The cat’s pyjamas

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Something else I’ve done to extend myself with sewing is volunteering to be a pattern tester. I have a background in desktop publishing so figure I balance my lower skill level with awesome proofreading skills when giving feedback. And for once the latest thing I’ve tested I actually have photos for a blog post! It’s the new Miramar dress from Scroop Patterns.

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I’m seriously in love with this pattern. Leimomi of The Dreamstress & Scroop Patterns has offered it as a project for her sewing lessons in the past and I had been strongly tempted. But it’s a fairly simple pattern that’s suitable for beginners and I am quite comfortable with knits so prefer classes that are a bit trickier. Which means I was happy dancing when she said it would be her next pattern release and I was dead keen to try it.

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The dress is so comfortable it’s secret pyjama dressing. You can pretty much tell if I like a pattern as I put it on to wear straight away. As soon as I finished this I tried it on to twirl and then didn’t bother putting my old clothes back on. Anyone else do that when they are super happy with something?

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 I love the colour of the dress and the small abstract print. What isn’t good though is the amount of stretch in the fabric. Initially Leimomi recommended at least 25% stretch both ways, which this has, but the arms are tighter than I’d like. I can still wear it but I’m aware of it. She has changed the recommendation to at least 30% stretch and my advice is pay attention. She also  increased the sleeve size by 1 cm.

I liked the dress so much I promptly bought some orange merino that day to make a top version and the sleeves are better with more stretch.

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The top survived an eight hour day, the skirt not so much – wrinkles!

Speaking of sleeves, I left the ends raw on the dress. I’m going to wear it a bit more before I decide on final length. I’m thinking to cut them to above my elbow or possibly at a ¾ length. For the top version I marked a line 3cm below the short sleeve version and that came out to just above my elbow which  I really like and is good for work.

The dress I made a size 46and graded out to a 48 from the waist as I wanted a bit more of a twirly skirt – forgetting I live in one of the windiest places on earth! When we took the photos I yet again involuntarily showed the cars passing by the colour of my knickers. When will I learn??!!!

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Actually I did learn cause I wore it to work with high heels and a full slip later in the week and there were no naughty flashes even riding the scooter. But I think that a number of testers made the same alteration as in the final release version Leimomi has redrafted from the waist to taper out more. For the top version I just made a straight 46 and it fits really well. The only change I made after trying the top on to check the fit was to sew up the front seam an extra 3 cm. The dress version was fine but the different fabric meant I was showing a little more cleavage than I’m comfortable with for work. But I’m short and am self conscious in lower necklines as most people can look straight down my cleavage so I’d suggest trying it and then making up your mind like I did.

This is a non seasonal pattern, I’ve made it in two lighter weight fabrics suitable for the summer coming up but I’ve seen it made up in mid weight ponte and heavier weight merino which look awesome. I’m hoping that there will be a heavyweight raspberry merino in The Fabric Store when they stock for autumn/winter. Although looking at the Pantone predictions for 2016 I might have to settle for spicy mustard instead. I just know there will be a winter version in my future along with a mid weight white top version for work.

And you know what else is nice? In our new house we overlook the Miramar peninsula the dress is named for… pretty, like the pattern.

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Taming the chaos within

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My blog posts don’t reflect my sewing output. I’m sewing a lot and have put a focus on trying new things to extend my skills. Such as a business shirt for the Boat Builder and experimenting with trousers for me. Still on the list of scary things to tackle are a wool coat, a bra, jeans and a swimsuit. I’ve sewn a number of dresses, multiple versions of Linden sweatshirts and scout tees and various skirts. And have almost finished another corset – pesky hand sewing! As much as I sew for every piece I finish there’s probably four or five things cut out or half finished and then a huge stack of fabric and patterns behind that. It was getting overwhelming and I was starting to get a paralysis of indecision on what to do next. I felt like I was “drowning” in piles of unfinished projects that had been stopped because I didn’t know how to do the next step or I suddenly got bored of it , or something shinier had come along, New patterns! New fabrics!  Oh my! My ‘To Sew List’ was starting to be stressful and I was getting irritated with myself. Compounding this is that I seem to have stopped buying clothes and things were starting to get a bit desperate wardrobe wise.

