Saturday, April 25, 2009

A little palate cleanser...


I think I've mentioned it before, but just in case I haven't, I'm an instant gratification kinda gal. I see something I want to make, and I want it made, right now. Along the way, I do actually enjoy the sewing process: the satisfaction of a neatly pressed hem in a crisp cotton; the feel of manipulating fabric through the machine; the rhythm of taking tiny handstitches and drawing the thread through the fabric. Those are the good bits. Often though, I get overwhelmed by an urge to finish the garment because I just want it done - and of course, this is where it all invariably turns to ...y'know. Crap.
Lately, though, I've been trying to be far more measured and patient, inspired by my sewing neighbour-from-across-the-road Mary Anna. From what I've seen, her way of working is the antithesis of mine: patient, meticulous, self-controlled, and her garments are always beautifully finished. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to cut corners wherever possible; find lazy ways of doing stuff; and rush to get things finished. I often find myself swearing at a totally botched garment at midnight; a garment which was in good shape and had potential a mere half an hour earlier.
Anyway, I'm trying to take a leaf out of Mary Anna's book. If something isn't working, I stop. If it's 11:30 and I can barely see, I stop, even if there's only the hem and some topstitching to go. If I'm experiencing any sewing rage, I walk away. So far, it's working well :-)

The set in sleeves in Mr 4's duffel coat are giving me grief, so I decided I needed a little break from it. A sorbet; a palate cleanser between courses, if you will ;-) So I decided to whip up a quick knit dress for myself. I've had this idea kicking around in my head for ages, and have been searching for the perfect pattern to use. I've actually found quite a few candidates, but in the interim, I used good old Simplicity 3835, here in the dress version. I added about three inches to the length, gathered the neck with clear elastic (quartered and stitched on with a 3-step zig-zag), then encased the gathered neckline in a bias binding. I needed to repeat the colour of the binding somewhere else on the dress for it to make sense visually, and had thought about edging some pockets with it, but instead opted for a mock button tab on the sleeve edge. In the end I omitted the pockets entirely, because I thought they'd make the whole thing look too busy.


The fabric is a wool blend from the Kate Sylvester sale - all of $2 a metre or something, and the binding is cut from a fat quarter of some art-deco-ish leaf print quilting fabric. All in all, the verdict is good - it's warm, albeit a little scratchy at the waist underneath the belt (solved with a little cami underneath) and it's suitably casual and comfy to suit my lifestyle.

Right. Sorbet over. Time to move onto the main course - jacket body, here I come.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I can't stop thinking about clothes.


I really can't. Everywhere I go, I feel like my eyes are out on sticks checking out people's clothes. I lie awake in bed thinking about pleats and darts and different ways of constructing things. I absent-mindedly make things out of napkins at the table, trying to figure out an idea that's been buzzing around in my head. In short, I think sewing is taking over my life.

Yeah. So, there up above are a few of my recently acquired patterns. Looking forward to sewing them up - I'm particularly keen on the coat and the top at the bottom left. Just got to find the time to do it.

Anyhoo...there's a dress I've recently finished that I'm totally pleased with, but due to the darkness in the evenings when my resident photographer returns home from work, it'll have to wait until the weekend. Until then, I'll just have to settle for documenting my increasing mania for making stuff. Sleep? For the weak. I think I'll just stay up and sew instead ;-)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Second body syndrome


I've come to the conclusion that sewing a lining for a garment is the sewing world's equivalent of the knitter's second sock syndrome - i.e., while it might be fun to do something once, to do the same thing twice gets a bit tedious, and kind of takes the shine off the whole project. Bearing that in mind, I decided to sew the lining of this coat before I constructed the outer. A bit like eating the boring bits of a meal first and saving the good bits for the end; something which, incidentally, I've stopped doing this since I've had kids - if I save the good bits for the end, small grabby fingers seem to pinch them off my plate before I've had a chance to enjoy them.
Anyway...back to sewing. My eldest is, in his own words, "a boy who likes to be warm" and in a benevolent mood one day I agreed to make him a duffle coat, a la Paddington Bear. Technically, (well, according to the picture) this Burda pattern is for girls (a fact which caused a look of intense consternation on his little face) but since kids are all just kid shaped at that age, I figure it didn't really matter. Just in case, though, I ran the side seams straight down rather than tapering in and out at the waist - time will tell if this was a good move or if it will result in the whole thing looking like a box.
I'm pleased I did the lining first, though, because I've been reminded of a couple of things. It's been a while since I did a set in sleeve, and now I remember why - I loathe sewing them. I can't stand all that faffing around with easing in the sleeve cap, and I always seem to end up with poofy Snow White sleeves no matter how long I fiddle with the gathers for. I've only basted them in so far - I had planned to sew them last night but there was a really good Agatha Christie on the telly so I was glued to the couch. Hopefully with a bit of steam they'll sit a bit better once they're sewn in; and if they don't, hey, it's only the lining. Hopefully the sleeves on the body will work better....if you have any set-in sleeve tips, please do share them :-)
The other thing I need to take care of is the fray-factor of the polyester shantung I've used for the lining. In true satin style, it's fraying like nobody's business, and I hadn't planned on overlocking it, thinking that since all the seams would be on the inside, it would be ok. Bad move, apparently...I think I'll have to figure out a lazy slacker way of finishing the edges so the whole thing doesn't disintegrate before I finish it.
I've fused interfacing to the centre front edges, sleeve hem, and body hem, but I think I probably should have fused the whole lot. Not much more work, really, and I think it would have made the fabric more manageable. Time will tell - and hey, it's only for a four year old, so it's not a big deal if there's a bit of sag in the fabric, I guess.

