Friday, 28 December 2012

Mad Men Dress - Butterick 6582

I've been absent for awhile, but have been sewing!  I find it hard to find time for pics, but I guess I need to start using my dress form more . . .

I made this dress as my 'Christmas' dress.  It's retro Butterick 6582.  I had my husband's work party, and a friend's 'mad men' themed party to go to.  I splurged on the fabric (a silk-cotton blend) because I figured if I bought a dress in a store it would cost much more :)  .  Turns out  and I didn't buy quite enough, so I had to split the back pattern pieces into two (top and bottom).   I also put the zipper in by hand, I like the feel of it (it feels more flexible than an invisible zip) and the zipper is cheaper.  I also put in a kick pleat at the bottom, using instructions from Threads.

The dress is underlined, but not lined, as it's a summer dress, and I didn't want to take the time to sew
a lining and insert it by hand. 

I'm not sure about the fit, I think I got it right through the waist and hips, but I had issues with the bust and shoulders. It really needed a FBA, I did a lazy FBA by increasing the side seams by 1/4" on each front piece and taking in the darts by 1/4", but it wasn't enough.  I just wasn't sure how to do a real FBA with the lines of the pattern (it's like a one-shoulder dress with a piece added for the other shoulder, and double darts).  I wanted it to be pretty form fitting, like a 'wiggle' dress, but man, women must have had to make lots of alterations, or wear lots of shapewear back then. 

 I can't really tell how it's supposed to fit, here's the pattern envelope (I made the blue version): 

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Another sewing first for me - a frankenpattern!  I've worn my burda tunic dress to death over the last 6 months, and as it's a cheap doubleknit, it was pilled badly around the hips.  So, I did what any enterprising sewer with leftover fabric would do, and I cut off the bottom, took in the sides and sewed on a new skirt that I traced from a dress that fits well.  Without further ado here's the original:
 And here's the new version.  The belt is too big, but it looks better with a belt, so here I'm pinching two inches out of the back of the belt.
 I bought these shoes when I was back in the States in June, I hadn't had an opportunity to wear them, but this is the perfect dress to wear them with.  They have teal, blue and purple, so are too busy to wear with anything patterned, but I don't have much that coordinates (which begs the question - why did I buy them?)

And the obligatory side view.  Not much to note about the pattern, it doens't hang perfectly, but it's better than anything I can buy in the store (being 5'11" and a long torso it's near impossible to buy a dress off the rack)

Overall it was an hour on a Friday night well spent.  I have been sewing other things, but they're all pretty boring.  Now that the weather's warming up I have a few summer dresses creeping to the top of my queue.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Home Sewn

I went to the Home Sewn exhibition, a pop-up exhibition celebrating New Zealand home sewing.  It was pretty well done, but small.  There were about 30 odd dresses, from the 1930's to now.  Here are a couple of my favorites

 This one was so cute, and impeccably sewn.  I love the green contrast on the bodice and pockets. 
 I liked the cut-on sleeves on this one, and the belt is homemade as well.  Very cute. 
 This was a very simple sheath dress, but I thought the shaping on the side was genius.  It had two panels curved in to add shape to the bodice.  I haven't seen anything like it. 
 Finally, they had a few cases of 'treasures' most of it I had seen before, but this trouser presser was new to me.  My husband can't even get me to iron his shirts, never mind press creases in his pants.  I don't really get how this can make life easier though, wouldn't an iron be almost as good?
The main reason I went to the exhibit though was to buy the book.  They published a book with the history of home-sewing and fashion in New Zealand.  As an added bonus, there are 10 patterns from 10 different designers in NZ.  Papercut Patterns has a great skirt pattern in it that I'm dying to try.  After the exhibit I went to a little coffee shop around the corner, in Queen's Arcade, they have the best coffee and coconut rough slices in Auckland.  The book is great, well worth the money.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Seamless Pledge

I'm the featured pledger today on Len's awesome blog Seamless.  As I said there I'm still committed to the pledge, with the occasional slip. I work full-time and try to spend as much time as possible with my little one, so I do the best I can.  It's carried over to other aspects of our life.  We moved to New Zealand to try to become less consumption focused, and we try to avoid buying things, except what we really need.  I'm sure as the little one grows he'll become more demanding, but for now he doesn't care.

