About thecuriouskiwi

Everyone’s got to be a little nerdy at something and I am a nerd with a sewing machine. Obsessed with collecting patterns, fabric and buttons, welcome to my nerdy little world…

Surprise Wrap Dress

Have you ever finished a make and after trying it on thought, “ugh, this makes me look pregnant!”? I have a few times but now I have an excuse because I AM pregnant!

Surprise!I wrote most of this post a few weeks ago for the Singer Aus/NZ blogs when I was about 24 weeks, which was just about when my wardrobe choices had started to take a serious hit!

I lost two of my favourites, the Papercut La Sylphide (sadly now OOP) and Colette Rooibos of which I’ve made multiple versions, at around 19 weeks when baby decided to expand his residence upwards above my natural waist line.

8 dresses down, let’s keep going…

My So Over It Betty dresses and Vogue 1353s lasted a little longer due to the slightly higher waists and full skirts but ultimately I retired them around 23 weeks.

That’s 5 more gone! What’s left?

So I’m down to my Pauline Alice Cami dress, which is lasting only because it too has a high waist, gathered skirt and it was too big for me anyway, Kitschy Coo Lady Skater (yay for stretchy merino) and Papercut Clover dress which is great worn with a high belt. I only ever made one each of these dresses.

Well that’s clearly not going to cut it is it? I need some new dresses ASAP!

I’m not looking for maternity specific patterns, my sewing time is precious and everything I make get emotional investment so I don’t want to have to shelve them after baby arrives in December so I’ve been hunting out patterns that will still suit me postpartum and beyond, maybe with a few modifications.

What better place to start than the stash, let’s take a look:

So as well as making another Lady Skater and Clover dress my short list is:

Republic du Chiffon Violette Dress (cheating: I bought this one recently!) – Victory Patterns Simon Dress/Top  ⁣- Papercut Saiph Tunic

Victory Patterns Hannah DressSew House Seven Tea House Top and Dress
Milan AV-JC Zero Waste Brumer Wrap Dress

I’ve also bought two maternity specific patterns because stretchy fabric is life right now and also they look so cute and fast to make:

Deer & Doe Givre Maternity version – Megan Nielsen Erin Maternity Skirt

With so many baby things being quickly added to my sewing queue I’m unlikely to get to all of these but dream-sewing alongside real-sewing is a fun way to pass the weeks.

For my first experiment into Maternity-But-Not-Really-Sewing I’m going with a wrap dress that’s been on my to-sew list for ages. It’s vintage Vogue #1679 Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress⁣⁣. This pattern is single sized, unfortunately one size too big for me, but with the general overall body expansion I decided to sew it as drafted and see how it turned out. Later I can grade this pattern down a smaller size or two.

It did turn out a tiny bit big for me but it’s been a while since I sewed from a vintage pattern and I really enjoyed it.

This dress is really well finished with full length interfacing on the bodice and skirt edges, full length facings, lots of stay stitching (I used fusible stay tape instead) and beautiful clear instructions.

Trying my best to match up the stripes!

Stay Tape along the top edge of skirt

Left: Can you see my centre back seam?
Right: Setting in sleeves with the Many Many Pins technique

I only made two changes from the instructions: No hand stitching for the wrap pass through, because a.) hand sewing, and b.) you won’t see it (it’s covered by the wrap ties), so I machine top stitched around this instead. And I continued the edge stitching from the bodice right down the skirt because I liked it.

 

I also won a game of bobbin roulette but almost lost entirely when I noticed I was running out of thread completely. The original spool was from a big box I was given by a family friend who had sewn curtains in a past life. This means most of the colours are multiples of beige and cream but there are a few brights in there that I’ve managed to use.

I originally took a photo of the old and new spools of thread thinking to illustrate that Gutermann had changed their colour numbers or NZ had different numbers but a quick internet search of their colour chart showed me 912 AND 247 looking very similar so it’s actually just that my local Spotlight apparently doesn’t bother to stock all the colours…I met their Gutermann rep once

Winning Bobbin Roulette 

Let’s see how it turned out:

The front wrap has great coverage, crossing right over to the opposite side seam. Great on a windy photo day!

I spent a lot of time while laying out this pattern to get good stripe matching and no twinning on the bodice. I think I did pretty well, the stripes continue up seamlessly.

The skirt has quite a curved hem so it looks a little wonky inside out but when worn it’s fine.

Inside out you can see the nice wide facings, all under-stitched, interfaced and stay taped so that they lie against the body really nicely and won’t stretch out.

I only overlocked the edge of the facing (in magenta of course!), all other seams are left unfinished. This fabric won’t fray and it makes for a nice soft interior.

