Saturday, October 18, 2014

Yves Saint Laurent Set-Acular Goes to the Nurse's Ball

My lovely sister Ruth asked me a while back if I would like to go as her date to her annual nurse's ball. Matt, her fiancé, has decided it is not his thing. It is most definitely my thing. Getting dressed up, swanning around sipping champagne, being generally a little bit fancy. Being the mother of a 3 yo, I do not get fancy. I get dirty, rumpled and generally tired. In short, I jumped at the chance to have a fancy night on the town with my dear sister.

I had planned another dress, out of silk I got for Christmas. I stuffed the bodice. I could fix it, but could not fix it in time for the ball. I don't really have a fancy fabrics stash, with lovely silks waiting my attention, so with just under two weeks until the ball, I paid Tessuti a rather panicked visit, and bought 2.2m of Musk Graffiato, a divine silk crepe de chine that Trish told me was a Yves Saint Laurent fabric. Let me tell you, it is amazing.

As I didn't have much time, I decided to go super simple. I also really wanted to make something I would wear again. I have done a wardrobe purge recently and need flattering clothing I feel good in. I have also been lusting after a very simple maxi skirt that Debbie made a while back, and so decided I would do a maxi skirt and shell top.

The top is Simplicity 2599 a very simple shell top with a few variations. I made the most simple of tops, no frill, in a size 12. The only things I did differently were binding the neck and arms and I used french seams. No way an overlocker was coming anywhere near my beautiful silk!

The skirt is a basic gathered skirt. I used a straight waistband with the zip going all the way to the top - I really don't like button overlaps on these types of skirts.

I didn't line either - I wanted them to be summer garments, light and swishy. The fabric was an absolute dream. Just wonderful to sew with.

I wore it with an Elk necklace and earrings, Elk shoes and a Saba belt.

Here I am with Ruthy. Little M said she looked like a ballerina queen. High praise. 

I had a great time - it was nice to be out and about, nattering away and eating nice food and drinking champagne. And of course, being all dressed up!

I see myself getting a lot of wear from these two pieces as separates. I think it was a good idea to sew something like this. I'm doing some serious planning for my Summer wardrobe. I want it to be a thoughtful plan, with coordinated pieces that will last. Do you plan your sewing? Or are you like me usually - sew the newest pattern in whatever fabric takes your fancy? 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vogue 1395: The Meat Dinner Dress

Every year, Michael's family has two fancy-pants dinners together where we all go to a nice restaurant and eat (way too much), drink and be merry. They are generally scheduled around birthdays - one in April, one in October. The one this October was last night at San Telmo, an Argentinian restaurant here in Melbourne. It was a meat-fest and I woke up craving some crisp greens and tomatoes. Michael suggested we have lamb chops for dinner tonight and is still laughing at the filthy look I gave him. I like meat (love a good quality rare steak), but not to that extent - I have reduced my intake of red meat drastically in the last year and feel much healthier for it.

Anyway, I decided to make a dress to wear - I'm a bit sick of the good old sack at the moment, and feel like some waist definition. I decided I would sew a new pattern - one of the Rebecca Taylor for Vogue ones - V1395.

This is a fairly basic dress made less basic by the addition of a back overlay that extends into the ties at the waist. I was intrigued after seeing Morgan's Bee Version. Morgan is one of my favourite bloggers. I decided to use my rather precious length of rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics that I bought after Jenny made this top out of it. The fabric is lush, but was horrible to sew for this dress. Narrow hems and slinky rayon were not made for each other and I had to unpick a lot. Luckily I made this when Little M was out, as she would now have a lot of very choice swear words in her vocabulary too. This is what I ended up with:

I made some adjustments after a muslin. I had to take 3.5cm out of each shoulder seam, beginning at the neck edge. I then added 3cm to the length of the bodice, and 5cm to the skirt length.

