Red carpet challenge

Sometimes all you need is good challenge to grow your skills and nerves. One of the lovely Brisbane Spoolettes posed the red carpet challenge: recreate a dress from the Oscars red carpet (February) for this years Frocktails (August). The idea was to make a somewhat more challenging project for a special event, stretching your skills. After going through all the dresses with the HB, there was a clear winner for me: Emma Stone in her golden flapper dress, adding a 21st century twist to this twenties gem. Now to find a pattern to use as the basis and of course the fabric. A very lucky trip to the fabric store Jan Sikkens in my hometown, together with my personal shopper and mum got me all those things. Which is a thing that never happens. Seriously.

With all these good vibes, it was time to get to business. The bodice needed to be closely fitted, so after making changes to the toile and copying those to the pattern pieces, I decided to make another toile to make sure the pattern now had just the right fit. A quick test with a pinned rectangular piece of fabric showed that the flapper part of the dress would be pretty straight forward. Of course, I broke my wrist somewhere in the process, so I had to postpone this project for 6 weeks. Good thing I started early! More details below the pics.

For the full photographic experience and the end result, go to Google Photos. Here’s a quick impression of the project:

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On to the real thing, the cutting of the fabric. Fortunately, the main fabric was very wide and I bought plenty, so I could hunt for the perfect pattern placement. Like, not getting a bare bottom print on my belly… And then the fun of pattern matching at the seams. Step by step this dress was getting together. The sewing bit was not that hard, especially since I already made the pattern twice :). I only had to redo one seem to get a better pattern matching at the zipper. Speaking of which, I was quite relieved when this actually closed. With such a close fitted pattern there’s no way of telling if it will fit until you’ve put the zipper in!

Next stop the skirt. The pattern is as easy as it gets, however to make it flap it requires you add 18 m of tassels. Straight. On a shiny fabric, which I feared would emphasize the stitches. On to the University of YouTube, where I learned to just do it and to start at the bottom. This was a disaster, crooked stitches, just a nightmare. But my lovely spoolettes came to the rescue in helping me locate EZ-Steam II on a Sunday (aka 2-sided fusible tape). A quick trip to Spotties later I got to work with the help of a drafting triangle, a long ruler and my trusty dive weights. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, but it still takes a few hours because of the 18 m.

Thanks to Ekka day (i.e. a random free Wednesday in the week before Frocktails) I even had time to spare to make a purse, since I wasn’t able to sneak some pockets into this one. And for shits and giggles I also added a twenties style headband and tassel earrings (the latter which I didn’t wear). Outfit completed. I must admit I was quite pleased with the result and had a great time at Frocktails. The dress even hold up when we went dancing afterward. Thanks Spoolettes, for keeping me on my toes.

Top part of the dress is this Burda Style Trumpet gown: http://www.burdastyle.com/…/patterns/trumpet-gown-032017
Knot bag: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/382524562086233903/

 

Speed record – dress in one day

I’m in the market for another wedding dress, but this time it has to be on the cheap. So yesterday arvo I ventured out to the salvos in Red Hill. This is a massive op shop, with separate “boutique” section with a high end selection and a well organised and huge “normal” section. It seemed to be my lucky day, with a wonderful wedding dress at display in my size! However, its price tag of a 1000 dollars didn’t really fit my budget. So I had to rely on my ingenuity and went to work. Alas, the Australians are simply too short, so it was though going. After a good hour of  deliberations with tops and skirts, I wandered into the section with fabrics and saw this perfect off-white tablecloth with silk embroidery, complete with 8 serviettes. Finally something I could work with to create a full-length wedding dress that fits!

The plan was to make a “square skirt” from the table cloth, which is a simple as cutting a hole that fits over your hips and finish said hole with a (elastic) waistband. The serviettes would have to be assembled in a top in some fashion. After an evening of plotting and scheming I had the rough outline of a plan.

