A very useful bag

Years ago, just after I started sewing in a big way, I bought a chunk of beautiful leather from The Fabric Store. It was blush pink, and embossed with an Art Nouveau style pattern, and I loved it immediately! It sat in my sewing room ever since, because I had no idea what to do with it and I was too scared to cut into it. It was too heavy for a garment, and there wasn’t enough of it anyway. I had a bag in mind from the beginning,  but I wasn’t sure what sort of bag, or how easy it would be to sew a complicated shape with my Bernina, so it just languished…until I saw pictures over on Instagram  of the Genoa Tote pattern that Blogless Anna was developing!

photo-27-11-16-11-49-32-am

I’ve tried to make tote bags before, but I seem to find it really hard to get the proportions right, and I’m just too lazy (and time poor) to put too much effort into trying to get it right on my own. I really liked all the little details included in the Genoa Tote pattern, so I was pretty keen to get my hands on it! I did have to do a few things differently to compensate for the thickness of my leather (the pattern is designed for canvas or denim, but why make things easy?), which I’ll talk about later.

p1030939

I made the medium sized bag, and I really like the size. It’s plenty big enough for me to lug around all of my rubbish! These pictures were taken last Saturday (the same day as my Heather dress pictures, obviously), and I had a pair of sensible shoes in there just in case there was another decent earthquake and I needed to move quickly or walk back home, as well as my cardigan and all of my other assorted crap.

photo-27-11-16-11-48-26-am

The pocket is a good size as well (though my one is smaller than the pattern intends, as I bought a too-short zipper accidentally), big enough for the four or five lipsticks I seem to need to have with me at all times, as well as my train ticket and my headphones. I could get my phone in there as well, at a squeeze, but I tend to keep that in my pocket anyway!

The key clip is my favourite part, I can never ever find my keys in my bag. I would definitely be the girl in the horror film who makes it to her front door/car and then gets caught because her keys were hidden in a secret pocket in her bag that she had never seen before. Having them hanging there is brilliant, but they are a bit noisy bumping around up near the top. I suppose next time I could make the fabric loop longer so that the keys sit further down, but it’s really not a problem.

Isn’t that lining awesome? I bought it from the Fabric Warehouse sale shop earlier in the year, I couldn’t go past the pink and gold flamingos even though I had no idea what I’d do with quilting cotton! Bag lining is the obvious answer.

photo-27-11-16-11-49-01-am

Sewing the leather was a bit tricky, as you would expect. I used a leather needle, and some thick upholstery thread in the bobbin as well as for my upper thread. For the most part, my vintage Bernina managed to sew the leather beautifully, though I did need to hand crank the needle through any patches that were thicker than two layers (and especially over the bits at the corners where there were four layers of leather because of the seam allowances…). I also found the seam allowances difficult to manage, I just couldn’t get them flat. I tried hammering them, I tried ironing them, I tried getting them a bit damp and squashing them flat with heavy things. Nothing worked as well as I wanted, and it just looked a bit sad with the seam allowances not flat! in the end, I used a contact adhesive to glue them all flat. this worked beautifully, but was so messy! I glued myself to nearly everything in my sewing room, and Zelda was way too interested in what was going on for her health and safely…

To compensate for the thickness of the leather I made one major change to the pattern, and merged the facing pattern piece with the top edge of the bag piece. I just didn’t want to deal with the thickness of that seam allowance along the top edge, and removing the seam all together was easy enough. I used more glue to keep the facing nice and flat against the inside of the bag. I also overlapped the facing and the lining pieces and sewed them together rather than sewing them right sides together, again just to combat bulk. The leather isn’t going to fray along the cut edge (obviously), so I’m quite happy with the raw edge being exposed.

p1030948

I bought my vegetable tanned leather handles from Etsy, though I’ve since got some from Lapco in New Zealand. I didn’t put the leather patches behind the handles as instructed, as again I just didn’t need the extra thickness! These handles are the shorter, wider straps described in the pattern. I did have some lovely gold toned rivets that I wanted to use, to match the other gold hardware, but they were too short. I thought that having ‘antique brass’ toned ones was a better option than the handle falling off when I was out and about! I’ve definitely noticed changes to the colour of the handles since I’ve been using the bag, they’ve become darker and shinier and got quite marked in the rain, but I quite like how they’re ageing already. The best part is that I can always replace them if they get too worn out.

p1030946

I love my new bag! I had it finished in time to take it over to Melbourne, and it was perfect for stashing shopping in, as well as the several layers I needed to have with me just in case of a random weather change…

Thanks for all your good wishes after my last post! We’re still getting woken up by some fairly wobbly aftershocks, and they’re starting to demolish the buildings in the Wellington CBD which have been red-stickered, but things are starting to get back to normal (here, anyway. It’ll be a long time before Kaikōura and parts of Northern Canterbury are back to normal, unfortunately).

