Sunday, 19 April 2015

Vogue 1152, Rebecca Taylor frocks and my good fortune in living where the climate encourages me to make Summer dresses well into Autumn

I was inspired by the Stashbusting group to stash bust a pattern or two from my extensive and aging collection.( As usual for my sewing plans at the moment I am a month late in following the theme for March).This Rebecca Taylor frock, Vogue 1152 has been on my to-do list since I saw a few gorgeous versions, about 2 years ago. As the season, if not the weather, is now Autumn, I thought I'd make a last-of-summer dress from this highly appealing pattern. The piping and gathering at the front waistline was definitely calling to me, although I was not entirely confident that I could carry off the gathered sleeves.
For this frock, I did not make a toile, having no throw-away fabric of the correct weight, instead chosing to use a somewhat boring fabric for a hopefully wearable first version (internet colour surprize). I read the garment ease numbers, held pattern pieces up to myself and my dress form and made a few choices based on pattern reviews, with not entirely felicitious results.

When checking the fit at the bust, it seemed to me that the centre bodice pattern piece was rather short. Being almost resigned to endless FBA and feeling that gravity may have been acting in this region, I added 5cm to the depth and crossed my fingers that the generous wearing ease would take care of any circumferential dimension issues.
However, I had failed to take account of the extension of the yoke to the front. I blame the pattern photo on the envelope. What business has all that hair on the model, and the busy print, obscuring the shoulder! I ended up with an empire waistline design sitting pretty much on the waist, which was a tad annoying.
I had fiddled around with the front neckline, raising it 5cm, and also fully lining the upper centre bodice piece rather than using facings.
This was quite successful, except that I hadn't quite raised the neckline sufficiently for my personal aesthetic, so I made a petticoat from the same fabric, using Burda Style 05- 2009-124 , which took care of modesty both by avoiding excessive skin exposure in this region and reversing the translucency of the fabric.
 I kept the high/low shirt tail hem, with a little more added to the front to both hit my knees (I have short legs, so this front hem is quite high as designed - it is difficult to believe that the dress worn by the probably 6 foot tall model on the envelope is made to the pattern length), and to reduce the difference between the front and the back, which I felt was a bit dramatic for me. I also shortened the elastic in the casing at the back to reduce the waist circumference of the garment, and added an third piece of elastic here to manage the gathers more evenly.
I did try the sleeves, thinking of this as a transeasonal garment, but I felt ridiculously puffy and juvenile with the volume at the shoulders. I much prefer the dress sleeveless. The armscyes on my versions are bound with self fabric bias, trimmed to 1/4 of an inch, then folded to the inside and topstitched.
I also used a mixture of felled seams (princess seams on bodice), french seams (side seams) and bias binding on the zip. I'm quite pleased with the finishing on the inside. 
This dress, even with an additional layer of petticoat, is floaty and cool to wear, being made of cotton voile, but I wasn't entirely happy with it due to the dull fabric and the waistline placement, so I made a second version.

This one has the advantage of a better waist placement, more personally appealing neckline depth and also a normal straight hem. Using a dark fabric, in lawn, rather than pale voile fabric, also means I do not necessarily need a petticoat, which makes the dress ideal for very hot days.
I wore this dress today for what my husband told me was the last day of Summer weather (tongue in cheek, to persuade me to accompany him on a necessary trip). After the dull and necessary activities we went to the beach at a tourist spot and had fish and chips for dinner. Perfect.
Stashbusting statistics, 3.5m beige voile print (2011) - all gone, yay!, 2.4 metres navy lawn print (2012)
scrap report 1.1 m of navy lawn left over

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Burda Style 03-2011-131 Easter shorts stashbusting attempt

I've had a lovely time patting all my fabric sorting out my extensive fabric collection and piling all the smaller pieces in a "must use up very soon" section. This is a fabulous idea for reducing the stash, except that sometimes you just end up with even smaller pieces that do not quite fit the "can throw out now" scrap stage. Your fabric size storage and throwing out tolerance may vary, but mine causes these difficulties frequently. It is highly annoying to me that scrappy pieces of fabric somehow take up more space than 2 metres x 150cm of the same substance in a tight roll.
I had a very nice pale purplish pink  bottom-weight cotton from Michael's Fabrics, this being a byproduct of my regular collection of cotton for shirts from this source when they have a cotton bundle sale and the Australian dollar is feeling robust. There was about a yard of fabric, quite useable.

