(Belated) Birthday Dress

Well I finally got myself away from the rugby and outside in my pretty new dress to take some photos. Curious husband actually suggested the location, the Wellington Botanic Gardens, and last weekend we had a beautiful sunny Sunday perfect for an afternoon outing.

Curious husband often grumbles at being removed from his natural environment, the slightly-less-nerdy-than-mine nerdy-husband-room complete with glowing water-cooled monster computer and various other husband-only items, but I secretly suspect he quite enjoys playing photographer. Allow me to submit evidence A: the camera memory card with over 250 photos on it.



Please excuse the crumpled skirt, I did iron before we left but sitting in the car on a warm day undid my efforts.

As I mentioned previously, with the advent of my 30th birthday,  I wanted to start a new personal tradition of making a dress each year for my birthday.  The idea is that it can be a nice every-day kind of dress, or a completely unjustifiable unnecessary dress and that’s ok, because it is the birthday dress and no excuses will be required.

Cutting out…

This year, the inaugural birthday dress year, I was interrupted by life but the dream lived on and while it is a little late, here it finally is. There were plenty of options but in the interest of instant success (we cannot accept failure for the inaugural dress) I chose to go with the tried-and-tested Colette Rooibos.

I bought this pattern quite some time ago and it recently featured in a sew-along on the Coletterie blog which I followed in spirit. I considered participating but I am terrible at sticking to a sewing schedule and only got as far as pulling this amazing rose printed linen from my stash that I bought while on a work trip to Melbourne. There is always time for fabric shopping in a new city while on a work trip, believe me. Eventually I also purchased a beautiful contrast cotton and cord to make the piping then I sat down and decided where I would pipe ala my Photoshop/Gimp tutorial.

Rooibos Piping Options – click for better detail

Initially I was just going to follow the patterns suggestion to pipe the neckline, arm holes and pockets but when I thought about it I also liked the idea of enhancing the empire line panel so I made up the first two options and decided that I did like the empire piping but it was too much with the neck and arm holes done as well so in the end I chose to pipe just the empire line and pockets and keep the contrast at the collar like option 3.

Then I set to making the piping following this tutorial from the Coletterie.

This was my first time making piping  and it worked perfectly, I was so proud of myself.

The rest of the dress went together smoothly. This is my first Colette pattern I have made up (I own 4 in total) and I was impressed with the detailed instructions and beautifully clear construction diagrams. Independent pattern companies are always a breath of fresh air, you should go buy yourself a Colette pattern right now. They have just done up their shop page and it is looking fabulous.

So here it is, inside & out, on Scarlett – the dress is a little  skewiff in these photos due to the hemming attachment underneath but I promise, despite how it looks, that the hem is even 😉

And here is a bit more handy work from Curious Husband and the beautiful Wellington Botanic Gardens:

and some ducks!

So keep your eyes open next year sometime around June for Birthday Dress #2 😉


Preview the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

BurdaStyle now have a dedicated BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook page! You can preview the book there and check out all the members who contributed to it…I’m a bit miffed that I’ve been left off the list but I have emailed them about it – I’m guessing it’s from when they made all users with an ‘_’ in their log-on names change them and I got lost somehow…so hopefully my picture pops up soon 🙂

There are also links for where to buy the book in hard copy and as an eBook and eBook owners can enter their codes to download the master patterns in PDF format.

Yesterday I received an email from BurdaStyle asking for my current address so they can send back my garment and a copy of the book in November. I’m taking that as my cue to share photos with you and reveal which garment is mine 😉 Yay! And Phew! For a minute there I thought I’d have to go and buy my own copy of the book.

I’m VERY excited!

Update 20/10/2011: Ohh yay I got added in, thanks team 🙂 and I got a cool little badge on my profile.

Sewing as Art – Paper Dresses

Another bit of sewing as art for your friday:

I saw this in the latest Urbis magazine (issue 64 – 2011) – It’s from New Zealand Fashion Week and these dresses, believe it or not, are made of Kleenex toilet paper! Aren’t they breathtaking?!

Fashion design has always been strong in New Zealand, think Collette Dinnigan, Kate Sylvesta, Trelise Cooper, Denise L’Estrange-Corbet – I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one of these wonderfully talented ladies no matter where you are in the world reading this (and if you haven’t go Google now).

Interestingly BurdaStyle also posted a paper fashion blog post today and it is equally amazing, check it out here.

