A little (ok, tiny) bit of gratuitous sewing

With summer approaching here in WA the sun has now begun visiting us at 5:20am. Couple that with increasingly hotter evenings making it hard to get a good nights sleep, now it’s impossible to even get a decent weekend sleep in. After a particularly bad nights sleep I decided to take matters into my own hands and whipped up a couple of eye masks.

I made a pattern by holding paper up to my face and drawing a shape that vaguely resembled a face mask. I used black fleece (from the winter discount bin, woohoo, 50c/meter!) for the inner face and a fat quarter for the outer. I covered the elastic to make it look nice and there you go. The hardest bit of the whole lot was choosing which fat quarter to use!

I made one for my boy too, thinking that if I didn’t he would want one too and end up stealing mine no matter how pink I make it. I used left over fabric scraps from this project, I really didn’t expect him to use it but he does.

They aren’t perfect yet. I think I’ll add another layer of fleece to mine and the elastic needs to drop down a bit but overall job well done.

Pancakes and rings

This week just gone Stress Bunny morphed into Productive Kiwi and I had a really successful wedding planning week. All the honeymoon items are booked now: accommodation, car hire, flights and I even made up a little Google map of things to do and driving directions (yes I am that nerdy).

My dress is coming along well, we’ll get to that in a minute, and two of my three bridesmaids are dressed, the last one will sort herself out I am sure. One of them has even bought shoes, make up, jewellery, hair accessories and even a matching clutch purse.

But you know when things are going quite well, too well actually, and you get a little suspicious, a little voice starts in the back of your head, “this isn’t supposed to be this easy, there must be a hiccup coming soon”…So yesterday we went into town to see the jeweller who made my engagement ring. His shop is in the one of the many confusing internal shopping arcades in the central city, we hadn’t been there for a while but eventually we found our bearings and went up the right staircase to find…a pancake house! I thought he couldn’t have gone far but Google didn’t help and neither did the arcade directory and after a bit of a walk around with no luck we were resigned that he’d either moved or gone out of business. After a half-hearted look at some of the other jewellers we did what you do when you’ve come all that way only to be disappointed…we went and had pancakes for lunch.

Consolation pancakes

So on to the dress: Earlier this week I lengthened the internal bodice and added the boning to test fit and feel. Boning has always been a bit mysterious for me but now that I’ve done it, it’s really not. Attaching the boning was no where near as technically difficult and I thought it would be, instead it was more awkwardly tricky. I bought a plastic boning, by the meter, the kind that is already within a cotton sleeve, you trim it to length and curve off each end.

from Butterick 5325 instructions

The boning has a natural curve to it but I got the first one pinned down and centered really easily. It was the second piece that caused problems, you see with one piece of boning attached you can’t handle the fabric the same way when pinning, it’s hard to explain but the problem is compounded with each piece you attach. By piece number four I really needed an extra two sets of hands, one pair to hold the thing in place, another to pick up the fabric and my own hands handling the pins. Well I got there in the end and stitched them all down using my zipper foot. Here is the result (note that it is now a tad too big but this will be simple to address when I make the actual bodice). I don’t have a picture of me trying it on but I really enjoyed how the inner bodice felt and made my body look.

Bonned bodice on Scarlett

Next up I attached it to the dress and altered the neck line, here is a dodgy camera phone photo in my laundry. I intended a better photo with tripod and remote but fiancé came home from his recent trip away earlier than expected and thwarted my plans.

My laundry...oh and my dress

On the weekend I tackled the dress back, which I can share with you now that it is impossible to jinx. I really wanted to add in a big pleat, firstly because one of the dresses I tried on had that detail and I loved it and secondly I really, really wanted to get rid of that unsightly center back seam below the zipper opening. It’s also my compromise to not having a huge train, I want something in-between to suit a garden wedding. I refuse to deal with bustling, I just want a bit of volume and to add some interest. My dress is not going to be the most complicated or fussy, I’m going for amazing fit and elegance above all else.

For a couple of weeks I did a lot of brain sewing, imagining how the heck I was going to make this work and finally I settled on a plan.

Center back pattern piece

I used the center back pattern piece (shortened), cutting one on the fold and two more separately and then separated the back seam of the dress and sewed it all in place.

A lot of fabric to manoeuvre now!

I know what I'm doing...I think...

