Just another blog hop, move along if you’re tired of seeing them!

I know that by now, the sewing blogosphere is getting a little bit tired of the whole blog hop thing. So I apologise in advance for hopping on the bandwagon (pun intended), but my good friend Chuleelan over at CSews nominated me and it would be rude to refuse! I met Chuleelan when I lived in Berkeley, and she’s a lovely person, and a great seamstress, too. Basically, if you’re not aware, the blog hop (or this one at least) is just four questions about the blogging process. So let’s hop to it!

1. Why do I write?

Why indeed. I write because I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed writing, from when I was a small child writing about otter tea parties, to my Livejournal I’ve had for the past 14 years. I write this blog, specifically, because I like to show off my sewing creations and be part of the sewing community. It’s nice to share a hobby with others who enjoy doing the same.

2. What am I working on?

I’m almost finished the interminable StyleArc Camilla blouse, which I asked for fitting help on, oh, back in August. I’m very much the opposite of fast fashion right now, it would seem. The whole thing has been an uphill battle from start to (very nearly) finish, and I’m just waiting on some snap buttons to arrive in the mail to be done with it. I’ve also cut out the PDF pattern to make Luke a Colette Negroni shirt, which I’m pretty excited about making! In non-sewing-but-still-crafting news, I’m halfway through knitting a sweater my Mom showed me in a Spotlight magazine, which is what I do in the evenings when my sewing has gone tits up yet again.

3. How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

I’m not really sure that it does. I’m not bothered by this, though – I never’t set out to make an violently different sewing blog. It’s just stuff I like to make, usually cute, and rambling on how I made it. 

4. How does my writing process work?

I start with photos. Usually three or four, sometimes a couple of extras if the inside of the garment is worth displaying. Then I just type up the rest around those, trying to cover all the aspects of construction, type of fabric, cost, pattern review – those kind of things. I don’t plan it much, or read over it after I’ve written it – it’s just off the cuff. 
Every once in a while I’ll feel a bit stressed that I haven’t blogged in a while, and think maybe people will forget I exist, and think about making a more introspective, navel-gazing blog post, but I usually resist the temptation because I figure I’d rather have good content worth waiting for than boring drivel no one wants to read. 

Now comes the part where I’m supposed to nominate two other bloggers to answer these questions, but I feel like everyone on my sewing blog feed has already done it (or maybe it just feels that way(, so I’ll pass on that part of it. 

 Hopefully I’ll actually have a finished garment to show off soon!


Telegraph Avenue Renfrew

A little while back, I bought the Sewaholic Renfrew top pattern after being convinced of its awesomeness by Penny of Dresses & Me. Well, her and every other blogger that’s made one, which seems to be pretty much everyone at this point. I wear long-sleeved tops a lot, both on their own and under jumpers/cardigans/sleeveless dresses, so I’m not sure why it hasn’t occurred to me to buy this pattern before.

I promptly went out to The Fabric Store where they were promising half price Merino knit, and came out with this fabric. After fondling almost every knit fabric in the store and getting more and more dejected that I wasn’t loving any of it (or being horrified at the price), some girls finally moved away from the end of a table and I moved in and saw it. And I knew, straight away, it was mine. Luke thought I’d lost the plot, and I can’t blame him. In general, this is absolutely not something I would usually wear or pick out for myself. But for the past two and a half years, I lived in Berkeley, California, a town with quite the radical, hippie history. And on Telegraph Avenue on a Sunday, you can buy all manner of ridiculous tie-dyed clothing from very…interesting individuals. I didn’t partake of any tie-dyed madness while I was there, but I miss living there a great deal, and this fabric reminds me of the wonderful memories I made while I lived there, and the amazing people I met.

