Thursday, 23 March 2017

Butterick 5600: the business shirt turned dress(y)

I'm slowly making my way through the hoard of fabrics that I acquired last year (which I confessed to here in this post). This time I used a cotton shirting fabric that I bought from My Hung fabrics in Parramatta to make a shirt dress:

This pattern is Butterick 5600, which is now OOP, but I think is a great pattern:

I've made this once before in a black and white floral print cotton back in 2012 which I still wear frequently during summer. I can't believe it's been so long since I last made this pattern because every summer I think I should make another one but it only took me 5 years! I still have the green sandals I'm wearing in this photo below, so clearly I still like this look.

I took care to match the plaids at the front bands, but I deliberately cut the neck bands on the bias to get some contrast. I couldn't quite achieve those stripes on the sleeves to line up though, but as we all know no-one else ever notices these things!

It was a bit more tricky to align the stripes on the back though because of the centre pleat in the bodice - I tried to ease the fabric in as much as possible so you can some slight puckers in the yoke but the dominant stripes are nearly aligned:

The only thing I didn't like on my original version of this dress is the sleeve - it has the sleeve tabs but the sleeves aren't actually long enough to fold up. So on this pattern I lengthened the sleeves so I could fold it back to form a cuff at the elbow.

The other slight change I made was to lower the casing for the waistband tie slightly because I do prefer to wear my clothes slightly lower than my natural waistline and it reduces the puffiness of fabric that I get in the small of my back in the black and white version.

It was only after taking these photos that I noticed that the stripe in the waistband casing isn't straight! It's not too noticeable when I'm wearing it though

The waistband tie at this level feels really comfortable and looks great, but I didn't think about how it would look when seated. When I sit down, the waistband rises slightly and puffs out at the front: 

But despite these minor issues overall I love this dress, and have worn it quite frequently in the last few weeks. It's pretty quick to make, although it does have quite a lot of buttons down the front which took a bit of time to sew on.

The cotton shirting fabric tends to wrinkle a little bit, but it was wonderful to wear during our atrociously hot summer days and the high neckline and sleeves covers me up from too much sun exposure so it's pretty much my perfect summer dress. With some flat shoes it works quite well for casual days, but with a navy jacket and heels I've worn it to work as well.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Something quick, cheery and simple

After that intensive week of couture sewing with Susan Khaljie, I needed something quick and simple. Also, at that time were having crazy heatwave conditions and I needed something light and airy to avoid a major sweat induced meltdown. Ironically, the day I took these photos it's raining and rather cold but I have worn this skirt quite a bit in the previous two weeks when it was super hot.

Enter Butterick 5441, a pattern that I picked in a opshop some time ago that has been sitting in my stash waiting to be used. I thought this style is a bit 1980s, but according to the vintage patterns wikia it may actually be 1970s instead. The fabric is a gorgeous golden yellow cotton that I picked up from the last Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap day generously donated by Stephanie. Yes - I used one of those many fabrics I amassed late last year! I even had a yellow zip in the stash also picked up from an opshop, so an all round cheap and cheerful project.

This is a very simple skirt pattern - a lightly gathered skirt, a straight waistband and some side pockets. All sewn on the sewing machine with nary a handstitch other than sewing a button on! However, in my haste to make this skirt I knew I was making a fundamental error. A straight waistband does not suit my body shape at all and never fits properly. I was deluding myself that I could wear this slung low on my hips and that it wouldn't matter, but you can see in the photo below that the waistband dips terribly:

So I did a quick and easy fix by inserting some elastic through the waistband. The waistband is slightly gathered now but I don't think it will be terribly noticeable and now it sits in a much better place.

The back of the skirt is lightly gathered and the zip is in the side seam, so it really is a simple project to sew.

This is a new length for me - normally I hem my skirts at the knee, or slightly above but I thought I'd try this ballerina length. And I quite like it!

And before you ask, no I haven't finished the Frnech style jacket. Nearly there, I've mostly got the trim on, but need to do the pockets and finish the lining. Oh and sew on the buttons. A bit more than I thought actually!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Half finished little French jacket

Six days of uninterrupted sewing, surrounded by beautiful fabrics, away from household responsibilities and sewing with a renowned expert sounds like the dream doesn't it? In reality it's exhausting! I spent all of last week doing the French jacket sewing course with Susan Khaljie and despite sewing from 8am to 6pm everyday I still didn't finish it. I don't have much left to do - I need to hunt down some trim to finish sewing on my jacket, put on the buttons and pockets and hand stitch the lining closed. Getting close though!

