When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either*

Have you guys seen Papercut’s new Constellation collection yet?

Katie has just released 6 new patterns each with their own variations, and they are now sized from XXS to XL.

Because I am a super-kiwi-fan-girl I’d like to share my picks:

I have to include the Meissa blouse since it is so close to my name…except that actually it’s the star at the head of the Orion constellation…but if you just slip an ‘L’ in there… 😉

I have plans for this blouse, they include the use of a sheer with solid collar/cuffs/yoke and some extra darts because that’s how I like my fit.

The Saiph tunic isn’t really me, but I still love it. I can see my sister wearing it and I want to see someone make variation 1 in two-tone, maybe white with a black skirt?

It’s hard to pick between the two jackets, they are both my favourites. I haven’t seen a bomber sewing pattern yet (or at least not one that has caught my attention) – I love the geometric detail at the sleeve head, you could have a lot of fun with that!

And last up is the Bellatrix blazer, classic with a twist, and guess what? I made one! Wanna see?

Yeah you do!

I was overloaded with ideas for this blazer but I decided to go with my initial gut feel and keep my first version classic and versatile. For the shell I used a piece from my stash that I bought way back in 2010 from the Empire Rose sale.

I labelled it as cotton but I suspect it’s actually more linen. It’s a really dark blue, almost black, but it gets better! It has a subtle pinstripe through it that is actually metal filaments so it has this awesome sparkle in the sunlight. It’s a nice twist on classic but I also think it’s the perfect fabric for a star themed blazer. This piece has been biding it’s time in my stash for a while – because the stripes are real metal it needed to be made into something lined, on a cut edge those little buggers are sharp!

For the lining I had this vision of an amazing galaxy fabric. There was no time for trawling on Spoonflower and I didn’t expect to find any at my local fabric shops but then the first store I walked into I found some within 5 minutes. I was so excited I actually skipped to the cutting counter and I didn’t care what anyone thought! 😉
If I make a jacket that is neutral in colour I can’t help but stick in a super bright lining. Instead this time I made my pocket bags from a colourful silk remnant so at least I had some colour hidden somewhere.
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In my little sewing world I like to experiment and if I am making it myself I tend to be more brave. My usual style would have seen me sew up variation 1 – I prefer my tops and jackets long – but I loved the angles more on var. 2 so I went with that.
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Even through this is a fully lined blazer, it stitched up quick! The shawl collar and single button helps but also the sleeves went in so easily.

This is my second Papercut garment (I have a finished La Sylphide that is awaiting photographs and a second in the works) so it’s no fluke.

I could gush at you all day about Katie’s amazing pattern drafting and construction. Recently I developed a bit of a sleeve phobia. Every sleeve I set in these days has so much excess sleeve head that I end up with a puffy sleeve no matter how it’s supposed to look or how I insert it. It usually take me 3 or 4 attempts until I am happy and I find it really frustrating. I can’t decide if it’s lazy drafting or if I should be insulted they expect we have such little skill we need all that excess fabric to play with.

Ok /end rant 😡

Seriously though, I didn’t even need to baste these puppies in, perfect, first time, both sides, happy kiwi!

Aaaaand it’s an easy make. I think that even an advanced beginner could make this blazer. Hence the title of my post, sometimes you just have to give something a go, push yourself to learn. Katie’s instructions are so good, you won’t even realise that you’ve sewn those welt pockets until after you’re done! Honest.
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Easiest welt pockets ever!

So, what do you think of the new patterns? Thinking of buying one, two, all of them? 😉 They are on sale until November 15th so pop on over and have a look.
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THE DEETS:

Pattern – Papercut Patterns Bellatrix blazer (Constellation Collection), variation 2, size M (pattern testing)

Fabric – 

  • Shell: Cotton/Linen with metallic filament pin stripe – Empire Rose, Perth (bought April 2010, $7.00/m)
  • Lining: Satin, Spotlight, Porirua

Other notions – 1 metal shank button, from stash

*Leo Burnett

Dance of the Sugar Plum…Dress

A wee while ago…as in June…I volunteered to pattern test for a new Indie pattern company called Lolita Patterns. You might remember we interviewed them as part of Indie Pattern Month.

Finally the pattern has been officially announced and a couple of weeks ago I received the all clear to blog about it. We just had a long weekend here in NZ with glorious weather so I finally caught up on photographing my finished items.

I thought I better share this one first 😉

The pattern is called Sugar Plum and you can find it here in their online shop in both envelope and pdf format.