I have been sewing (slowly)  I attended a great sewing retreat yesterday, organized by Ange and Anissa.  I spent most of my time basting organza to wool for my upcoming peplum top, but I also cut out stencils to make my son some new t-shirts/singlets.  I bought him a Spiderman t-shirt a week ago, and he's been wearing it non-stop.  Instead of buying him more expensive (and gaudy) superhero t-shirts I decided to make some myself with plain shirts.  Here he is in his Superman t-shirt.

And his best superman impression:

He loves it.  I also made his pants, elephant pants v.2.0 (the first pair was pants, became high-waders and then shorts as he grew).  I also need to stop cutting his hair myself . . .

(Edited to add additional photo and expand text)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

My sewing space - before picture

I was so excited to come home today to a little package in the mailbox, my new sewing fabric!  I know the keep calm thing has been done to death, but I love it :)  . 
I have decided to do a mini-sewing area makeover to make it a bit prettier.  Here is what my sewing corner looks like now:

My current sewing space is a corner of our kitchen, so I share my storage space with plates and bowls.  When we moved in I took over the closed-in porch as a sewing space, but it was too cold, and small, so now it's just fabric storage.  I have a very understanding husband. 

It's a little cramped.  The desk is on sliders, so I can slide it out a bit.  The frame on the wall has a 4"x4" (10cmx10cm) cross-stitch of my face, my husband has a matching one.  When he was living in NZ and I was in the States I used to fly on points to visit him, 30 hours each way.  I did most of the cross stitches on the journey.  

 I keep my current projects in two bins in the buffet.  The other two doors hold our dishes. 

My plans are pretty basic, as we're moving into a new place in 3-4 months.  I am going to paint and recover the stool with the awesome keep calm fabric. 
I'm also going to paint the desk white, with two metallic stripes that cross on the top.  I'll get new handles as well.   It's finally starting to warm up here, so I'm hoping that I'll get the painting done by October.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Burdastyle Dress 08/2012 #115

I needed a casual, comfortable dress for weekends, and I have been dying to make a peplum top, so I made Burdastyle 08/2012 #115 as a 'wearable muslin' (well, I first made an unwearable muslin, then made the dress).  It was quick and dirty.  Serged edges inside, machine stitched hem.  The only thing I hand-stitched was the zipper and the hook and eye.  The pattern includes lines to cut off the skirt into a peplum, so that's what I'll be undertaking in the next couple of weeks.

I was too cheap/lazy to get an invisible zipper, so I did a hand picked zipper instead.  I quite like the look.

I wore it today to Wynyard Quarter, a newly re-vamped industrial area of Auckland.  It's Auckland fashion week and unbeknownst to us they were having a big fashion event (sale?) in the building behind me.  The fashionistas were out in full force, and I can say that not a one was wearing a floral dress with bare legs.  I guess I'm ahead of the curve, or something . .  .
The other benefit of Wynyard Quarter is that the Auckland fish market is there, so we stopped for fish and chips before heading home.  Here's Mr. RP, wearing a homemade merino t.  The little one did not appreciate the pause for a picture.  
Here are some more shots of the dress.
I'm not a huge fan of the proportions.  I don't own any full skirt dresses, and I think they just aren't very flattering for my shape.  I added the belt to break up the pattern a bit, it's quite overpowering.  I also chopped the sleeves off at 3/4 length.  Initially I had them at full length and they were awful.  I don't own any dresses with full length sleeves, and I think it's the same thing, just not a flattering look on my figure. 

The back hem is a bit longer than the front.  I'm not sure if that's what the pattern intended, but the waistline has the same shape.  I like the mini high-low look that's going on, so I'm not going to fix it.  I do need to lower the waistline about an inch all around though.  I did lower it 3/4" from the original, but I think it's still too high. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

McCalls 5927 - 6PAC continued

I finished my blue work dress, McCalls 5927.  I've been working on it for over a month.  First I couldn't find the lining fabric, then once I found the lining fabric I couldn't find the fashion fabric I had cut out.  It finally all came together last weekend, and I managed to get it sewn up and lined over the last few evenings. 
 Here you can see more of the details, there are four pleats in the front and two darts in the back.  There are also pockets in the front, I did the pocket bags in a polka dot silk/cotton blend that I had in my stash, and it wasn't the best idea because when I sit you can see it. 
I like the dress, the fit's not perfect, I did a muslin, but I didn't pick up on the fact I needed a small FBA and the armholes are too big.  I'll leave this version alone, but when I make it again I'll fix it. 

