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…

Merry Grinchmas, have some Christmas cats…

Well it’s April now so I guess I better blog my Christmas sewing from 2016 😉

I decided I wanted to make a Christmas themed dress this year, to wear to my work Christmas party and on Christmas day. I spent way too long trying to find the perfect Christmas fabric online and suddenly it was mid-November and way too late to order anything.

While in Spotlight for something unrelated I noticed all the Christmas themed fabric was on special. There were a lot of options but nothing really jumped out at me. I eventually spotted some ridiculously “me” crazy cat themed Christmas Fabric and I decided that would do. I grabbed 2 meters which was not enough for the dress pattern I eventually decided on (another Sew Over It Betty Dress) and so I had to go back later in the week for more.

Nerdy Husband accompanied me on my second trip and I while I was frantically digging for more Christmas cats he was quietly deciding he needed a Christmas shirt and handed me a bolt of Grinch fabric. I finally found the cats and another meter came home with the Grinches.

For NH’s shirt I dug out an old Vogue pattern I’d made about 10 years ago.

Super trendy! It required many alterations.

The super huge collar is one piece so I drafted a new two-piece collar from that. After comparing the body pieces to a favourite shirt I removed 1.5cm width from both front and back pieces and added 6.5cm in length.

I didn’t buy enough fabric…again. The envelope said 2.6m of 115cm and I only bought 2.0m of 112cm so I played the hardest game of Pattern Tetris ever which included adding 3cm to the front piece so that I could self-face the button placket instead of cutting a separate piece. I also had to find room for a pocket piece  reshaped to be more pointy in place of the original late-90s curvy one.

Front…

Back + first attempt at sleeve placement…

Rotated sleeve is more efficient…

Second sleeve – yay for non-directional fabric…

Last fabric scrap left! Collar…

Aaaand pocket! Phew!

I did it! And as tough as it was there is something quite satisfying about tiny scraps of expensive fabric. Now please enjoy these two obviously not-modeled finished photos.

And now for my dress and it’s much less dramatic sewing journey:

It went much easier since I’ve made a million Betty Dresses (1, 2, 3) and so to lift the excitement I also ordered a new red frou frou from my favorite swing dance store in Napier, Let’s Jive, a mere 2 days before the party…spoiler: it arrived in time.

This version is fully lined in a lemon poplin and has the all important and endlessly useful pockets.

Oh and do you like my cardigan? I realised I would need one for when it got chilly later in the evening…did you think I could find a red cardi in my size in any of the 20 odd shops near my work? Nope.

So the day before it was required, with my dress still needing to be hemmed, I lunched with Nikki and Kat who told me to stop my complaining and just make one. So we cut lunch short and wandered up to The Fabric Store where I bought the perfect red merino for a cropped Muse Jenna.

I washed and dried the merino while I hemmed my dress and then I cut and overlocked my heart out! There’s nothing quite like a tight deadline…

You might have noticed the lack of closures and if not I’m pointing that out right now…I might add some hammer-on snaps sometime…or maybe not 😉

I wore my dress to our work festivities, on the last day at work for 2017, on Christmas day with my in-laws, and to my families late Christmas. The Grinchmas shirt was worn on the last day of work (I potentially have orders but good luck with that guys!) and on Christmas day as well.

But my dress wasn’t the only cat sewn up for Christmas Day – I also made a cushion for S, my cat-mad sister-in-law, from this huge cat panel I found on the Spotlight clearance table. There were three identical cat heads across the width so the cushion is double-sided and I have absolutely no idea what to do with the remaining cat…look out for it on mu table at the next Fabric-a-brac 😀

S loved it but Tora isn’t too impressed…

Phew, Christmas sewing blogged!

THE DEETS:

Patterns – 

Fabric –

From Spotlight, Porirua

  • X16 Merry Grinchmas Cotton, $29.99/meter (-40% on sale),
  • X16 Kitty Xmas All Over Cotton, $19.99/meter (-40% on sale)
  • Lemon Poplin Cotton, $5.99/meter
  • Random cat panel fabric, $4.00/meter clearance

From The Fabric Store

  • 100% New Zealand Merino

Other notions – Buttons, invisible zipper, interfacing

#notmycat

 

Nobody puts Ami in a box…

I really need to catch up on introducing all my sewing machine acquisitions from the last little while (read: two years!) and that’s a good blogging goal for 2017. I promise not to bombard you with machine post after machine post, I’ll mix them in with sewing posts.

You can see them all here and while some of them come with a simple story many of them deserve full posts.