I received a final envelope version as a thank you for testing and I have to say it’s pretty cute. The top flap has two slits that slide over the bow which has a metal backing, you fold the bow together to open the flap.

I’ll be honest, there were a lot of issues with the pattern when I tested and I found it a lot more work than with any previous pattern testing I’ve done. The girls have made a huge effort to correct the errors and get the pattern out.

I made the bodice of my dress in a rayon remnant from this project and the skirt from double knit/ponte. This was my very first time sewing with double knit (yes, I know!) and I have to say that stuff is AMAZING! So amazing I went back to Arthur Toye the next day and bought 3 meter in fuchsia for this dress. Did I say AMAZING yet?

So let’s take a look shall we and talk about the good:

(Please ignore that I am missing a button, I have no idea where it went!)

So obviously I love the double knit skirt. After a few sample tests to find the best needle/tension combo, it stitched up beautifully. Also, I didn’t need to finish the edges so the seams look nice and clean under the fitted skirt.

The fit is really good, although I do feel a little bit self conscious. The minimal ease means the sizing is more “true”, I stitched a straight size 10 and required no adjustments although I will admit I should have done a FBA.

I’m not sure if it got changed in the final version but I doubled up my collar pieces, no one wants to see the “wrong” side of the fabric.

At first glance the sleeves are cute (we’ll get back to them in a second) and the front shield is clever and worth stealing as an idea for other button front projects. I’ve already said I really should have done an FBA on this bodice (I can often get away without it) so luckily the front shield helps with the little bit of any gape-age.

The inside of the dress is finished very clean, the upper bodice fully lined.

Although this pattern is rated advanced I think that it is a great pattern to try for a first lined dress, it’s not really a huge leap from a skirt and a blouse joined together. The instructions are very thorough, I found the rating confusing, so much detail and “hand-holding” (also a million notches, too many imo) really makes this a pattern that an advanced beginner/intermediate sewist could tackle.

And now the not-so-good:

I originally intended to make the version with ruffles however I found it very difficult to finished them evenly on the overlocker. I used a rolled hem which was beautiful until I got to the tight curves where it didn’t hold together too well. I finished them all, and others obviously have as well, but the standard of finish was just not high enough for me and the suggested method of attaching left me feeling very Becky-home-ecky so I decided to leave them off. You might be able to finished them better with a different fabric or by increasing the pattern piece size to give your overlocker more to “grab” onto.

I also omitted the pockets. I tried on 4 different pairs of knickers before I found one that gave me no VPL so I have no idea how you could possibly hide the pocket bags on such a fitted skirt.

Now, let’s get back to those cute-but-evil sleeves, this is how high I can lift my arms:

They are very tight, I can’t swing my arms forward either. They are so tight in fact that after a day of usual wear I have a deep mark across each upper arm. I have worn this dress only twice (three times if you count this photo shoot) since making it because of how much it hurts my arms. I can’t do simple things like drive my car, eat or use a computer while wearing it.

Obviously I gave feedback about this and I was looking forward to comparing the new pattern piece and re-cutting the sleeves so I have to admit I was really disappointed to see that the sleeve was not changed on the final cut. Perhaps I was the only pattern tester who couldn’t lift their arms? Do my arms look gigantic? I strongly suggest you make a muslin of the sleeve to test before cutting and make any changes you need.

So that’s it! 🙂 If I can be bothered one day I will have a go at re-drafting the sleeve because apart from that it’s a nice dress.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Lolita Patterns #3013 Sugar Plum (testing), size 10

Fabric – Top: Rayon remnant from my stash, approx 1.2m x 114cm wide – Joveeba relocation sale, Perth. Skirt: Double knit/ponte, approx 0.7m x 154cm wide – Arthur Toye, Wellington. Lining: From my stash – Empire Rose sale, Perth.

Other notions – Buttons, invisible zipper.

Harri was enjoying some outside time while I was taking photos. She has discovered the Kowhai tree and LOVES climbing. Aww look at that liddle face! 🙂

PS: If you are reading this in a reader or other means please click through for a look at my new redesigned blog, I’m quite proud of it, I’d love to hear what you think.

FO: Wellington Spec’d Sewaholic Robson Coat

I love it when the independent pattern companies release a new pattern! I also love sneak peaks and I was lucky to get one at the latest from Sewaholic, the Robson Coat, before most of you 😉

The Robson Coat pattern features everything you’d hope for on a trench coat, including front and back storm flaps, epaulettes, top-stitching, tie belt and sleeve tabs. It’s unlined to make it easier to sew, as well as easier to press the finished coat.

