Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tan Leather Sandals

Today's a big picture heavy post about the making of these Tan Leather Sandals. As you may know I signed up to a 3 month membership to ShoeMakingCoursesOnline.com for Christmas and after buying all my materials I've slowly been working my way through endless hours of content learning how to make a ton of different types of shoes. I have to admit I was a bit puzzled when I saw Sveta had only offered an asymmetric unisex sandal course on her website. The style of them is not for me but I downloaded the classes anyhow just for the learning. However I poked around a bit more and found she had a stand alone class you can buy just to make the patterns for T Strap Sandals. They were the exact shape that I wanted to make so I jumped in and bought it immediately. I went back a day later and found that my membership had expired (it's been 3 months already?!) and then realised I'd only downloaded the first couple of lessons on the asymmetric sandal course so I had no idea how to last my sandal once I made the pattern. I figured I'd watched enough content and absorbed enough of her wisdom to give it a good try so I forged ahead.

I drew my pattern onto my last with a little bit of help from a pair of shoes I have that look a bit like this. Then I pulled off the masking tape and made my pattern following her instructions. I ended up with the pattern pieces you see on the right which I tested out in paper and cardboard to make sure the fit was good. This time around I got to try the pattern on my last and my foot which was reassuring as generally with shoes you don't know what the fit's like until you've finished and put it on your foot.

Once I was sure about the pattern and the placement of the upper on the midsole I cut out my leather. I bought this leather from a fabric destash market a couple of weeks ago. It's really thick, like about 4mm thick, and was difficult to cut and work with but I loved the colour and how sturdy the shoes would be once made so I forged on. It had quite a few imperfections which I couldn't entirely cut around but this was why I was using it in the first place, if the sandals didn't work out I wouldn't have wasted really good leather making these. 

Because I wasn't sure how to last these I puzzled over the order of construction and finishing for a while. As you may be able to tell those midsoles in leather above are enormous. I originally cut them out with a 2cm allowance around all sides to fold the leather around my texon board I use for midsoles. However once I started working with the leather I knew it was going to be impossible to get this thick leather to bend let alone fold around a texon board neatly. So after much thought I decided to leave out the texon board altogether and just have this leather midsole glued straight onto the leather soling which is already extremely stiff. I hoped this would be sturdy enough to feel comfortable and supportive.

Then I faced the conundrum of how to last these sandals. Because I wasn't using a midsole with a covering like I did in my ballet flats I couldn't just hammer nails into the last to shape the leather. That would put holes through my midsoles which would be on show for the life of the shoes. No thanks. But I knew this leather was not going to be wrangled into place just with glue and pliers so I had to work out a solution. I ended up sticking masking tape to the soles and drawing out where the straps would sit and the upper toe part would sit. I nailed the straps onto the last just as they were but I soaked the upper toe part in water so that I could stretch and form it over the last and nail it into the right place so that when it came time to glue them the leather would "remember" where it was meant to go. I was a bit worried abut submerging the leather in water in case this caused any lasting damage to it? Would they dry out and crack in the future? Would the underside be affected and not look how it should because they'd been soaked? The choice was to wet and form them or not make the sandals at all because there was no other way I could think to do it. 

The result was much better than I expected! When I lasted my ballet flats and eased two concave curves into each other I had ripples or folds of leather I had to wrangle into place, nail and glue down and then skive and sand back to get it flat. When I lasted this leather onto the midsole just with glue and pliers it automatically laid flat as you see here - no folds whatsoever. This was great because it meant I had less skiving and sanding to get that layer of leather flat against the midsole once everything dried. Hurrah!

The last step was to glue the soles on and they were done!

So let's talk about how they fit and feel. Firstly they're super comfortable. The width around my joints is perfect and doesn't squish my feet like all other shoes do so that's already a great win. However we need to talk about sandals and lasts. I bought lasts specifically for making flat, closed shoes. They're perfect for making ballet flats, oxfords and ankle boots but they're not designed to make sandals on them. You can make sandals on them but the sandals aren't going to be perfect right from the get-go. A sandal last is wider around the toes so that you're feet lay flat on the midsole and are not being held in by the sides of shoes. The sandal last is also flatter at the toe end of the last to mimic how thick your toes are. I knew all this before I started and I'm ok living with imperfect sandals but I'll point a few things out to you in the below photos so you understand. The biggest reason I got away with this was because my toes are almost completely enclosed so they're being held in place as I walk. However if you look closely you'll see that the open toe part is sitting much higher up than my toes because it's been formed to mimic the shape of a ballet flat toe not a sandal toe. This is much more noticeable in real life than in pictures but I knew it was going to be this way so at least I was expecting it. I believe that sandal lasts are also slightly longer to accommodate the length of your foot as it rests on an open midsole. As you can see my feet literally just fit onto the midsole and could probably do with a tiny bit more length seeing as my feet move very freely in this type of shoe. Again not complaining, I knew this would be the case but it's interesting to notice the difference a last can make on the final pair of shoes.

I'll most likely buy myself a pair of sandal lasts for next spring/summer seeing as it's Australia and I wear open toed shoes for a lot of the year. But for now I'm ok with the limitations of these lasts. These pictures were taken a day after wearing them for the first time so this is 9 hours into their wearing life. As you can see in the photo on the left they're starting to curve up at the sides of the outer foot - it's much more noticeable on my right foot than my left. I'm sure this is because I let the texon board go and it's just two layers of leather glued together. Very stiff and strong leather but leather all the same. I think my next pair of sandals are going to need texon board and maybe even a shank to keep their shape properly for the life of the shoe. I don't just want to make shoes anymore. I want to make shoes that last me years. Part of my shoemaking journey will be about monitoring the wear and tear on them and feeding that back into the making process to ensure I'm focussed on longevity not just how pretty they look.

