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…

Betty in the Sky with Racoons!

I made another Betty dress!

I made another Betty dress a really long time ago!

I’ve made some other things too and haven’t blogged about them either…so here goes with my first catching up post in a while :)

I’d had this fabric since early 2014 and pre-washed it as soon as I got it which is unusual for me (yes, I’m a wash-only-as-required sewist) so that shows how keen I was to sew it up. I just needed a pattern that would suit the large scale print.

Hot on the heels of my last Betty dress I needed another one asap and realised it would be perfect for this fabric. Kat also wanted a Betty dress so we collaborated for a new Twinsie make and for October’s Monthly Stitch challenge, “The Final Frontier”…yes, that’s how long ago I made this dress…

We were a little bit slow getting our photos done and posts written so we too these photos for post during December’s TMS Amnesty Month instead…oops! :o

There isn’t a lot more to say about this make.

  • As I mentioned in my last Betty post I lengthened the bodice by 2cm which was perfect and I was more careful trimming my hem this time around!
  • I also had to piece the corners again due to the narrow width. The pattern is less abstract than the camera print so I decided to match the raccoons. This meant I had to be a bit more careful laying out so that I would have the right raccoon parts available to join on.
  • I deliberately placed the raccoons off center on the bodice front to avoid any Racoon Boobies.

If you are wondering how racoons relate to “The Final Frontier” challenge theme, the fabric colour is called “sky”…I know it’s a stretch but I make the rules and I’m an admin/editor so… ;)

We took these photos at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park here in Wellington, among the sandstone columns of the Australian Memorial and in front of the carillon tower. The park underwent a major redevelopment in time for Anzac Day 2015 and the centenary of New Zealand’s participation in the First World War.

The carillon tower was built in 1932 and a large portion of the redevelopment work went into the sinking of Buckle Street so that we could have this fantastic public space in front of it.

Also there are poppies which was a nice surprise.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Sew Over It Betty dress, size 14.

  • Removed fullness from the skirt to match Colette Hawthorne as per previous version.
  • Lengthened bodice 2cm.

Fabrics – Tula Pink Acacia Racoons in Sky, USD$30.00/yd, purchased March 2014

Silk Twill La Sylphide

This will be a short post with more photos than words ;)

This is my third Papercut La Sylphide. I wear my Owl La Sylphide ALL THE TIME, it’s one of my all time favourite makes. My second La Sylphide I hardly ever wear. I did something weird to the button placket, I think I cut if slightly off grain, so it doesn’t sit right. I’m also not sure that the lighter colour combined with diagonals suit me…so I needed to make another and when I saw this silk twill at Fabric-a-Brac I knew exactly what it was destined for.

This time around the fabric was way too narrow even for the reduced skirt width that I left marked from my Owl version so I had to piece on the corners. I cut these, as usual, from the selvedge, so that I could leave them unfinished to reduce seam bulk.

I feel like I’ve written ^^that ^^ in almost every blog post recently :)

But it’s a good trick and no one has ever pointed out my pieced on skirt-triangles in the 4 or 5 dresses I’ve done this too ;)

Red buttons!

There’s not much else to say, I really want to make another, I just have to wait for the right fabric to pop up again. It’s nice and swishy, maybe a bit too swishy sometimes for the Wellington wind, but mostly I just LOVE the colour.

Was a bit windy…

Harriet says, “Sew more! MOAR!”

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Papercut Patterns La Sylphide dress, straight size S

Skirt lengthened approx 16cms, full width of skirt pattern piece used.

Fabrics – Silk Twill found at Fabric-a-Brac, $15.00 total, bought 2nd May 2015

The lengths we go to for photos…

“Old man, how is it that you hear these things?”*

Last weekend I added a new machine to my little vintage collection.

And you all know when I say “new” I really I mean “old right?

67 years old.