I was selected for pattern testing by Tasia and I was SUPER excited about this coat. As soon as I saw the line drawing I knew it was the perfect opportunity for redemption from the Gok Coat of Doom and rushed out to find the perfect fabric.

And I found it! But I have to say, I don’t think I have ever squeezed a pattern out of quite so little fabric!

Standing in The Fabric Warehouse with a 150cm wide bolt of wool under my arm and converting Tasia’s rough yardage (this is pattern testing) gave me 3.4 meters…I hrmmed, that’s a lot of fabric!

I wondered aloud to my confidant, the sales assistant, at the cutting counter. I said, “maybe I’ll just get 3.2m…it is based on the larger sizes and I am cutting a 12…”, Miss Confidant said, “If it was me, I’d just get 3 meters…” we discussed it further and I went with 3 meters. This fabric wasn’t cheap ($32/m) but I knew this coat was going to be luxe so I wasn’t too bothered, confidant in Tasia’s pattern drafting, in my head this coat was going to FABULOUS!

As you can see from the description the coat is unlined which makes it more beginner friendly.

I do just want to say: don’t be scared of linings! In their most simple form all you’re really doing is sewing a duplicate and sticking them together. Linings can be super fun, a secret (or not so secret) hidden touch to your garment. However, I can see exactly what Tasia was thinking as she drafted this pattern. Not only can linings scare newbies off of a pattern, they can also almost double your sewing time and a coat with this many pieces is already going to be a longer project than most.

So, for the Robson coat, you neaten your internal seams by binding them with bias tape which still gives you an excellent opportunity to embellish the internals. I can see a patterned outer with solid coloured bias bound seams or the opposite, and we haven’t even talked about contrast top stitching yet! The fabric (and thread) world is your oyster so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Me? Well I decided to take it a step further. I bought a solid coloured cotton in bright blue for my bias binding and then I grabbed that ridiculous ikat-esqe printed cotton.

Ridiculous in a good way.

You see, in Wellington, it gets cold. We don’t get snow (well, not usually!) but the wind, wow! It will freeze your bones from the inside out! The wool I bought is warm, but I already have a few warm jackets and cardis, I wanted warmer but I had absolutely no intention of drafting a lining pattern so I thought underlining would be a brilliant cheat.

I am a sucker for punishment, I can’t remember how many meters of bias I made but after I got to the sleeves I discovered it wasn’t enough and I had to make even more! (EDIT: I just checked and I made about 12.5 meters of bias, wow!) But, I am glad I made my own, I have never seen pre-made bias in the perfect colour at the shops! So has this project cured me of my bias addiction? Not likely! 😉

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So much bias!

So, back to the shell fabric story: When I got home I cursed the stingy 20cm I’d left behind at the shop, because that was by how much my last pattern piece was over hanging the edge after a quick pin-and-check.

It was my own fault, I gave the final call for the scissors. Luckily I always pin every piece and check before I start cutting, that way if I am short on fabric I get a second chance to re-work the cutting layout. In this case, working with 3 meters of fabric, I had to pin a few pieces to my wool and then roll it up and pin some more…so I started unrolling and thinking…

…if  I move the sleeves around…if took off all the little pieces…if I could just get all the long pieces on, maybe I can get away with just buying that extra 20cm for the small bits…

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My saviour in the end was a combination of re-working the cutting layout and elimination. I decided to cut the underside of the back and shoulder flaps out of my underlining (I bought extra, because any leftover of that ridiculousness is becoming a skirt someday), it would be a cute little secret pop of colour that might give a sneaky show as I move or they get caught in the breeze wind and also help counter the extra fabric thickness.

Hey it was my jacket, I was just hoping Tasia would appreciate my creativity! 😀

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All-in-all I cut the following pieces out of my underlining fabric:

  • 2 – Back  x2
  • 3 – Side x2
  • 4 – Top Sleeve x2
  • 5 – Under Sleeve x2
  • 6 – Back Flap x1
  • 7 – Front Flap x2

Then I basically stitched up the pattern as per the instructions, treating my shell fabric piece and it’s matching underling piece as if they were joined wrong sides together as a single piece. You should really baste them to each other but…well…I might not have done that 😉

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Time constraints meant I do not have any more progress shots and since it was summer, the trying ons were quick and clammy! In fact I only survived because I have this bad habit of sewing in my underwear…don’t lie, you do it too! So I knew straight away this coat was going to be a winner against the winter winds!