Hopefully this'll get finished in the next few days, so I can move onto some more stuff for myself - I have a list that just keeps getting longer, and it's definitely no longer the weather for my recently finished summer tops.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Roll on summer...


I cut this top out many months ago, and finally got around to finishing it just as the weather is turning a bit chillier. Having said that, though, there are still some fantastic clear, sunny autumn days, so I have been wearing it a bit. I really like the style - the placement of the gathers is good for the small busted among us, and the shape of the yoke and straps is a pretty good foil for my square shoulders, I reckon. Apologies for the crapness of the's 5 pm on an autumn evening, so the light isn't great and you can probably see the goose bumps on my arms.

The pattern is Kwik Sew 3575, and I think from memory I cut a small (or maybe an XS). As hilariously ugly as some of their styles are, I do quite like sewing from Kwik Sew patterns - the instructions are really clear and the solid paper pattern pieces are sturdy.
This top was a pretty straight-forward project, although the construction of the neckline was a bit fiddly in places. The pattern calls for a back zipper, but there's no way (at least on me) that it's necessary - the top slips on quite easily without it.
The pattern has the belt stitched to the front waistline, which is gathered in place before you attach the belt. I had decided to keep the belt loose, since I quite like the top tucked in as well as belted, so planned on just hand-stitching some belt loops into the side seams using matching embroidery floss. Unfortunately, however, I buggered up the belt by deciding to try to rip a section off the last scrap of fabric I had. I'd thought it would rip straight, but it ended up being thick at one end and thin at the other, so here we are. Tucked in it is.
I also had to take in a centimetre or so at the tops of the side seams, as it was a bit gapey. I can't believe I've never realised it before, having always found lazy slacker ways of altering the fit of garments on which I've already attached the facing, but the construction of this one finally alerted me to the fact that I could just fold up the facing and run in both the facing and the side seam in one pass, then fold it back down again. Duh.

The fabric is another Geoff's Emporium cheapy - in fact, I think I intended this to be a wearable muslin but I quite like it as it is. I might sew the dress version for next summer, though.

Next up: I have my eye on a BWOF pattern...just have to get brave enough to trace it off.

Sunday, April 12, 2009



Ahem. Despite assurances to myself that I would be more moderate with my fabric buying, I appear to have inadvertently accumulated a rather large pile of new, delicious fabricy goodness. Ah. Not quite sure how that happened. (Well, excuse is that after 31 years of living in Auckland, a hidden gem of a fabric shop has come to my attention, courtesy of Mary Anna. I had to make up for all those years of lost patronage, you see. Entirely selfless, of course...I like to think that I'm doing my bit for the recession ;-) )
There's something so fresh and enticing about the potential of an uncut piece of fabric, just like there is in a brand new exercise book or a pristine to-do list. In my defence, however, I have plans for all of these, and unlike in the relatively recent past, I really feel like I'm in a good place, sewing-mojo wise. Unusually for me, I've actually been completing things, rather than just either: a) buying the fabric and the pattern, and waiting for the two to engage in some sort of weird paper/fibre symbiosis and produce the garment without any input from me; or: b) buying stuff, cutting it out, then putting off sewing it for so long that I lose pieces and end up getting in a huff with the whole project and starting something new (or maybe just doing a) again.)

Anyway, I'm off to drink milo and stroke two metres of silk velvet. I have no current plans for it (wet weather gear for Playcentre, perhaps? No?) but just couldn't resist the fact that it was only $10 a metre. I really am a sucker for a sale.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The good the bad and the old man pajama fabric.


So, here's another version of Simplicity 3835. I'm feeling a bit meh about it, to be honest, which is a bummer, cos I really started out having high hopes for this one.
The fabric is a beautifully soft rayon from Global Fabrics, and feels like a very drapey cotton sateen. Unfortunately, unlike a nice friendly cotton sateen, this fabric has rather more attitude - everywhere that is even vaguely on the bias stretched, so much so that some of the little flower motifs doubled in width. Due to the fabric shimmying around during cutting (and..ahem...partly due to the fact that I had a 4 year old helping me at the time) the front is ever so slightly off grain, and pulls to the right a bit. Not so much that anyone would probably notice, to be honest, but it aggravates me and probably means that I won't end up wearing it as much as I would have otherwise.

