Challenging Sewing

After several years of watching other bloggers participate in sewing competitions and challenges and a year of sewing regularly but still not participating, I made it one of my goals of 2014 to participate in a few challenges. If nothing else, I figured it would help up my sewing productivity.

My last post talked about the Mad Men 3 challenges (go look at the pretty dresses!). So now lets check out what’s next: Sew Dolly Clackett!

I am super pumped for this, because I pretty much stalk Roisin’s blog. In a way that I feel is a little bit creepy. But COME ON. Someone that totally indulges their cray cray fabric habit! Yes! It’s like all of the insane (in the best possible way) dresses I want to make in one place. Plus, let’s be real: I have pretty much ripped of her dresses before and now I have total permission to do so. Yes!

So I am making Simplicity 2444 (aka the pattern I make all the time) in this:

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It’s kind of inspired by the meta dress. Because who doesn’t love some meta action? My fabric is a little different and I’m using a different pattern, but I think you can work out where I got the idea from… The comp ends on 23 April, so I really need to get my sewing on. I actually had planned to finish the dress this weekend, but for some unknown reason when I tried on the bodice it was hella too tight. So then I tried on the last dress I made from S2444 and it fit fine. So I don’t know if that was super-bad cutting or what. In the end I just cut the back bodice again (luckily I had some extra fabric!) and slightly bigger – I spent a really. long. time. making sure the pleats would align with the darts on the front so I wasn’t keen to play with that. If the skirt back ends up being too short my current plan is to just make the pleats smaller of something. Cos that’s how I roll. #lazysewing4life

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Moving on, I also decided to do sew for victory. I’m using Butterick 5846 which a bit like Vogue 8615 is a modern pattern that seems convinced it’s vintage. Seriously, ignore the fugly styling and look at those lines. To me it’s very 1940s.

My fabric is a navy floral, pictured below. I was in Spotlight for AGES looking for the right fabric – I wanted something navy-based with a small-scale floral. The flowers on this are a little larger than my preference but it’s pretty close to what I had pictured.

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In closing shout out to my awesome friend T, who with some assistance from yours truly completed her first dress on the weekend. Welcome to sewing T!

Until next time!

Mad Style A Betty inspired Floral Frock

So I was kind of inspired by Betty, in the sense that I wanted something “Betty-like”, but not in the sense that I had something specific in mind. Mainly because I left it too late to get an appropriate fabric. I did however have general inspiration: I wanted a super girlie pink floral frock, along the lines of the “Betty Barbie” dress, but with different colours and minus the sash:

As previously discussed, this is Butterick 5748 using some of the floral cotton twill I purchased at Mood during my holiday in the US. I didn’t actually have enough fabric, according to the pattern envelope but as usual the good folk at Butterick vastly overestimated the yardage required. I trimmed the skirt length a little, as I knew it would be far too long to further conserve fabric.

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The only other changes I made were moving the zip to the back – since there’s a seam there anyways and I hate underarm zips. Surely it’s not just me that struggles with them? This floral is not directional, so I cut the bodice front on sideways stretch and a size down, and the back on no stretch. Somehow the bodice ended up loose at the top of the back, so I shaved out the excess. To get rid of the gape at the top of the front of the bodice I inserted a little pleat. I also took the shoulder seams up by about an inch and re-shaped the dipped back bodice to be a little more flattering on me.

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Instead of using a lining, I finished the neck, armholes and waistseam with bias binding and the side and skirt seams with seambinding for a clean finish. I hung the skirt for about 4 days on and off to settle the bias before I hemmed. I used the machine to hem as I was running out of time, and to be honest, a bit sick of hand sewing! Because the hem is so long I ran out of pins and had to start using hair clips.

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All in all I am very happy. I don’t really know how much wear I’m going to get out of this frock – it’s so very pink! But it is pretty cute and I’m proud of myself for not cutting corners during the making. Plus the whole thing is machine washable! Score!

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Until next time!

PS apologies for the not-so-great pictures. By the time I’d finished hemming it was dark outside and the lighting in my house is not amazing.

Mad Men Madness

So recently Julia Bobbin launched her Mad Men 3 challenge. I intended to make something for the first two and thengot lazy ran out of time. This time, however I was determined! Until I went on a three-week jaunt though America and realised I had all of 14 days to get it together and sew something. Luckily, while I was in New York I hit up Mood Fabrics after spending literally years drooling over their website. I did quite a lot of damage to the old credit card in Mood (then more when I had to ship my purchases home due to lack of suitcase space!). In fact, I got so much fabric at mood that I decided to skip other fabric stores. A decision that I hopefully won’t regret!

Although I didn’t think to search for Mad Men specific fabrics while in Mood, I did pick up one that immediately struck me as ideal for my planned flock – this pretty pink floral cotton twill.