Social sewing, the best kind of sewing

On Sunday I hung out with the Wellington Fabric Hoarders crew again. It’s been a couple of months since my last visit, not only did I have a great time I was also very productive.

I hemmed my (belated) birthday dress, cut out a new JJ blouse & Esther cardi. We also gossiped about sewing and discussed who we thought would win versus who we would rather win (in order to give the mighty All Blacks the easiest road to the finals) in the Australia versus South Africa* quarter-final rugby game.

So I completely forgot to take any photos during the day since we were using my phone to play music (yay) but here is a picture of all my sewing items ready to go. I am quite proud of my compactness, there was a time when I used to try to bring most of my sewing room with me!

Inside these two bags are my sewing machine, overlocker, 4 cones of black thread, 3 cones of grey thread, power cords (which I almost forgot) and a double plug , two sewing patterns and fabric for the Esther and JJ, two Manequim magazines for show-and-tell, (belated) birthday dress ready for hemming, two pairs of scissors (fabric scissors and, of course, paper scissors) and a plastic box full of bits and bobs (pen, pencil, chalk, unpickers, spare bobbin, white and grey thread, spare needles and extra sewing feet etc). For this meet I knew exactly what I wanted to do so it was quite easy to be prepared. (Also I totally need to make a copy of my Bernina bag that fits my Elna!)

And here is a picture of a kitty I saw as I was leaving, he was enjoying the sunshine in the Massey atrium.

On the way home I happened to drive by the Fabric Warehouse’s new location with the intention of taking a new photo of the front but what’s the point of driving past if you don’t go inside? 😉

The store is amazing, bigger than their old premises with lots of new fabrics and really cool vintage sewing items on display. Parking is heaps better and it is much easier to get back on to the main road. I’d like to say that I came away with some amazing new fabric purchases but all I have to show for my visit is $100 worth of interfacing. I know that sounds like a lot of interfacing but I really have none left in my stash, I have slowly used is ALL up. So I got some special wool interfacing (the black stuff) for a coat I currently have cut out (but I’m not sure if I’ll get it done before Summer arrives) and just some plain white in two weights.

So that was my weekend. I did intend to photograph the (belated) birthday dress when I got home but I decided that you’ve seen enough of the view from my verandah and Curious Husband suggested a very good location to take the pics at next weekend. Maybe I’ll try to give you guys a little tour of Wellington with a new location for each new item I sew. Maybe, lets see how long that lasts shall we? Hehe, hey it might get me out of my “ugh, photos” slump and I think you’ll enjoy it too. Here is a sneak peek for now 😉

*For those who are playing along we decided that South Africa would probably win (we were wrong) but we would rather Australia win since they would be an easier beat in the upcoming semi-final. Although the counter argument was raised that if Australia did win and then beat us in the semis and went on to win The Cup then that would be bad since they are so close to us and would rub it in out faces ALL. THE. TIME. Where as South Africa is farther away and we could almost ignore their gloating. The counter counter argument to this was that if South Africa win, beat us in the semis and ultimately win The Cup then they will be the first team to win two Cups in a row and their gloating will be x1000 which will be bad x1000.

Ahh, sewing and Rugby, I am so home!

Constructing Blouse 303 (with bonus Photoshop/Gimp tutorial)

Fair warning, this is going to get nerdy so if you like your sewing sans-geek then click here for the pretty photos post instead 😉

You can see from my photos in the last post that my silk crepe had a wide pattern repeat of two different dots and lines. It’s a really cool pattern and what promoted me to pick it up off the remnant table even though it was only about 1.1 meters worth. With such a limited amount of fabric the challenge is always pattern placement and I really had zero room for error plus I wanted to make the most of the design.

So, in keeping with my nerdy sewing tendencies I sat down at my computer and ran through the options…now this might seem a little bit over-the-top for most of you but I had fun doing it and that’s really what matters right?

I’m going to cover the contruction of this blouse near the end of this post but first I’ll share a kind of advanced tutorial following on from my Photoshop & Gimp visualisation tutorials. I’m going to briefly cover some more advanced techniques. I’ll show you how I cheated a tiny line image to make it workable and how to get the correct scale for your fabric print. If you like what you see and you’re keen to do something similar you should read my original tutorials first.

