Sunday, 29 November 2015

Minimalist cycle touring travel wardrobe

The main problem with having a very interesting life with multiple hobbies is that they often compete. In my blogging absence, I have been trying to learn some French, and doing a lot of cycling, and have recently returned from cycling right across France with my husband and son, carrying all our camping gear etc. We cycled about 2000km, which I am still having trouble believing, then spent 4 days in Paris being proper tourists.

This was an amazing adventure, and has unsurprisingly cut into my sewing for the past 6 months or so, even though we were only away for 6 weeks. The preparation was a tad intense, and the recovery phase equally busy !Work will not just go away whilst I am on holidays, darn it.

So, you will want to see sewing. There was sewing, I promise, it just didn't make it to the blog. In fact I was almost about to leap into writing about my current project (a fancy dress, because you know I love to sew a fancy dress), when I was struck by a sense of blogger duty.

Its been such a long time since I wrote anything about sewing.This is a just-dipping-the-toe-in post about the minimalist, suitable- for- cycling- all- day- and- drying- overnight- whilst- hung- up- in- the- tent, yet co-ordinated wardrobe that I partly sewed myself for the cycling holiday, but as I forgot  was a little too preoccupied to take photographs before I left, you will have to make do with  mostly vacation/expedition shots. The clothes are pretty much worn out now. They were washed an awful lot, being worn in constant rotation.

You will see from the photos that I really didn't want to ride around France in lycra, but it is there underneath!.
To keep the sewing simple, I mostly used patterns with which I was already familiar

2015-09-27 18.08.00
1. Shirt dress, heavily adapted from Burda Style 02-2009-120  (pattern first made up here)
mid/base layer
Liberty Tana Lawn, with contrast linen collar stand, plackets etc. 2015-09-21 12.07.28

 I used french seams or felled seams for robustness, and also used Claudine's button instructions with Gutterman polyester thread. This method of attaching buttons I found to be less robust in 6 weeks of wear and wash second-daily, than a nice strong but admittedly sticking out knot, undoubtedly due to my poor stitching technique, but I had to reattch buttons on this garment whilst travelling, which I did not need to do with my other garments (alternative button attachment technique with Gutterman), or my son's shirt (hand made), which I had attached using Claudine's instructions with stranded cotton embroidery thread.. I also had to reattach buttons to my husband's purchased clothing.

Additions - internal passport pocket
Waist elastic gathering on either side at the front, and in the centre back because its not really comfortable to wear a belt on the bike.

2015-09-20 20.41.24
 2. mid/top layer Merino cardigan, Burda Style 03-2012-122 previously made,  described here. I don't have a great photo of this whilst on the trip, but I wore it nearly every day, in the evenings. I made this last  year.

2015-09-01 10.38.30
3. Long sleeved tunic blouse, Burda Style 2-2009-120 again. I told you I was making my life easy with familiar patterns!  The fabric was a slightly translucent silk/cotton batiste, white on blue print ,I wore any of my 3 base layer tanks under this shirt. The coolest was a rayon knit tank (base layer 1) originally sewn several years ago to wear under a long sleeved lace t shirt.

4. base layer 2 Merino princess t with cut on cap sleeve McCalls 5890 (fabric blotched dyed itself in the washing maching, but the overall effect was pleasing to me). I hand stitched the princess seams and hand stitched the neckline and armscyes with a nod to Alabama Chanin techniques, in a toning embroidery thread, because I was hating the bare bones nature of this wardrobe. The embroidery helped a lot. Feeble, really, being so attached to embellishment and prettiness in clothing....
I wore this as both a stand alone top, and as an underlayer garment. I made this garment longer at the back for additional coverage whilst cycling.

5. base layer 3 Merino vogue sleeveless t, pink, Vogue 2925 made about 10 times so far. Review here
Hemmed with embroidery floss, toning colour
(Embellished with running stitch seam emphasis, DMC cotton
You can see this in the neckline of the cardigan photo and also in the one below, under my rainjacket. I wore this mainly as an undergarment, but this was also cut longer at the back to allow for the cycling position.
2015-09-17 12.11.01
6. Merino buff, copied from RTW. This was an incredibly useful item, and took up hardly any room. I found it added considerably to my warmth, and from about the second week of the holiday was cursing myself for not making 2 or 3 (it was very cold at night whilst camping!)
Edited to add: I've been asked to identify a "buff". I  did not use a pattern, but here is a very nice tutorial and some photographs by Melissa at Fehr trade, where she also describes the many uses of a buff.

