Filed under: I made that
Once upon a time there was a girl who had searched high and low for the perfect black silk t-shirt. Finding nothing suitable in the shops, she had resigned herself to attempting to draft a pattern from the perfect non-black silk tee she already loved.
Then she found a kimono t-shirt pattern that fit her like a princess’s shoe. Excellent, the girl thought, I can use that to make a perfect black silk t-shirt. She found beautiful black silk at the fabric shop (after only a minor incident in which the shopkeeper charged the girl for twice the amount she had bought) and cut it out in a larger size than she had made previously. For the girl thought she was getting to be a fairly good sewer and knew that the size of the stretch jersey she had made before would be too small in the beautiful black silk.
She sewed the shirt carefully, with a very sharp needle, using her new-found French seaming skills and finishing the openings with red bias tape (she could hear her mother saying usually one would line the openings in the same colour as the main fabric but she liked the flashes of red against the black).
After sewing the shoulders and the sleeves and the side seams, the girl tried the beautiful black silk t-shirt on. It was so tight across the shoulders and bust she very nearly couldn’t get it off again.
The girl gnashed her teeth and cursed her foolhardiness.
Then she finished the neckline and the hem and hoped it would fit one of her friends.
Moral of the story: when switching up fabrics, make a muslin first.
Filed under: Idle musings
Let’s get it out there: I read a lot of craft blogs. I’d been skirting round the fringes of the craft blog world for a while and then the addiction really kicked in when I was looking for wedding decoration ideas. There are currently nine in my bookmarks – and those are just the ones I check in with daily. I may have been known to experience whole mornings disappear down a wormhole of links to bloggers writing about making fabric activity books to keep their kids occupied in church (despite my neither have kids nor attending church). Goodness knows what would happen if I got on Pinterest…
This year, having moved into our very own home a month ago and not being especially enamoured of the “eat two enormous meals” aspect of splitting Christmas Day between two families, I said we’d host Christmas lunch. Fine, good, everyone happy, all volunteering to bring food and drink so less pressure on us.
Then I wondered how to decorate.
Possibly you’re not so much of a craft blog afficionado, so understand this: Christmas is a big time of year for craft bloggers. In fact, once you consider Halloween and Thanksgiving (neither of which we celebrate here in Australia) and New Year’s, the whole latter part of the year offers one giant, ever-changing opportunity to DIY elaborate, immaculate, oh-so-stylish decorations.
I found myself on the last spare day before Christmas in a sixth shop in search of the perfect white tablecloth when I realised perhaps I’d become a little bit competitive. I’d unknowingly set a standard based on these strangers, these stylish women with seemingly all the time in the world, these bloggers that no one coming to my lunch read. Everything needed to be perfect, styled, instagramable. (Interestingly, I was fairly unconcerned about the food – it was going to be tasty, coming from trusted cookbooks.)
Strange what your reading habits do to you.
In the end I embraced the crafty competitiveness but didn’t let striving for perfection get in the way of a good time, good food and family. We had last year’s Christmas tree (inspired by one spotted on Etsy), last year’s bunting, sparkly napkins with home-sewn, semi-dodgy hems (but I was grateful for my man’s ironing assistance nonetheless), Donna Hay’s super easy fruitcake truffles, a bauble-and-coathanger wreath, and crackers made by my mother. And the perfect white tablecloth.
Plus, a jolly good time.
Filed under: I made that
Growing up, if I ever needed a scrap of something interesting for a teddy bear’s cape or to make a tutu or whatever grandiose project I thought up, I could paw through a giant plastic tub full of fabric scraps in my mother’s study. I guess it was her stash.
Reading about other sewers’ stashes, I often thought I didn’t have one. Whoops. It turns out, if you keep your fabrics stuffed in shopping bags behind the too-many-seats in your lounge room, you get a stash very quickly without noticing. (I still maintain I’m genetically pre-disposed to hoarding and, no, that’s not my mother’s fault.)
Browsing fabric stores has become akin to browsing book stores for this avid reader. There’s something about the smell and getting to feel all those cloths and imagine what they might turn into. Unfortunately, I know that I’ll need about 2.5m of something to make a dress. Unfortunately, because that means if I spot some fabric that is just begging to be turned into a dress then I know how much to buy … and it gets added to that darn stash.
So there’s the fabric to make a cushion cover for the outdoor seat. And the second type of fabric that I decided would be better for the cushion cover (we’ve still got no cushion). The pretty prints I was going to turn into summer frocks before my honeymoon, seven months ago. The sequins because I keep admiring the sparkly party dresses on ASOS. The five different Ikea prints bought on various trips because they have awesome patterns. The large quantity of jersey because I found a pattern similar to a Carla Zampatti gown (it must be said I do have a corresponding stash of as-yet-unsewn patterns). And so on.
Clearly my project ambitions are much bigger than my sewing time…
I did, however, manage this week to turn one of those pretty summer prints into a dress for a 60s-inspired pool party we’re attending on the weekend. In our new house I’m hoping to install my own plastic tubs for fabric scraps. Hopefully being able to see them all will help me actually use some of them up for the next grandiose projects. Maybe it’s time I finally got the guts up to sew that ball gown…
Filed under: I made that
A few weeks back I did a garment/pattern making course organised by the Canberra Region Feltmakers (check out their workshop page for more interesting things). I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but learning a bit about pattern-making seemed like a useful thing to know. The course was run by Maris Herr of Textiles Anyone and based on her book, Truly Simple Garments.