Hi-res scan

Tiny Images: Because my magazine line drawing image was so tiny (about 1.5cm x 1.5cm) I scanned it at 600dpi. This is a good trick to make the image appear larger. I say “appear” because your image is still really actually the same size but you can view it larger without it looking blurry if it is at a higher resolution, plus when you drop your fabric into the image it won’t get all pixellated.

Your scanner will probably freak out at this point and bring up a message asking “are you sure?!”, suggesting a lower dpi and threatening that it will take a long time etc blah blah but just tell it to do as it’s told, it’s only a small image and the world really won’t come to a grinding halt if you go around recklessly scanning things at a high-resolution!

"Clean " fabric photo

Scaling the fabric: For this example my fabric scale was really important for accuracy. I took two photos of my fabric, the first (above) is the “clean” shot you would normally take to use in the manipulation, the second (below) is for scale.

Fabric photo with pattern piece for scale

I laid the front pattern piece on the fabric, took my photo and then I bought this image into my line drawing image. You can see below my screen shot from Photoshop below. I’ve lowered the opacity of the fabric image to I could “see through” it to the line drawing, then I scaled it using the free transform/scale tool (remember that one? Ctrl + T in Photoshop or  in Gimp)

The yellow pattern piece is now about the right size. I think the proportions of the line drawing are a little off but this is close enough for me.

Next I dropped in the “clean” photo – I put the opacity of the first photo back up to 100% and lowered the opacity of the new photo. Same deal, scale it to match the first photo. When you are happy with it you can delete the “Fabric for Scale” layer and put the final fabric layer’s opacity back up to 100% and continue on as normal.

I started with a few basic orientation trials and here are my results.

Then I got a little more clever (or nerdy, take your pick) and selected my 3 favourites to add in a bit more details. I’m going with A, B & C and now I’m going to be a bit more realistic about my pattern placement. I laid the actual pattern pieces out on my fabric as I went so that after cutting out the front and back I could see what bits would be left over for the sleeves and collar.

I think this image above corresponds with option B.2 below – to make these more complex images I just made multiple copies of the fabric layer and moved and rotated them to fill in the sleeves and neck line.

I still couldn’t decide which I liked but it did give me a starting point to do some old school laying the fabric over Scarlett and I looked at these along with my three favourites and then I had a revelation: the black dots at waist height could have the bonus of creating a slimming effect!  (I know image C looks exaggerated in these photos, that’s my pins, not the light waves magically bending to make Scarlett’s waist smaller – she has dials to do that anyway, hehe ;))

Final photoshop image

The quick among you will have already noticed that the final blouse didn’t end up exactly like this, but it’s pretty close. I originally laid the body out higher up on the my fabric thinking that I could also get the collar out of the lines but in the end I moved the whole thing down to make the most of the darker spots and their (hopefully) waist minimising properties. This meant the neck ended up out of the big white spots but I actually like it better this way.

So, on to the construction. It’s quite an easy blouse to put together, the most complicated looking part is the sleeves and when you break them down they really aren’t that complicated at all.

Pattern Layout for sizes 38 & 42 - which I didn't really follow

All pieces are laid out on a flat piece of fabric (not folded) – ourela means selvages – this piece is shown as 150cm wide and you need 0.9/1.0/1.2 meters depending on which size you cut and a little bit more if your fabric is a narrower width but I find Manequim are quite generous with their pattern layouts.

Don’t forget to add your seam allowances before you cut out.

  • 11 – Blouse front (x1 on the fold)
  • 12 – Blouse back(x1 on the fold)
  • 13 – Sleeve cap (x2)
  • 14 – Sleeve cuff (x2)
  • A – Collar (x1 rectangle 8cm x 70/74/78cm depending on the size you cut)
  • B – I have no idea….and I didn’t find out during construction either…any suggestions? Anyone know Portuguese? It’s labelled as Alça.

So as per usual my first step is to address any pleats and darts. We have one in each sleeve cap and another at the neck of the front pattern piece. The only pleat I didn’t pre-sew was the once shown on the sleeve cuff.

Side seams come next:

Here is the body of the blouse on Scarlett – my seams are sewn inside-out in preparation for “Frenching” them. I don’t think that’s a real term but I’m using it 😉

You can probably tell that there is a lot of extra fabric outside the seam line. I discovered right away a flaw in my plan for using French seams. I always adjust the side seams of my tops on me as I sew. I cut a pattern out to fit my hips/bust (in this case, Manequim size 42) but my waist is generally smaller. If I don’t grade it in at the time of cutting it I usually just adjust on the fly as I sew. You just can’t do that with French seams, once the second line of stitching is done that’s it! So I basted the top on myself inside out and took it in until I was happy with the overall fit.

