Friday, November 21, 2014

Hummingbird Belcarra

I'm back again. This time with a Sewaholic Belcarra blouse made from this great Hummingbird Crepe de Chine I picked up at Spotlight last year. I went back to my original post on planning my handmade wardrobe to see what I originally bought the fabric for. Apparently it was going to be a Deer & Doe Datura. So glad it turned into a Belcarra though. The fabric is perfect for this pattern.

I made my first version of this pattern last year in a black crepe also from Spotlight. It has been the perfect wardrobe filler and I loved the drape of the fabric. Even though my measurements sit pretty squarely in a size 10 I found my first version in a size 10 to be too roomy for my taste. This time I sized down to an 8. Luckily for me Sewaholic patterns are all about pear shaped bodies so I didn't even need to worry about getting the size 8 to sit nicely on my hips. It was already drafted that way.

I did find it super annoying that my bra straps were constantly on show with the first version and I know it's not the fabric. It's definitely the pattern. Luckily it's an easy fix so I was able to grade the neckline portion of my sleeve pieces out to 1cm directly across my shoulders. I can see why this might not have been something that Sewaholic were keen to change about the pattern before releasing it. Once I'd graded the pieces and tried it on I found the neckline quite square-ish. Luckily once you sew your neckline seam it smooths it out so it's more of a curve. It doesn't look quite as flattering as the photo shoot pictures on their website but it's close enough and now I don't have to adjust the top constantly so I'm good with that.

Worn here with my Teal Green Kelly Skirt
I french seamed the entire top and folded the hem up and stitched it. The only thing I bungled up was the neckline. I remembered having trouble with it last time so I tried to outsmart the pattern. I treated the neckline bias cut piece like bias tape and topstitched it down only to find the whole neckline gaping. I ended up folding the neckline over itself and topstitching it down again. Which kind of saved the day although it's a bit dodgy looking in some parts. Note to self. Just Follow The Damn Pattern.

I really love the drape and simple lines of this top and I'll be making a few more before the summer's out. It's a really wearable top and easy to dress up and down.

In other news I got a pegboard in my sewing room and I'm in LOVE. I'm really good at returning my things to their designated spot now. I can find things in my sewing room. Hooray!

I'll leave you with a blurry outtake of what happens when you try to take a photo with a Dalmation puppy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Singlets Galore!

Hi again!

I'm back again with a brand new (to me) pattern which I'm certain has made it into my small collection of TNT's. This is the Baseball Singlet by Measure Twice Cut Once. 

I've been wearing the same RTW singlet tops for somewhere between 5 and 6 years now and it's really time to lay them all to rest. While I've been wanting to sew singlet tops for ages I hadn't managed to come across a simple pattern that looked flattering enough. Enter the Baseball Singlet. It's part of Measure Twice Cut Once's Basics Collection which is just an all round awesome idea. Basics are things we all really want to sew but either never get around to or can't find basic and flattering patterns for. This pattern ticks all the boxes. Also I've hung out with Susan a bunch of times now and she's awesome so of course I had to buy one of her patterns!

I've been struggling with inspiration overload post-wedding-dress-sewing. I'm itching to sew every day and my list of things to sew is the longest it's ever been. It's as if I'm trying to make up for the lost time I spent working on only one project. I've partly combatted this by planning out a summer wardrobe and keeping tabs of it on a chalkboard in my sewing room. So I know that these tops will go with my future shorts and skirts that are coming up soon in my sewing queue.

So the pattern. I printed off the all sizes option because I'm pear shaped and always have to grade between sizes. It was so satisfying to only have around 10 pieces of paper to tape together before getting on with the sewing! My measurements fell pretty neatly into a size 10 at the bust, size 14 at the waist and size 14 at the hip. I graded the pattern before making a muslin and sliced a bit off the sides of the bust on my pattern as I fell more into a size 9 once I'd tried it on.

