Sunday, 27 July 2014

On my sewing table

This weekend I had intended to get started on a blouse, and I've also got a partly made muslin of Vogue 8998 on Ruby, my dress form. I have discovered it is not easy to get princess seams to run smoothly over a large bust. Nobody wants a rippled bodice right on the critical protruberances. As I was feeling very tired after a busy week at school, I took it easy on the sewing front. I was digging in one of my fabric boxes and came across these:

 Mr Mouse is wondering if these butterflies are going to take flight. These are two A-line skirts cut out by my lovely sister. She said she couldn't see herself getting them finished in a hurry, so gave them to me.

You can only imagine the excitement when I discovered one of them has horses on it!!!!!
 My sister Meg has practically patented the quickest version of A-line skirts known to sewing humanity. She chops out two identical pieces for front and back, pinked around the edges. Then she folds the top over and sews it down. Then sews the sides and probably gets mad cause she has to put a zip in (am I right Meg?). Then she'll fold up the bottom, and sew a hem. Brilliant! Put on a simple top with cardigan, your new skirt, some tights and boots, accessorize liberally, and you look fab.

We can't make these skirts without a zips, so Mouse and I delved into the zip box and hoped we'd find some to match. I have been given quite a few old ones, some pre-loved and ripped out of clothing. We found some that would do, and all was good until Fergus stole one of them. He loves carrying them around victoriously. I had a bit of trouble locating it. He had deposited it next to his food bowl while he had a snack, then walked away.
 Because I am curvy through the hips and waist, I find some darts help skirts to sit nicely. Meg is a different shape to me so she doesn't bother. On one of the skirts she had sewn down the top, so I removed the thread with my quick-unpicker so that I could do the darts before folding over.
 Then I had the genius idea to use some masking tape to remove the annoying wee bits of thread. Just like a wax strip!
 I got both skirts sewn together and hemmed, but did not get the zips sewn in. Fergus stole a zip again, so I took that as a sign that I was done for the day. Hopefully I'll get both zips in during the week, providing my baby Birman doesn't hide them in the meantime.
I wore my Tartan Triumph dress on Friday and got quite a few comments about how great it is. Several people were amazed that I had made it. Lucky they couldn't see how I need to do some repairs in the zipper area. In fact I think I'll have to remove it and reinsert it because it has some unexpected ventilation at the waist. Oops. I also had a success with my Not Quite Coming Up Roses dress - the one that looks like it is needlepoint embroidery. It looked great and I had friends (thankfully not creepy strangers) wanting to touch the fabric because it looked textured but wasn't. Fabric - it can be so fabulous or so hideous. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pink Roses

Here's my latest version of Gertie's Portrait Blouse. I have made seven versions of this pattern. Oh, and it formed the basis of my Princess Fiona Shrek costume for the school production. Yes, I was painted green for the part.

Actually, I have modified this pattern so much that I'm not sure Gertie would lay claim to it anymore. Here's the original:
And here is the first one I made.
 This vintage fabric was rescued from a rag bag at school. The pattern has four wee pleats to shape through the hips, and is looser above these. The first change I made was to lengthen the bodice, and then I changed the pleats to double ended darts. I made three more like that. Then I wanted sleeves. So I drafted some from scratch. I had to take some width out of the shoulders to the sleeves sat properly. I made a cute one with short sleeves and shiring for shape. I'd have to dig out a photo because it is fabulous.

Then came the rosy version, which has double the number of darts. I really like to make the most of my waist. The sleeves are a bit puffy, but I'm very fond of this version. The fabric is vintage cotton poplin (I think), and has quite a crisp feel to it. I saw the roses and HAD to have it.

This is a great wee pattern, and it has given me a lot of confidence in fiddling with a pattern to make it work for me. It is very simple, but when I first made it I had never sewn a facing before and had never sewn double ended darts for shaping a top. I don't think I'm finished with this pattern yet. I am imagining some experiments with the neckline and sleeves.

Not quite coming up roses!

This is the pale face of a lady who felt very grim. Self-inflicted grim, I'm sorry to say. We went out for dinner with friends, and someone very naughty (EP- I'm looking at you!!!), decided that after Indian food, we should move onto another restaurant for dessert. I stupidly ate Indian food then a creme brulee. WHAT was I thinking!!!???? Won't be doing that again in a hurry. Or ever. 

So I hunkered down grimly in my craft room and finished off my latest creation. This is the same bodice as my Tartan Triumph (refer to last post), but what happened? It is huge. The only difference is the fabric. This is a cotton sateen, which has some stretch in it, and is unlined. This fits my bust, but not my shoulders. 
 Oh, well. I'm sure my trusty cardie will come out again and it will still look fabulous.

