Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…oh deer!

The WSBN are great at scheming!

Our most recent collaborative idea was to sew a garment from one pattern brand. Votes were cast and Deer & Doe won…and then the four of us who participated all managed to sew the same pattern, the Bleuet dress!

We have graduated from Twinsies to Quadruplets!

So where do four sewists go for photographs when they are all wearing the same dress by a pattern company called Deer & Doe?

Duh, they go to Staglands of course, because with a name like that there MUST some deer there, right?

RIGHT!

But first we ate, because not only are we excellent at scheming and sewing (and sewing scheming) we are also good at eating!

So we picnicked:

You may notice we also included significant others, both large and small, for this outing.

Wellington put on a beautiful day so after our picnic we wandered, looking at the animals, chatting and photographing as we went.

The Bleuet Quadruplets:

Nikki, Kat, Me and Jenna

Apart from the odd sneak peek this was the first time I’d seen all the dresses complete and together. I really love that we each put our personal style twist to it and while it’s clear we all used the same pattern we all ended up with a unique dress.

Sewing is awesome, yes it is!

Near one of the picnic areas a lady complimented our dresses and was brave enough to ask, “Why are you all wearing the same dress?” so I quickly explained that we were part of a sewing group and that this particular dress was from a pattern company called Deer & Doe so we were hoping to have photos with deer (we hadn’t actually seen any deer at that point).

She seemed very impressed and that was when I realised we are not normal but it made me happy in a weird sort of way :)

Me, Kat, Jenna and Nikki

I saw this check print while on a sneaky fabric shopping mission with Nikki. She picked it up first and I was going to get some cut from it after her but there wasn’t enough left on the bolt. I figured it wasn’t meant to be, then Enabler Nikki texted me one weekend not long after to say she’d seen another bolt of it. I couldn’t get to the shop but put out a cry for help on the WSBN Facebook page and MaryLousie came to my rescue – sewing friends are the best!

I channelled my inner Ladybird and cut the side panels on the bias, then I chopped off the self button placket and cut that on the bias too.

You may have noticed I have an extra panel on the back of my dress, just below the collar.

This is, err…a bonus design feature.

Ok, maybe I had a little boo boo.

While trying this dress on I got my arm stuck one of the arm holes and heard a terrible ripping sound! At first I couldn’t find any damage so I assumed it was just some basting stitches ripping out. I carried on sewing…and then I saw it!

NooOOoooOOOoooo!

I was really mad at myself for about 30 seconds. Then I sat down at my machine and zig zagged the rip together. After staring at it a little longer I realised I had to patch it. I am sure I’ve seen patches on the back of shirts so I drew a semi-circle on the back bodice piece that would cover the rip and cut it on the bias for interest.

I top stitched it in place and it went unnoticed for about half the day until Nikki spotted it ;)

After solving that little problem I needed some stress relief – for the first item ever, and inspired by Kat, I decided to try snap fasteners instead of buttons.

I bought 12 pearl snaps and took out my frustration installing them.

Sewing with a hammer is fun!

We found the deer eventually and I’m glad we remember to buy food at the entrance!

Check out this guys antlers, so soft but also mean looking ;)

The pattern:

This was my first Deer & Doe pattern, but I own 5 of them in total. The pattern comes in a cute envelope and is printed on nice sturdy paper – a dream to work with compared to some of the thin tissue I’ve been tracing from lately.

You get two instruction booklets, one in French, one in English and I was a little disappointed to see that they are mostly text with very few diagrams. This did not stop me getting through the project but for someone who has not made a shirt or shirt dress before it could slow them down.

I felt there were a few gaps in the instructions, I couldn’t find any mention of stitching the shoulder seams and no guidance of which side to top stitch your panels. I also felt the collar is constructed in a very strange way so I decided to sew mine in a more traditional way that I have done before because the Deer & Doe instructions wouldn’t work in my head.

I found the sleeve cuffs a bit strange to construct too. After interfacing you fold them in on themselves so that you end up with 4 layers of fabric plus interfacing that you then have to sandwich onto the gathered bottom of the sleeve. It’s not easy and if you are using a thicker fabric I suggest you cut the sleeve cuff in half and attach it a different way.

This pattern cost me NZD$22.00 so I guess I just expected a little bit more love in the instructions. It is labelled an intermediate pattern but I feel that an advanced beginner could tackle this with a bit more guidance, or while consulting a general sewing book.

