Monday, May 11, 2015

Orange Peel Special

My days are filled with cycling to work, work, cycling home, cooking dinner, gardening, household chores. My nights are filled with this:

Endless rows of this:

Backwards and forwards, trying to relax my shoulders, remember to use the knee lift, needle down, turn, one two three stitches, turn.  And do it all over again.

It took me ages to settle on a quilting design. The modern quilt group I go to asked me how I was going to quilt it, and I said "well, on the exhibition entry form, I used the words '... and the quilt is then heavily machine quilted'". I'd built a rod for my own back. But I like how it's turning out.

Of course, once this quilt is finished, I have another quilt to baste and quilt as well. For that one I've said 'The quilting design swirls through the leaves.' Shit. All in three weeks. No pressure or anything.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Michelle vs the StyleArc Brooke Skirt

I made the StyleArc Brooke Skirt because I wanted to make a skirt that wasn't my usual a-line skirt pattern.

StyleArc Brooke Skirt

I was so proud of myself. After adding a second dart to the back for the swayback issue, and taking in the sides a little at the waist, I had myself a really lovely skirt. And it was a bit different!

And then I wore it to the inaugural CBR Sewing Crew session back in February, and while sitting on my arse for 4 hours (with breaks to use the iron and raid the cheese platter), it stretched about 4 inches in the waist. It was embarrassing to say the least, especially when I had to hold my skirt up with both hands on the way to the car to stop it falling down. I blame both the fabric and the construction method equally.

The fabric is a linen print from Spotlight purchased about 5 years ago I think. It is heavier than a handkerchief linen, but lighter than the usual cotton-linen blends I use, The weave is not that big, so I was surprised it stretched so much. But the construction method used is different for the back and the front. For the front, you sew the two panels together along with twill tape, and turn them the right way round so the seam is completely hidden. I even added edge stitching on the inside for extra strength. The back section involves a fold-down facing complete with iron on interfacing.  Neither construction method was enough to temper the stretching possibilities of me sitting down in it for 4 hours.

Line drawing from the StyleArc website

I ended up washing the skirt, then taking the skirt apart from the hip up. I unpicked the waist stitching at the front, and basted the skirts together with a raw edge. I cut off the back facing completely (and the interfacing had fallen off in the wash anyway). Then I joined up the side seams, and added my usual petersham ribbon facing. So much better - and while it still stretches a little bit, it's not enough to affect the daily wear of this skirt. I love it!

StyleArc Brooke Skirt

This skirt is the classic a-line I love, but with an overlapping front panel. I made the long version of the pattern, but it is still far too short for me. I am making this again in a blue tencel for work, and to make it a little more modest I've added 2 inches to the pattern.

The hem on the front panel is constructed first and it involves a mitred hem at those pointy bits. Yes, I felt very clever when I worked it out and it looked so neat! I struggle with the StyleArc instructions a little bit (well, a lot) as they are so different to the way the Big 4 set out their pattern instructions. But I actually got this one.

StyleArc Brooke Skirt

I didn't use an invisible zip, as per instructions, because this skirt was meant to be a wearable muslin, and I couldn't find the stash of invisible zips I bought at ClearIt last year. (Probably my sewing room needs a bit of a tidy up). I also apologise for the creasing and the wonky edge to the upper zip - I took these photos after sitting at a Berry cafe for breakfast for a couple of hours

StyleArc rated this pattern as "challenging" but I would add that the construction came together quite quickly once I'd worked out the instructions. If you are going to make it and you don't have a curvy shape that stretches waists when sitting, I'd recommend using a thicker interfacing on the back section. Or do what I did and add a different waist finishing altogether.

I'm looking forward to finishing off the blue tencel version this weekend, and then I will blog it with a top, made a couple of months ago, but never worn because I had nothing to wear it with. And then, I promise, I will stop being in denial over summer being over (sob) and start sewing more seasonally appropriate clothes. As I write this, it is 10 degrees and I'm wearing flannel PJs and knitted socks ... with Birkenstock sandals because I just can't let summer go.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Last Days of Summer - A Tale of Two Skirts

Summer is winding down here in the Nation's Capital, and I have much sadness.  My local outdoor pool has closed for the season, the morning bike rides into work are getting decidedly nippy (and dark), and my sandals tan is fading.