Today I’m jumping ahead to show you my most recent purchase: Ami, a handheld battery operated “freearm” sewing machine.

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Some of you would have seen the video of her on Instagram already.

I found this little sweetie where I find most of my vintage machines…TradeMe. She was only $15.00 and I’d never seen anything like it. While one potential buyer was busy asking if it would hem jeans I just hit the “buy now” button 😉

You snooze, you lose.

img_1603Here it is with my Elna 2130 for scale. It was made in Japan and I have no idea how old it is. At this stage I couldn’t even take a guess…but feel free to suggest away in the comments!

She runs on two ‘C’ sized batteries and with no bobbin she sews a tidy chain stitch. There is an on/off switch on top and the little dial at the front right is the hand wheel (thumb wheel?). After switching it on this helps it get started and speeds up the stitching too.

img_1607Top: Top stitch
Bottom: Chain stitch (underside)

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The little extension table slides and clips on and after I made my little video I discovered the wind out foot underneath the needle plate that adds more stability.

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It came in the original box, for which the seller apologised profusely for the damaged lid, and original instructions. It’s nice to have the box but let’s get real, she isn’t going to be living in there 🙂

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But speaking of the box, on the outside it looks like Ami also came in a dark colour scheme.

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It sits nicely on the table but according to the name you can operate it while being held in the hand, hence the ergonomic grip shaping under the arm.

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I’m not convinced but I still love her. And that’s my little Ami handheld battery operated “freearm” sewing machine.

Have you seen an Ami sewing machine before?

If you’d like to see some more photos check out the overflow page here.

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Put a pin in that…

…and then forget all about it! 😉

That’s pretty much every single one of my Pinterest boards.

Except that recently I pinned a dress that I couldn’t get out of my head.

I was shoulder surfing my work colleague A as she was scrolling through an online clothing store called The Iconic. I spotted a blue and pink striped dress and I wanted it immediately.
I went fabric shopping that weekend to find blue and pink striped fabric but that didn’t exist so I grabbed bolts of pink and blue cotton instead. Later I noticed that the dress is actually described as black and pink but it’s also pretty horribly made (look closely at the arm hole and back zipper…) so yeah, I’ll do what I want 😉

For my pattern I decided to mash up the pleated skirt from Vogue 1353 and bodice from the Sew Over It Betty Dress. The Vogue bodice is princess seamed and that was going to ruin my stripes. I’ve made the Vogue dress twice and the Betty dress three times, both of which the most recent version is still waiting to be blogged about…
But first I had to “make” my fabric!

I decided 15cms plus seam allowance looked about right for the stripes began cutting my two fabrics into strips. Then the “fun” began, lots and lots of overlocking followed by lots and lots of straight stitching and then lots and lots of pressing!
I think I spent longer making my fabric than sewing up the dress!

I placed my bodice pieces on the fabric using the Iconic dress as a guide and then carefully matched the the stripes for the back bodice too.
I also finally got around to lengthening my generic pocket piece. No more peeking cell phone 🙂

Samsung Galaxy S5 for scale

I wrote a little tutorial on how to add inseam pockets to a dress or skirt over on the Singer blog. You can check it out here.

When I tried the finished dress on I was really surprised to discover it was a bit tighter than I was expecting. I know both the base patterns fit me perfectly and I had a bit of a panic moment trying to work out how I’d suddenly put on a few excess kilograms while training over Christmas for an upcoming 10km run! It was not possible!

And then it clicked. Despite writing myself a note I completely forgot to compare the lengths of the Vogue and Sew Over It bodices. Of course the Sew Over It bodice is longer so the skirt is now sitting lower than it should. Finished photos are coming up next and you can see it’s a bit tight across my stomach and hips because of this.

In the interests of honest blogging I’m currently is unpicking the skirt so that I can reattach it 2cms higher. The lining will be next and the bottom part of the zipper. This will also bring the hem up 2cms which is fine because I hemmed it as per my first version of Vogue 1353 and it’s a little long.

Ok let’s get on with it then…the finished dress!

The whole time I was making this dress NH kept coming into my sewing room and saying, “that fabric combo reminds me of something but I can’t quite put my finger on it…” And then while I was hemming it he proudly declared, “It’s James May’s jumper!”

Yes, it has its own tumblr, of course.

Besides that, my own realisation that it’s also a little bit Cheshire cat, and the tight tummy issue, I’m really happy with it!

Pockets!

THE DEETS:

Patterns – 

Fabric – Pink and blue broadcloth and cotton lining from Spotlight, Porirua.