The draft is good, all my pieces lined up and it sews up quite quickly. The princess seams give you lots of fitting adjustment and I think the bow at the back adds a cute detail. I also I like how it is constructed.

I was a bit worried the puffy sleeves would be cute overload but after basting them on I decided to leave them. NH thought they looked OK plus I wore this dress to work last week and no one laughed at me ;)

Staglands:

I was pleasantly surprised by Staglands. I am Wellingtonian born and bred so I assumed I must have been there at some point in my life but apparently not. It was completely new to me and I really enjoyed myself!

The park is huge and from Wellington CBD it’s a good hour by car through the amazing Akatarawa Valley road. Leave home early because you really do need an entire day to enjoy the whole park.

Anywhere that has baby bunnies roaming around will get a glowing review from me!

I (and when I say I, I mean Nerdy Husband) took heaps and HEAPS of photos, over 400, a lot of which didn’t come out. This is bad, but also good, because now I am motivated to finally replace my faulty camera lens…and maybe try to get a deal on a macro for detail shots too ;) So I have a few more photos, lots of animals and some funny out-takes, and rather than bombard you with more photos here you can click through to my Flikr album to see the rest :)

THE DEETS:

Pattern - Deer and Doe Bleuet Dress, straight size 42

Fabric – Cotton check from The Fabric Warehouse, Kaiwharawhara, $10/m

Other notions – 12 x pearl snaps

Miss Bossy Patterns

Last month on The Monthly Stitch we put the March challenge up for community vote:

The winner? Pattern Stashbusting! Use a pattern that’s been in your stash that you’ve never used.

It won easily…far too easily.

So we called in the help of Miss Bossy Patterns:

Miss Bossy Patterns challenged the Collective to select unused patterns from their stash (3 or more) and ask the community and their readers to vote, the winning pattern is to be sewn up for March.

I’ve been looking through my short list (which isn’t very short) and digging through my filing cabinet and finally made a selection. Here are my options:

First up is Vogue 1317, a Ralph Rucci pattern:

This dress has been on my short list for a while but I wasn’t sure about fabric – and then I discovered double knit (one of the suggested fabrics) and shortly after found some in the perfect fuchsia!

Second is the the super cute Reglisse by Deer & Doe:

I’ve liked this dress for a while, it looks comfy and sweet and I think you could have a lot of fun with fabric selection and contrast optons. I have plenty in my stash that this pattern could work with, here is just a small selection:

Last is Lekala 5928 and it’s not a dress, ah ha! I admit I am on a bit of a dress binge right now but after seeing Kat’s cute Dita skirt, I want a skirt that makes me want to shake my tail feather too! ;)

This is also a pattern brand which is new to me. This particular pattern comes off of a CD I bought a while ago. You enter your measurement and it produces the pattern to fit you…theoretically…so I think, since this is the first pattern from them I have ever made and also my first time printing from this CD (that is not entirely in English!), I will need make a quick muslin first to check. I also have plenty of fabric in my stash that could be made into this pattern, another small selection:

Help me decide what to make for the March TMS Challenge by voting in my poll, feel free to leave me a comment as well :) :

Go! :D

Sewing toys: Coverstitch obsession edition

WARNING: This post is loooong. I was going to break it up into two but I decided it’s easier to keep it all together, then those of you looking for coverstitch information can find it all in one place.

You can use these links to navigate:

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I was a very lucky girl this Christmas, “Santa” didn’t know what to get me so I asked for something I’ve been thinking about for a while: a coverstitch machine.

Santa knows what a coverstitch machine is, we’ve discussed them before. He said, “If you make me a hoodie with cool stitching then I’ll put one under the tree…”

Deal!

So I went into full investigation mode. It’s hard to find a lot of information about coverstitch machines, even more difficult to find one to test drive here in NZ. It seems that, like overlocker machines in the home back in my Mum’s day, cover stitch machines are only just beginning to gain traction with the domestic market.

(I will refer to my overlocker a few times in this post, it being the closest thing I have experienced to a coverstitch. Overlockers and sergers are the same thing. In NZ we call them overlockers so that is the term I will continue to use.)

