miss A has only worn this dress on two occasions so far. It’s pretty cute on her, and it’s nice and roomy and comfortable, which means I can layer up with singlets and spencers if the weather is a little chilly. I made the shorter length, and I was surprised by how short it really was – I ended up having a very small hem. Next time I’ll do the longer version to rectify that problem.

    This was actually a test garment to practice on before I hacked into some luscious Liberty fabric (wool and cotton blend) that I purchased with a smocked dress in mind. I’m thinking I should make it in the next size up and put it away for next year – she probably doesn’t need that many ‘party dresses’ at this stage.

    All in all, I’m pleased with the result. I reckon I’ll be using this pattern again – I’ll definitely be doing the short-sleeved version at some point for a summer dress.
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  4. Australian Home Journal 9044

    May 16, 2017 by rosie

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    One of the problems with having small children is that they grow so quickly. In terms of sewing, this is a problem because:

    a) I finally get around to sewing her something, and then she hardly gets a chance to wear it because she grows out of it.

    b) She grows so quickly and I have minimal sewing time, so by the time I consult my (somewhat extensive) toddler sewing pattern stash, I realise with horror that half the patterns I’ve been thinking about and dying to make are no longer applicable, because they are too small. I can’t help but mourn for the patterns I may never have the chance to realise.

    So, when my little vintage Australian Home Journal coat pattern arrived in the mail, I decided that I should just go for it and make it ASAP, in order to maximise wear before winter set in. I had a feeling it would be a little on the too big side, but I figured that this was a far better outcome to have than too small – maybe she’ll even get to wear it next winter too!

    It was, of course, exactly around this time that my beloved Bernina started playing up, and I had to take it in to be serviced. SIX WEEKS LATER I was finally able to get stuck into the coat.

    This is definitely a stash slasher. The wool is left over from a project I made about five years ago; the lining was a piece of silk that had been wallowing in a tub for a couple of seasons. Even the inter-lining was a piece of Shapewell I found in mum’s sewing cupboard when I was up visiting at Easter time (thanks mum!).

    As for the pattern itself, I’m guessing it’s from around the 50’s, but that’s really a stab in the dark. I don’t think it had ever been used- it seemed to be still factory folded and I couldn’t see any signs of wear and tear or pin marks etc. I always get a little thrill when I discover an old pattern and I am able to give it another chance at becoming a real garment. Maybe the original pattern purchaser had my problem, and by the time she got around to making this coat, her child was too big for it!

    img_1520Anyway, typical of the era, there were no markings on the pattern, just a couple of punch holes that you have to decipher to tell you where the grain of the fabric is etc. And no separate pattern pieces for linings – just a brief sentence or two about how to alter the existing patterns and the assumption that the reader will figure it out.

    Similarly, the instructions are crammed onto two pieces of paper (the other sides are advertisements for buttons), with tiny hand-drawn illustrations that aren’t always completely accurate. Each ‘step’ actually contains about 4 or 5 steps in one that are sometimes only partially explained, and again, sometimes just assumed knowledge.

    The other challenge was that the front envelope illustration wasn’t a completely accurate depiction of the coat – particularly the collar, which doesn’t meet at centre, as implied in the drawing.

    I confess I did a bit of googling to brush up on bound buttonholes – the ‘instructions’ supplied just didn’t cut it for me! Plus, they used a different method to what I had used previously and I wasn’t confident it would work with such bulky fabric. In the end, the method I went with turned out pretty well in the end and were not as traumatic as I was expecting them to be.

    img_1615

    img_1617Sewing the points of the yoke was a little tricky – trickier than I was anticipating. The finished result isn’t perfect, but luckily, working with such a bulky fabric means that it’s quite forgiving. Still, every time I look at it I wish I had done a better job!

    dsc_0401

    I don’t think I’ve ever done welt pockets before, so this was a new thing for me too. They are not perfectly even which annoys me slightly but I’m glad I gave them a go – it was tempting to just sew right down that seam and omit them altogether!

    dsc_0412The lining is attached by hand to the jacket. I suppose being a child’s jacket, this task didn’t seem too onerous – not sure how I’d feel about doing this in an adult size though!