This morning Linecraft proved to have the perfect ribbons and other haberdashery to make this vision a reality, so I ended up spending more on this than on the fabric itself.

Next step: cut a big hole in the table cloth. No guts, no glories! After that first big step, the rest was rather smooth sailing and before afternoon tea I had transformed a table cloth in a proper dress. I’m not showing the whole dress for now, since it will be a few weeks before I get to wear it. Don’t want to spoil the surprise, that would be bad luck *grin*.

I’m actually quite pleased with the end result, having a bit of a twenties vibe about it. Now all that is left is to trash it a bit, but why that’s necessary is another story.

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You say mens shirt, I say my shirt

Another method to turn a formless shirt into a fitted shirt. Some would call the original a mens shirt, all I see is a shirt that is long enough to cover my upper body, but lacks any shape or form. The latter is more easily fixed than adding length after the fact!

I found a nice red shirt, not quite as large as I would like, but half price at Vinnies, so who can complain. This time I used a black tailor made shirt I had ordered with Bivolino as my inspiration. The end result is a fitted shirt, that’s comfortable enough to move around in. I think I might use this method more often, so I’ve described the process below.

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I used the iron board as a pin cushion, when copying the pattern pieces from the Bivolino shirt. This works very well, as long as the pattern pieces fit on the board.

I matched the two front panel pieces at the arm hole (overlapping so that the seam lines match). The center front piece follows the center front of the shirt (button strip) off course. For the second panel I matched the bottom corner with the shirt. Of course there was some excess fabric to trim at the sides.

There was not enough room to actually cut the princess seam, but the since the overlap of the pattern pieces was something of 1-2 cm short, I decided to replace this seam with a small dart. (The picture below is from after I already put the dart in, so it’s less clear.)  The dart starts where the pattern pieces lose their comfortable overlap (fortunately below the breast pocket), ending straight at the hem of the shirt.

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You can see why the original shirt should ideally be XX-L or XXX-L. It is because arm holes in a straight cut are pretty wide, whilst in a fitted shirt they are much smaller, therefore you need more width in the fabric higher up. Since was only a L, I had to get creative.

For the back panel, I simply put the Bivolino shirt straight on top of the red shirt, marked the size and trimmed the excess fabric at the sides. Here I did not need to use the entire width of the shirt at the bottom. I did add up to 2 cm by eye, over the length of the back darts, to have enough fabric to add those. I drew each side separately by hand, hoping the front panels would still match (i.e. be the same length as the back panel). This worked better on one side that the other, but the end result is not bad enough to necessarily do it more precise next time (although I should).

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Because the arm holes ended up larger than the Bivolino shirt, I had to cut the sleeves a bit wider as well. Instead of measuring as I should have done, I made a lucky guess which was close enough. But next time I should definitely spend the extra 5 minutes to do it properly.

I kept most of the original shape of the sleeve head (which I separated carefully of the original, allowing me to use the complete length), which worked out well. Using a wider arm also allowed me to keep the original cuffs (at the smallest position), which is a necessity I think. That’s a benefit of a smaller shirt, the cuffs are less wide.

 

By the by, here is a photo of the end result of the project I mentioned previously, but forgot to put online.

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Purr purse

March 2014, Singapore, an emergency purse is bought in absence of a handbag needed to go clubbing.  Turns out it is -the perfect- purse, including a soothing kitten to stroke in times of need for something soft. In fear of it falling apart (it was dirt cheap), the search for a replacement begins, but fails miserably. The size, the phone pocket, the arm strap, the many pockets on the inside, and of course the soft kitten to stroke. All simple features on their own, but combined they make for an unique purse it seems. So a new search begins, for enough courage to make a copy. Loads of how-to’s on line are read, for purses with some of the features, but never all. Then, after more than 2 years have gone by, the Work begins! Fabric is bought, a toile is made,  then a first attempt which is soon ript apart to start again. And then… I proudly present you the Purr Purse, together with the inspiration.