But the good news is that while I haven't been blogging (four posts this year - what the heck?) and doing all the householdy things that become essential when your partner busts his hip (later this afternoon I am apparently getting up on a tall ladder to check the gutters. Yeah.), I have managed to make a little time for clothes sewing.

I'm sorry to disappoint, but I've made a couple of skirts from a TNT (tried and true) pattern. How boring, right? I had a think about this while we were taking blog photos this afternoon - why is it that I keep returning time and time again to the same patterns, the same shapes, the same wardrobe staples? It's not as if I don't have the skills to make something different, but I suppose when your figure has the foibles mine does, you tend to stick with what you have worked hard to adjust, and know works. And when you are in desperate need of a couple of skirts because you've thrown out all your old ones, you kind of get lazy (well, I do).

McCalls 2873

Oh McCalls 2873. I'm so glad I met you.

McCalls 2873

I actually cut both of these skirts out together - one piece of fabric on top of the other, both on the fold. It's easy enough to mark out the darts this way - just insert a pin in each marking point, and peel the layers apart as you mark where the pin is.

McCalls 2873

The gingko skirt was very straightforward to make. I do love the 2 1/2 inch hem the pattern gives me. And I've worn this skirt all day - at the movies, and at drinks after, and it hasn't crushed too badly at all. The fabric is a linen/cotton blend by Kokka that I picked up at Addicted to Fabric a couple of years ago. I also bought a citrus handkerchief linen to make a shirt to go with it, but I still haven't made that, and it's getting a little late in the season for a sleeveless linen shirt anyway. Next summer.

McCalls 2873

I'm not one for pattern placement at the best of times, but this one I took a little care with, and while it's not perfect I do love the results. And referring to the back view, I once again did my "third dart" adjustment on each side of the back - adding an extra dart to counteract swayback and sharp hip-to-waist incline.

McCalls 2873

The red and cream fabric in this skirt in another Japanese linen/cotton that I bought at Addicted to Fabric. I can't remember the designer (and I think the selvage was in Japanese anyway) but it's quite soft for linen cotton and wears really well. The shirt is a Simplicity 2938 in white linen that I made quite a few years ago. I don't wear white often, but it's handy to have in the wardobe when nothing else goes with your skirt.

McCalls 2873

For the first time in my life I put a zipper on the outside. I like it, although this zipper, bought at Studio Mio at the last Canberra Quilt Show, hasn't worn well at the sides. I suspect it is supposed to be washed by hand, but in this house that kind of behaviour is verboten! So a shabby exposed zipper it is.

McCalls 2873

I've since made a couple of more McCalls 2873s for work, and there will be more again before autumn is done. Next post I might blog about how I am questioning my style at the moment. It always happens when the season changes.

Or perhaps I'll post something new that I made. Not a TNT pattern at all.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Not a finisher

Design Wall today

This is my design wall at the moment.

There is really no plan here - just the start of six quilts I'll probably never finish.

Oh dear - that sounded a bit negative didn't it?! But in reality I did a bit of a mental stocktake the other day of all the quilts I have started, half finished, almost finished and just-need-to-quilt-it and just-need-to-bind-it.  And there are a lot.

The reason I did a mental stocktake was because just before I fell asleep the other night, I had decided  I wanted to make a really epic quilt.  Super epic. Preferably by hand. I didn't have a quilt in mind - although La Passacaglia papers have been patiently waiting for me since July last year.

And then it struck me.

Chester Criswell

I'm already making epic quilts.  I just have to bloody well finish them.

I'm making the Chester Criswell Quilt. Hexy MF. Anna Brereton. The Lotta Jansdotter Hexies.

Lucy Boston

And Lucy Boston.

Orange Peel blocks

And I've got some crazy plans for some needleturned orange peels (I'm just not entirely sure what sort of crazy, and how crazy it will get).