I did it a little at a time because the lack of closures means I had to leave enough ease to be able to get in and out of it. Once I was happy I trimmed the seams down in preparation for the “Frenching”. Yup, I am definitely making “Frenching” a part of my usual sewing vocabulary.

"Frenching" the seams

So, on to the sleeves:

If you click to enlarge the photo above about you might be able to just make you the numbers at the corners of each piece. The great thing about Manequim patterns is they number their seams so you can easily work out which piece to attach to which. Here you can see the sleeve cap with the cuff below. You fold the sleeve cuff in half and line up the numbers 1’s. The numbers 3 & 4 at the top relate to the shoulder points on the front and back pieces we assembled earlier and will help you put the each sleeve on its correct side. For good measure the number 5 helps with this too so take the time to trace and if you pay attention to them and it will save you many tears later on.

So here they are in fabric, you can now stitch seam number 1, attaching the cuff to the sleeve cap.

Sew the pleat in the cuff next by folding the cuff up at the marking, right sides together, and sew a line of stitching as marked.

Here is how it looks from the inside...

...and the final sleeve from the right side

You can attach your sleeves now, use the numbers to help you line things up.

Above you can see (on the left) the sleeve attached pre “Frenching”, and (on the right) finished.

Join the ends of the neck rectangle together and fold in half, wrong sides together.

Now here is where I made the mistake with the neck and had to unpick it twice! I did that silly thing where my brain suggests something while I am sewing and I completely ignore it only to concede later on that it was correct from the start and then I end up unpicking something.

In this case it was a whispered suggestion to interface the standup collar since the silk is so flimsy there was no way it would stand up by itself. But the other voice, yes sometimes there are two, said, “don’t be silly, interfacing will look terrible, you’ll be able to see it and besides, the collar will probably be helped by the French seams”.

When I tried on the top for the first time after attaching the collar I noticed immediately that voice #1 had been correct. The stand-up collar was actually a floppy collar.

So I marked my hem (the reason for the try on) and then sat in the sunshine unpicking the collar. I wasn’t looking forward to this because the fraying was getting pretty bad.

Interfacing and I aren’t really enemies but I wouldn’t say we are friends either. I do use interfacing when a pattern calls for it but that of course means I read it in the instructions…in English 😉 I am learning slowly more about interfacing and this was a pretty good learning moment for me. Firstly to actually use interfacing, and secondly, not to over do it. My first choice was a waaaay- to-stiff fusible and I was starting to look like previously mentioned HBO cat.

Back to the sunshine drenched lounge I went with the blouse and my unpicker.

The fraying was by now almost completely un-salvageable (cue evidence above) and I knew I would have to alter my seam lines to compensate but in the end it ended up being a good thing.

So I was more careful with my second interfacing selection. I tested several options with my scrap left overs and it turned out a super lightweight non-fusible was the best option. I wanted the collar to stand up but not look like it was being stood up if that makes any sense 🙂  so I went to work.

There were two bonuses in all this. The first was that as I tried on the top I noticed that the back rode up a little too high in the neck line and at the sleeves so it meant I could correct this fault at the same time as re-attaching the collar. Secondly, due to the horrid fraying the collar height ended up reduced by about 5 millimeters. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot but I much prefer the new height.

After attaching the collar I hemmed the bottom by overlocking the lower edge, folding to the inside and I chose to top-stitch it in place.

In other exciting news: Patterns!

Excuse the crappy cell phone pictures, I was too excited and too late for work to get out the “real” camera.

I made an order at BMV.com when they had their sale just over a week ago. I really wasn’t expecting them to arrive so quickly. My last order I made from Western Australia took almost 3 weeks and these ones took significantly less, 9 days to be exact. In fact they got here so quick they ended up a little wet from being out on the door step over night since I didn’t bother to check for them. But they will be OK, it’s just on the bottom edges of the envelopes.

New Zealand Handmade Christmas Ornament Swap

Yesterday I signed up for the New Zealand Handmade Christmas Ornament Swap. I’ve never done something like this before but I always make a few new ornaments for my tree each year so why not send one to someone else to enjoy?!