In these photos, the neckline looks way too high, and I admit for the first two hours I wore it, it annoyed the living daylights out of me. Magically though, after those 2 hours, it somehow settled in place and sits about 2cm lower - which is where I wanted it. I wonder what happened? So weird.

My wings. That is the back overlay being extended out, which you then tie in front (obviously). I found I had to cinch it in pretty firmly, otherwise I looked a little pregnant (which I'm not).

That's a pretty awesome tan line happening there!! I accidentally got burnt at Phillip Island last weekend. I am usually so anal about being sunsmart. 

While I didn't completely enjoy making this dress, I really enjoyed sewing something different and something that wasn't a sack. I'm not ruling out future sacks, but I don't reach for them as I used to. Maybe when summer properly hits I will.

I'm currently making a dress to wear to my sister's professional ball in two weeks. I have barely started - I have no sewjo!!! What are you sewing?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bellatrix Blazer (and some not-so-quiet pants).

Oh hi! It's been a while. I've been really sick this winter. Laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, Influenza A and a sinus infection. It's been horrible, including a visit to emergency at hospital when I couldn't breathe properly. Blogging has simply been beyond my head space, but today, on this gorgeous Fathers' Day, I decided it was time. Michael and Little M are doing some sticking and gluing in the back sunroom and I'm taking some time to update you on one of my favourite projects of the year.

This year has all been about jackets and coats. After I finished my French Jacket I decided I wanted to sew a classic blazer. I bought the Bellatrix Blazer by Papercut Patterns as I thought it fitted the aesethetic I was after. Classic, with a bit of funk.

I made it in a very heavy linen from Rathdowne Fabrics, with a remnant of green silk-satin lining from Tessuti.

I made the size small, with two adjustments. One, I did a 'full bicep' adjustment (yay for my gym work paying off, I love a good toned arm). I followed the method in 'Fit for Real People' by Patti Palmer and Marta Alto. An excellent, clearly written book that I would recommend in a heartbeat. My second adjustment was to take in the upper centre back by approximately 2cm. I had some minor gaping.

The pattern calls for pretty much each piece to be interfaced. For this version, I only interfaced the collar and under collar. This linen is really heavy and I wanted it to be able to get all creased and soft like a linen does after some wear.

I added shoulder pads and reinforced the sleeve head (the pattern doesn't call for this). I used very slim shoulder pads from Tessuti - these are the only shoulder pads I will ever use. They are very soft and easy to shape to a coat or jacket.

The button is from my stash.

Check out that green lining! I do love a silk lining. So soft against the skin. I had this dry cleaned before wearing it to bully that collar into submission - I really think it needs it so you don't get a sharp edge on the collar.

I highly recommend this pattern. It is a surprisingly easy make. All the pattern pieces just come together so well. I've actually made two more - one in this style and one with the shorter peplum.

I wore this yesterday to my birthday lunch. We went to Cafe Vue at the Heide Modern Museum. It was excellent. I had a lobster roll. Yum!! I wore it with my new Clover pants. I am still somewhat unsure about these pants. I posted a picture on Instagram asking people whether it would look good as cigarette pants. I got a resounding yes! They are extremely loud pants, but I guess that is the trend at the moment. I've got enough leftover of this fabric to make a simple skirt.

Look at that young girl's pose there. She is in full 'threenager' mode at the moment. Never a dull moment for me - so much negotiation and attitude.

What's next on your sewing list? I need to get sewing the dress I'm wearing to the nurse's ball I'm going to as my sister's date in October - her fiancé has opted out - hehehe.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Anise Jacket (and bonus Papercut Pleated Pants)

About 14 months ago, I started an Anise Jacket. I muslined it, bought the wool/cashmere fabric, silk lining, thread, interfacing etc. I started sewing and trialled bound buttonholes on scraps (my fabric was far too thick for bound buttonholes - at least at my skill level). I decided I'd get do something else with the buttonholes. I basically sewed the jacket to the point of buttonholes and buttons. I put it on my dressmaker's form and admired it for the next 12 months. That's right. I didn't touch it for 12 more months until I decided it was cold, and I needed jackets.

