Thursday, 17 September 2015

An entirely handmade outfit

 My staple of handmade items to this point has been dresses, but I am beginning to dream of many summer separates. I am itching to hand in my thesis so I can have days of uninterrupted sewing. However, my days are currently more filled with referencing, and questions of twelfth century English identity through historiography.

Last Saturday night I decided to just sew something. I needed a break. I only had a metre of this absolutely beautiful floral fabric. It's Japanese, and the hand of it feels almost like Liberty lawn. I bought it at a fabric market last year. I wanted something simple, so I decided to modify the bodice of BHL's Anna dress, one of my TNT patterns.

I cut both front and back on the fold, and added about five inches to the length. This was dictated by the limited amount of fabric. I just extended down the pleats. It was a incredibly quick sew. I finished the neck with bias tape, and put in a side invisible zip. I always wear things tucked in, so the hem is actually the selvage. Very pleased with myself I then ran into a significant fitting problem. I hadn't graded out the hips. I am very much a pear shape, and the blouse no had hips narrower than my waist. There was no way this was fitting. I thought about adding a peplum, but in the end the fix was quite simple. I unpicked all the pleats and darts to their original lengths, creating enough room in the hips. I was incredibly relieved. I then also made a matching hair scarf. It's a little thinner than my previous ones, so it was a bit more a struggle to catch in all my thick hair, but it worked!

The skirt was made a few months ago. The pattern is Simplicity 6862, a one metre, four gore 1970's skirt pattern. This will certainly be a TNT. The fabric is a light weight pink wool. I didn't line it to make it a quicker make; I have a very large collection of slips as it is.

So there is the first of my summer sewing projects. I have a new outfit, and all the pieces will be able to be mixed and matched as well.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Peasant style Mathilde blouse; my favourite ever make

Today's post has been about eighteen months in the making. Way back in February of last year I made  a Tilly and the Button's Mathilde blouse as a trial run for some lovely fabric I had in my stash. Probably within the month, I had made up my second version, pictured here. Eighteen months later I finally get it photographed.

This is hands down my favourite ever garment I have made. It is insanely comfortable, the fabric is gorgeous, and best of all I can wear it year round, it usually averages being worn at least once every ten days.

I made a few modifications to the pattern. Firstly I lowered the neckline, as it as too high originally. My other modifications were due to the drape of the fabric. I could not get the tucks to work at all, so instead I gathered the front for a more peasant style look Secondly, the neckline facing would not work with this fabric, as it frays a lot. I finished the neck with exposed bias tape, aas it was too see through to do it inside. The back closes with beautiful mother of pearl buttons.

This blouse is incredibly versatile. The fabric is very breathable, so even with the sleeves it can be a summer blouse on all but the hottest of days. In winter I layer it up with a full slip. It alo goes with a good majority of my skirts; all my black ones (the one here, black pencil, and long black pleated). It also gets a lot of wear in winter with my thick purple wool skirt and long blue coat. It will also go with some summer skirts I have in the works.

Will I make this pattern again? Certainly. The Mathilde pattern fits me really well, and there's a few versions sitting in the WIP pile as I write this.

I'm so glad I finally got around to sharing this. Do you have a favourite hand made garment that gets worn constantly?

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Ainrmistice blouse, wedding dress muslin.

I did post about my wedding dress here back in February, but never got around to writing much about design or construction. After two months away, I just wanted to share pictures, and a lot of the details had slipped my mind. However, I will be sharing a bit today, as last night I finally finished the wearable muslin of the top half of my wedding dress. 
My inspiration for my wedding dress was the Armistice blouse pattern. I cannot remember if I found the pattern first, or the Downton Abbey picture; I just loved the style, and quickly order the Folkwear pattern. My main tweaks to the pattern had to do with the back. The pattern is very blousey, and is nipped in with ties. I don't really like the excess fabric, and it didn't work with turning it into a dress, so I modified the back piece to incorporate back darts from Simplicity 2444, and this gave me a really good fit. After playing around with muslins, I decided to make a blouse up to practice the technqiues, especially the collar, lace and pintucking. I got the blouse mostly finished half way through last year, and it lay in the sewing pile, only with a hem to go, until last night. With the warmer weather creeping up in Sydney, and my desire to shrink my UFO pile, I quickly finished it lat night. 

It's a really comfortable blouse, and I like the style. My two issues are the front panel sits a tiny bit too low (something I can pull up; I do remember now raising the panel for my wedding dress). Also, the back is much too short. I most likely added no length, so it's the same length as a dress bodice. It makes it hard to tuck in; I am very short waisted, and am wearing it with a pencil skirt that hits my natural waist, and it only just sits in. These issues are certainly not going to stop me wearing it though. 