The extra finishing steps were really worth it to help this dress last as long as possible and make it comfortable to wear. I really enjoyed sewing this one and I definitely see a couple more in the future. Stretchy fabrics and I are best friends right now!

 

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – Vintage Vogue #1679 Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress (OOP), view A, size 16 1/2 (Bust 99cm)

I chopped quite a lot of length off the skirt pattern pieces. Next time grade down 2 sizes.

Fabric – Knit from The Fabric Warehouse

 

Lonely Hearts Giselle

When I first finished this dress it was a rainy autumn day in May. I put it on and wasn’t immediately sold.

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Well...I don't hate it...but... #lonelyheartsgiselle

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I had found the final instructions for finishing off the ruffle and waist tie frustratingly lacking and so I wasn’t in the best mood. I told myself to wait a little bit for some sunshine and then try again because this fabric is a little bit special.

In 2013 Arthur Toye, an NZ fabric institution with stores all over the North Island (maybe the South too? I’m not sure) announced suddenly that they were closing down.

Every.

Store.

I was devastated. I’d been buying fabric at ATs for as long as I’d been sewing. They had an amazing selection of fabric at decent prices, all the major pattern brands and notions, and they were in the middle of the city. The staff always took the time to create interesting displays and the store was always tidy. Sometimes I’d just go there in my lunch break to be inspired, pet the fabric and then head back to work. They also had regular amazing sales!

After the Wellington store closed I was heading through Palmerston North with my sister to visit our Dad and we saw that their store was still open. We popped in on our way back and both bought a length of this amazing heart printed Rayon.

If this fabric looks familiar it’s because you’ve seen it before on my blog. In 2014 some of the Wellington Sewing Bloggers teamed up to make Megan Nielsen’s Tania Culottes.

And because Fashionable Younger Sister’s name is Tania we made her join us, even though she lived 650 kilometers away in Auckland:

Mine went into my stash for a bit more “maturing”. I still have a lot of AT fabric in there but one day, and I admit that day is a long way off, I’ll pull out the last piece of Arthur Toye fabric.

That day will be a very sad day.

The StyleArc Giselle dress pattern caught my eye after I Camille shared a similar Realisation dress on her Instagram story.

I decided I needed a fluttery summer dress and the hearts rayon called out from the shelf. That’s how fabric maturation works, you just have to listen carefully 😉

This was my first StyleArc pattern and having already been pre-warned that the instructions were minimal I thought I knew what I was getting myself in for…There was no cutting layout but you guys know by now that I’m totally fine with making that up on my own!

I also had my supervisor at the ready.

The fabric estimate stated I needed 2.5m and I only and 1.7m. It was a tight squeeze but with a bit of piecing I managed to get everything out of my short length.

I don’t remember why I bought such a random length of just 1.7m (2.0 or 2.5m is my usual go to when I’m just stash bulking), I suspect it was the end of the bolt after FYS’s length was cut off.

And then I realised that I hadn’t cut enough binding pieces so all the scraps came out of the bin and I pieced even more bits together!

Despite the short instructions there are some nice details in this pattern. Binding finishes all the raw edges…mostly nicely. I recommend under-stitching before you topstitch this down.

The longest part of this make was finishing the edge of the ruffles. They are so long and it’s a little fiddly.

This was second only to gathering the skirt ruffle. It was an even looooonger pattern piece but with a little patience, I got there in the end. The nice thing about the ruffle is that after it’s sewn on there is no need to hem the skirt, suddenly the dress is finished!

The sour note at the end was the interface between bodice binding, waist seam and waist tie…it’s just not very refined and it was a let down to finish the dress off on such a fiddly and poorly thought out detail.

I ended up fudging it a little and it’s not too bad I guess…

So, after two weeks of waiting for some better weather, I am glad to say that in the end I liked my new dress more. It’s a much lighter and shorter style than I usually wear but it’s very summery and the ruffles are fun.

Winter was very much on its way however so the Lonely Hearts Giselle will be waiting until Summer 2020 for it’s next outing.

I think we’ll go to the beach together!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – StyleArc Giselle Dress,  variation 1, size 10

No alterations

Fabric – “Vintage” Rayon, 145cm x 1.7m from Arthur Toye Palmerston North, purchased 14 November 2013, $24.95 – 50% off (closing down sale)

I’ll leave you with a fun pic from a weekend sewing session: We have a small sewing group at work and we usually meet once per month to sew in our office staff hub. I’m slowly enlarging the group by teaching anyone who is interested. My current students are Sarah and Sovaia who are both making the Papercut Pattern Ravine Dress. How gorgeous are the colours they chose? They’re both really close to finishing now!