black and white boucle French jacket

This pattern is Susan's own pattern, which apparently is drafted exactly like a Chanel jacket with a close fitting body, high neckline and a three piece sleeve with a jutting out sleeve vent so you can attach that eponymous trim:

image via
Work on this jacket started well before the course though, I made three muslins before the course and still found that a lot of fitting tweaks were still needed:

You can see in the above photos that it's too wide for me and there's excess fabric around the armscye. However, a few minutes with Susan and the excess is all pinned out:

One side has been fitted but not the other, which is why I look so lopsided in the above photos. The calico actually becomes the pattern pieces, so after this I pulled apart all the seams, pinched out the excess and got down to sewing the jacket. So why does it take so long to make such a simple jacket?

Well, there's a lot of hand stitching involved - the lining pieces at every seam line are hand sewn shut, and the sleeves are sewn in by hand too. There was also continual fitting checks, because the traditionally used fabric of tweed and boucle are loosely woven and behave quite differently to calico. Here I am part way through with the body done but not the sleeves:

black and white boucle French jacket

Some of the ladies in my class were sewing with the most beautiful Chanel fabrics that cost hundreds of dollars per metre and were ordered specially from Mendel Goldberg in New York. My fabric on the other hand, came from The Fabric Store during their recent sale and is an interesting wool/polyester mix but certainly wasn't very expensive. It seems to have black and white bobbly yarn topstitched to the fabric, so it's quite a textural fabric and is quite lofty which meant that the quilting stitches sank right into the fabric and are invisible.

black and white boucle French jacket

Finding trim and buttons though is quite the challenge. It's the key aspect of a jacket like this, and there are only a few stores scattered throughout the city and suburbs selling it which means it's quite a hunting expedition. I managed to find some white grosgrain ribbon that had been folded origami style from Tessuti, but I am still on the hunt for some narrow trim to go down the centre of the white ribbon because it looks a little plain.

black and white boucle French jacket

So even though I didn't finish the jacket (actually no one in the course did), I've certainly learnt so much. Whilst I think my sewing skills are fairly advanced, I'm a very functional sewer and in no way is anything I make couture - I like to do as little hand sewing as possible! However, I have come to realise that a beautiful inside of a garment which neat hand stitches is a thing of beauty and that precision sewing after making muslins does result in a great outcome.

If you ever get the opportunity to do a course with Susan Khaljie I can highly recommend it - sure it's expensive but she has so much knowledge to pass on. But if not, I hear her video is very informative as well. I am now about to do a two day skills and techniques course with her, where I will no doubt discover how shoddy my techniques are and how much I have yet still to learn....

Saturday, 4 February 2017

New Look 6968 - an old fave.....

Making multiple fitting muslins without getting much closer to a well fitting jacket is hugely frustrating and quite boring if I'm being honest. So to break up the monotony and frustration, I decided to whip out a TNT pattern using one of my recent fabric purchases.

Enter New Look 6968 (now OOP), a simple sheath dress with a few interesting options but most importantly a seam at the waist which is perfect for fitting adjustments for my swayback:

I've used this pattern many times over the last 5 or so years (see here, here, herehere or here for proof!). Sadly, all my previous versions seem to have shrunk in the wardrobe in the last year and are currently a little too snug to wear so it was out of necessity and not just procrastination that I made this latest version.

This fabric is Tessuti's Bamboozled which is a lovely cotton/elastene that I bought recently from their Surry Hills store. After a pre-wash it didn't lose any of it's deep blue colour, crispness and nor did it shrink. I had bought it planning to make a pencil skirt, but because it was quite wide I managed to just eek this dress out.

Because of my recent weight gain experience of clothes inexplicably shrinking, I decided to cut out a size larger than I normally use - a 10 bust, 12 waist and 14 hips. However I don't think the extra width was really needed due to the stretch in the fabric, because overall the dress feels a little big and a little frumpy. There's a bit too much ease at my bust line (my weight never goes there!), and around the waistline, but I think the main problem is that the skirt is straight and boxy. I think I might take it in at the side seams a little to make it more pegged and perhaps make it a bit shorter so it sits just above my knee:

The side and back view looks ok though, those darts at the waist really help get a snug fit at my swayback:

And check out that pattern matching at the sides - that always makes me happy.

This dress came together super quickly thanks to my previous experience with it. I chose not to line this version because the fabric is a dense fabric so there would be no issues with sheerness, but also because it's been about a billion degrees in the shade around here lately and I really wanted a cool cotton dress in which to swelter.  Seriously, Sydney has had it's hottest every January with many days around the 40C/104F and nights above 30C/86F. As a pale skinned redhead, I just cannot cope with such heat and I am looking forward to winter (my apologies to those of you suffering through a bitterly cold winter right now).