And then there is the Red Maple Leaf Quilt which is getting so close.

The funny thing is, I've always been more of a starter than a finisher, and in the last year I've worked at being at peace with that. But you know, it might be nice to finish something.  Anything, really.

Last year, after the Sydney exhibition, Australian Patchwork and Quilting got in touch with me about doing a showcase on my Across the Universe quilt. So that's how my story of my quilting life and two of my quilts got to appear across three pages in the latest edition. (Vol 24 No 8 in case you wondering, Mum. I talk about you a lot.) It feels a little weird being in a major quilting publication, but I'll be back to being anonymous again next month which will make me So. Much. Happier.

Magazine feature

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How Michelle got her quiltjo back

I haven't quilted anything for about 4 or 5 months now. Though now I think of it, there was a little foray back into Chester Criswell when I returned from Japan, and also a little 1/2 inch hexagoning while travelling, but other than that, nothing.

I didn't want to quilt. I didn't like quilting. I thought the quilting community was getting ridiculous (which is actually a ridiculous thought). I liked my sewing bubble, and my little sewing community, and I am really enjoying making my own clothes. Between gardening, sewing, cooking, working and swimming, I don't have time to make quilts.

I knew my quiltjo would return one day, but I wasn't expecting it to return while sitting in the dentist's chair earlier this week. I hate going to the dentist - far too much tooth action going on when I was a kid, I think. So I try to not clench my hands too much, and think nice thoughts. For some reason, my mind turned to making a red maple leaf quilt.

Maple Leaf Quilt

I got to work with no plan on paper, but it all in my head. Isn't that the best way to start quilting? I roughly worked out the maths for making a 9 patch maple leaf with a scrappy background, and got cutting.

Maple Leaf Quilt

I made two on Monday night, and most of another five on Wednesday night.

Maple Leaf Quilt

Just eighteen more to go.

Maple Leaf Quilt

Yes, I'm hooked. And I'm back.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Simplicity 2247 "It'll Do" Muslin

If you were reading back in March and April 2012, you might remember I had to make a formal frock for my niece's wedding, and while the dress itself turned out ok after numerous fitting disasters, I had also made a muslin, which I eventually abandoned as I just ran out of time and patience.

When I was cleaning up my stash cupboard before we left for Japan, I noticed the dress there, lonely, and unfinished except for the hem and facings.  Should be a doddle to finish this off, I thought. I'll get right onto it when I get home, and then I'll have a nice new summer frock for work.

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit

This is the photo where I look really, really pleased with what a splendid example of home sewing I have made.

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit

This photo is how I really feel about it.

So yeah, it wasn't really a doddle. Thanks to the blog post mentioned above, I finally remembered what state I'd left it in. I recut a whole new bodice with a C cup (I don't think I've been a C cup since I was 13). And I still had side boob issues. And it kept getting worse from there every time I tried to fix something.

  • I took in the princess seam at the upper bust by 2 inches (that's a 2 inch total on each seam, people!) which left me with a little bit less side boob, but a lot more gape. 
  • I added a freaking side boob dart to take out some of the excess. Tacky. And more gape
  • I wanted to throw it in the bin, but you know. Stubborn.
  • So I took the shoulder seams up 
  • I then recut the armholes freehand.
  • I still wanted to throw it in the bin.
  • I bound the armholes rather than redrafting the facing
  • I sewed up the back rather than insert a zip (it's stretch sateen. As long as I don't have a stiff back or neck that day, it's totally doable in getting on and off)
  • I bound the hem as well and holy crap I have a frock.  

A really badly fitted frock, but a frock that I can wear to work and pretend that that side boob gape thing isn't really happening. Frustratingly, this is the only home sewn item that my workmates have admired.

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit

The good news is I have somewhere to stow my lunch when I catch the bus to work.

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit

Ooh hellloooooooo scoliosis! That's what my physio has been banging on about! And I probably should have recut that back armhole a lot more, but eh.

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit

A note on the bound hem. As this dress was already far too short for work I decided a normal 1 inch hem would be horrible, so I bound with store bought binding. I actually quite like the effect on the gored skirt - I get a bit of a twirly skirt as a result.

