Friday, July 26, 2013

A minor tragedy...

Well, perhaps "tragedy" is a little strong....But for a few minutes there I didn't think so. Nor did it feel so very minor! Let me explain:

Way back in March, I bought the Style Arc Audrey Jacket pattern.

 It's a bit different to what I'd usually wear, but I really loved the slightly 60s feel of the wide stand up collar and the swing style silhouette. Not to mention the sleeves! I'd been wanting to make a coat for ages, and this seemed like an ideal first attempt, being a little less structured and tailored than most coat patterns. Then I found a glorious red wool and that pretty much decided it.

So why am I only attempting it now, given we're already halfway through winter down here? I'm not proud to admit this, but I really, really wanted to do bound buttonholes on the collar, and when I made such a hash of those on my Sew For Victory dress, I was thoroughly intimidated. And isn't it just so easy to procrastinate on a project when you're intimidated??

But, after pulling myself out of my sewing rut (see last post!), I decided it was time to tackle my coat properly. Armed with the absolutely superb bound buttonholes tutorial by the Little Tailoress, (truly, I can't praise this highly enough) I sat down at the machine determined to master this bete noire.

And did they work out? They did! They really did! Look!

You can imagine the happy dance that ensued. :)

And then....tragedy! To my utter horror, I realised I had marked and sewed the buttonholes in the wrong place. The collar piece is folded in half length-ways, and the buttons are meant to be central. Instead (and ignore basting thread):

I'll admit, there was some movie-style "noooooooooooo!"-ing to the heavens. Then I tried to come up with ways in which the placement wouldn't matter. No good. There was nothing else for it but to sulk. And knit instead. Right up to the point that I discovered that sulky knitting had made me read the pattern wrong and I would have to unravel and re-knit. Flounced off to read a book instead.

Oh I know, worse things happen at sea and all that. But it did seem like the sewing gods were being a tad unfair... 

After a day's break, (and a renewed ability to see the funny side of it all) I'm ready to tackle my coat again. I'm hoping to get it finished tomorrow.  I'm happy with how the rest of it is coming together, and I'm taking extra care (for once!) to make sure the insides are finished off nicely too.  At least I know I can do bound buttonholes now! I'll just be very, very sure to pay attention to pattern markings...

Have a wonderful ( tragedy-free!) week :)

Danielle oxo

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bits and Pieces...

A word of warning -this will be a bit of a mishmash of a post, I'm afraid! There are a few things I wanted to jot down so as not to forget, but nothing really felt lengthy enough to warrant its own entry. So I'll bundle everything in together and you can pick out the bits that interest you. :)

The most exciting thing - by far! - is that I've been asked by a dear friend to sew her wedding dress and four bridesmaids' dresses. It's such a thrill - think of the loveliest, sweetest, want-to-hug-her-every-time-you-see-her friend that you have...that's this girl to me. I've known her since she was ten, and the 15 year age difference between us has been steadily decreasing ever since. (figuratively, that is...) Her family is the "godfamily" to our oldest son (technically, her parents are the godparents, but she and her sister immediately dubbed themselves "godsisters" and it stuck), so it's a real honour to be able to be part of such a special and significant time.  We had a lovely day buying fabric - all of hers, half of the bridesmaids - this week, so some fairly intensive sewing will be starting very soon! I've promised her I won't be revealing any details or photos until after the Big Reveal on the day, but there may well be some panicked cries for advice between now and  2nd November! Watch this space....

Not nearly so exciting: in the last week I've had a go at stashbusting my yarn drawer. I now have a Dovetail Cowl made up from the leftover skein of my Beatnik jumper. I haven't blocked or photographed it yet, but it's been a nice project for evenings in front of the fire. Sometimes it's good to have a (relatively) instant gratification make, isn't it? To be honest, I haven't really been up to doing much more. It's been a really hectic last month, with husband away on two separate trips for work, me being unwell (which I NEVER am usually), and my work being crazy-busy and extremely challenging. I think it's all caught up with me a bit! It's frustrating, because I have all these ideas for makes and projects buzzing around in my head, but just haven't had the time or energy to get stuck into them. Still, I think I've needed to go easy on myself, and I've learned that (for me at least) creativity tends to be cyclical, with peaks and troughs of inspiration, motivation and energy. Hence the easy, sitting-by-the-fire-projects in the meantime!

If I haven't regained my energy yet, I have regained my mojo - the planning and inspiration side of it, anyhow! And I've realised a few key things about myself that seem to speed up the process of moving from the sewing "blahs" back to being excited about it:

1.   Being organised and tidy. Dull, I know, but it makes such a difference! My sewing space was a mess, and every time I went in there it was squelching my enthusiasm to sew. I don't mind a mess while I'm sewing - just as well, too! - but I need order in between projects so I'm not spending sewing time hunting through stuff and chaos to try and find what I need.