Not the oldest in my collection but certainly the cutest:

It’s an Elna One, affectionately know as a Grasshopper, Elna’s first production machine and the first ever mass produced portable free arm sewing machine.

These machines, in production between 1940 and 1952, weren’t originally given a model number but almost everyone knows them as an Elna 1 or Elna One and I think you can guess where “Grasshopper” comes from.

I’ve been hunting for a good example for quite some time. When they do come up on TradeMe (NZ’s equivalent of eBay) they often have no case or are in pretty bad shape and the good ones go for crazy prices.

There’s one currently up asking for an opening bid of NZD$450, which is particularly ridiculous considering they have only uploaded one photo (the first photo is free) and it has a single sentence description.

Really? For $450 I think you can shell out that extra 25c for a second photo…or go wild, spend a whole dollar for four photos!

/end rant

My Elna One is date stamped April 1948 and I picked it up for NZD$60.00.

It came with it’s clever folding carry case, accessory box and the original power cord which is in excellent condition. The body paint is pretty good too, only a few chips here and there, mostly at the sides on the base, probably from the edges of the carry case.

Even the light still works! I am however a little sad that there was no instruction booklet.

I used a pdf I found online to wind a bobbin and thread her up and everything works perfectly.

After I removed the wad of fluff from under the feed dogs she sewed like a happy purring kitten.

I’m currently sourcing a reproduction manual to tide me over until I can get hold of an original.

I love vintage sewing machines. They are so beautiful and often very clever.

After threading up to wind the bobbin I was trying to figure out how to declutch and couldn’t see anything in the manual. So I just started winding and realised it was already declutched. I think it happens when you fold out the special little guide that carries the thread down to the bobbin.

I also love how the military-look carry case opens. There are two little buttons, one on each side that you press. The case folds open flat and a smooth surface folds open again from some wire clips. After you fold the base inside you can place it flat upside down on a table. Then the whole thing slots over the free arm to give you more sewing surface.  

It’s knee controlled which I like because it’s still quite unique to me and I really love how the arm folds up to sit in front of the machine. I also have a knee controlled Singer but you have to completely remove the arm and clip it inside the wooden case for transporting.

And that’s about it…except that it’s not. You see between this acquisition and my last I may have acquired an extra machine or two…or three…ok, three!

I never got around to writing about them but that doesn’t mean I love them any less…although the Grasshopper is my current favourite and it will take something pretty spectacular to knock her off the top!

I love them all, especially my “baby” Singer, a 99-13 and all her original accessories…and there may be something else pretty special arriving from Auckland at Christmas time with Fashionable Younger Sister, who is my TradeMe Mule…

So I thought that my machines deserved their own page, somewhere for pretty photos, to collect information about each one, links to my posts, useful websites, and updates about the ones that need some restoration/parts. 

I’ve been working on it for a while, setting everything up took ages, so it’s still a work in progress but here it is so far..

I’ve also added a button link to my side bar.

I am considering rotating these machines so that I actually use them, in place of my usual Elna 2130 so keep your eye out for them sneaking into the odd construction photo.

And that really is it.

Ok, it’s not. I am pretty enamoured with my Grasshopper. I took a lot more photos. A LOT MORE PHOTOS! So to keep this post from overflowing I have given them their own page here.

It’s worth a visit, even if just for the Harri outtakes ;)

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*Kung Fu Pilot Episode (TV Series, 1972)

Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.

Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?

Young Caine: No.

Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?

Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

$5 Vogue 1250

I am a little embarrassed by how long this dress has taken me to finish. It sat waiting to be hemmed for a very long time. I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog but most recently I found a post from October 2013 – Yes, TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN! Which is JUST silly.

 

What colour thread?! I eventually went for the purple.

This fabric was from The Fabric Warehouse $5 Remnant Bin of Endless Inspiration! It was just shy of a meter but quite wide (150cm?) and I decided it must be Vogue 1250.

