Friday, 4 July 2014

Project Formal: Dyeing the lace

All this prosaic sewing has been very useful for halo shining, but today I had the day off, and have devoted the sewing portion of it to delightful frivolity. (There has been a small amount of hinting, increasing in frequency, that there are Only 130 something days until I have to come up with the  formal dress)


I've dyed the lace.
I'm not sure that the outcome is successful, as the recipient is not home yet, and may reject this black and pale purple combination as not being true to her vision, but I think its quite interesting in its new shades
When I burn tested the laces (there are 3 differently sourced laces), I had a quick ignition, bright flame, a woody smell and an ashy remnant, no beading, which I thought indicated a natural fibre, such as rayon or cotton. As this is elderly lace and was quite costly at the time, this seemed a likely fibre for its composition, so I dyed it using a fibre reactive dye, by the tub dyeing method, using these techniques from Dharma fabrics specific to black.
Note: Soda Ash is called Washing Soda in Australia (sodium carbonate) and I bought mine very inexpensively from the supermarket.
I had several dyes, and chose #300, as it is described as having a blue cast, and the under fabric for the dress is a silvery blue. I now strongly suspect that the netting of the lace is a polyester, and in my opinion, the cast is purple, rather an attractive purple, but definitely not blue.
At the same time, my older daughter threw in a cotton/lycra singlet to tie die.

Quite interesting again, and much more purple than blue.
In the left over dye bath, I soaked some some allegedly Irish Linen placemats that my mother retrieved from a church garage sale in case I might need them.


They were a pastel blue that I find hideous, and I much prefer their new colour. They may end up in a garment, or we may have new placemats.
All this dyeing took 3+ hours of activity, and 30 minutes soaking time in dye fixative solution. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'll be doing it regularly.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Pseudo Sewing

My sewing machine sometimes has to earn its keep with a dutiful task.
I am trying to improve my attitude about this.


These amusingly colourful chairs are a necessity project that improves the appearance and function of my back verandah and saves me a packet (which I can then spend on vital sewing supplies for my inadequate hoard - or apply to the mortgage, hmm).

The fabric this time is Sunbrella (my new improved attitude still wants to put off the inevitable repetition of this project for as long as possible). This allegedly sun and mould resistant product is shockingly costly in Australia, so I imported mine from Fabric.Com at approximately 1/3 of the fabric price including shipping. I bought the super resistant version and poly thread for marine use. I am expecting longevity now!

I now see though, that there is an Australian online source with some Sunbrella at low prices which did not appear on my internet search a few months ago when I bought this fabric. FabricTraders. Has anyone used this company? It sounds promising for next time.

I did not buy myself too many fabric presents at the same time as my Fabric.Com order...(mostly voile for lining, really, not even interesting)

I used the plain with the stripe for variety and also to reduce the cost. Plain colours are much less costly than stripes. There were no issues with the construction - I just traced off an old cover, added some bias bits to finish curves and presto, new chairs.
My next project is also upholstery. I am really saving up some sewing brownie points here.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Fehr Trade VNA top

I am fortunate to be a pattern tester for Melissa at Fehr Trade, and her latest release is really fun to sew. It's a pieced top, with very interesting seaming, and a neat V neck finish both at the neck and the back armscyes.
Naturally, being pieced, and for athletic use (although it would work as a casual wear top too), it lends itself to colour blocking.
I made the test version from 3 different colourways of cotton/lycra knit from Stretchtex. This fabric is fine to use for short runs during winter where we live, although I would prefer to use a wicking fabric for longer runs, or in hotter weather. I was very pleased to use up an oddly shaped piece of my favourite purple colourway that was too small for a garment but that I was pat rackishly thriftily saving just- in- case. This pattern is destined to use up lots of similar scraps from the depths of the almost-unusable stash!


There are some very nice details in this pattern. There is no seaming directly under the arms (although the binding does join here, it would be easy to move this front or back) which reduces chafing issues. My favourite part though, is the back binding in the armscyes, this used a new to me construction method which is very exciting. (Fellow sewing addicts will understand this enthusiasm, I'm so glad I don't have to restrain myself on this blog - can you imagine the glazed looks if  I said this anywhere else ?) I found all the instructions beautifully clear and easy to understand.
I made the top using my conventional machine - with a narrow 3 step zig zag. I had planned to use the coverstitch for the hems, but the machine felt uncooperative, so it is finished with a wide zig zag instead, which is not terrible, but not according to the instructions, which suggest a twin needle for conventional machines.

My younger daughter, who is rather fashion conscious, went into raptures over the appearance of this top. I have been instructed that several more in different fabrics and colour combinations would be just the thing for the teenage exercise fiend.
She also fancies few fancy colourful sports bras so as to display the straps at the back. This serviceable white one is not up to scratch for the shoulder display of modern running gear.

