Saturday, April 12, 2014

MBM - Sewaholic Gabriola Skirt

My daughter had her 14th birthday recently, so I asked her whether she would like me to make her anything to mark the occasion (I only sew for her on request, never on spec, because I know where those projects are likely to end up). She said yes, a maxiskirt, which was a bit of a relief. I was half expecting a repeat of the onesie trauma of last year.
Sewaholic recently released the Gabriola skirt pattern. The pattern is just lovely with some interesting seam lines to make the yoke, and a skirt that has a very satisfactory amount of swish and sway. Happily the daughter agreed.
The pattern notes on the website point out that the Gabriola is drafted with a pear shape in mind. They are not wrong. My daughter is not a pear, more straight up and down (a celery stick?), with minimal waist definition. When I chose the size to cut, I had to cut the hip  three sizes down from her waist measurement. Three sizes. Wow!
I was interested to see how such a difference between waist and hip in the sizing would affect the way the yoke looked so I thought I'd muslin the yoke sections of the skirt. Looked fin,e so all systems were go.
That is, until I started on the fashion fabric. I'm here to tell you, I've through the wars on this project, and it was all down to that fabric.
It was a length from the stash that the daughter had chosen on a pho-and-fabric foray into Cabramatta last year. The girl loves soft, silky fabric, and this one filled the bill. There was no information available about fibre content at the store, but I am pretty sure that it is rayon. With a twill weave, which is why I'm guessing  the fabric stretched like crazy, exacerbated no doubt by the fact that some of the pattern pieces are either cut on the bias, or have bias edges.
I ran into problems immediately. I started out by sewing together the triangular top section of the yoke to the rhombus/parallelogram lower section of the yoke (that is the first time I've referred to a rhombus since Year 10 geometry, by the way). The pattern of the rhombus is marked with single notches on the top and bottom edge. Warning - if your fabric is almost-but-not-quite-identical on both sides, and therefore it is important to get the right right sides facing, as it were, the single notches are VERY confusing. It probably didn't help that in grading the pattern three sizes down for the hip, the shape was changed a lot. And the way the light plays on this fabric means it changes colour depending on what angle you look at it, so colour wasn't giving me any clues at all. Anyway, I sat and puzzled over the placement for a while, handling those pieces a lot as a consequence.  They stretched so alarmingly, there was nothing to do but recut them in the end. This time I marked the wrong sides very clearly in soap.
From there on, I handled these pattern pieces as if they were radioactive isotopes, or baby birds or something. So the process took a long time. Sewing this fabric was like trying to sew air. It was almost impossible to get a firm grip on it at all. It slipped and slid everywhere. Very frustrating. I found I could only sew in bursts of  20 minutes before my equanimity flew out the window and I was uttering rude words.
Fortunately, it seemed to behave itself under the presser foot. But I still pat myself on the back for sewing a difficult fabric, a first for me, and then for finishing the project, when there were times when I would have happily chucked it.
A note on length - other reviewers of this pattern have remarked on how long this pattern is drafted, and having to cut off considerable length. My daughter is 5'10", so I added the customary 5cm length to the skirt pieces, which I then had to cut off at the end of the process. So if you are anything shorter than 5'10", expect to shorten.
The result is not one of my best examples of precision sewing, to put it mildly, but it is ok. And my daughter really likes it, and that's the bottom line isn't it?

Emulating a typical pose from Burdastyle

Sunday, March 23, 2014

MBM - Vogue 8805

This make has been like a pebble in my shoe for so long, hovering around the sewing table saying "Make me, make me!" for a good six months.
The first time I got the pattern pieces out of the envelope was when I thought this would be a good dress to wear to a high school reunion. That was in September. Then I got sick, and wore my black Colette Peony dress instead. Since then, it has sat there, waiting for me to locate the right fabric for a summer version of this dress. This took me a while.
I thought it had it sorted after I made my Burda black linen dress. I really thought the remnant of lightweight black linen I had left would cover the lower band of the dress. After I bought the red and mauve linen, and set to work, I realised I didn't. I didn't really want to make a narrower lower band, which was one option. So I returned the pattern to the envelope and let the project simmer for a while.
It wasn't until I was idly flipping through a recent Threads magazine, that I had my "a-ha!" moment. |(And don't a-ha moments come when you are idly flipping through magazines or netsurfing?) There was an article on slot seams that I thought would be perfect for this project.  Finally, all systems were go.
Here's the dress:

