R2D2 in glittering gold

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No it’s not subtle, but it is awesome! And better yet I got to embarrass my children in public at the midnight Rogue One premiere late last year. This skirt required 3.2 m of specialty print from Spotlight and no pattern. Pre-washing fabric is pretty much a belief system for me, but this time I didn’t because I wanted the crispness and body of the fabric just as it comes off the roll. The gaudy gold surface print also helps its stiffness but I think it will be droopier once it’s washed. I may or may not wear it again so I didn’t want to go to too much trouble with zips or buttons and decided on a simple half elasticated waist, of the sort you often find in children’s clothes (elastic at the back, flat waistband at the front). Because it was a last minute decision to make it at all, I sewed it the evening of the event I was wearing it to, so time was of the essence. I had cut it out the previous evening but started the actual sewing about 6pm.

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Trying not to laugh at the cat antics
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Wrestling with Miles tabby cat

I had cut four panels, the full width of the fabric x 75cm long, and a waistband long enough to fit over my hips (I cut the waistband the width of some nice wide elastic I had in the drawer). The plan was to have the front of the waistband sit flat, with elastic inserted into the back, so I needed the front section to fit my waist measurement and the rest of the waistbands’s length to be in the back – after I joined the waistband into a loop, I marked the front centre, and the two side points accordingly.

I might decide to sell the skirt on Ebay later so I did make sure it was finished nicely, and sewed the four skirt panels together with French seams. I then marked the skirt into four equal sections with the marks halfway between each of the seams, so that the seams would be offset from the centre lines. I gathered the skirt to the waistband, wrong side of skirt to right side of the inside of the waistband, matching the marks. Since the back part of the waistband would get pulled in further by elastic, the back gathering didn’t have to get pulled in as tight as the front gathering.

It was all going so smoothly up to this point that I thought it was going to be over and done with in two hours flat, but of course I managed to put the waistband upside down with poor R2D2 standing on his head! There was about an hour of sulking, trying to convince myself I didn’t care, and popping out for take-away chicken and chips, but I knew it would bug me if I didn’t fix it, so after some sustaining tastiest-chicken-and-chips-in-the-world from our local shop, I unpicked and regathered the right way up. The one thing I should have done and didn’t think of, was to interface the front part of the waistband. It sits ok but would have been better interfaced.

Once the skirt was gathered onto the waistband, I ironed under the seam allowance on the other edge, and turned the waistband to the outside. I pinned it in place, then stitched just the back section  from one side point to the other, stitching over the previous seamline very close to the folded edge. I threaded a piece of elastic through the back waistband and tried the skirt on, adjusting it to a comfy fit, then sewed vertically across the waistband at the side points to anchor the elastic. Finally I stitched the front section of the waistband in place, and did a twice folded small hem on the bottom of the skirt, meaning all seams are enclosed.

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It was so much fun wearing this to the midnight screening. As I mentioned in my previous post I wore it with a black t-shirt, and a C-3PO brooch made from a lego mini-fig. There were heaps of people dressed in Star Wars cosplays – lots of Jedis and Vaders, some storm-troopers, a few Leias, plus many Star Wars t-shirts, quite a few amazing props like pilots’ helmets and cardboard ships, and a surprising number of space buns on both men and women. I wasn’t expecting to love this skirt so much, but I’m really pleased with it. So much so I think I might make another version in a more mainstream fabric. I did think I’d sell it after the one wear, but I’m finding the thought of parting with it is harder than I expected so maybe I’ll hang onto it and wear it to the next Star Wars premiere.

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Vintage purple floral

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I love this dress!! This is the second time I’ve made the pattern. It’s a Vintage 1961 pattern McCalls 5780 (published 10 years before I was born). I was lucky enough to find the pattern in an op shop and it is the exact right size (miraculous!) The first time I made this lovely pattern was 12 months ago before I fired up my blog again, and I haven’t got around to blogging that one yet. So it was fairly straight forward this time, vintage techniques and all. The fabric is just a cotton from Spotlight but it’s got a nice soft hand. This dress takes a lot of fabric and they didn’t have enough on the roll when I bought it, so I rang around a few other Spotlights and got my lovely partner in crime to pick this up for me at a far flung store when he was nearby for work.This is #5 on my holiday to-do list. Technically I’ve finished my holidays since I’ve been back at work for 8 days so far, but school isn’t back until this coming week so I say it still counts. I’ve just had a four day weekend for Australia Day so I got the chance to finish a few more things off.