A good week for secret pyjamas

Well, this has been a bit of a rubbish week. You’re probably mostly aware of what’s been going on in New Zealand, but if you aren’t, just after midnight last Sunday (literally 5 minutes after we got off our flight home from Melbourne!) a pretty massive earthquake hit the northern half of the South Island. It was a magnitude 7.8, which makes it the same size as the Napier earthquake in 1931, which killed hundreds of people and remains NZ’s worst natural disaster (in modern times, anyway). It seems to have nearly flattened the small town of Waiau which was closest to the epicentre of the quake, and has caused major damage to the surrounding area, including closing state highway 1 which is the main route down the country. It also rolled across Cook Strait and hit Wellington pretty hard, we’ve got lots of cordoned off and evacuated sections of town where engineers are trying to decide if damaged buildings are stable enough to survive if another serious shake happens, or if they need to be demolished. We’re still getting hundreds of aftershocks a day (there have been over 2000 since the initial quake), though thankfully they seem to be spreading out and becoming less strong as the week goes on.

quakes

A map of severe (red) and strong earthquakes in the North Canterbury and lower Wellington region recently. A Geonet forecast shows the chance of a large quake striking the region in the next 30 days has reduced. Image credit: GeoNet.org.nz

We also had a tsunami warning sometime after the initial quake, so everyone living in the tsunami zone in Wellington had to decamp to higher ground at 2am Monday! Thankfully we live up a mountain, so no way we were getting hit. Then, if all of that wasn’t bad enough, Wellington got hit by a pretty severe storm on Monday and Tuesday, which caused flooding and landslides (not helped by sections of hillside that had already been loosened by the shake), accompanied by gale force winds which blew broken glass and bits of broken masonry around the city, and which meant we got to play that traditional Wellington game of ‘earthquake or gust of wind?’ We were effectively cut off from the rest of the North Island on Tuesday, the two major routes out of Wellington were closed by flooding and landslides. It was an eventful, stressful few days, and there were some seriously fraying nerves around the city! There is a really good summary of the events of the last week here, if you’re interested in reading more.

Anyway, onto some sewing! I made this dress up the same weekend which I made my Helmi dress, and it’s proved to be a perfect thing to wear this last week when  I just wanted to be comfortable! It was one of the first things which went into my suitcase for Melbourne (more about that another time, but I had a good week away and had a lovely time meeting some of the Melbourne sewing crew, who took me out for dinner and cocktails. Thanks for a lovely evening Sarah, Helen, Jane and Libby!), and it served me well when I was walking all over Melbourne looking for a brewery which the boys wanted to visit, which turned out to be closed once we finally found it. Sigh!

p1030951

This is the latest Sew Over It Pattern, the Heather Dress. I bought it as soon as I saw it pop up on Bloglovin, and I had it printed out and assembled before I realised that I had essentially the same pattern already in my library, the Muse Patterns Philippa. The princess seams end in a different place, and the Heather has sleeves, but other than that they’re very similar. I felt pretty stupid, I really need to start thinking more before I hit buy! I persevered with the Heather pattern as I had it printed out (I only printed out the Philippa skirt variation last time), and I am really happy with the final dress.

p1030949

I used a dark green ponte from The Fabric Warehouse, which I really like. It’s lovely and soft, and I think is just the right weight for this type of dress. It isn’t clingy, and it holds the shape of the pockets without them collapsing. I’m particularly in love with this dark green colour at the moment too, even though it’s so hard to photograph! I feel like for ages I’ve been all about navy and mustard, but recently I’ve found myself being drawn to deep greens and blush pink colours, as evidenced by the awesome green Funki clogs which I bought in Melbourne. I’ve been looking for some clogs for ages, they just don’t seem to be in the shops in Wellington!

p1030952

Next time I make this dress I’ll take in the princess seams at the back waist to combat that sway back wrinkling, and I’ll make it short sleeved. This version has the 3/4 length sleeves, though I had them rolled up yesterday when we were taking these photos and I forgot to get any with them uncuffed. I’ll also fiddle with the armhole/sleeve head slightly to see if I can get rid of that over-boob wrinkle…

p1030950

Thanks to Kat for taking these photos! It was particularly bright and sunny yesterday, and she did an awesome job finding places for me to stand which didn’t get washed out in the glare.

I’m a little in denial that it’s almost the end of November, I’m going to need to hustle if I want to get all of the sewing I have planned done before Christmas! Hopefully the country settles down now and we can just have a smooth run for the rest of the year…

Another Shirtdress for Spring

I’ve had a bit of a sewing spree since the end of the University trimester, I’ve been enjoying spending my spare time in my sewing room (part of me is secretly glad that the weather has been pretty rubbish, because it means that I don’t need to feel bad about not fixing up our jungle of a garden). One thing that I really wanted to get done was a rayon dress made using the Helmi pattern from the latest Named collection. Helmi is a loose fitting dress with a curved hem and a concealed half button placket, and either a two piece collar or a simple band collar. The pattern also has a really interesting shirt variation, which is definitely on my radar now for Autumn/Winter!