    I’ve always loved little girls’ jackets, especially with a vintage vibe. I’m glad I had the courage to give this one a go, even if the end result is far from flawless. And yes, it is too big (especially in the sleeves), which I might address at some point if I have the time.

    dsc_0417I should have given it a bit of a press before taking these photos – it had been sitting on the back seat of our car up when I popped it on her and it’s a little crumpled.

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    Winter is well and truly on its way here in Victoria, so I’m glad I got it done in time. Problem is, its little headstrong owner is refusing to wear any type of jacket (or cardigan or jumper or poncho) at the moment! Maybe next year…


  5. Sweet and Simple – Simplicity 1207

    November 23, 2016 by rosie

    dsc_0051There’s nothing like the simple lines of a toddler’s dress in crisp cotton to counteract the fussiness of making a silk evening gown. For me, Simplicity 1207 was the perfect antidote to Vogue 2241– fun, straightforward and quick!

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    Even better, this also doubled as a stash-slasher project. I’ve had this piece of paisley floral cotton in my stash for years – it was part of a pile of fabrics passed on to me when one of my Mum’s friends was downsizing. I’ve pulled it out quite a few times over the years and have never known quite what to do with it. While I really like the fresh zingy colours, green isn’t a colour that I feel comfortable wearing, and I just couldn’t picture it on me beyond a pair of pyjamas. The contrast watermelon pinky orange colour fabric for the contrast yoke also seems to have been part of an inherited collection of fabrics – I can’t even remember from whom – and it was a pretty close match to the colours in the paisley, so I figured it was meant to be.
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    This is one of Simplicity’s new reprints of an old vintage pattern. I was surprised to find on the cover that the pattern dates from the 70’s – to me, it feels like it has an older 50/60’s look about it. Anyway, regardless of its era, I was instantly attracted to it. I liked the clean, non-fussy lines of the dress, and the scallops add just the right amount of low-key interest. I also like that the dress has little sleeves – it’s a bit more of a sun-smart option to many of the adorable vintage sundress patterns out there that are all cross over straps and pinafore/romper styles.
    simplicity-babies-toddlers-pattern-1207-envelope-frontThe dress went together quite smoothly, apart from a few silly mistakes I did (like sewing a sleeve in inside out). The only real alterations I made (if you could call them alterations), were to use an invisible zipper and to hand sew the hems on the dress, sleeves and bias binding neckline. It was good to see that the dress wasn’t massively oversized – I’ve found that many baby and toddler’s patterns just seem to be huge when they are sewn up – for once, this seemed to fit almost perfectly!

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    I would love to whip up another of these dresses – they are quite fun to make! I just wish that I could find a good pattern to make some little matching pants/knickers to cover her nappy.

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    These photos were taken on the first really hot day we’ve had here in Melbourne. Sadly, it’s gone back to ridiculously cold weather and we have the heater back on, despite the fact that it’s mid-November. I hope this dress gets another outing soon!

    In the meantime, I’d love to make the matching coat!

     


  6. Vintage Vogue 2241

    November 6, 2016 by rosie

    I realise that having a baby and becoming a parent is, in the great scheme of things, a fairly unremarkable event. Millions of people do it every day, and have been doing it forever. But I also feel that, for the individuals involved, in their small speck of time and existence that is their life, it’s a monumental, seismic turning point. It’s clichéd and predictable, but I now categorise my life into two components: Before Baby (BB) and Post Baby (PB). One of the biggest revelations for me, is how, in PB times, my expectations and standards have altered.

    What, I hear you ask, has this got to do with Vogue 2241? Well, as a matter of fact, everything. Now, I can frame this whole project in two ways. From my BB perspective, the end result of making Vogue 2241 was disappointing and below-par. It’s riddled with mistakes, the craftsmanship is dodgy, the fit isn’t perfect and I only have myself to blame. I should and could have done better, and it’s such a pity, as this is a garment I’ve wanted to make for over ten years; I owed it to Vogue 2241 to do my best.

    From my PB vantage point, however, I am kinder to myself. I can say to myself: “Yes, it’s not the best work. Yes, there are flaws in the construction. But hey, I actually finally got around to making the thing, and I got to wear it! It was made in a hurry, in between part-time work and minding a toddler, and the circumstances did not allow for a fastidious and detailed process. The dress isn’t an everyday item, I’ll only wear it a few times, and if I think of it more as a costume, then its OK.” Yes, I am making excuses and justifying why it isn’t as good as it could be, but I’m learning to be OK with that”.