Now, the tights have a story with them. When I got up feeling like crap, all I wanted to wear was pink. I have no children to embarrass, so I can please myself what I wear. So on went a pink dress, over a stripy pink and white merino long sleeved top, and my gaudy pink tights. I think they look horrid with these shoes. The shoes should be pink too. I'll be wearing the dress with black tights, I say with slight regret.
 The print looks amazing. I absolutely love this fabric. There is some unfortunate gaping at the back of the armscye, and the middle of the back gapes out at the top as I move. The skirt fits well, and the waist could be pulled in a little more for a smoother fit in this stretchy fabric.
 I've already decided that if I lose much weight I'll have to lop off the bodice and make the skirt into a stand alone creation. I have lost quite a bit of weight this year. I stopped eating crap (mostly) and I started shrinking from the top down, much to my surprise.
 Now, I have been enjoying reading some wonderful articles on The Curvy Collective website, and I read that when choosing pattern size you should select the one closest to your high bust measurement. This is measured around above your breasts and under your arms. I've been following instructions on my patterns and measuring my full bust, which is significantly bigger than my high bust. As you can see in the dress above, the pattern fits my bust, but not my frame well at all. What I need to work on is cutting the pattern at the size to fit my frame, then do a full bust adjustment. I'll need to grade through sizes to fit my hips and tummy (although I've already given Gertie's Pencil Skirt a bit of a resize to slim it down).

Since my dress doesn't quite come up roses, as I hoped, I thought I'd pop in some lovely photos of a few of the divine flowers from my garden. I miss them so much at this time of year.

 Oh, and here's a fabric collage panel I made a couple of years ago. I adore flowers.
I'm back to school tomorrow. Pop back during the week to check out a very rosy top I made recently. I got Johnny to snap a photo or two today. Sorry, you'll still have to look at my pallid sick face. Feeling better this evening, thank goodness.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Tartan Triumph

It is well into the evening after going out for dinner. I decided to wear my newly created tartan dress for its first outing. Sorry, the photos are a bit under par, and I was in the car for approximately 2 hours, so my dress is rather crumpled. Never mind, it is finished and it fits pretty well compared to the last dress I made. My furry assistants were on hand to ensure I had some fur stuck to me in the photos, and to plunder my sewing supplies at every opportunity. Fergus dragged the zip through the house triumphantly, and I had to inform him that no, we do not have snakes in New Zealand. 
 I had about three metres of this bright tartan cotton which was given to me with some other fabrics. As it is quite light I lined it with a red lining fabric, which was rather slippery and uncooperative. I am quite pleased with how comfortable it is. I made no effort to suck in my tummy - dinner was large, so I didn't bother. This is Gertie's Sultry Sheath bodice paired with a self-drafted dirndl style skirt (pleated rather than gathered). I put pleats at the sides of the front panel because I thought that would be more flattering.
 Yes, I can spot cat fur on my skirt. I really like the length as I find RTW dresses in this style are usually right on the knee or shorter. I am around 167cm tall.
 I thought I would briefly whip off the trusty black cardigan (it is freezing here!!!) so that you can see how it fits. Not too bad, and the pattern matching down the front is superb. Definitely not sucking that tummy in!
 I am not too happy with the zip because it is a bit wrinkly. I hand picked it because I wanted something to do with my hands while watching Game of Thrones. I love the costumes, and am inclined to scream unexpectedly at the scary bits. I'm sure the seam down the back is actually straight down the middle.
I am sure I'll wear this a lot. I am wondering about my next version of this bodice. The size up was huge. This one fits well, but not entirely sure whether my amble bosom has enough room. Do I need a slight full bust adjustment? Maybe it would gape open and show off too much. I want to wear this to school as a work dress, and cleavage is not welcome in vast swathes.

Pattern Gertie's Sultry Sheath Bodice with self-drafted pleated dirndl style skirt.
Fabric Tartan cotton (free) with red taffeta (?) lining.
New skills Self drafted dirndl. Pleating dirndl. Interlining skirt and bodice and creating self-drafted facing (not necessary but I wasn't sure how to make the lining into a facing).
Next time I would use a shorter zip and put it in by machine. I would teach myself how to line a dress properly.
I really like the weight the interlining gives the skirt. This dress is super comfy. Success!!!!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Fabric Shopping

Yesterday we took a little jaunt into the city because I felt the need to search for some more fabric. I don't have a glorious stash of dressmaking fabric, and I intend to keep it that way. I'd rather buy fabric and make something before I buy more. Of course if I was lucky enough to travel to a place that had loads of fabric I liked, there might be a wee stash built up. 