What it’s actually made of, I don’t know. It didn’t have a tag on it – the sales girl had to ask someone about the price, because it didn’t have a price tag, either. It’s very, very soft and drapey.And stretchy! It was perfect for the Renfew. I made it in a size 14, but I feel like I could afford to size down in the waist. I shortened the sleeves quite a lot and did intend to add the cuffs, but when I tried it on, they were perfect as is, so I just folded over and hemmed them. I did not intend to add the waistband, figuring that since I’m short, it would be long enough. That was an error in judgement, as it’s just a tad too short for my liking. I mean, it’s fine, it doesn’t show my tummy or ride up or anything, but all my life my tops have come down past my hips, so I’m not used to this length. That said, I don’t particularly like the look of the waistband, so I think I’ll just lengthen it next time.

I made sure to match the pattern at the side seams and on the sleeve seams, and that seemed to work out pretty well. I deliberately didn’t match it where the sleeves meet the bodice, as I wanted the pattern broken up when I put my arms by my sides instead of running all the way along. I like it better that way.

It was a pretty easy make – except for the neckband. Ugh. I cut it out according to the pattern pieces, but as I was sewing it on, it seemed like I didn’t have to stretch it that much. I remembered making the Lady Skater that I needed to stretch it a LOT to sew it on, and then when done, it was nice and taut. Sure enough, when I finished sewing the Renfrew neckband, it was floppy. I unpicked it and tried again, only this time I stretched it a lot and just cut off the excess. Much better! I stabilised the shoulder seams with some old cotton selvage I had lying around, as I didn’t have any twill tape.

It was a nice quick make, and I’m looking forward to making some others in more…sedate colours to replace my old, stretched Old Navy and Gap ones that are currently in rotation.


Camilla Blouse: Fitting Help

I’ve fallen a bit behind in this blogging business, but rest assured, I have been sewing. I’ve got two finished items ready to be photographed and blogged about, and many more projects on the horizon. Blog photos were, in fact, meant to happen today, but it was pouring with rain most of the day, and even though the sun’s out now, my hair is unwashed and I’m in my pajamas. Oh well.

One of the projects I’m working on is the Camilla Blouse by Style Arc fabrics. It was originally going to be for The Monthly Stitch Mono-sewn challenge, but buying the pattern and shipping took longer than I thought. Such is life. I just made my first muslin of this today, after making one change beforehand – a 4cm full bicep adjustment. I thought I’d post pictures of it, both to (hopefully) get some advice on further changes that need to be made, and also to show a bit more of the process that goes into a finished garment.

I don’t always make a muslin when I’m sewing a new project, and my willingness to bother with it usually depends on how attached I am to the fabric I want to use for the finished garment, and how fitted the garment is. This time, since it’s an indie pattern company I’ve never tried before, and I’m loving the fabric I’ve chosen for the finished blouse, a muslin was a must.

Incidentally, I realise these photos are not flattering. My hair needs a wash and white is not my colour. But let’s push on anyway!

This is the front view. The blouse has a placket on the front with buttons on the lower half, which I didn’t bother with for the muslin – I just pinned it. You can see that with it pinned, it is slightly too tight across the bust, with diagonal lines coming from the shoulders downward. It’s quite roomy through the waist and hips, but the fabric I’ll be using is a soft, drapy voile so I think that won’t be so noticeable then. I’m thinking maybe I need to do a small FBA to fix the tightness in the chest and upper back area, and also a tiny narrow shoulder adjustment. Possibly add 1cm more to the full bicep adjustment? It’s uncomfortable if I stretch my arms out in front of me, especially across the back.

Back view. You can see there is a HEAP of fabric pooling around my lower back – I need to sort that out somehow. Some sort of swayback adjustment? You can also see it’s pulling across the lower back down towards the armholes – will this be fixed by an FBA? Or do I need to do something to the back itself?

Side view. Despite all the tightness in the upper part of the blouse, you can see there’s also excess fabric sitting around the armhole on the front, and a little towards the back. And all those diagonal lines under the bust towards the side, too. Ugh.
So, can anyone help? I can’t go down or up a size without buying a whole new pattern (don’t even get me started on the whole one size thing Style Arc have going on), so I’m only able to alter the size I have. I appreciate any and all advice!