    In hindsight, it was a pretty ambitious project to launch back into after a long period of not sewing. Let’s just check out the pattern line drawing for a second:vintage-vogue-pattern

    It’s obvious that it has complicated, non-conventional construction details, involving geometric seams and diamond shapes. That’s what makes the dress so gorgeous and interesting. But it also means the need for precision is paramount, complicated by sewing on the bias. And, wait, on closer inspection THERE ARE NO SIDE SEAMS OR BUST DARTS. So getting a perfect fit is going to be a challenge, verified by the bold disclaimer on the envelope back : No provision for above waist adjustment. Oh, and the pattern comes in single sizes only. Great. Combine all that with the need for slippery, silky fabric, and, well, it’s probably not the wisest choice to ease oneself back into sewing.

    But you know how it is, all of a sudden there’s an event you have to attend soon (in this case for work) with a black tie dress code. And after a quick mental inventory of your wardrobe, you realise there isn’t anything from your BB life that will do and your bank account won’t justify purchasing a dress of quality. And then you start obsessing, and you know there’s a pattern you’ve had in your stash for years that you’ve wanted to make, and you also have the realisation that if you don’t make it now, pretty soon you won’t be able to pull off a backless dress at all, and seeing as you’ve never had the guts to wear anything that revealing in the past, you may as well just do it now. And let’s face it, in your new PB life, the chances of attending anything with a black-tie dress code are slim; it may be another 10 years before it happens again. So basically, with only a week to go, you realise there’s no choice but make Vogue 2241.

    I wanted to try and stick to a relatively reasonable budget. But I also knew that if I used a cheap synthetic, I would die a bit inside, and the dress probably wouldn’t drape properly. I did a turbo hunt through The Fabric Store, dragging my toddler along, but sadly there just wasn’t a suitable, plain silk satin in a colour that suited me. (There were lots of GORGEOUS fabrics for other projects, but I demonstrated extreme restraint and didn’t buy a single thing). So a dash to Tessuti fabrics resulted in being faced with a myriad of divine colours in silk, but with a price tag that was totally out of my budget. In the end, I grabbed the ‘cheapest’ silk I could find in a colour that was acceptable and went with that. I had visions for a deep and rich peacock blue. I walked out of the store with 4.5 meters of red.

    A mock-up of the dress was totally necessary. I did a trial version using old flannelette sheets (it was the only thing I had on hand. It looked ridiculous). For some unknown but lucky reason, I discovered I actually had two versions of this pattern in my stash – one in a size 8 and one in a size 12. This was most fortuitous, as the top half of my body roughly matched the 8, and the hip area pretty much matched the 12 size chart. The next challenge was combining the two sizes when all these geometric shapes needed to fit perfectly together.

    I ended up tracing out a copy of the size 12. Then I placed the size 8 over it and traced it over for the shoulder and chest area. I think from memory it was about at the underarm area where I merged it into a size 12. A bit of fudging was involved. It resulted in a small wedge being taken out of the centre front, tapering to nothing at the top of the ‘diamond’, which meant the centre fold line/grain line was slightly altered. For the mock-up, I cut a straight size 12 for the skirt pieces. I was hoping that the slight blousy nature of the bodice, and the fact that the belt pulled in the back to make a few gathers/wrinkles would cover up any massive fitting issues.

    I’d read on patternreview that the dress is quite short. This is indeed true. I added INCHES to the length, both on the little train pieces and on the dress itself.

    A first try-on revealed that the top half worked pretty well! However, the size 12 was just a smidgen too big in the hips, and it was extremely gapey in the back. I was worried the whole dress could potentially slide off my shoulders. So I very un-scientifically pinched massive darts out of the bodice which extended into the skirt. I marked these in pen, unpicked all the pieces, pinned down the darts where I’d marked, tried to make the piece as flat as possible and traced over everything again. Unfortunately where I pinned had interfered with the existing little dart at the side hip – this required a bit of fudging and the angle of the little dart was changed. In hindsight, it’s not quite right, but too late now!

