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.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Project Formal. Culmination. Burda Style12-2013-122, 123 and 01-2014-113frankenpattern

Project Formal was a success. This dress is a frankenpatterned construction of black silk chiffon over ice blue silk twill, appliqued with lace motifs, and supported by an inner corselet. It was designed by my daughter with multiple revisions. I stretched my abilities with this frock, and am pleased with the outcome.

See my beautiful daughter graduating from high school. I am so proud of her.

I've written about some of the construction earlier:
dying lace
day version
The basic construction of the frock was relatively straightforward after the trial versions. I made a silk twill layer with cotton batiste lining at the bodice, and a silk chiffon outer layer. These layers were constructed with the silk chiffon layer and outer silk twill layer as a single fabric, with the bodice neckline attached right sides together to the batiste lining for a neat upper edge finish.
I used the silk organza pattern piecing /underlining technique I learned from Susan Khaljie's Craftsy class to construct the bodice, making the marking of seamlines and other details very easy. The bodice has has additional rigilene boning in the side seams to aid stability.
 The skirts were basted together at the waistline with a selvage stay of silk organza, I hung the basted skirt up for several days weeks whilst I worked on the bodice, so the hem would not drop after I eventually hemmed it. When constructing the dress, I left in the selvage at the waist for added stability. The skirt is also attached together at the centre back at the zipper and centre back seam, with a tiny detatched section at the back hem.

I hand appliqued lace motifs to the bodice before attaching the skirt, through the top two layers of fabric, then continued hand applique of the lace motifs to the skirt attaching the lace to the outer silk chiffon layer only below the waist seam, to allow free movement of the outer skirt.
The hand applique was the most time consuming part of the project, taking approximately 30 hours. It looks pretty good even close up. My daughter really wanted a soft flowing skirt, hence the silk chiffon, in retrospect, hand applique on silk chiffon was not my cleverest idea, but I could not think of another method of attaining the soft flowing skirt with the lace applique she wanted. The inspiration dress had lace machine appliqued on organza and tulle, which would be much less time consuming!

Inside, all the seams are tacked to the silk organza underlining.
Unfortunately, I had a little trouble with the upper bodice, despite all the fitting work on earlier versions. After adding the lace applique, the added stiffness of the fabric make the neckline stand away from the body, which was not at all modest. After considerable trial and error, some of which may have been slightly fraught, this was fixed by first gathering the upper front bodice by hand, slightly, through the bottom two layers of fabric , then machine stitching lingerie elastic, on stretch, to the upper border of the bodice to draw the sweetheart neckline in towards the body.
This adjusted upper bodice was then stitched to the inner corselet at the centre front neckline.

Here you can see the elastic and gathering after I have removed the corselet in order to wash the dress and its underpinnings separately.

My other fitting adjustment was very last minute. In a not entirely unexpected manner, my finishing-her-exams- for- year- 12 daughter somehow managed to reduce her overall circumference by about an inch in the last two weeks of school.  Fortunately the corselet was originally fitted on the outer fastenings, so on the afternoon of her formal I sewed the back of the dress by hand to the back of the more tightly fastened foundation, gathering rather more than slightly. I may have spoken sternly to  my daughter about increasing her ice cream intake and decreasing her exercise regime whilst I did this.

The other effort of note was the hem.
My daughter is petite. This was just as well, as she wanted a full length 1/2 circle skirt from a narrow width of silk twill, 114cm (The Fabric Store, Auckland).
We could not quite manage this, until she came up with a brilliant idea of a nod to the current high/low hem fashion. She chose to have a higher curved hem in front, of the inner fabric only, to both accomodate the narrow fabric, and also to display her pretty sandals.
Here we are working on hemming. I used a machine rolled hem for both layers. I machine rolled myself 6 new scarves whilst I was practicing ;).

The frock was successful.She was happy.

I am hoping this dress gets another outing at a University Ball or even two.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Almost Frocktober: Burda Style 05-2013-124 Petticoat and Frock versions. Sewing with silk-hemp and sheer fabric.