All in all I'm absolutely stoked with them. I'm amazed every time I look down at my feet and think that I made them with my own hands. The hand stitching looks great, I love the buckle, I love the width of straps I chose and I think the proportions work pretty well for my feet. The proportions aren't perfect but for my first sandal they're far and above what I expected of myself and I can't even begin to tell you how good that feeling is. It's like the beginning of sewing again. I wear them out of the house and wonder if anyone is going to look at them or check that I made them because they look handmade or something. It's a weird feeling.

So what next? I have some black leather calling my name which I was going to turn into another pair of ballet flats. However on passing through Myer yesterday these shoes below caught my eye and now I'm obsessed and can think of no other shoes. I have leather hole punches and an entire course on making oxfords. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Blue Leather Ballet Flats

About 6 months ago I bought a whole hide of leather from The Fabric Store with the dream of turning it into a bag and matching shoes. Here I am today to tell you I'm living that dream.

I blogged about the making of this Leather Tote Bag about 6 months ago when it was hot off the sewing machine. It has since been carried out the house with me every day for 6 months. It's the single most used and loved bag I've ever owned and it's such a great feeling that I made it with my own hands.

As you may know I started a course through ShoeMaking Courses Online at Christmas time and I've been slowly acquiring all the required shoemaking materials to begin learning from Sveta. My lasts arrived around 2 weeks ago and I got stuck straight into her lessons, starting with making a pair of ballet flats. I was so confident after watching all Sveta's lessons that I dove straight into making these shoes from this leather knowing there was no turning back if anything went wrong. I'm so proud to be sharing the successful outcome with you today. FYI there are tons of pictures in this post but it was hard to cull them all down!

Let's start by looking at the shoes and the fit before zooming in on some of the...quirks.

Firstly the fit. They're hugging my feet in all the right places and they're wide enough to completely encompass my flat feet. I mentioned on Instagram that when I originally started shoemaking I had no idea about lasts. This course has an entire class dedicated to lasts, their measurements and measuring lines to make sure you know where to start from. She also includes some charts to work off to make sure you choose a last that's the right size for you. This is when I learnt that even though I generally fit into a size 39 in the shops that is not the size last I should buy. I was in complete denial when I measured my feet and found out I'm actually a size 37. There's NO WAY my hammy feet would fit into a size 37 no matter how much I tried. However the charts also revealed I have the widest feet you can account for without having to buy fully customised lasts. This makes sense seeing as I have wide flat feet. So although I technically went down 2 sizes I went up a whole bunch of sizes in the width and TA DA! Magic.

They're a tiny bit tight at the moment - like that feeling you get when you buy new all leather shoes that need a little breaking in before they fit your feet. Also I learnt in the making of these that I like my shoes to have structure to them, to be firm and support my feet. I knew when I was trying to teach myself to make shoes (see here) that I kept making shoes that felt like slippers and I just wanted them to feel supportive. I really feel like I've achieved that with these shoes. They have the exact amount of flex and support that I like in a shoe. I can't believe my luck really.

You can also see in the photo below how much coverage of my feet they provide. I've spoken before about how I can never cover the sides of my feet because my feet are busy pushing the sides of the shoes under my foot. These shoes are really encasing my feet in a satisfying way. I think I'll fix up the neckline a little to dig out a couple of millimetres around the outsides of my feet but other than that the neckline is pretty spot on.

So let's get into the details of how they've turned out vs. how they're meant to turn out once you're adept at making shoes (which I'm clearly not yet). You can see below that while the neckline is really holding it's shape without a foot in it it's also quite messy. I really tried to topstitch the upper and lining together on my machine around the neckline but my machine just couldn't do it. This means the upper is simply  folded over and glued down and the lining is just glued to it. This is meant to be a bit neater once the stitches are there to hold everything in place. It would also give me a clearer guide of where to snip the lining which is a little hacky looking rather than neat. Something to work on.

I absolutely love the way the sole looks once it's attached. She talks you through skiving the edges so it softly follows the curve of the shoe. However the heel could be attached a lot neater. I'm currently doing all my sanding by hand so it looks quite rough but I think I will buy a dremel at some point so I can get a good, clean, polished edge on the sole and the heel.

You can see below that I accidentally put the right sole (pictured left) on a few millimetres further back than the left. This was a happy accident to find out that if the heel layer hangs out over the sole layer you can sand them back and make them look like they're one piece. However the left sole was put on a few millimetres more forward so I ended up with a gap between the layers that no amount of hammering would bring together. I'm glad I made this mistake on one of them so I could learn for next time.

From this angle you can also see that I left glue on the edges of the shoes when applying the soles. You're meant to rub an eraser over excess glue to get rid of it but that didn't seem to help so I'll be more careful next time and maybe apply masking tape around the edges to make sure it doesn't extend beyond that point.

Also this is just a sensory thing but they make a really satisfying sound when worn. Like they're actual shoes. I love that I've switched to working with veg tan leather for the soles. It's easier to work with and has such a great finish.

All in all I'm super impressed with how much I've learnt. My first attempt was successful because the instructions are couture-like. Detailed, considered but still accessible. I've really learnt just how much each millimetre affects the final shoe and the fit. I was miles away trying to teach myself but I feel like I could make just about anything now.

I have plans to make a pair of ballet flats in black that I can wear to work all the time plus I'm really keen to make sandals before the hot weather ends. Then I'm excited to make boots once the cold weather arrives. So you can imagine my head is spinning with possibilities. Just like the beginning of sewing I'm now only limited by my imagination. It's a wonderful place to be.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Starting with Shoemaking Courses Online - Gathering materials

As promised I'm back talking about Shoemaking!