    One thing that bugged me about the pattern is that it isn’t lined. The facings on it are really quite narrow. I was concerned that if the back did end up gaping, the facings would be visible, as would the wrong side of the fabric. I would have liked to have lined the skirt too, but I couldn’t find an appropriate fabric that wasn’t going to cost the earth in time, so in the end, I cut two of all the bodice pieces and settled on wearing a slip underneath for the skirt.  I joined the pieces around the neckline and back opening, turned it out the right way and then used the armhole facings over both layers. Probably not a very conventional method, but it did the job.

    Construction wise, all the triangle/diamond seams are top-stitched together, old-school style. It was surprisingly pain free (I had visions of seams stretching and not matching up). However, there is a LOT of hand basting involved, and it’s time consuming. That’s OK, this allowed me to become addicted to the podcast, Real Crime Profile.

    The real issue I had with this dress was the back opening. The dress has no zipper, which is a relief in some ways, because I’m not a huge fan of inserting zippers into slippery fabric. Instead, it’s closed by a line of press studs along one of the diagonal seams in the back. For me, this was my undoing. I couldn’t get the seams to line up nicely. The press studs kept coming apart. Right when I’d thought I’d sewn them in the right spot, all of a sudden they wouldn’t match up. The seam was bubbly and didn’t sit flat, and it did not feel secure.

    In the end, I stitched that diagonal seam permanently down. I could still get the dress over my head. This meant there were just a couple of snaps and a hook and eye to secure the tiny centre back seam. Again, I did a terrible job in putting these in, and the seam kind of pulls away from the studs and makes them visible. The belt helps hide this, and I confess, I ended up using a safety pin for some extra security.vogue-1931

    On the night before I had to wear the thing, I went to hem it. I was home alone and didn’t have anyone to help me pin it. I also didn’t have a full length mirror in the house so I couldn’t even see if the hem was reasonably level or not. Unfortunately, my approach of marking with a pin where I wanted it in the front and them measuring this distance all around the bottom of the dress was a fatal mistake. After finishing the narrow hem (note, cutting off ALL hem allowance), I discovered that it is WAY TOO SHORT IN THE BACK!!!! Every time I wear this dress (which, granted , won’t be often), this will taunt me. True, the little train thingies in the back cover this up to some point and make it less noticeable, but still, I’m furious with myself. Speaking of the train godet pieces, for some reason, I couldn’t get the length of the placement lines to match up. I ended up stitching them down for longer than the pattern marking. This doesn’t seem to be a major issue, just something that surprised me, seeing as the rest of the pattern fitted so well together.

    A hasty trip to the wonderful Buttonmania during a lunch break saw me find a vintage diamanté buckle for the belt. Of course, when I brought it home, I discovered it was far too wide for the belt’s width (which I’d already cut out), but I can sort of get away with it. Maybe one day I’ll find a replacement one.vogue-2241-front-view

    I confess, I ended up pinning the belt with a safety pin. For some reason, whenever I make closures on a belt, they always end up too loose.

    The other issue with this dress is the topic of undergarments. I did contemplate going bra-less, but was concerned that the cold weather might not be favourable to this situation, and I still had a fear that, due to the low back, the whole thing might slip off my shoulders and reveal way too much – definitely not something I wanted to occur, especially at a work function. In the end, I quickly found a low back body shaper thing which was perfect for the job. It also helped smooth out underwear lines (sort of).vogue2241-v2

     

    Typically, I was in such a rush to make the wretched thing, that I didn’t take any photos of the construction. And on the night, I was busy running around for work, that again, I hardly got any pictures at all.
    So in the end, the dress got made, albeit to a sub-standard level. But I got to wear it, and I think, if people didn’t look too closely, I pulled off the effect. I wonder if I’ll ever get to wear it again?

    Now, I’m looking forward to making something out of a crisp, no-fuss cotton!


  7. Sew… it’s been a long time!

    October 21, 2016 by rosie

    So, yes. I confess it’s been a little while since my last blog post….like, 2 years or so. It’s difficult to blog about sewing adventures when you’ve hardly stitched anything together. And the reason for the lack of sewing? I had a baby!