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(fabric image from Mood)

Isn’t it pretty? originally, I had planned to make it up in By Hand London’s new pattern Flora, despite the fact that I don’t actually own it and the Mad Men deadline is fast approaching. Nevertheless, I ordered a copy of Flora and sat back to wait. And then I thought about it more, and wondered why (as usual) I hadn’t bothered to look through my pattern stash before buying a new one. Upon a quick look though said stash, I remembered Butterick 5748 the perfect choice for a quick timeline as I’ve sewn it before, for SS, but never for me. Plus it has a circle skirt and while my fabric is printed it’s not so directional it would look odd as a circle. Plus it has an adorable dipped back neckline.

Now to stop writing and start sewing!

Until next time!

Fighting Back #stopspying

*I hope you will forgive a change of topic today, however I wanted to make my feelings clear. we will return to sewing and style in my next post*

As Benjamin Franklin said:
Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor Safety

Whatever you think of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, what he revealed shocked many:

The NSA engaged in wide-spread spying on the private internet and mobile communications of citizens of the US and other countries without warrants or evidence of wrong-doing.

Please help pressure governments and international institutions to forbid mass surveillance anywhere in the world. If my government won’t stand up for my right to privacy and liberty (& for what has been revealed it seems the Australian Government will not) I will do it myself, and I encourage everyone else to do likewise.

Please visit The day we fight back for more information.

Cupcake Care Package

So one day a few months ago while I was spending the weekend with SS she asked me to sew her a dress. After some thought I agreed, and together we decided on Butterick 5748. It’s a pretty cute dress and one I had my eye on for myself so I was pretty keen. After emailing through TONS of fabric options, SS settled on “Quaint Cupcakes” by Michael Miller. Not gonna lie, I was a little sad because *I* wanted a dress with it! The sacrifices I make!

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(with petticoat)

So I had SS send though her measurements. Unlike me, she is close to a completely standard fit so it didn’t matter that she’s not close enough for me to do a fitting (well hopefully!). 5748 has a circle skirt, something I didn’t realise when SS picked it, and because the cupcakes are printed in rows, rather than scattered I opted to swap it for a gathered skirt. I know some people don’t mind it, but watching a print go from up-and-down to side-to-side bothers me a little. I also cut the bodice back on the fold, because with a side zip why would you want to disturb the print?

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Zip!

Because it was a dress for someone else, I put a lot more effort in than usual. I understitched the lining around the neckline, something I’ve never tried before (it was harder and messier than I had anticipated!) and used bias binding on the armholes and waist seam. It closes with a side lapped zip, which I’m pretty pleased with as it’s probably my best so far.

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Without petticoat

SS was looking for a longer dress that she could wear with her petticoat, so I left the skirt unlined. This was also because the seam was already a little bulky & I didn’t want to make it worse!

All in all, although it’s not perfect I’m very pleased with how the dress turned out. The bodice is very cute with its dipped back and I’m particularly keen to try a version with a centre lapped back zip and embellishments.

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Back view

Yes, these photos were taken in my sewing area. One day when I get a new machine I might take some photos to show you how it looks and how I manage without a sewing room to take over as it’s pretty cool how I can pack it away to look neat & tidy.

Until next time!

I like giant skirts and I cannot lie

So once upon a time this skirt was a dress. I was pretty found of it, it was (yet another) Simplicity 2444 aka the most beloved of all dress patterns.

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There were problems however. The fabric around the zip on the bodice frayed – possibly because I made the seam allowance too small. The bodice was tight – I don’t know why, my other 2444′s fit perfectly. The waist seam wasn’t straight.

So on Monday I decided to cut the bodice off and turn it into a skirt. It was, I have to say an excellent decision on my part. As a skirt I love it. So do other people actually, it gathered 3 compliments at work.

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I think this was a bit of a lesson in paying attention to recommended fabrics for me. Part of the reason it didn’t work well as a dress what that the skirt fabric (a heavy flannel-type wool from Spotlight) was too weighty for the bodice fabric. It also made the pleats a little hard to manage.

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All in all, I like it much better as a skirt. It has all the things I love best: fitted waist, knee-length, giant skirt (even better with a petticoat!), I’m even considering lining it! I also have a bunch of the fabric left, which I had considered turning into a blazer/jacket/coat. Something to think about for winter…

Skirt: Me-made | Blouse: Alannah Hill | Belt: Portmans | Shoes: Ziera

Until next time!

“You look like a Cupcake”: Sewing for my lifestyle

Actual thing that happened to me (thanks S!). To be honest it was probably quite accurate.