As you may know I signed up to Shoemaking Courses Online as a Christmas present. I got the Gold Membership for 3 months which allows you access to every course streamed online or downloaded to your computer to watch and refer to later. 

To give you an idea of what shoes she's teaching you to make here is a list: ankle boots, slingback pumps, oxfords, sandals, knee high boots, high heel pumps, ballet flats (leather), ballet flats (fabric), wedge cork sandals, T strap pumps and moccasins. Plus she has specific courses for learning to measure and use lasts, make midsoles, make outsoles, make stacked heels and there are more courses on the way all the time.

I really can't recommend this course highly enough. It's like you're there in the studio of an expert shoemaker getting a bird's eye view of how to make shoes. Plus she talks you through common beginner mistakes as you go so you know what not to do and what to look out for. 

It's not, however, a casual hobby. Making shoes Sveta's way involves specific tools and materials that can be hard to find. So if you're going to learn to make shoes you need to commit. That's why I'm sharing my materials below. I would just love a group of people to learn shoemaking with so I hope this helps in some small way to those who want to give it a go but don't know where to start.

What's missing from this list is good shoemaking glue. I tried to source Klebfest which is non toxic and no odour shoemaking glue but I couldn't get it. It also comes in larger portions branded as Renia Aquilim but I can't seem to get that shipped to Australia. Instead I'm trying different brands of contact cement which are all highly smelly.

I haven't found topline tape that can be shipped to Australia yet. I also haven't decided on what to buy to skive with. I'm currently using my cutting knife to do it which is achievable but it would be better to invest in a tool that's designed to skive.

Materials I'm using which I already have:
- Mineral Turpentine
- Clear plastic bags
- Foam sheet
- Tack hammer
- Cutting Mat
- A3 paper and cardboard
- Masking tape 5cm width
- Pacer
- Compass
- Eraser
- Metal ruler

I think that's it in the way of materials. I started following the lessons a week and a half ago and if you're following along on Instagram you might have seen the below pictures. I've learnt to make my own ballet flat pattern based on the shape of my last. I've cut the leather and lining, skived it, reinforced it and glued it together. I've prepared the patterns for the midsole, counters and toe puffs, cut them out and I began lasting my first shoe on the last today.

It's hugely detailed work and every millimetre is well considered to ensure the right end result. I'm really enjoying the pace of it as I'm learning so much at each step.

With any luck I should have finished wearable ballet flats within a week - woohoo!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Living Slowly and the Aftereffects of Konmari - My life for the last 6 months

Hi There!

Blogger tells me that I haven't posted since last September which is a heck of a long time! Some things have been shifting for me over the last couple of months which has lead to this unintentional blog silence. I can't say that I'm back for sure or even regularly but hey I'm back right this moment and that's enough for now.

About 6 months ago I joined the KonMari frenzy which I spoke about here at great length. It really resonated with me and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of culling my belongings down to the things that brought me joy.

Since that post I've managed to inspire hubby to cull a whole heap of things he had hanging around as well. Even though he didn't actually read the book he really seemed to get it. He kept saying that opening boxes was like looking into our past lives and past hobbies. We were hanging onto things that used to bring us joy but we'd both changed, our interests had shifted and it was time to recognise who we are now, what we actually want in our lives and let our past selves go.

This whole process resulted in a huge garage sale 2 weekends ago which went quite well. We made more money than we thought and it was nice to see our long hoarded stuff being walked away by people who were happy to grab a bargain.

I was a bit wary of letting go of all our books because there was somewhere between 200 and 300 of them. Even though we sold quite a few on the day of the garage sale we were still left with about 10 boxes of books afterwards. We actually ended up putting them out again the next day with an honesty box asking for $1 a book. A girl who lives around the corner from me bought the entire 10 boxes in one fell swoop at a package price after we realised that she'd done the same uni course as me at the same uni around the same kind of time. Turns out she'd just put the finishing touches on her manuscript for a novel she's been writing that she's already got a publishing deal for. This sale really hit home for me. The items that I treasured the most and found the hardest to get rid of were taking up residence on an author's shelves destined to be read and in some way used as inspiration in her daily life and perhaps one day her writing. If nothing else this moment validated it all for me. The things that weren't bringing me joy and were cluttering up my space could bring joy to someone else and be just as meaningful.

Of course KonMari hasn't just stopped there. My house feels fresher, lighter and bigger. I hadn't realised until I moved all these items out just how stuck I'd felt in my life. I feel like I've been given a surge of new energy over the past couple of weeks which has all come from a renewed sense of order and joy in the belongings that surround me. I'm in control of my space not the other way around. Liberating, profound and simple.

And it's not over. Even though I've let go of a lot of things and even though my house feels different I'm still yet to rearrange what I've kept into their forever spots. I'm still revelling in the part of the process where I've fallen back in love with my house and I'm quietly observing where things should be kept now that they are the chosen items.

I'm still excited for the next part of the process where I rearrange things and I'm enjoying less clutter to clean up each week.

Apart from KonMari I've also been learning to live slower. About 4 months ago I got a new job working at a theatre locally to me. As in a 7 minute walk to work kind of local instead of a 3 hour daily commute. Needless to say it has been truly life changing. This new job comes with an RDO every 3 weeks and an hour long lunch break each day.

It's hard to explain just how much more living I've been doing as a result. I now have a big cooked breakfast every morning before work - because I have the time. I now cook up batches of lunches for the week - because I have the time. I now walk home and spend my hour long lunch break with my dog and sometimes my husband too - because I have the time. I now have something like 2 long weekends a month all dedicated to living more - because I have the time. Because life felt so incredibly fast and stressful before it's like I'm permanently on a bit of a holiday in my own life. Except it's real and it's every day.