    In my vision of pregnancy, I imagined I’d be in a flurry of creativity – sewing up tons of teeny-weeny outfits in preparation for the little one’s arrival; knitting up a storm and making my own soft furnishings and heirloom pieces for the nursery. All while sporting my own thrifty yet stylish hand-made maternity outfits that had a lovely vintage vibe and minimized the use of stretch fabrics.

    Ha! This, it turns out, was nowhere near reality. The very thought of craft, knitting or sewing, for some bizarre reason, made me want to throw up. So did everything actually, when I think about it. Combine this with the unimaginable fatigue that accompanies pregnancy, full time work followed by an unexpected 10 week hospitalization before our baby was eventually delivered, via emergency C-section 4 weeks early, and there wasn’t much chance of getting my craft on, let alone do the whole ‘nesting’ thing.

    And, I confess, if pregnancy has taught me anything, it’s that stretch fabric is a godsend. However, the amount of pregnancy clothing that is completely polyester is so incredibly frustrating. And ridiculously overpriced. I did make two maternity dresses from vintage patterns, thanks to Enid Gilchrist’s maternity book. They were great, and I would have loved to have made more items from her ‘collection’. I highly recommend it, if you can be bothered drafting out all the pattern pieces. Here’s one of them. It was a silk/cotton fabric, and it was my ‘good’ maternity frock for work functions. I made up a little matching ‘hat’, which was pretty fun.  In these pics, I’m wearing it at a dear friend’s wedding. The next day I was hospitalised for 10 weeks – I’m so glad that I was able to attend the wedding before everything went pear shaped.

    IMG_0511

    So, now, 18 months on, and I feel like I’m only just beginning to feel vaguely ‘normal’ again. I’ve moved house and I’m back at work part time, and these days, sewing is more of a luxury than ever – something I sneakily do at night, or when a certain someone is napping. And always with the guilt and knowledge that I should be cooking or washing or cleaning or doing something else! Projects these days tend to be quick, achievable low-fuss items designed to give ‘instant’ gratification, and be more ‘mum friendly’ than before. I also feel like I’m always in a hurry when I sew these days – everything is a rushed-job, often with sloppy execution. While I still love all things vintage, the reality is that it’s often just not practical when hanging out with a toddler.

    I love sewing for our little girl. It’s fun, usually quick and very satisfying. Kids’ clothes are so cute – and there aren’t too many fitting issues to worry about. I swear I have never used so much elastic in my life since I started making things for her! Again, I thought I would be making dozens of little things all the time, but the reality is I’ve only managed to sew a fraction of these things. I have so many patterns in my stash that she is now too big for and which I never got the chance to make her she never got to wear.

    Here are a few of the things I did manage to make:

    First up, a few knitting/crochet projects
    IMG_0502

    Some general sewing bits and pieces

    IMG_0503

    And my mum even taught me how to smock! IMG_0504

    Sewing for myself has been a bit more sobering. Let’s just say that my body shape has changed – learning to sew and adjust for this is still a challenge, as is accepting that it will probably never be the same as pre-pregnancy. I hope that over the coming months I can crank up the Bernina a bit more often, and actually manage to create some outfits that aren’t too shabby. To get back into it, I dove in the deep end and made a full-length evening gown in less than a week. Probably not the best tactic, but I’ll tell you about that next time.

     


  8. Simplicity 1717

    June 23, 2014 by rosie

    skirt_june2014-4

    Wow. it’s been about 6 months since I posted anything. Where did those months go?! How can it be June – and almost July – already?!

    Needless to say, 2014 hasn’t really been the year of amazing, endless sewing productivity and inspiration. In fact, it could be fair to say that I completely lost my sewing mojo. My zeal for that, and anything else I usually enjoy, just seemed to disappear altogether. Just thinking about getting out fabric or pulling out the sewing machine made me feel overwhelmed.

    Not that the year has been completely sewing-less. I did make this dress back in February, and didn’t get around to blogging it:

    DSC_0050 (Medium) DSC_0047 (Medium)

    And then, there was the 6 meter ‘golden curtain’ I had to make in two days for work for a function. That was an interesting experience – I got to legitimately ‘work from home’…swapping my PC for my sewing machine in the name of ‘other duties as required’! It required metres and metres of fabric (over 14 metres of disgusting synthetic shiny stuff we found in the back of the work storeroom from a function years ago) – sewing in putrid hot summer heat. It was almost as long as my single-fronted house; working with such a large amount of fabric was a bit tricky to wrangle. I used fishing hooks in the bottom to weight the curtain down and I just used curtain gathering tape at the top, with some black ties to tie it on to a rigging beam.

