Saturday, 9 May 2015

VNA tops

I made quite a few exercise clothes just lately, and now that it is extremely chilly at 5am in the morning (those who live temperate climates may scoff where I can't hear them, I admit that I live in a warm climate), I thought I would display some running tops of Summer before I start on cold weather exercise gear.
I made a VNA top for my younger daughter, because she had just about worn out the version that was made to test the pattern.

new one
old one

The test version was too big for her, although the size didn't stop her wearing it, so her new top is sloppily graded down by hand drawing a smaller size on Melissa's pattern. Fortunately for me, this made a nicely fitting top, other than a slight tightness at the bust. The top would be XXXS in Melissa's sizing scale.


I love the colour blocking options for this top. I had bought some "performance knit" from Spoonflower, in this very appealing Galaxy print, but as I foolishly purchased from a square representation of the print,  I had not noticed that  the 1 yard print included a break in the
panel that was unsightly to me.
However, by cutting the small upper front from the odd bit of the panel, the break in the pattern is not particularly noticeable, and makes a good feature for the top whilst only using a tiny piece of the pricey fabric.
 The back is plain old navy blue wicking polyester from Stretchtex, and the lower front is not-the-best-for-exercise-clothes cotton lycra, again from Stretchtex, as are the bindings, because this will do for short runs and also general wear, such as hiking in Carnarvon Gorge.


Naturally, having made one daughter top, another top was required. This one uses a more purple section of the Galaxy print,with different coloured cotton lycra for the bindings and bottom section,  and has been made to the same circumference as the downsized VNA top, but a little longer, (at the hem) for my taller daughter.



Lucky last, I made one for myself in an XS. Having noticed the modest amount of room at the bust for my daughters, I chose to enlarge the upper bust piece, then ease this into the curved seam at the lower front, as an FBA. I also made a square shoulder adjustment, which is a common adjustment for me (Did I mention that I really like this pattern).
 Mine has an upper bodice made from performance pique, again from Spoonflower, with a pattern that amuses me greatly. See those ninjas in amongst the floral? My husband hates it. Fortunately he doesn't come running with me. It must be my (very deeply hidden) inner ninja that puts him off.
Super Purple Ninja Warriors! (Small)
The bottom section of this one is made from wicking "space dyed" Supplex, which is more comfortable to wear when exercising than cotton lycra, but the business I bought it from is no longer operating.
The back is the same wicking polyester from Stretchtex that I used for the other tops. Although this fabric is practical, hard wearing and very comfortable for exercising,  I find this particular colour is very difficult to sew, with constantly wearing thread and blunted needles. (The other colours were hard to sew too, but not to the same level as the dark blue) I bought 5 metres of it 6 years ago and I will be very glad when I've finally sewn the last of it!. I needed to mix it with these fun fabrics in order to have the fortitude to sew with it yet again.

The only change I made to the construction of these tops, now that I've made a few, is the binding of the v neckline. I don't like having to measure the neckline binding exactly before I sew it. I find the amount of stretch needed varies between fabrics, and I like to apply more stretch to the back neck, for example, than the lower front of the v. Melissa's instructions work, but I found them a bit fiddly, and not compatible with my ad-hoc neckline length preference. Instead I used Barbara's instructions here (except for the interfacing being ironed on- ironing and poly don't mix at my house), which were just as fiddly (v neck lines must be fiddly by nature), but gave me a neater result, and without having to get out my tape measure.
Disclaimer: Remember I got this pattern for free in exchange for testing? This is naturally not a completely unbiased opinion due to this exchange see Zoopolis, but you can see I've made many versions of this pattern now and all recipients are finding this a comfortable running top. The request cue is long. We like this pattern.

Stashbusting statistics, pitiful. About a metre each of blue wicking poly and cotton lycra, 30 cm of supplex print, and 50 cm or so of recently purchased performance knit, and performance pique

Monday, 4 May 2015

Tiramisu Two

I told you what a lovely surprise my last Tiramisu was to me, but I hadn't worn it much over Summer, as although the fabrics are light, with 2 layers, even silk/hemp and light as air rayon knit are too hot to wear in the subtropics from about mid October to mid April.
However, over the past few weeks, my very small transseasonal wardrobe has meant the last Tiramisu has been in high rotation. A dress is so easy to co-ordinate (you can tell I am not a fashionista, how sad).