I had a bit of a head scratching moment when it came to finish the edges because I hadn't thought that far so I actually read the instructions. Lo and behold it told me I could fold over 1cm and stretch stitch it down. Stretch stitch? Excuse me? A stitch for stretch fabric that no one told me about or mentioned? Gobsmacked I stared my machine down to realise that straight stitch was number 00 and stretch stitch was number 01. For real. 

So I did what the instructions said and turned it over 1cm and stretch stitched it down. 

And. It. Was. Perfect. 

I can't believe I've been sewing for 4 years and not come across this before. It's times like this I really wish I didn't have such large gaps in my sewing knowledge. I don't know what I don't know so I don't know what I need to learn. 

Of course I was so excited I cut out 5 of these and started sewing them immediately. I chose Cotton Jersey in 4 different colours and a print but they're all slightly different weights and quality. I tried each of them on after overlocking the seams so I could check the fit. Sure enough two of them were fine from the pattern and two of them were too big so I marked them with chalk and sewed them up a bit tighter. Then I stretch stitched all their edges.

So let's talk about this magical stretch stitch. If you try it on a stable Cotton Jersey it's going to feel like the clouds are parting and the sun is shining directly down on your machine as you sew. You pull on the fabric and the stitches just stretch themselves out to accommodate all dreamy-like. However if you deign to put a lightweight Cotton jersey under the needle for stretch stitching it is going to turn your machine into a jersey eating monster. My white and black versions didn't survive stretch stitch unscathed. They're still wearable because, let's face it, the thing fits and looks good on and nobody but my spoolettes are going to peek closely at my stitching. So I'm good.

In terms of the pattern I found the scoopy bit at the bottom way too long so I chopped it off. I'm 5"2 and it looked more like a tunic. I initially cut the pattern to the bottom notch which is the end of your side seam. After trying on the muslin I decided to make it 2 centimetres longer so I wrote it on my pattern to remind myself for next time. I like my singlet tops long because I tell myself it makes me look taller. Also it's helpful when wearing them with jeans for when your bending and moving about - they still overlap the top of your jeans for maximum coverage - if you know what I mean.

Now let's talk about this type of finish. I'm not fussy with the finish on my jersey garments. I've made many a Jersey thing I haven't hemmed because. Well because. So knowing that I could just turn and stitch was awesome for me. If you have a look at the insides you'll see that the edges curl up a bit. This isn't noticeable when you're wearing it but if you're fussy about finishing on jersey you're probably going to want to bind your edges. Which is way more work but would probably look a whole lot more profesh than what I've got. But I sewed these all up in one weekend. So I'm good.

FYI the back looks pretty great too.

I'll definitely be making more of these but next time I'll be scouting around for good quality, good weight cotton jersey so I can make singlet tops that will last as long as my old RTW ones. 

I'll leave you with a picture of me looking pretty smug about my new collection of tops. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dandelions Mimi Blouse

Hi there! I'm waiting until I get my professional wedding photos back before I show you proper pictures of my wedding dress but in the mean time I'm officially back to regular blogging and I'm excited to make ALL of the things!

I had intended to make a little summer sundress as my first project but the muslin didn't go so well and then I forgot I needed lining and then I bought the wrong coloured zip - I'm such a rookie after not having sewn proper projects for months! So here I am instead with a summer top.

This is the Mimi Blouse from Tilly and the Button's Love At First Stitch book. I was obsessed with this pattern when I saw the book released and it climbed to the top of my to-sew list pretty quickly. Mostly because I had this Dandelion Cotton Voile in my stash waiting to become a summer top.

I made a size 2 grading out to a size 3 at the hips but I think if I ever made it again I'd just make a straight 2 because it's actually really roomy around my hips which is great news for anyone that's pear shaped and attempting to make this pattern!