 The back has a slit, which I think seems kind of cheap.  I'll definitely either remove it or put a vent in my next version.  I guess it's kind of lazy sewing.  I put the zipper in by hand.  I think I'll be wearing this alot, and I didn't want to deal with an invisible zip breaking.  Next time I may try a lapped zip, or move the zip to the side. 
Here's the side, you can see that the armhole pulls a bit in the front.  Definitely better than RTW though. 
Overall I'm pretty happy with the dress.  My sewing skills are getting better.  I still have a long way to go, but I don't think this screams 'homemade' (except the pockets, oh well). 
The lining is really comfortable, it's not sticky or crinkly like most of the linings that I use (I don't think it's actually a lining fabric, it was expensive, and is quite pretty)
This was item #2 of my Spring 6PAC, At two a month I might actually get through the set before Spring is over.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Craftsy Couture Dress - wedding outfits

My brother got married in June, I've been waiting (not so patiently) for some photos from the wedding, but as none seem to be forthcoming I thought I'd put this post together anyway. 

In February I decided to make my dress for the wedding, following Susan Khalje's couture dress course.  I thought it would be a good way to pick up new skills, and it far exceeded my expectations.  As a novice, I learned so much from the course. 

I had picked up a gorgeous medium weight silk-cotton blend last year, and I knew it would be perfect for the dress.  I underlined with silk organza, and lined with china silk (both ordered from Dharma trading).  The dress itself is nothing special, I used the pattern that came with the course, Vogue 8648, the sleeveless, slim skirt version. 

I think I did a pretty good job fitting the front, but the back was not as good.  I have lost some weight since the wedding, so I think it fit me better back then.

I used swarovski seed beads in pewter to accent the hand picked zipper.  The dress was fairly plain and I wanted a little extra oomph.
The dress took a _really_ long time to sew.  Most of the techniques were new to me, and I estimate that I spent 60-70 hours on the dress.  At the same time I was making vests and pants for the three ring-bearers / junior ushers.  Two of them live across the ocean from me so I had to mail trial versions (yes multiple versions) to get the fit right.  I got a great deal on a British super 100s lightweight wool suiting.  It was a dream to sew.  The vests were fully lined and had real welt pockets (my first time doing welt pockets), but for the pants I ran out of time, and did fake fly fronts for the two littlest boys. 
I left my son's outfit behind, so all I have is this iphone picture from my sister:
This was well into the wedding, he's working on a chocolate sucker.  I made his backpack as well - but not specifically for the wedding :)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

W.I.P. and more Macaron pics

I'm sewing!  I've been working on this for two weeks, I have about three days of hand sewing left, and I'll be done!  A day for me is about 1.5 hours of sewing, generally in the evenings after my son's asleep and laundry has been folded.  Here's a quick pic:

 In the meantime, I got Mr. RP (reluctant photographer) to take some shots as we were out and about today.  With a two-year old, we generally spend our days at some playground or another, so I expect there will be lots of playground shots in the future.  My Macaron is very comfortable, but it's not ideal for playground play.  My son was quite disappointed that I could not see-saw in it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Lining my Macaron

Quick post on how I lined the bodice for my Macaron.  I was originally going to line the whole dress, but I think I'll wear this most in the Spring/Fall, and I find lined skirts kind of hot and sticky.
 I decided to keep the facing, because I had put piping at the neckline, and I was worried that the bulk of the piping would cause problems without a facing.  I used the Threads article 'A shortcut to great linings' to combine the facing with the lining.   The colour at the lower edge of the facing is my serger thread.
As I said the the last post I combined the four bodice pieces into two (front and back), to limit bulk.  I think there might be a small dart (I didn't check the original pattern pieces) but it was no longer there after my alterations.  If there is one, it should be fairly simple to incorporate it into the bodice dart.
I sewed the front bodice to the back at the side seams and shoulder seams (except where the zipper is) and then fell-stitched the lining to the dress.  I used red thread for the hand stitching so I could see clearly what I was doing, and because I'm trying to improve my hand-sewing

Here's the back.  I would have had to use side darts for the upper bodice part, when I combined the two pieces, but I took out all the excess fabric, and it was pretty much straight.

