Friday, July 25, 2014

On experimental sewing and getting good results


I don't know about you, but I learn a lot through taking risks and experimenting with my sewing. Playing around with different styles and fabrics helps me understand how much I can bend the rules, as well as which finishes look the best on different fabrics. But I think I've also subconsciously developed a set of strategies to help me get pretty good results most of the time, even when I'm trying to deviate from the norm.

It's been a long time since I've had an absolute wadder. This one is probably as close as it gets for me. But this isn't because I'm fabulous at sewing. I still have so much to learn. I think it's more to do with me getting better at understanding what works for me and what doesn't. Ironically, a large part of this knowledge has come from dozens of disappointing sews and pattern mess ups in the past. I really think that having the courage to jump into challenging projects is the best way to learn, and even more so if they turn into an unwearable mess! So with my past in the past, I had a think about what it is that I do today, to achieve good results.
  • Firstly, I've learnt to recognise pattern pieces that will fit my figure. Sometimes I can do this by sight, but mostly, I line them up with a TNT and can then see right away how much length to add or inches to take away. But this also makes me lazy. I rarely do a muslin anymore, but if I did, I could probably still tweak the fit some more.
  • I have a pretty concrete set of 2-6 modifications that I know I have to make to any of the big four's patterns the minute I take them out of the packet. This has just come from experience.
  • I steer clear of patterns that have a fitted bodice. The fitting issues are just not worth it for me. I have a very basic knowledge of draping and a dress form close to my size. When it comes to close fitting bodices and skirts, I get a much better result by drawing up a design myself and then draping it to get the pattern pieces.
  • I won't start a project unless I am absolutely, 100% feeling it. I used to sew just because I wanted to try a new technique, or to use up fabric stash, or even just to prepare my wardrobe for the next season with boring staples. I've come to realise that I don't wear as many staples as I used to. If I'm feeling frosting, that's what I'll sew, because that's what I'm going to want to wear.
  • I look objectively at pattern cover pictures and pay attention to what I'm seeing rather than what I want to see. If those sleeves look loose in the photo, they're going to be loose on me. That gape at the neckline, or the baggy armpits, well if they can't hide it in the photo, how will I?
  • I'm better at recognising what different fabrics can do. I don't just stick to cottons, silk and knits anymore. If I see something that excites me, I push myself to have a go. Recently, I've had a lot of fun sewing neoprene, rayon, and leather. Getting familiar with different textiles really opens up so many new design possibilities.
  • I'm better at recognising when something is just not working, before it gets to the point of no return. I'm pretty good at sewing on the fly and modifying projects that are heading to the pits. Sometimes a glass of wine helps at this point.
So what started me mulling over all of this in the first place? This top! It's a wearable muslin complete with French seams, because the fabric demanded none other than the best. It's also far from perfect, but it did teach me quite a few things.



 
 
 
The fabrics I used were small scraps. You've seen the watermelon poly before (I call it faux silk because it's seriously the most beautiful polyester I've ever encountered) here and here. I had a little bit left in my scrap basket. All I needed was a little creativity and I was able to stretch it into a top.

The gorgeous, sheer floral silk organza panel, also from Tessuti, was a devastating mistake I made a few months ago (I blame jet lag!). I cut into my little 1m piece of loveliness only to realise that the project I was going to use it for would be completely unsuitable. I was a little heartbroken but kept all the pieces anyway. It makes me smile to see that they haven't been wasted. I'm also happy that the pieces I'd cut were perfectly suited to this panel, even to the extent that I could position the flowers over my bellybutton.


I've been wanting a simple top like this for a long while, but have stubbornly refused to purchase a pattern that I could so easily draft myself or copy. It's basically just two pattern pieces stitched together (middle panel aside). I used a favourite RTW top in my possession as a guide. But I realised when finishing the neckline, that the front piece was more than 4" wider than the back...what?!!! And then I remembered that the top I was copying was designed by the maternity label, Isabella Oliver, so this could have been the reason why. Anyway, the neckline binding isn't anything to write home about either. I was trying to bind it in a fashion that really only suits a binding that will hold a crease. Have I said before how much I dislike sewing with polyester?! 