I had a few fights with this along the way. Firstly I chose the wrong fabric. Cotton Voile is just a little too crisp for this kind of blouse. It would really sit a lot better if the fabric had even just a little bit of drape to it. As soon as I starting gathering it started to look poufy rather than cute. Then I had a bit of a heart attack when I realised just how big those sleeves on the pattern are meant to be. They nearly come down to Tilly's elbows! Somehow I'd managed to overlook that until it was time to sew them on. I'm kind of glad though because I quite like it sleeveless.

I think I ended up taking 3 centimetres off the armholes to make it sit right but I'd make it 2 or 2.5 centimetres next time because my bra strap peeks out every now and then which I didn't anticipate.

Then I went to slipstitch all the facings down on the inside and realised that Cotton Voile shows every tiny stitch in it, who know? My solution was to measure how wide my buttons were and cut the facings to around that width and topstitch it all down as if it were a placket. I'm quite a fan of topstitching so this was fine by me and in a way helped me with the positioning of the buttons later.

I didn't have enough of this navy cotton to make both sides of the collar so you can see the dandelion print on the underneath but I'm glad I still went with the contrast. I think this fabric would have washed me out too much without the strong collar and button colour.

I'm not in love with the back of this top. When I first put it on it makes my back look pregnant. I'm pretty sure this is a combination of choosing the wrong fabric and having a sway back where fabric tends to pool. I'm going to pat the fabric down along my back when I put it on and hope for the best? God I type some strange sentences into this blog sometimes!

Overall I like this top and I'll wear it over summer because it's light and easy but if I'm going to make a blouse like this again I'm probably going to choose something with darts instead so it's sits on my body properly. It's a cute pattern and great for beginners because gathering is much easier to get your head around than darts in the beginning but it's not really for me.

I happen to be at the beginning of one of those weekends where you have nothing planned and nowhere to be - bliss!! So I'm pretty sure I'll be back really soon with a bunch of new things for my summer wardrobe.

It feels good to be back!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Making My Wedding Dress: Stop Motion Animation

I've been keeping a secret from you. Just before I started making my wedding dress I bought a tripod and decided to take hundreds of photos throughout the process and knit them all together into a video. The biggest reason for this was something I read in a self help book.

Don't get me wrong I'm really not a self help book kinda person but this one caught me. The book is called The Happiness Project and while most of the book was pretty hard to get through it did make me look at my happiness in a different way. 

She talks about happiness not just being an in-the-moment thing but a 3 part thing. Happiness first starts in the anticipation of something you're looking forward to. In this case planning a wedding dress, selecting fabrics and embellishments, making muslins and looking forward to the moment when you actually get to enjoy this thing you've been waiting for. Then there's the actual happiness of being in the moment. Wearing the dress, sharing it with the world and watching this thing materialise that you've been looking forward to. And finally the happiness in reminiscing about this thing. In this case the lifetime long memories of a wedding dress made and worn on one of the most significant days of your life and caught on camera to look back on for years to come.

This is the thing I wanted to recognise. Making a wedding dress was as much about the journey as the destination. On top of that it will also be about the story I get to tell when I look back on what I've made. 

Since happiness is something that I can enjoy in multiple stages in different ways I really wanted to find the maximum amount of joy out of it. So I made a video. One that captures the joy of the details, the fabrics being prepared, sewn together, adjusted, moulded to my person and finally ending up as something that gets to be worn and enjoyed only for a day but thought upon and shared for many years to come.

That's not to say that this process has all been fun and games. It has not. If you've been following along you'd know that I had to throw out two bodice patterns before my third-time-lucky Simplicity pattern. You might also know I had to throw out two skirt patterns before my third-time-lucky three-quarter circle skirt solution. So perhaps it will come as no surprise to you that I didn't just make one wedding dress bodice or two for that matter. I made three. My third-time-lucky bodice thankfully turned out to be the one. So I guess this is the third-time-lucky third-time-lucky dress. And let's not even talk about my zipper breaking just before I went to hem the dress.

It's been real.

So without further ado here she is, my wedding dress.