2.  If it's not working, I need to put it aside.  Your advice was what made me realise this! Instead of wrestling through a project that's only giving me grief, it's almost always better to put it aside and go on with something else. There's definitely something to be said for coming back with fresh eyes / perspective.

3.   Tackling something I've been meaning to get around to.  Finishing that modified Coffee Date Dress (see last post) was a real boost. I really hate having things hanging over me, and as a "list-maker",  I find it really satisfying - and motivating - to tick off the boxes.

4.  I don't have to make everything that inspires me.   I love reading sewing blogs. I love Pinterest.  I love the excitement of seeing something amazing in a magazine or shop window and knowing, "I can make that!" But, there are only so many hours in a day! And only so many dollars in my bank account.  I need to be more thoughtful and considered about what I actually set myself to make. It's ok to simply appreciate something for it's own sake! Adrienne put me on to a great post about this; well worth a look. :)

6.  I reordered my queue of projects.  I admit, I was a little over-ambitious in what I hoped to get done in the first six months of the year. But it just occurred to me that perhaps part of my reluctance to get up and sew might be caused by the fact that it's hard to get motivated to sew a summer dress when you're scraping ice off the car windscreen of a morning! It sounds really obvious when I think about it now, but it genuinely hadn't occurred to me...SO, now I'm just waiting for a decent opportunity to sit down and sew up my red coat. Just have to get over my bound buttonholes intimidation...The Little Tailoress has an excellent tutorial which I intend to follow to the letter.

None of the above are real ephiphanies, I guess. But I think it's helpful to know how you work best. Sewing time is precious, after all, and if there's something basic that's getting in the way, then I want to know so I can fix it.

How about you? What hinders your sewing mojo? Better yet, what kickstarts it into action? I'd love to know your thoughts - there's probably lots I haven't picked up on yet!

Have a wonderful week :)

Danielle oxo

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Refashion: Modified Coffee Date Dress

Have you ever had one of those projects that you haven't yet got around to, but kind of nags at the back of your mind every time you sit down at the sewing machine? I just finished mine! (Well, one of them, anyway...)

Almost a year ago I unearthed this op shop shocker (try saying that five times fast!) and saw potential:

If you're looking a bit askance at that, don't worry - so did my family and friends! Yes, it's polyester chiffon, a fabric that usually sends me spitting and snarling as far from a sewing machine as I can get. Yes, it seems to have been designed to be as unflatteringly vile as humanly possible. Elasticated waist? Check. Hem at the frumpiest point of the calves? Check. Odd cape top that completely obscures figure? Check. And lest there be any lingering doubt....

Or even:

So what was the potential? For a start, even though I really do loathe polyester like this, I liked the colours and print. There was a lot of fabric to play with. And if I blurred my eyes so I didn't see the rest of the dress, I liked the way the neckline sat. Plus, when I looked closely, I found that this wasn't a RTW dress; someone had sewn it themselves. And to give credit where credit's due, the workmanship was actually beautiful. I couldn't resist the idea of rescuing this one!

Funny thing - when I came out wearing it for the "before" shot, I could read my husband's thought process as clearly as if he'd spoken aloud. ("Did she make that herself?? Does she like it? Is she going to wear it outside the house? It's hideous. What can I say that's supportive without being an outright lie??") I LOVE watching his natural honesty wrestle with unnatural diplomacy...

For about nine months I've had a vague idea of the kind of dress I wanted this to end up as, but couldn't quite pin it down, or figure out exactly how to make it happen. Then I stumbled over Pattern Runway's Coffee Date Dress, and everything aligned in my head. There was still a fair bit of modifying, and making it up as I went along, but the basic silhouette was now fixed.

First step was to separate the bodice from the skirt and remove the elastic. First bonus: the skirt was pleated and then gathered - even more fabric than I thought! Although there was no lining, so I did have to buy some - a dark grey pongee. The bodice was in two layers, a sleeveless underlayer and a  "cape" made from four pieces, which laid out flat formed a full circle. The four pieces were front, back and sort-of-raglan style "sleeves".

The front and back pieces of the unpicked, ungathered and unpleated skirt were large enough to cut out all the skirt, waistband and pocket pieces from the pattern itself.

I love the fitted sleeves on the actual Coffee Date Dress, but I thought I'd keep these ones a bit floaty. I tried the existing bodice on and marked where the higher armholes should be (higher armholes = instantly slimmer  overall look) and then unpicked the "raglan" seam to that point.

Then I cut down the sleeve section like so, and sewed the new sleeve seam.

I also made the armhole higher on the underlayer. I didn't trim down the sides which allowed for then forming front bodice pleats of the CDD pattern. Plus, that left the existing dart mostly intact. I used the CDD bodice pattern piece to shorten both bodice layers.