This is a luxury purchase. Between my Elna 2130 and Bernina 1150MDA I have two very good machines that allow me to create anything I want. I love sewing, I sew a lot and I often sew with knits/stretchy fabrics. The “want” was strong. ;)

So I am going to share my experience of choosing a coverstitch machine and what I think of the machine I purchased. This is from my point of view and based on my personal sewing experience, I am not an expert. I hope this post will help any of you who are also considering one.

Disclaimer: By reading this post you release the curious kiwi from any responsibility should the following cause you to run out and buy a new sewing machine!

So what is a coverstitch machine?

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If you are familiar with an overlocker, a coverstitch machine is similar except that they have no knives and only one looper with 1 or 2 needles. On higher end machines you may also have a 3rd needle.

I am still learning everything that my coverstitch machine can do but the most simple way to introduce you to coverstitch is for you to go grab a rtw t-shirt. See the double row of stitching on the outside of the hem and at the sleeves? It looks a bit like twin needle stitching but inside it looks like an overlocker stitch and encases the raw edge. This is a 2-needle coverstitch.

A 3-needle machine gives you two different widths of coverstitching – using the centre needle plus the left or right needle for a narrow width of 3mm OR using the two outside needles for the wider width of 6mm. And of course you can use all three needles at once.

You can also use the coverstitch to apply the “overlock” looking stitch as a decorative finish to the outside by stitching with your fabric “upside down”. You often see this type of decorative stitch on sports wear, sometimes in a contrasting thread colour.

Stitching with only 1 needle threaded creates a chainstitch. At first I wasn’t really sure what chainstitch was for, apart from embellishment (you can use a thicker thread in the looper), but I have read that it is great for basting because it unravels easily when the correct thread is pulled. Since developing my spot-the-coverstitching-vision I’ve noticed that on some of NH’s t-shirts there is 1 or 2 lines of chainstitching at the shoulder so perhaps it is also good for reinforcing those areas.

Some high-end overlockers can also convert to coverstitich. When I was investigating my overlocker purchase I looked at a few machines that could also coverstitich but chose to buy a dedicated overlocker. The price jump to a machine that could do both was out of my budget at the time but I was also advised that converting them can be difficult and that machines that do both can be a compromise of both designs. I was already 100% overwhelmed by the overlocker options so I decided at that time I would buy a dedicated coverstitch machine when I was ready.

Having said that however, I also know people who own these machines, use them as both overlockers and coverstitchers and love them.

Here are my tips for sewing machine shopping (for any type of machine):

  • Each brand is different – consider the brand you are familiar with but don’t forget to look at others
  • This is an important purchase so it’s important to “test drive” your options
  • Set a budget and decide what you want your machine to do
  • Think about how your sewing will evolve, try to buy a machine that you can “grow into”, consider any bonus features you can use in the future
  • At the shop try threading and converting the machine yourself
  • Take samples of fabrics that you sew with and try them out
  • Try all the features
  • Ask lots of questions
  • If the sales assistant isn’t helpful, go elsewhere
  • Make it fun!

My ideal coverstitch machine was less than NZD$1000, 3-needles/4-thread, had a free arm, and was not super chunky.

The options:

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Bernina 009DCC/L220

I have a Bernina 1150MDA overlocker that I LOVE so it seemed logical to investigate Bernina first.

On their website they have a picture of the 009DCC, it is a 2-needle/3-thread coverstitch machine with no free arm. It has front dial-style tension adjustment knobs that look a little old fashioned in my opinion but I was prepared to give it a test drive.

I looked at this machine about 6 months ago and emailed my local Bernina dealer to ask about costs and if they had one in store for a test drive. They are near my work so it meant I could pop down during my lunch break for fun sewing play time. They replied that Bernina were releasing a new model soon and would let me know when it arrived. I rung them about 2 months ago after hearing nothing and got the same response and they didn’t seem inclined to help me further.

When I started looking more seriously just before Christmas I rung a different dealer outside of the CBD. She confirmed that Bernina are releasing a new machine but also offered to ring them to ask when it would be available and how much it would cost. The 009DCC will be replaced with the L220 in March 2014 and will cost NZD$1399 – This was way outside my budget and impatient kiwi didn’t want to wait that long.

Here is a sneak peak I found of the L220 and a YouTube video. It will be a 3-needle/4-thread machine but I cannot see a free arm.

