Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sew For Victory Sewalong...Complete!

Hello all! I didn't get a chance to post last week I'm afraid, but it was in a good cause - I realised just how close the Sew For Victory Sewalong deadline actually was. (insert slightly panicked gulp here.) I have to confess I'd fallen into my usual pattern best described as yet another Head vs Heart conflict: Head likes to be organised and on top of all projects, while Heart prefers to adopt a policy of Blind Optimism. But last Thursday night, when I'd usually blog away merrily, it became inescapably clear that unless I sat down and did some actual sewing there would be a full-scale panic over the next week.

So I skipped the posting in favour of sewing, and after a couple of days hunched over the machine I got it done. I'm extremely grateful to whatever sewing gods there may be that there were no modifications needed, because Blind Optimism left no time for venturing off the beaten track!

So here 'tis, Reproduction Vintage Vogue 2569 with an approximate attempt to look suitably period-appropriate:

I really, really enjoyed this challenge! I more admire vintage style rather than actually sew and wear it, so this was something new. I used a silk and hemp blend which was lovely to sew with, and feels glorious to wear (or will, once Autumn here behaves itself and cools down a good 10deg or so). I used the matte (wrong?) side, which has a beautifully fine corded texture. It does fray a bit though, so next time I use it I think I'll finish the seam edges first. (The pattern didn't mention seam finishing at all, so I was going at the inside of the dress with the pinking shears at the end. Not ideal.) Plus, it wrinkled more than I anticipated - is this just to be expected with hemp like it is with linen? They're cousins of sorts, aren't they?

The construction techniques listed in the pattern were so different to anything I've attempted before. I LOVED the asymmetric panels, which are cut both on the grainline AND on the bias (where they angle upwards); they gave an amazing and effortless fit - snug and structured. And the actual construction of them was something I hadn't come across before: the lower piece has the seam allowance pressed under, then is lapped over the top of the upper piece and topstitched down 3/8" from the fold. Tricky at first, especially since these seams were also curved, but really satisfying to get right! See below:

There were several little design details like that, things you simply don't find in modern patterns. Things like the shoulder darts or double bust darts that take a bit of extra time and effort, but give an elegance to the fit that's often lacking today. Definite food for thought in approaching future projects... Oh, and my favorite of those little design details? The elbow pleats on the sleeves!

Moving on: here's where I ran into my main difficulty: bound buttonholes. I'd never attempted these before, and in hindsight really wish I'd given myself enough time to practise before doing them on the real thing. They're passable, but not immaculate like the ones in my reference book (which to be fair had probably been sewn by someone who'd done them once or twice before...) So there's a skill to master in the future.

The back of them aren't too bad though:

The other main difficulty - and this really was irritating (and self-inflicted) - was because I was using the "wrong" side of the fabric as the right, I kept sewing seams together inside out, i.e. with the satin side as right. Grrrr! I discovered how often I sew on "auto-pilot" though - far too much! I did actually like the effect of the satin as right side of the facings though - decided that after I sewed them that way accidentally on the bodice and didn't want to unpick yet again  - so went with that on the sleeve facings too:

I was surprised by how much hand-finishing there was to do. I've never really bothered with that much before - I always thought it would make garments look a bit "homemade" (in a bad way...), but I actually really like the control it gives over hard to reach areas. So here's my first hand-picked zipper too:

 I'm really, and possibly excessively, proud of that one!

I'm so glad I had a go at this challenge! I feel like I've learnt a lot from this one, in terms of construction techniques, design details and finishing. I've also learned to allow plenty of time for future projects, and (perhaps more importantly) to actually use that time to get familiar with the pattern and practise any new/never-before-encountered techniques. So we'll chalk this project up as a success!

Now I just have to work out how to add some of the photos onto the SFV Flickr page - an as yet unattained skill....Wish me luck!  Then I'm going to spend a happy few hours catching up on some of your lovely blogs. :)

Happy Easter! Have a wonderful break :)

Danielle oxo

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Refashion: Summery Blouse

I have a confession to make. I've been channelling my inner Grumpy Old Woman way too much of late, griping and carping about the weather. Mind you, so has everyone else I know! Still, ridiculous heat or not, I decided I needed to be a little more proactive in my coping approach and find some kind of silver lining. And the answer was found in white, pin-tucked cotton. Because is there anything more quintessentially and satisfyingly summery than white pin-tucked cotton clothes? I say not. :)

A friend who knows I love refashioning had given me this a few months ago. Not my best look, as is!

 Even worse side on! But the great thing about bigger sizes is that you can always cut them down. Besides, white pin-tucked cotton!

I decided to lose the sleeves. They were finished with the same narrow frill as the neckline, so I was able to salvage that and the very narrow binding to finish off the armholes. These were too low and gapey, so I cut them higher, and in the process cut off about 4cm from each side. I planned to turn the sleeves into a band  under the bust. (I say "planned", but there was far more enthusiasm than forward planning involved in this project. Which leads us, somewhat unsurprisingly, to....)

First hiccup. There wasn't enough fabric in the sleeves. (It was probably optimistic to assume otherwise...) I had some white cotton voile that I used instead, and then cut the front and back pieces under the bust and sewed it in.

Second hiccup. It doesn't show up so well in the photo below but the new voile pieces were startlingly, strikingly brighter than the rest. Plus, which brings us along to the third hiccup, the extra length combined with  the amount I'd trimmed down the sides by meant it no longer fit over my hips. The new armholes looked nice, though...