When I inadvertently sewed a see through Tiramisu, I developed a sudden need for a petticoat with a deep v neckline. Naturally, thinking of such a requirement, my mind instantly turned to Burda, who seem to specialize in chest exposing garments.
Fortunately for me, there were some magazines with possible frocks with sticky labels on them lying about on my sewing table, so it didn't take me long to find a candidate, Burda Style 05-2013-124.

 Technical drawing from
The only thing was, that I had no idea what fabric to use for a petticoat under a knit dress that would not cling, and would not be too hot to wear for a Spring to Summer garment. I was leaning towards silk charmeuse, this working so well under my merino knits for winter, but really, this is rather a warm fabric for our climate.
Delving deep into the what-was-I-thinking layers of the stash, I came up with some slippery, semi-translucent,slubby, bouncy fabric that I vaguely remembered was silk/hemp. I posted about this 2011 purchase here. (In the interest of unusual fabric reporting, the hemp/cotton sheets are wearing nicely and are now beautifully soft, and the hemp/cotton knit top is now just like a rag but I am still wearing it around the house because it is so comfortable- this made me more willing to try this unused fabric, which is really quite unusual - my husband said "plasticy")


I had some fun making this. I cut out a single layer (and used the Tiramisu skirt, without the center seam - its a similar shape but the skirt is more full). I used several different seam and edge finishes.
At the neckline, I used fold over elastic, slightly stretched. This worked really well, or would have worked really well, had I noticed that I had sewn one of the front bodice pieces on backwards before I applied the elastic.
I am now very practiced at unpicking 3 step zig zag stitch at 1.0mm length from fold over elastic. Sigh
For the underbust seam ( I gathered the bust instead of darts, as I'd enlarged to a D and didn't want to redraw the darts) I folded the gathered seam allowance over the waistband allowance by hand (the gathers were too fiddly by machine) and whipstitched.
For the waistband, side seams and shoulder seams, I used french seams.
For the armscyes (these are trimmed to make the petticoat sit fully underneath the outer garment), I used a fine bias finish - applying bias binding to the right side, turning the bias over the trimmed seam allowance and edgestitching at 1/8 inch, then turning the bias to the wrong side and topstitching. This gave a very neat, thin edge on the silk hemp.
The silk hemp ravels very easily. As it felt so plasticy, I did a burn test, where the fabric burnt like paper, and left long strands of ?hemp after I blew out the flame. This is definitely all natural fibres!

Having finished the petticoat, all the sheer fabrics in my stash suddenly looked very appealing as a frock.
Somehow, I cut out another version of 124 from a mere 1.3m of silk chiffon print that I may have bought to make a scarf.
The chiffon was pre treated in a gelatine bath to improve its handling qualities. I cut out using a rotary cutter, and continued using the size 60 universal needle I had used for the sheer silk hemp garment. This time I used the fine bias edge finish on the (raised 5 cm) neckline as well as the armscyes, but the other seams are mostly finished in the same manner as in the petticoat version.
For both versions, the fabric under the invisible zip is reinforced - in the petticoat with a woven nylon ribbon, and in the chiffon frock with a strip of silk organza selvage.

 The silk chiffon dress was a challenge for me. I tried finishing the neckline with the same technique as the armscyes in the petticoat.
Unfortunately I neglected to first stay stitch the neckline, and the neckline rippled in an unsightly manner. (The armscyes in the silk chiffon, finished in the same manner, behaved perfectly)


I tried to fix this with clear elastic, but this attempt failed.
Eventually, I took 2 small pleats from the neckline on either side of centre front , handsewing these, and was content with the fit and finish. However, it is not my best work. I anticipate becoming a better seamstress with my next silk chiffon frock!


I was pleased with my other seam finishes on the sheer fabric. Having just practiced on the silk hemp, I was able to make french seams throughout, including the curved underbust seam, which contains gathers. I pat myself on the back a bit for this.

In the end, I have a pretty, floaty dress in time for seasonal socialising, which does not photograph to advantage on a windy day.