I'm scheduling this post to go live right as future me is walking down the aisle in this very dress. You can follow along with some wedding photos by following the hashtag #benbrookwedding.

I'll be back with a little more info on the dress in the coming weeks particularly because this video will show you the most peculiar order of construction I went through to get this together.

Time to dance!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Making My Wedding Dress: The Time Has Come To Make The Dress

About 2 months ago I walked into Studio Fabrics and bought all the fabric I needed to make my wedding dress. I've kept it hidden in my sewing room all this time although I did bring it out a couple of times just to look at it and imagine the final dress.

For those of you who've been following along with this you'll know that I shared some original inspiration, made many muslins, perfected the skirt portion of the dress and got thoroughly overwhelmed on how to embellish the dress.

It's been a long journey so far and I haven't even started making the wedding dress for real yet.

I really mulled over all the inspiration for how to embellish this dress for a long time. I trawled through all the pictures on my pinterest boards, I read every comment left as advice or encouragement and I talked it over with some people to clear my mind.

I've made the decision that this dress doesn't have to look like it fell off pinterest and onto my body. It doesn't have to be sequinned, jewelled or adorned in any way that doesn't feel natural to me. In fact it doesn't have to be embellished at all.

I chose fabrics that I love. They may be simple and classic but they're fabrics that I couldn't get out of my head once I walked out of the fabric store.

In the end I wrote down three words that had to express what I wanted in this dress.

Classic. Feminine. Romantic.

These are the words that I came up with and they made me realise that the simpler the dress the better. I'm going to let my fabrics speak for themselves and I am relieved.

This picture is proof that my sewing room is the cleanest it's ever been. I even moved my stash to the shelves right beside my sewing table so that my whole experience sewing in there is inspired by fabric. Nothing else.

We've done extensive landscaping and turfing in the backyard to get it ready for the wedding and it calms me to be sewing this dress while overlooking my wedding venue. It allows me to keep everything in perspective.

So there's going to be a big long silence on this blog until the October long weekend. Thank goodness I've got my Spoolettes to hang out with and Frocktails to look forward to. It will keep me sane in the middle of the biggest sewing project of my life.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Blue Ponte Top

A couple of weeks ago I found $10 on the ground. Now I can't justify the buying of new fabric with my current budget but I found FREE MONEY. Add to that I was travelling on the train line that went right past Cabramatta and, well, the rest is history.

I scored this great deep blue ponte for $5 to make myself another long sleeved top for winter. Boring but necessary. My remaining RTW tops for winter are all sporting holes and as I said in a previous post so too are some of my handmade long sleeved tops. So I've been working on replacing some basics in my wardrobe to get me through the cold mountains winter.

Oh, you'd like to see the shoulder accents? Sure thing.

This fabric was pretty nifty in that it had this great light grey colour on the reverse. I had initially wanted to applique some geometric shapes on the shoulders with it but that was proving way too much like hard work. So instead I just made another version of my Faux Leather Accent Top. I did actually cut out a pocket and positioned it on the fabric when I tried it on. The word boobpatch wandered through my head and decided not to leave no matter where I positioned it so the top remains boobpatch-less.

I'm actually not sure how to do a sway back adjustment on a fitted top like this so I live with the bagginess. If anyone has any resources for eliminating this just holler.

This top was made with my trusty Burdastyle Lydia pattern which I've made too many times to count.

Here's a photo of me looking smug in my new top. Hooray for warm, snuggly, functional and FREE clothing!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Blue Clouds Cambie Dress

I adore the Sewaholic Cambie. I made a Black version here and I wore it SO much over summer. 

The truth about this dress is that it was kind of a sewing fail. I did some mad panic sewing right before Christmas so that I could wear it on Christmas Day. I had about an hour or so of sewing left to do on Christmas Eve and a thought snuck into my head that I should probably try it on. That’s when I discovered that it really, really didn’t fit. The waist was too tight by a couple of centimetres and we all know what happens on Christmas Day right? You go from family to family eating ALL OF THE FOOD. So this dress was just not going to work. 