    The end result:

    golden curtain

    Then there was the 14 metres of purple-themed bunting for my best friend’s Hens day. I had a very tight timeframe, so my sister came over with her sewing machine, and we set up a production line in my living room, cutting and zooming through triangles, and listening to songs on the radio from the 1980’s. Here’s a sample of just some of it:

    DSC_0074 (Medium) DSC_0077 (Medium)

    And then I became an Aunty for the first time, (Yay!!!)  so I knitted a little cardigan to welcome Walter into the world. 7 weeks later, he’s already well and truly grown out of it!

    walter-1 walter-2

    But apart from these things – which I consider more craft than sewing – I’ve really had to force myself to get back into anything, including my sewing room. My first sewing attempt was waaaay too ambitious, and ended up being a complete and utter disaster – both financially and for my self worth! I’m not yet ready to talk about that one. Let’s just say I don’t think it’s salvageable and for the time being it’s screwed up in a ball out of sight.

    In order to ease my way back into the sewing world, I decided to be kind to myself and attempt something decidedly more achievable. Something that would be quick, straightforward and with minimal fitting or construction issues. The resulting project? – Simplicity 1717.

    skirt_june2014-6You might remember my fabric shopping spree last year. Among my purchases was a remnant of green, brown and cream check wool. Not my usual colours, but it was on sale and the green was sort of cheery.

    With winter well and truly at home in Melbourne, it was time to bring down by boxes of winter fabric. This piece seemed to fit the bill – there was just enough for the skirt, and it is so thick, it’s basically like wearing a warm woolen blanket.

    skirt_june2014-5

    It’s funny, I haven’t really worked that much with fabrics where you have to align a pattern, like a check. It was evident too. It took me AGES to lay the pieces out in a way which I thought would cause the least interruption to the check pattern. The centre seam was a bit of an issue, as this isn’t cut on the straight of the grain, so I knew that no matter what, the lines were going to look bit skewiff. However, even despite my painstaking attempts at lining things up perfectly, I realised AFTER I had cut out the pieces that I should have laid it out on the perpendicular grain, as the squares were evenly spaced that way and not that way I had cut it out. DANG!!!!!!

    skirt_june2014-3

    I decided to embrace the busy-ness of the check pattern and go with the massive over-sized pockets (who doesn’t love a pocket?!). And, in order to maximise the busy-ness, I decided to cut these on the bias, to add contrast and to detract the eye away from the (sort of mis-aligned) background check.

    I’m so glad I did! I love the pockets!

    skirt_june2014-2

     

    I made a few changes to this pattern, as follows:

    • I cut the pockets on a bias
    • I added a lining
    • I used lining fabric for the waistband facing, as the wool was just far too bulky
    • I didn’t hem the top of the pockets as described (again due to the thickness). Instead I just finished it off with a bias binding. (Unfortunately, I only had some lilac colour on hand, so it doesn’t exactly go)
    • lengthened the skirt a bit.

    I probably should have faced the pockets with some calico or something, to avoid it stretching. Whoops – I didn’t think of that until I was finished.

    After sewing and wearing so many retro style garments in recent years, it felt really strange to wear something that was slung lower down on my hips. Comfortable, yes, but odd. Too be honest, it’s probably a little lose. And because of the thickness of the fabric, the bulk at the seams, especially where the skirt attaches to the facing, means that it’s a bit bulky, and, kind of unflattering. It makes me look fatter than I am.

    But, it’s super comfy, it’s cheery and really warm!

    All in all, an easy pattern that didn’t have too many nasty surprises. A good project to ease back into the sewing world.


  9. Stash Slasher: McCall’s 6433

    January 23, 2014 by rosie

     

    McCall's 6433

    Well, I’m well and truly back at  (my actual) work, and consequently the sewing has slowed down.