My favourite things about this blouse are the details. 
Firstly, the fabric. Most versions of this style I've seen as done in white/cream/ivory, but as I was already doing that for the wedding dress, I decided to go floral. The fabric is from my grandma's stash, and I used cream for the collar and front panel. 

My main construction change was to use bias tape instead of facings. I rally do not like facings, and had already found lovely satin bias for my wedding dress, so used a red bias tape for the facings. I also hemmed the blouse using bias tape, again much neater, and didn't lose much length. I did the button holes in blue, with blue buttons to match. I actually did not end up using buttons on my wedding dress, as the satin facings would not take them. I used false buttons with hooks and eyes underneath. For the blouse, I also inserted an invisible zipper up the side; I don't need it, because of the buttons, but it was good practice for the dress.

 This is a close up of the sleeve hem, finished with lace, which is machined on. Although I hand sew whenever I can, machining the lace actually gave it a very neat finish. All the lace was from my grandma's stash. I cut the sleeves short, not wantingto do cuffs, as per the pattern. I was actually planning on having short sleeves on the wedding dress, but ended up going thee quarters after getting carried away with insertion.

 This is a close up of the middle panel. The hardest part was getting the pintucks centred. I know I had a method, but my brain is very murky on the details now. The whole panel is handsewn into the blouse, and finished with a row of lace up top.

This is just a collar close up, he lace here is sandwiched between the two collar layers. 

Pattern Summary:
Pattern: Folkwear 210, Armistice blouse
Fabric: Floral for main body, cream for accents, both stash
  • back turned into darts
  • bias tape facings
  • side zip
Notions: invisible zipper, blue buttons, red bias tape, a lot of lace

Wear with: a very high waisted, tight skirt. 

Make again? : I technically have for my wedding dress. I'm not sure if I would. I love the pattern, but its a blouse style that's very striking, and would look quite similar if made again, it's more of a statement piece, than a wardrobe basic. If I did make it again, I'd raise the front panel, add length to the back bodice, and grade out slightly at the hips. I do love the lace and pin tucking details though, so I will certainly be working out ways to incorporate them into future projects. 

I have two more projects to still show that were part of my wedding dress making process. One is a skirt, that was part of my self-drafting adventures, and the other is a blouse, that is still unfinished a year later where I set to work practicing insertion. 

It feels good to finally have another project finished, and shared. 
Thanks to my best friend Mim for the photos.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

English paper pieced hexagons

Today I thought I'd share my longest running sewing project; a English paper pieced queen sized bed quilt. This is the most I could get in one picture at a time. This quilt is big.
English paper piecing involves tacking fabric around cardboard shapes, then whip stitching them together. Usually people make flower rosettes. My quilt is completely random.

I began this years ago, sometime between the ages of nine and eleven. (I am 21 now). It began off innocently enough. One afternoon at my grandmother's she taught me how to make these hexagons. I sewed one rosette (which is now the centre of the quilt). I then decided I should turn it into a quilt, all fabrics being different to one another. I was always an ambitious and obsessive child.

The centre rosette. 
The quilt grew, and I decided I would get it finished for when I got married. At that point I assumed I would get married at around 30. When I was 19, and realised I wolud be getting married very soon, I decided to be sensible. I don't know If i will get it finished before I turn 30. I have the general size marked out. Each centre line is marked, and goes to the edge, which means the whole quilt is a wird cross shape at the moment, with large gaps at the corners which need filling

 The fabric is from all over the place; old projects, scrap boxes, and I hae even bought scrap bags on the internet. About a year ago I gave up on the no matching fabrics rule. My obsessiveness is waning slightly! I now just try to keep the matching ones relatively far apart.
There is no pattern to how pieces are placed, but i try and keep the colours mixed up as much as possible. Even randomness needs some plan behind it (especailly when a disproportionate amount of hexagons are blue florals. This combination to the right demonstrates how odd the quilt can get. A baby riding a dolphin sits under my mum's bridesmaid dress fabric.
 The quilt also acts as an I-spy quilt. There are numerous little characters, and animals on it, mainly from country style patchwork fabric. Here we have a novelty chicken. There are also cows, ducks, people, two geisha girls, snails, and rag dolls.
This gives you a bit more of an idea of what it look like overall. A number of years ago i counted 400 hexagons in this quilt. I now think the number is well over a thousand.
 One scrap bag I bought on Etsy had a lot of little Liberty scraps. I love scattering these through the quilt. This group also has a teddy bear, and some Christmas fabric.