I also changed the sleeve, adding a bit more length and making the bottom more of a bell shape. I hemmed the sleeve edges with black satin bias tape, and then gathered them with a 1 cm elastic (25 cm long, for my records ;-) ) I ended up facing the neckline with bias tape, too, then stitching a channel for the elastic, because turning it under and hemming it was an extremely swear-worthy experience.
I like the sleeves, and I love the feel of the fabric, but I don't think that the fullness of the sleeves works with the fullness of the body - I think the proportions and balance are much better with the sleeve as it is in the pattern.

So...not a total wadder, but probably more of a wear around the house type thing. My confidence in this one wasn't at all helped by my husband saying "mmmm. Looks a bit like old man pajama material, doesn't it?" of course, now every time I look at it, I imagine just that. Cheers love :-) (In his defence, though, he had just taken both boys grocery shopping for two full hours so I could sew. Many brownie points were earned.)

Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Craft from the past

IMG_5564, originally uploaded by JenNZL.

I love this chair. We bought it off Trade Me when my eldest son was still a baby, and it has seen countless nights of rocking already, within its four years in our house. Underneath the blankets, it's a worn, threadbare brocade, and the springs are a bit tired, but I still love it.
The blanket on the back of the chair was made by my great aunt, and every time I look at it I'm reminded of the amazing resourcefulness of that generation, inspired of course by necessity. She's used every last scrap - in some places, each half of one of the little shell corners of each granny-square is a different yarn.
The blanket on the bottom was made by another great aunt for my grandmother, to keep her warm while she zipped around the cold streets on her mobility scooter. I love the way that home made stuff enables you to pack up and post a little bit of yourself to someone when you can't be there in person.
I remember this same great aunt patiently teaching me how to crochet a granny square when I was younger - using a tiny scrap ball of pink wool and a crochet hook with a red plastic handle. We went to see the Sesame Street live show together and I crocheted in the dark.

Anyway, with two boys sick at home it just got me thinking about all the little familiarities of home that make it the best place to be, particularly when you're not feeling all that flash. Making nests on the couch with quilts and pillows and soft toys. The familiarity of the smell of washing powder on fresh sheets. It's funny, the things that stick in your mind as really vivid memories of things that were real comforts growing up. Not always the things that were big, or perhaps even significant at the time. It's got me pondering on which traditions and experiences will become significant to our family.
I've got a couple of things cut out and ready to sew, and while I'm itching to get at the machine to sew them up, I'm thinking a quiet day in, maybe adding a few more rows to the slowly-developing crochet throw might be a plan. Maybe a bit of playdough. Maybe some baking. Can't really go wrong with chocolate chip biccies on a cold rainy day, can you?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Buy it, wash it, cut it, sew it.


Buy it, wash it, cut it, sew it. Not generally a mantra that is repeated much in my house. Generally, it's more of a "buy it, sneak it into the house, find somewhere to stash it, fondle it, wonder what to make with it, buy it some friends cos it looks lonely" kinda thing. Much more my style, because as we all know (well, the stash accumulaters among us), it's the having it that counts. Not so much the using. Just the warm, fuzzy, secure knowledge that there are metres and metres of fabricy deliciousness awaiting delectation at any time...none of this having to rush out to the shops and get what you need at the moment you need it.

Anyway, in a move very unusual for me, I bought this fabric (with two boys in tow, bribed with crackers and raisins and maybe an easter egg) from Global Fabrics two days ago. Yes, for barely two days did this reside on my shelf before being cut out and turned into a wearable top.

It's the first thing I've sewn using the pattern adjustments from the Palmer/Pletsch course, and I'm impressed so far. I've sewn this pattern in a knit before (the pink top a few posts back) and realised that it needed far more ease in the sleeve if it was to work in the recommended woven fabric. One quick adjustment to make the sleeve bigger, another to deal with my sway back, and voila - one well fitting top that enables me to move my arms. ( peeve alert. I am constantly astounded at the number of people in the online universe who write "viola" when they mean "voila" . Yes, I am a tad uptight about such things. No, I don't wander around correcting grammar on signs with a Vivid, but I must confess it is pretty darn tempting sometimes.)
The only part I'm not 100% happy with is the bottom of the sleeve - while the top fits well, the bottom is a bit snug, and it finishes at a really aggravating place, right on the elbow. This means it's always getting pushed up which is a bit of a pain, so next time I think I'll either just sew the cap-sleeved version, or lop an inch or so off this sleeve length so it finishes just above the elbow. I do like the satin binding on the sleeve edge, though - the difference in textures between this and the matt cotton is a nice contrast, I reckon. to feed the masses. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


IMG_5482, originally uploaded by JenNZL.

The title and the picutre pretty much sum it up, really. This, evidently, is why people don't tend to make skirts out of old and slightly perished curtain fabric, it seems. Bugger.

Anyway, I allowed myself to wallow in a little bit of stash-enhancement therapy after this incident. I've cut something out already from the stuff I bought from Global Fabrics yesterday and am planning on sewing it up once the kids are in bed tonight. Here's hoping they cooperate.