Naturally, this discovery lead me straight back to my knit stash, and I have sewn myself another version of this frock.
Unfortunately, I had to wrestle a bit with the fabric. This particular rayon knit, although thicker in heft than the last type, has quite remarkable stretch. So much so, that although I used all my fitting adjustments from the last attempt, the waistband originally started at my 8th rib and finished at my hips. Dowdy indeed. I considered shortening it, but having carefully sewn lingerie elastic into all the horizontal seams, (for details of construction see the last post about Tiramisu), I could not bear to do it again, so just chopped off the lower seam, elastic and all, and folded over the waistband piece to sew the skirt directly to the upper bodice, with the waistband folded over the top of the skirt to act as a sort of belt addition. Very lazy, but I quite like the empire waist effect.
I wore this to work today, to do paperwork whilst hidden in a back office. It was very comfortable, and has held up well (photos taken at the end of the day), but in retrospect it looks a bit casual for the office to me, even a hidden away one where only staff would see me. I have to keep them suitably impressed ;). Maybe if I dressed it up with boots and a jacket - wait, that would mean Winter!
Currently, I plan to make another version in merino knit before the weather cools down sufficiently for me to wear a wool dress. I think it would look less casual in a solid.

Stashbusting statistics about 2m of rayon knit, 2013

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The blouse that wasn't and Burda Style 09-2011-128 turned into a tunic

With 1.1m of lovely printed lawn lurking on my sewing table refusing to return to the stash, I was on the hunt for a pattern for a blouse. After much pleasant perusal of my sewing magazine collection,  I settled on Ottobre 05-2013-03, a peasant style blouse with set in sleeves calling for 1.2 m of fabric in my size. Everyone knows that fabric requirements are over generous (that was tongue in cheek), and I am shorter than the Ottobre block.

Ottobre 05-3013-05
However, no matter how I ignored seam allowances, there was no way I could fit that pattern on my 1.1 m of lawn and still have sleeves past my elbows. This was rather annoying after tracing it out!
Back to the pattern search, I was quite taken with the Burdastyle blouses made this Summer  by Sue and Paola. I liked the covered shoulders and the interesting transition of the collar stand into front pleats.
Technical drawing from

This called for 1.1 metres of fabric also, but when cutting out this new pattern, there was plenty of fabric, in fact, it occurred to me that I would have a sizeable scrap left over, so I lengthened the blouse, despite reviews of this pattern commenting on excessive length of the garment. I am anti-scrap at the moment.
Its not quite long enough for a dress, but its not too bad as a tunic with a shirttail hem.
I don't usually wear this silhouette, and really wanted a garment with sleeves, but when considering my wardrobe balance it I felt that I would be more inclined to wear a second garment made from the same fabric if the garment in question was more suited to different time of the year than the first one. I thought I would wear my sleeveless lawn dress made from this fabric in high Summer ,and that a lawn tunic, even a sleeveless one, could be worn over trousers or tucked into a skirt, in Spring and Autumn.
You can see that I added a casing with elastic to the back (more casual than darts) for some shaping, and you can't see at all that I added bust darts via a cut and slide method in order to make a FBA.
I also used a more stiff cotton for the facing, and for interfacing in the collar stand and front bands. (Thank you to the Spoolette who donated this fabric at last year's high tea, its the perfect weight and co-ordinates nicely )

This was an enjoyable garment to make, and I am interested to see how it works as a transseasonal garment.  It felt quite an appropriate outfit to wear today to the Sunday markets.
(I bought lots of plants - its been raining.....)

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Very thrifty sewing, a skirt, almost instantly

I told you about the rejected skirt-front-with-a-seam in it from the last project, and after whinging about the wastefulness in the last post, it was clearly incumbent of me to use this left over fabric piece in a responsible manner - and straight away, as layer 4 of my stash is rather too large.

Fortunately, I have sewing blogs for inspiration. I fancied the easy wearing reputation of this skirt by Sewing Sveta.