My first attempt was far too large so I halved my pieces (which now that I think about it makes sense math-wise) and it was a much better result. So here is a before, after and after again picture, you’ll notice the hem just needs some correcting.

before, after...and after again

So I guess technically my trail run is finished and now there are no excuses to go out this weekend and buy some amazing fabric. Except that first I need some shoes because I realised I may not have enough hem at the front, and I need the shoes to adjust this…so that is today’s mission, a little reward for sorting out the honeymoon details and a little cheer-me-up for losing my ring guy (yes, I said ‘my’, I can be a over-protective like that).

Dreaming, dreaming…sewing, sewing

The problem with taking on such a big sewing project for me is that I’m not sewing anything else. This is immensely frustrating since Summer is my favourite sewing season and my wonderful sewing magazines still arrive each month. It also meant I had to put on hold a few projects that were part-way made, which I hate to do. Actually the dress is not entirely to blame, the change of seasons can wear some of it too ;)

So to relieve some of the stress these items are providing me I thought I’d do a short post on them. Then I will feel like I won’t forget them and they are officially documented as on hold, not because I have hit a snag or ‘rage quit’ them, their place in the UFO pile is quite temporary.

The Jeans That Have Taken Forever

Patrones 292 #14

These jeans really have taken forever, for no good reason either, and the timer is still running. The worst bit is that I am truly excited about them. I made these amazing pockets for the back so I was off to a flying start, then life interrupted for a bit and the main snag that stopped me was that I broke the zipper when I was shortening it (yes, it’s possible, apparently, since I managed to do it), so I had to buy a new one, which I did and then time ran out. So what’s left to do? Well, very little actually. Unpick the broken zipper and put in the new one…I am an expert at trouser fly openings now, trust me, it’s on my sewing CV in bold, right below welt pockets, so the new one will be in in a flash. Inside leg seam top stitching, outside leg seam (+ fitting adjustments), waist band and belt loops, hem. Done.

Jeans progress

.Does anyone recognise the inspiration for my pockets? No cheating if I’ve told you already.

Gok Coat

I really wanted a Mac style coat after watching too many Gok episodes. My kick-start was seeing a beautiful Table Eight trench coat in plum in one of the winter David Jones catalogues. It took me a while to pick a pattern and in the end I went with Burda #119 from WoF 03/2009.

Burda 3/2009 #119

I didn’t do a muslin, which I may pay for later on, or maybe not. The fabric is not as bright as I wanted but I still really like it. Halfway through I re-cut it down another two sizes because I wanted it to be close fitting and it was looking huge. It was one of those pick-up-put-down projects, sewn in between a few shorter time frame projects and as it turns out it spent a little too much time in “put-down” stage because summer rocked up one day and I was over my Mac coat. But it’s completely temporary, it’s just that I can’t stand sewing a winter item when it’s 30 degrees outside and all these wonderful dress patterns are calling to me. So when it starts cooling off in April/May I’ll pick it back up again, promise. What’s left to do? Heaps. I don’t even have buttons…or belt buckles. 1000kms of top stitching (620 miles for the non-metrics), sleeves, collar, self facings, hem, lining (which is hawt btw)…probably much more, but I haven’t looked at the rest of the instructions.

Mac coat progress

The colour is a deep purple, really hard to capture on camera.

Kaisa Skirt Duplicate

I’ve already made this skirt once and I wore it every week, sometimes twice, but I used a cheap drill cotton and after a while it just stopped being nice. It was constantly wrinkled, I had to iron it each morning and then I was scared to sit down since that would mean standing up again. In the end I decided it needed to be remade.

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-668″ title=”Kasia forever So I took it out of my wardrobe rotation (and boy do I miss it!) and pulled it apart to salvage the zipper and cute buttons. I was pretty quick to re-cut it in a really nice quality gabardine but I kept pushing it aside and just ran out of time again.

Kasia progress or lack of...

It’s stupid because this will be the third time I’ve made this skirt so I don’t even need the instructions any more, it should have been done in only a few hours. Actually sometimes I think remaking a pattern takes longer because you do get a bit blasé and it’s just too déjàvu, you get a bit bored because the challenge is gone, no? So what’s left to do? Interface waist band, side seams, zipper, buttons, hem…not much if I am honest. I really want to finish this skirt too, I loved wearing it, it was trans-seasonal and it went with everything, such a great staple. You should check out the pattern, and since it’s FREE there are no excuses.