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Since this was quite the project, I wanted to make a manual on how to do it. Not an easy task and it made me appreciate the sewing descriptions available even more. Also, drawing is hard! But I persevered, so here it is.

Stuff you need:

  • Fabric cut in rectangles of 12.5 x 19.5 cm, which is including 1 cm seam allowance:
    • 2x outer material (yellow)
    • 2x fusible interface (not used this time, but would recommend it)
    • 4x faux leather (purple)
    • 8x lining (white with constellations)
  • More faux leather for bits and pieces:
    • P: 2x zipper pull tags (1.5 x 2 cm)
    • E: eye for hook (1.5 x 6 cm)
    • Z1: zipper end enclosure (4 x 6 cm)
    • Z2: zipper end enclosuer (3 x 3 cm)
    • T: 2x enforcement top (3 x 19.5 cm)
    • S: arm strap (1.5 x 32 cm)
  • Soft fabric for kitten (5 x 10 cm, brownish purple)
  • Non-fabric things
    • 3x zipper (15, 17.5 and 21 cm) The long zipper might have courser teeth.
    • bias band to finish lining seams (roughly 120 cm,  white)
    • hook to attach strap to loop (copper)
    • 2x small rings (1 cm diameter, copper)
    • thread matching all fabrics (i.e. yellow, purple and white)

Instructions

At every step, consider which colour thread to use. Always use same color for top and bottom thread for the best result.

  • Step 1: Prepare the faux leather bits and pieces
  • Step 2:
    Step 2
    Step 2

    Inner pocket zipper. Insert zipper for the inner pocket, including the zipper end enclosure Z2 (see drawing). Don’t sew zipper into the seam allowance. Leave room to tug away the zipper ends. Add lining.

  • Step 3: Prepare inner pocket. Top stitch the zipper, be careful not to sew into the seam allowance. Sew lining and faux leather together within the seam allowance, to make things easier in later steps.
  • Step 3 and 4
    Step 3 and 4
  • Step 4: Prepare inner halves of the outer pocket. Sew faux leather and lining together (r.s. together), top stitch (w.s. together). Sew lining and faux leather within seam allowance (w.s. together).
  • Step 4a: Prepare ending of the main zipper, as explained with step 9.
  • Step 5:
    Step 5 and 6
    Step 5 and 6

    Combine. Sew inner pocket and inner halves of the outside pockets together at 3-4 cm from the edge. Inner pocket is positioned 1 cm downwards relative to outer pockets. Use thread in the color of the faux leather, this will show in the end result. Catch zipper enclosure of large zipper (see step 9) within this seam.

  • Step 6: Finish inner pocket. Put the inner pocket together inside out, i.e faux leather sides together (purple thread). While doing this, bundle up the inner halves of the outer pockets, to get them out of the way of the seam. Sew together, making sure to trap the zipper endings in the seam. Don’t forget to include the eye for hook attaching the arm strap at the opposite side of the ending of the large zipper (see step 5). Finish the seems with bias band.
  • Step 7:
    Step 7 and 8
    Step 7 and 8

    Side zipper. Apply fusible interface to outside material (yellow). In 1 outer side, cut an opening, similar to halve a welt pocket, to insert the side zipper (2 cm from the sides, 3 cm from the top). Add lining to zipper. See also the drawing for this step.

  • Step 7a: Kitten. Cut kitten shape and sew to other outer side. Position it, such that your thumb will rests on it when holding the purse.
  • Step 8: Phone pocket.
    8a: Attach faux leather top enforcement to other half of the zipper and top of the side panel, folding away the “welt pocket triangles”. Top stitch zipper.
    8b: Add lining to top half of zipper.
    8c: Sew outside fabric + 2 layers of lining together within the seam allowance. Trim excess lining fabric.
  • Step 9:
    Step 9 and 10
    Step 9 and 10

    Main zipper. Attach zipper enclosure Z1 to start of the large zipper (see drawing) and insert zipper to outer sides, similar to the inner pocket zipper at step 2. Make sure you enclose the zipper endings.

