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!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Burda of the Month: 9/2016 #108 blazer

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer in pink wool

Finally I have finished my September Burda project - it's been sitting in my sewing room untouched for at least the last three weeks. I made the outer part of the jacket quite quickly but when I got to the lining I suddenly lost all enthusiasm for sewing. Life has just been so busy lately and it's been easier to plan sewing projects, browse on-line fabric stores and read about other people's sewing achievements than actually tackle my own. But happily now it's done!

My pick from the September issue is probably no surprise to regular long term readers - I love a tailored blazer, especially one without a collar. This project is pattern 9/2016 #108:

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer
Image via Burda Style
For once the magazine photo pretty much resembles the pattern and how it fits - no photoshopping or sneaky clipping the garment behind the model's back to get that fit. The pattern comes in petite sizing and I made a size 17 at the shoulder grading out to 18 at the waist and 19 at the hips which seemed to work well enough for me. I didn't lengthen the bodice to account for my long waist so the button sits a little higher on me than the model photo, but it looks good enough to me.

The back fit is superb on this one. The centre back seam and princess seams meant I could shape the back really well, and there is only a little bit of excess fabric under my armpit which is usually my problem area when fitting jackets:

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer in pink wool

I really like the two darts at the neckline, it's something that is common in vintage patterns but not so much in modern patterns but it gives a nice shape:

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer in pink wool

The sleeves hang really well in this jacket and the shoulder was spot on without me doing my usual narrow shoulder adjustment. I didn't use any shoulder pads, but I did put in a sleeve header. Annoyingly the sleeve header seems to be visible and is a bit ripply, so I'm considering taking them out:

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer in pink wool

The fabric I used is a pink wool crepe that has been in the stash for a long time, that I bought from a garage sale. Because the fabric wasn't quite jacket weight I block interfaced all the pieces with whisperweft interfacing, and then added a second layer at the front and back neckline. I couldn't decide on a button to go with the pink fabric though, so I made a fabric covered button instead - this way it matches perfectly!

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer in pink wool

You might notice I also left off the welt pockets - I never use pockets in my jackets anyway and there's a good chance of making terrible welts and ruining the front so I left them off. That dart was a little tricky because of the sparse Burda instructions, basically you need to cut into the pattern horizontally to sew the vertical dart, and then sew the bottom of the dart and jacket together to make that horizontal line. I've got a little but of bubbling at the point as you can see in the above photo, but it's not too noticeable.

Apart from the dart, it's a very simple jacket to make and would have been quick to make if I didn't suffer a severe case of loss of sewing mojo! When I did pull my socks up and just got on with it, the lining was easy enough to make and quick to attach using the bagging method (see this Grainline Studio tutorial for the best visual explanation I've seen so far).

One last thing before I finish up this post. Anyone notice anything different about these photos? Apart from the poor quality - my DSLR is in for a service at the moment and I made Anna take these pictures with our little point and shoot camera. Anyone spot the change?

Burda 9/2016 #108 tailored blazer in pink wool

No more glasses for me - I had laser eye surgery last Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning I was marvelling at my new found amazing eyesight. I've worn glasses since I was 11 years old, so it's pretty strange to not wear them after 28 years - I still find myself putting my hands to my face to push up glasses that are no longer there! I can't wear any eye make up yet or get water in my eyes while they heal, but since I won't be hiding behind frames anymore it's time to learn how to apply eyeshadow and eyeliner. The surgery itself was rather painful but it was only 4 minutes per eye, and it was ridiculously expensive (I could have bought a fancy schmancy Bernina sewing machine instead) but it's totally worth it, even if my kids do think I look weird.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Susan Khalje Couture Sewing School in Sydney

If you follow the Australian Sewing Guild or Tessuti Fabrics on Facebook you've probably already discovered that Susan Khalje is coming to Australia early next year to run sewing courses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. And now that I'm safely booked in, I'm sharing it here in case you didn't already know!

Susan Khalje is a very well known sewing expert, particularly for her Classic French Jacket class which I've read lots about from various people who have attended her classes. I think it's a bit of a once in a lifetime experience to attend one of her classes, especially for us not located in the US.