A thank you, and a new addition

I know I’ve been a little absent around these parts lately, but never fear, I’m back now. I had grand plans for the month of June, including entering every competition for The Monthly Stitch Indie Pattern Month! Although I did get an entry in for the first one, I got buried in work shortly after and had to abandon all sewing for a few weeks.

However, thanks to you wonderful people who voted for me, I did win a prize for the one competition I entered!

I won the Mortmain Dress and the Tallis Collar, both from Gather. I’m dying to try them out, the Mortmain is just my style! Even though I couldn’t enter any further contests, I’ve had great fun looking at what everyone else has entered, and voting every week. There have been some stunning makes!

And now, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of my sewing family…

This is a vintage Pfaff 1199 Compact that I acquired yesterday from a truly spectacular secondhand shop. After climbing over ladders and tiptoeing over sodden rugs, I spied this little beauty in a corner of a shelf. The owner let me test it, and all seemed well, so I handed over $45 and it was mine!

I gave it a thorough wipe with a damp cloth, and then unscrewed the needle plate and went to town with a little brush. I got a heap of lint and dirt out, and I was going to oil it, but stopped when I read in the manual that apparently you shouldn’t oil it!

Then, the test…I got some scrap fabric, threaded the machine and bobbin, and tried her out.

That first row of stitching was what happened. And there are many more, similar lines of stitching that occurred afterwards. I changed the upper thread tension. I changed the bobbin tension. I’ve never touched a vintage machine in my life prior to this, nor have I ever touched a sewing machine tension control, so I was a bit out of my depth. My copy of the manual is so badly photocopied that the guide on how to thread the machine is basically useless. In the end, I threaded it for the millionth time, but sharply pulled the thread under the little disc on the side. And lo and behold…I got that second row of stitching. Hallelujah!

My now correctly (I hope) threaded Pfaff! The numbers in texta are not mine, they came with the machine, and quickly frankly weren’t any help.

I also got all these feet with it! And some mouse droppings, but let’s not talk about that. Shudder. From left to right, we have:

  1. Buttonhole foot
  2. Clear view foot (if this has any other function, the internet doesn’t seem to know what it is)
  3. Edge stitching foot
  4. Rolled hem foot
  5. Cording foot
  6. Blind stitch food
  7. I believe it’s a free motion quilting foot
  8. Seam guide

Thanks to all the lovely folks on Twitter/IG who helped me try and identify the feet!

So now I have two working sewing machines, which is going to make switching between projects a lot easier! Now I just have to get an overlocker, and I’ll be set.


Come Sail Away With Me!

I made this dress as my entry for The Monthly Stitch Indie Pattern Month “Dresses” competition. I decided to go with a dress from one of my very favourite indie pattern companies – Deer&Doe! I chose the Reglisse dress, which I’ve owned for some time, but only ever made one muslin of, about a year go. I love the cute, flirty feel of it and it always seemed slightly nautical to me with the tie collar. If you love my dress, there’s a link at the bottom of this post to vote for me 🙂

I’ve had it in my head for a while that while I liked the Reglisse dress, I wanted to make some changes to it. I toyed with a few different ideas, and ended up changing my mind a few times throughout the process. My main goal was to eliminate the elasticated waist, as when I made the muslin it wasn’t very flattering on me. That in and of itself was such a process. I made 3 muslins, and ended up sizing down to a size 38 (or thereabouts) from a 46! I also did a narrow shoulder adjustment and moved the bust darts down 4cm and shortened them by 2cm. Phew! Thank you to all the lovely people on Twitter who helped me with the bodice! I ended up not cutting the bodice pieces on the bias, because I didn’t want my little boats going sideways! I cut the front piece on the fold, and the back in two pieces, so I could add a zip down the back. I also raised the neckline a little, and made it less of a severe “v”.