But back to the pattern glitch. I've fixed the error now so the next top should be perfect. But this version is too roomy in the front for my liking and I've had to add two pleats at the neckline to bring it in a bit. This helps the neckline but doesn't address the fabric surplus. Those pleats really annoy me, but the top is otherwise still very wearable. I've paired it with my leather fancy pant tracky dacks

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oliver + S Badminton skort and top: perfect for the handstand obsessed

Since starting gymnastics a few months ago, Miss Six has become a little fanatical about doing handstands and cartwheels at all times. And I do mean, at all times. I can be walking towards her, and suddenly it's her feet I see, and not her face. She walks down the hall and does a handstand. We walk to the shops and she sees a patch of grass on the verge; she's upside down doing a handstand. I think she's spending more time on her hands than her feet these days.

Now, a six year old doesn't have much modesty. This might change when she heads back to school. But right now, she doesn't care about flashing her undies or perfect little tummy, luckily so, because she refuses to wear anything but skirts and dresses. Even so, it can't be pleasant to have a dress hanging over your face each time you invert. So I thought I'd make her a skort: shorts covered by a skirt! Perfect!



 
I used the Badminton skort and top pattern by Oliver + S. I made the skort up in a straight size 6 using a cotton voile from Mood. I wasn't too fussed on the scalloped edge look of the pattern so I just skipped this bit, but doubled the skirt width to add some decent gathers instead. My girls are more interested in swish than detail. I love the way the skirt turned out. It fits Miss Six beautifully and is perfect for handstands. See the cute little shorts underneath.


The top is also lovely. I made it up in a size 7. It is comfortably loose but definitely not too big on her. Miss Six has been admiring my faux silk Camilla camisole since the day it was made. And I wear it frequently. She loves the fabric, which has a very authentic silk charmeuse look and feel to it. It actually matches the cotton voile very well so I used a few little remnants to make the top for her as well. The shape and style of this top is beautiful. The instructions are great too. It is a fiddly little top to make with that skinny curved yoke (and the slippery satin I chose to use), but it is definitely worth the effort. I think it looks lovely and Miss Six has given it a big thumbs up.







Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simplicity 4192: AKA my happy pants


I took a bit of a gamble the other week and ordered some cotton voile online from Hawthorne Threads. I've never ordered from them before and I was half expecting to open up my parcel of beautiful prints, only to be disappointed with the quality of cotton they'd been printed on. This is by no means a slight against Hawthorne Threads. It's just me recognising the fact that shopping online for fabrics can be risky if you aren't familiar with the vendors.

Well, I can't even begin to describe how delighted I was when I opened up my little parcel of pretty. The quilting weight cottons were as exactly as expected, but with a nice feel to them. The Art Gallery voile blew me away. It is the most beautifully light and silky cotton, not too dissimilar in feel to a tana lawn. This little bundle has certainly warmed me to Art Gallery Fabrics.


I made these pants to wear with my white linen, cross back tunic. I figured my wardrobe was in need of a little colour. I purchased the pattern before I found the fabric. It was Miss Oona of the one and only Palooza that pointed me in the direction of Simplicity 4192.  I saw her pretty voile version and quite simply had to have them for myself. I'm still hunting for some matching Kalkatronian bling, but in the meantime, just look at all that lovely overlapping leg fabric. I love the way they flare in the wind and when I walk.
 
 
 
 

 
Simplicity 4192 is one of those rare patterns that you really can't go wrong with. The style is a wrap pant, so the fit is pretty much guaranteed to be perfect. They tie at the front and the back and are very simple to sew. They suit pretty much any lightweight woven fabric. I used a cotton voile, but I could see them working well in a silk CDC too.  



I sewed a straight size 12 and made no modifications to the pattern at all. The pattern suggests they are designed as full length pants to be worn 1" below the waist. That would be your natural waist they are talking about, so for most people, the pants would rise to just about belly button level or slightly above. I was after a slightly cropped length with a moderate rise so being tall of both body (and crotch) the pants worked out perfectly for me. A shorter lass may have ended up with the waist around her armpits.

In any case, I love my new pants and I will definitely be classifying this pattern as a keeper.