I wondered whether all this time would result in more sewing but it's actually had the opposite effect. Something about Konmari still has my sewing output quite low and understandably so. Instead I've been super inspired in lots of other ways.

For instance we bough a vintage caravan a couple of months ago that I'm now starting to do up. She was built in 1956 in Leichhardt Sydney and I've gotten stuck into pulling out the doors, sanding back the walls and pulling out the old upholstery so I can redo it all. I can't WAIT until we can go caravanning in her in the next couple of months!

For my Christmas present I got a 3 month membership to ShoeMakingCoursesOnline.com and I've slowly been working my way through watching hundreds of hours of incredibly detailed content on how to make 17 different types of shoes. I've spent ages sourcing all the materials for making shoes her way and I'm now just waiting on my shoe glue and my new shoe lasts to arrive before I can get stuck into pattern making and then shoemaking!!

She ran an online seminar the other day about making your dream shoes which just about made my head explode. Do you remember when you first started making clothes and you realised what Frankenpatterning was? Where you could take the best parts of this pattern and mash it up with the best parts of that pattern and bring it all together to make something greater than the original? Well that's what this seminar was about. It explained how if you sign up to her paid classes on shoe design she will actually teach you how to frankenpattern any type of shoe ANY type of shoe by working off your basic patterns for each type of shoe. MIND. BLOWN.

Apart from all this inspiration I've also been influenced a great deal by a book and a documentary I read and saw at the end of last year. The book was called In Defense of Food and confirmed all of my suspicions about how badly I eat. If you know you eat too much sugar and want to figure out a way to eat better this is most definitely the book for you to read. I happened to read it around the same time as watching the documentary That Sugar Film which just hit home all over again. My eating habits are actually destructive to my body and I was caught in a loop I couldn't get out of. I've cut down my sugar intake and I'm slowly replacing packaged food with wholesome home cooked food. This was not something I could have a knee-jerk reaction about and try and quit all at once because I have quite an alarming addiction to sugar. I'm working on it slowly and even when I falter I'm much more aware of my choices and why I'm reaching for packaged foods which in itself is enough sometimes.

So there you have it. The last 6 or so months of my life has been about slowing down, refocussing and continually being inspired but not necessarily in the areas of sewing which is why I haven't shared anything. I'm not entirely sure if I'll be back here talking about sewing anytime soon and I think that's ok. I'm incredibly impatient to make myself some shoes with all this mind expanding knowledge I've acquired so I suspect this may turn into more of a shoemaking blog for a while.

I hope to be back soon with some things I can wear on my feet. Until then I hope some joy finds it's way into your life in one way or another.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Leather Tote Bag

I was in The Fabric Store the other week patting lots of gorgeous leathers wondering what I could buy to make myself a pair of sandals from. I had some birthday money to spend and had just received a shiny new sewing machine which I knew would handle sewing leather (more on that later!). I came across a half hide of this vibrant blue leather you see above and knew it was The One. When I unrolled it I realised I had enough to make multiple projects from it and so the idea was born to make myself a bag and a matching pair of shoes. Best. Idea. Ever.

I spoke in my last post Sewing after Konmari about how decluttering my life had lead me to refocus the way I sew. I was so overwhelmingly ready to tackle all the projects I'd put off as too hard. This clarity coupled with the fact that I recently started playing around with making my own leather sandals was what lead me to snap up this hide and face the fear of making my own leather bag.
I figured if I kept it as simple as possible, planned out all the details and made a mock up then I could achieve it. I'm assuming there are a few of you out there that want to do the same thing because I had quite a response to how I'd made it, what needles, thread, pattern etc so reader beware this will be quite an involved post.

I started by grabbing a few tote bags I had around the house and picking different elements from each of them. I discovered that I like tote bags with a square bottom to them with long and really sturdy straps. So that's where I started. I sketched out a plan with some measurements that worked for me and sewed a quick mock up in some scrap cotton to test the dimensions. I ended up with the following measurements.

I highly recommend making a pattern from your measurements from paper or cardboard to lay onto the leather for cutting. I measured this out really, really carefully with a ruler but still managed to cut it slightly wonky. It was easily fixed by straightening up the lines once I'd folded the piece on the dotted line but still, it's leather. Take the time. It's worth it. I used my rotary cutter on my cutting mat as normal and it cut straight through the leather no troubles.

Having the cutouts you see on the sides there meant I could have a square bottom to the bag without any bulk. If you're not sure how to sew this together you should google or pinterest sewing a square bottom bag. It's ridiculously easy. Trust me.

I sewed the side seams at a 1cm seam allowance but you could add more width to the pattern before starting if you want to give yourself some more allowance.

It's funny that I sewed up a small scrap of leather first and my machine refused to sew the leather with a leather needle in. However when I put the universal needle back in it was fine to sew through it. I had to change my tension to 9 to get the stitches nice and even but once I'd figured that out it was humming along nicely. And to be sure my test piece was 3 layers of leather to make sure it could sew bulk as well. I used regular thread for this and had no troubles.

Once the side seams were sewn together I turned the bag right side out and realised it would need a little help keeping those seams looking neat. The photo on the left above shows what the seams look like straight off the sewing machine. I turned it on itself again and got my hammer out. Life got you down? Hammer those seams! Bad day at work? Hammer those seams! Not enough time in your life to sew? Hammer those seams!! It's therapeutic.

Also top tip from Rosie at Artworker Projects - boil a kettle and hold the leather over the steam to make it more pliable before working with it - works a treat! Also I love that a hammer and kettle have snuck into my sewing tool arsenal. Best.

As you can see from the picture on the right above the whole bag looks nicer, cleaner and more professional once you've hammered those seams. Hammers are friends now.