It’s been so long since I’ve worked with a Big 4 pattern. I have a big collection of them and I keep meaning to sew a few more from that pile but ohh look, a new sparkly indie pattern…lately everything from that corner been a bit too simple and…dare I say it? Yes, ok, boring! I suppose that’s good for my wallet and now have an excuse to dig through my pattern stash instead ;)

I really love patterns that use clever shapes to transform flat fabric so I’ve always thought this pattern was really interesting. It’s only 2 pieces, 3 if you count the tiny neck facing.

The main pattern piece is basically an inverted T. The bottom “wings” of the T wrap around to make the back of the skirt with a CB seam below a curving horizontal waist seam.

 I’ve included images of the pieces below:

#1 Front/back – The long right hand edge is cut on the fold and the lower piece extends to the left to create the back of the skirt. The most left hand edge is the skirt CB and above that you can see the curved back waist seam.

#2 Neck Facing – The front cowl neck is left unfinished.

#3 Upper Back – Cut on the fold (left straight edge).

It took me quite a bit of time to work out how to cut it out while pattern matching the striped colours. I wanted to place the front piece in such a way that I could also place the back piece and keep the same colours lining up across the side seams. I was close to giving up when I cracked it.

The yardage calls for 1.2m and the trick that helped me squeeze the pieces out of this length of fabric was adding a CB seam to the back bodice. You can hardly see this, the fabric print hides it perfectly.

It’s currently a little bit tight and far too slinky for work-wear. I feel a bit self conscious but hubby likes it (of course he likes it!) so I’ll drop some extra date night hints.

That’s about all I have to say about this particular dress. It was an easy make and actually quite fast to whip up (if you don’t put it down for 2 years waiting to hem). The instructions are completely illustrated, the front cowl inside edge is left raw but the back neck edge is nicely finished.

Pointing out the vertical seams to the photographer…I think ;)

I love supporting Indie pattern brands and I know the “Big 4” often get a bit of flack online. This is mostly due to confusion about ease. Some brands add more than others and often different amounts to different garment types. We all also have our own preferences for how much ease we like and this also differs between styles so it’s no wonder we often blame the pattern when a garment ends up too big (or too small). My trick to avoid all the crazy inconsistent ease is to ignore the size chart completely and check the finished measurements instead. I do this even with indie patterns. If there aren’t any finished measurements you can flat measure the pieces and work it out. Once you know the finished measurements compare them with your own and pick your size based on how much ease you want.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Vogue 1250, size 14.

Added a seam in the back of the bodice to fit on the fabric.

Fabrics – $5 mystery knit from The Fabric Warehouse $5 Remnant Bin of Endless Inspiration! 

I wasn’t the only person getting new dress photos…

Work it Kat!

A Lady Skater in Merino

Before I tell you about my newest dress (read: newly photographed!) can I please direct your attention over to the Sewing Indie Month website where voting is now open for all three categories: Dresses to the NinesEveryday Casual, and Pattern Hacking.

I don’t like to enter this style of popularity contest but I worked really hard on my Betty dress so I’ve entered it into Dressed to the Nines. I’d love it if you popped over for a look and if you like my dress the most, please vote for me by clicking on the little heart in the top right of the image :)

Then go check out the other two competitions because there’s some great sewing there too.

Ok, on to a tale about a summer…last summer…NH and I went for lunch on the waterfront. It was a good summer, actually we went to the waterfront for lunch several times, but this one time (at band camp) while waiting to cross the road I was admiring the dress of the girl in front of us. Nothing crazy special, just a pretty striped jersey dress. NH saw me looking and commented that I would look good in a dress like that and so I looked a bit closer, realised it was actually just a Lady Skater and decided I would make one.

It’s taken me a while but here it is.

I have a lot of stripes in my stash, most of them from various trips to Levana’s Factory Outlet in Levin. I chose this merino and went with the 3/4 sleeves because it was almost winter when I cut it out. Merino is so warm and lightweight. I love this colour combination which I thought would also look wicked with tights and boots.