Other notions – Invisible zipper, interfacing

PS: I have a Facebook page for my blog now. A couple of people emailed me to say that they use Facebook to keep track of their favourite blogs so that’s what my page is for, links to new posts if you prefer to follow that way 😉

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Sewing for many good causes…

When I mentioned the Five Unblogged recently I forgot about The Other Seven which are all the same pattern so we’ll be able to get through them quick 😉

When my super awesome nerdy Perth friends Mr Owns-a-Subaru-AND-a-Mitsubishi and Miss Insert-Metal-Sign-of-the-Horns-Here announced they were expecting I  decided to sew something special.

I have a theory that I stick to when buying or making presents for expectant parents. I’ve not been told it’s wrong so I’ll stick with it until told otherwise. My theory is that you get lots and lots of brand new baby sized items but babies grow petty fast and one day baby will be too big for all those nice presents. So generally I buy/make items to fit 24 months or older.

I decided a hoodie pattern would be a fun make and inspired by their little cutie of a dog, Nippet, I found some “Dogs in Space” sweat-shirting at myfabrics.co.uk.

Stolen FB photo follows:

It ticked both the dog and nerd theme check boxes and was all kinds of awesome . Plus I already had some coordinating green ribbing left over from another nerdy hoodie. It was meant to be.

I bought a PDF pattern from Brindille and Twig, Hoodie: 014.

Designed for year-round layering, our long-sleeve hoodie makes for a cute and cozy any-weather staple. Select one fabric for the arms and hood, while another for the bodice to create your own cool mash-up of prints.

It is sized from 0M to 6T and is recommended for a confident beginner and as explained above I cut out the size bracket 18-24 months. I have no idea if my maths is right but I was aiming for babies second winter.

I’ve bought a few children’s PDF patterns before and they all seem to suffer from the same issues. The pages almost never have a border so it’s difficult to trim them and they often have weird or no alignment marks for joining. In this case each piece had 2 small numbered squares near the edges that you are supposed to overlap. Yep, overlap, you know, through solid paper…x-ray glasses at the ready…

It sounds a bit nit picky and on basic pieces it’s not really an issue but it gets a bit difficult when joining three pieces especially when parts of them are placed on the page at an angle.

With so many sizes the coloured lines are nice (although I tend to print in black and white) and all the pattern markings were clear and correct. I just find it really interesting that almost every single children’s PDF pattern I’ve seen chooses to copy this style and no one seems to have investigated how adult pattern houses publish their PDFs or have thought about why boarders and split diamonds are such good referencing techniques.

On a positive note the instructions were excellent. All nicely photographed on a white background and sewn with a good choice of contrasting fabric for clarity.

I really like how the hood is shaped and on an overlocker this is really quick and easy to throw together. I cut and sewed this up in 30 minutes.

I used green thread to match the ribbing and the only thing I might do next time is line the hood.

I posted this off with a couple of books by NZ authors, classic Harry Maclary by Linley Dodd and a counting book of NZ birds that had amazing illustrations.

A few days after I finished this there was a big donation drive for Te Puea Memorial Marae organised by A+W-NZ and our Studio sewing group thought it would be nice to follow their example and use our collective sewing talents to give back locally to those in need. After a bit of investigation we decided to make some warm items for small children and we decided we would donate them to Women’s Refuge who do so much amazing work here in Wellington.

I contacted Levana Textiles in Levin to see if they had some small off cuts we could use for sewing childrens clothing and they kindly offered to fill a box with merino scraps and send them down if we covered the courier fee. I was really excited to hear that but you should have seen my face when I saw the size of the box that arrived! It was huge and stuffed full with so many colours! We were overwhelmed by their generosity.

I made 6 more hoodies mixing and matching pieces from the box and thread colours. It was so much fun!

I sent the Levana team a photo of the finished hoodies and they really appreciated seeing the merino scraps sewn up for a good cause.

They were so generous and wonderful to communicate with. If you are ever near Levin please pop in and see them at their factory shop and treat yourself to some beautiful merino. If you can’t make it you can check out their new online shop.

We added to my six hoodies:

  • Five more hoodies sewn by L
  • Another hoodie sewn by P who also stitched some tops, leggings and a pair of booties
  • Five super cute cardigans knitted in scraps of wool by another work colleague’s mum
  • Two teddy bears donated by G

And we still have heaps of merino left over!

We boxed everything up and walked them up town to the Women’s Refuge office. The ladies there were really excited to look at what we’d made. They were starting to make up Christmas parcels for the current and past families in their care and so our timing was perfect. Before we left some of the items were already allocated to parcels and it’s nice to think we’ll be helping to keep some little ones warm this coming winter.

