Thursday, 24 September 2009


If previously to reading this you’ve cast your eye toward the side bar to the right, you will already have noticed that the Wardrobe Refashion ‘Life’ icon is announcing my eternal pledge. If you haven’t, take the opportunity now. Ok, so we’re all up to speed. In short, I couldn’t imagine going back to buying mass manufactured clothes, my feelings and thoughts on such matters have altered way too much, so I’ve taken the metaphorical plunge.

Becoming a ‘Lifer’ has raised new questions about how this pledge is to be sustained. There are certain wardrobe requirements and desirables that my sewing spheres don’t yet cover, and I’m not sure I can rely on charity shops and hand-me-downs to solely provide them from here on out. Nor would I want them to. One of the best things about sewing is the freedom and control you have over the fabric/colour/print/fastening/details/fit of a creation, and I’ve got used to that. So I’ve come to accept that I’ve got some sewing bullets to bite, starting with STRETCH FABRIC.

I could make all the amazing dresses and blouses I like, but realistically when it comes to throwing something on to go to work, 7 out of 10 times I reach for a comfy T-shirt or stretch top. But I hadn’t touched stretch since university. During my time there I dabbled a bit with reworking existing T-shirts, but also had fear of stretch instilled in me by my pattern cutting teacher talking about stretchability ratios and two/three/four way stretch and the alleged effects on the pattern. Hmm, really? There are thousands of successful stretch creations on Burdastyle, and I doubt the vast majority of the creators concerned themselves with stretchability ratios. With this in mind, I got amongst.

University provided me with access to lots of proper industrial machinery like a cover-stitch and binding machine which are specifically for using with stretch fabric. I had to work out how best to utilise my overlocker and normal flatstitch machines to produce similar, if not so professional effects. The acquisition of the Built by Wendy ‘Sew U: Home Stretch’ book helped iron out (nice pun, eh?) my concerns by providing lots of advice on techniques and finishes. Next I had to find a good pattern. First I tried the Lydia basic T-shirt pattern from Burdastyle, but hated the fit and trying to figure out how to alter it was beyond me. So instead I used the basic T-shirt pattern included in ‘Sew U: Home Stretch’ as a starting point, and then laid an existing nicely fitting T-shirt on it as a guideto reshape the side seams to accommodate curves, as the original pattern had no shaping at all. After some fiddling around (AKA, pattern alteration) I produced a ¾ sleeved, boat neck pattern that resulted in this:

The most observant will have noticed this top paired with the red shorts from my last post. The super nice stripey fabric was bought in the summer sale of a fairly high end fabric shop, it was reduced from €16.95 a metre, to €2.95! After the sale, the price went right back up. Jeez, talk about mark up! Well, fresh from the triumph of this well fitting top, I cranked out a puff sleeved scoop-neck item from another striped fabric from the same source:
Now seeing as these are essentially day time items, and I’m not much of a day drinker, I cannot pass them through the previously prescribed field test of applying large quantities of booze to the scenario. Instead, you’ll have to take my word that the latter top fared very well during it’s initial outing to the supermarket, and has continued to do so since. In fact I’m wearing it now. I've still got some experimenting to do and improvements to make, but Stretch Fabric, I fear you no longer!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Red Hot Sewin'

My goodness! My sewing machine has hardly had a minutes rest since I got back from UK. I've been massively making the most of my free time before I start back at work next week by getting amongst some creating whilst I've got the chance. Since both these two creations were deploying red fabric, it made sense to make them at the same time, whilst my machine and overlocker were both threaded up with red thread. Also, it cut down on the annoying switching between the two machines, which I don't have the space to have set up in unison. One of these styles was a virtual straight up repeat of a garment I'd just made, and the other was a new pattern, so it was nice to alleviate the respective monotony and confusion that both situations can, at times, bring!

Despite my protestations of self-restraint from immediately repeating these shorts but in red, that's pretty much exactly what I did once the chicken dress was a wrap. I reasoned that there were a few weeks of hot weather remaining to enjoy in another pair of smokin' hot shorts. The red ones are created in virtually identical stretch twill, with buttons lifted from a charity shopped dress. As I reported, the success of the navy version was somewhat of a revelation in terms of what I found to look good on me, and what I felt comfortable in. So much so, that I decided to make this pair a little more 'pin-up girl', by making them tighter and shorter. From fearing the exposure, to downright flauting my booty, it's been somewhat of a turnaround!

In a similarly vein, I set about the creation of another figure fitting garment, the Beignet skirt from Collette Patterns. I love the vintage inspired styles produced by this new pattern company, but most of all I love that this is a new independent company, that is seemingly a success. I'm very excited to be able to support such an endeavour, whilst enjoying such a beautiful product.