After I attached the bodice pieces I attached the midriff band.  I sewed the side seam first, then hand-stitched it to the dress.  You can see the fell stitches pretty clearly, at this point I was rushing to get the dress done.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sew Colette 2.0 - Macaron Completed!

Here is my finished Macaron.
I had to jump ahead of the sewalong because I really wanted to wear it to Fabricabrac yesterday.  This meant that every night this week I have been feverishly slaving over the dress.  It _always_ takes me longer than expected, even though I made no mistakes on this one!

I made quite a few alterations to the pattern.  The muslin did not fit me at all.  I had to let the midriff out significantly (about 2 inches), tapered down to nothing at the upper bodice section.  I lowered the midriff front (sweetheart part) half an inch all the way across, and raised the centre back half an inch, tapering to lowered half an inch at the side seams.  This pinched an inch out of the back horizontally and got rid of all the bagginess I was having issues with.  Part of the issue with the midriff band was due to me making it 1/2 inch wider, but keeping the taper.  I ended up making the front band almost a straight piece instead of a curved piece. 
I wasn't happy with the skirt portion, the hips were more than 16 inches larger than the waist, and far too baggy on my tall frame.  I also was afraid the style was too young for me, and wanted to get rid of the pleats in the back.  I converted them to 1.5" darts, instead of 2" pleats, rotating 1/2" out to each side seams, and making the back 1" more narrow.  I also had intended to take 1" out of the front, but I can't remember if I did or not (d'oh).  Here is a better picture of the darts

The wrinkles are there because my dress form is not as pear shaped as I am.  It fits me much better than the form.

One of the worries I had about the pattern was that the top would look like a different item than the dress, especially since I wasn't doing the midriff band in the contrast.  To counteract this I put piping around the neckline and sleeves, which I think makes it look much more cohesive.  I also piped around the waistband, and the bodice piece.  I had originally planned on picking up one colour from the main dress fabric (red) and doing the piping in that, but thought it was more classic to make piping in the dress fabric itself.  I got the idea for the self-fabric piping from Sherry's great post on piping.  Here's a better picture:
 On the inside I lined the bodice section, combining the two bodice pieces into one each for the front and back, and inserted the lining using fell stitches.  I will put that in a separate post later, as this one is getting a bit long.

Here's one last picture of the zipper, so you can see the piping around the sleeve, and that I matched up the midriff bands.

I'm not too thrilled with my insertion of the zipper, it was pretty bulky with the piping and all the fabric, but it's on my side, so I'll just keep my arm down at all times.  I think in the future I'd insert the zipper before sewing the side seam at all (before the sleeve is in) so that I can make sure it's all lined up perfectly. 

Overall I love this dress, it's fun, the fabric is actually red, black and gold, the gold shows up much better in person.  I would be proud to wear it out, and am happy that my sewing skills are finally improving :) .  The pattern took a lot of work to make it fit, but it was well worth the effort. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012


Today Auckland had their first Fabricabrac.  It was awesome, tons of people, tons of fabric.  It's essentially a swap meet with people setting up tables towering with fabric.  There were lots of great deals.  I decided to set up half a table, in order to force myself to get rid of some of my stash.

Sorry for the crap pic, I only had my cell phone with me.  I sold my little singer 99K.  It was hard to let her go, but I still have my other four vintage singers to keep me company.  I only bought two pieces of fabric, and two patterns, but they were total scores.  I picked up a Vogue Couturier pattern and a Vogue Paris Originals - both in my size!  They are awesome, but I'm definitely saving them for when I'm a little more experienced.
 Vogue 1140, a great jacket and sheath pattern.  I love the slash that runs down the princess seam line, but ends just past the hips.  I think I'll try the sheath first, and then work my way up to the jacket.
 This suit is so cute, and chic.  The skirt is pretty standard, but I'd love to try the jacket.  It has 7/8 length sleeves. 
Here's a quick glimpse of what I wore today, my new Macaron!  After a long day it was a bit wrinkled.  Tomorrow when I have the time to iron it and take better pics I'll put up a special post just for it :)