I investigated getting the buttonholes done professionally. There is one person in Melbourne who offers that service that I could find, and I was informed by someone who is 'in the know' that that person has been known to completely ruin garments people have paid them to sew buttonholes in. That meant one thing only.... I would have to sew these buttonholes myself.

Cue a few sleepless nights (joking... sort of), me reading every internet resource available, talking to Kate at Buttonmania (and buying required resources for hand stitched buttonholes), and obsessive reading of Claire Schaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques. I then started them. Only to absolutely hate my first four attempts. Let me tell you, unpicking silk thread on a very thick wool/cashmere is not fun at all. I may have had a small hissy fit. I left them for about a month. And then picked everything up again, wore a small running head torch on my head (doing fine stitches on that bloody wool/cashmere was really, really hard to focus on) and got them done.

I now have an Anise jacket that has been serving me well on these cold Melbourne days.

The fabrics were purchased from Darn Cheap Fabrics. They actually have a very nice selection of wool coatings. This is a wool cashmere blend and was only $20/m. The colour is lush.

I really like the 60's vibe this jacket gives off.

Awesome silk lining. I am slightly obsessed with silk as a lining.

Back view. If I knew what I did now when sewing this, I would have adjusted that under collar piece to account for turn of cloth. Ah well, you live and learn.

The buttonholes. They're not perfect, but they're okay. Liveable. The buttons came from Clegs.

I did not keep notes around making this jacket. The only adjustment I remember doing was to take some out of the CB. Apart from that, I made a size 8. Other things I would do in the future is to add in a sleeve head piece, maybe use a slim shoulder pad, and investigate why there are odd wrinkles coming down from the top of the sleeve (I have seen this on every Anise made - something weird with the pattern?).

My Anise was an odd make, mostly due to the extremely disjointed sewing process, but I enjoy wearing it now. I receive compliments every time I wear it - I think mostly due to the lovely colour. I don't think I'll make it again though. It is a fun jacket, but not a style I am totally gaga in love with.

Speaking of being gaga in love, meet my new Papercut Pleated Pants. I won't bore you with the details of these, seeing as I have made them before, but I absolutely love these. They're made from a black viscose-blend suiting remnant I got from Tessuti, and they are my perfect pants. Slightly slouchy, they sit at the perfect point on my waist, are very comfortable and look awesome with my patent brogues. I'm so glad I revisited this pattern, and will be making more.

I better get back to the Bellatrix Blazer I'm making for a special event coming up though - what are you making at the moment?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

French Noir Deux Libby Skirt

What came first - the pattern or the fabric? For me, the fabric - French Noir Deux - a stretch cotton from Tessuti came first. I went into Tessuti and nearly bought it for pants. Then I thought it had too much give for pants and that they would bag out. I went back about 2 weeks later and bought it to make the new free Tessuti pattern, the Libby A-Line Skirt.

I wore it out last weekend to a Japanese bath house and then to a Japanese restaurant for dinner with friends. So... no makeup (can't wear makeup when you're going for a cleansing soak!) - I feel odd looking at blog photos of me with no makeup!

Anyway, back to the fabric for a second. It is a heavy-ish weight stretch cotton. Almost like a denim with a lot of stretch. It has the pattern kind of embossed on it - this is a hand-wash only garment for fear of wearing off the pattern. I absolutely adore this fabric. I was thinking about getting some for a jacket...

The Libby A-Line Skirt is very simple to make. It has waist facings - no waistband. This to me, is much better than an A-Line skirt with a waistband. I could never figure out why I don't like the Colette Patterns Ginger Skirt, and now I know why. The waistband made my tummy pooch out below it. It wasn't comfy or flattering. This is much better. I also like how this looks with a shirt tucked out - I never wear my shirt tucked in anymore.