    Those of you in Melbourne, especially, will also know that we’ve been experiencing some pretty extreme heatwave action last week. Consecutive days of temperature well into the 40’s means that even sewing is too much – everything, along with my brain, was fried in the heat – staying cool was pretty much the only priority for everyone.

    (On a side note, this is my first summer with short hair – what an amazing difference it makes! It’s so much cooler and less hassle, AND I can still wear a hat! )

    Anyway, this weekend there was a bit of turbo (read, sloppy) sewing action. I had cut out this dress before the heatwave, but I didn’t really get a red hot go at it until a week or go later. I decided that I just needed to get it out of my system, so there was more rushing than I would have liked, which has resulted in a few questionable finishing techniques and end results, but I’ll get to that later.

    I was instantly attracted to McCall’s 6433. I love those front pleats in the skirt and the shoulder tucks on the bodice – just enough detail to make it interesting, and yet still quite a sensible and smart dress for the office.  I think those pleats and tucks also hint at a bygone era, but it’s still quite modern. I also like how it’s not skin tight – there’s a bit of a breezy looseness to it that makes it look comfortable and cool.

    Line Art

    Recently, I purchased some new shoes in the post-Christmas sales – one pair was multi-coloured (a little 1980’s ) in bright pinks, reds, blues and greens. I fell in love with them instantly, purchased them, and promptly realised that I hardly have any plain garments with which to wear them. The piece of fabric I had in mind for this project was the perfect blue, so I figured it was a sign that I should make something from it.

    new shoes

    The purchasing of these new multi-coloured shoes forced me to use this fabric

     The fabric is a blue silk crepe that I’m pretty sure I purchased from the Fabric Store on Brunswick Street a few years ago. I loved the bright rich blue, but when I got it home, I was too scared to use it. Too scared, because it felt like ‘good’ fabric, and I didn’t want to muck it up, and also because of the “drapey” properties, which I thought would be slippery and tricky to work with.

    I was right on that front. Cutting this out was tricky, and getting those tailor’s tacks in the right spot for the pleat markings was extremely difficult. The fabric has a way of sliding around and stretching, and when I was sewing the darts, it kept moving so that it was impossible to stitch where I wanted to. This meant that there was a lot of hand basting – pretty much every dart, tuck and pleat, which was very time consuming. On the other hand, the crepe is pretty amazing. I’ve never worked with it before, but it’s quite springy and malleable, and feels like it has quite a bit of natural give in it. The feel and drape of it is  pretty heavenly. I was surprised how well the pleats ironed. However, it also frays like nothing else.I have some left over from the dress that I’ll save for another project. I might even try and research how to properly deal with it next time.

     

    McCall's 6433

    The slippery nature of the silk crepe meant that marking the pleat lines accurately with tailor’s tacks was very difficult

    I lined the bodice with a lightweight silk/cotton blend voile that I had leftover in my stash. The bottom half, the skirt lining, is a silk that I quickly purchased from the Fabric Store.  The pattern doesn’t call for a skirt lining, but the crepe is a bit see-through and I knew that the whole thing would sit better with a lining. For the lining, I just used the skirt pattern, the back piece exactly as is, and just placing the non-pleated side of the skirt front on the fold. I wish they’d drafted a separate bodice lining without the shoulder pleats – I think this would have acted as a stay for the outer fabric, and would have helped with making sure that the under side didn’t peek out. As it is, I think because of the difficulty in cutting out the fashion fabric, I ended up having to hand baste small tucks in the lining at the very end as there was excess fabric and the lining was showing from the outside. Not a very nice finishing touch on the inside!  I’m sure many of you are horrified!

     

    McCall's 6433

    Front Shoulder Pleats

    McCall's 6433

    The final result…I probably should have made it a little smaller at the waist and hips, but I still wanted a blouse-y feel to it.

    I had a few issues inserting the back zip and getting the centre back skirt seams to line up. I unpicked it twice and still couldn’t get them to meet. I gave up due to the delicate fabric, but it REALLY gets to me. Even though I’ll wear a belt (a cheap, hot pink belt to match with the shoes was an emergency purchase over the weekend), I still hate it. I’m contemplating undoing all the hand stitching around the zip and unpicking the back waistline seam and lining and trying to get it to match up. At the moment it just looks really sloppy. I’m quite embarrassed by it.