This pattern is a simple make, really, so I would recommend it to relative sewing novices. The pattern provides separate pattern pieces for each cup size, which gets around having to make bust adjustments. I made used a C cup piece, according to the Vogue measurements, although I normally wear a D cup. It seems fine to me. Apart from that, I lengthened the middle section by 5 cm, my standard length adjustment.
As for the slot seams, here's a close-up shot of how they look:

Yeah, subtle. A bit more subtle than I envisaged. I wanted to see a bit more of the black showing through. The black linen is there, all right. You just have to squint to see it.
How did I make the slot seams, anyway? I read a few sources, including the Threads article, and came up with my mash-up method. If you're interested, here it is (this is as much for my benefit, as anything else, as an aide memoire). Okay:
  1. Cut seam allowances slightly wider than normal, and pink them.
  2. Prepare linen strips to go under the slots, at 1 1/2 inches. Pink those too. I made bias strips for the top seam, as it is curved. Strips made on the straight grain for the lower seam.
  3. Sewed the seams together with a machine baste stitch, then snipped them ever 5-6 stitches to encourage them apart somewhat (this didn't work).
  4. Placed the fabric strips under the seams, glued them down with No More Pins glue. Do this again!!
  5. Top stitch on the right side.
  6. Remove basting stitches.
Despite the slot seam experiment not working out as I had hoped, I am quite happy with this project.
An aside: this project reminded me how rubbish I am at certain types of handsewing. I made the slit at the back, covered a button with red linen, and proceeded to make a hand sewn loop as the button hole. Three times I did this, three times I ripped it out because no matter how slowly and methodically  I did this, the loop was lumpy-bumpy. In the end, I just used a hook and eye. I'm rubbish at sewing them on too, but no one has to see the lack of handiwork on those, do they?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Of Awards and Other Things

It's been an interesting 24 hours or so here at Casa La Sartora. This is what has happened:

-My son set three records at his school swimming carnival - one record had stood since 1993! Go, Cam!
- After many months of looking (a saga I'd rather not go into here), I was finally offered a paying job! Yay!
-I was nominated for a Liebster award by Nicole at The Somnolent Dachshund. (Is there any other kind of dachshund?)

What I understand of the Liebster award is that you answer questions from your nominator, give some random facts about yourself, then nominate blogs with under 200 followers to continue. Seems like a great way to find out about bloggers and investigate new blogs that haven't come into your orbit. Sounds like a lovely idea, so let's get cracking...

Play-by-the rules or rebel?
Used to be straight up and down play-by-the-rules type. That's what being first-born,  pretty strict parenting and 13 years at Catholic schools do to you! However now prefer to think of myself as rebel in play-by-the-rules clothing, and becoming more of a rebel as time goes on.

Biggest influence on you today (book/movie/experience.. etc)

Favourite guilty pleasure or reward
The bag of licorice allsorts I keep in the glovebox of my car. Shhh, don't tell the kids!

Advice/comment you'd give to your past self
1. Making mistakes is normal.
2. Don't waste time beating yourself up when you make them. Learn and move on!

Favourite food
Whatever I'm eating next! At this moment that's Ginger Chilli chicken with rice and steamed greens for dinner.
And I have a deep and abiding fixation on  Vietnamese food.

5 random facts about myself:
  • Contrary to gender stereotype, I am an excellent map reader, and have a good sense of direction.
  • I met my husband on a 10 day voyage on the Sail Training Ship "Young Endeavour". He reckons my map reading skill was one of the first things he noticed about me. This is the Young Endeavour, a gift from Great Britain to Australia for our Bicentennial in 1988:

  • I take a Size 12 shoe. My ridiculously large feet go with my ridiculously large hands.
  • Apart from sewing, I do oil painting - still lifes and landscapes.
  • I share my birthday, May 25, with  the Peggy Olsen character on Mad Men.

The lovely bloggers I would like to nominate (and I do hope they don't mind!) are:

Jean from Sew, Jean Margaret
Valerie from Valerie's Own Sewing Blog
Janine from Interrupted Sutures
Andrea from Fabric Epiphanies
And from Tbilisi, Georgia, The Itinerant Seamstress. Surely the sewing blogger in the most exotic location!

I've enjoyed all these blogs. Hope you do too.

Ok, my questions to these bloggers are:

1. What is your greatest achievement?
2. What motivates you?
3. What is number one on your bucket list?
4. You find $100 on the pavement. What do you spend it on? (It doesn't have to be sewing related!)
5. Summer or winter? Which do you prefer?