There’s more…

I also have a collection of patterns that I have cut out and not yet sewn, there are three of them (I think), here’s a sneak peak, but that’s all your getting for now ;)

Oh yes, there's more...

Hrm, not such a short post after all huh?

Bunnies, horses and taking deep breaths

My week and weekend of wedding dress sewing were not as productive as I thought they would be so that’s why this post is going to be fairly short on the sewing and lacking exciting photos. I did have a wonderful Saturday with the girls from the BSC but that meant I didn’t make it to the fabric shop to buy my boning for the next stage.

Instead I turned into a little stress bunny, all silly panicking and then I started counting down weekends etc. Let’s just say I didn’t have a good week with dramas happening all over the place, it threw me off my careful planning, but we survive and move on. Calm has returned and my sewing room is super neat and tidy (that always settles me down for some reason).

Not many of the shops open on a Sunday here in Perth, including the fabric shops, which as you can imagine is super overwhelmingly frustrating. So I spent Sunday cleaning house for a Tuesday flat inspection and then with the small amount of time and energy I had left I turned to the inner lining of my dress. This lining will have the boning sewn to it. The unaltered pattern only has boning in the upper bodice, 6 pieces measuring about 180mm long (just over 7 inches for the non-metrics out there). It’s too short I think. Most of the dresses I tried on at the shop were boned to just above of my hips, short enough to still allow me to sit down and they felt great on. I want to recreate this feeling of being embraced by the dress, its confidence boosting, I felt so slim and also, once cinched in, that dress wasn’t going anywhere! So I have cut the upper bodice as per the pattern and I am lengthening it by attaching a portion of the skirt too. I’m not sure how it will go but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work so I am charging ahead with a lunch time dash to the fabric shop for the boning and over the next one or two nights I will piece this all together and test it out. Hopefully it is successful and I will share some more interesting photos.

If all goes well the plan for the rest of the week is to work on the back of the dress (I’m not jinxing it so don’t ask for details yet) so that by this weekend I can buy all the fabric and anything else I need. Whatever I manage to get done after that is still ahead of schedule and I am hoping to take a break from it all on the weekend of the 29th/30th since Melbourne Cup is November 2nd and I need a new dress and fascinator to match. It will be a quicky (in a good way) since the pattern pieces are already cut and ready to go, I even have the zipper and thread.

For those of you not familiar with “The Melbourne Cup” basically once a year the whole country stops to watch a bunch of horseys run around an oval of grass for about 3 and a half minutes. There is lots of cheering and much money changing hands. It also means dressing up, proper fancy dressing up, fascinators and bubbly so no complaints here.

This new dress is also disguised as “new dress for wearing out while on honeymoon and to pre/post wedding dinners” if curious fiancé should ask. This is a perfectly acceptable excuse since I don’t have any proper formal dresses. I was a skirt and top girl until I started seriously sewing for myself. Isn’t it funny, little fashion retard that I am, I am much braver with fashion when I am sewing for myself?

They Say an Elephant Never Forgets (Uber Pattern Organisation: Or what to do if you’re a sewing nerd with too many patterns!)

Hello, my name is Melissa…(takes deep breath)…and I have a sewing pattern addiction…but I’m not after help for that, I’m quite happy with my ever expanding collection, thank you.

My real problem is that I’m also an organisation nerd and for the last year I have been frustrated with trying to find a way to catalogue my patterns. My big problem, apart from the sheer volume, is that they exist in paper envelopes within a filing cabinet, magazines within lever arch binders and digital pdfs/tutorials on my computers hard drive.

I started by saving images of the envelope front and back in folders on my hard drive and having the folders display in thumbnail form with an image of my choice. This worked ok for a while but there is no good way to organise them in multiple categories and it’s impossible to search for “vogue summer dress that I bought last week” or “that handbag tutorial I saw on Sew Mama Sew 7 months ago and I saved somewhere deep within the depths of my hard drive”.

I did a bit of research online for software solutions, I knew what I wanted the program to do but it was kind of hard to search for. I wanted to be able to open a program, go to a category, like “bags” and see all my bag patterns, or type a few key words like “dress”, “summer”, “Simplicity” and have images of the patterns that matched pop up for me to see, then maybe I could even click on the one I wanted and it would tell me where that pattern existed in my little sewing world, filing cabinet or the destination folder on my computer. Sigh, is that such a big ask?