Despite those little niggles which is probably my vanity more than anything, I'm still happy with this dress and can see it on high rotation for the next few months.

So after churning out a successful project you would think I'd get back into my muslin making with renewed enthusiasm. Well, it turns out that I'm at my most productive when I'm procrastinating and I've already made another dress (just need some buttons) and a skirt! I'll either be burning the midnight oil the night before the course or just go with what I have and get some much needed help on fitting.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The opposite of a fabric diet

So, it's been a while since I posted here hasn't it? I did realise how long it's actually been until I received two emails this week from lovely readers enquiring whether everything is ok in my world given my blog silence (thanks Shibani and Esther!).

There is no particular reason or exciting tale to tell, just the usual boring excuse of being very busy and not having anything interesting to post. You see, we moved house shortly before Christmas and it took weeks to pack, move and unpack as well as being totally exhausting. Thankfully I didn't have to pack up my sewing room though it's currently full of half of our belongings - we've moved into a two bedroom apartment temporarily while our old house is demolished and a new one constructed.

This is very exciting to me, because I designed our new house to be a compact two storey dwelling that will be highly energy efficient with all the space we currently don't have (a butlers pantry! a large walk in wardrobe! more than one poky bathroom!). Our old house is a 1950s weatherboard dwelling that was very hot in summer, very cold in winter and had small rooms with no storage at all - even though we did a partial renovation about 8 years it just wasn't great.

The garage, with my sewing room above it, is in a separate building to the house and it won't be demolished. This is why I don't need to pack up my sewing room (phew) although I can't use it for the next 9 or 10 months during construction. So it's back to sewing on a little desk in the corner of my bedroom just like I did my single days when I lived in a small apartment in the city.

Given I have next to no storage space in my current sewing space, you would think that I'd be sensible and not buy fabric. Or possibly, you're just like me and really can't help yourself! I haven't sworn off buying fabric for many years now because I know I just can't do it. But I like looking at other people's fabric purchases and I hoping that posting these here will make me a bit more mindful of future purchases, so I thought I'd share my acquisitions over the last 6 months (plus this post needs some photos to liven it up).

I mentioned a few posts ago that I'm enrolled in Susan Khaljie's French jacket course in February, so I went to Bewitch Fabrics in Leichhardt in search of some suitable boucle fabric. They were having a closing down sale and the fabrics were marked down by up to 50% which was lucky because those very exquisite fabrics were very expensive. The funny thing was that they had rolls and rolls of fabric just shoved in their little store, even though the fabrics were $100/m plus. This is Toby pointing out a fabric I should buy:

I ended up buying a multi coloured chunky wool fabric which was marked down to $60/m for my jacket, and a lovely navy blue with gold floral motif in a silk / wool crinkle blend (soon to become a Frocktails dress) and a grey wool herringbone which will become  pants or a jacket this winter:

Back in November the Sydney Spoolettes had a fabric swap day. I took a bag of fabric, and meant not to return with more than I brought. I was doing ok until the very end when I stayed behind to help pack away the leftover fabric and then I added very significantly to my haul and took home more than I brought. I did score some lovely fabrics (no immediate plans) and some amazing patterns, plus just generally had a great time chatting with lots of lovely ladies:

I also ventured to the Fabric Cave to drop off some more donations and came away with some more lovely pieces. These beautiful wool fabrics at a bargain price will become a jacket some winter soon:

At the Fabric Cave I also found a large piece of red printed John Kaldor print cotton which will become my December Burda project soonish and a candy stripe cotton drill. I also stopped by Spotlight two weeks ago to get some thread and walked out with a blue rayon print for some drawstring pants and some neon yellow stretch denim:

You read that correctly - neon yellow stretch denim! Unsurprisingly it was marked down to $2/m, but I bought it to make some pants for a dear friend's young daughter who specifically requested yellow pants. She has spent far too much time in hospital with some chronic health issues these last two years so I was very happy to oblige. I made these from Burda 11/2010 #146, and recipient was delighted:

For my birthday late last year my parents gave me some cash, which I happily spent on more fabric! I happened to be in Parramatta for a work meeting, so I popped into My Hung fabrics which has some great fabrics. I bought some cotton sateen in light purple, peach and white to make summer jackets (probably next summer at this rate), dark blue fabric which has been made into a birthday dress for Anna, and check cotton which I'm currently making into a dress:

And finally, I swung by Tessuti fabric last week in Chatswood to buy some tracing paper.  Well, I didn't get any tracing paper, but I bought some glorious wool suiting fabric in emerald green and electric blue which I've had my eye on all last year to make some new work jackets, plus some stripe jersey which will become a simple t-shirt dress.