The hardest part of this project was lining up the stripes as I cut. They were a little uncooperative and quite off grain but I wrangled them in line with the overlocker as I stitched.

I finally got around to sewing all the pieces together at this year’s inaugural NISM. It was so fast and now I need to make some summery versions quick smart.

This pattern come with two sets of instructions: A six page “Full photo tutorial for visual learners” and a one and a half page, text-only  “Crib sheet for Advanced Bad*sses”. It’s nice that you have two options and you can select which set matches your own skill level, or swap between them.

In reality I found the photographic instructions really drawn out and distracting – a clear sign that I should use the other instruction set instead.

I think the patterned fabric with white back was a good visual choice (right side/wrong side was very clear) but then it was often shown on an equally patterned background which I thought was a poor choice and confusing at first glance. 

I worked with the “crib sheet” for almost all of the construction. I used my sewing machine to secure the elastic to the neck and shoulders, then 4-thread overlocking all the seams.

I did have to check the photographic instructions when attaching the neck band. There is no instruction regarding which side the front notch at the neck should be marked on, or which shoulder to sew first. So I got myself a bit confused because I had marked my notch on the left and when the instructions said to sew one shoulder, I stitched the right shoulder.

It doesn’t matter which side you mark the notch (indicating CF of the neck band) or which shoulder you sew first, they just need to both be on the same side. So I moved my notch (read: pin) to the opposite side and then everything made sense again. 

If you are wondering how that works out, the ends of the neck band are then caught in the opposite shoulder for a tidy finish.

So apart from that the rest of the dress was quick. I improvised on what colour to use for the overlocking by using ALL THE COLOURS.

My awesome diagonal pattern matching in action!

We took these photos in Nina’s garden after a delicious high tea.

I need to make about 3 more of these, so comfy to wear and easy to throw on.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Kitschy Koo Lady Skater, 3/4 length sleeve variation, size 5

No changes, no changes for next time, easy :)

Fabric – 100% Merino, Levana, $18.00/m bought 29.11.2014

Heeeere’s Nikki!

Paparazzi Fascinator

This post covers the making of my fascinator for my Betty WOW dress.

The initial concept was simple – make some miniature cardboard cameras and attach them to a base. I bought heaps of coloured cardboard, some foam board and began by making boxes of various sizes.

I also picked up a white fascinator base from Made Marion, some blue tulle and battery power fairy lights.

I planned for 5 cameras and spent a bit of time each night after dinner decorating them to match cameras from the fabric. I made sure one of the cameras was big enough to accommodate the fairy light battery pack.

The Polaroid camera is my absolute favourite! I liked the “modern” green camera the least but I wanted some variety.

The decoration took a lot longer than expected so it wasn’t until Saturday morning, the day of the WOW show, that I began to assemble them. Keep in mind I also still needed to under-stitch my dress facings and hem it but I was sure this would only take me an hour and the fascinator wouldn’t take much longer, hot glue gun at the ready!

The previous night NH suggested I include some film negatives in my fascinator which was a brilliant idea and sent me digging through my boxes full of old uni projects until I found some.

I got to work nice and early:

Harri helped…a lot…

I started by covering the plain white base with some left over fabric and I stitched bias to the exposed edge. Then I attached the comb by hand stitching through all layers.

I played with adding the cameras in different configurations as well as some blue tulle and lengths of film. I used masking tape to mock up the positions. I spent over an hour playing around and taping bits together but I was getting really frustrated, nothing was working.

So I stopped for a bit and finished off my dress instead.

Sometimes when you have a problem that needs solving the best solution is to stop actively thinking about it and do something else. Your brain will continue to work at it in the background. This is called passive thinking and if you feel like you’ve been hitting a brick wall while working on a problem it can really help you find a solution.

