Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sorbetto second serving. Lace.

One of the advantages of taking on an ambitious project, is the opportunity to stretch the sewing repetoire. Having lace in The Formal Dress means that I have been making practice garments with lace in order to refresh my skills. This has led to some very pleasing garments as a (much more useful) side effect.


I made this little top to use up some remnants, but ended up liking it just as much as the practice dress (which I haven't shown you yet due to henious inavailability of the model)

The pattern is Sorbetto again, this time made in its original sleeveless version, and with the centre panel folded out.
The underlining is poly/cotton batitste, and the outer lace a non-stretch but mysteriously non-ravelling lace yardage I bought a few months ago from The Remnant Warehouse.


I sewed the lace and underlining as one( using a size 60 universal needle) except for a few centimetres at the side seam, where I sewed the pieces separately  to allow a free hanging, shorter hem for the lining.


 The neck and armscyes are finished with bias binding made from the batiste, turned to the inside and sewn to the underlining by hand - as per the excellent pattern instructions.


To finish the lace hem, I sewed the trimmed scalloped lace edging to the lace yardage using a zigzag stitch, following the inner curves of the lace motifs. This also makes the top a more suitable length for my tall daughter-the-first.

I am very pleased with the effect. Sorbetto is rapidly becoming one of my favourite patterns, and I am keeping to my goal of restricting small pieces of fabric in my stash.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Hobo Bag in leather

Back in April, I bought myself leather to make the Hot Patterns Hobo Bag. I nearly made it straight away, in fact it got to 3/4 completion in a week, then I wrecked it, so it had to sit in the sewing room in disgrace for some time before undergoing rehabilitation of sorts.

First the good parts.
I thought I'd made the bag before, but actually, I had previously made the Soho Slouch Tote, for a reversible linen/hemp bag that was definitely on its last legs by April, as the denim hemp was disintegrating -just like the jeans I made from the same fabric. I found the Soho Slouch very useful, but seriously lacking in pockets, and I much prefer leather bags to those made of cloth.

It could have been a very bad decision to make my first version of the Hobo Bag pattern in leather, as having very large pieces, is probably less suited to a leather bag than the Soho Slouch- it took 4 kangaroo skins, and the scraps were legion. Had it not been a shape I like, this might have been rather an expensive experiment. I must have been feeling very confident when I cut this out (I used a rotary cutter). As lining, I used a thick shirting cotton from Michael's fabrics
I enlarged the internal zipped pocket of the pattern, in cotton, then continued with the following additions


1. Leather sunglasses pouch in the strap - the top is gathered with elastic in a casing.This was a little difficult to construct with the edges turned in with the leather, and I decided to have all the other pockets inside the bag on the lining - however, it is in a particularly useful position for quick access to my sunglasses and I would repeat this pocket in leather for a second version.
2. Leather loops, one for a pen, one with a small clasp for my keys and an USB. I would add another loop in a second version and possibly also a loop strap with buckle - It is amazing how many things I carry about that need to stay upright!
3. Cotton pocket with a buttoning flap made to the dimensions of my phone in its wallet case.
4. My best addition, never found in a normal handbag - a waterbottle pouch made like a poacher's pocket with folded expanding corners and elastic at the top in a casing. I have found with recent use that this pocket is also remarkably useful for a folding umbrella on days so wet that no waterbottle is necessary ;)

Having previously sewn kangaroo leather, I was all prepared to glue and stitch with my handcranked Singer as previously, but a bit of trail and error allowed me to construct this primarily using a size 100 needle and jeans topstitching thread at 3.5mm stitch length on my Janome after my 1933 Singer had an episode of o ring disintegration that required ordering a new part from the U.S.A.
I didn't bother gluing, and used a teflon foot, but made no other concessions to sewing with leather. Things went swimmingly, even when sewing and turning seams in the leather through 4 thicknesses, until I came to the topstitching of the incorporated handles. At this point, the extra thickness over joining seams led to horrible stitches and stretching of the top layer of the leather. I was not happy.
Now most sources about sewing with leather say you cannot unpick. This is completely true, unpicking does leave holes and marks, however, I unpicked, and I have decided that these damaged areas are mostly apparent to myself, rather than the casual observer.