Warm fuzzy tummy feeling xx

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#2017makenine

For a bit more accountability I thought I’d elaborate a little on my Instagram #2017makenine montage 😉

I have five completed makes from 2016 waiting for photographs and blog posts. It’s currently raining so I was stalking everyone’s exciting #2017makenine montages instead.

Hello bandwagon! 🙃

I’m cheating a little and including some fabrics I want to use (one of them is from the precious stash shelf!), two items already cut out for too long, a pattern high in the queue, my first Lekala pattern, and two that will challenge my normal (i.e. comfortable) silhouette!

So, from the top left:

Decades of Style #3007 1930s Button Dress

The first of the silhouette challenges. I really love this pattern and I ummed and ahhed for ages before finally buying it. I love Lauren’s and Amy’s versions and this pattern has sat in the stash for too long…

Pauline Alice Quart Coat

The first “cheat” pattern because this is already cut out and has been for some time while I worked up the energy to start on the bound button holes that I don’t currently have buttons for. The sad thing is that I need a new wool coat for winter…actually I really needed a new wool coat LAST winter!

Vogue 1499 – Anna Klein

A recent addition to the stash, this will be an easy one, interesting seaming and pleats on a silhouette I know I love to wear, there’s not much else to say 🙂

Fabric!

Ok now this is properly cheating. I’ve snuck in some fabric because why should patterns have all the fun? 😉 I’ll cover all three selections together:

First up, 1.5 meters from the “precious” shelf of my stash: Some ridiculously expensive DKNY polyester (yeah I know but it is fabulous, trust me!). It’s quite stiff and I bought enough for a skirt. Maybe the Named Eleonora or McCall’s 7166 (to help you get past the hideous McCall’s styling check out this version on the Tessuti blog).

The next two are cottons from two of my favourite designers: Atlas in Tourmaline from Eden by Tula Pink. One of the Five Unblogged is also in an Eden fabric. And lastly, 2013-21 in Shibuya Violet from Tokyo Train Ride by Sarah Watts for Cotton and Steel. I pre-washed these some time ago so it’s time they got cut up!

Lekala 4282

I have a few Lekala patterns but I’ve never sewn any of them. This is one of my favourites so it’s in the list. I’m really interested in how the fit will turn out using custom measurements and I’m already planning a quick muslin of the bodice.

The Curious Corset Experiment

Hey remember this post? Yeah, apparently me neither! 😉

Named Kielo Wrap Dress

The second silhouette challenge. There are lots of great Kielo dresses out there but I think Lizzie’s was the first short version I saw blogged. I’ll definitely be making a short version but I also love it in a stripe like Katy’s and since I have the same fabric as fellow Wellingtonian Sandra I might just copy her for a guaranteed success. I know she won’t mind, right Sandra? 😉

Ok, so that’s probably enough procrastinating writing, happy new year and all that, see you on the other side…of the sewing machine 😉

M. xx

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“There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending on how far beyond zebra you go.”*

You might have worked out by now that I quite like the Papercut La Sylphide pattern.

😉

(La Sylphide the first, second, third)

Hey guess what?

I made another one! 😉

I was in The Fabric Store when I really shouldn’t have been (my meeting up that end of town finished early so actually it’s my clients fault…) when I saw this cute bolt of zebra printed silk. I picked it up and carried it around for a bit and by my second store lap the chubby little zebras had convinced me I wasn’t leaving without them.

I bought 2 meters along with some dark blue poly-cotton blend. I already knew this was going to be my 4th La Sylphide.

I underlined the dress bodice and lined the skirt with the blue poly-cotton. I kept the side seams free below the waist and hemmed both skirts separately but caught the lining into the button packet at center front.

I “Frenched” the skirt side seams (that’s a sewing term) and we all know French seaming on silk goes better when paired with white wine.

I don’t really need the instructions anymore but I still find hemming is the worst part of this pattern for me, especially with naughty fabric and ALL my versions have been made with naughty fabric! To make it even worse this time I had to do two hems.

TWO HEMS!

So I hung the dress for several weeks before I could be bothered to be extra sure it had fully dropped. Then I had an epiphany and decided to hem the silk with hug-snug.

Then I just turned the dress inside out and pressed the lining hem up just a little bit shorter than the silk and stitched a simple double-fold hem.

I’m really glad I underlined/lined the silk. The poly-cotton is nice and soft to wear and it should help the dress last longer.