(You would have had photographic evidence of the twirling except I'm pretty sure the lifting nails on our old deck would have tripped me up...)

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit

If I stand like this all the time no one will notice the fit issues! And I look like a superhero...

Pattern: Simplicity 2247 Amazing Shit Fit
Fabric: Stretch Sateen from Spotlight. It's rubbish, and the black runs into the white everytime I wash it and dare to let it sit in the washing machine for more than 5 minutes.
Notions: binding tape, thread, and a lot of swear words.
Adjustments: too many to mention
Started: March 2012
Finished: December 2014
Make again?: Absolutely bloody not

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Pineapple Linen Skirt and The Black Embroidered Cotton Top

I have been mad for pineapples for quite some time, and it started long before the sewing blogosphere went all cray cray for the spiky tropical fruit of my homeland. I bought some gorgeous pineapple voile in Kyoto, but when I came home I couldn't resist the pineapple linen from Darn Cheap Fabrics that had every sewist's heart.

So I bought myself 2 metres for a Christmas present to myself. And maybe also some pineapple cotton jersey.  Shhhh. No I don't have a problem.

But what to make with 2 metres of pineapple fabric? The pressure was certainly on to make something magnificent. Emma had made a midi skirt which looked fantastic.  Kirsty had made culottes.  Amanda had made shorts.  I briefly entertained the idea of making Prefontaine Shorts, or grading up the Kelly Skirt. However the day that I threw out three skirts from my wardrobe because they were badly worn I realised I was seriously short in the casual skirt department. I plucked out the first skirt pattern I could find in the pattern stash pile on the spare bed and made up the a-line skirt from McCalls 2873.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

This was quite honestly the best photo taken this morning. I probably should switch up my coffee to caffeinated on blog-photo-taking days.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

Anyway, the skirt fitting was a total PITA. I'd forgotten how much of a PITA it was. Granted, the shape is the best a-line shape of any of my skirt patterns, but the old swayback and waist-hip ratio issues raised their ugly heads and I ended up in a sad place that involved an unpicker, a third dart in the back, and a really ugly side seam.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

("Take a picture of all 6 darts!" I said. "Nope, can't see them," he said. "I shall just take a photo of your bum instead.")

In the end though I ended up with a very serviceable skirt with pineapples on it, and a sudden desire to make a summery black blouse to wear with it.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

Hellooooooo Simplicity 2929, my old friend!  (I just couldn't help myself.)

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

This is the bodice of the dress lengthened by 4 inches into an a-line shape. I also pleated the neckline instead of gathering it, solely for the reason that I was using a thicker embroidered cotton than the voiles I usually use, and gathering would have been too much bulk at the neck. The fabric is a black embroidered cotton I purchased from Spotlight over three years ago.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

I can't believe I wore this to work today and never noticed that stray thread.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

The hem is very wonky, but that's my fault for daring to vary a dress bodice pattern into a blouse by just using a tape measure and a french curve ruler. And yeah, it does look tight across the bust, but it's not. If I was going to make this in a thicker cotton again, I'd probably think about a FBA to avoid that line ... and then probably use a different pattern because I really couldn't be arsed doing a FBA.

I love this blouse. I love that I got to use another button from my vintage button collection.

Simplicity 2929 blouse variation and McCalls 2873 skirt

All up, I think I got a great outfit. I am known for loving a big colourful print a little bit too much, but I totally love the pineapples. I might love it the best of all my skirts. I also love that I have enough fabric left over to do pockets for the Prefontaine Shorts should I ever make them.

Coming soon: More Pineapples.  Many many more.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Kaftanmas

I decided not to travel anywhere this Christmas, because travelling at Christmas is nuts and we always do it. It involves hours in a plane, and then hours in a car or train, or else 8 hours in a car south or 15 hours in a car north, and last Christmas we did BOTH families over 7 days both north and south which was just ridiculous, so this year I stayed home and spent Christmas Day with my Spoolette friend Amanda and her husband.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Amanda recently made a kaftan - and it was fabulous, and not in a hippy, folk singing, creepy, key-swapping way either. When it was decided that I would gatecrash Christmas, she declared Christmas to be Kaftanmas and holy crap what's a girl to do but join in? I mean, in Canberra it's likely to be hot and sunny and we are both originally from Queensland so a kaftan is all shades of perfect for Christmas attire.