And then we moved. And everything got packed away for two months.boxesThe new house is awesome, we looked for five years until we finally found one with just about everything we wanted (Boat Builder didn’t get the internal access garage and I didn’t get the walk in wardrobe), and just enough things that need to be fixed or renovated to make it interesting and at a price we could remotely afford without giving up everything else in our lives. But stopping was good. I missed sewing very much, but it gave me a bit of space from all the self inflicted chaos and disorganisation that was surrounding me. I did a big cull of fabric and other stuff before we packed so I knew I only had projects that actually inspired me or would really challenge me. The new house has a basement so now we have a room that’s just for hobbies – luxury I know. At the moment it’s solely for sewing, the BB has hit pause while he does some serious thinking about the next step on the yacht and does some house projects instead. But tucked into the corner of the room is my grandfather’s loom and when I’m feeling confident I’ll be able to set that up too.

While everything was packed away I decided to bring a few of my work habits home (my day job is project planning) and drew up a Kanban board for myself and added my current queue as post it notes. kanban

I then divided my current sewing ideas into seasons and made a long term sewing goals list. long-term-plan

I also created a sewing projects book. I found that when I kept stopping and starting projects I would forget what thread and stitch length etc. I had used, or I’d lose the piece of paper when I remembered to write them down. I also thought it would help me to keep a record of what I had done, changes made to the pattern and where I’d gotten the fabric etc. I figured it would be helpful writing blog posts if I ever got to the point where I posted more than once in a blue moon. I staple a little swatch of the fabric to the page as well and I loves it. It’s so nice to flip through and see my “history” at a glance.

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When it came to unpacking the six very large suitcases of fabric I wanted to take my time and organise my stash so that I could see it. I’d loved all the fabric on the shelves at the old house but they quickly got messed up and fell all over each other. I borrowed an idea from the fabric shops and made myself a template and proceeded to cut up the many cardboard boxes left over after the move.

Then as I unpacked each case I wrapped the fabric round the cardboard “holder”. So now I have nice even stacks ordered by colour. I can see exactly what I’ve got and feel very inspired when I walk in the room. I pinned the Kanban board and long term goals sheet to a board on the wall. Put the patterns in open boxes on the bottom shelves and bought myself four more of the boxes, two to store unfinished projects in, and one each for interfacing and trims/sundries. I gave myself a new rule I had to alternate starting a new project with finishing something from the boxes.

The room has stayed tidy. I find the space really calming and a joy to work in. The chaos outside and in has gone –  and best of all my productivity has gone up!

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The almost dress…

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 … as in I almost got it right. It should be perfect, but I let myself and my inherent laziness get in the way. I love this dress but…

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The fabric: I love Ikat fabric and I love blue so it should be perfect right? Well the hand of the fabric is wonderful and soft and exactly right for this style. Holds it’s shape and wears like a dream. And as a bonus the fabric doesn’t crease. But a proper Ikat is where the pattern is dyed onto the threads before it is woven, this has been printed onto the woven fabric. So the fabric is almost right… but just wrong enough to niggle.

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The pattern: I bought the fabric with the Grainline Alder dress in mind. I intended to do view B with the gathered back and have a collar, however I didn’t think to check I would have enough fabric. I just kind of thought it was about enough… but no, apparently my mind’s eye measuring is a bit dodgy – there wasn’t enough fabric. I made view A with no collar.  So the pattern is perfect for the fabric and it’s almost the dress style I wanted.