7. Long sleeved merino t - made a few years ago. I used an older Burda pattern, and this was worn mainly as a pyjama top

Accessories:. Silk scarf A , blue, cream, pink, (not really sewing, but once upon a time it was raw edged fabric lurking in my collection.....Silk scarf B blue, dark brown, cream and an old, squashable sunhat which I intended to replace in France, but did not see a suitable subject. This was possibly because clothes shopping was extremely low on my husband's agenda- unless the clothing could be bought in a cycling shop.....
Not pictured:
Rayon knit "denim" leggings - I sewed these a few years ago, they're very useful for camping, both as pyjamas and as an underlayer for warmth.
Skirt/petticoat - silk cotton, purple, 2 layers, originally the skirt of this dress here. I loved this dress so much that I have to get every possible skerrick of wear from it. It makes a terrific petticoat skirt.
Not sewn :
-1 pair short cycling knicks,which I wore under the dress and skirts. Later on, as the weather cooled down, I looked for a long pair, but was not able to find these, so bought running tights instead, which I wore over the top of the knicks to keep my legs warm whilst cycling.
- 1 pair stretch woven cycling capris with under-knicks
-cycling gloves,
-1 metallicus A line grey knit skirt - merino/rayon blend
-1 rainjacket, blue/green
Purchased on route (planned purchases, as we started in warm weather and cycled through to cool weather).
 -1 thin, warm pullover, coral (very hard to find, and rather $$$, I should have taken one and carried it for 3 weeks without wearing it)
-1 new scarf to blend the coral jumper with my black capris and grey skirt and blue cardigan (yes, I needed the jumper and the cardigan at the same time)
-1 hideously ugly polar fleece beanie for 2 euros from the supermarket. - this was very painful as another buff would have prevented the purchase and been much more flattering.

 I sewed a very luxurious sand washed silk charmeuse double sleeping bag liner too :)

I also sewed a shirt, a buff, a merino long sleeved t shirt and some cycling knicks for my son.He took a previously made polar fleece jacket, now four and 1/2 years old, which I threw out at the end of the trip despite his vehemenent protests that it still fit (a lie!). I tried to steal his buff after a week or so as I hadn't seen him wearing it but he said it was extremely warm at night, so no chance Mum!

I had an exciting adventure holiday, but currently, I am greatly appreciating my extensive wardrobe, fabric collection and comfortable bed.
So in summary, I started with these clothes, which looked much  more respectable before the trip.

 3 base layer tops - tanks
2 base layer bottoms, 1 batiste skirt/petticoat, 1 leggings
3 light mid layer tops - 1 blouse batiste, 1 long sleeved merino t-shirt, 1 shirt dress lawn
1 medium layer top - merino long cardigan (missing in action)
3 bottoms - 1 pr capris, one wool skirt, one batiste skirt
1 outerlayer rainjacket
2 scarves, 1 buff , 1 sunhat
(cycling gloves and helmet)

When the weather cooled further
 I added a mid layer top (coral  pullover)
another pair of leggings
another scarf, and a warm hat. These new items did not co-ordinate with everything, but with enough of the travel wardrobe to make them useful purchases.
My entire wardrobe fit in this bag (up to the "stop" section), a bag only slightly larger in height and width to an A4 sheet of paper, and weighed less than 3kg, provided I was clad at the time. I admit that although this is a compressable bag, closing it was not terribly easy on a hot day, when I just wore a tank top and capris, but for most of the trip, I wore 2 to 4 layers, especially when we were not actually cycling.

So now that I am almost caught up, perhaps I will do some sewing.

P.S. I am such a rebel, in Paris, I forsook husband and son whom were visiting the Eiffel tower and went to the fabric district in Montmarte. I have never seen so many people in a fabric shop at once before.Surely that is a more culturally valuable experience than a second visit to a tourist icon?

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Retrospective, mini wardrobe

You might have noticed that I've not been blogging lately. Primarily, this is because I have not been sewing quite as much, yet my sewing output has been greater than my blogging, so I've a few out of date things to show you  a mini collection sewn earlier to write about.
These garments were sewn/knit for my older daughter, loosely according to the seasonal 6pac series planned by the fabulous Dr.E.

I started with a white t shirt, there is hardly any harder working garment in a young woman's casual wardrobe. This one is from Burda Style 11-2014-113, but without the undersleeves.

That might be why I made 4 of these, one for each daughter, and one each for my two eldest nieces, who (gasp) are now approaching regular Burda sizes, this up to date t shirt required only minor tweaking to work for young teenagers (some shortening and side seam slimming), whilst for my daughters I used the size 34 provided in the magazine. I used a robust cotton/lycra knit from Stretchtex for all four t shirts. I particularly liked the self fabric band at the hips, which is not only fashionable,  but meant that I didn't have to get out my coverstitch for hemming.