It’s never too late to learn to sew!

Sewaholic Protea Lonsdale

I made my first Sewaholic Lonsdale dress in late 2014 in a Joel Dewberry print. I really liked it and always intended to make another version with a couple of tweaks but, distracted by other patterns, I never got around to it.

I’m a big fan of Sewaholic patterns and I’m really sad that after Tasia sold the business on it just kind of…died. I like and own a lot of indie pattern brands and Sewaholic was in the small group of brands I hold in really high regard. Her fit and instructions were always on point. She used clever and interesting construction techniques and she always listened carefully to her pattern testers and the community.

At the start of this year I finally remembered to make another Lonsdale and the fabric that called out from my stash just happened to be another Joel Dewberry print!

I only had 2.7 meters (3.9m required) but I’m never scared of a good game of pattern tetris and I usually win.

Remembering that my first version was very long I chopped 10cm of the skirt pieces. Then I thought I was being very clever and efficient cutting the back bodice pieces in a single layer in between all the bigger pattern pieces…well that was the theory…

Oops!

This is efficient, if you remember to flip the pattern pieces! Luckily I had one more scrap just big enough to re cut that piece.

I always found the bow at the back of this dress really uncomfortable. It would dig into my back when I sat down or leaned against anything. I could get in and out of the dress without having to undo the bow so I actually cut the ties and stitched them to the back tabs after a few wears.

For this second version I wanted to insert them into the top of the bodice. This meant I could cut the neck ties shorter but I still had to add a join to get them out of my fabric length. These extra seams are completely hidden in the busy print.

That’s kind of about it. Excluding the ties and using an invisible zipper I made this dress exactly following the instructions for a change.

So here are lots of pictures (and eventually a cat):

My usual spot under the Kowhai tree was too shady so please enjoy the mint textured concrete of the lower section of my house. It kind of works 😉 It will be changing colour sometime later this year.

A sunbathing Harriet eventually decided to come over and “help”.

And that’s that…oh wait, I forgot:

Pockets!

Which is the perfect opportunity to suggest a fantastic podcast all about the history of clothing and in particular this episode about pockets and why we should appreciate them even if declaring your love for them is becoming a bit clichéd.

May all your clothes have perfect pockets!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – Sewaholic Lonsdale, variation a, size 12

Skirt shortened approx 10cms, back halteneck tie omitted (ties captured in top seam at back of bodice)

Fabric – Joel Dewberry, Cali Mod, Protea in Midnight

Other notions – Interfacing, thread, invisible zipper

Previous versions of this pattern –

Back to school…Shoe School!

In September last year I went back to school…

Shoe school!

Lou recently relocated her Shoe School from Dunedin to Wellington and offers 1 and 2 day workshops for pattern making, leather sneakers, sandals and a 5 day workshop in shoemaking. She studied shoemaking in Australia and has twice been to Tokyo to intern with a Master shoemaker.

I enrolled in the 2 day sandal workshop.

The first day started in Lou’s fabulous workshop located in Newtown. While we waiting for everyone to arrive we explored.

Sewing machines…of course

Beautiful leather

Tools, thread, Franken-shoes…AND A KITTY!

We began by talking about our inspiration images and sketching our ideas.

I had been working on a Pinterest board with way too many ideas but ultimately I narrowed it down a Chie Mihara sandal. My goal for the weekend was to replace my worn out “Romies” with a more “grown up”, sophisticated, me-made version.

“Romies” in NZ refer to a specific Roman sandal style that both genders usually wear to school in summer. My pair was made in NZ by a company called HealthForm. I don’t think you can get this brand anymore and it’s sad to see that all the examples I looked up online are made overseas.

This is my second ever pair of Romies, they are at least 10 years old, they last a long time (or at least this brand does). After wearing them for school most people never wear them again. When I was at school the manufacturers realised they were getting really popular and so they went from a cheap summer shoe option (~$10) to an overpriced one (~$50).

I bought my first pair later as a grown up and loved them. They take a little while to wear in, you’ve got to persevere until the leather straps gets nice and supple and the sole molds to your foot curves.

When I wear my romies in summer they get noticed. The comments are all good, people usually reminiscent of summer school days. I guess it is is a bit odd to wear them as a grown up.

After sketching and chatting we started to look at the leathers and discussed accessories. My roamies would need a buckle so I grabbed a few of those first.

I swayed between so many leather options, it was too hard to choose. I saw a lot of sandal inspiration using a bold colour with a metallic. I came so close to using the green and gold however I kept coming back to the simple and timeless brown of my original idea.