I decided on 70cm long straps but spent a full week mulling over how best to construct and sew them. I knew I wanted to have two layers of leather which would be sewn together to make for a sturdier strap. What I didn't know was how to sew them without creating too much bulk. I toyed with stripping back the fleshy part of the leather to reduce bulk where the strap met the bag but this would still add weight to the strap when the bag lay open and I was fond of the bag being able to stand up by itself as much as the leather would allow. I knew I wanted a 3cm wide strap and so a 3cm long section of the strap would be nice to be sewn onto the bag to make a square I could sew an X into to make the whole thing neat. In the end I chose to cut piece 1 of the strap at 70cm and piece 2 of the strap at 76cm which would give me the spare 3cm at either end.

I took my time topstitching the straps and then neatening the edges with my rotary cutter afterwards. Once the straps were sewn together I butted piece 1 up against the edge of the bag and sewed piece 2 down. This was probably the most terrifying part of the whole thing- topstitching that had to be straight and perfect to create a square and then an X in the middle of it. I had to take breaks throughout this process so I didn't psych myself out.

I love the way the straps turned out. They sit flush with the top of the bag when being carried but fold over neatly when hanging open and don't pull the bag down with their weight. It's really satisfying.

And here's what the bag looks like on the inside.

I bought some products to seal the suede and keep the leather conditioned which I'm yet to apply to the bag. I've also left all the edges raw. I'll be buying some burnishing wax really soon seeing as I'll need it for this as well as any leather sandals I make in the future. But it'll be ok to use for a little while until I seal it properly. I just won't be taking it out in the rain in a hurry.

So that's the story of my leather tote bag. I had to cut this out of the half hide first to make sure I'd be able to get all the pieces out of it. The next project for this leather is to make a pair of matching sandals to go with the bag. I'm excited!

I made a mock up of a leather sandal the other week and learnt a lot so I'll be tweaking a few things about the pattern before attempting the sandals. Can't wait!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sewing after Konmari

Konmari is a powerful thing. It's been the single most effective method for teaching me to live with less, to curate my belongings and really love what I own.

I saw this book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising on instagram. All over it in fact. It seems everyone in blogland was getting their hands on this book and changing their lives. I wasn't sure what this book could really offer me. I mean I'm creative by nature which means I'm absent minded. I put things down, get distracted, wander off and then wonder where I put that Really Important Thing. I spend ages looking for it only to find it in some nonsensical or sometimes really obvious spot.

Things don't always have homes when you are this way.

Also I'm very much a Right This Moment kind of person. If some idea strikes me I put everything down and go in the direction of the idea often leaving things scattered about the house in my wake. I know I'll come back to them later. Cleaning is always for later. Later, later, later. The idea is always more important, cleaning up the boring things that aren't giving me inspiration is not.

So it's fair to say that my house is not tidy.

With that said how did this little book with a simple message cut through all that?

With joy.

The idea is simple and powerful. Take the things you own. Put them in your hands, those hands of yours that have veins flowing right to your heart, and measure the joy or absence of joy you feel by holding these objects close.

I wasn't really a believer as I was reading the book to be honest but there was this incredibly powerful urge to try it nonetheless. No sooner had I read about purging my wardrobe than I was on the floor of my bedroom heaving my tatty collection of shoes onto the floor. I gripped those suckers in my hands and willed my heart to decide whether to keep them or not. And wouldn't you know it. My joy-o-meter was already fully functioning without me knowing. I was piling up shoes to give the old heave-ho quicker than you can say The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising. It's a pretty long title though don't you think?

To give you some perspective on this giddy beginning I am one of those people who doesn't drive. I have my Learner's permit which I've had on and off for the last 15 years with about as many hours driving experience. This means I walk EVERYWHERE and don't my shoes know it. I hold onto shoes far too long. I put them in the back recesses of my wardobe and think I can't possibly wear them out in public anymore. But then I can't possibly throw them away. They're like my lifelong pals or something. Anyway, it's weird. That was until I Konmari-ed the sh*t out of my shoe collection. Giddy I was. Giddy I tell you. Suddenly I wanted to throw EVERYTHING out.

My clothes, including my handmades, were no obstacle for this girl. I was on a rampage. I went through every bit of storage we had in our bedroom (we have a quite a lot because of built ins) and I tossed out box after box of stuff I would normally have called sentimental or lovely memories. They weren't lovely memories, let me tell you. They were things, objects I didn't need and just made me feel guilty when I opened up boxes. Oh so-and-so gave me that, I should probably put it on display somewhere. Like my house is a giant museum of outdated objects that the other person has probably completely forgotten they gifted them to me.

I stared down not one but two overflowing Ikea Expedit's crammed full of books. Books that sat gathering dust on the shelves while I happily wandered to the library every Saturday morning. I even found myself borrowing something from the library that I had on one of my bookshelves but it was just more exciting to borrow it than to fetch it, dust it off and read it from my forgotten bookshelves. We ended up piling up the books we did want to keep and cramming an entire Expedit full of all the books which wouldn't make it.

To be clear all this stuff I had accumulated that I didn't want made it's way to our garage. We'll be organising a giant garage sale in the coming weeks and I mean giant.

So where does this leave me with sewing? I know this is a sensitive topic for some because I've seen a bit of conversation about it on instagram as we sewists navigate letting go of the most beloved things we own in our houses. My sewing room was not brutal like the rest of my house. My tossing out of patterns (for the garage sale remember? Calm down) was pretty frenzied, my crafty stash of buttons and beads a little less so and then fabric was the smallest pile.