The idea is that you hand make one gorgeous Christmas tree ornament and post it on December 1st to your allocated swap parter (along with handmade Christmas card). NZ Handmade will post links to ideas and tutorials on their blog to help you out.

You have until the 23rd of October to sign up and it is open to any bloggers in New Zealand and overseas so why don’t you join me? Jump over to the blog post to read more on how to get involved, maybe you’ll get lucky and end up with my ornament 😉

Blouse 303 from Manequim 625

It’s probably about time I showed you all some sewing. I have managed to drag myself away from the biggest party NZ has seen for a while to finally take more pics of my newest blouse. I finished it about 3 weeks ago and I’m going to put my hand up now and say I know these photos are really bad but I’ve taken them three times and just can’t seem to like them so I’m giving up and posting anyway 🙂

If it looks like these photos were taken on two different days it's because they were

The contrast is terrible, I know, plus I managed to get the sliding door in all of them, which I subsequently had to crop out so the composition is pretty awful too…the wind didn’t help either, I’d get myself all settled, push the remote button, wait for the beeps and then, wooosh! Gah, who’d of thought, wind? In Wellington?!

Because everyone likes to see an out-take...

I don’t know, for some reason I am hating the photos I take of myself lately, but I’ll get over it because I LOVE this blouse…so on to the details:

It is from Manequim 625 and is#303. I liked it as soon as this magazine arrived in my hot little hands and I chose to use this amazing silk crepe that I got from the  “Remnant Table of Endless Inspiration” at my last trip to Potters (sigh, I miss that shop!).

You might have noticed, although I haven’t mentioned it officially, I am doing a little bit of stash busting. The Esther cardi knit was from my stash and this blouse was the next one – (Belated) Birthday Dress and the following project are in this category as well.

I got this 149cm x 1.1m length for $10, a bargain yes, but I was scared to ruin it so I let it mature nicely in my stash and then I put my brave on and cut into it last month. If you are in Perth and have not been to Potter’s yet, then what are you doing? Go, go now, you will not be disappointed.

This is only the second silk item I have made, and my first in a crepe. I discovered quite quickly that working with this fabric was a lot of fun. It frayed right in front of my eyes, even while it was just sitting on the table it was merrily fraying itself away to nothing. But I loved the print so I was determined to make it work. To be honest I think it took me longer to work out how to place the pattern pieces to make the most of the print than it did to eventually sew it up. I used Photoshop to help me finally decide how to do it and I’ve started a post on that (along with the construction) that I’ll pop up in a day or two – it will be another of those epically nerdy posts so consider yourself forewarned 😉

Despite the fraying and the Photoshopping the construction went pretty smoothly, apart from the fact that I had to unpick the standing collar three times. It was completely my silly fault and in the end it turned out for the best because it meant it got a tad shorter and after my first try-on I was starting to feel a bit like HBO cat.

And here are a few more detailed shots.

Standing collar and front pleat detail

Sleeve detail

After cutting out my pieces I realised just how sheer my fabric was, this would mean I needed french seams, which was not really big deal. I’ve only ever done them once before (on my BurdaStyle Book blouse no less) and they worked out ok, plus Carolyn had just posted up a timely reminder tutorial which I had a skim over to refresh the memory. Here is a sleeve close-up inside out, you can see the French seams. I’m quite proud of how they turned out and my construction skills are definitely improving. I think the French seam also helps strengthen the seams and protects the interior of the silk during wear and washing.

Inside out detail

In other sewing related news:

Exciting: I have (99.9%) finished the (Belated) Birthday Dress and I am so happy with it! The hem got pressed today and I just have to decide whether to top-stitch it (as per the instructions) or get out the needle and thread and hand stitch it up, which I am terrible at…but the fabric weave/print will help hide my hand-sewing sins and whichever way I chose to go there will be photos next weekend.

Less exciting: The Gok coat is also complete, but I’m not sure if I like it. I will share pictures with you before I decide what to do with it. I think it can be saved, the question is: “Can I be bothered before Summer arrives…?”

Next in-line: I guess I should really try to finish the Forever Jeans…thread arrived from eBay last month – yes, that means I gave up on Spotlight and bought it of all places from England! But I guess that all depends on how soon my pattern splurge purchases from BMV arrives 😉 …