I cut out another half skirt, a yoga waistband (well, actually I used the waistband from Jalie 2796, having just made a few of these and knowing the waistband fit perfectly), and ended up very quickly with this skirt for my older daughter.
The back centre seam is stabilized with woven cotton selvage.
There is not much else to say about it, except that it also helped with the offspring sewing balance levels.
Stashbusting statistics, another metre of that cotton lycra knit from Stretchtex in a loud colour for the April theme- only a teensy bit late in posting...
I am joining MeMadeMay this year too, in order to encourage myself to sew more clothes for work. I have exactly 4 blouses and 3 pairs of trousers for this purpose, and as I work full time, this is very hard on the laundry! I might post photos once a week - and change out of my grubby gardening clothes before I take a photo today......

Friday, 1 May 2015

The dangers of disposible fashion, not seriously


I sew. It would seem fairly obvious that disposable fashion is not my cup of tea, and I could provide all sorts of morally superior reasons for this opinion in order to impress the sewing community with my ethical standards and awareness of global issues, but a large part of my abhorrence of these garments is much more trivial. They are aesthetically displeasing and wasteful of one's clothing budget.

However, I am not in charge of all the clothes that enter my house.

My teenage daughter went to the beach for a week with her friends. They had a terrific time, and she came back with a $5 dress she had bought.
She usually has very good taste in clothing, I am sure that when she bought this little knit sundress, it was quite pretty. By the time I saw it though, it had been worn over a swimming costume for several trips to the beach, and had been washed. The print was faded, the fabric was pilled, the hem was grossly uneven, making it scandalously short in inappropriate places, the bodice draped in an underwear/swimming costume displaying manner, and the entire garment was about 2 sizes too big. (1 week of use)

The dress was, according to my standards, unwearable. I expressed this opinion, originally with some attempt at tactfulness, but as she continued to wear it - even out of the house! the expression of my opinion became increasingly forthright. To my undisguised horror, she even threatened to take the dress to Brisbane with her and wear it to University, where at least I would not have to look at it. This may have been a cunning, deeply laid plan on my daughter's part. What can a mother do about her daughter's clothing choices? I know I rarely took any notice of my mother's opinion of my clothing when I was 17 (or at least I pretended not to take any notice)
Eventually, we came to a compromise. She would agree to dispose of the dress (the rag bag was looking good), if I would make her a replacement dress. Hence my suspicions about my daughter's possible mother manipulation tactics.
It was ridiculously easy.


I traced off the stretched out, horrible gappy bodice, trimmed about 3 cm from each side of my pattern piece, added 3 cm to the length of the bodice in order to diminish underwear exposure, and traced off one section of the skirt, correcting the grain and hem, and adding more length than I was later permitted to use. This may have been a cunning daughter manipulation technique to ensure later sufficient length to the skirt. Despite the long sentence, this took about 10 minutes.
The construction and cutting out of the dress took at least 30 minutes. This was only because the first version of the dress had a seam down the front, and this was rejected in my version, the solid fabric (cotton lycra from Stretchtex) not disguising this sufficiently. I had to chop the skirt off, cut off the side seams and replace the front with a single piece.
The top of the bodice is bound with the same knit, and the straps are lingerie straps which I serendipitously had lying around in the same colour as the knit. I reinforced the waist seam with lingerie elastic to improve stability and to support the weight of the skirt.
I then insisted that the dress hang (by the waistline) for a week before I hemmed the dress, except that I didn't hem the dress, I just cut the hemline to an even length.
The dress was received with qualified approval (another 2 inches off the hemline, and some discussion about the next one having deeper armscyes)(did you hear that next one remark), and I was allowed to chop up the beach dress. It was very satisfying.
I didn't do my own sewing,and I am seriously low in the boring-blouse-for-work department. That was the locally dangerous bit about the disposable fashion
I paid a token to my environmental consciousness by cleaning the bathroom with my new rags and a biodegradable septic safe cleaning potion. It doesn't have any real effect, but I'm sure it made me feel better.
Stashbusting statistics, about 1.5 m cotton lycra knit, in a nice bright colour for the Stashbusting challenge

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!