Being rather careless in my stashbusting efforts, I managed to cut out this cute pair of shorts for my daughter from about 60% of it, leaving a possibly useable remainder.
technical drawing
The pattern is from Burda Style 03-2011, where the garment appears in a short and a knee length version, 131 and 132. This version is tapered out slightly from the hip, the original being rather straight and tight around the thigh, and given a slightly extended front lap for the waistband. The fitting changes are to slightly deepen the back rise, and to narrow the waist at centre back and at the side seams. To allow for this waist adjustment, I have given the constructed the shorts so that the waistband is sewn to the body before finishing the side and upper centre back seam, which seeing as Burda has left in a centre back seam in the drawing, but not the pattern piece, seems a better order than their sewing instructions suggest.
I left off the pockets, as my daughter does not care for side seam pockets and conveniently felt that welt pockets or a patch pocket would not add to the usefulness nor aesthetic appeal of the shorts (or maybe she wanted to wear them very soon, having brought insufficient warm weather clothing home from Brisbane)

I've used some very small scraps of allegedly Liberty print lawn, pattern Mirabelle, purchased quite some time ago from, and mysteriously missing both the texture of Tana lawn and the Liberty label in the selvage, to line the waistband, the fly, and to bind the seams and hem.
This secret inner detail is very pleasing to me, as even if the fabric has dubious provenance, the print is rather pretty. I used an additional layer of the bottom-weight cotton instead of a commercial interfacing, and stabilized the upper waistline with woven selvage of the same fabric to assist in the prevention of stretch during wear.
I've used a flower machine embroidery stitch for the fly topstitching, and used flower shaped pewter buttons. These sort of details were very pleasing to my daughter when she was 5 or so, and she still puts up with them, she is very kind to her mother.

I am pleased to have this shorts pattern fitted, as I have a few more small pieces of fabric lying about.

To co-ordinate with these new shorts, there is some experimental sewing.
I have some pre shirred fabric, from Pitt Trading, previously used for the bodice of a sundress. This fabric is a fine cotton woven, but acts like a 2 way knit due to the shirring. I traced off a ready to wear knit singlet and sewed it from the shirred fabric, binding the neckline and armscyes with cotton/lycra knit.
The hem, which is unfortunately not pictured due to wanting to display the shorts waistband, has caused great self back patting. Last time I used this fabric, hemming caused considerable time in the crying  thinking chair, as the fabric, being crinkled, stretches out when sewn in a highly annoying and unattractive manner. This time, I cut a thin strip of the cotton lycra knit, and sewed it the to the very edge of the fabric using a narrow 3 step zig zag and a walking foot. The knit rolls up slightly, giving a textural appeal that looks quite deliberate, and also has sufficient recovery to prevent a lettuce effect to the hem, and the zig zag  stitch stops the woven fabric from fraying.
Overall, I feel I have made quite a successful singlet, which is cooler to wear than a similar style of knit top, but still requires no ironing. I felt quite clever about this whole outfit, until I realised that I now possessed about 40cm scrap of cotton herringbone and about 70 cm of shirred white voile, less useable sizes than before I started sewing, and not really reduced the stash volume at all.
I will have to sew more things, how terrible!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Dressed. An adventure with a happy ending.

My husband's aunt had a difficult job quite recently. Her very elderly and terminally ill mother- in -law, resident in Detroit, Michigan, USA made her promise,  not to dispose of any of household goods by a garage sale, estate sale, or anything similar. My aunt and her husband (an only child) were to ship the entire contents of the house back to Australia on her demise,  and to distribute the goods amongst family members. This lady had been living in the house since she was married, some 60 years previously, and whilst working at department store Hudsons, had collected an amazingly large assortment of everything one could think of- much of it still in original wrappings. It is fortunate that my uncle in law (this is getting confusing!) runs a business involving importing things from the United States, or this exacting job would have been even more complicated.
This is how my daughters obtained, between them, 5 sets of beautiful quality, 50's cotton sheets, and several sets of thick, fluffy, vintage printed and tiny (by today's standards) towels for their shared flat. They had to decline further items, or would have a flat full of vintage china, bric a brac and soft furnishings and no room for anything else. They like vintage, but not as a 100% decorating theme.(They also scored a few items of beautiful vintage clothing)
I don't need any more sheets, but after rashly commenting  in the hearing of my aunt-in-law, on the appeal of some really wide floral border printing and tiny rosebuds, ended up with several sheets with which I was to make something to wear.

This dress was inspired by a 19th century petticoat my daughter and I saw at the"Undressed" Undercover exhibition at the Queensland Museum.  The original garment was gathered with fine rouleux cords, acting as drawstrings in the approximate spacing I have reproduced on the dress. What particularly appealed to us was the negative spacing between the pairs of narrow gathering cords, with a clear difference between the front and back. Shirred sundresses are ubiquitous at the moment, but these details make the dress subtly different and more flattering.