Pattern placement: Because I was tight on fabric it was a case of what will fit when laying out. Having said that, I’m sure I could have lain the front pieces out in a single layer and still had enough. IMG_9162Which would have prevented the seeing double on the front. It’s annoying because I cared enough to make sure the button placket and pockets match perfectly which makes the left side/right side non match stand out more to my eye. Grrr

Sewing: The actual sewing part is mostly fine. Seams are straight, finishes look nice, pattern matching (when I actually thought about it) is pretty much perfect. The techniques are ok and I loved having the Grainline Alder sew-a-long to follow. Especially as they showed a really clean way to finish the collar stand. But the overall length is too long I think for my height and the back is marginally longer than the front,  I need to actually finally admit it, stop being lazy and adjust it.

So… I have a dress which is a pleasure to wear but when I wear it I can’t help noticing all the “faults”. When I started to get serious about sewing two years ago it was to try and avoid feeling like this.  Le sigh

There is one thing that is absolutely perfect about this dress though, it’s perfect for the muggy summer heat and I practically lived in this dress. So it can’t be all bad can it? 😉

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Production line sewing

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Last winter I was stomping around my wardrobe muttering about fancy frocks and freezing weather and decided I need some cardigans, something fancy, something comfy and something in-between. I figured if they were all black and I sewed them together I could make a production line and get through them quickly and have useful things in my wardrobe which would allow me to wear my pretty clothes but still be warm.

It also had the lucky benefit of there being nothing suitable in my stash as I don’t have a lot of black and there’s very little knit in there either.  Sooo – shopping trip! I zipped out to The Fabric Warehouse on the scooter and found these.

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Ok I know the floral is beige but it’s on a black background so could still use black thread.

I decided to use the Jenna Cardigan for these two as I had been really pleased with my first version (not blogged). I love that Kat tries to make her Muse patterns as versatile as possible so that you can use them again and again but still have a different finished product. The beige floral is waist length with short sleeves but using the sleeve band to make it puff a little.

The stripe I decided to see how the long sleeve hip length version would look. The only alteration I made on both was to trim about 7mm from the shoulder seam as I found the shoulders on my first, even on my wide shoulders, was a little too big. For the stripe that was fine but the beige floral doesn’t have as much stretch and probably could have been left as per my original.

The third version would be was the already cut out black Nina cardigan which had been still in the queue since last year. I had six metres of this stuff originally and it has been really convenient to have in the stash for all sorts of things and is nearly all used up. I think I have just enough to make a top (maybe two) and then it will be gone :-(.

Normally I pin sew, pin sew and it can be very slow but this way I make fewer mistakes. However as I had made both these styles before I knew what I could pin together en masse so that I could just sit at the machine and sew seam after seam.  Zoom zoom zoom it was so satisfying. Doing a production line meant that I completed all three in one weekend which is unheard of for me – such Speedy Gonzales sewing I love it!

Sewing crack

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I have a new toy! 🙂

After saving all my birthday and Christmas monies and dithering for really QUITE A LONG TIME. I finally bought my new machine. My old Brother machine was ok but you couldn’t adjust the needle position and that was becoming quite annoying.

I spent ages agonising over what features I wanted and what was most important to me and went round and round the sewing machine shops in a paralysis of indecision. I was very tempted by the Janome DC6030 but was $100 short. Several of the other WSBNers have this machine and really like it and just as I was about to bite the bullet and buy one my husband sent me an email saying our local Bernina supplier was having a sale and the machine I liked was coming in $100 less than the Janome. I raced in and bought this pretty thing immediately.

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I like it very much. The first thing I did on it were buttonholes on knit fabric and it worked an absolute dream – so easy. Someone said recently that you’re either a Bernina fan or not. The first machine I ever used was my Mum’s old Bernina and I’ve been partial to them ever since. Not so partial that I’m going to spend the money a proper one costs but enough of a fangirl to be swayed to the Bernette if it was possible.