    I lengthened the bodice by 1 centimeter. I probably could have even added in another 1/2 centimeter to this – I think it still sits a little high. I added more to the side seams at the hip, based on the body measurements on the packet, but I ended up having to take this, and probably more, in. The front V neckline gapes a little bit (no surprises there), so if I made this again, I would probably take some small tucks out in the pattern to make it a little more taut – I’d probably also try and do the fancy stay tape down the seam that many of the sewing books suggest (and which I knew I should have done, even as I was sewing it).

     

    McCall's 6433

    Will I ever be able to iron all those pleats back in?

    All in all, it’s a really lovely pattern, but not my best sewing work. I’m disappointed in myself, and also because I know that I’ll probably put this pattern away now and move on to something else, and it deserves a better outcome than the one I’ve given! I am a little worried how I’ll go ironing back all those pleats once it’s been washed, especially now that the tailor’s tacks have been removed!

     

     


  10. Stash Slasher: Simplicity 2154

    January 5, 2014 by rosie

    Simplicity 2154

    Remember my fit of pattern buying back in 2013? One of the patterns in this frenzied purchase was Simplicity 2154 – a 1960’s reproduction complete with smart pencil skirt, shirt and two jacket options. At the time, being winter, I envisioned making the suit up in my pink plaid wool, but that still hasn’t happened. This is partly because I discovered that the jacket isn’t lined (!?) , and I have not had the energy to sit down and figure out how to draft/assemble a jacket lining.

    Now that it’s summer, I thought I may as well have a crack at the blouse pattern. I’m so attracted this blouse – mainly because of that ridiculously massive, over-the-top bow. I just love it. It even looks awesome on the real life model on the pattern cover!

    For this project, I again consulted my stash. I wanted something lightweight and happy. I’m a bit of a scrooge when it comes to fabric – I’ve got quite a few lovely fabrics that would have been perfect, but if I hacked into them for this project, then I may not have had enough leftover to make a dress from it, and I didn’t want to ‘waste’ it. So I found this piece of cotton – I think it might be voile – that I’ve had sitting there since I was at university!

    I remember purchasing this piece of fabric. It was at a remnant sale at Clegs store in the city. It was opening early at 8am, and when I arrived, there was already a queue of mainly middle-aged women outside the front. As soon as the doors opened, there was this mad rush to the table where all the remnants had been laid. A frenzied flurry then ensued, of arms and legs and bosoms and elbows as the ladies’ quest to  to find ‘that’ piece of fabric turned into a formidable fight . It was a battle, and, as a relative new sewer at the time, I was way out of my league.

    But I did manage to snap up this piece of fabric. I loved the fine cotton and the bright crisp vivid colours. There wasn’t much in there, so it’s been languishing away in a tub since then.

    It’s probably not the ideal fabric to use for this design, as the busy pattern inhibits the details of the blouse’s collar and bow, but I figured it would do, and it could act as a ‘practice run’ before I ultimately make it up in something a bit more luxurious.

    I’m actually really happy with the result! This pattern gets a big thumbs up from me! It was straightforward to make, the pieces fitted together really well and it wasn’t super fiddly. For some reason, I was dreading inserting the side zipper (I had this vision of the bottom ends not matching up, as you insert it upside down), but even that went in perfectly first  time round!

    I really love the keyhole at the front and back, and of course the bow. Now, here, I must say that the pattern calls for an interfaced bow. The only interfacing I could find on hand of the right amount was probably overkill – as a result, this bow is mega stiff, and it probably could be a little softer and droopier.  I suggest that if you make this pattern, have a play with various types of interfacing before launching straight into it like I did – it might be the case that you don’t need to interface it at all. Having said that, I’m getting along just fine with my overly rigid bow.

     

    loving that bow!

    loving that bow!

    I took the shirt out for a quick test drive the very evening I finished making it. I dusted off my bike which had been exiled to the shed and took the blouse for a spin.

     DSC_0016

    I’ll definitely be making this one again. Next time I might make it a smidgen longer. I can’t wait to see what it does when made up in different types of fabric. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come with sleeve options – that would really have made it useful for making winter versions.

    And of course, I need to make the rest of the pattern’s family members – maybe the pencil skirt will be an easy one to whip up soon.