I made the size 8. I tried on the size 10 in the Tessuti store and it fit perfectly, but this fabric has a lot of stretch so I sized down. I made it in the mid-length - it is probably more in line with the mini length, but I am tall. I am finding that as I get older my skirt lengths get waaaay shorter. Wonder what that is about??!!

The skirt came together in a few hours, including hand-stitching the hem. It is very simple. Has a side invisible zip. I'll be making more. Definitely be making more. How about you? Are you going to give it a go?

Friday, June 20, 2014

My True Bias Hudson Pants

This week Kelli from True Bias released her first pattern - the Hudson Pant. I was lucky enough to be asked by Kelli to pattern test this pattern, so have actually been wearing these pants every day for a couple of weeks now. Yep, every day.

To me, these pants are super cool tracksuit pants. I have one pair of old-school Adidas tracksuit pants, and they never see the light of day. Michael would possibly divorce me if I wore them outside the house (hehehe). But these, the Hudson Pant, have been outside, to the park, to the supermarket, round to a friend's house and everything in between.

Now, these are my pattern testing pair. I haven't sewn up the final pattern (yet), but Kelli has told us she made the following changes to the FIT of the pants, according to tester feedback:
  1. added extra room to the calves and ankle cuff for a bit more comfort and ease (Kelli says that she doesn't honestly think that it is enough that you will notice in pictures, but that we will feel the difference.) 
  2. changed the way that the pocket detail is attached to the pant.  It is now a smidge smaller than the area it is attached to so that when stretching to fit it will lay a bit flatter against your hip.
So the final pattern will not fit exactly as these do, but I love these so much I really wanted to blog them. Kelli was fine about that. 

I whipped up a quick muslin of the testing pattern and found I need to lengthen the pattern through the leg by 7.5cm, and the front and back crotch by 2.5cm each. Kelli has drafted the pattern for a 5'5" woman, and I'm 5'8", so this was as I had expected. 

Some details. Including the fact that I did not stitch that bottom line of top-stitching very evenly! Whoops. 

My fabric came from Tessuti. The patterned fabric is a lightweight ponte, and the black contrasting fabric is a soft, medium weight ponte. Unfortunately the patterned stuff has pilled a bit. 

There's been a bit going on in blogland recently regarding pattern testing. To let you know, I wasn't paid to test (apart from receiving the final pattern for free), I was asked to test within a two week time-frame, Kelli was extremely receptive to feedback, and I loved doing it. I don't know how she selected her pattern testers - my guess for why I asked is that we did the Sew Bossy thing together and therefore 'know' each other through that. 

This is my most worn garment I've sewn this year. I need another pair so I don't literally wear these out. I'll have to start looking around for some fabric. So - how about you? Are you going sew a pair of the Hudson Pant? 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My French Jacket

I think last year when Melanie posted about making her French Jacket the entire blogging community went a little French Jacket crazy. I promptly bought Vogue 8804, the Claire Shaeffer French Jacket pattern, and then put the pattern away. I bought fabric for it at Christmas, courtesy of my Mum.

The pattern and the fabric sat in my pattern drawer until just after Sewjourn last December, when I saw Leith's version as a work-in-progress. Seeing her's spurred me on and, nearly six months later, I have a French Jacket.

Let's start with my muslin.

This is a terrible photo, sorry! I started with a size 12, which is my standard size in a Vogue Pattern. Overall, the fit was okay, however, I made three adjustments to get a closer fit and the look I wanted:

  1. Starting at the CB bottom, I took about 3cm in total out of the CB up until about half way up. 
  2. In the jacket side front and starting at the shoulder seam, I took about 3cm out of the princess seam, until about 10cm down (ending just above my bust). 
  3. I trimmed off the button placement allowances. I wanted it to close with hooks rather than buttons, so I just left a 1.5cm seam allowance on top of the CF.
I figured if it needed any other adjustments, I'd do them as I sewed the jacket. There were no glaring fit issues so I figured minute fitting could be done as I sewed. 