It was time to rethink. Or, more accurately, actually think. The blindingly white band had to go. I decided to cut it down into a narrow casing, which made the brightness much less obvious and had the advantage of enabling some shaping, which I hadn't yet allowed for properly. I had enough of the voile to make a long cord too. Solved! (By the way, would you look at the size difference between those tucks?! You may not guess it from this post but I'm usually pretty particular about accuracy, and fuss over bits that aren't quite right. Yet so much RTW  stuff is like this and I never really gave it a second thought. I love that sewing gives me my own quality control. Ok, rant over.)

So I cut down the bands, and sewed it all back together, inserting an invisible zip down one side. The hips fit again (always a bonus :) ), but I kept the lower 8cm open anyway. If I'd have thought ahead of time BEFORE cutting the front and back in two I would have had an easier time of it, just sewing a casing to the inside. As it was I had to thread the cord through the back piece and sew it into the other side seam. This means I can only adjust the fit with the cords in the front, but since the fit's ok now that's not really a problem. I ended up with this:

A much more user-friendly garment! And it got a good workout on the first day I wore it - those pics were taken at 7:30am, when it was already 28C (82F).(See?? Ridiculous heat!)  It was 37C (98F) by lunchtime, and while I wasn't exactly cool, I was as cool as I could be without walking around in my underwear. Which, let's face it, is frowned on at work...All in all, this was a fun - and useful - way to be a bit more appreciative of the weather. Or at least shut the inner Grumpy Old Woman up for a while ;)

In other news, here's a sneak peek of my Sew for Victory project fabric! I wanted a colour like my favourite dressing gown, a dark plum. I found this hemp and silk blend at Offset Warehouse and it's not too far off that shade. For some reason my camera seems to be picking up more of the cooler tones than warmer ones in the morning light, so for the record in real life the fabric is almost exactly the colour of the dressing gown in the photo here. Go figure...

The muslin fabric is all cut out and ready to go. I did plan to get stuck into sewing it together today, but went to buy food for the family instead. Couldn't put it off any longer! Maybe this weekend...

How are your projects going? Are you sewing for the new season yet, or making the most of the old one?

Have a wonderful week :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Knitting Frenzy!

Hello to you! Sewing has taken a back seat since last post - I've been wielding the knitting needles instead. The current work in progress (posted a few weeks ago) has been bumped down the queue so as to make room for some birthday and baby gifts. So fun!

This was the first, and is a work in progress obviously! This is the Merlia scarf, and I won't say for whom I'm intending it, on the very slight chance that she may read this... Oh how I love a good cable project!

The colour here isn't quite accurate - it's more of a light aubergine-toned purple. I'm using Bendigo Woollen Mills Serenade. It's lovely to use; a mix of merino and bamboo, really soft. And it's not a flat colour, it has that slightly marle effect (what is that actually called??). I like yarn with a bit of texture to it. The charts are a bit involved, since there are a few different cables to keep track of. BUT I learned a trick last year doing my Beatnik that makes the whole thing much less confusing - and quicker. Colour coding! And just look how festive and cheerful my charts look:

Honestly, it cuts out so much checking and double-checking. Love it! I cast on last Friday night, and then woke up Saturday morning with a brainwave. Well, at six in the morning it felt like a brainwave anyhow...

It was a very dear friend's birthday tea on Sunday, and I'd been wishing I'd had the time to make something for her. What with working most of last week though, I'd decided to be "sensible" and go buy something lovely instead. Which felt like a shame, since she's someone who really appreciates extra effort and meaningful gifts, and being pretty darn crafty herself - this girl can crochet like no one's business - gets the magic of a handmade pressie. So, the brainwave? Woke up Husband and declared, "I think I can knit her something!" To his credit all he asked was, "In a day and a half?" then yawned and said, "Good for you." And promptly fell back to sleep.

Not me though! I went straight to Ravelry and within two minutes I'd found this Hermione beanie (I'm sorry, maybe it's because I'm getting old and grammatically anal, but I just can't use the word 'hearts' as a verb. It bothers me almost as much as a misplaced apostrophe...So simply "Hermione" it shall be.)

Luckily I had some perfect yarn in my stash - Rowan's Bamboo Soft. I knit up a hat in this last year and loved it. It's got a gorgeous sheen, feels like silk and drapes beautifully. (I bought some more immediately, planning to make a jumper, then read a multitude of comments by Ravelers bemoaning how it stretched and grew in anything larger than a hat. So this silvery grey has been sitting in lonely state waiting for the perfect project.)

The decreases at the crown were quite different to other hats I've made, but they formed a really pretty 'snowflake'.

And I DID end up finishing it in time - with ten minutes to spare! I'm kind of tempted to make one for me now. Though that'll have to wait a while, since on Tuesday and Wednesday this week two friends have had babies. All very exciting! I thought for the little girl I'd make a Korrigan, and have a pretty yellow cotton yarn all ready to go. Still musing on the perfect little something for the baby boy....

So a pretty full on knitterly week, all in all! I am hoping to do some sewing over the weekend though, because the fabric I ordered for the Sew For Victory project has arrived, hooray! That hooray, incidentally,  is one part excitement and two parts sheer giddy relief. I ordered from, which sells eco, ethical and rescued fabrics. It looked fantastic, but it's always nice to see proof that something measures up to expectations! Plus I noticed - AFTER I'd paid - the disclaimer that "fabric may take up to three weeks after dispatch to arrive". I really must learn to read small print. But all is well, and there's still plenty of time to make the dress. Definite relief!

How are your work-in-progresses going? Or has something more pressing (or exciting!) jumped the queue?

Have a wonderful week :)