What I needed was some sort of database program, but I wanted an easy solution, and preferably cheap/free. I don’t own the top level super expensive Office that contains Access and while the Linux OpenOffice was ok (and free), it wasn’t perfect. I’m no tech dummy, I like to think I’m pretty good with computers but buggered if I was going to learn the Linux coding to get it to do exactly what I wanted. The next best sounding program I came across was Bento, ohh it was pretty looking, but I’m not a Mac convert (and probably never will be) and the Windows equivalent, FileMaker Pro, was a far too expensive at $453.64 + gst, more than 6 times the cost of Bento ($71.82 + gst).

It all got a bit too hard so to be honest it wasn’t high on my list of fixes and so I struggled on (I know, I’m a survivor, how did I ever cope?). That’s when, out of the blue, Vanessa came to my aid. She said, “Hey, check out this program called Evernote!” So I did, and it was perfect…well, close enough, if I had an iPhone, Windows or Android mobile I’d be even happier because that would make it portable. Imagine standing in the fabric shop holding the PERFECT bolt of fabric for that dress pattern you bought last year. Now, how many meters of fabric did it need? And didn’t it need a zipper and a couple of buttons too? Interfacing? Well that’s ok, whip out your mobile phone, launch Evernote and find it. Done.

The Evernote website has some great video tutorials and heaps of information to get you started. It can do so much more than I can possbily ramble on about here so go and check it out.

Random non-sewing thought: It would even be great for your recipe collection, and you could just scan them in because Evernote can search within images for text.

There are some restrictions for a free account, you have a limited amount of data you can upload each month (but this can be increased for a small fee) but to be honest, by the time I reach my monthly limit I’m sick of cataloguing and need a break anyway. It’s taken me about 3 months on-and-off to get everything entered and organised just how I like it but I’m pretty happy with my new pattern database and when I get my next mobile (Android please!) I’ll be able to go to the fabric store with all my patterns in my pocket.

EDIT 03/03/10:  I now use Evernote to keep track of my fabric stash, see how I take my nerdyness to the next level here.

EDIT: 15/01/11: Check out my brief Android app review here.

Patrones 296 (September 2010)

Surprise! Super amazing bonus Patrones issue!…and it’s early! But I can’t sew anything from it just yet, there’s my wedding dress still awaiting amazing things. Cannot. Allow. Distractions!

But that’s ok, I can still share the goodies inside with you lucky readers!

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As I suspected I did not receive the extra Grandes issue but that’s fine because this magazine so makes up for it. First of all check out the amazing fabric on the cover dress, beautiful, I am so jealous, Perth fabric shops take note!

This issue contains lots of cute jackets and pants but I am feeling a bit all jacketed and panted out since the last issue and since it is ramping up to summer here I am in skirt and dress mode (or I will be properly in February when I return as a Mrs, joy!)

So lets start with a dress, how cute is this? It looks like a bustier over a blouse but it’s a one piece, yummy and a bit sexy with the pseudo corset front.

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These two outfits are cute too, the vest is nice and simple with a tuxedo twist in the collar and look: ruffles! You all know how much I love ruffles! Also I never thought check could look so good, must find some fabric just like this. The pants are ok, but I’m not a big fan of front pleats in pants (on guys or girls), reminds me too much of the uniform pants that were compulsory at my college (high school). First of all they were ridiculously expensive and secondly, due to the outdated pleats, they made us all look pregnant, just what a 14 year old girl wants. So there was a mass revolt and all the girls bought $19.95 black flare pants from Glassons. Since we were ALL wearing them (as in 350 students) they couldn’t do much about it and so it became the norm. 7th formers (Year 13) at the start of year camp would tell the new and uninitiated 3rd formers (Year 9) to go buy their black pants at Glassons. Ahh the memories.

Ok, so I’ll share one nice coat from this issue, beautiful and emerald green, the line drawing doesn’t do much for it but the model (slightly Uma Therman don’t you agree?) looks like she loves it! And so do I.

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This top is great, ruffley/gathery/ruchey goodness, very interesting and I love the pants, great pockets, I’d probably add a flare to the leg or make them wide leg.