Maris trained professionally as a seamstress/dressmaker/designer in the 1980s when, as she said, everything was big, ruffled, pleated and otherwise froufrou. She said she had an epiphany one day when she realised that all clothes were basically tubes with holes for arms and extra details added. Trousers are two tubes joined together. (She then proceeded to show us in the workshop how to make several types of garments that were not tubes, but flat shapes with holes for arms…)
This just made so much sense to me! What I like sewing best are dresses and skirts and they really are just tubes with added detail or shaping. It’s also made me think about how I could actually adapt patterns. Not that I’ve been game try anything yet, but I’ve been looking at this BurdaStyle top and thinking how you could add a simple four-panel skirt (or maybe a circle skirt) and it would basically be the same as the Review dress I wore for Frocktober 2011 - one of my favourite comfy, go anywhere dresses. Okay, add it to the list of projects (a list which seems to keep growing, although not quite as fast as my fabric stash). And sometime I’ll get the guts to try it out.
Filed under: I made that
Most of the sewing blogs I frequent tell the tales of mum sewing for their kids. Maybe I’m starting in the wrong places or not searching for the right things or just not digging the personal style of bloggers who sew for themselves. Anyway. I’m still in awe of a lot of these ladies, especially their skills in fabric selection and re-imagining/designing patterns.
Through my blog lurking I’ve discovered a phenomenon they call “selfish sewing” – taking the odd occasion to actually make something special for yourself. Oh really? That’s just about the only kind of sewing that I do! For me it’s much more special to make something for someone else. Kind of like baking, you get a delightful reaction when people realise you’ve *made* them something.
But it’s tricky too. Somehow I’m just that much more motivated when sewing things for me. I’m much more in tune with my personal style (obviously) and never quite certain if whatever I’ve made will gel with the recipient’s taste. And I often feel more inspired by fabrics when I can envision them on me so that in turn makes me more inspired to get behind the machine. (Ahem, let’s not mention the pair of shorts I started making my man before last Christmas…) There’s an immediate satisfaction from being able to slip on something you’ve made that afternoon. Then there’s the matter of the dearth of respectable, modern patterns for men. Apparently men only wear pyjamas, drawstring shorts and wizard capes. Totally practical wardrobe, that.
But I am plotting a few bits and pieces of non-selfish sewing for Christmas. Clearly they’ll have to remain secret, but sequins may or may not be involved. Here’s hoping my sewing mojo holds out for the whole effort…
Filed under: I made that
I first sewed in Year 7 when everyone had to do it for a term in high school. I think I may have done another semester of it in Year 8 (the exact subject memories are a little hazy). Somewhere in there I made an elephant pencil case with flappy ears that I adored until it fell to pieces. Far more useful than the pooper scooper we had to make in metalwork.
A few years later I was fascinated with my mother’s sewing machine and announced I was going to make myself some pyjamas. As I recall, I chose the fabric and patterns, did one seam on the top and she finished it off. And bought me some shorts.
Almost two years ago I decided that someone as dress-obsessed as myself perhaps should know how to sew. Also, I intended to be a dolly varden cake at a fancy dress party and couldn’t find a white skirt long enough in the shops. So I bought a pattern and some fabric and, armed with both, headed to my parents’ place to use my mother’s sewing machine and expertise. She was trying to work in the garden and build alpaca fences but showed me how to thread the machine and said it’s a skirt, how hard can it be. The pattern I’d chosen had 12 pieces. Fortunately they were mostly straight lines. (The party didn’t happen and the skirt is sitting crumpled somewhere in a box, unloved and unpacked since we moved 18 months ago. I mean, how unpractical is a white skirt?)
Sewing since then has come in fits and starts with perhaps a 75 per cent success rate. But mainly it’s been accompanied by fearlessness and a willingness to make mistakes. I did an evening course at CIT to help cement the basics and just headed out on my own adventures since then. I’ve surely tried my mother’s patience as I, yet again, head over for dinner with another garment to be fitted or a sleeve that just won’t work.
But it’s most satisfying when it does work and you’ve got something real to show for it.
Some years ago I bought a black jersey maxi dress from Sportsgirl. I love it. It’s light enough in summer and great with a cardigan for autumn or spring. It’s my go-to dress for travelling because the length means you don’t get cold on planes and it’s easy to layer (although it also means the TSA can’t see your legs so you have to wait 15 minutes for a female TSA officer to show up and pat you down to make sure you’re not hiding anything under your voluminous skirt. I did offer to just pull it up to my thighs but the male TSA officer looked even more alarmed). I wish I’d bought two.
So when I discovered the Mission Maxi pattern from Jamie Christina, I thought I’d have to give it a go. Discovering lovely Tencel knit at The Fabric Store made me more determined. Et la voila. Though if I sewed it again (which I suspect I will) I would cut the neck and armhole binding wider because it was a bit fiddly to fold over.
(PS Thanks to the Tara Who Tweets from over here for encouraging me to blog again.)
Filed under: Frocktober
This frock, with its soft tulle overlay on the skirt, seduced me into believing I could pull off a fairy-ballerina look in my everyday life. I can not, but I bet there are some of you out there who can! Plus, red!