So I popped into Tessuti in Surry Hills a few days ago to get that tracing paper, but walked out instead with a new sleeve board and another piece of fabric which is currently being washed and no tracing paper. Sigh, I will never be able to control myself......

Anyway, I hope sharing this has made you feel better about your recent fabric acquisitions and overall stash. But I would like to finish with this statistic - last year I made 43 garments for myself, 1 for Anna, 1 for Toby and 29 gold sequin jackets for Anna's school, so I am sewing - just not fast enough to possibly use all the fabric I've ever purchased ;(

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Burda of the Month: 10/2016 #113 W I D E leg pants!

So I may have finished my October Burda of the month project in mid November, however since my November issue hasn't yet arrived I am technically up to date in my Burda challenge - yay for me!

There were quite a few lovely dresses in this issue, however I decided to step outside my comfort zone and make something I don't think I've ever made before - a pair of wide leg pants:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

This is Burda 10/2016 #113, which are called 'Sailor Pants' by Burda however I decided to leave off the buttons on the pockets which I think are a bit OTT nautically themed:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

These pants legs are super wide, and it feels quite strange to have fabric swishing around when I walk after so many years of wearing skinny leg jeans and pants. And I'm still not sure where I will wear these pants - even if fashion magazines are declaring the death of skinny legs, no-one in my neighbourhood is getting around in flares or palazzo pants yet.

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

I wasn't sure if I'd like this pattern and I was just hoping these would turn out to be a wearable muslin (ie the cross your fingers and hope you make something half decent approach!). I've had this fabric in the stash for a long time - it's just a poly/cotton mix which came from an op shop and I have lots of it so there was nothing to lose, but it has the perfect weight and drape. It does however wrinkle terribly - those creases at the front aren't whiskers due to tight fit but rather wrinkles for sitting down for the 3 minute car drive to get to the waterfront!

I'm also a bit unsure on how to style wide leg pants. Consulting Dr Google, apparently a chunkier shoe such as a wedge or a platform should be worn - neither of which I own. I did try them with flat shoes, but of course that only works if you have hemmed the pants to the right length. These pants were ridicously long - I chopped 15cm off the bottom, sewed a 5cm hem and they are still way too long to wear these pants with flats because it just looks baggy and a bit sloppy:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

Because I didn't make a muslin I had to make some fitting changes which didn't turn out so perfect. I should have known before I cut these out that I would have gaping issues at the centre back - I ended up re-cutting the waistband to have a centre back seam so that I could curve it more, and I had take a wedge out of the centre back seam at the waist, which means the waistband dips a bit too low. There are also loads of annoying wrinkles at the back, partly due to the annoying fabric showing everything but also due to these lazy fitting changes:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

I also found this pattern to run rather small. My measurements placed me between sizes, so I sized down because I find there is usually a lot of ease in Burda patterns, however these turned out really tight and I had to let out all the seams as far as I could to make them more comfortable. But you can see in the photos above and below those wrinkles pointing to my saddlebag thighs which are my widest point and cause of most of my fitting woes:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

But enough about the negatives, on to the good points. I do like the pockets that sit flat on the front of the pants - because pockets usually sit at my widest point I generally avoid putting them in the side seam because they just add bulk. I also did a pretty good job at matching the stripes on the pocket and the pants front:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

I also like the wide waistband - I find them more comfortable and they generally sit across my stomach rather than cause a muffin top. These pants have an invisible zip on the side, so the waistband pieces are cut on the fold. Because of the curve in the waistband it wasn't possible to match up all the pinstripes, so I focused on matching those at the centre front:

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

So overall I'm a bit on the fence about this project. On the one hand, I think they look pretty good in these photos (apart from those wrinkles) and it was a very easy pattern to make. However I'm not sure how practical they are in real life - what to wear with white and blue pinstripe pants? Where to wear such swishy, wide leg pants? And how to keep them clean? Just wearing them for these photos resulted in the hem getting so dirty I had to change out of them straight away. This is one of the few times I've worn something just for the sake of taking blog photos - I feel like a bit of a fraud to tell you the truth! 

Burda 10/2016 #113 sailor pants

Anyway, if wide leg pants are your thing I can thoroughly recommend this pattern to you, I think they would look quite dramatic in silky black material paired with a sparkly top for evening wear, but overall this is a lot of look for a daytime for quiet ol' me!