And don't forget 5 random facts about yourself you are willing to share!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

MBM - Maria Denmark Edith, Version 2

My favourite make of the last few months has been hands down, the Maria Denmark Edith dress, posted here. I knew it would be a favourite, and I always intended to make another. So I thought I would squeeze this make in now, in time to enter the Pattern Review Maria Denmark giveaway.
The other dress was all about the sweet print. This version I see more as a layering piece to be worn over the next few months of autumn with cardigans, and perhaps with boots and tights when the weather turns (as much as it turns around here).
This is the last of 5 metres of this beautiful drapey cotton I bought at Tessuti a while ago. More stash busting! It looks like chambray, but feels much more luxurious. I read on someone's blog recently (and if it was your blog,  I do apologise for having this brain fade and not crediting you), that if you like a fabric buy five metres of the stuff, and really enjoy it. When I saw this, I knew how useful it would be, and bought the five. Kudos to me.
The buttons were scavenged from one of the makes with this fabric, the Lisette Traveler shirtdress, reviewed here on Pattern Review in pre-blog days. I never really wore this anywhere near as much as I thought I would, and I think it was all down to the shape. The Traveler is pretty shapeless, and really needs a belt. I find belt-wearing problematic - none of them ever look right to me. So it has languished at the back of the wardrobe. Now it is buttonless, I think I'll try and refashion it somehow, so I can enjoy the fabric more.
I made no changes to fit or construction with making this, but I did employ two new-to-me handy tips that I've picked up around the traps recently. The first was from a recent Coletterie newsletter - using soap scraps (you know, when the soap has almost disappeared into a sliver) as a marking tool. Hallelujah! My life has changed - how nifty is soap? I don't know if I am alone in this, but I've always found tailor's chalk pretty hopeless for marking (and believe me, I tried a few) and those Japanese marking pens always disappear too quickly, I find. So I mostly make tailor tacks, to mark darts etc. Boring. But soap is the go- it marks really clearly and doesn't rub off straight away, but when you want it gone, it's easy to get rid of. Try it.
The other tip was one from Angela Wolf in a recent edition of Threads. She advises to get rid of stitch marks in fabric after you have unpicked something, wrap your finger in calico (muslin) and rub the stitch marks in a circular motion to "rub them out". I had to restitch a dart, which left marks, but employing this has rendered the marks almost invisible.

Final remarks:
- I do believe I am channelling Miss Lynch, Year 4 1975, in this get-up.
-Is there any way to wear a bandanna scarf that doesn't make you feel like a complete dork? Please share!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

MBM - Liesl + Co Weekend Getaway Blouse

The pattern - Liesl + Co Weekend Getaway Blouse. There is also a dress version of this pattern. A pdf download (and how much am I growing to love the pdf download?) here.
The fabric - Appropriately enough, these two co-ordinating cotton voiles were part of the Lisette range that came out at Spotlight a few years ago. The selvages have them dated as 2010, so another stash busting sew. Hooray! This photograph shows the two patterns much better:
This fabric goes nicely with the Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt from two posts ago.
Fit notes - I cut for my high bust measurement, and did an FBA using the instructions supplied in the pattern, which are slightly different to other methods of doing the FBA. I was happy with the result. And I dropped the bust dart (which you can barely make out). I didn't adjust the length, which had me kicking myself, but as it happened, didn't need it after all.
This is the first Liesl + Co pattern I've attempted, and was impressed by the sensible amount of ease.
I made no design changes or construction changes to this pattern. The only thing I did differently was to sew that centre front seam an inch longer than marked. It was a bit low for my taste. This might have made the collar sit differently, but it doesn't bother me overly.
This was another easy sew, no challenges for which to award high fives to myself, nor any "d'oh" moments either.
This is a pattern I would be happy to sew again, and there is nothing about it I would change.
It's a rare blog photo shoot that doesn't have Dash sniffing around. Normally I crop him out, but this was a bit hard to do with this shot:
Oh all right, I'll pick you up..
Black is so hard to photograph don't you find...clothes and dogs!