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The dress has a lapped side zip, which is really a pain in the neck when it comes to getting the darn thing on and off, but it does give a lovely look with no back zip. The back darts fit perfectly and I’m a fan of the sleeve facings. The pleated skirt is the fiddly bit – I always find it’s pretty much impossible to get pleats exactly right the first time round, so one ends up having to tweak them to get them to fit exactly to the waist stay. Plus the way it fastens is interesting. I’ve put in a photo of the waist fastening instructions and you can see it has an extended underlap, with press studs which do up hidden in the pleat. They’re great pleats though, it sits beautifully. The purple satin ribbon waist stay looks pretty (even though only I get to see it!) and is a nice finishing touch.

I made it a little longer this time than last time, only slightly shorter than the pattern pieces intended (they’re always so long these vintage dresses!) I like it, I think it gives nice proportions. I’m very much looking forward to wearing this to work. I don’t have any fancier occasions planned so I think I might have to remedy that.

Spindle silk

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Just a quick one today… We’ve been to Monarto Zoo and even though we mostly rode on buses through the park, I’m oddly worn out. We loved the zebras and giraffes though! I can never get enough giraffes, so beautiful, and as for zebras, well I can’t remember when I would have last gazed on zebras close up. I’m sure it would be 20 years ago as I haven’t been to Monarto before and Adelaide zoo doesn’t have zebras. I’ve been to Taronga in Sydney recently but they don’t have them, nor does Dubbo Zoo which we visited a few years ago. I think there are some at Melbourne Zoo but it’s over 20 years since I was there. And Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast apparently has some now but didn’t when we used to live nearby. Do you have zebras anywhere close by?

So this sewing was prompted by the quite large amount of leftovers from Milly’s dress in my last post. Being a bit of a Scrooge, I hate it when I’ve bought expensive fabric and the pattern envelope made me buy vastly more than I needed. So, since I found the silk very nice to sew with and the colour is gorgeous I thought I’d whip myself up a little top. It’s not my usual style but when I say there was a lot leftover, there was, but not necessarily in the right shaped bits for a top. This is the Spindle Dress from Ottobre 2/2009. I chose it because it doesn’t take much fabric, and obviously I made a top not a dress. I also cut it with the bottom edge on the selvedges meaning I didn’t need to hem it.The ties are supposed to be 2cm wide but I made them 3cm. I just made one long tie and threaded it right around and tied it in a big bow. I think it looks quite stylish like this. The eagle-eyed will notice I’ve got the pattern running around me instead of up and down like on Milly’s.

I’m really very pleased with this. I wore it to work on a very hot day last week and it felt both smart and very comfortable to wear. In fact I’m so pleased with it I’ve bought some more silk to make another one for the Jungle January challenge.The photos were snapped in a hurry and I’m convinced (and hopeful!) the back looks better in person than in the photo. Backs are so hard to photograph! I think I end up hunching forward because otherwise ones arms look dreadful and then ones back ends up looking equally bad. Oh well!

 

Simple blue cardigan

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All I wanted for before Christmas, (so I could wear it with my my red and white striped dress!) was a plain, short, slim fitting, navy cardigan. Something from Dangerfield would have been perfect but I’ve sworn off them as sadly they aren’t on anyone’s list of ethical manufacturers. I couldn’t find one anywhere else on the ethical list either, so I decided to make one.

I scored the perfect rib knit at Spotlight. Dark navy, not quite as much stretch as I’d like but a nice weight. I generally like my cardigans close fitting and usually buy a smaller size than my regular size, so I looked for a t-shirt pattern to use. Ottobre 2/2006 fit the bill. The pattern pieces are the same size as my actual measurements. I just cut the front in two separate pieces and added on several extra cms for a twice folded self-facing. I also shortened the pattern, but shortened the back about 3 cm more than the front and cut across the hem to match them up.