As I was compiling my “to buy” list for America (less than 60 days to go!) I realised that my wardrobe needed a mini-overhaul I have quite a lot of stuff, both me-made and purchased that I don’t wear for various reasons. I also want to make 2014 the year of sewing! Although I’m not ready to try a RTW fast like Sarah. I do want to be more conscious of what I buy and make this year – too much of my wardrobe is unsuited to my life. This seems to be a bit of a theme among sewing bloggers this year actually, with Rochelle, Clare along with a bunch of others posting similar sentiments lately. Not to forget Tasia’s great post a while back on sewing “frosting” rather than “cake”.

So, all this in mind, I have come up with a bit of a plan which will hopefully help me sew lots of lovely things that I can wear a lot as well as some frosting to make it fun!

First up, I tried to define my style, aided by my pinterest boards:

I’m going to go ahead and label my style a mix of classic prep and mid-century whimsy with a splash of modern wearability.

So I love big skirts, pastels, matchy-matchyness and novelty prints but prefer to keep my style modern enough that it leans vintage inspired, not actually vintage. I also have a pretty clear silhouette – fitted to the waist and then flaring out, knee-length and necklines just below the collarbone. occasionally I toy with slimmer skirts and different necklines, but I tend to go back to the old tried and true. I also have a strong preference for sleeves, which can be hard to find in RTW (this was part of the reason I wanted to get back into sewing – sleeves and pockets for all on everything!).

My palette is a pit harder, I wear a lot of grey, navy, pink, red and green. For prints, I lean towards florals, polka dots and novelties.

So based on this, major holes in my wardrobe are:

  • Not enough skirts – in 2014 I want to really broaden my mix-and-match ability. I’m pretty partial to plaid and striped skirts, so that’s where I plan on starting and if I have printed skirts I should be able to mix-and-match them with multiple cardigans and blouses.
  • Not enough blouses – particularly ones with cute neckline details like bows and ties in solid colours. Hopefully I can mix-and-match these with the skirts.
  • Not enough work dresses – in grey and navy prints so I can wear with different blazers and belts
  • Not enough formal dresses that I actually wear – a lot of my cocktail and formal dresses are just too low-cut for me to feel comfortable in and none of them have sleeves.

This year, I tried to sew one item for work for every non-work item. Next year, I am doing away with this rule a little – for one, I didn’t actually stick to it at all! Instead of a hard & fast “rule” I want to just stick to my overall goals of making a more integrated wardrobe that fits my life. I don’t want sewing work clothes to be boring, I want them to be fun and interesting and cute.

Until next time!

But She Told Me Home Sewing Was Easy!

Home Sewing Is Easy! according to this fabric. Well, sometimes. Assuming you cut the right pattern size. And consider the impact of your fabric on the design. Still, easiness aside this fabric is too cute and I simply couldn’t resist it.
This is a total Frankendress. Originally I really wanted to use the By Hand London Anna pattern; in fact I brought it specifically with this fabric in mind, thinking that its bust pleats and kimono sleeves would prevent too much cutting into the print. However, when I looked at the skirt pieces, I realised how many there were (6) and how much that would either break up the print, or drive me mad trying to match. Then I realised I didn’t need to use both, and the Frankendress was born. I used the skirt of Simplicity 2444, an old favourite which is only 3 pieces and has a cute pleat detail.

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However, I didn’t think to match the bodice to skirt before I cut them out, and realised that the back of the skirt didn’t have enough fabric to match the bodice back. To fix this without having to re-cut anything, I made the pleats smaller – I compared the length of the bodice and skirt backs, then divided the difference between three to get the size of my new pleats.

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Sadly this was not the end of my issues. After hearing that the By Hand dresses are quite close fitting and checking the finished measurements on the packet I decided to sew a UK 18 (for reference I am generally a UK 12-14 in ready-to-wear). I did do a quick fitting after sewing the bodice minus facings together and decided it fit well, but somehow after constructing the whole dress it was WAY too big. We’re talking 4 inches here people. Also, the shoulders needed to be taken up (this is a pretty standard alteration for me). So I ripped out the zip, which I’d planned to re-do anyways because it looked crap, and put it back in with much larger seams. I did a side lapped zip using the machine. I think it looks pretty awesome and spend a lot of time pointing it out, despite the fact that due to my enormous seam allowances the print doesn’t match. This was not enough, so I ended up taking a few inched in along the side seams too. Because I’m lazy I didn’t bother to unpick skirt from bodice to do so and just stitched though the waist seam. It looks ok so I call it a win! After all of this, as well as taking up the shoulders I am pretty happy.

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After wearing it a few times I do want to make some more minor changes – taking out the facing and replacing it with bias binding and lowering the back neckline a little. No matter how much I steamed, or the topstitching I did in a fit of desperation the facing will not stay where it’s supposed to. The back neckline is a tiny but too high because I forgot to lower it after taking up the shoulders, which is normally fine but the high neckline of the Anna makes it sit at an annoying spot on the back of my neck.