The hardest thing for me to justify letting go is fabric. I'm one of those people that actually makes muslins now. So any fabric, no matter how hideous, is useful. I can carve it up, draw all over it and perfect it to my heart's content. All in the name of learning.

So I didn't really cull the stash much. Although to be fair my entire stash fits in 4 squares of an Expedit. Which I imagine is pretty small by most sewists standards.

This exercise was great for my sewing. Let's face it most things are incredibly inspiring when it comes to sewing. Oh look I cleaned enough to see the floor - let me sew something! Oh look I discovered that really great pattern from the internet in my existing pattern stash already - let me sew it immediately! Oh look I hung all my tools back up on my pegboard - let me sew something! You get the idea.

My Konmari was quite a few weeks ago now though and I've started to feel uneasy about my sewing. There was something really wonderful about the fervour of Konmari. It really hones in on what brings you joy and what you really don't need hanging about cluttering up the place. And while I don't have an excessive stash of fabric or patterns (even less so now) this idea of joy is bugging me more now than ever.

I thought it was nice that I came out of Konmari ready to muslin my first pair of pants, my first jacket, my first attempt at sewing for hubby, my first attempt at sewing a swimming cossie. I thought it was both great and convenient that I was so ultra focussed that all the things that had fear attached to them seemed to jump to the top of the queue without question. But I didn't know why. Why can't I sew another dress anymore? Why can't I sew another shirt anymore? Why? Why? Why? 

Apart from the nasty episode with my sewing machine being in for a service for way too long, I've been avoiding my sewing room without reason for far too long. I've finished some projects off that I've started but I can't bring myself to make anything new from start to finish.

But it dawned on me the other day. The reason for my discontent.

I have too much joy.

That might sound ridiculous, so stay with me here. When I make a new dress it brings me a sh*t ton of joy. I get the joy of buying fabric, the joy of sewing it, the joy of instagramming it, the joy of blogging it and then the ongoing joy of wearing it. That's not too much joy. That's normal for us.
What's got me in a bind is how many things I make for myself. Last year I made myself a great jersey winter dress and loved that dress to death. Not actually. It's great fabric so it still looks the same today as it did the day I made it, but you get what I'm saying. This year I decided I loved that winter dress so much that I would make another and another and another and another out of jersey, ponte and scuba and then I loved them so much I made another winter dress in chambray.

So. Much. Joy.


But when is it too much joy?

Just because I can make myself a ton of dresses and bring myself joy along the way and every single time I hold them in my hands, does that justify it? Is it ok for me to have a collection of dresses that eventually won't fit into my wardrobe just because it brings me joy? Doesn't this cycle get selfish somewhere along the way? And unsustainable?

Here is the crux of simplifying things. I don't want so many handmade clothes anymore. I mean I want the ones I've made. I love them. They define me.

But maybe I don't want to churn out clothes just because I'm at a skill level where I can look at a piece of fabric and just about turn it into whatever I like.

I think it really is time to pull back on wardrobe filling. I don't want to play the RTW game with handmades.

That's why I want to sew in unchartered territory. Make some pants, a jacket, a few great shirts for my husband. Sure I'll make stuff for myself along the way. I'll allow myself to be frivolous from time to time but I don't want the burden of all that joy overflowing from my wardrobe.

Know what I mean?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sewaholic Shirt Dress - Oakridge + Hollyburn + Cambie

I'm a Sewaholic girl. You probably know that by now and don't need me to tell you. So when I decided to make myself a shirt dress it seemed perfectly normal to me not to buy a new pattern but to mash up some patterns I already knew fitted and suited me well. 

This Shirt Dress is a mashup of Sewholic's Oakridge Shirt which I made here and the Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt which I made here and here. I also added in the waistband from the Sewaholic Cambie which I made here and here. I know these patterns well. They fit me, they suit me and I wear them a lot. So it just made sense to put them together to make a dress out of them.

I cut the Oakridge down to my natural waist and pinned the Cambie waistband to it. It showed me that the top part was going to be quite blousey rather than fitted. I ended up liking the slightly looser feel of the top and cut a longer Cambie waistband so it would accommodate the little bit of ease. Once I was happy with the fit I sewed the Oakridge pieces together as per the instructions, sewed the Hollyburn pieces together as per the instructions then sewed the Oakridge and the Hollyburn to the Cambie waistband. The pieces were obviously not perfectly aligned since they weren't designed to go together but I'd cut a longer waistband so it was easy to sew it together and just use the fabric I actually needed. 

While I was cutting all my pieces out I measured from my collarbone down to my knee to make sure I was cutting a placket piece long enough. I remember adding a little extra length on again just in case. It was a simple matter of laying the placket piece on the fabric and extending the piece down to the measurement I'd taken. 

I sewed the placket up as normal, sewed on the collar/bow piece and it all came together really smoothly.

I made it from a plum/purple coloured polka dot chambray I bought from fabric.com a while ago. I've always loved the look of other people's chambray clothes and decided I needed to try it myself. It's lovely to sew with and just as lovely to wear. I think there'll be a lot more of it in my wardrobe before too long.

Everything went well on this make except of course for my sewing machine. Which was having serious issues with holding tension at the time. I once spent 2 hours trying to fix the tension and nothing I did could fix it. I took it in for a service which, instead of taking 7-10 days like they quoted, took 4 WEEKS. Once I got the machine back it was sewing much more nicely but they hadn't bothered to fix the tension properly which I had to fix myself. Luckily the machine was behaving enough for me to be able to do that. Ugh never going there again.