So I returned to my fascinator and instantly realised that I was just trying to cram way too many ideas into one small thing. My base was too large, the camera fabric made it too busy and the blue tulle made me grumpy.

I cut a smaller circle from some spare corrugated cardboard and used my remaining bias to finish the edges. I pulled out my hot glue gun to attach the comb but I also stitched it as back up.

Next I picked my three favourite cameras and played around with the film, creating loops inside loops and attached them like feathers.

Things went much smoother after this stripping back. It was a hard call, the biggest camera that I sized to hold a battery pack for the fairy lights got ditched along with my least favourite green camera.

Here are some close ups of the remaining cameras and the fabric cameras they were based on:

And a final close up:

I added some film curls and strips to fill in the gaps between the cameras and to soften the edges. It stayed in place all night long and was nice and light on my head.

I still wish I could have incorporated the fairy lights but that’s ok, I’ll keep them up my sleeve for another time ;)

If you missed the dress post you can find it here.

Supervising is such hard work!

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WOW Betty, why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer…

The spectacular World of WearableArt (aka WOW) started in Nelson in 1987 and moved to Wellington in 2005. The 2 hour long show features music, dance, and wearable art from New Zealand and all over the world. It’s something I’ve always longed to go to but I’ve never actually made it for various reasons. So when I was invited along to a VIP table for the awards night of course I said, “YES!”

Can you see it?

The perfect excuse to make a ridiculous dress and enter the Sewing Indie Month Dressed to the Nines competition.

THE CONCEPT:

Now WOW is all about the WOW so a simple pretty dress just won’t cut it. There needs to be an extra level of, well, WOW!

I though hard about what I could make, I didn’t want to put a heap of effort into a dress I could never wear again and I only had 2 weeks!

While I was hunting through patterns and fabric stash I picked up the Sew Over It Betty dress pattern that was sitting in my sewing queue. I had already paired it with the retrotastic Riley Blake Geekly Chic Cameras. I realised it would be perfect as a start – cameras and fashion and all that – and I decided the extra WOW could be achieved with some sort of fascinator…perhaps with little cameras all over it to match the dress.

I don’t a have a link to the fabric because apparently this is all sold out…everywhere :(

THE PATTERN:

I started with the dress first – this was my first Sew Over It pattern and I really love the instruction illustrations. They have a sweet hand-drawn look but are really clear. I especially like the use of pattern and shading to show the different sides of the fabric.

After I traced the pattern I reduced the fullness of the skirt, checking it against my Colette Hawthorn pattern piece as a guide. I folded the extra fullness out of the center then corrected the waist line, flat pattern measuring to check it still matched the bodice.

This was another dress requiring a corner piecing job on the skirt due to the narrow quilting cotton width so more fun selvedges hidden inside ;)

Betty is a pretty simple pattern, a 4 dart bodice with a full circle skirt, neck/armhole facings and CB invisible zipper so the instructions don’t need a lot of extra detail. I followed along, only changing the order of a few steps.

I used my new favourite sewing notion, fusible stay tape, on the front and back neck opening. This stuff is seriously great! I have 4 rolls all half inch, a black and white in knit and a black and white in woven. It’s perfect for stabilising the fabric edge before inserting zippers too, you should go buy some.

I assembled the front and back of the dress first, then I stitched the side seams so I could adjust the fit later. The facing went on last and I like the clean finish on the armholes/shoulders.

It stitched up really quickly and the only other change I made was to machine sew the facing along the zipper to avoid hand sewing.

I almost always do this, for a stronger finish and, honestly, to avoid hand sewing. I’m not sure why so many patterns insist on hand sewing the facings down. My hand stitched facings always come undone eventually. Perhaps in this case is it a nod the vintage inspiration of this pattern.

I under-stitched the facing but I still found it liked to flip out at the bottom of the armhole. This was solved by pinning it in place and sewing a short line of stitching in the ditch of the side seam. I think next time I will fully line the bodice.

Next, hemming!