My next pair of sandals could be more extreme, the second goal of the weekend was to come away with something I loved and could wear all the time…but I still used a little of the gold for some fun bling.

Next we drew around our feet. It was weird to see my foot like that, it looked so flat and…huge! But just like in sewing, when you write down your measurements, accuracy is more important than flattery.

We then adjusted some base patterns to suit our sandal design.

The whole process for me was very similar to sewing. From picking fabric, the right pattern, making adjustments, it’s the same methodology.

We tested out pattern in paper first and made adjustments.

(Also super proud with myself for remembering to paint my toenails)

“ghost shoe”

Next we transferred our modified patterns to cardboard, adding on seam allowances and noting strap and other critical placement points.

Pattern card matches nail polish, check ✔️

And then it was time to cut the leather. I also cut out some lining leather which was glued to my outers.

Rand was attached to our soling next. This it glued on, the stitching is just decorative.

We chose our soling and EVA foam. Layers of EVA foam will add of thickness to the sole and also create the heel.

I covered my insole with more lining leather

My ankle strap was to be hand sewn on – I used a punch to create the holes in both my strap and shoe. The buckles we’re attached using a rivet.

And then things started to come together really quickly.

After another check for fit there was a flurry of gluing and trimming.

First the straps…(outside because the glue is very smelly!)

Then the EVA foam and soling.

The glue is heat activated. After it dries on both sides we used a heat gun to get it tacky before joining the pieces. I wooden roller helped to apply pressure.

Lou did the scary skiving and trimming part – that blade is sharp!

Insoles were tacked in place and…OMG they were finished!

Here’s a comparison with my old roamies above.

The fit is really comfy and I was so happy with my colour choices in the end.

Bling, bling!

Yay!

The 2-day course was a lot of fun and with only 4 of us we got a lot of teacher time with Lou and her assistant. This is an expensive pair of sandals but there was nothing we did in the course that couldn’t really replicate at home so with a few purchases I’m looking forward to trying to make a second pair by myself.

If you’re even vaguely interested, are in Wellington, or could get here for a few days, then absolutely DO IT!

13/10! I really want to do the 5-day shoe course next.

Rifle Paper Co La Sylphide

Have you ever had that feeling that you are the only person in the entire sewing universe that doesn’t own a particular fabric?

I give you the Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs Rayon Challis, Birch Floral in Navy:

Last year it felt like EVERYONE had this fabric and the more I saw it the more I wanted it too.

So I caved.

I don’t blame anyone, this challis is so silky and drapey. And as far as I was concerned there was only one pattern in my stash that was perfect for it.

I’ll give you a hint:

Why stop at five La Sylphides when I could have six?

I cut this one out in April but it took me a little while to finish.

2018 was The Year of Distracted Sewing. I started many projects and kept getting drawn into more new projects, putting the most recent one aside for a few months at a time. I think an early winter shelved this dress until I finally found some focus in the second half of the year.

I’m not suggesting I’ve stopped getting distracted in 2019, oh no, I’m still all over the place with my sewing decisions but so far this year I have at least been finishing things! 😉

I found the perfect matching coral buttons at Pete’s Emporium.

The Papercut La Syphide was a great choice for this pretty flowing fabric and I really love the colour combo on me. In fact this is one of my favourite makes of all time and I love wearing it.

The Wellington wind loves it too!

It will work great with tights in winter too.

I took these photos in Spring just as our Kowhai tree was reaching peak flower.

I love this tree, even if it does make a huge mess. we’re so lucky to have such a large, mature tree in our backyard.

Here’s a close up of the bell-shaped flowers.

The Tui flock from everywhere to drink the nectar. They’re loud, boisterous birds with very unique calls. Some days I lose count just trying to gauge how many are in the tree.

By October all the flowers are gone and the whole tree looks a little dead, all bare branches and brown seed pods but it’s not long until it’s lush and green again with new leaves.

Here’s to new beginnings!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern –Papercut Patterns La Sylphide dress, straight size S

Skirt lengthened approx 16cms, side seams taken in 1.5cm at the waist

Next time I’ll try an XS

Fabric – Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs Rayon Challis, Birch Floral in Navy

Other notions – Interfacing, thread, buttons from Pete’s Emporium

Previous versions of this pattern –

Like a motorbike? The Pfaff 332-260

The Pfaff 332-260 came from Wainuiomata in a cardboard box and later that day it was joined in the boot by a Brother.

It was, of course, filthy.

The machine hasn’t been inside it’s own suitcase for many years, the zipper seized shut.