In Christchurch we have limited options for fabric shopping, and the biggest is found at Spotlight, which has all kinds of craft supplies, home decor materials, homewares, quilting and sewing departments. You could get quite excited at the thought of it, but then you remember all of your previous visits for fabric, which involved searching through bolts and bolts of hideous prints, cheap feeling fabrics and messy piles. There are some quite lovely evening types of fabrics, but I'm not in the business of making silk or velvet gowns (yet). Unfortunately things to my taste are few and far between. I did find three things to purchase. I got this pretty cotton. 
 It is quite a loose weave, which I wasn't sure about, but it looks fresh and cool for summer. I bought some navy bias binding for trim.
 I pounced on this cotton sateen. When I victoriously pulled it out to show off to Johnny he wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as me.
 Unfortunately there wasn't heaps left on the bolt, so I'm not sure if I have enough for a sheath dress, or just a skirt.
 They had a selection of Japanese lawn fabrics, which are light and finely woven. This one caught my eye.
 No wonder, with these wee creatures here and there. I am picturing a blouse.
 Everyone loves a free thing with a purchase, and I was the recipient of this cute wee sewing kit in a tin.
 It contains an assortment of useful bits and pieces. I guess maybe I could take it on holiday with me? From previous experience foot emergencies are more likely than sewing emergencies whilst on holiday.
I'm almost finished another project. The bodice looks fabulous compared to my last dress, so hopefully it looks good once finished.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Gertie's Floral Sultry Sheath Number One

Ha! Practising my poses today with my trusty photographer helping. Thanks Johnny! Indoor studio in the house today as it was drizzling outdoors. 

Today I'm showing you the (almost) fabulousness that is The Floral Gertie Sheath Dress Number One. I say "almost" because it is far too big in the bodice. Hence the cardie disguising the hugeness. 
 I love this dress, and it is super comfy. This is the dress upon which I discovered the magical joy of reversing the facings and pulling the bodice through the tunnels made at the shoulders between facings and fashion fabric (the name given to the good stuff on the outside). I had no idea how all-in-one facings were created so neatly until I had a go myself. Another thing in life to make me delighted! That is why I sew.
 This dress is a lovely shape, curving in around the waist. It is a combination of Gertie's Pencil Skirt with a sweetheart neckline bodice.
 How are the poses? Making you laugh or possibly cringe. I always wanted to be a supermodel. I am so happy to be wearing flowers. When I wore this into the staffroom at school someone commented to me that "only you could pull off that floral pattern." I think it looks pretty conservative with the matching black cardie, tights and shoes. I say more flowers for everyone and the world would be a prettier place!
 I hand picked the zipper in this dress. Probably a good thing because my Gertie skirt has a machine sewn zipper that would get me fired from a Chinese clothing factory.
I'm already working on the next edition of The Sultry Sheath. I have cut a smaller size, which looks really good on Ruby, my dressmaker's model, so hopefully there won't be room for two of me around the neckline. For those of you who are just joining me- yes I did do a muslin for the first version, and I really thought it would be OK. I guess I should have tacked in the zip rather than just holding it together and saying "Yep, that'll do nicely." But I'm impatient and have a lazy streak.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Gertie's Pencil Skirt

Isn't it awesome to make something for nothing but a bit of time? Even better when that time is spent with a friend, and watching Downton Abbey. I have some fabric stashed up in the loft storage space of our house that was given to me a long time ago, and I dug around and got some down, threw it in the washing machine, and now have free fabric to create with. I've got rather a lot of sewing notions stashed away that were gifted to me also. 

For this project, which I have to admit I didn't take too seriously as I considered it a practise for the creation of more desirable items, I had a small amount of emerald/teal green fabric in a heavy cotton drill. I used every bit of the length to make it cover up my knees. The pattern is Gertie's Pencil Skirt, with a self-drafted straight waist band (hers is a curved high waist band in the original). I rarely (actually never) show the top of my skirts due to a lavish amount of tummy curves), so wasn't keen on fussing over boning a high waist band. If I get rid of more of this tummy, you never know! Maybe I should be boning a corset instead. 

This actually isn't how I like to dress from day to day. It all looks a wee bit boring for my liking. 
 The fabric is a bit of a poo to work with because it crumples easily and any splashes of water from the iron leave funny marks for ages, although they are just a trick to make you temporarily furious, and go away eventually. It was free, so why grizzle?
 Having my crafty partner in crime over, sewing at the same time, was really handy because she said I needed to take lots out of the side seams to make it more pencily. I don't have bulgy bits on the outside of my thighs like more pear shaped women do, so I needed to have the big curve out from the waist, then really quite straight down to the hem. The pattern has a curved line on the side seams. Oh, Mr Mouse is in this shot! Those are the last of the feijoas on the ground, in case anyone was wondering. I know I would be ("are those giant green slugs native to New Zealand?").
 There still seems to be a bit poking out on the left side (note kitten fur on new skirt and kitten tail in shot- furry assistants don't like to be left out!).
 I have a huge difference between my waist and my hips and you can really see it here. No wonder I have trouble fitting stuff.

Luckily there is just enough ease in my skirt to hunt my furry baby.
 Little does he know but Godzilla in human form is approaching.
 And he goes all floppy for a cuddle.
 Smile for the camera! Fergus, your blue eyes look gorgeous with my MAC Russian Red lippy.

Thanks to Gertie for the fantastic pattern, which I will definitely use again. It is very versatile and can be easily modified according to the instructions in Gertie's first book, or by using your common sense. I actually don't have much of that, so it can't be very hard.

I'm on holiday for a couple of weeks, so there should be a big sewing effort. Yes, I do need another dress. Or twenty.