Apparently having cool back details on a running top is an encouragement to overtake other runners (she was joking)


Something to be aware of is that the Fehr trade sizing is different to RTW in Australia, although true to the sizing measurements given. My daughter's XXS top is a bit too big for her in length and girth, for a running top, and she normally wears an Australian size 6-8 in normal clothes, an XS in running tops, and a 34 in Burda. I seem to be an XS in the Fehr Trade patterns, and this is not a size I have ever been called before ;). When I make this top again for my daughter, I will be scaling down another size, which I expect will fix the bra exposure issue in the armscye.

Melissa is giving a 10% discount on her patterns for people using the code "LASEREYES" until 30th June.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Work wardrobe miss, Burda Style 03-2012-122 Long cardigan

was making a long line cardigan to throw on over my new work clothes for the walk there and back, which can be a bit chilly (for wimpy persons who are used to hot weather). I was very taken with the lovely knit jackets Sew Jean Margaret wore during Me Made May, hence the plan, but alas, my knit cardigan does not look very good with my work clothes. My cardigan is unfortunately reminiscent of a bathrobe, when worn over trousers and a business shirt, so initially I was fairly unpleased with this project.


 I do like it though, over a knit dress for wearing on the weekend, so all is well!

 The pattern is from Burda Style, 03-2012-122, and I've made it before (the alterations are described in the earlier post), in a very fine gauze merino knit - it was terrific for travelling, rolling up to next-to-nothing, but the gauze did not hold up very well to regular wear and ended up being turned into a wildly successful scarf.

technical drawing from
This time I used a fine, but not gauze, merino knit, again from The Fabric Store and I think this slightly more robust fabric will hold up a bit better. However, it seems significantly more stretchy than the previous version, and has ended up oversized, despite some drastic reducing action at the side seams.
What I like about it particularly, is that although not magically slimming from behind, it is far more shapely than most long-line knit cardigans in this view, due to the darts and waistline shaping.


As in my last version, I have reinforced several seams (waistline, neckline) with clear elastic, and the shoulder seams are reinforced with woven selvage.
The tie bands are rolled sections of the knit.
It is just as comfortable as a bathrobe.

stashbusting statistics, about 1.5m of merino knit, 2013

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Thank you for all the kind comments re everyday sewing. It is reassuring to read that other people like to see real life clothes!
My latest project was very quick, easy and pleasing.


I had some scraps left over from my latest work blouse, and thought I'd try the free Sorbetto pattern from Colette patterns. I am possibly the last sewing blogger to try this, but was a bit put off by comments from some curvaceous persons who found this unflattering, so had it lying around in the sewing room waiting for the right remnants.
Well, it is just perfect on a slim teenager, even if she has an hourglass figure.
Size 0, with the sleeves from Sew Incidentally, not even scaled down to a 0 (the sleeve is about a 6), and with no adjusting of allegedly incompatible seam allowances. I told you it was quick and easy! (I think it took about an hour to cut out and sew)

I was actually inspired to make this by  SusanKPs pretty blouse in her latest 6pac. I didn't use her good idea of  mid section gathering, but used the pleat in the pattern.
As I had to cut the front out in two sections, with a joining seam, I used a machine embroidery feather stitch in a hopefully disguising manner along this seam, and also used this stitch to embellish the neckline binding.


The hem is bound as well, as the top is actually for my older daughter, who is not only taller than daughter the second (there wasn't a lot of fabric left), but lives mostly in Brisbane, a few hundred km away, so can afford to introduce the same fabrics as her mother wears into her wardrobe, as no one will ever see her mother.
Now I am under strict instructions to make a second one for this particular model, or maybe 3 or 4?
Stashbusting statistics - about a metre of remnant cotton. The benefits of sewing size 0!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Wardrobe balance + BWOF 01-2008-107 shirt, self drafted trousers

Me-made-May seems to have a subtitle in the reflection posts. Is what you sew, what you wear? I wear what I sew, but unfortunately, at times, this is boring in the sewing phase. It is a bad thing when you find your own blog and your favourite hobby rather dull. I hope this will pass! I am keeping it real. Sewing is not just pretty things for self (or daughter) adornment. Wardrobe building is not very exciting, but it needs to be done if you are anti fast-fashion or don't fit RTW. How to do it well, without excess expense, and in a minimal number of garments is endlessly interesting in theory. See this thread and its precursors.
I like a blog with shiny new patterns and endless party outfits as much as the next person, but my real life includes lots of clothes for work, exercise outfits for middle aged persons, and t shirts for the conservative 11 year old male. If sewing was just a hobby for me, I could be a dilettante, but fortunately for my budget, sewing has practical aspects around here.
I find it interesting, in the Me-Made-May round ups, that several people have said they have too many clothes, but still find it hard to find things to wear every day. I think Mikhaela sums it up very nicely here. Too many lovely clothes that aren't worn much, and not enough every day clothes that meet practical needs.
Of course, this could mean that we don't dress up enough in everyday life, despite having more options that the non sewing majority.
Clio says that nearly everyone wears a dress to the sewing meet ups,and wonders why. I guess that depends on your climate and lifestyle. I wear dresses for most of the year - but not to work.
Rachel of House of Pinhero says 65% of the clothes she's sewn are dresses.
I think I'll write down what type of clothing I wear the most, and see if I can balance my sewing with my wardrobe needs. This sounds a little like Carolyn's project where she sketched everything she wore for a year (such an organised lady, I'm in awe of her sewing and artistic skills), but I will not be sketching.
Here are more everyday clothes, that I needed a sew-a- long and self persuasion techniques to sew instead of something more interesting.