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This aside, I am completely in love with this dress. Now that it fits properly, the Anna bodice is insane pretty and flattering and I adore my fabric choice. I can’t wait to make a formal maxi Anna and try out the skirt pattern. Which brings me to my next problem – because I am an idiot I rarely trace patterns. Including the Anna. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, because the size smaller is, well, smaller. But the Anna bodice front has the smaller sizes printed kind of above the larger, meaning that the size 16 lines are gone forever. So I’m not really sure what to do about that… I might play with trying to grade it down a little myself, and if that doesn’t work I suspect I will just buy another as I love the pattern that much!

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Until next time and Happy Holidays! (whatever kind you celebrate :))

And no, I didn’t get a new pet, that last one is my friend Ns adorable new kitten. I had to include Oreo in some shots too so he didn’t feel left out ;)

Military Miss

This dress is a little bit inspired by the famous green dress Joan wore in Mad Men. But then I realised that it actually doesn’t look much like that dress – aside from the length and raised neckline. I had originally planned on adding a collar tie, and in fact cut one out. But The I couldn’t work out how to make it look cute and kind of gave up. So now I have a random strip of fabric hanging around. Go team lazy?

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I’ve now managed to convince myself it has a slightly retro military style to it. Let’s be real, this is mostly because of the colour, because the rest of it is not really vintage-style at all.

But look: giant shoulders! (instead of gathering I did a pleat in the shoulder)

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Victory Rolls!

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(honestly I have no idea why my face looks so strange here…)
(did I manage to distract you?)

I once again scraped this together with only two yards. Which fills me with joy at not wasting money OR fabric! This particular fabric is a Marc Jacobs cotton/silk blend and possibly the most dreamy thing I have ever sewn with (yes, including Liberty lawns!). It does, however, crease like a bitch. Which is why I kind of look like I slept in it in these pics. Rest assured it fits better than that creasing would have you believe sitting in an office all day working hard for the man will do that to a dress! Nevertheless, I love the slight sheen and the feel of it. At first I loved the colour, then I was doubtful and now I am back to love.

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It’s another simplicity 1913, with slightly better fit than the last one! This time I raised the waist by about 1.5 inches and the shoulders by about 1. To get rid of the gape at the neckline, when cutting I placed the pattern pice at a slight angle, instead of right along the crease so the top was about 1/2 an inch smaller, down to nothing at the bust. While this was a lazy quick and dirty solution, it worked really well! I also added back on two inches to the hem that I took out last time.

I skipped the invisible zip as I have decided they are evil. Instead I did a hand-picked one, using an old tutorial from Threads. It worked really well and I think it not only looks better, but it feels much stronger/more secure.

(I may have a bit too much “junk in the trunk” happening here. Perhaps I need to do a big butt adjustment? lol)

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I think this is the rare dress that looks better sans belt:

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Dress: Simplicity 1913, made by me | Belt: Portmans | Shoes: Top End

Until next time!

Fun with Fabrics!

Ever since I purchased the Liberty fabric I used for the Floral Fan dress, I have been obsessed with buying new fabrics. More importantly, I am into buying quality fabrics. The first few things I made I used quite cheap fabric that has not lasted well. In fact, when I cleaned out my sewing area a few weeks ago I threw out the first two dresses I made as they both needed some serious repairs and I decided I couldn’t be bothered. Instead of feeling bad about this, I’ve decided to embrace the freedom that sewing things I want to, not need to brings.

But this post is supposed to be about fabric, so let me show you my newest pretties and tell you what they’ll be.

First up is this Michael Miller cotton, called “quaint cupcakes”
This pretty is destined to be a dress for my sister, SS, in Butterick 5748. She picked the fabric and pattern. I’m hoping there’s enough left over to make a little skirt or something for me!
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Next we have the amazing “home sewing is easy” fabric by Alexander Henry. I am so in love with this cartoon print! I plan to make it in By hand London’s Anna dress.
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I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of these fabrics – I think they’re both quilting-type cottons, but while I find they have a lot of body, they’re not too stiff. My pre-washing softened them up nicely into the kind of fabric that will give a nice stick-out-ey (that’s a technical term!) skirt, but not be too uncomfortable for the bodice. Plus the prints are amazing! I have discovered a whole new world of awesome :)

Lastly is some boring practicle cottons for work skirts – one in grey and another in super-dark navy. The navy looks much darker in person. I haven’t chosen a pattern for these yet, I want something with a fitted-high waistband with some kind of pleated skirt. If I can’t find a good skirt pattern, I am considering using the skirt of Simplicity 2444 and just adding a waistband.
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Until next time!