Friday, February 21, 2014

I Kidnapped a Bernina

So I kidnapped my mother's 35 year old Bernina 807 Minimatic. It had been sitting in a cupboard at her place for over ten years. It seemed a sacrilege not to.
The back story to the kidnapping is a bit convoluted, but it goes like this: my sewing space in this place is in a loft built into the roof of our house. I love my sewing space - it's light, has great views of the garden and countryside around here, is out of the way, so I never feel like I have to tidy up if we have company. The one big drawback is that in summer it gets hot up there. If we are having a day above about 30C (an we've had lot of those this year), I have to be up there and out by about 11am, otherwise forget it. It becomes a sauna. Which of course, severely limits my sewing time, as I do most of my sewing after midday.
My solution has been to decamp to the dining room downstairs in summer. This is adequate but not ideal. I rather be up in the loft - everything is up there, so I find myself traipsing up and down to get odd things I need. It gets a bit tiring.
So thinking my way around this I thought a second machine downstairs would do the trick. My loft would still be sewing central, but a second machine would mean I could sew at night. I have my old Husqvarna, but honestly, I'd rather not go there again. Talk about frustration. Then I thought about the Bernina. Problem solved. I could use my bobbins from my 2 year old Bernina in the old Bernina.
So that's how I came to kidnap the Bernina 807.
This Bernina is an old friend to me. It came into the house when I was in Year 5, and made just about everything I wore up to and including my wedding dress in 1991. Hundreds of miles of seams have been racked up under that presser foot, I tell you. And although I didn't sew for myself when I lived at home, I did faff about on this machine, so it's been interesting reacquainting myself with it.
Some observations:
It may be small and compact - but my goodness, is it HEAVY! Everything is made of metal. It's a bulldog of a machine, absolutely solid.
There is a sign on it - Made in Switzerland. No such proud claims on my current Bernina (I seem to remember being told it was made in Thailand).
It's a mechanical machine obviously, with 7 stitches. That's it and that's all.

Stitch width chosen on the knob above. Stitch length below. I can't remember what the "knob within the top knob" is for, but it could have something to do with buttonholes. I really must investigate finding an instruction manual for this machine on the net.
I really miss the automatic threader on this one.
But lastly, it might look a bit agricultural, and the chassis on this one has a few dings, but when you get down to what matters, the stitching...aaahhh, a thing of beauty!
So why did my dear mother have this languishing in a cupboard? Well details are a bit vague, but it seems to have something to do with the fact the bobbin winder is cactus, and at the same time her interest in quilting grew, which had her buying a bigger machine.
So I've been sewing with this machine, winding bobbins on the "new" Bernina, and contemplating whether I should invest some money in the 807, and get the bobbin winder fixed. Does anyone out there have any experience with this sort of repair? Is it straightforward, cheap and easy, or is it the sewing machine equivalent of a money pit?
Anyone have any thoughts on this? I'd appreciate advice!
(By the way, Mum was totally fine with the kidnapping.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MBM - Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt

After a run of knit sewing, back to the more predictable world of sewing with wovens.
The pattern - Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt, a pdf download you can find here.
Why this pattern? - If I had to nominate my ultimate basic skirt style, this would be it: a slight A-line, with yoke and curved pockets. Summer, winter, casual, more dressed up - this is a skirt for every occasion!
The fabric - A lovely cotton I bought at Tessuti quite a while ago now. I have a pair of pants in this fabric, and had just enough left over for this skirt.
Fit notes - Well I cut a straight 42 for this skirt, with 2.5cm side seams for fit insurance, but I didn't need it. I added 9cm to the length to bring it over my knee, a standard alteration for me.
Design changes - Er, I topstitched the pocket edges. Does this count?
Construction changes - How many times have I made skirts and pants with this basic shape? Quite a few, now. I didn't follow the instructions, but a quick read through tells me they are sound!
High fives to me for - No high fives for this one. Just executing a fairly basic pattern here.
What was I thinking moments - None, thankfully.
Anything to change next time - This is the type of basic I will always have in my wardrobe, whatever else is going on in fashion.  The only thing I would change is to slightly redraft the pocket openings, to allow for my ridiculously large hands. They are just a trifle small for me.
I always enjoy pictures of contrasting facings and pocket linings. Here are mine:

The fabric is a remnant from my Edith dress. I think this is a really good match.

Tangential Observations:

The photographer today, my daughter, told me as she was taking photos "you look like Julia Child", as depicted in "Julie and Julia", our mutual favourite girly movie. Mmmm. I'll choose to take that as a complement!

This project continues a couple of projects that involve fabrics (apart from the Bombshell swimsuit fabric) that have been in deep stash for a while now. Happy to finally give them an airing, though sad that this is the end of this cotton. Oh well, there's plenty more fish in that sea.

Lastly, although I've shown you how this skirt looks with my top tucked in, this is how I'll be wearing it in real life, with shirt out because I never tuck in my tops. Which kind of limits my choices in pants and skirts, as most of the detail on these garments is usually around the waist. Oh well.
Update - thought I'd share that the Bombshell has had a few swims now, and is up to the task. Don't think I'll take it for a swim in the surf though. I can just imagine sand in those gathers, and a possible subsequent wardrobe malfunction, if you get my drift.