Here is the unpicked, then hand sewn stitching around the edges of my bag. Yes, a little bit unsightly, but not too bad for for use in my opinion. The hand stitching took ages, and was very hard on my hands - I used some of the original needle holes, but for most stitches had to force the needle through at least one layer of the leather, and as there were several already sewn layers to get through, it was not possible to use an awl. I rested the needle on a nice thick Ikea catalogue and pulled the leather down over the needle for each stitch. Its not a technique I recommend! and was the main reason this bag took a long time to complete.


Overall, I am very pleased with this bag. It has room for all my bits and pieces, even a nice large knitting project, some groceries of the bread+milk- has- run- out variety, or a parcel-to-post, yet my phone and keys never fall to the bottom. I love the colour  and softness of the leather, and it is comfortable over my shoulder.
I will use this bag until it wears out - then I might make an even better version with beautiful topstitching the first time around.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Project formal, the foundation. Burda Style 01-2014 113 + Patternmaking for Underwear Design

I've made a couple of formal dresses before, but somehow, this is turning into one of my most technically challenging projects. Most of this is self inflicted! Some of my blogging absence has been due to a lot of unblogworthy thinking and planning time. (The rest was knitting.....)


 Most strapless dresses need a foundation to prevent wearing malfunctions. For my older daughter's formal dress, also strapless, I made a traditional princess line bodice foundation, based on Claire Shaeffer's somewhat scanty instructions in Couture Sewing Techniques, and was happy with it. However, daughter the second has a more curvaceous figure, and more exacting requirements, and wanted more shape and structure in the bust of her foundation to emphasise the sweetheart neckline of her dress. She wanted something more like a long line bra or corselet.
Unfortunately, the bust section of the Burda bustier toile I made earlier was not at all flattering, nor supportive. I decided to add bra like cups and bridge to the bustier,  for more structure,and went looking for either my Kwik Sew bra pattern, or my Leanne Burgess bra making book. 2 days later, my pattern collection and fabric cupboard were unaturally tidy, and I was forced to realise that I had carefully put all my lingerie sewing references in a Safe Place, from where they would only emerge again when they were not immediately required.
My long suffering family (one of whom suggested that I buy a corset!) was greatly relieved that I was rescued by Kristina Shin's Patternmaking for Underwear Design, a book that has been lurking on my sewing shelf since Christmas, after my inital perusal filled me with disappointment. I had bought it with the intention of drafting myself a bra pattern, but the only bra drafting instructions in the book are for a 75B, which fits no one in our house, and the measurements for each drafted line are given  within the instructions, with no tables for any other sizes, making the usefullness of the bra instructions quite limited - but we decided to increase the cup size of the foundation for illusionary purposes, and decided the given cup size of 75B would do for the size 34-taken in bustier, with a bit of discreet curve enhancement.


I drafted a 3 part T cup underwire bra cup and bridge, following the instructions without undue difficulty (although having 2 unlabeled markings that were only identifiable by reading two separate earlier chapters of the book was annoying, as was the tendency to constantly refer back to the basic bra block- which uses the same letters as point markers as the 3 part cup, only in completely different places!).

This was not quite the shape we wanted, so I then rotated and split the lower cup and drafted an upper cup to fit a slightly higher bridge and not require a strap - a shape that is not given in Shin's book.
The cup was larger than expected, despite being cut out in a woven rather than a knit, as assumed in the instructions. This could have been operator error and was fixed with a bit of trial and error trimming. Fortunately I do not plan to make a lot of these garments in the illusionary size.
I used foam bra lining (cut out and pieced to fit from an existing bra, and added a small "fillet" made from 2 layers of cotton/wool quilting batting to the lower third of each cup. The "pad" or "cookie" shape given in Shin's book was not the correct size nor shape for the cups, so this was again made by  trial and error.
As the upper cup was still too large, and we did not want excessive padding, I applied 3 rows of shirring elastic by this method through the outer cup fabric and foam lining at the top of each cup and gathered these to fit. Although producing the desired effect, this looked rather messy, so I lined the corset with a rayon knit (I draped this over the finished outer corselet and cut to fit - much easier than applying all the fitting changes from the woven outer pieces to a woven lining)


The entire upper border of the corselet is finished with  slightly stretched lingerie elastic for added security. I hand appliqued a stretch lace to the upper cups to cover the shirring (this is practice for the actual dress), and also to most of the upper border of the remaining corselet because it looked pretty.