A week before the show and my dress almost finished I decided I would need more floof and went on the hunt for a petticoat. Long story short, I bought the “Value Swing Petticoat” from Let’s Jive in light blue because the price was right, I liked all the colour options and they are located just up the island so promised I would receive it in 1 day by courier. It did arrive as quickly as promised and while it’s not the softest most luxurious petticoat the floof-per-$ factor is impressive…photos later in this post…

The petticoat is a little bit long for my liking but it’s easy to roll up at the waist. I pinned the dress hem where I thought it looked right while I was wearing it. This turned out to be 17cms from the bottom of the skirt and I marked this all the way around, changing to 15cms at the back to allow extra length over my bottom.

After I pressed this up I trimmed off some excess and tired it on again discovering that it was a bit too short…ok, a lot too short! I’d only left about 4.5cms to play with so I re-trimmed the hem neatly at what was now 12.5cm/10.5cm from the bottom of the skirt and to maintain as much of that length as possible I had the brilliant idea to use bias on the hem…then I spotted the rest of the Hug Snug Seam Binding that Kat gave me. I told her at the time she’d given me way too much but I’m not complaining now, let’s just say it saved the day!

(Remind me that I owe you a Bohemian hot chocolate as thanks Kat!)

I stitched this on as close to the edge as I dared, pressed up and stitched the hem. Hug snug is perfect because it’s so light weight and the woven edge won’t unravel. I also get a sneaky bit of yellow hidden inside, it totally matches. I need to buy more, all the colours!

OK this post is long enough now and I haven’t even show you the final photos. I’ll write about making the fascinator in a separate post (here!).

PHOTOS:

These photos were taken at Aotea Lagoon where there are lots of great photos spots.

Getting in the car was super fun. I’ve never worn anything remotely and poofy as this so I was unprepared for a face full of skirt when I sat down. NH was well entertained.

Here is a before and after floof shot:

The whole time I was working on this dress and the fascinator I was really excited. About going to WOW but also about dressing up. Who doesn’t love dress ups?! I’m pretty sold now that the 1950s is my favourite dress ups era.  

Despite my excitement I was a little nervous that I was overdoing things. After I arrived at the bar I noticed everyone else was definitely dressed fancy-pants with lots of sparkles and slinky fabrics but there was nothing else remotely costumey. This didn’t ease my nerves until a random group of ladies called me over to tell me how much they loved my dress. I felt much better then and went to join my VIP group.  I didn’t know anyone else that was invited but I got a lots of compliments so I settled in for a fun night.

More fascinator photos next post, promise.

Just before we headed off to the show they announced the prizes and I won Best Dressed! It was awesome, plus the prize was shoe vouchers! SHOE VOUCHERS!

I got more compliments before we went in to the show and I also met this awesome chicky called Michelle who was dressed 1950s as well. We got a quick selfie at the end of the night – isn’t her hair amazing?! Michelle’s dress is from Amazengarb in Paraparaumu.

We look fabulous!

WOW:

Obviously WOW was AMAZING! The music and dancing were both incredible and of course all the entries! We weren’t allowed to take photos or video but you can see some of them behind us in the photo above and there are some great shots on the WOW Facebook page here.  The volcano projection on the tent for the Aotearoa Section was my favourite part (the drums rattled my chest the model dance routines were perfect). My favourite entries were Neptune’s Bride in the Open Section and Celcus in the Other Worlds Section.

I was completely exhausted at the end of the night from trying to take everything in!

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Sew Over It Betty dress, size 14.

Removed fullness from the skirt to match Colette Hawthorne.

Next time I will lengthen the bodice approx. 2cm and fully line to the waist. I also need to add some bra strap keepers!

Fabrics – Riley Blake Geekly Chic Returns (Geekly Chic 2) Cameras in Blue by Amy Adams, Hawthrone Threads, USD$27.00/m, purchased 04 August 2014.