Anyway, I decided to eliminate the side-seam pockets to create a more stream-lined fit, and I omitted the lining as it's still very hot here. Next time I make it, I'll add a lining to make the finished skirt smoother and viable for colder weather. I also did my usual of cutting out the size too big, and had to refit, re-stitch and re-overlock the whole damn thing! However, this style provided me with the perfect canvas to show off these amazing vintage buttons which I'm assuming are from the 1960's.

Aside from perhaps being a tad short, overall I'm really happy with the outcome. It's a fun and sexy skirt that I débuted, as seen in these pictures, on an evening out to celebrate me and my boys first anniversary. The top I am wearing it with was a charity shop score from the UK last April. Moths had sadly got to it and made a couple of little holes at the bottom, but which are cunningly disguised in this outfit as the Beignet skirt require a tucked in top! I refashioned the top to make this possible by removing the back tie detail and stitching down the closing instead. Win/win!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Anda Made Some More Dresses!

Now, I have chatted on at length about the virtues of Burdastyle's Anda dress before (here), but to summarise: it is a very easy dress to make and wear that shows off printed fabric very well. But just HOW well does it show off print, I wonder? Just how ridiculous can the print be, and still the Anda dress pattern will just soak it up and display it as perfectly wearable? I think these are questions of potentially global importance. I set about seeking answers:

First up is a version I made from a charity shopped childrens' bedsheet. The above picture is when I wore the final garment to the Fiesta de Gracia, and got my bottom pinched by one of the many street decorations, cheeky devil! Making this turned out to be a bit of a pain in the arse, as the fabric was too thin to use in a single layer, so I had to alter the manufacture method to self-line the bugger. I made a couple of fitting changes to the original Anda pattern, I raised the elastic casing to make it more empire-line (my African dress is a bit ambiguous, neither empire nor waisted) plus I made the top section a bit tighter by taking it in at the side seams. At first it evidently wasn't taken in enough, as when I tried it on my boy declared that I looked like a special patient. I took it in some more and the comment seemed to have been withdrawn. Here's a close up of the self-bound neckline, don't mind Wizardface:

Over all, the dress is a bit too thick, I probably should have used something finer to line it with, rather than simply using the other half of the sheet. Also, argueably it's a little 'maternity', but I think that is somewhat unavoidable with gathering such as this. Neither of these things prevent me from wearing it, and so you see this dress pattern is able to carry off print as strange as this:
Second up, is another African printed fabric version. Before you get all 'Zo, you've tried and tested it in African fabric before, what's the dealio?', well Homes, THIS is the frikkin dealio!:

This fabric was a gift that had been sitting in my stash for some time waiting for the right project. Well, my best mate Vic is heading off soon for a year long Oz adventure, and thus requires some hella-hot weather wear. With the chicken fabric in one hand and altered Anda pattern in the other, I stepped up. Initailly the fabric was really stiff, but after a wash it changed to a soft, almost silky texture. Despite that, this fabric still scared me. The eternal chicken-or-the-egg debate, objectified into fabric, might be enough to drive the sanest person crazy. Was it simply too much for the Anda pattern to tame? I always knew this dress would fall somewhere between ridiculous and amazing, but I feel the outcome has fallen firmly towards the latter.

So, in conclusion, the Anda dress pattern is apparently capable of turning the most fruitloop of fabric prints into a wearable garment. I feel that my Anda work is done, but I really hope someone takes this quest further and deploys even more insane prints. Let's see how far we can take this people!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A-Team Skirts Live Again

I've got a couple of things to show you, if you'll permit me. Remember the skirt above (the creation of which I documented here)? Well, in the excitement of planning, fabric and fabulousness, I pushed to the back of my mind the niggling feeling that the lace panels wouldn't hold up too well to laundering. I tried to convince myself everything would be fine if I handwashed it when laundering time came. It didn't get that far. The lace sections started to rip just through WEARING the damn thing. But still I continued to wear it until they got so raggedly that my boy basically suggested I shouldn't go out the house looking like that! THAT'S how much I loved that skirt.

Well, I eventually unpicked the lace, recustomised it and it lives again!:

This reincarnation features leather bird silhouettes hand-appliquéd on a ribbon 'wire'. I developed this decorative effect when my obsession with bird images was still in it's infancy. I made a grey and red version, both of which have miraculously ended up in my best friend's wardrobe. Strangely enough I never had a version myself until now.

Here's another cheeky twill A-line skirt I whipped up a month or so ago:

Last Spring we went on the miniest of breaks to Girona and chanced upon a Marimekko shop. I sated my desire for their squillion-euros-a-metre fabrics by buying a few little sample pieces that were €1 each. I decided to utilise one of them by creating these 'bubbles' which I machine-appliquéd on the front and back panels. Rare 'work in progress' pap:

I'm trying to come up with interesting ways to add contrast pattern to otherwise plain garments. I think this technique would work well for refashioning and enlivening existing garments, as well as for new creations. I'm going to leave skirts alone for a while now and focus my attentions elsewhere. Keep posted....
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