On offer during her 2017 Australian Teaching School are the 7 day Classic French jacket sewing class, a 6 day Couture Sewing school, a 3 day Guipure Lace skirt class and a 2 day Couture Techniques class. The courses are pretty expensive, but I think hands on learning directly with the expert will be a priceless experience that you just can't replicate via on-line videos and books. Plus it's certainly cheaper than flying to the US!

I've enrolled into the French jacket sewing class and the 2 day couture techniques class which means that now I just have to purchase some suitable fabrics! There are so many inspiration photos out there, and I can't just decide whether I want to go with something classic like black and white, or something more colourful.

Since I'm making a classic French jacket I thought I'd buy something from the suppliers to Chanel: Linton Tweeds. I found some beautiful fabrics, but at 26 - 34 pounds per metre plus shipping (and the conversion rate) that is eye wateringly expensive for one garment so sadly I've ruled them out. But they are so pretty!
image via Linton Tweeds
image via Linton Tweeds
image via Linton Tweeds
And so the second part of my public service announcement post: Bewitch Fabrics in Leichhardt (Parramatta Road) is closing down and having a 50% off sale. I've never actually been inside their shop because I always assumed they only sold bridal fabrics based on what I could see in the window  as I chug past in the bus, but I have been told that they have a wide range of high end fabrics. And now I have a solid reason to go hunting - for a change I actually do need to buy some fabric and there's a sale, so it's a win-win situation. I shall report back when I'm successful!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

August Burda of the Month: 8/2016 #113 lace dress

Being very late in making this month's Burda project has ironically worked out for the best - the Burda August is always full of summer clothes but that's in the middle of our winter which makes it hard to get enthused about making anything. But since the weather is warming up around here and I have a few Christmas parties coming up late next month it was very easy to pick out a project from this issue.
Burda Style 8/2016 #113 couture dress

Burda describes this as a Couture Dress - pattern number 08/2016 #113 - but I think they're using the phrase 'couture' a bit liberally since there's little couture about the construction methods. Regardless, it's a great looking dress:
Burda Style 8/2016 #113 couture dress
Image via Burda Style
This is a tall pattern and comes in size ranges 72 - 88. Burda tall sizes are designed for ladies that are 176cm or taller, which I am definitely not! But I am long waisted, which meantt the waist line of this pattern hit me in the right spot but I did reduce the skirt length by 18cm.

I did forget to alter the depth of the armscye though, and you can see that my dress sits quite low under my arms in comparison to the model's picture above. But it's not scandalously low, and I can still wear a strapless bra with this dress without it showing.

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace

I decided not to make the belt that came with the pattern because it involves several layers of fabrics folded origami style and my fabric is quite spongy and would have been too thick to look any good. The fabric is a lace I bought from The Fabric Store a few years ago, which if I recall correctly is a Marc Jacobs fabric:

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace

It has a small amount of stretch which was lucky for me since my dress turned out a bit on the snug side (might be time to retake my measurements after a slothful winter!). The fabric is a bit transparent though, which you can see when I hold the fabric up to the light - that's the seam line running down the middle:

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace

So I decided to fully line this dress instead of just the bodice as required by the pattern. I used a very stretchy polyester knit for the lining which meant I could just sew the skirt as a tube rather than with the split. The wrap of this dress is very deep so it's unlikely to have a wardrobe malfunction, but with this lining there is no chance of accidentally flashing anything at all:

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace

As usual, a fitted dress with a waist seam and darts suits my figure and I managed to get a very close fitting dress without any pooling at the small of my back (the stretch of the fabric helps with that as well).

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace

I made a slight change to the construction at the back. I chose not to run the invisible zip right to the top of the neckband because I thought that trying to get the zipper head past the bulky neckband would be difficult. Instead I stopped it below the neckband and instead sewed on a button and elastic loop to hold the neckband together. It doesn't work so well, as you can see in the photo below the neckband doesn't sit very nicely together, but it will be covered by my hair so it's good enough for me:

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace

Overall, I love this dress. It's a very simple silhouette, a bit sexy without showing too much skin at all and very easy to sew. If I make this again I would use a solid fabric because I love the look of the darts meeting in an inverted 'v' at the side seam, but that detail is lost in this busy fabric. And I'm also very pleased at finally using this fabric - it's another piece in my stash that I've been wanting to use for a very long time but the right pattern just didn't come along until now.

Burda 8/2016 #113 couture dress in lace