I had a lot of help from Harriet for my photoshoot.

She loves being outside with her humans and the Kowhai tree was just starting to flower so that means lots of birds to watch and unsuccessfully stalk.

I chose simple black buttons from Spotlight.

Spot my creepy stalker cat…and I’ll leave you with my failed twirly pictures.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Papercut La Sylphide, size S

Fabric – Chubby zebra silk and blue poly-cotton from The Fabric Store, Wellington. Buttons from Spotlight, Porirua.

Other notions – Invisible zipper, interfacing

*Dr Seuss

99 Hot Air Balloons

I recently completed my first Singer Australia/New Zealand Blog post – I’d love it if you popped over and read that post here, maybe leave a comment 🙂

You might remember seeing me cut this dress out when I reviewed my new Singer scissors.

I’m sharing it here too (because blog) but in the interests of not repeating myself entirely and this being my first Pauline Alice make I thought I’d make this post more of a pattern review.

The Cami Dress has a fitted bodice with front and back waist darts, a classic shirt collar and buttons on the front from the waist up. The high-waisted full skirt is gathered and has inseam pockets and a side zipper (“for comfort”?).

My pattern was bought some time ago and I noticed that the line art on the front page of the instructions pdf incorrectly shows a view of the dress with a waistband.

It’s cute with a waistband, so perhaps my next version will have one…

I bought my pattern as a pdf and the nice thing about this particular pdf pattern is that you only have to print and assemble the bodice, sleeves and collar. The skirt is a simple drindle rectangle gathered to the width of the bodice. The dimensions for this are given in the instructions for the overall size and where to place the notches for the CF, pockets and zipper placement.

It’s great that we don’t have to waste a heap of paper printing a simple rectangle (Burda I’m looking at you!) and, although it’s a simple thing, I appreciate that I can be trusted with some measurements and then left to get on with it.

Instructions are given for both regular and invisible zipper insertion. I made version A with the short sleeves and I used an invisible zipper.

I was expecting the suggested skirt length will be a little short on me and I always need a bit more over my bottom. To get the longest possible skirt out of my fabric I cut out all my patterned pieces first and then I divided the left over fabric length in half. This was 140cm so I ended up with two 70cm tall rectangles instead of the suggested 55cm. When I hemmed the dress I cut off 9cm so next time I know I’ll need to cut the skirt rectangle 61cm long.

In general the instructions are quite thorough with good diagrams except for when we get to the collar where they become confused and a little convoluted while including the dubious suggestion to clip all the way around the neckline.

It had been a while since I’d sewn this type of collar so I decided to ignore the instructions and consulted my Reader Digest Complete Book of Sewing instead. It’s not the first time I’ve resorted to this page while sewing a collar using Indie pattern directions…

If you’re looking for a general sewing book to supplement your sewing knowledge this is my number one recommendation. I bought my older copy second-hand but you can also still buy this book brand new, it’s all the same great content in a new dust jacket.

There is also some confusion around button placement. One image shows the buttons on the left, then later they are shown on the right. Even the finished garment photos on the website show dresses with buttons on differing sides.

I’ve accidentally sewn buttons on to the “wrong” side of a blouse before and my brain did not like it. So I made sure to place mine on the traditional side and while it might not matter to some once the buttons are done up I find this dress tricky to get on and off unless I undo the buttons as well as the zipper.

Speaking of buttons, mine are abalone with a brass surround and I think they were a Fabric-a-Brac find. I’ve been dying to use these so I’m very happy that they suit this fabric. I tried out several top-stitching colours (yellow, dark green, coral and orange) before I settled on the light green.

This dress was stitched 95% on my 1946 Singer 99k – the remaining 5% is these buttons and their respective button holes.

I couldn’t get my vintage button-hole attachment to work correctly so I used my modern Elna instead and while I was at it I stitched the buttons on too because I hate hand stitching and I’ve not lost a machine stitched button yet.

So that’s it!

I really like my finished dress, there are a few modifications I would make if I did sew it again (the pockets feel a tad low, it’s a bit tight across the ladies), but I wore it to work last week with a belt and got several unsolicited compliments. Yay.

Contrast pockets!

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Pauline Alice Cami Dress, size 42 graded to 44 at the waist.

Fabric – Spoonflower Hot Air Balloons

Other notions – Invisible zipper, interfacing

Next time I will lengthen the bodice by 2 – 3cms, do an FBA, insert the pockets a little higher and make them slightly deeper. The skirt needs to be cut 61cm in length.

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