The main pieces went together very quickly, but the important thing was to work out how to finish the hems and bindings to a good standard. I thought about binding the neckline with a strip of the knit itself, but didn’t feel confident I could get a good enough finish at the front corners, which are obviously really obvious if they’re not well done. I also thought about using bias binding, but I wanted something with more stretch. The answer was some narrow fold-over elastic which Milly spotted in Lincraft. First I stitched a flat piece up one side of the front (the side that would have the buttons attached). Then to do the neckline I also didn’t fold it over, but used it flat, sewing it first to the inside of the neckline, wrong sides together; then turning the whole width to the outside and stitching it down. At the top front corners I then wrapped it around to the inside and hand stitched it in place, tucking the raw edge under. The sleeve and bottom hems are done with a double needle.

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Over the years I’ve learned that one of the secrets to a good finish with home sewing isn’t just knowing what you can do, but knowing what you can’t do. My machine (and me) have our limitations… so sometimes if you’re just not going to get the finish you want it’s better to look for a way around it. I bought this machine as a super-sale-bargain two days after my previous 20-year-old one broke down for good. I’m very happy with it overall, but very disappointed with its button-holing. Plus it doesn’t have the capacity to regulate the presser-foot pressure. My old machine was more basic in many ways but did have a knob for presser-foot pressure which was very handy. Anyway, I had a few tries at doing button-holes on scraps but there was no way I was ever going to get them looking good on the knit. With the reasonably thick facing and the rib, the pressure of the foot was too much, and despite being interfaced, the knit was stretching out of shape and looking horrible. Not what you want on the front band of a cardigan! So, easy solution – I’ve left it buttonhole-free. I tend not to do up my cardigans anyway apart from a single button so I’ve put a hook and eye at that point, with the hook hiding behind the button. If I decide I want to do more of it up I might put some more hooks and eyes on but it’s all good for now. I think I’ve managed a store-bought standard if I do say so myself, and it’s a perfect weight and style for wearing over dresses and singlets to work.

Rudolph the reindeer skirt

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Yet another Christmas event – this time the work Christmas breakfast at which our exec cook breakfast and our CEO hands out the Kris Kringle presents. It’s one of the things I like about working right up til Christmas, the never ending work Christmas events. We’ve still got our social club lunch to come next week, so I might have to make something else for that.

I’m cheating, because I made this skirt for last year’s breakfast, when I was in what I’ll kindly call my blog hiatus phase, so it’s only fair to blog it today when I wore it again. Despite appearances to the contrary I did iron it. The oddness of the photos is due to a lack of children who haven’t taken the start of school holidays as their cue to become glued to screens, so you’re looking at my first attempts using the timer on my iPad. It seems to be keen on overexposed photos, low resolution and taking people unawares.

Rudolph is a wrap around skirt, made from the skirt part of McCalls 7119. The wrap isn’t as wrappish as it should be to avoid accidentally showing one’s undies but it’s not disastrous, I just put in a couple of modesty safety pins. I recall thinking last year that I’d be sure to lose a few inches before wearing it this year and that would fix it, but oddly that hasn’t happened! Considering this skirt was a spur of the moment fabric buy from the specials table at Spotlight, the night before I wanted to wear it, the sewing itself isn’t the highest quality but you can’t deny it’s fun.

Summer stripes – aka seized by the McCalls 6696 zeitgeist

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Somehow I missed the memo about McCalls 6696 being the-dress-that-everyone-is-making. All on my own I picked out the pattern and decided to sew myself a pretty shirt dress, thinking I was acting with free will, but obviously I’d somehow been seized by the 6696 zeitgeist, since it only took a quick google before cutting to discover that it’s a huge hit in blogland.