Because I’m stubborn I put it on my dressform and admired it for months. Note to self - maybe I should use my dressform for things other than hanging sewing fails on? Just a thought. I left it there because I was determined that I’d fit into it at some point. As luck would have it I’ve turned into the cliche bride slimming down for her impending wedding and the dress now fits! I mean I can breathe and move and live in that thing. It’s great!

I was making this dress just after they introduced videos on Instagram and had been pondering how to incorporate sewing a dress bit by bit into my Instagram feed. Since I was sewing this dress consistently over the Christmas Break from work I could sew during daylight and video as I went. It's not great quality because, well, it's an iPhone video on Instagram, but still - I think it's pretty neat. 

A Cambie dress made in 2 minutes? Click below to see for yourself!

So I'm a bit of a rebel and I didn't line this dress. I tend not to line dresses unless they're sheer. Perhaps it takes a little more effort to cover up the insides like I do but that's how I roll. I think this will also go into my honeymoon bag - and by that I mean I'm already packing my me-mades in my head with...oh about 4 months to go!

I have the perfect fabric for a straight-skirted Cambie for my next version but you probably won't see that until summer comes back again. But until then, you know what they say - if the dress fits!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Red Maxi Dress

I loved my first version of Simplicity 2362 that I began plotting another one as I was making it. I found this great deep red rayon voile from Lincraft and an off white rayon voile for the lining and bought 3 metres of each. The first version was great but the weight of the fabric and the way I constructed it made it a little more bedsheet-ish than I had originally planned. So this time around I was determined to find the drape-iest fabric I could to do this pattern justice.

I completely ignored the construction notes inside the envelope because I wanted to line the whole thing. I also wanted to underline the bust pleats because this fabric is so airy. I started by basting the outer fabric and the underlining fabric for all the bust pieces and sewed them together as one fabric. Then I took each of the three skirt panels for the main fabric and sewed them together with french seams and did the same for the lining pieces. I hemmed the lining fabric at this point because I had planned for it only to drop as far as the ruffle. I basted these two fabrics together, marked out my pleats and treated them as one fabric from here on. So I guess the skirt part is kind of underlined as well? 
Once that was all done I sewed the bust lining pieces to the dress turned it over, notched and topstitched it down. The photo below shows you the interior before I ironed the lining seam allowance and handstitched it down. 

You can probably tell from the way I constructed it that this fabric was difficult to work with. It's so light and slides around all the time so it actually saved me a lot of time and heartache basting and taking everything slowly. I did notice in the making of this that the slower I took this the more relaxed I was. In fact I had to unpick things a couple of times and I was so zen I didn't get cranky or swear. Not even once.

I attached the ruffle with a french seam as well to keep it all enclosed and this was probably the hardest part of sewing this dress. Trying to keep all those ruffles going through the machine evenly even though it was trying to play slip and slide with me. Oh and it turns out my maths skills are a little sketchy. This ruffle was meant to be ankle length but fell just shy of it once I tried it on. Let's call that a design feature shall we?

All the work was worth it in the end for how this dress drapes though. It turned out exactly how it looked in my head. I may not get much wear out of it seeing as the days are getting cooler but I made it up now anyway because it will be perfect for lounging about in on my honeymoon.

What you can't see from these photos is that I made the straps cross over in the back. Here's a picture of the straps and all the pleats. It's such a pretty pattern. I'm pretty sure this isn't my last version.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Belcarra in Black Crepe

I've been smitten with this pattern since Tasia announced it and I'm not normally one to buy a pattern as it's released but I couldn't resist with this one. It's the kind of pattern that will fill a hole in my handmade wardrobe. I love having tops like this that you can put on with jeans to wear out during the day or the night. It will also look great with some high waisted skirts so it's a winner all round in my books.