I prepared the sheet by holding it up to my daughter to get feedback on the desired neckline depth , waist placement and finished length, then snipped and tore across to have a straight grain, placing the most densely printed part of the border print at the hem. Fortunately for me, the fold over finish of the sheet was on the grain. The dress is a single width of 1950"s standard "twin" or double bed. This is a little less wide than standard double bed width today.

I used a rolled hem foot for the top edge, which worked very nicely, and I was suitably appreciative of the industrial revolution as I did this, thinking of how tedious several metres of hand rolling must have been when this was the only option.
I then applied shirring elastic in pairs, using the bridging stitch as shown in this earlier post.

I placed the shirring so that the wide spacing allowed for the bust, and closer spacing for the lower ribs, to just above the waist. At the back, the spacing is even throughout, although the pairs, then negative space pattern is maintained.

The shirring was adjusted to have more gathers at the front and back than at the sides, then the single seam was sewn as a french seam under the arm. I then added 3 narrow straps, made from the plain white part of the sheet,attached about 5mm apart at the bodice, then joined at the shoulder,before being fitted on my daughter before cutting to length and attaching at the back.
The dress was very simple to make, and I think using the different spacing and a shoulder strap variation distinguishes it from the mass market shirred dresses owned by nearly every teenage girl in our district.

The hem is the original top folded edge of the sheet.
My daughter is quite happy with this dress, and whilst hoping that her distant relative would have been pleased with the use of this pretty sheet, I am personally planning not to leave disposal of my personal collections to be a burden to someone else. Sewing from stash is my continuing mantra...if only I can stick to it.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Liberty shir,t Burda Style 03-2013-147

 Somehow, when my son was selecting fabric for his next shirt, he honed in on a piece of Liberty lawn, that I had bought specifically for myself whilst shopping with Sharon of Petite and Sewing when she very kindly took me to Tessuti in Surrey Hills.

Despite some reluctance to part with this fabric, I felt that such natural good taste should be encouraged. Considering that a lawn shirt is one of the very few items of cool-to-wear-in-hot -weather clothing socially acceptable for a young man, and that Liberty prints have so many colours in them that they co-ordinate with almost everything, I gave in to the inevitable and made him this luxurious garment.

The pattern, Burda Style 03-2013-147, which I have made previously in a smaller size, is modified slightly by making a short sleeved version for high summer temperatures, and discarding all the contrast bits. I also changed the placket.
 technical drawing from

Instead of commercial interfacing, I used a medium weight cotton twill both inside the collar,  and as the outer collar stand. This is cooler to wear than the polyester used in most interfacing. There is some hand topstitching around the collar stand for my own amusement, and to pick up the lovely blue shade from the print.

The blue just happens to be exactly the same shade as his hand knit cable pullover from last winter, which due to some forethought in making long cuffs, still fits. One has to take advantage of these serendiptious happenings.

My son selected glowing orange buttons, rather than the neutral ones I was expecting. By using a triple fold placket, as per David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking instructions, instead of Burda's, I was able to follow Claudine's detailed instructions for sewing on the buttons with a waste knot, hiding the thread in between the layers of the placket. I hope this will hold up to the vigours of boy wash and wear.
Despite the  expression, this is a favoured garment, and I will undoubtedly be making more, probably in the next size up, for increased tracing opportunities.

Monday, 16 March 2015

No inseam! Steeplechase exercise leggings

I pattern test for Melissa at Fehr Trade.That's my disclaimer about these exercise bottoms, as my testing pattern was free to me.


A good thing about pattern testing, is that it makes you sew,. You might have noticed that there has been a long blogging pause here. I have sewn a bit over the past few months, but increasing time demands in my real life have led to blog writing neglect and also blog reading and commenting neglect. Thank you to the lovely people who sent blog-missing messages. I hope to post more regularly again now, things have calmed down elsewhere!

 Melissa has a 10% off coupon at her post about these. Excuse me for gushing, but her latest pattern is possibly my favourite yet (although I have a soft spot for the VNA top, more about the new ones later)
There is no inseam in these leggings.
Not only does this completely eliminate chafing (for me, in running, your mileage may vary), but there is very flattering curvy seaming everywhere else.
There are only minor fitting changes for these for my daughters (an XXS and an XS).
My main problem was working out how to draw attention to the very cool, curvy seaming.

One  pair has contrasting coverstitch (the pair in the top photo). This looks fine, but not sufficiently bold for my taste in exercise gear.



This pair has stretch knit "piping" (I just folded over the fabric, no cord) in red cotton knit with lycra, and I was so pleased with the effect that I made the next pair just the same, but with purple. I had to hand baste the crotch seam where the "piping" meets to have it line up nicely, but otherwise this was an easy addition to the pattern.