There is fabric from all my old sewing projects in here as well. The blue and red floral is from this dress.

My plan is to eventually add a narrow cream border, and then hand quilt it. It's a real labour of love, an sewing tese hexagons together is incredibly addictive. The little papers end up scattered all through our apartment, and I'm constantly having to recollect them together, and assign them to their correct tins. (One for assembled hexagons, one for fabric and papers, one for paper clips).

Have any of you ever done any patchwork? I'm not sure how much overlap there is between patchwork and dressmaking blogs. I don't do much patchwork at the moment, but I am thinking over the next few months I will share all my past quilts on here. I have quite the collection.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Checkered Pencil Skirt

 I finally finished my first pencil skirt. I am really happy with it, and am already planning on making a lot more.

First, the fabric. The shell is a lovely soft wool. The checks are black and royal blue. I bought it very cheaply from one of those garage sale pages on Facebook. I only had just enough for the skirt, which did necessitate some creative hemming. The lining is made from a black petticoat my grandma gave me to use. It feels really nice, but the fabric also frays a lot.

The pattern is Vogue 1989, one of those wardrobe pattern collections. It has a double darted pencil skirt, with a slit that I redrafted into a vent, using this really helpful tutorial. I also used this to line the skirt. I was quite concerned on getting this right, so spent a lot of time researching different tutorials on the web. I ended up settling with this one as it seemed the most clear and straightforward. Luckily I got it in first go.

I cut a size 16, no alterations. It took a lot of muslins to work out the correct size. 14 was too tight and 18 much too loose. Three muslins later I found the right size. This was mostly to do with wanting the skirt to feel comfortable. I love the shape of pencil skirts, but I didn't want one too tight, especially as I always tuck in my shirts. It's a good fit, and it's an incredibly comfortable skirt to wear. I think I certainly have a TNT pattern here. I already have another cut in a beautiful purple wool, and am sure there will be a number more.

Onto construction details; first the zipper. I am not entirely happy with it, but am leaving it as is, as all is sturdy, and looks good from the outside. I handpicked the zipper, but sewed donwn the waistband first. In hindsight I should have sewn zip, thn folded the waistband over. It would have given a much neater finish, and I would have been able to use the lining to enclose the entire zipper. Oh well, live and learn.

I got the checks to match incredibly well, but forgot to get a photo. It even impressed my grandmother. She was a professional seamstress, and is very pedantic about things matching. So it was a very high compliment.

Even though my lining went in properly the first time, there is a bit of puckering. This is a cutting fault, not a sewing on, the fabric slipped a little as I was cutting, and I did not have anymore to cut a replacement. It doesn't bother me though.

When it came to hemming I was originally planning to urn up the wool, and hem it to the lining with bias binding covering the raw hem. I couldn't afford to lose any length though, as I like my skirts to fall at the knee. I finished the hem instead with very wide bias tape. Again, not entirely ideal, but next time I will ensure I can get the length right so I can finish it off neatly.

Besides these small flaws, I am incredibly happy with this skirt. I intended it to be a learning curve, and it certainly was. Whilst a pencil skirt itself is not hard to sew, it was trying all these new techniques and details that really made this a good project. I am. now imagining a whole wardrobe of lined pencil skirts, both summer and winter.

Quick note about my red shoes. These heels go with absolutely everything, and are so comfortable I can wear them all day. I was also wearing this outfit with my red coat, but had taken it off for photos.

Has anyone else had any good projects lately that taught you a lot about sewing?

Monday, 3 August 2015

A new hair do, and an outfit of pastels for winter.

 Sydney is back to a cold patch of winter, after some unseasonably warm weather the other week. I decided for today's outfit I wanted to move away from my usual winter palate of black, red and plaid, and make use of some new hair ideas.
I used this tutorial of Tasha's. I'd tried it one before with uncurled hair, and it did not work, but this morning it went together without a fault. I cannot get my hair to behave usually so this was a win. I used a new hair scarf I had made the other week using some lovely hydrangea fabric. I need to make some more now, especially in plain colours. I can see myself wearing my hair like this a lot.

My outfit didn't come up too well in these pictures. I am wearing a heavy wool pleated mid-purple skirt, a cream blouse, and my very long blue coat. Earrings and necklace are both pearls. I took these photos in a hidden courtyard at university, isn't it perfect?

Sunday, 26 July 2015


I finally set myself up an instagram.
Hoping to be able to share some good in progress pictures, the little things that don't warrant a blogpost.