Brother 2340CV

Next I grudging looked at Brother, I say “grudgingly” because Brother makes me think of printers and $199 sewing machines from Harvey Norman. However, since their sewing machines are fairly cheap…perhaps their coverstitch would be too?

I did not get far enough along in my investigation to learn how much this machine costs – perhaps around NZD$600? – I pretty quickly discounted it from my list. 

While it is a 3-needle/4-thread machine, it looks hideously clunky, has no free arm and I read some not very encouraging reviews about it online: There are difficulties in releasing the thread tension after you finish stitching and the foot controller is laggy when you start stitching.

Elna 444

This will sound silly (and vain) but when I was overlocker shopping I investigated Elna first. My sewing machine is an Elna 2130 (now discontinued) and it’s a great machine but when it came to the Elna overlockers I really didn’t like how they were painted up all “Fisher Price”. I think the newer machines are different now but at that time the thread path colours were overdone and it made me feel a bit babied. I kind of like my machines to look more grown up ;)

Their coverstitch isn’t so bad and I was willing to give one a try.

Unfortunately Elna have given the majority of their dealership rights to Spotlight, ugh!
I could write a ten thousand word essay on how bad their customer service is so don’t get me started. I was immediately not enthused about purchasing through any of their stores considering I might need to go back there for servicing and purchasing accessories. I rang them anyway and left a message but have not heard back from anyone to this day…there are a few other dealers in Wellington who sell Elna machines and I soon found out that the 444 isn’t available in New Zealand.

I also learnt that Janome make the Elna coverstitch and from what I read online the Janome would possibly be slightly less expensive.

So of course Janome were next:

Janome CoverPro 1000CPX – NZD$899 (on special)

I rung Wellington Sewing Services in Kilbirnie where the gentleman who answered the phone replied to all my questions including confirming the price and quickly suggested I come in for a test drive.

Finally, some real service and a machine worthy of my time.

While waiting for the weekend to roll around I read some great things online and watched some YouTube videos. This 3-needle/4-thread machine has the more upright look of a traditional sewing machine with a long arm promising lots of sewing space. It also has a removable piece on the sewing bed that reveals the free arm.

On Saturday NH drove me to the shop. The gentleman who I spoke with on the phone pulled out the machine and showed me how it worked. Then he un-threaded and re-threaded it to show me how easy it was and let me have a go using the samples of stretch fabric that I bought along with me from home.

It was AMAZING! My two fabrics were very different, one a slinky lycra and the other a cotton jersey, but it stitched both pieces beautifully without changing any settings.

The machine in the store had white thread in the two outer needles and a variegated thread through the looper:

Trippy!

Next I was shown how to correct skipped stitches by adjusting the differential feed.

TOP TIP! This is the most common complaint I read online about ALL coverstitch brands and not many people know this trick. I also leant how to stop “tunnelling” in merino by using a wash away stabiliser.

I was so impressed not just with the machine but with the service. It was my first visit to Wellington Sewing Services and I will definitely be back. It’s an amazing store with lots of stock and the gentleman who helped me really knows his stuff. He picked up quickly that I was an experienced sewist – there is nothing worse than being overly babied – and I enjoyed being allowed to use the machine with little interference so I could make up my own mind.

While I played around he talked a bit more about the machines features and motor. He has been servicing and repairing machines for quite some time and has a very high opinion of Janome in general.

I probably should have test driven another machine as comparison but after 30 minutes it was too late, I was SOLD! :) I took the machine home that day along with a free pair of fabric scissors and a long strip of the wash away stabiliser.

A boot full of Christmas shopping: Doing it right

Other machines I could have looked at, but discounted due to cost was the Babylock at NZD$1999 and the Pfaff Coverlock 3 or 4 at NZD$1699 and NZD$2599 respectively.

 

Unboxing the Janome CoverPro 1000CPX

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The machine came in a really good quality box, wrapped in plastic. The lovely man at Wellington Sewing Services filled out my warranty card and dropped in a free pair of fabric scissors so technically my box had already been opened but he resealed it with packing tape.

Harri was excited about the prospect of a new box to claim as her own – a chunky bit of polystyrene on top kept her out of it…for now…

On the top layer were my free scissors (not as nice to use as my Mundials, but always good to have a spare set floating around!), plastic bag with manual and warranty card,  vinyl machine cover, foot controller and plastic box filled with the standard accessories.