Blouse 01-2008-107 again, in a subdued Mumsy floral - possibly the floral is pushing the professional boundaries at work, floral has so little gravitas, but it is inoffensive. Hopefully the business-like shape of the shirt balances the prettiness.
There is some more business-like stripe on the inside of the (narrowed) collar stand and in the cuffs, but there wasn't enough for the plackets.
 Worn with Self drafted Useful trousers for work
Why are work clothes so boring to sew?
I'll like wearing these much better than I would like shopping for  or wearing ill fitting ugly work clothes, I just have to convince myself that this is what I want to make. Really.

Stashbusting statistics: About 1.5m of mid weight cotton woven, provenance forgotten, but a few years old

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Burda World of Fashion 01-2008-107 Bib front blouse

I've grit my teeth and am sticking to my work clothes plan. I rather like the trousers (considering that they are well, trousers), they've done their duty well at work, but photos are lacking, so I shall post about the blouse of multiple fabrics instead.


In my typical very - poor - use - of- time in an attempt to be thrifty, I was determined to make some sort of garment from a shirting remnant (man shirt), and thinking of the fabric squeezing possibilities inherent in a blouse with 8 pieces in the front, actually had a workable arrangement for this rather interesting take on a business shirt, Burda Style 01-2008-107.

technical drawing from
 I've made this before (with the collar from 108) using different stripe directions for the front and find the effect quite pleasing. (The FBA method and other alterations I used for this garment are shown at the post about the previous blouse )
Naturally, I needed a little help from another fabric to get a whole blouse from my remnant, but as I often make contrast collar stand, cuffs and plackets, for work shirts, I didn't see this as a problem

Unfortunately, in an unusual burst of enthusiasm for cutting out (usually I make one garment before starting the next one), I was cutting out blouse the first from my 6pac at the same time, and surprisingly having a largish rectangle of my striped shirting cotton left over, I cut out cuffs and collar stand for my cream blouse and patted myself on the back for using up every last piece of the remnant.
I'm sure you can fortell the next stage of this story.
Yes, I had only cut out one of the upper side pieces. This was cut in a single layer, so as to have the stripes in opposite directions for the 2 sides. When I carefully went through casually checked the pieces of the shirt, pinned to their pattern, prior to cutting out my extra cuffs, I failed to notice that there was a singleton.
The partially completed bodice lay around on my sewing table for a few days looking at me mockingly.
I wasn't keen to use the same fabric as the collar and cuffs, this being a bit strong in contrast, but having 3 fabrics in the blouse was making me think that the blouse would read "weekend cheerful and colourful patchwork" rather than "professional with a touch of whimsy".

Eventually, I went with a solid off-white, in a cotton herringbone twill (shirt weight), which has enough of a stripe effect to give me the directional variation I was after.

It is not a disaster, but I'm not sure if I like it as much as my original plan, there is something rather noticeable about it for a work blouse.


My other design changes to the pattern  were to offset the cuffs again, for a line of contrast from the right side, to add more buttons to the front fastening for gaposis resistance, and also an inverted pleat at the back, sewn down at the top and waist, to ensure room for arm movement with minimal untucking.Instead of the complex half chesterfield front with an added tab, (which was fun, looks good but used a lot of fabric and required fiddling) I have used the most simple form of sewn on placket - a long strip folded over, with self fabric as interfacing. I have used a David Page Coffin sleeve placket pattern and instructions from Shirtmaking.


Seams are flatfelled, for garment longevity and inside tidiness to be visible when the sleeves are rolled up, and I have used flat buttons on the cuffs instead of the shank ones at the front, to reduce catching.
It should be very practical and useful, and there is another blouse from the same pattern cut out and ready to go.

Unfortunately I have a sudden urge to sew chiffon and ruffles.

Scrapbusting statistics about 1.3 m of shirting remannt (Global Fabrics, Wellington 2011), and a few cm of 2 other cottons - herringbone twill from Michael's fabrics and unremembered location  for the floral.