The jewel of an original manual that the seller was so excited to offer with the machine is water damaged and many of the pages are stuck together.

Two of the dials are seized and while others move with force they do so unhappily.

She cost me $18.50 and she needs some work.

The top cover came off easily revealing all the little fingers and internal dials that work the stitches.

And the years of grime.

Just a little TLC made an improvement but there is still work to be done.

I have a service manual with beautiful diagrams like this:

Inside the tin were some things that belonged and others that definitely did not.

Umm, a shuttle?

I love her little collapsible table that reveals the free-arm when stowed.

It has a clip on extension.

She’s from the 1960s and I’ve been looking for one ever since someone told me they were “chain-driven, like a motorcycle”.

It’s not exactly a chain but the timing and drive belts are really interesting and unlike anything I’ve seen before. They’re multi-stringed and held together with metal cleats which slot into the grooves in the sprockets, driven by a 30-watt electric motor.

I’ve read it’s very hard to find replacements.

Along with the manual there should have been a double sided stitch dial card that revealed the dial positions for a vast array of embroidery stitches.

I easily found a pdf of the card online, there are 80 stitches in total. On my to-do list sometime I will print it off and make a working copy of it.

While working on this machine I kept thinking, “this must be the heaviest VSM I own by far!” and that got stuck in my head so much so that I decided I’d have to check.

So I got out my highly accurate (not) scales and decided to fat shame all those lumps of metal and the plastic ones too. Here’s how it shook out:

Brother 190: 15kg
Singer 99K-13: 13kg
Apollo HA-1 Generic: 13kg
Pfaff 332-260: 11kg
Bernina 125: 9kg
Singer 348: 9kg
Bernina 1150MDA: 8kg
Janome 1000cpx: 8kg
Elna One: 6.5kg
Elna 2130: 6kg
Singer Featherweight: 5kg
Harriet for reference: 4kg

The Pfaff is not the heaviest, easily beaten by the Brother 190 boot buddie, a half-sized Singer and it’s clone. All the modern machines are in the middle between 6kgs and 8kgs.

And no surprises for the lightest, living up to it’s name.

And because I put something down on the floor and paid close attention to it of course the Sewing Cat wanted to play as well.

It’s no use arguing with a cat.

Meet the rest of my VSM collection here.

More photos of the Pfaff here.

 

Sewing for Christmas and babies, part three: 2018

I promised you cake and cake you shall have! Sewing will also follow later in this post.

My nephew Harvey has his first birthday in September 2018 and I was asked to help with food. I offered to make the cake because I had an idea and if I’m helping with something it should at least be fun for me too.

(I’m sure if I didn’t mention it you wouldn’t even notice but please ignore the lack of splash back in my kitchen. I finally chose tiles the following month but of course they had to come from far far away and didn’t arrive until late December. They’re actually being installed as you read this!)

I began the night before the party with Sally’s Baking Addiction Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake (a new recipe for me that turned out to be delicious) and some sketches…

I didn’t really have enough hands to take progress pictures but here it is crumb coated the morning of the party.

I used the Chelsea Basic Butter Cream Icing recipe for the crumb coat and the final icing.

Some blue food colouring, smarties and pink wafer biscuits later…

And here it is at the party with all the other food:

The one year old babies didn’t seem impressed but I was really happy and the adults loved it.

Ok, sewing!

For Christmas 2018 I added to my nephews Christmas decoration collection. To follow on from the cake success I decided a festive dinosaur would be appropriate.

Anything can become festive with the addition of a Santa hat.

My sister said when they opened it on Christmas day H tried to eat it which apparently is a good sign.

Nerdy Husband also liked the festive stegosaurus so our tree got one too.

I made one other decoration for 2018, inspired by this Etsy listing.

Except for the stitching on the dial I think this one is mostly glued together. It felt a bit weird to use glue for a sewing machine ornament so I kind of did my own thing…

Oh and when I said “one more”, I actually meant three…

One for me and one each for two fabulous ladies I know.

I’ve had these tiny wooden cotton reels in my “I don’t know what I’m going to do them but I have to buy them” pile for a while. They were the perfect size.

I did tack the paperclip “needles” and bamboo kebab skewer “thread spools” in place with some glue.

I formed the flywheel around a bit of cardboard and stitched the sides. A large bead helped me attach it with thread.

I didn’t think about the weight of the thread spool so the hangers ended up needing to be under them for the machines to hang level.

Pretty cute, huh?

They look good on our Christmas trees too!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – 

Fabric –  Felt from my stash

Other notions – DMC Stranded Cotton, ribbon, miniature wooden thread spool, bamboo kebab skewer, paperclip, beads