The t shirt is shown  with a RTW pair of mint green shorts, purchased by my daughter, which were the provoking factor for the mini collection.

Next up, naturally, was another top, this time another variation of the marvellous free Sorbetto pattern. I've made several of these previously. The fabric is an allegedly Liberty tana lawn (but no liberty name in the selvage), which despite its doubtful provenance is a lovely light fabric for a little summer top.

To actually transform these tops to a collection, the next item was Burda Style 03-2011-131 lavender drill shorts you've already seen, picking up the lavender in the print.

Followed by the self drafted crinkly woven singlet top you've also seen previously.

There was also this white sundress with pink and green in the border that I showed you a while ago too (self drafted, fabric is a 1950's sheet).


Taking much longer to complete, was the transitional piece, a casually loose jumper, knit from Sublime soya cotton, from a Sublime soya pattern book. Its an easy pattern, but my knitting is not terribly fast.

This jumper not only works with the shorts outfits and over the sundress, but transitions the tops to autumn/subtropical winter garments by also working with jeans.


The accessory was sewn by my daughter. Vogue 2907

3 bottoms (2 purchased)
3 tops
1 dress
1 overlayer
1 accessory =  a wardrobe boosting mini collection.
If only I had been so organised for Winter......

Saturday, 9 May 2015

VNA tops

I made quite a few exercise clothes just lately, and now that it is extremely chilly at 5am in the morning (those who live temperate climates may scoff where I can't hear them, I admit that I live in a warm climate), I thought I would display some running tops of Summer before I start on cold weather exercise gear.
I made a VNA top for my younger daughter, because she had just about worn out the version that was made to test the pattern.

new one
old one

The test version was too big for her, although the size didn't stop her wearing it, so her new top is sloppily graded down by hand drawing a smaller size on Melissa's pattern. Fortunately for me, this made a nicely fitting top, other than a slight tightness at the bust. The top would be XXXS in Melissa's sizing scale.


I love the colour blocking options for this top. I had bought some "performance knit" from Spoonflower, in this very appealing Galaxy print, but as I foolishly purchased from a square representation of the print,  I had not noticed that  the 1 yard print included a break in the
panel that was unsightly to me.
However, by cutting the small upper front from the odd bit of the panel, the break in the pattern is not particularly noticeable, and makes a good feature for the top whilst only using a tiny piece of the pricey fabric.
 The back is plain old navy blue wicking polyester from Stretchtex, and the lower front is not-the-best-for-exercise-clothes cotton lycra, again from Stretchtex, as are the bindings, because this will do for short runs and also general wear, such as hiking in Carnarvon Gorge.


Naturally, having made one daughter top, another top was required. This one uses a more purple section of the Galaxy print,with different coloured cotton lycra for the bindings and bottom section,  and has been made to the same circumference as the downsized VNA top, but a little longer, (at the hem) for my taller daughter.



Lucky last, I made one for myself in an XS. Having noticed the modest amount of room at the bust for my daughters, I chose to enlarge the upper bust piece, then ease this into the curved seam at the lower front, as an FBA. I also made a square shoulder adjustment, which is a common adjustment for me (Did I mention that I really like this pattern).
 Mine has an upper bodice made from performance pique, again from Spoonflower, with a pattern that amuses me greatly. See those ninjas in amongst the floral? My husband hates it. Fortunately he doesn't come running with me. It must be my (very deeply hidden) inner ninja that puts him off.
Super Purple Ninja Warriors! (Small)
The bottom section of this one is made from wicking "space dyed" Supplex, which is more comfortable to wear when exercising than cotton lycra, but the business I bought it from is no longer operating.
The back is the same wicking polyester from Stretchtex that I used for the other tops. Although this fabric is practical, hard wearing and very comfortable for exercising,  I find this particular colour is very difficult to sew, with constantly wearing thread and blunted needles. (The other colours were hard to sew too, but not to the same level as the dark blue) I bought 5 metres of it 6 years ago and I will be very glad when I've finally sewn the last of it!. I needed to mix it with these fun fabrics in order to have the fortitude to sew with it yet again.