The remainder of the construction was much more straightforward. Each vertical seam is boned with rigeline on both sides of the seam. The outer fabric is a firm weave silk (from my grandmother's silk painting supplies), and the underlining is silk organza. The boning casing is herringbone weave linen.
As it is still 9 weeks to the wearing of the dress, I wanted to allow some room for girth changes.  so I used a commercial elastic fastening (Prym) instead of the right centre back section . As you can see, I actually used two of these, as the fastening is designed for a long line bra. The two fastenings are abutted, joined with zigzag stitch, and a ribbon applied over the seam for prettiness (she doesn't need the stretch at the waist). I chose to fit at the wider of the two hook and eye loops as my daughter tends to lose weight when under stress, and is currently finishing her final year at school, with constant assignments and exams. If the opposite occurs, well there is a bit of stretch in the elastic ;).

The lower border of the corset is zigzagged to attach all the layers, then non stretch lace was applied to cover the zigzagging. I did not want to add bulk with a hem or binding.


The finished foundation met with approval, and I am well into the next stage of the dress.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Project Formal: Dyeing the lace

All this prosaic sewing has been very useful for halo shining, but today I had the day off, and have devoted the sewing portion of it to delightful frivolity. (There has been a small amount of hinting, increasing in frequency, that there are Only 130 something days until I have to come up with the  formal dress)


I've dyed the lace.
I'm not sure that the outcome is successful, as the recipient is not home yet, and may reject this black and pale purple combination as not being true to her vision, but I think its quite interesting in its new shades
When I burn tested the laces (there are 3 differently sourced laces), I had a quick ignition, bright flame, a woody smell and an ashy remnant, no beading, which I thought indicated a natural fibre, such as rayon or cotton. As this is elderly lace and was quite costly at the time, this seemed a likely fibre for its composition, so I dyed it using a fibre reactive dye, by the tub dyeing method, using these techniques from Dharma fabrics specific to black.
Note: Soda Ash is called Washing Soda in Australia (sodium carbonate) and I bought mine very inexpensively from the supermarket.
I had several dyes, and chose #300, as it is described as having a blue cast, and the under fabric for the dress is a silvery blue. I now strongly suspect that the netting of the lace is a polyester, and in my opinion, the cast is purple, rather an attractive purple, but definitely not blue.
At the same time, my older daughter threw in a cotton/lycra singlet to tie die.

Quite interesting again, and much more purple than blue.
In the left over dye bath, I soaked some some allegedly Irish Linen placemats that my mother retrieved from a church garage sale in case I might need them.


They were a pastel blue that I find hideous, and I much prefer their new colour. They may end up in a garment, or we may have new placemats.
All this dyeing took 3+ hours of activity, and 30 minutes soaking time in dye fixative solution. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'll be doing it regularly.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Pseudo Sewing

My sewing machine sometimes has to earn its keep with a dutiful task.
I am trying to improve my attitude about this.


These amusingly colourful chairs are a necessity project that improves the appearance and function of my back verandah and saves me a packet (which I can then spend on vital sewing supplies for my inadequate hoard - or apply to the mortgage, hmm).

The fabric this time is Sunbrella (my new improved attitude still wants to put off the inevitable repetition of this project for as long as possible). This allegedly sun and mould resistant product is shockingly costly in Australia, so I imported mine from Fabric.Com at approximately 1/3 of the fabric price including shipping. I bought the super resistant version and poly thread for marine use. I am expecting longevity now!

I now see though, that there is an Australian online source with some Sunbrella at low prices which did not appear on my internet search a few months ago when I bought this fabric. FabricTraders. Has anyone used this company? It sounds promising for next time.