All that I was left with was sewing 12 buttonholes to get this girl finished. Thankfully my machine didn't eat the dress after all that and I managed to hand sew 11 buttons onto the dress. The 12th button  which was intended as the last button at the bottom of the placket went MIA so if anyone finds it let me know, k?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sewaholic Oakridge in Cloud 9 Fabric

I'm back again with another piece that I sewed a while ago and has had a bit of wear at work. It's the Sewaholic Oakridge without the bow and cuffs. This pattern is kind of perfect for me. I love a simple rounded neckline on tops and I love having the option of adding in the bow. The shape of it is really slim so it's flattering for a pear shape. I ordinarily avoid button up shirts like the plague because they tend to make my torso a bit rectangular and draw attention to the size of my hips which is obviously my widest point. Tasia gets that making a shirt pattern work for a pear shape means keeping everything very slimline and really nipping the silhouette in at the bust and waist to make sure it balances out against your hips.

Based on my measurements I made an 8 bust grading to a 10 waist and hips. I was a bit worried about the sizing to be honest. Every single Sewaholic top I've made I've had to size down to an 8 after finding that their version of a 10 swims a bit on me. However this is a super slim fit and I only just fit into the bust of this shirt. I always wondered if my measurements would catch up with me one day. Most of my bust measurement is my ribcage not my bust - like more than normal, if that makes sense.

This is the first time I've encountered pulling in the bust region - I guess I should enjoy this moment a little? I've still got 2 more versions of this shirt in the works (more on that later) that are cut against the same measurements so if I happen to make a 4th version I think I'll make it a straight size 10.

This photo below probably gives you the best idea of the fit and sizing. The shirt looks fine with my arms down but as soon as I use my arms for anything it pulls. To be honest I can feel this a little when I wear it but I hadn't realised just how bad it was until I took these photos. It's handy having a blog sometimes!

The sleeves on this pattern are also super slim. I love them but I'm torn between keeping them this size or sizing up a smidge just for a bit more elbow room. Also seeing as this was my first time sewing up a button up long sleeved shirt I kind of forgot to measure the length of the sleeves before going to attach the cuff. This is obviously quite a mistake when you're 5"2. Once I realised my mistake I also realised the sleeves were the perfect length sans cuff which is 6 centimetres shy of what they should be. Since the placket on the sleeve was also 6 centimetres and I'd already sewn it on I kind of just had to hem them and sew on a snap. It's not the prettiest solution but it works.

I'm always a little bit terrified of sewing the buttonholes on last but these turned out perfectly. Turns out I didn't need all that procrastination.

It has a little bit of pooling in the lower back but nothing I can't deal with. I think I'll predominantly making this pattern in silks and crepe de chines and tucking them into skirts so I'm not too fussed.

I made this first version in cotton because I could easily fix any fit issues by sneaking any extra fabric from the seam allowances but I didn't really need to. Every other version I have planned is silk or crepe de chine so I wanted to steer clear of french seams on a shirt I hadn't muslined.

The very next version I cut out straight after making this one is a peach cotton silk with a subtle polkadot running through it. It's been maturing in my stash waiting for the perfect pattern and I'm so glad it is turning into an Oakridge. I looks quite pink in the below photo when I was deliberating over which buttons to use. Such is my fear of sewing buttonholes that I started on one cuff and my sewing machine crapped itself half way through the button hole. So it's sitting on a hanger about 99% done until I get up the courage to try out some buttonholes again.

I've also got quite an epic Oakridge in the pipeline at the moment too. It's the ultimate Sewaholic mashup with an Oakridge down to the waist, a Hollyburn skirt and a Cambie waistband to keep it all hanging nicely. It's in this lovely purple polka dot chambray. It too is about 99% finished and only requires buttonholes. I'm sensing a theme here.

All in all this is a great pattern and I think I'll be making more. I think sizing up the bust and the sleeves will make for a perfect fitting shirt.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Two Linen Hollyburn Skirts

I love the shape of the Hollyburn skirt. I made this one a while ago but I neglected to cut the two front pieces on the right grain line. I cut them on the fold and ended up with a skirt that had a lot of swish at the side seams but no swish in the centre front. I'd been meaning to sew another one up for ages but it wasn't until I spied this mint green linen at My Hung that it all fell into place.

This pattern is a pretty easy sew except for the waistline for me. I realise this is now a problem area for me after making 3 different types of skirts with straight waistbands. My pear-shaped-ness is most pronounced right at my waist and literally within 2-3cm below my waist my measurements climb rapidly so there's no hope for a straight waistband to ever sit flat on me. To fix the problem on this one I ended up pinning the zipper into place at the back and sewing it in with a 3cm seam allowance at the top, grading to nothing by the end of the zipper. It's a clunky fix and I'd much rather learn to draft a curved waistband so I can do this forevermore but for this skirt (and the one following) it's good enough.

The linen was great to work with and I now understand the crinkle-fest that comes with wearing linen. I adore the mint green shade of this fabric but it's unfortunately a bit sheer so it doesn't get worn as much as my other Hollyburn because of that. I'm wearing it here with a Burdastyle Lydia made in a knit from Spotlight. 

This version of the Hollyburn is made exactly the same as the mint green one. Only this one is a cotton linen blend. I have to say that while I loved working with the linen I enjoyed sewing and wearing this one more. The cotton content means that it doesn't wrinkle like crazy and it has a bit more body to it. You might not be able to tell from these photos but the linen really drapes whereas the cotton linen is just a bit sharper and crisper and has body to hold the silhouette better.

I think if I sew with linen again I'll always try to pick a cotton linen blend.

I love that this skirt is versatile enough that I can wear it in all seasons. The mint linen version got worn more in autumn whereas this navy cotton linen version has been great to wear with tights during winter. I'm wearing it here with my black & white striped peplum top. I went a bit mad over peplum tops 3 years ago and wasn't sure what to do with them now that I've fallen out of love with the silhouette. Luckily they're perfect for this kind of skirt that sits right on your waist and hides the peplum away.