All of the pairs for daughters are taken in at the waist - for one daughter by actually doing some fitting changes, which were included in the pattern instructions, and for the other by just having a smaller elastic circumference at the waist.
I also made myself 2 pairs (S). My pair needed enlargement at the backside and taking in at the waist, but no surprises there, this is what I usually do for trousers - usually more painfully.
All the versions I made are at the capri length. There is a "biker" length above the knee, and a full length version also included in the pattern.
I used a heavy supplex woven called "Titanium" for all the leggings. I bought it at Stretchtex. I used a walking foot and a stretch needle in construction on my conventional machine, with a narrow 3 step zigzag.
Steeplechase Leggings

 This is a unique and interesting pattern,that was quick to sew, providing beautifully practical and, of their type,flattering garments, and making these has really fired up my sewing mojo. What more can you ask from a pattern?

Friday, 5 December 2014

Prosaic sewing, boy's pyjamas, Burda Style 02-2013-146

Not so long ago, I went to a sewing social event, Frocktails, with the Brisbane Spoolettes. I thoroughly enjoyed this evening, despite my usual introvert inclinations, but being recognized by my blog, although highly flattering, was also a bit strange, particularly as the impressions people hold about my life from my blog are not quite what I expected. For instance, apparently in the blogsphere, my offspring are my 2 daughters, who sometimes are only 1 daughter.

 Just for the record, here is my poor sewing neglected son, in one of his favourite photo poses - headlessly unidentifiable. No wonder he has a limited virtual presence.

 These are some of his thrilling new pyjama shorts, made from recycled business shirts. This particular pair are made from a custom shirt I made for my husband (who also may or may not exist in my blog identity, according to my Frocktail sources) The other 2 pairs are mostly composed of fabric sourced from purchased shirts. My husband is very fond of luxurious shirts. One of the shirts was made from gorgeous Italian cotton, far too nice to throw out just because the collars had become shabby, and the other is a boring regulation cotton chambray. I sort of used the trousers pattern from Burda Style 02-2013 (146)


I eliminated the front pockets, the pleats, the darts, the back welt pocket, the fly and made my own waistband, but the crotch curve may still be the same ;)  For the first pair (pictured) I added a draw string to the elastic in the waist, but I was told this was an unecessary detail.

These trousers run to a size 158, which is not terribly common for Burda, smaller boy sizes are much more common. I cut the fronts of the shorts from the sleeves (size 12 boy, size large shirt) and the backs of the shorts from the fronts or back and front of the shirt. There were a few shirt backs left over - these have been used for the waistband of the shorts and also as the lining for a hat. The much washed cotton is beautifully soft for both these purposes.

 Woven cotton sleepwear is far superior to any knit things or poly wovens you can buy for the subtropics. Sewing is so useful. That was my mantra. I had to keep telling myself how thrifty and useful I was being the whole time I sewed these.


My son, despite his overall lack of interest in clothing other than for practical purposes, is quite particular about how his clothing feels. I have used flat felled seams throughout the main part of the shorts, and enclosed all other seams. Hopefully this will give the pyjamas frequent use and some longevity. You may notice that they are perhaps a tad large, this is also for longevity. I have heard that growing out of all their clothes overnight is an issue with 12 year old boys

Making pyjamas should give me a very good excuse for some sewing frivolity, but not just yet. I am in deadline December, despite telling myself I would not sew any presents for Christmas this year. Apparently my nieces feel that I have to live up to my reputation as the sewing Auntie!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Vogue 9207 Patricia Underwood Hat. Desert Island Sewing

Do you remember Desert Island Sewing?

 No, neither did I, until I was doing a little, much needed, tidying in my sewing room and unearthed a few patterns.

 I have been meaning to make this for a very long time. It is a terrific hat. Version B. The first one I made from an old denim skirt and an ex-shirt of my husband.

The crown was too tall, which was easily fixed by a tuck, but I didn't get to wear the hat, as some other people kept stealing it.

 It is always flattering to have one's clothing approved by the teenage fashion panel to this extent, but to actually add to my own wardrobe, I had to make myself another one, from purple denim (Gorgeous Fabrics).

These hats are lined, with grosgrain ribbon covering the somewhat unsightly seam joining the crown and brim (Next time I may join the lining and outer crown separately to the brim)

There are two layers of heavy interfacing in the brim, which was still a little floppy until the many rows of topstitching were completed, and then it behaved beautifully. 

 I objected strongly to losing the first hat, and guess what, someone listened to me! 

Here is her version, even better than mine, possibly because she used cashmere/cotton twill from Michaels Fabrics for the outside, how luxurious. I love the contrast lining and how she has turned it over to form an edge on the outer brim.
I am pretty sure there will be many more of these hats in our future - or maybe I can find the more recent Patricia Underwood hat pattern, I'm sure its somewhere in my pattern collection.