Since I changed the bodice size a lot, I thought it would be easier to draft my own circle skirt, rather than try and adjust the Reglisse circle skirt pattern piece. Ha. I used the By Hand London Circle skirt app, which has worked fine for me in the past. However, the resulting skirt (which I had to cut in two halves, since my fabric was only 115cm wide rather than the recommended 150) fit my waist, but was too small for the bodice! I adjusted it gradually until it fit, but there was quite a bit of panicking in the process. The adjusting also made the skirt shorter, which I didn’t think about. Thankfully it’s not indecent, and I kind of like this length! 

I doubled the waistband piece and cut it on the fold, so I had a seam at the back to match the back bodice. I messed up the math the first time, though, and ended up with a waistband that was 5cm too short! Math is not my strong point. I interfaced it, but I used my best interfacing on the failed waistband, and had to use stiffer stuff for the second attempt, which wasn’t ideal but seems to have worked out okay.

I used the Reglisse collar pattern piece, but I cut it in two pieces due to the back zip instead of on the fold, and “borrowed” the crossover back collar idea from the Colette Moneta. I just added a slant to back seam allowance, nothing fancy. 

Finally, the sleeves. I knew I didn’t want it sleeveless – I have tuck shop arms, and never wear sleeveless things. I drafted my own 3/4 sleeve using a tutorial online, which didn’t fit at all! I ended up winging it, using the bodice as a guide and my arm measurements, and made a muslin just to be on the safe side to check it worked. I think it turned out quite well! 

The fabric is an organic cotton from Cloud 9 fabrics, called “The Fleet”. I bought it in the US, and it’s delightfully soft and a dream to sew! I had 5 yards of it, so I made a whole heap of bias binding with it too, which I used to hem the skirt, encase the collar+neck seam and hem the sleeves. I used my favourite tutorial for the binding – it’s the only one that I can wrap my head around! Fun story – got my fabric all wrapped up like a burrito, ready to cut – and realised I don’t yet own a rotary cutter. I called Centrepoint, but they didn’t have any, however they suggested that the local art store might. One quick trip later and I now have a rotary cutter!
The waistband and collar are a white cotton poplin I got from Centrepoint Fabrics. I used a 20″ invisible zip for the back seam, and navy thread from my stash. Seams are either bound with my self-made bias binding or pinked. This dress is my new favourite, I think! 


Dotty for Moneta

I was pretty excited when Colette released her new knit patterns and I took advantage of the release sale to nab me a Moneta! I’m a big fan of knit dresses, since you can just throw them on and be ready to go, and they’re super comfy to boot.

I made this Moneta up in a cotton knit I got from my new local fabric store (as in, it’s new to me) Centrepoint Fabrics. I was walking past and thought I’d pop in and see if they had any cute knits…turned out I didn’t even need to enter the store, as they had a bolt of this on display outside! It was on sale, and 3.5 yards (more than I needed, clearly after 2 and a half years away from Australia has destroyed my ability to think in metric) was $27. Bargain! The fabric is thicker than other knits I’ve dealt with, nice and stable, and (sadly) just the tiniest bit itchy.

I made my Moneta in size L, since my measurements pretty much perfectly corresponded with that size. I didn’t want to make a muslin, as I have hardly any fabric right now, so I made my adjustments blind. Using my Kelly skirt as a yard stick, I shortened the skirt pieces by quite a few inches. I also shortened the bodice pieces by an inch, and I really wish I hadn’t, as the bodice sits juuust above my natural waist, which I’ve cleverly concealed with a belt 😛 My experience with the Lady Skater taught me that I should shorten the bodice of knit dresses, both because I’m short and because the weight of the skirt tugs things down, but the Colette Moneta bodice seems shorter than patterns I usually deal with, and although this fabric is weightier than a lot of knits, it’s also really stable and doesn’t stretch out of shape much. So no bodice shortening was necessary! Oh well.
I also shortened the sleeves, because I wanted the 3/4 sleeve length and on me the original sleeves would have been almost full length!