Inside the plastic box:

  • 4 thread spool nets
  • 2 accessory screws
  • Schmetz needles (it uses the EL X 705 needle system)
  • 4 thread spool caps
  • Tweezers
  • 2 screwdrivers
  • Needle threader
  • Lint brush

Manual, warranty card and…umm, an “Important Notice” about not letting children play with the machine unsupervised.

The only bad thing I read online about this machine was complaints that the instruction book was lacking detail – I’m not sure if perhaps I have a newer book with more information but it was about what I expected. Similar in content to the instruction books that came with both my other machines.

The instructions include a large diagram of the machine, naming all the parts, information on how to set it up and what each dial does. Clear threading diagrams are followed by instructions on setting up each stitch type including correct tensioning. The final section includes machine care and a troubleshooting table.

Back to the box – under the foam I was surprised to find the machine pre-threaded with all three needles in white. Nice!

From the front it looks almost like a normal sewing machine.

From the side you can see the extra depth. Hand wheel, stitch length dial and differential feed located similar to my Bernina.

More vanity talk: Online I saw a lot of images of this machines with lilac coloured handwheel and knobs – I’m glad mine is dark grey ;)

Ohh free thread!

On the front right is a quick reference guide of tensions for each stitch type.

On the left, recommended settings for heavyweight fabrics. On the right, for light to medium weight. As with any tension settings these are just starting suggestions and the manual explains how to tune these for a balanced stitch depending on your fabric.

The slider below this is an additional adjustment to the looper thread tension, used when sewing heavyweight fabrics.

Inside the front cover you can see the thread passing through the looper take up levers (the three fingers at centre) and on to the looper, which is tucked under the feed dogs. The white knob near the base drops the looper out (to the right) so you can easily thread it. You click it back in when you are finished and bring the thread to the top.

A nice clear threading diagram and…

…quick reference for threading each stitch type.

It’s really easy to thread and tension plus the long arm gives you a lot of space to manoeuvre fabric around. It’s also fast (not quite as fast as the Bernina, but I’m ok with that!) and it’s very quiet.

The extensions table piece removes easily to reveal the free arm.

All lined up it appears as if I am trying to collect every brand of sewing machine, and I need a bigger table, hehe! Oh and I just noticed that all the brand names are printed in red. 

In reality they don’t sit on my table like this. I’m usually only using two machines at a time so the spare machine sits near the back. Ideally I’d like to position my table perpendicular to the wall so that I can put the overlocker and coverstitch back-to-back.

The only problem I have right now is that the foot controller is identical to the one for my Bernina (but the machine plugs are different so I still have to have both under the table) it’s hard to tell which to step on for each machine. First world sewing problems, I know, solved with a bit of fluorescent pink tape wrapped about the Janome’s cord :)

My first official project with my new machine was a fabric cover – look at the naff vinyl one it came with, yuck!

I never used to cover my machines but a certain furry helper who likes to eat thread means they need to be hidden when I am not around.

I ran out of the circus stripe (as NH refers to it) so I used some of my precious retro sewing machines. I hemmed the bottom with the coverstitch, pretty!

It’s not all super amazeballs however, and to prove I’m not begin paid by Janome to gush about their machine ;) here’s a quick outline of things I wish it had:

There is no on-board tools storage. When I rethread my Bernina, I do it from scratch, every time. Because reasons. Anyway, I flip open the cover, slip out my tweezers (and screw driver if I’m changing a needle) and get on with it. I also need the tweezers to thread the looper on the Janome and it would be nice if it had a slot inside the front cover to take at least the tweezers, but also perhaps the needles, brush and small screw driver. Instead they live in that little plastic box. The designer in me wishes they had made better use of the spare room inside the cover.

On board storage – Bernina 1150MDA

My Bernina also has a needle threader. While the Janome machine has more room to make threading the needles a little easier the little stick thing they give you for threading is hard to use. I’ll admit I haven’t really tried very hard to get the hang of it yet, I’ve been doing it “manually” so I’ll persevere and come back to you on that. Perhaps there isn’t room for something like the threading mechanism on the Bernina but it would have been nice to see it included if possible.

Needle threader – Bernina 1150MDA

Lastly, I wish it came with a few of the accessories – I did investigate them before buying so I knew they were fairly expensive. You can buy “generic” attachments, but I have read mixed reviews about them.