The only change I made to the construction of these tops, now that I've made a few, is the binding of the v neckline. I don't like having to measure the neckline binding exactly before I sew it. I find the amount of stretch needed varies between fabrics, and I like to apply more stretch to the back neck, for example, than the lower front of the v. Melissa's instructions work, but I found them a bit fiddly, and not compatible with my ad-hoc neckline length preference. Instead I used Barbara's instructions here (except for the interfacing being ironed on- ironing and poly don't mix at my house), which were just as fiddly (v neck lines must be fiddly by nature), but gave me a neater result, and without having to get out my tape measure.
Disclaimer: Remember I got this pattern for free in exchange for testing? This is naturally not a completely unbiased opinion due to this exchange see Zoopolis, but you can see I've made many versions of this pattern now and all recipients are finding this a comfortable running top. The request cue is long. We like this pattern.

Stashbusting statistics, pitiful. About a metre each of blue wicking poly and cotton lycra, 30 cm of supplex print, and 50 cm or so of recently purchased performance knit, and performance pique

Monday, 4 May 2015

Tiramisu Two

I told you what a lovely surprise my last Tiramisu was to me, but I hadn't worn it much over Summer, as although the fabrics are light, with 2 layers, even silk/hemp and light as air rayon knit are too hot to wear in the subtropics from about mid October to mid April.
However, over the past few weeks, my very small transseasonal wardrobe has meant the last Tiramisu has been in high rotation. A dress is so easy to co-ordinate (you can tell I am not a fashionista, how sad).

Naturally, this discovery lead me straight back to my knit stash, and I have sewn myself another version of this frock.
Unfortunately, I had to wrestle a bit with the fabric. This particular rayon knit, although thicker in heft than the last type, has quite remarkable stretch. So much so, that although I used all my fitting adjustments from the last attempt, the waistband originally started at my 8th rib and finished at my hips. Dowdy indeed. I considered shortening it, but having carefully sewn lingerie elastic into all the horizontal seams, (for details of construction see the last post about Tiramisu), I could not bear to do it again, so just chopped off the lower seam, elastic and all, and folded over the waistband piece to sew the skirt directly to the upper bodice, with the waistband folded over the top of the skirt to act as a sort of belt addition. Very lazy, but I quite like the empire waist effect.
I wore this to work today, to do paperwork whilst hidden in a back office. It was very comfortable, and has held up well (photos taken at the end of the day), but in retrospect it looks a bit casual for the office to me, even a hidden away one where only staff would see me. I have to keep them suitably impressed ;). Maybe if I dressed it up with boots and a jacket - wait, that would mean Winter!
Currently, I plan to make another version in merino knit before the weather cools down sufficiently for me to wear a wool dress. I think it would look less casual in a solid.

Stashbusting statistics about 2m of rayon knit, 2013

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The blouse that wasn't and Burda Style 09-2011-128 turned into a tunic

With 1.1m of lovely printed lawn lurking on my sewing table refusing to return to the stash, I was on the hunt for a pattern for a blouse. After much pleasant perusal of my sewing magazine collection,  I settled on Ottobre 05-2013-03, a peasant style blouse with set in sleeves calling for 1.2 m of fabric in my size. Everyone knows that fabric requirements are over generous (that was tongue in cheek), and I am shorter than the Ottobre block.

Ottobre 05-3013-05
However, no matter how I ignored seam allowances, there was no way I could fit that pattern on my 1.1 m of lawn and still have sleeves past my elbows. This was rather annoying after tracing it out!
Back to the pattern search, I was quite taken with the Burdastyle blouses made this Summer  by Sue and Paola. I liked the covered shoulders and the interesting transition of the collar stand into front pleats.
Technical drawing from

This called for 1.1 metres of fabric also, but when cutting out this new pattern, there was plenty of fabric, in fact, it occurred to me that I would have a sizeable scrap left over, so I lengthened the blouse, despite reviews of this pattern commenting on excessive length of the garment. I am anti-scrap at the moment.
Its not quite long enough for a dress, but its not too bad as a tunic with a shirttail hem.
I don't usually wear this silhouette, and really wanted a garment with sleeves, but when considering my wardrobe balance it I felt that I would be more inclined to wear a second garment made from the same fabric if the garment in question was more suited to different time of the year than the first one. I thought I would wear my sleeveless lawn dress made from this fabric in high Summer ,and that a lawn tunic, even a sleeveless one, could be worn over trousers or tucked into a skirt, in Spring and Autumn.
You can see that I added a casing with elastic to the back (more casual than darts) for some shaping, and you can't see at all that I added bust darts via a cut and slide method in order to make a FBA.
I also used a more stiff cotton for the facing, and for interfacing in the collar stand and front bands. (Thank you to the Spoolette who donated this fabric at last year's high tea, its the perfect weight and co-ordinates nicely )

This was an enjoyable garment to make, and I am interested to see how it works as a transseasonal garment.  It felt quite an appropriate outfit to wear today to the Sunday markets.
(I bought lots of plants - its been raining.....)