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Patrones is still not above a little “wft?!” ala LMB style, mmm, nice!
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I am skipping a whole pile of pages (ahh someone else in a cooler climate will blog those I am sure) to SKIRTS! So many wonderful, wonderful SKIRTS! Short, pleated and pencil, they’re all in here and all of them are fabulous.

The plus section in this issue is pretty good too, here are my favourites, #’s 54, 55 & 56 amazing! And the jersey-licious dress #57 is really pretty, yummy colour choice too.

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Next months issue is a Party issue, I remember the last one was pretty good so I’ve got my hopes up already. We are promised ‘prom dresses’ (ohh), ‘soft textures’ (ok), ‘many proposals’ (huh?) and ‘a plus of elegance’ (I’ve got to stop using Google Translate for this! My Spanish speaking work colleague isn’t here today – yes, my work colleague speaks Spanish, you may worship me…actually she’s not much help with sewing terms but it’s fun to have her read them out aloud!) I guess we’ll see what the elegance and proposals are next month.

The Skeleton of an Idea

I made pretty good progress on my Wedding Dress over the weekend. In fact I completed the first version, what I am calling the base skeleton, it’s basically the pattern I selected made up with no changes. I’ll use this base to try out my changes to the design.

You’ll remember I said I bought my pattern as a download from sewingpatterns.com. For those of you not familiar with their service they offer all the big pattern companies patterns plus a huge number of independent patterns for purchase in envelope form and also some as downloads. If you sign up for their newsletter you will be informed when a particular pattern brand comes on special, which is often, and these sales rotate through the brands quite regularly. Their postage charges are pretty good, slightly cheaper than BMV.com.

I’m a big fan of patterns that I can download, I know a lot of people don’t like them but I think they have their place. I also work in an industry that allows me access to large format printers and scanners so I’m lucky, and biased. I tend to use them when I want a pattern really quickly (as in instantly) or it’s a pattern I sort of like but am not sure about, it ends up being a lot cheaper to buy it that way so I’m not so bothered if I end up not liking it.

After you purchase your downloaded sewing pattern you are sent an email by PrintSew.com, this is where you print your pattern from. Unlike BurdaStyle, for example, you don’t get a pdf, you must print via this website but you can download a pdf of the instructions and envelope back. This part I don’t like that much but I can understand their need to control the distribution of the patterns. So this is what I do (and I know it is extremely nerdy and sounds time consuming but trust me, I have it down to a fine art) I print my pattern off in A4 or A3 then I use a multi function  scanner with feeder to scan all the pages into Photoshop where I assemble the pattern digitally, chopping off the boarders using the magic wand tool. I then save my pattern as a flattened PDF and print it to the large format printer. Like I said, it sounds time consuming but you ain’t gonna catch this little kiwi fluffing around with scissors and cellotape for a $1.99 pattern! I think overall it’s quicker, more accurate and I end up with a file I can re-print whenever I want. Ok enough about that, on to the dress…

Wow, the pattern pieces are huge, even with the upper bodice as a separate piece, I had to roll and unroll my fabric to keep it manageable. Based on the size chart (which I know runs large but I thought with a close fitting dress might be more accurate) I cut a size 16 but after just making up the upper bodice it was clear this was at least one size too large so cut it down to size 14.

The rest of the dress went together really quickly but man those seams are super long, I wish my machine had a turbo! The size 14 turned out to be pretty close to perfect, there are still a few tweaks that I need to make but overall I am pretty happy with the fit, no huge changes to freak me out and slow me down.

Scarlett is a pretty accurate fit for me as far as dress dummies go, and here she is looking fabulous, ready for her calico wedding. I have her set at my current height in bare feet and you can see I have plenty of hem left to play with. I’m really happy with the train shape too. Some of the dresses I tried on had trains that went on forever and would need bustling after the ceremony. I am hoping to strike a middle ground that is still a nice shape for photographs and walking but more appropriate for the garden ceremony.

Here are a couple of close ups, you can see some of my marks that I made on the calico, I took this muslin much more seriously than most. I admit it’s looking pretty basic at the moment but I have further plans for the back and I intend to cut the front more sweetheart than straight.

I still have all the internals yet to make up and I am hoping by this weekend to do a trial  run with the boning, wish me luck! :)

So how did I deal with that curious fiancé of mine? Like this: