Monday, 5 December 2016

Frocktails: Vogue 1342 aka "that" dress

Flatteringly, I've heard it said that some people think I'm "badder" than I look. :) The truth is, I'm pretty dull; no serious vices, no dark past....

Maybe that's why I'm drawn to a sewing pattern with a reputation. And, like a "bad" rockstar, it seems that you either love, hate, or struggle to relate to Vogue 1342 by Donna Karan

Me? I have a serious fan girl crush on this pattern. Probably in a way that's kind of awkward for a middle aged lady carrying quite a few extra kilos, but this shrink wrap knit dress pattern is brilliant.

I don't know much, if anything, about pattern design but I'm starting to notice that a lot of the time there's a basic block to which various combinations of sleeves, collars etc are added. Then, when a pattern like this comes along, and there is nothing at all recognisable about the pattern piece in its flat form, that's when I feel like pattern designers are amazing and I shall always value their work.

There's no better occasion to borrow a bit of bad, rockstar pattern attitude for than Frocktails. It's not the first time this pattern has been let loose to play at Frocktails, and it wasn't long after I'd picked up the pattern in a sale, that I saw Funkbunny's version and knew that one day I'd have to give it a go.

I arrogantly assumed that the fitting step would all come from fitting the lining, and IF one were to use fabrics with very similar stretch for the lining and the outer, then I maintain that would technically work. Of course that's not what I did, but you saw that coming, right?!

For the main dress I had the grey cotton knit with silver sparkly dots that was already in the stash. If I remember rightly it was $5/m from ClearIt. It's quite a thin knit and I knew I wanted something more weighty and smoothing (let's be honest and say compressing) for the lining.

I'd just made P some (still unblogged) arm and leg warmers for cycling and had just the right amount leftover of this thick, stretchy synthetic black knit to cut the lining. While I got the weights of fabric right - hefty on the inside and lightweight on the outside, I was badly mismatched when it came to stretch.

The black stuff was chosen specifically because arm and leg warmers need to stretch both in circumference and length. So this fabric has a lot of stretch, and great recovery, along both axes.

But not the grey t-shirt knit. That stretched nicely along one axis and not at all along the other. Of course the pattern plainly says the fabric is required to stretch both crosswise and lengthwise so I was being a bit foolhardy.

- as an aside. The common practice of referencing two and four way stretch is a confusing misnomer. Knit fabrics will stretch along one axis (selvedge to selvedge), or both axes (crosswise and lengthwise). When Vogue say two way stretch fabric required, they don't mean that your left and right hands move when you pull the fabric. They mean that it stretches in TWO perpendicular directions.

Having ignored that instruction, what do you do when the bottom hem of your dress is cut on the bias and loses all it's stretch? My solution was to buy some insanely divine shoes and make them the reason why I couldn't take big steps. See, not the dresses fault at all!

I'd drafted the dress in a size 16 blending out to an 18 below the waist. Easily done with the lining, but much harder to work out where and how for the dress outer. A better solution is undoubtedly to split and widen as shown by Cleo and Phineas here.

Because of my fabric differences the lining ended up too wide and loose. I ran the side seams back in and probably ended up with the straight size 16. But then I also added a few darts at the top back as that was gaping a lot. The outer dress on the other hand, was not giving me much wiggle room in the area that need to wiggle most....

The "center" back seam - I say "center" in quotes as there's nothing centered about it, was taken out to the limit of my seam allowance over my rump, but then taken in by almost an inch above the waist.

From the 4 or so versions of this dress I've seen now, I think it's safe to say it runs bigger across the  back than might be expected for the hip/arse sizing. I don't have all that much up front, and while it's roomy there I was grateful not to have to try and figure out how on earth you would downsize the bust.

Due to my taking in the center back seam (which ends up at one shoulder strap), and the very stretchy versus minimally stretchy fabric disparity, I ended up with this major pucker on the inside.

This is where the outer dress is sewn to the lining to hold everything in its gathered, twisty shape. I just went ahead and stitched exactly where the fabric had been pattern marked. I'm pretty sure it was my fabrics and tinkering, but of course, when you've got the whole thing half inside out and are sewing seam allowance of outer, to marked line on the lining, it's impossible to know how dodgy it's going to look. Once you finish and get this, you shrug, think sod it, it's on the inside, and congratulate yourself for sewing with knit fabrics 'cause you can get away with that kind of shit.

Keeping things honest,  here's the front shot of where the lining was about an inch bigger (too much stretch) than the outer and so the V becomes a small saggy U shaped hole.

So, there were plenty of challenges in sewing this pattern, both of Ms Karan's making and of my own, but once you get your head around it, it works. I can see that the steps where the lining is sewn in could be baffling. I find if I suspend any notion of knowing what I'm doing, and completely forget about anticipating how it's going to happen and just do as I'm told, it really does work. If I ever do make this dress again I would be sure to photograph those steps, but in the meantime, if you're having a step-20-what-the-f*&% moment, don't be afraid to ask.

One step that I think should be ADDED is understitching as much as possible of the back and side necklines. It's not that hard to get in under there and add some understitching in an effort to keep the lining from showing too much at the back.

Since I now need to wear those shoes at every opportunity until I die and they are buried with me, I put the whole outfit back on this weekend for a university reunion. (20 years, seriously)

Where I had to unpick the centre seam for my WAS adjustment a little hole formed. It's been interfaced and stitched, but I'm wondering about this dresses longevity... I seriously would do it again, but it would have to be the right fabric. If I ever find a sparkly grey fabric with two way stretch I'm on to it!

*that's a Wide Arse Salvage for new blog readers

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Petit a Petit Sewing Block Party

Fashionably late to the party as always.... (or just unaware it was on until it was almost over, you decide)

This month, all around the globe people have been sewing up the patterns of Petit a Petit + Family and sharing them with the greater sewing community. I received my party invitation via Emi and was instantly certain that the Loveralls would be my passport to party fun. 

So, all aboard! Let's party.

The Loveralls are a cute, modern take on overalls, or dungarees. They have plenty of options with lots of additional pocket styles and there's even a skirt version for those girls who aren't up for playing train driver.

I was keen to use fabric from my ever growing stash, and I'd missed the memo to help myself to the fabric sponsor buffet table, so I picked out these remnants of pink denim. That meant I was ignoring the pattern's suggestion for a fabric with some stretch. I did check that the narrow lower leg wouldn't be too tight and they fit fine without stretch, although bike riding may not be too comfortable (eep!). 

I sewed a straight size 6 (slightly above her measurements) and I only wish I'd thought to add some length. By the time overalls weather comes around again I suspect they'll be far too short. But for this weekend out in the country, when spring left us and we had another rehash of winter weather, they were perfect.

I chose the high front bib option and the full love heart pocket. In the week when the world seemed to take a turn towards a stupid and grim future, I found solace in sewing a big pink loveheart on a pair of overalls. Then the feminist in me decided that my girl didn't just need a loveheart on her overalls, she need the hammer loop, carpenter's pocket and all that practical can-do attitude sewn into these pants.

And then, as if she knew it would crack me up, she tied this scrap of fabric around her head and gave me the best holding-the-homefront modelling ever! :)

I already had the perfect gold piping from a previous order from Maaidesign and was keen to match my topstitching and all my hardware with the bright gold of the piping. I found Birch brand overall buckles and snaps at Spotlight, but truly there is too much joy to be lost trying to hammer in crappy snaps. Make sure you source good hardware, or better still get someone with an industrial snap press to set them for you.

Feeling bad that I'd missed out on the fabric sponsor discounts, the ever lovely Emi sent me a gift voucher for Miss Matatabi, where I found this gorgeous lace knit. It's a cream lace in a pattern reminiscent of doilies, backed with a tan merle cotton knit. Beautifully soft and lovely to sew with, I kind of wish I'd added more for myself.

The top is a modified version of the Rowan Tee by Titchy Threads, who is a part of the extended Petit family. I'd previously used the Rowan Tee for my Tron pyjamas, so I already had the size 4 drafted. It's a roomy T-shirt and the 4 is plenty big enough but I did add a heap of length to the body and sleeves as I was certain this long sleeved tee should last into next year's winter.

I took half an inch off the front neckline tapering to about a quarter of an inch at the shoulders and back neckline, then added the cowl neck. It's a rectangle about 8 inches high, folded but with the centre back seams offset by an inch or two to give the twisted lay of the collar.

For the T-shirt I didn't trouble to get the instructions out, but the sewing of the Loveralls was a delight. My beef with many indie PDF patterns is not just the printing and tiling of patterns sheets, that's unavoidable, but often the instructions are substandard. Not here! The instructions are completely printable with neat, clear diagrams and well written instructions for each sewing step. None of those fuzzy photos and constant refreshing of the computer screen for each sewing step.

But don't just take my word for the patterns being great, you can purchase them here, and throughout the rest of November, use the discount code BLOCKPARTY to get 20% off

Or, try your hand at winning the complete set of Petit a Petit patterns using the rafflecopter widget below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now go mingle and check out who else has come to the party. There's been so much wonderful sewing!

Nov. 1st - Sweetkm | Nov. 2nd - The Sara Project | Nov. 3rd - La Folie | Nov. 4th - Hello Holli | Nov. 5th - Chalk and Notch | Nov. 6th - Sewing Like Mad | Nov. 7th - Beatnik Kids | Nov. 8th - Stitched Together | Nov. 9th - Coffee and Thread | Nov. 10th - Made by Toya | Nov. 11th - Stahlarbeit | Nov. 12th - Lily en Woody | Nov. 13th - My Petite Sophie | Nov. 14th - Handmade Frenzy | Nov. 15th - Paisley Roots | Nov. 16th - While she was sleeping | Nov. 17th - My Cozy co | Nov. 18th - A Jennuine Life | Nov. 19th - Knee Socks and Goldilocks | Nov. 20th - Sanae Ishida | Nov. 21st - Little Cumquat | Nov. 21st - Needle and Ted | Nov. 22nd - Gaafmachine | Nov. 23rd - Craftstorming | Nov. 24th - Made by Sara | Nov. 25th - Buzzmills | Nov. 26th - Bartacks and Singletrack | Nov. 27th - Moineau & Petit Pois | Nov. 28th - Naii | Nov. 29th - Just Add Fabric | Nov. 30th - Mie Made Memories | Enjoyful Makes | Dec. 1st - Petit a Petit and Family
Loveralls by Petit a Petit, straight size 6, denim from the stash, quilting cotton lining for yoke and pockets
Notions: Gold piping, topstitching thread, gold snaps, jeans buttons and overalls clips.
Rowan Tee by Titchy Threads, size 4 with 3" length added to sleeve and body (from cuff option line on pattern), self drafted cowl neck collar, cream lace knit from Miss Matatabi

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Summer Pyjamas and a Christmas Giveaway

Hello! I'm over on the Oliver + S blog today with a super simple idea for turning some great knit patterns into pyjamas.


The idea came about to use the Oliver + S School Bus T-Shirt and Playtime Leggings patterns to make pyjamas. Now there's nothing overly original in that, but in case you thought you needed a dedicated knit pyjamas pattern, I'm here to show you that you don't! Click the link above for the Oliver + S blog post.

My kids love wearing pyjamas made from stretch fabric - their Tron pyjamas are all time favourites, and so I thought it was time for some summer versions.

We'll start with P, 'cause you've just seen Flipper expertly modelling that same awesome Pacman fabric. Now check out the boy's moves... :)

Oh, and he's decided this one is his "signature move" (oh for goodness sake)

His are straight size 8 short sleeved School Bus tee and arbitrarily shortened size 8 Playtime leggings. The cuffs are 1 and 3/4 inches deep.

I had just enough of this fabulously fun Lillestoff knit for A's summer pyjamas and she wasn't going to be left out of the wacky poses game:

Hers are size 5 with the T-shirt hem length at size 6 length. I probably left the legs a bit too long, but hopefully they'll fit for a while like this.

So that was easy, quick and cute, but it didn't really convey the Christmas winter pyjama vibe that was the brief for the Oliver + S blog. Even though we have Christmas in the middle of summer, I kind of wanted to make some long sleeved, long legged pyjamas with a "holiday season" feel. Since joining the online sewing community I've learned of this idea of sewing a new pair of pyjamas for the kids for Christmas. Often they're very Christmassy fabrics and sometimes with a whole matching family of kids. Something that can ONLY be done with pyjamas in my book! :)

Off to Spotlight to see what they had on the knit table...

They actually have some really great looking knits there now. A lot of them look oddly similar to some of the "designer" knits that one might see on the interwebs. There were quite a few that would make gorgeous gender specific winter pyjamas but I fell hard for this faux cross stitched pattern.

Add in that it is delightfully soft and not too thin and I knew I had my Christmas in winter pyjama fabric. 

The drawstring bag from Little Things To Sew is the perfect storage or gift bag to put a pair of Christmas pyjamas into. I already had the pattern pieces drafted (I've made the whole book, you see) and the scraps bucket yielded exactly the right navy and burgundy as well as some leftover embroidery thread.

My "make one extra pair just to be on theme" project was starting to get a bit elaborate. Of course it was! 

I used DMC waste canvas to set out the cross stitch pattern and spent one lovely long evening on the couch stitching away. That stuff is so cool. Watching it dissolve and leave your stitching behind is like magic.

So there they are: One pair of size 5 winter knit Christmas pyjamas and a gift bag. Now they're of no use to us, so I had planned all along to share a bit of Christmas love and post them off to anyone who has an appropriately sized kid and who anticipates a Christmas without bush fires and heatwaves.

If you are a Christmas pyjama sewist and as bad as I am at planning ahead and allocating enough time for your projects then I strongly recommend going down the knit pyjama path. As much as I love a special pair of button up pyjamas they are a serious time drain when it comes to sewing hours.

Here's the body measurements from Oliver + S for size 5:
Chest:   23 1/2"         60cm
Waist    22"               56cm
Hip       25 1/2"         65cm
Height  42-45"          107-114cm
Weight  39-44 lbs     18-20kg
If you have, or know of, a little northern hemisphere tacker who might like these for Christmas then throw your hat in the ring by using the Gleam widget below. I'm happy to post them to anyone, anywhere in the world, in order for them to be worn and loved.

Christmas Pyjama Giveaway
Leave me a comment (don't forget an email address if you comment anonymously). As a suggestion for a comment, how about a short tale of your most last-minute, over-done holiday project.

Here's mine:
When I was first dating my husband, my sister-in-law decided that the colour theme for the Christmas table was to be "burnt orange' and I was to provide the crackers. Well of course burnt-orange crackers didn't exist, and after much hunting, I ended up staying up late, carefully covering dark silver crackers in a layer of orange cellophane and then retying the ribbons. The next day the table setting looked fantastic and my on theme crackers were much admired.
The time came to crack our crackers and I was introduced to how the sister in law's family did it which was to cross arms and form a giant circle around the table with a cracker end in each hand.
Then everyone just gently leaned back...
And nothing happened...
Cellophane is seriously strong stuff.
To break those suckers required two people pairing off in the centre of the room and performing what looked like an inverse Sumo wrestling match.
Personally I thought that was a lot more fun.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Metro Pacman Tee and a lesson in modelling

He can work it to the right,

... and work it to the left

Now, give us a bit more of the right...

...and again to the left...

Oh yeah baby, the camera loves you...

...and that's my cue to run away! :)

Pattern: Metro tee by Liesl & Co
Size:  XL, no mods
Fabric: Pacman print jersey from The Cloth Shop, Ivanhoe.
Spotters credit to @fabrictragic thanks!!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Have You Seen Karl Lately? .... In Melbourne

So who is this Karl? He's getting around a lot and seems to be very fond of spending time with women who sew!

Karl is the new pattern from Schneidernmeistern.

"Karl is a cozy, high collar, sweater dress in midi length. The unpretentious design creates a timeless look. Karl has a slightly oversized fit, a funnel neck and a side pocket."

Now, wrapping yourself in a handsome, cozy sweater dress should NOT be what we're all doing in Australia in spring. But, ever the hospitable city, Melbourne turned on the Karl weather and welcomed him with cold winds, squally rain showers and lit open fires. It is a perfect Karl spring!

Thinking the weather would warm up, I had no intention of sewing a snuggly, wool sweater dress for at least six months. But when Monika nicely asked for English speakers to proof-read her new pattern I couldn't help but put my hand up.

I sat on the couch one evening with my Korinthenkacker's pencil sharpened to a vicious point and set to work. There was very little required of the proof read as the instructions, while simple, are very good. A few decimal places that had grown tails (commas in numbers are very Euro and kinda weird!), a couple of typos and I was done.

It was cold, I knew I had a gorgeous remnant of wool jersey, and I had fallen under Karl's spell....

I haven't had a chance to look over the final pattern yet, but I suspect the sizing has changed  a bit as the size I "measured" at no longer exists. My measurements put me in the 48 (depressing, yes) but that seemed crazy to me (denial, you bet). I drafted the 42 down to the waist then out to the 48, but after sewing it up I took it in below the waist to make what is probably a straight 42.

Fitting it all on my remnant of fabric was a serious puzzle, Consequently my sleeves got no seam allowance added - yes you need to add seam allowances to the pattern. Hence the sleeves are probably closer to the size 38 or 40.

But as you can see, even with the major down sizing they're still plenty roomy. My fabric has a good 80%+ stretch and it is an insanely soft, cuddly wool that I picked up as a remnant at ClearIt. The stretch of the fabric is important as the funnel neck has a very neat and clever facing, but no opening. You need to be able to get your head through that hole folks! The sewing instructions set out how to calculate whether you will, or not. Ignore that at your peril!

I would have dearly loved to have been able to cut the sleeves so that the stripes matched across the body and sleeve better, but there was no way of dropping them lower on the fabric. I have added 2cm extra sleeve length, as a good cuddle from Karl would be ruined if his arms were too short!

I didn't think to get a good photo of my side seam and show off the stripe matching, but you know how fussy I am already, right?! :)

Karl is usually a bit taller than my version, aiming to be a midi length dress. Due to my fabric shortage I lost about 14cm length and so I guess I'm wearing Karl's shorter cousin.

For the next few days the Karl pattern is available to purchase at a 15% discount.

Shop for an English speaking Karl via the links below:

And check out for more Karlspiration

My contemplating-marxist-theory face perhaps?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Giving Happiness

There's nothing nicer than making something for someone else, is there?

Especially when you know that even though you're making something you want to make, you're still likely to have a really appreciative recipient. That's why I love participating in the Secret Valentine Exchange (2014 giving and receiving, 2015 giving and receiving and 2016 posts)

I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling from that gift exchange that I'd always wanted to make something each for Sanae and Ute, the organisers. Previously I'd sent Ute a macrame necklace that she kindly modelled here, but before I could decide what to make for Sanae, she threw out an offer to make something for anyone who asked....

Sanae had talked on her blog, in multiple instalments, about working towards a debt free life. In the final chapter she was obviously feeling very generous as she offered a custom illustration for the first 50 respondents.

Embarrassingly, I failed to pay attention to the suggestion that the illustration might include an animal or an inspirational word, or a decorative motif etc. I fired off an instant, begging email request for a family of four bears on bicycles with the word "Together".

No sooner had I hit send than I realised by how much I'd overstepped the mark. I apologised in another email just moments later, but Sanae had already been captivated by the idea and promised she would fulfil my crazy request.

When my family of bears arrived in the post they were accompanied by a solo bicycling bear, another version of the bear family image without the script, and a kangaroo on a penny farthing! I can't describe how lovely these illustrations are...

and damn if I hadn't met my match when it came to overachieving! :)

The time for the Tour de France was approaching and I loved the idea of a handstitched project as a gift for Sanae. When @_measuretwice suggested a #tourdestitch sit in on Instagram I found a virtual companion and the motivation to start.

I knew a blue and white colour scheme would be on target and knew that she was a maker of, and therefore hopefully an appreciator of, cushion covers. A Japanese embroidery book showed this pattern repeat cross stitched onto a cushion front.

I limited myself to 14 inches square, and that took me past the finish line in Paris and into the "fourth week". But it was lovely to have a portable project that could go to lacrosse games, on the train to the city, to the pool and even into the emergency hospital when I was struck down with Ear Pox (not really, just a bog standard, misdiagnosed middle ear infection).

The cushion was backed in plain navy linen, and then the lovely Nicola of the Handmaker's Factory gave me a little sample of someone's shibori dyeing which I used to make my corded piping.

I lined the inside of the cushion cover with some mustard coloured cotton. There's no tutorial for making a piped, lined envelope cushion cover as I ballsed it up quite a few times, and by the time I got the insides on the inside and the cross stitch on the outside I'd lost track of how I had done it.

I felt a little bit guilty about posting an empty cushion cover, but the postage, had I left an insert in it, would have been crazy. I got a delightful email from Sanae today to say she'd received it and had recently bought herself, apropos of nothing, exactly that sized cushion insert. Happy coincidence, huh?!

A much better image of this illustration is here

I got some ridiculously expensive framing quotes for my little illustrations and in the end I did it myself. I bought one of those bevel edge board cutting tools (yes you want and need one too, I know), some matte board and these super cheap Ikea frames.

The illustrations are gathered at the entrance to our kitchen area and they make me smile every time I see them there. The kids have nominated who's who in the group image and P is thrilled that he's been depicted descending the mountain hands free!

There really is no nicer feeling than the one you get from giving. Making, creating, giving, receiving and communicating with someone you've never met - it just fills me up with that sense of absolute delight and crowds out every thought that isn't one of pure joy.

And I'm delighted to think that my handiwork is softening the seat of a chair somewhere and providing comfort to a bottom that may have had a hard day!