Ok, enough words? Agreed! Here it is:

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I decided to make a proper belt for my coat, something about the tie belt coupled with the thicker fabric of my coat made me feel like I was in a bathrobe.

You can make your own belt too, just cut one angled end off of the belt piece, then you just need a buckle and some eyelets. It’s fun because you get to use a hammer.

I also used 1 inch buttons for the front of my coat, and 3/4 inch everywhere else – I just preferred the proportion of the bigger button on the front.

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I will say (and Tasia has said) that this pattern really should be made from a much lighter weight fabric than what I chose to work with. My wool was probably already pushing the boundaries and adding the underling, well, let’s just say it didn’t make it any easier! There were times when I questioned if I’d get it finished and wondered what the heck was I thinking but I got there in the end and I am super happy with the result.

Click an image to view the rest of the gallery:

Thinking about making this coat in a thicker fabric too? I have some I-am-not-an-expert tips.

The Curious Kiwi’s tips for sewing in the thick:

  • Make a test swatch – I did a test seam with two pieces of shell fabric underlined, then I sewed my bias tape to the seam, folded it over and top stitched it, just like the real coat. I also tested my interfacing and before I started my button holes. Use scraps of your fabric and double it up to simulate how thick the real seam will be to see how it goes. This is your chance to fiddle with the tensions to find the perfect stitch.
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L to R: Top-stitching a full seam, interfacing test and a button hole

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L to R: Full seam test (inside), and cut button hole

  • Let the machine eat the fabric at its own pace. Sometimes you do need to gently help it but you also need to remember to let the feed dogs do their own thing.
  • Most of us know that loosening the tension also helps your machine sew through multiple thick layers, but so does lengthening your stitch.
  • Use a brand new needle, nice and sharp!
  • Use your appliqué foot, it is clear so you can see through it and the split is off-centre, that stops the edge of your bias from folding up into it as you sew.

Appliqué foot on the left, regular foot on the right

Thank you Tasia for another amazing addition to your pattern range and for the opportunity to test it for you.

I wish I could do this for a living!

The deets:

Pattern – Sewaholic Patterns Robson Coat 1301 (testing phase), size 12

Fabric – Shell: 70% wool, 30% Viscose. Underlining: 96% Cotton, 4% Lycra/Spdx – The Fabric Warehouse, Wellington. 100% cotton poplin for the bias – Spotlight Ngauranga

Other notions – Belt buckle & eyelets from Made Marion, Wellington. Buttons (1″ & 3/4″ plastic 4-hole) from Pete’s Emporium, Porirua. 2 x 150M spools Mettler thread, col. 0580 from The Fabric Warehouse, Wellington

Photos – Nerdy Husband at Wilton Bush, Wellington

Something a bit Nerdy:

Has this ever happened to you? Almost at the end of the project and: eep! Thread spool starting to show through.

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This was my view as I was about to start top stitching the belt – my last bit of sewing – oh and one button that I had to cut off and re-attach – kind of sewed that puppy right through the pocket lining, oops! 😉 Anyway, when I see the thread running out for some reason it makes me sew faster, as if I can out-sew the quickly disappearing thread. Do you do that too?

This is all I had left by the time I was 100% finished 😉

The Nitty Gritty:

I read lots of blogs and I love hearing stories about how an item was made from thrift store fabric for $2…or the fabric was a gift so the total make cost was $0. I don’t have stories like that but even I’ve managed to make a silk blouse for $10 and another for $20, I mean: SILK!

Sometimes sewing is a cheaper option, sometimes it is not.

That said, I don’t sew to save money. Sewing is my creative outlet, it’s fun, it mentally balances my life and it’s also a great way to make new friends who don’t roll their eyes as you veer off towards the fabric sale sign when walking down Willis Street.

So you are probably guessing that I am about to tell you: this coat wasn’t a “cheap” make.

Total for fabric, buttons and thread? About NZD$160.00

But it’s all about how you look at it – check this out:

david lawrence coat

I spotted the coat on the left in the window at David Lawrence on Lambton Quay last Wednesday, mostly due to the colour, but they also have the coat on the right, which is pretty much the same style as mine. Both are made from 90% wool/5% cashmere/5% nylon and lined in 55% polyester/45% viscose.

Want to guess how much either of the DL coats above will set you back? NZD$560 each- yep, that’s FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DOLLARS!

My coat’s looking pretty darn cheap now huh?

Oh but I should say that the DL coats are on special right now, NZD$450. I still don’t think the term “bargain” is applicable, but I guess that’s , umm, less?