I don’t have a serger, so I followed Colette’s advice in the pattern instructions and sewed my seams with a narrow zig zag. I was very pleased with how stretchy they were – I’ve previously used a wider zig zag on my knits, and it didn’t produce as nice a stretch. I paid an outrageous sum for a ballpoint twin needle to sew the neckline, and hem the sleeves and skirt. $14 for a ballpoint twin needle! Ugh. Anyway, twin stitching the neck and hems went very smoothly, and I discovered that when I did it on my Brother machine in the US, it wasn’t working properly! Having never done it before, I didn’t know it should have a clear zig zag appearance on the wrong side, so I was pleasantly surprised when my Husky produced a lovely, professional looking finish.

Here’s a picture of the inside of my dress – you can see straight away that I made a small change to the pattern – I didn’t use clear elastic to gather the waist. I loathe clear elastic – it’s scratchy and horrible against my skin, and after an abortive attempt to use it for a Lady Skater once, I’ve steered clear. Instead, I used regular old white knit elastic. Gathering went smoothly, probably because my knit was so stable – I know others have had problems using thinner knits with the gathering.

All in all, it was a very quick make – I made it up on one day, bar the hemming! I’ll definitely be making another one, as I spied some awesome striped knit fabric in another local fabric store last weekend that has mine and Moneta’s names written all over it.


Corduroy Kelly

I actually made this skirt quite a while ago, back in the USA, but was too busy to blog about it at the time. The pattern is the Kelly skirt by the ever-talented Megan Nielsen, in a soft black corduroy from Hart’s Fabric. The buttons were sighted in Joann’s, but they didn’t have enough of them, so I took a photo of the packaging and found them online at Pacific Trimming. I had a very definite idea of what kind of buttons I wanted, so I was delighted to be able to get exactly what I wanted!

I whipped up a quick muslin in size XL, which is as large as the pattern goes, and was slightly dismayed to discover it was a bit too small! I ended up adding half an inch to each skirt panel pattern piece, and that worked for me. I also shortened the skirt by a fair bit, although I can’t remember the exact number of inches now.

I ran into a bit of a problem with the waistband, however. It’s quite wide, and just a straight rectangle, which didn’t mesh with my curved back. I’ve spoken about this problem on the blog before, and I should have anticipated needing to make adjustments for this pattern. Basically, I had a huge gap between the waistband and the small of my back, that I could fit my whole hand down. Not good.

What I did to fix it was, instead of one large waistband piece, I cut it into two lengthways. I could have added to the width on each piece to account for seam allowance, but I wasn’t bothered that the width would be decreased a little. Then, using the same method as my Moss skirt, I cut into the waistband in 4 places and overlapped each one by 1/4″, creating a more curved waistband. I then cut it straight down the middle and added an inch, because otherwise I would have lost the extra inch I added to help the skirt fit better earlier. This solution worked really well – the skirt waistband now hugs me all the way around, no gaping anywhere!

The corduroy is quite a bit thinner than most corduroys I’ve seen, but it still has a bit of body, so as you can see in the above photo, it poofs out a bit, especially at the pleats. At first I was worried that it was quite unflattering, but people have said it makes my waist look tiny, so I’m just rolling with it. I really love this skirt, I wear it quite a bit as it’s so versatile.

I decided I was really going to make an effort with the inside of this garment, and I am so proud of the results! I made my own bias binding from a scrap of fabric I got from the East Bay Depot, and it turned out really well. I used the Hong Kong seam finish, and it’s so neat and pretty. I finished the hem with plain old black bias binding from my stash, and pinked the pocket seams. I hand-sewed the waistband on the inside with a slip stitch the whole way around. Definitely worth spending the extra time on the finishing to the inside – I feel so smug when I wear it, and I’ll flash my seams to anyone who’ll look!