I really didn't want to cut into the neckline; it sat so nicely as it was, and was already wide enough to slip over the head. I wavered between a back zip and a side zip for a while. Part of me still thinks a side one would have been a better finish, but I just wasn't sure the measurement from armhole to armhole was wide enough to allow it to be manouvered on past the shoulders. So a back zip it had to be. I cut up the middle of the back for this:

The actual CDD pattern doesn't have a lining, but being chiffon, this dress definitely needed one! I cut out extra waistband pieces from the lining fabric, and sewed these on at the same time I sewed the main ones to the bodice. That meant I could sew the main skirt to the main bands and the lining skirt to the lining bands. All edges hidden nicely. :)

I'm really happy with the end result!

I especially love the pockets! I'm still umming and ahing over whether to make the sleeves narrower and more fitted, but the more I see them, the happier I am with them as is. I like the way the gathers at the neck and shoulder echo the pleats at the skirt front. In any case, I'll definitely be making this pattern again, and I can do the proper sleeves then. Would love to find a red silk with white polka dots....

It's not perfect; the back (which I forgot to photograph, sorry) blouses as at the front, which make the zip stick out above the waistband a bit. And the lining sections (also unphotographed...), while reasonably neat, have a few hiccups - which in some ways I suppose you have to expect when you haven't thought through steps beforehand. But at the end of the day I've made an unwearable dress wearable! And I know I'll get a lot of wear out of this one - a long cardi or cropped jumper and boots will be fine for autumn or even milder winter days, and heels or sandals will work pretty nicely for spring or cooler summer. And, this is no longer preying on my mind during precious sewing time. Win!

On a final, unrelated note, I wanted to share with you something that Lynne from Ozzy Blackbeard put me on to. Remember my dilemma with matching the stripes on the side seams on my chevron Ginger? Well, here's what Sunni from A Fashionable Stitch had to say about that very thing:

 "Let me state that you will not need to match the stripes along the side seams. They will not match up, just so you know, and that’s OK. If some know-it-all asks you why the stripes don’t match along your side seams you can tell them that “this is a bias cut skirt and if I had tried to line up the stripes along the side seams, the skirt pieces would not have been cut on the true bias which would have resulted in a warped looking skirt.” And that’s the truth!"

So there! Thanks Lynne - I'll stop worrying over that immediately :)

Do you have any unresolved projects haunting you at the moment? Or are you happily ignoring them?

Have a wonderful week :)

Danielle oxo

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Roam Tunic (or, My Footy Tipping Tunic)

One morning last week, at about 5am, I was abruptly awoken by the urgent whisper of our seven year old hissing, "Mummy! Mummy! I don't understand ever!" Not being entirely at my mental best, I managed a hazy "Huh?" He explained, "Well, in my mind everything has to have an end. But ever doesn't...and I just don't understand it!" I suggested we discuss it once the sun was up. He happily agreed, climbed into bed and immediately fell asleep. It occurred to me several times over the next two wide-awake hours, that I don't really understand ever either...

Nor do I understand short rows in knitting. But I can do them! Correction: I can do them when I have very clear and explicit instructions in front of me - like the Roam Tunic has. And with that neat little segue, here is is my finished Roam:

I'm really, really happy with this one! I used Bendigo Woollen Mills 12 ply (bulky) Rustic yarn, and it was bee-yew-tiful to use. And quick! I was expecting to need a couple of months at least to finish this, but I think it was about 3 1/2 weeks of not-even-very-consistent evening knitting. That's the great thing about thick yarn, I guess!

This is the first Amy Christoffers pattern I've tried, and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat. It's extremely clear and easy to follow (even the short rows!), and the fit is fantastic The cable panel is easy - just an eight row repeat - but satisfying knitting. (I've got my eye on her Stonecutters Cardigan too - the stitch pattern is just like one I had and loved that belonged to my grandfather, but that I lent out for a school production of Annie and never saw again...)

It's SO snug and cozy, and while I wasn't sure initially about short sleeves on a thick jumper, now I've had it on I'm sold. And if it's really cold, I can always wear a long sleeved top underneath. I'm toying with the idea of making another with long sleeves, maybe in red... It is quick, after all...

Why "Footy Tipping Tunic"? Because I bought the wool with my winnings from the work AFL tipping competition :) We go week by week, rather than having a end of season prize, which I think is wonderful. Even more wonderful is the fact that I can barely tell the teams apart, and won my round by flipping a coin to pick winners. Annoyed certain Alpha Males no end, I can tell you!

So there you are - I finally have my long line grey jumper! Expect to see this one in heavy rotation during Me Made May 2014.... It replaces my first attempt rather well, wouldn't you say?

       Still Light Tunic  VS  Roam Tunic
            I think we have a winner....

What are you working on at the moment? Any sewing/knitting joy to share?

Have a wonderful week :)