My muslin sat in a box for about two months. I just couldn't concentrate on it. Then, one day, about 2-3 months ago, WHAM! French Jacket sewing was all I could think of. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen some progress shots. I'm going to start here with the finished shots and then show you some progress shots. I wore it for the first time to my sister's engagement party, which was last weekend. 

I wore it with a black ponte Vogue 1314 - I'll review this dress again in another post soon.

Can you tell I'm a bit pleased with it?

Those buttons. I love them. They're from Buttonmania and I want a million more.

The lining. Silk satin. Such beautiful stuff. So easy to sew for a silk.

The venue was actually so overheated that I wore the jacket for these pics and then took it off. I lovingly placed it on a table at the back of the venue and nearly had a heart attack when I went out there about an hour later to get my lippie and discovered it under about 20 jackets. I felt like doing a mother lion roar and yelling "this is my FRENCH JACKET, DON'T TOUCH IT"!!! Instead I secured it in a safer spot and went and got another champers. 

So... a few changes I made to the pattern:
  1. I didn't quilt the lining and shell fabric together for two reasons. One, I did a practice quilt on some scraps of fabric and it showed way too much on the outer of the shell. I didn't like how it looked. Two, after consulting with Leith, we both thought that in the 'Making of a Chanel Jacket' video clip on YouTube that they do not quilt the jacket in the video. That made me think that Chanel jackets are not always quilted together. 
  2. I interfaced the jacket pieces (not the sleeves) using a very soft and fine fusible interfacing. The difference to the tweed was amazing. 
  3. I reinforced the sleeve head. The tweed I used was so soft and fine that the sleeve head was collapsing on itself. 
  4. I put trim all around the bottom hem - V8804 doesn't call for that. 
  5. I put very slim shoulder pads in. Again, I think the tweed really needed them. 
Here are some progress shots:

First bit of trim I sewed on. 

Pockets completed. You hand stitch the pocket lining on. 

This is my one regret - I wish I had attached the trim on the sleeves closer to the bottom of the sleeve hem. There is a little bit too much fabric showing under the trim. 

Getting there! At this stage there no machine stitching left to do. All hems are hand stitched, all the trim is hand stitched. I loved it. To me, this project signified hand stitching, and lots of it. I wanted such a project. I really love hand stitching. It is therapeutic to me and I think achieves greater accuracy in detailed projects like this.

Final stage here. Attaching the metal chain to weight the hem. I still cannot believe how much this little chain makes a difference to the way the jacket hangs. It is not a step to be missed.

I thought I'd also include where I sourced everything from:

  1. Tweed fabric, silk-satin lining, interfacing and slim shoulder pads: Tessuti Fabrics. 
  2. Mohair braid trim: M&J Trimmings in New York. 
  3. Buttons and French Jacket hook and eyes: Buttonmania.
  4. Chain trim for hem: Clegs. 
  5. Fleece for sleeve heads: an old jumper of my daughter's. 
Finally, I used a few resources A LOT:
  1. Every single post Poppykettle wrote about making hers.
  2. Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer. 
  3. Goodbye Valentino's posts about making her own.
  4. A Threads article about sleeve heads that I now can't find anywhere.
  5. A bucket load of internet resources, including blogs for inspiration and tips. I looked at other sewists' versions of the French Jacket constantly, and at images of Chanel Jackets. I also constantly looked at the white version Cate Blanchett wears in Blue Jasmine after I saw the film last year. I love that white Chanel Jacket. I cannot wear white like that until Little M has moved out of home. 
So there you have it! I made a French Jacket! And I love it. I'm slightly afraid of wearing it, but plan to tomorrow to work. 

I also really want to make another jacket now too. Bellatrix, I'm looking at you....