I will be buying the centre guide foot (NZD$79.00) and hemmer (NZD$39.00) because I already feel I need them. Later on I may get a binder but to use that you also need to buy the special attachment plate. This comes to a grand total, for binder and plate, of NZD$269.00! Ugh Janome, you could have at least included the plate, why did you bother to give me those attachment screws?!

At least Harri is happy with her new box :)

Coverstitch Tutorials

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I’ve been collecting a few tutorials onto a Pinterest board, most are specific to the Janome but there’s some great general info as well, feel free to take a look:

pinterest

That’s it, phew!

I am excited about all the things I can sew with my new machine and so is NH. He thought the variegated thread that was in the store machine was very cool and then I made the mistake of telling him about the fluorescent, the glow-in-the-dark and the colour change thread spools I’ve seen on the Gutermann rack at Made Marion…oops ;)

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

I am pretty rubbish when it comes to wrapping up my sewing year on time and setting my re-sew-lutions. It’s already February – what the heck happened to January?! Oh well… :)

2013:

After a disasterous start to my sewing year I set some re-sew-lutions, how did I do?:

  1. No plan? No worries! <Yes, but I also discovered that I love participating in challenges and sewing along with others
  2. More Sewing Meetups…MOAR! < Thanks to the WSBN this was EASY!
  3. No more crying over stupid patterns < Done!
  4. No imagined pressure, no imagined guilt < Yep!
  5. Lots of pretty dresses please < Oh yeah!
  6. Re-learn to enjoy photographing my FOs, have fun doing it < Absolutely!
  7. Maybe a bit of stash busting but I kind of do that anyway < Yes, but the Arthur Toye closing down sale helped fill in what I used, no stash guilt here ;)

What else happened in 2013?

I bought this little cutie, she’s still not running but that’s ok:

I pattern tested for Sewaholic, Lolita Patterns and Papercut Patterns:

Harry joined us in late April, an early birthday present from NH. Later the vet confirmed that He was actually a She and Harry became Harriet, or Harri for short:

Harri is always ready to lend a paw in the sewing room:

In winter I picked up cross-stitch again, with a nerdy twist:

Kat, Juliet and I launched The Monthly Stitch, come join us!:

I updated my blog theme:

I was the last person in the world to join Instagram:

Kat and I began our Twinsies series:

And finally I put together the Brasilia dress envelope for Rachel of House of Pinheiro:

Overall in 2013 I enjoyed my sewing much more than I ever have.

My favourite three projects were: Butterick 4790, Le Wise La Sylphide and my 1st BHL Anna…all dresses, funny that… ;)

How about 2014?

Firstly I should probably pledge to post by re-sew-lutions at the start of the new year…not one month into it ;)

  • More fun sewing
  • More Twisies (and Triplets and Quadruplets etc!)
  • Keep it awesome at The Monthly stitch
  • The WSBN are entering a team into the Wellington Colour Run!
  • More cross-stitch
  • MORE DRESSES because dresses are awesome.
  • Try to make a some underwear: Underpants, a bra, maybe try a corset?
  • RNHS (Requested Nerdy Husband Sewing)While cruising about my blog NH discovered my wardrobe page. After reading every RNHS post of 2012 he declared that he did not featured enough in 2013 – For 2014 he has requested more merinos, a hoodie and that I try making a business shirt based on his favourite French cuffed shirt. If the shirt is successful, trousers may be next on the cards.
  • Decorate my sewing room:

I have started already with my Fashionary postcards by Vita Yang

  • Continue to sew from the stash but I make no promides in regards to not buying more, I have no stash guilt ;)

On top of all that I have joined the RTW Fasters:

“In 2014 I pledge to refrain from buying ALL outerwear, dresses, tops, pants, shorts, sweaters, coats, exercise clothes, jeans and bathing suits. Shoes, socks and underwear are permitted.”

I’m really glad they included the bit about shoes not being included ;)

Happy New Year!

WSBN Arthur Toye Wake

Last Friday a few of the WSBN gathered outside Arthur Toye on their final day of trading for a last bargain grab followed by lunch – a kind of wake if you will.

I wore my Le Wise La Sylphide since I bought the owl fabric from AT. Some of the other girls also wore makes from AT fabric.