So the pattern. I made a muslin of this because I have about 4 versions in my head I want to make already. If I'm going to invest in a pattern that much it's worth the time to make a muslin even with a top as simple as this. My measurements fell pretty squarely into a 10 and the fit is fine everywhere. It's meant to be quite loose and flowy which I don't mind - great for lunches and dinners to hide your food belly! I did have a bit of trouble with the neckline binding which I'm pretty sure was partly due to working with a slippery fabric. The neckline binding is cut on the bias and once folded over it's about 2.5cm wide. You're meant to sew you're regular 1.5cm, trim the excess then turn over the remaining 1cm and stitch it down. This was a bit of a nightmare for me on my muslin so I'm glad I had a practise before busting out this fabric.

I bought this crepe fabric from a Spotlight Sale last year when I was planning my handmade wardrobe and I had originally planned to turn it into a Deer & Doe Datura. I'm really glad that life took over and this sat in my stash long enough for another, more perfect pattern to come along. I feel like it was meant to be on this one.

This top has french seams throughout even with the cuff - which was a bit more difficult when there's a bit of a pivot point at the bottom armhole seam. I took it slow and it all worked out fine. I conquered the neckline binding by sewing 1cm in, trimming the excess then turning the rest of the 1.5cm binding over to stitch it down. I felt I had much more control when I had a little more fabric to play with. Especially since it's on the bias and this is a slippery little crepe. I also took 5 centimetres off the length because it originally sat just above my crotch which, you can imagine, wasn't very flattering.

Overall I'm really happy with this top. I'm so glad I made a muslin and I'm so glad I took the time to french seam everything. I can now wear it on high rotation and not have to worry about it because I know it's so well enclosed.

This past week I planned to spend at least half an hour a night in my sewing room to see if I could get some sewing done after work. I'm pretty tired after an 8 hour day and long commute but once I forced myself into my sewing room I didn't spend less than an hour in there per night. So I managed to sew this top from start to finish in 4 x 1 hour sittings which I'm pretty proud of.

I'm a bit keen to sew ALL THE THINGS in the next couple of weeks because lockdown for the Wedding Dress starts in June so you may be seeing a lot of posts from me in the coming weeks!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Black and White Striped Jersey Top

Four years ago when I first got out my sewing machine I started off with this pattern from Burdastyle called Lydia. It's basically a renfrew and I've lost count of the number of times I've used this pattern. Call me crazy but I found knits really, really intriguing when I first started to sew and it took me ages to actually work with a woven (?!). I just loved how simple and comfortable and stretchy jersey was and it was SO forgiving of my awful sewing skills at the time. In the beginning I straight stitched entire tops like this knowing that they would eventually fall apart. Four years on I'm still wearing those same knit tops (to death) that I made. Granted a couple of them started getting little holes in the seams last winter but it's surprising to me how long they've lasted and how well they still fit me now.

Here's some pics of just two of them when I started to sew. Observe that I really liked ruffles when I started sewing?? Also observe I used to chop my head off in pictures??

Lydia Top with folded ruffle                                                         Lydia top with ruffles

I'm telling and showing you all this because it's often the most boring things we sew that we wear the most. I debated whether to even put this on the blog but I've learnt that one of my favourite parts of reading other people's blogs is seeing how they integrate their new pieces into their existing wardrobe. There's something really wonderful about watching other people develop and grow and make clothes that fit and flatter them. It's great to see the clothes fitting into their wardrobe and lifestyle.

So with that in mind here is my snuggly new top with some of my skirts. This is how it will get worn for a little while before my black skinny jeans become my uniform in winter.

Teal Green Kelly Skirt                                      Plum Skirt - Simplicity 2451                          Blue Hollyburn Skirt      
The fabric was $5 a metre at a store in Cabramatta and is really great jersey. You'd think for that price it might be thin or flimsy but not so. This is the good stuff. 

I'll be making a few more of these kinds of tops before winter really arrives to replace my beloved first makes. Stay tuned for some more boring-but-necessary clothing write ups - coming to you soon!