In other news the Sewing/office/room- o-crap has got yet another purpose and turned into a shipyard again as well. We bought some new shelving at auction and rearranged the room putting all my fabric stash on the lower shelves so that we can both use the table at the same time. It’s really nice although there’s a lot more swearing than there used to be! Apparently planking is really tricky 😉

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At long last a kaftan

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A while ago my mother in law asked if I would make her a kaftan. I said yes not having the foggiest idea how. She loves that deep cranberry/wine red colour and wanted something like that. A couple of weeks later The Fabric Warehouse had a pop up sale but the sewing gods were not smiling that day for red so I went a little crazy buying up kaftan options. I’ve kind of figured out with my in laws that if I think it’s hideous they’ll probably love it (and vice versa). Some others from the WSBN were there also buying up large and there were more than a few funny looks as I bought up great lengths of some really ugly knit fabrics in purples and pinks and exclaimed in delight at how hideous I thought they were.

The fabric bags were stashed away and realisation dawned that I truly had no idea how to go about making a kaftan without making it look like a large sack but then the sewing gods decided to smile after all and a vintage kaftan pattern wandered into my hands.

IMG_3278“Woohoo! I don’t have to try and figure out how to do this!” my mind was screaming as I politely said thank you and immediately flipped it over to the line drawing. I decided on View A which is the pink version.

IMG_3279Turns out it’s pretty much rectangles as I was thinking, but the pattern included a neck facing and craftily two big fish eye darts at the front with a hole in the middle of each to pass a belt through to tie neatly at the front. The darts and waist tie mean the front is cinched closer to the body which helps avoid potato sack likeness.

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Clever shaping darts

The knit fabric while not something I would normally buy print/colour wise had the most wonderful weighty drape and was lovely to work with. It’s completely synthetic but the nice synthetic. I thought the neckline looked a little boring and as I’m still having fun learning all the new stitches on my fabulous new machine I decided to go fancy with some flowers.

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Hehehe flowers make me happy, so love my new machine.

The MiL loves the kaftan and really likes the fabric and colour – whew! And the rest of the fabric options? Some I’ve kept for muslins but the others got donated and are out there somewhere lurking in a charity shop – possibly near you!

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No picture on a real body sorry, but as it was finished there was no danger of Custard the Dress form of Doom and her evil ways.

The awesome Bed of Free Fabric (the new BFF!)

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What’s the quote? I can resist anything except temptation…

Last year Alison from Alyz Creations let the WSBN group know about a friend of hers who had recently acquired a huge stash of fabric from a friend who had sadly passed away. It was more fabric than she could deal with and she asked Alison if she knew anyone who would be interested in taking some of it off her hands.

Now sometimes I have reasonable will power, but people, this was a queen size bed completely covered half a metre high in free fabric. Resistance was futile.

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And this was after sizeable amount had already been taken!

Alison’s message to our group: FREE material you can go and look/take what you want. I saw a lot of pieces that made me think of some of you. If you are interested, (that means anyone in this group) – please call me and I will give you her name and number so you can arrange a time to go. First in first served basis! She would like the spare queen bed back 🙂 This stash has been collected over many years (up to fifty) – some pieces are probably from the 70’s, others are labelled “Bargain Roster” which I remember being part of for a while years ago! Most of it is fine, however I did notice a few mildewed pieces, and it all has an “I’ve been stored for years and need a good wash” aroma.

Honestly it was wonderful to be able to dive through all this and fascinating. You could see when she started the stash and how her needs and fashions in fabric had changed over the years. I could see that she must have had children that she sewed for. It was also really interesting to see the pieces that she had made up as there were a lot of those big pieces that you can’t quite allow yourself to throw away because they might be useful.

The bargain roster apparently was something you signed up for and they sent fabric to you every month and you kept what you wanted and returned the rest. Online shopping before the internet – but you get to feel the fabric first!

So what did I walk away with? A whole load of threads and this gorgeous lot:

And a small stash for Sandra from Flossie FT who wasn’t able to make it:

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It made me both sad and happy, so much possibility that was never realised but also so much had been used. It made me scared about my own stash and made me even more determined to SEW MORE, STASH LESS. For goodness sake it’s just fabric it’s not too precious to waste, it’s only special if you use it and wear it

And my favourite piece? This rather whimsical scrap that isn’t big enough to make anything of but would look awesome as an applique on a sweat shirt.

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Apeearing soon on a sweatshirt near me 😉