Jo, Joy, Nikki, Kristelle, Teresa, Myself and Sandra

I’m not sure how long Arthur Toye have been in New Zealand, or Wellington, ages I suspect, but the owner is retiring and closing each store throughout the country as their leases expire.

We have other great fabric stores in Wellington but AT was within walking distance of my office. They had a great fabric selection and I found their quality and prices reasonable. I will miss sneaking past on my way back from meetings and their amazing 50% off sales.

I guess my bank account will thank them!

Since the news broke I’ve already had several visits to AT (and a sneaky visit to AT Palmerston North where I made my little sister also spend money on fabric and patterns, heh heh!) so there wasn’t a lot of stock left I was interested in but for this final visit I came away with two items:

Blue shirting with a little bit of elastane, to make a trial business shirt for NH
Black and white chevroned cotton sateen for the stash

So now guess I’ll have to satisfy my mid-week fabric cravings with the odd lunchtime mission out to Fabric Warehouse or Global-that-was (now known as The Fabric Store).

Sigh!

Goodbye Arthur Toye, thanks for being awesome.

First make of 2014: Another BHL Anna

Normally, it’s very rare that I make more than one version of a pattern but near the end of 2013 it seemed to have become a bit of a recurring theme! I made two Ensis and two La Sylphides (1 and 2).

So why not another Anna?

But if I am properly honest, my dress is not technically the first make of 2014.

No.

This is:

Harriet’s favourite toy (Fishy) was looking a little sad (and, since we are being honest, disgusting) so I made her a new one: Introducing Bunny! A smaller version of The Giving Bunny.

Made from polar fleece with a (wonky) hand stitched face, it was love at first bite – the cat nip stuffing might have had something to do with it too ;)

But back to my new Anna – you might recognise this fabric from my walk-away dress.

I loved it so much when I found it that I bought extra.

Cutting the walkaway dress left me with a pile of skinny off cuts that I held onto just in case. Turns out they were perfect for the back bodice and all the skirt pieces on my Anna. I only needed a full width of fabric to cut the front bodice, yeah!

Can I get away with a third item in this fabric?

These photos were taken at Otari-Wilton’s Bush. I met Kat (and Drake) and Nikki for a fun group photo session before heading back to Nikki’s house where Kat and I dived head first into her stash – it was super fun!

I adore this place, I feel so good just walking through here, and not just because it was the scene for one of the happiest days of my life.  Otari-Wilton’s Bush is 100% native NZ, right on your doorstep and simply gorgeous.

I’m getting distracted again, back to the dress: This Anna went together exactly as per my first. I was a teensy bit worried about the thicker cotton sateen but it wasn’t a problem at all, I like that the skirt feels more structured and sits out a bit more than my lighter weight version. Two different dresses and I love them both

My only other change was to lower the top of my zipper and put in a hook & eye, just to try something a bit different.

It didn’t all go smoothly though. I thought I was being super careful when cutting out the front bodice but…

Can you spot anything wrong with this picture?

Perhaps this will help:

Oh yeah, boob-shells!

Yes, that’s right, and the dress was 99% finished – I threw a small tanty and pulled out my unpicker:

My overlocker unpicker makes unpicking particularly satisfying, mean looking isn’t it?

The offending bodice unpicked, lucky I had plenty of fabric left over to re-cut it.

I had to be careful attaching the new bodice, since I had overlocked most of my seam allowances off – I just followed the old stitching holes to line everything up.

Unpicked skirt on top, new bodice underneath – and yes, I am sewing over my pins, ha! ;)

The new bodice is much better, not a boob-shell in sight!

Getting photos taken with your friends is super awesome, as Nikki said, I was smiling in all my photos and it was really hard to whittle these down!

I particularly enjoyed Drakes photo bombs!

Here’s some more out-takes because out-takes are fun!

THE DEETS:

Pattern - By Hand London Anna Dress, variation 3, straight size 12

Fabric – Cotton Sateen from Spotlight, Kaiwharawhara

Other notions – Invisible zipper, a smidge of fusible interfacing, hook & eye

Big thanks to Kat for taking so many awesome photos xx

Final make of 2013: BHL Anna

I think I might possibly be the last person ever to have a go at the Anna dress but finally, here is my version, and my last make of 2013:

I intended to wear this dress on New Year’s Day…and I did, hemming it in the afternoon on New Years Eve

Natch!