I did not buy myself too many fabric presents at the same time as my Fabric.Com order...(mostly voile for lining, really, not even interesting)

I used the plain with the stripe for variety and also to reduce the cost. Plain colours are much less costly than stripes. There were no issues with the construction - I just traced off an old cover, added some bias bits to finish curves and presto, new chairs.
My next project is also upholstery. I am really saving up some sewing brownie points here.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Fehr Trade VNA top

I am fortunate to be a pattern tester for Melissa at Fehr Trade, and her latest release is really fun to sew. It's a pieced top, with very interesting seaming, and a neat V neck finish both at the neck and the back armscyes.
Naturally, being pieced, and for athletic use (although it would work as a casual wear top too), it lends itself to colour blocking.
I made the test version from 3 different colourways of cotton/lycra knit from Stretchtex. This fabric is fine to use for short runs during winter where we live, although I would prefer to use a wicking fabric for longer runs, or in hotter weather. I was very pleased to use up an oddly shaped piece of my favourite purple colourway that was too small for a garment but that I was pat rackishly thriftily saving just- in- case. This pattern is destined to use up lots of similar scraps from the depths of the almost-unusable stash!


There are some very nice details in this pattern. There is no seaming directly under the arms (although the binding does join here, it would be easy to move this front or back) which reduces chafing issues. My favourite part though, is the back binding in the armscyes, this used a new to me construction method which is very exciting. (Fellow sewing addicts will understand this enthusiasm, I'm so glad I don't have to restrain myself on this blog - can you imagine the glazed looks if  I said this anywhere else ?) I found all the instructions beautifully clear and easy to understand.
I made the top using my conventional machine - with a narrow 3 step zig zag. I had planned to use the coverstitch for the hems, but the machine felt uncooperative, so it is finished with a wide zig zag instead, which is not terrible, but not according to the instructions, which suggest a twin needle for conventional machines.

My younger daughter, who is rather fashion conscious, went into raptures over the appearance of this top. I have been instructed that several more in different fabrics and colour combinations would be just the thing for the teenage exercise fiend.
She also fancies few fancy colourful sports bras so as to display the straps at the back. This serviceable white one is not up to scratch for the shoulder display of modern running gear.

Apparently having cool back details on a running top is an encouragement to overtake other runners (she was joking)


Something to be aware of is that the Fehr trade sizing is different to RTW in Australia, although true to the sizing measurements given. My daughter's XXS top is a bit too big for her in length and girth, for a running top, and she normally wears an Australian size 6-8 in normal clothes, an XS in running tops, and a 34 in Burda. I seem to be an XS in the Fehr Trade patterns, and this is not a size I have ever been called before ;). When I make this top again for my daughter, I will be scaling down another size, which I expect will fix the bra exposure issue in the armscye.

Melissa is giving a 10% discount on her patterns for people using the code "LASEREYES" until 30th June.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Work wardrobe miss, Burda Style 03-2012-122 Long cardigan

was making a long line cardigan to throw on over my new work clothes for the walk there and back, which can be a bit chilly (for wimpy persons who are used to hot weather). I was very taken with the lovely knit jackets Sew Jean Margaret wore during Me Made May, hence the plan, but alas, my knit cardigan does not look very good with my work clothes. My cardigan is unfortunately reminiscent of a bathrobe, when worn over trousers and a business shirt, so initially I was fairly unpleased with this project.


 I do like it though, over a knit dress for wearing on the weekend, so all is well!

 The pattern is from Burda Style, 03-2012-122, and I've made it before (the alterations are described in the earlier post), in a very fine gauze merino knit - it was terrific for travelling, rolling up to next-to-nothing, but the gauze did not hold up very well to regular wear and ended up being turned into a wildly successful scarf.

technical drawing from
This time I used a fine, but not gauze, merino knit, again from The Fabric Store and I think this slightly more robust fabric will hold up a bit better. However, it seems significantly more stretchy than the previous version, and has ended up oversized, despite some drastic reducing action at the side seams.
What I like about it particularly, is that although not magically slimming from behind, it is far more shapely than most long-line knit cardigans in this view, due to the darts and waistline shaping.


As in my last version, I have reinforced several seams (waistline, neckline) with clear elastic, and the shoulder seams are reinforced with woven selvage.
The tie bands are rolled sections of the knit.
It is just as comfortable as a bathrobe.

stashbusting statistics, about 1.5m of merino knit, 2013