I'm not sure I'm done with this pattern yet because it's just such a great skirt and it fits into my wardrobe really well. Two versions should do me for this year at least though!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lekala 4345 - An instant TNT

I've found a new favourite dress pattern! I've been eyeing off the Lekala website for ages now wondering whether to take the leap with their patterns or not. If you haven't come across them yet you might want to get your credit card at the ready before clicking through. They have thousands and thousands of patterns to trawl through. Their point of difference is their sizing though. Instead of downloading a multi size pattern or even a single size pattern this site has you plug in your exact measurements. It then works some pattern making magic and emails you through your unique copy of the pattern based on those measurements. It's pdf only which I don't mind and every pattern on their site is around $3. I've had great success with their patterns fitting straight out of the "envelope" so I can highly recommend them so far.

The only thing I will warn you about is if you're pear shaped and /or have a flat belly. They make you enter a full hip measurement that needs to be higher than your hip measurement (which mine isn't because of my flat belly). Mine was basically the same but since I had to enter a higher number I made my full hip 2 cm bigger than my hip measurement. I ended up having to take this 2cm out of the dress when making it the first time. Not a huge deal as I'm pretty sure this would be a massive drawcard to anyone with a bit of a belly but something to think about when plugging in your measurements.

So let's talk about the dress! It's Lekala 4345 and as you can see from the line drawing below it has quite a lot of pattern pieces.

I was drawn to this pattern firstly because the shape of it is something I love to wear. Secondly it has princess seams across the bust which makes for a great fit for a small busted lady like myself. Although I'm sure they're good for a bigger bust too? I also loved that although it has a full skirt the fullness doesn't start at the actual waist. That middle panel across the waistline makes sure everything lies flat against your belly and only introduces all of the fullness gradually across that arc. I find this super flattering and it's the reason I found myself making 3 of these in quick succession.

The first version I made was back when the weather was a bit warmer. I used this bright and heavy cotton pique fabric which gave the skirt a bit more fullness. I initially made it with the little cap sleeves but they were an epic fail. They sewed on fine but they looked absolutely awful on and were so tight they would likely cut off blood circulation. I haven't had any problems with my shoulder width before (or maybe I haven't noticed) but my shoulders were most definitely way too wide for this pattern. Luckily the dress looks great sleeveless so I was able to sew bias binding around the arm holes and move on with my life. Also I have to mention just how great the armscye is on this pattern. The way it fits the body and the shape of it is really comfy and pleasing. I never thought I'd say that about an armscye but I bloody love this one.

I sewed a lapped zipper because that's my preference. I love how the back has the same shaped pieces as the front so it continues the fit round the middle and the same fullness in the skirt. I find this dress so fun and swishy to wear.

As soon as I started to wear this dress I imagined making a long sleeved version in ponte. As the weather cooled down I made a plan to sew up a bunch of warm winter dresses and this pattern didn't disappoint. I had to modify it a little bit to make it all work out but it wasn't very hard. Since I was going to omit the zipper I laid out my pattern pieces and figured out what needed to be cut on the fold instead. I laid the front side pieces over the Burdastyle Lydia (read Renfrew if you have that pattern?) which I use as my knit block. I redrew the front side pattern piece using the armscye from my knit block. I did the same on the back side pattern piece and then used my regular long sleeve from my knit block and everything went swimmingly around the armhole/arms. The only thing I hadn't figured out in advance was what seam allowance to sew it at seeing as I was allowing for some negative stretch. I knew since I was using ponte it would be more stable and less stretchy than a regular knit so I sewed the front top pieces and back top pieces with a 1.5 cm seam allowance rather than a 1cm seam allowance. This pretty much sorted out the fit. I did have to nip in the sides from the bust down to the hip on the side seams but this was super easy because I pinned, sewed and voila it fit. The only thing that didn't work so well was the neckline. Because I changed the seam allowance I made the neckline much wider than intended. This literally only just covers my bra straps. I couldn't turn it under to finish the edges so I left it raw. And when I say I left it raw I mean I left the hem and the sleeves raw too. Because solidarity.

I have to say that this version is my absolute favourite of the three versions I've made. I love the others too and they all get a LOT of wear especially since I discovered fleece lined tights (life changing!) but this one is the most me of the lot. The drape of this ponte is gorgeous and the whole thing feels so feminine while also being oh so very warm. Why have I not made millions of winter dresses before?? The thing that keeps me coming back to this pattern can be seen really well from this angle below. 

I made a black knit winter dress last year and love it to death. Seriously it's embarrassing the sheer amount of times I've worn that dress now. However it just hugs you around the bodice and that's about it. Whereas have a look at this beauty below. Those princess seams and that lovely arc of a seam is giving my bust, ribcage and waist great definition. It's more figure hugging and flattering than any knit dress I've made before. I really feel like it's winter knit dress mach two. It's taken flattering knit dress to another level. 

Oh listen to me go on!

So of course I couldn't stop there when I was onto such a winner. Third time around I made this floral number from some scuba fabric. Scuba. Did not think I would ever write that. What you see here is a floral wetsuit. Even though most people know I sew my own clothes this dress seems to impress them more than anything I've made. Maybe the fabric looks a lot more RTW than the stuff I usually choose?

The only change I made to this version was to add a 1.5cm sliver at the neckline of the front and back pieces to make sure the neckline wasn't so wide as the other one. Apart from that it's the exact same. I also didn't hem this one. Because solidarity.

As I've mentioned I really love this pattern and I know I'm not done with it yet. I plan to make another summer dress from it later in the year and then maybe I'll decide if 4 versions of the same pattern might just be enough to keep me happy forever.

Never say never though.