And The Curious Kiwi still wins 😀

Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt

I haven’t been very well this last week. Nerdy Husband kindly shared some sort of cold/flu malady with me that knocked me out for a few days. I have made a bit of progress with the RNHS Rugby Jersey and it’s looking good. I’ll share that and a bit of Christmas Sewing with you soon.

But first!

Some Secret Sewing that I have been dying to share with you all!

I was really excited to be selected by Tasia to test her next Sewholic pattern, the Hollyburn Skirt, but I was also really nervous because I wanted to do a good job! No pressure or anything!

The Hollyburn skirt is designed for the beginner/novice and is a comfy a-line skirt in three lengths (and flare variation), with waistband options and pockets, it also receives a gold star for twirl-ability.

After I saw the line art I was a bit worried because I have never owned, let alone sewed, a skirt of this style before so I had no idea if I would like it or find it flattering for my body shape. I am a “pear” so I put my trust in Tasia’s hands and started sifting through my stash.

Actually that came after printing off the pattern – pattern testers received the pattern as a print-at-home style pdf that many of you will be familiar with from BurdaStyle…but I cheated and assembled my pattern pieces in Photoshop and printed them out on a large format printer that may or may not be conveniently located at my place of work 😉

I selected ‘view B’ and the button tabs option for the waist band.

Right, back to the fabric: I knew I would find a fabric in my stash because I find it easy to spot fabrics that I think would be great for skirt and stashing it. This made it a hard decision because I own a lot of great prints with good weight/drape for this style skirt.

Lightweight Cotton (Potters), Vintage Lace (new to the stash, Fabrics Direct) Cotton Sateen (Spotlight), Japanese Cotton (Tesutti), Japanese Cotton/Linen (Tessuti), Heavy Japanese Cotton (Tessuti)

I loved all the possible skirt images I made up to help me choose…so that wasn’t very helpful in the end 😉

Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt Fabric Options

Photoshop instructions here, Gimp instructions here.

So I went for the fabric with the best drape which was a Japanese cotton/linen that I bought from Tesutti in Melbourne in August 2010 – It has matured well in the stash.

My next decision was to cut the skirt front on-the-fold to eliminate the centre front seam and avert any potentially regrettable pattern twinning…large circular flowers have a bad habit of joining at the seam in the most embarrassing of ways!

In general I am not a huge fan of centre front seams on skirts and dresses but I can understand the reasoning that they save you lots of fabric but in this case removing that seam was critical. I have learnt that when it comes to pairing fabric selection with sewing pattern the scale of your fabrics print and the number/placement of seams in your pattern is really important.

It is not a difficult thing to do at all, just fold over (or cut off) the edge that is marked “centre front seam” the width of the seam allowance, in this case, 1.5cm then place that edge on the fold. For future reference I suggest you re-label that piece so you don’t forget when you next pull out this pattern!

My fabric was only 110cm wide and I had 2.0 meters of it – cutting the front on the fold meant I had just enough for the rest of the skirt!

I didn’t take any WIP photos because I wanted to just get this skirt sewn up and my photos back to Tasia asap, it’s not like I could share them with you anyway 😉

I did stumble a little during the construction – doubt set in when I first tried it on, un-hemmed, about how flattering this style of skirt was for me. This then dominoed into my doubting my birthday dress selection because that is also a flared skirt.

I pushed on though, inserted the zipper (I went for an invisible one), and started playing with the hem length and in the end I hemmed my skirt shorter than ‘view B’ but not as short as ‘view C’, if that makes any sense! 🙂

The key with this skirt, I think, is to find the hem length that flatters you the most and the basic overall shape makes this an easy customisation to play with.

Ok, you guys want to see some pics?

I wore my skirt just like this to work the next day and received two unsolicited complements so I took that as a good sign.

These are the photos I sent to Tasia. I wish I wasn’t feeling so crappy otherwise I would have taken some new photos outside in the garden…but also our grass looks terrible while we painstakingly kill off of all the clover and broad-leaf weeds that have been left to takeover the lawn for far too long… yucky dead brown circles everywhere = not so photogenic!

There was some twinning at the CB seam but is not that bad at all.

I went with a simple black button on the tabs because I think the fabric does enough work for this skirt.

I think this pattern would look great in most fabrics and amazing in a solid colour too, see Tasia’s photos on the pattern shop page here.  You could also choose a contrast for the pockets and/or waist band and even widen the waist band and add some boning for a more dramatic waistline.

This pattern is great for the new seamstress as the instructions are extra thorough with lots of clear diagrams.

Ok, last photo, promise:

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