I hosted the in-laws for family lunch on New Years Day but not everything went as expected and my mind was elsewhere so of course I completely forgot to get any photos on the day! Luckily Nerdy Husband loves taking photos so on a beautifully sunny Wellington day we went out for lunch followed by a drive around the bays and found a fun spot for some pics.

It was a bit bright, I’ll admit, and I forgot my polarising filter but I am coming here again for photos, I mean, look at that view!

Looking towards the Hutt Valley/Petone and Matiu/Soames Island

Looking towards the CBD

I really love my Anna dress. It took me a long time to cut out since I laid the whole pattern out in-the-flat to make the best of the fabric and avoid any accidental pattern placement, but that extra effort was worth it.

I am especially pleased with my zipper and pattern matching!

Oh yes!

I fused a strip of interfacing down each side before inserting my zipper which made things go really smoothly and because this cotton is so thin it also helped to reinforce the seam.

This is my new I-will-do-this-everytime-now technique!

The pattern is great and I feel amazing in my dress, a simple shape that I think is very flattering.

I would like to comment on some parts in the instructions that I found a bit strange.

They are very friendly, in a “Yay, let’s make a dress, this is going to be so easy” kind of way, which is sweet. They are encouraging for beginners, the diagrams are very clear and they don’t rush through any steps.

However, I don’t agree with finishing the arm holes before stitching the side seams:

I think “this way makes finishing the sleeve much easier and neater” is only partially true.

You will find it easy to hem the sleeve in the flat, but when you sew your side seams you will end up with the seam showing under your arm and any seam finish you use too (see last diagram above).

I finished my sleeves last, after stitching the side seams, it wasn’t tricky at all and if I can do it then so can you.

The construction order also includes steps to construct all the bodice pieces together,  followed by attaching all the skirt pieces together and then attaching bodice to skirt.

On a very fitted dress this can add strength to the waist seam (kind of like a waist stay) but because I don’t think this dress needs that I chose to do it differently, for two reasons:

Firstly, there are a lot of seams in the skirt of this dress. Seams that need to line up with the bodice front pleats, and back darts and you also want the side seams to line up too right? If you sew all those skirt pieces together into one long connected piece and then try to attach them to the long connected bodice pieces you have more chance of miss-aligning those points. You only need to be out by 1 or 2 millimetres at each seam/pleat/dart and that discrepancy gets multiplied as you go along.

Secondly, this method leaves no chance for you to adjust your fit at the side seams after you’ve attached the bodice to the skirt. This is my most common final fit tweak.

My construction order went like this: Sew front skirt pieces together, then attach them to the front bodice. Next sew back skirt pieces together and attach them to the back bodice, insert zipper. Now sew your shoulder and side seams and give them a final tweak to fit.

I also left off attaching my neck facings until last after reading on so many other blogs about the back neck gaping. Mine did too, see above.

I was able to try on and add some darts to each side of the zipper before attaching my facings. My darts are about 5cm out on each side of the zipper, 1.5cm wide and 4cm long.

Then I folded my facing out over the zipper and stitched it down using my regular zipper foot to save any hand stitching at the end. I also under-stitched as much of the facing as I could get to instead of top-stitching, I think this is neater and suits the neckline.

To keep the facing from flipping out I used a medium width zig-zag stitch on 0 stitch length and stitched-in-ditch at shoulder seam and strategically in a couple of other places to keep it from flipping out. Good luck finding any of my machine tacks in the busy print. :)

The instructions aren’t necessarily all bad, as I said earlier, I think beginners will love the easy tone that will inspire confidence and the more experienced can deviate as they chose. Overall the dress sews up quickly and effortlessly and I hope my construction notes help anyone else thinking of jumping on the BHL Anna sewing wagon :)

Scarlet models to show you the print in easier light.

OMG that zipper!

OK, I admit it’s about 99% there but because the print wavered all over the show it could have been so much worse. I chalk that up as a win for me! :)

(Also, the zipper goes all the way up, I just didn’t notice that when I took this photo, oops)

Inside out – all raw edges overlocked.

THE DEETS:

Pattern - By Hand London Anna Dress, variation 3, straight size 12

Fabric – 100% cotton (lawn?) from Arthur Toye, Wellington

Other notions – Invisible zipper, a smidge of fusible interfacing

Two thumbs up!