I fully embraced the concept of making the kaftan, and then realised that any shapeless kaftan on me could make me resemble Demis Roussos without the beard and the eyebrows, and a lady can't have that for Kaftanmas. Luckily I realised that Simplicity 2929 (and here I go again) View B is perfect for kaftanning it up, so I bought some blood orange tropical voile from Remnant Warehouse and I was off.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Whoo! Kimono sleeves!

I cut the dress out on Tuesday night and I sewed it up on Wednesday afternoon after I'd finished work. It took me exactly 2 repeats and 4 songs of the latest Hilltop Hoods album which would be, I don't know, about 2 hours? Except for the slash at the centre front neckline, this view is a lot less fiddly that my usual version D or E.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Look I'll be honest here and tell you that I don't think this is really my style. Especially not in tropical prints. But on Christmas Day it was perfect to wear - we had a very hot, extremely humid day, and if it hadn't rained so much we'd have been sitting in the park across the road so the cover up on my shoulders and arms was a lot better than my usual sleeveless style. This dress was very cool to wear, extremely comfortable, and we managed a lot of eating, drinking, more eating and even did a jigsaw puzzle before I went home and collapsed in a hot sweaty heap. And then jumped up again and got the tripod out and took photos of my kaftan for Kaftanmas. Hence the wrinkles. But it's held up pretty well I think! I wore it out to dinner with friends on Christmas night and it was still going strong and the elastic around the waist got a good workout throughout the day with all that food.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

The centre front slash I did is not perfect, but the print hides a million sins. I also slightly pressed down the neck opening because I can't stand shirts that flap around and can't make up their minds as to whether they are open or closed. Or both. I'm tempted to put a closure on the neck for future sun protection - and it actually looks quite nice closed up.

I think this is the last Simplicity 2929 I will make for a while - time to try some new dress patterns. Although I will always end up going back to this one I think. It's so versatile.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Merry Kaftanmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat Dress

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

I made another Simplicity 2929 dress, this time to copy Princess Mary of Denmark.

I know, right? The similarities are frightening. We are so alike *snort*

Anyway, a few years ago, Tessuti Fabrics were selling this gorgeous silk/cotton voile border print that they called "Banana Gate". Hugo Boss made a dress out of it, apparently, and on Tessuti's blog post they even included a photo of Princess Mary wearing her dress to tempt me further.

Between you and me, they had me at "Hugo Boss". The only way I was ever going to fit into their clothes was to make my own from their fabric.

So I did. Might have taken me another three years, but I did it.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

And I love it.

I used the same view as all the other S2929s I've made, but for the first time ever, I lined the skirt in cream Bemsilk. It was pretty easy - cut and sew together the same four pieced skirt, baste it to the skirt, then attach to the bodice. It wasn't even that hard to make a casing and insert elastic.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

Here's a photo without the belt, just to give you proof on the elastic waist. Yet again, it's another confortable skirt, although I possibly could have take the skirt seams out a little as it's a bit squeezier than my others.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

Another fabric loop, and a vintage button from the collection, and I had myself a pretty nice dress. I wore it today to my last day of work before the Christmas break, and it was very floaty and so nice to wear. I loved it! Might be a new favourite. With the bodice not being lined, it does have a tendency to cling to my bra a little bit, but it's not enough to truly annoy me and cause me to fiddle.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

I can't emphasis enough what a great pattern Simplicity 2929 is. It's simply, is easy to adjust, doesn't involve bust darts, and probably the trickiest thing is working out the facing. But once that's done you're on the home stretch.

I have one more 2929 in me I think, this time in a different view. Perhaps it's my Christmas dress. Maybe then I'll retire the pattern.