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Very thrifty sewing, a skirt, almost instantly

I told you about the rejected skirt-front-with-a-seam in it from the last project, and after whinging about the wastefulness in the last post, it was clearly incumbent of me to use this left over fabric piece in a responsible manner - and straight away, as layer 4 of my stash is rather too large.

Fortunately, I have sewing blogs for inspiration. I fancied the easy wearing reputation of this skirt by Sewing Sveta.

I cut out another half skirt, a yoga waistband (well, actually I used the waistband from Jalie 2796, having just made a few of these and knowing the waistband fit perfectly), and ended up very quickly with this skirt for my older daughter.
The back centre seam is stabilized with woven cotton selvage.
There is not much else to say about it, except that it also helped with the offspring sewing balance levels.
Stashbusting statistics, another metre of that cotton lycra knit from Stretchtex in a loud colour for the April theme- only a teensy bit late in posting...
I am joining MeMadeMay this year too, in order to encourage myself to sew more clothes for work. I have exactly 4 blouses and 3 pairs of trousers for this purpose, and as I work full time, this is very hard on the laundry! I might post photos once a week - and change out of my grubby gardening clothes before I take a photo today......

Friday, 1 May 2015

The dangers of disposible fashion, not seriously


I sew. It would seem fairly obvious that disposable fashion is not my cup of tea, and I could provide all sorts of morally superior reasons for this opinion in order to impress the sewing community with my ethical standards and awareness of global issues, but a large part of my abhorrence of these garments is much more trivial. They are aesthetically displeasing and wasteful of one's clothing budget.

However, I am not in charge of all the clothes that enter my house.

My teenage daughter went to the beach for a week with her friends. They had a terrific time, and she came back with a $5 dress she had bought.
She usually has very good taste in clothing, I am sure that when she bought this little knit sundress, it was quite pretty. By the time I saw it though, it had been worn over a swimming costume for several trips to the beach, and had been washed. The print was faded, the fabric was pilled, the hem was grossly uneven, making it scandalously short in inappropriate places, the bodice draped in an underwear/swimming costume displaying manner, and the entire garment was about 2 sizes too big. (1 week of use)

The dress was, according to my standards, unwearable. I expressed this opinion, originally with some attempt at tactfulness, but as she continued to wear it - even out of the house! the expression of my opinion became increasingly forthright. To my undisguised horror, she even threatened to take the dress to Brisbane with her and wear it to University, where at least I would not have to look at it. This may have been a cunning, deeply laid plan on my daughter's part. What can a mother do about her daughter's clothing choices? I know I rarely took any notice of my mother's opinion of my clothing when I was 17 (or at least I pretended not to take any notice)
Eventually, we came to a compromise. She would agree to dispose of the dress (the rag bag was looking good), if I would make her a replacement dress. Hence my suspicions about my daughter's possible mother manipulation tactics.
It was ridiculously easy.


I traced off the stretched out, horrible gappy bodice, trimmed about 3 cm from each side of my pattern piece, added 3 cm to the length of the bodice in order to diminish underwear exposure, and traced off one section of the skirt, correcting the grain and hem, and adding more length than I was later permitted to use. This may have been a cunning daughter manipulation technique to ensure later sufficient length to the skirt. Despite the long sentence, this took about 10 minutes.
The construction and cutting out of the dress took at least 30 minutes. This was only because the first version of the dress had a seam down the front, and this was rejected in my version, the solid fabric (cotton lycra from Stretchtex) not disguising this sufficiently. I had to chop the skirt off, cut off the side seams and replace the front with a single piece.
The top of the bodice is bound with the same knit, and the straps are lingerie straps which I serendipitously had lying around in the same colour as the knit. I reinforced the waist seam with lingerie elastic to improve stability and to support the weight of the skirt.
I then insisted that the dress hang (by the waistline) for a week before I hemmed the dress, except that I didn't hem the dress, I just cut the hemline to an even length.
The dress was received with qualified approval (another 2 inches off the hemline, and some discussion about the next one having deeper armscyes)(did you hear that next one remark), and I was allowed to chop up the beach dress. It was very satisfying.
I didn't do my own sewing,and I am seriously low in the boring-blouse-for-work department. That was the locally dangerous bit about the disposable fashion
I paid a token to my environmental consciousness by cleaning the bathroom with my new rags and a biodegradable septic safe cleaning potion. It doesn't have any real effect, but I'm sure it made me feel better.
Stashbusting statistics, about 1.5 m cotton lycra knit, in a nice bright colour for the Stashbusting challenge