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The fabric is some lovely light John Kaldor fabric I picked up at an op shop – $4 for 4 metres. I’ve fully lined the front bodice then just used bias binding on the raw edge of the bodice back below the yoke. The fabric is quite a loose weave and frays easily so I love that every single seam is enclosed and it looks so neat on the inside. And I’m really pleased with the way the stripes have ended up matching up because they’re not actually straight. They’re just slightly irregular, which adds to the charm, but made it tricky! The only other hiccup was my automatic buttonhole stitch decided it objected to doing buttonholes over anything remotely bumpy and wouldn’t play ball. That last photo with me looking at the photographer with my best ‘just take the photo already’ expression, is kind of how I was looking at my sewing machine! I don’t have a 4 step buttonhole on my machine so had to do them manually, which is not my idea of fun when there’s 10 buttonholes. I’ve left the buttonhole off the stand collar since I won’t ever button it and I was well and truly over them by then.

I’ve cut the shoulders away a little as I find it more flattering, and made the dress shorter, but having to decide the length when I it was only part made, I think I accidentally made it just a little too short for the proportions of where the waistband sits. Anyway I wore it today to our work Christmas picnic and it felt lovely and summery at this length so I can live with it. Actually I think I love it, and it looks cute with a short cardi. Black is ok but navy would be perfect so I might just have to buy a navy cardi…

Puffins!!!!!!

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I am completely in love with this pattern and this fabric. The fabric is the most wonderful puffin print in gorgeous organic cotton French terry. I bought it intending to make something for one of the kids, but when it arrived in the mail I loved it so much I selfishly kept it for myself. Unfortunately since it was going to be kidswear, I only bought 1 metre so it took a fair bit of creative playing around with the layout to squeeze the pieces out, but with a few very narrow seam allowances I triumphed in the end. The collar and cuffs both had to be cut in two pieces to fit them in and the bottom hem has been sewn with bias binding since it’s slightly shorter than it ought to be. The bias looks great though, a nice case of a compromise resulting in a better finish.

The pattern is McCalls 7061 and anyone could be forgiven for thinking they’d never seen this cute cowl pattern before, because the pattern envelope is a serious contender for Worst Pattern Envelope Photo of All Time. I mean WTF McCalls?? Fluffy pink camo print and blue neck bows?! I made view A pretty much as is except for leaving out the bow, and also left out the small amount of shaping in the side seams as I wanted a boxier shape. I do love a cowl neck in a knit since it means not having to faff around with binding or ribbing and gives a lovely professional finish. In the photo above you can see how few scraps I had left, which is sad as I would have liked to make something else from this beautiful print. The good news though is that it’s available on Spoonflower so I can order more if I want to.

I’m clearly not the only one who loves puffins, as I wore this last week on casual day at work and as well as a few compliments from colleagues I had two random people at the shops tell me they loved it. Shallow I know, but it’s nice when people like what you’ve made!

But I don’t have anything to match…

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This is some fabric I bought online a ridiculously long time ago, and have loved it too much to use it even though I reckon I’ve had it for a good 7 or 8 years! It’s rare to find beautiful thick stretch corduroy in a funky pattern like this, and I’ve been so enchanted by it I just couldn’t bring myself to sew it. Sometimes I think there’s more excitement in the possibility of making something – once it’s cut the endless possibilities are gone. Plus I was using the excuse that I didn’t have anything brown to go with it – no point sewing something then not being able to wear it straight away because nothing matches!

So… I made a plan.  I bought a brown top to match the fabric.  And a lovely brown pair of shoes. And some brown tights.  And finally I sewed my treasured fabric into a skirt. After all that waiting you’d think it would be a special skirt but the loud pattern demanded something simple.  It’s Ottobre from 2007. Lined with a lightweight cotton which I cut on the bias so it would move with the stretch of the corduroy. Typically, I was busy doing my own thing and stuffed up the zip/lining area, and ended up having to just sew straight around the top to attach the lining, so the zip is non functional. The fabric is very stretchy though, and my waist hip ratio is not as differentiated as the health promotion ads say it ought to be, so it really doesn’t matter, I can slide it on and off quite easy enough. I’m very pleased with this skirt and it’s very comfy to wear.  Best of all I still have quite a bit of fabric left so there are still possibilities after all.