  • Step 10: Outer pockets. Fold away the inner pocket and 1 inner half. Sew together the first outer pocket. Repeat for the other outer pocket. Procedure is similar to inner pocket at step 6.

And here once more the same description, now in all it’s hand written beauty.

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Vinnies

An interesting difference between The Hague and Brizzy. In The Hague I lived within walking distance from a fabric shop, in Brizzy there’s a second hand shop (Vinnies) just down the street. Upcycling for the win! Sometimes upcycling is almost more work than to start from scratch, but not this weekend. I got myself three easy projects.

I found the perfect dress to take with on upcoming diving trips: all polyester to withstand salt water and lots of sun, and nice and loose fit for ease of use. But the puffy sleeves were restricting me. Off with their cuffs and on with the flow: my rolled hem pressure foot to the rescue. Bam, done!

The trousers were a good fit. One seem at the back was torn, and fixed before it knew what happened to it. The length though, an awkward 7/8th. A quick look inside revealed the biggest hem ever made, so in a snap these were too long. How is that for awesome? Add a hem, boom, ready for my trip to Adelaide this Wednesday.

And as if Frankenshirt never happend, I bought a loose fitted blouse. A women’s blouse this time, with a revealing neckline due to a poor fit. The colour is lovely though. So out with the scissors! I used a different (single) pattern this time, no need for impromptu fixes left and right so far. No guarantees though, I haven’t actually sewn any seems. And the sleeves still pose the usual challenge.

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Frankenshirt

My first attempt at revamping a mens shirt. Always a good idea to use a shirt of really nice fabric and color for an experiment, right?

Couldn’t find any examples on-line to rehash a loose fitted shirt to a fitted shirt. Makes sense, since a fitted shirt has the armpit placed much higher up, which results in the need for more width than a non-fitted shirt typically will offer.

That’s how Frankenshirt happend, using the arm scythe of a shirt, the bodice part of a dress and free styling the bottom half of the shirt, again to match fit the available fabric. Feeling master of my universe, I decided to let the darts of the bodice just end open, to get a sort of emperor dress style.

Then came the sleeves. I didn’t want to take the cuffs apart, so I had to cut the sleeve head and trim down the sleeve width from a semi constructed sleeve. I though I used the sleeve head pattern that went with the arm scythe pattern, but I had way too much fabric. Enter the pleats. This, of course, resulted in somewhat puffed sleeves. Like princess style puff sleeves. This is becoming one royal design!

I had some fun with the collar. Decided to go mandarin style by simply removing the collar and closing up the collar stand. The result is not quite mandarin, but I kinda like it.

Anyway, the result. Could be worse I guess, but not really what I was going for. Or my style. But I’ll take it for a test drive and see if it grows on me. Or I might just pop a seam stretching too far. Who knows, life’s a gamble :).

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Heaven

It’s interesting how close to the skin my sewing experience is to me (no pun intended). Before we left I joked that all I needed to settle in was a fabric store close by. Turns out this is truer than I knew.

Some disappointing experiences at Lincraft and the other options in the CBD left me feeling a bit out of sorts. Apparently fabric á 150 AUD / meter is a thing down here, while tracing paper is not. They buy single patterns and cut them straight out. I should have known, since they do not seem to sell sewing magazines like Burda anywhere. The Needlefruit Sewing Lounge in Paddington seemed promising online, but turned out to be just for sewing courses.

However, the lovely lady there did point me in in the direction of The Fabric Store in Fortitude Valley. This is where I finally felt at home. So much nice fabrics arranged by color and material. Mostly plain instead of busy prints, often really fun but just not me. And next to cottons they have jerseys as well, which is a rare thing in this part of the world. I got a mustard cotton and a beautiful red raw silk for the projects I have in mind, and some tracing fabric (when in Rome…). But I’ll be back for more! They are open on Sundays as well, and they are having a sale at the moment….

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