p1030926

p1030928

It’s definitely a loose fitting silhouette, and I have to admit that I thought it was probably going to be an unflattering disaster as I was sewing it. I was very surprised and very happy about how much I liked it when I tried it on after getting the sleeves in! I think the very soft and supple rayon helps it to drape more flatteringly that it would if it was made in a fabric with a crisper hand. This fabric is the same as the stuff I used for my Ogden Cami, and it’s just as lovely. I have another length in a different pattern in my stash, and I might end up buying some more! It behaves so well, and drapes and presses so nicely, it’s so good to sew.

p1030927

Like with all Named Patterns, there are some lovely details in this dress. I love the curved hem, it’s just short enough at the sides to stop it being heavy and frumpy, but not so short that I have to think about not flashing too much thigh as I move about! I also love the concealed button placket, it gives the front a lovely minimalist feel. The construction of it made me a bit confused when I was reading through the instructions, but once I had the piece in my hands it became clear. Typically, I think these hidden buttonholes may well be my best to date! I feel like I’m finally getting better at judging the right size of buttonhole to sew, and I’m getting much better at finishing them neatly too.

p1030936

I used plain black buttons for the placket, and they blend into the fabric nicely when the first few are left unbuttoned. For the collar button I used one of the brass buttons I’ve been hoarding off a RTW cardigan, I love them but I’ve never managed to find any similar in craft shops! I don’t think I’ll ever wear this one buttoned all the way up to the neck, it’s a bit too much fabric with the longer sleeves and hem!

p1030930

I felt like the sleeves looked a bit plain just hanging at elbow length, so I hitched them up slightly with a faux button loop. I just sewed a narrow rectangle of fabric and hand sewed it to the sleeve with another of the gold buttons, just high enough to catch the hem and add a bit of interest. It’ll be easy enough to remove them if I decide I want to do something else with them.

p1030938

This was a pretty simple sew, aside from the slightly more difficult concealed placket. The instructions are slightly more minimal than some other indie patterns, but they’re well illustrated and easy to follow. The only change I made, aside from my minor addition to the sleeves, was to top-stitch the collar stand and to take 1.5 cm off the length of the bodice (as usual). I chose to top-stitch all the way around the collar stand as the rayon looked a bit bubbly and soft without it, it sits much better now with that little bit of extra reinforcement. I did take a bit of a risk by hemming the skirt pieces separately before sewing them together and to the bodice, but after the trouble I had hemming the curve of my Melilot shirt hem I decided to follow the instructions and just hope that it wouldn’t be too long. It is longer at the back than I expected, but I like it anyway! The hem definitely sits better on this than it does on the shirt (following the instructions can be beeficial, who would have thought?).

p1030934

I like the way it looks with a belt as well, it makes it feel a bit more dressy. I think with a pair of heels I could get away with wearing this out for drinks or dinner, but with flats or even sneakers it would be fine for a casual day. I do love a dress which can do multiple shifts!

Clown Top

I’ll preface this post by saying that I really like the top I’ve made, the fabric just makes me think of clowns, with all those big orange spots! I called it a clown top on Instagram and had a few comments saying that it wasn’t clownish at all, but I wasn’t meaning it in a negative sense. Maybe my brain is a bit weird…

 

p1030917

This is the top from M7483, a Nicole Miller pattern from one of their recent collections. I also like the wide legged trousers which come with the pattern, but to be honest I don”t really have a lot of places to wear elegant wide legged trousers! I can’t wait to get a job which requires nice clothes, I’ll have so many patterns stashed and waiting for an outing…

pattern-envelope

But though I won’t be making the trousers up just yet, I thought the top would be perfect for using up some short lengths of silk I have maturing in my stash. This particular length was a remnant I found at The Fabric Store, after brunch with some of the WSBN one day. I wasn’t supposed to be buying fabric, but I decided that remnants didn’t count! There was only 1.2m at 110cm wide, but I cut everything on a single layer and there was plenty of fabric. It’s a silk crepe, so was really easy to cut, but I have to say it gave me a headache trying to get my pattern lined up on it! I found it really hard to get the fabric on grain after washing, and being a crepe I couldn’t pull a thread or anything to help me square it up. The spots didn’t help, there were no obvious horizontal lines in the pattern! I think I managed on in the end though (and I avoided any unfortunate spot placement, thank god). I almost cut into it with the pattern up the other way, until I realised just in the nick of time that they were practically Mickey Mouse heads up that way!

p1030921

The pattern calls for a separating zipper up the back, but I decided to sew most of the way up the CB and then leave a keyhole with a self fabric covered button and loop so that I could get my head through the boat neckline. My pattern matching isn’t quite perfect, but I’m pretty happy with it anyway!

p1030923

I really like the length of the sleeves, I think they make it slightly dressier than if they were a standard short sleeve. I’m also pretty happy with the fit, though there are some things I’ll do differently next time. It’s definitely too long along the shoulder seam, the sleeve cap is hanging off the point of my shoulder, so I’ll do a narrow shoulder adjustment next time. I think I’ll also grade out to the next size up from below the bust dart to the hem, as it’s a bit snug around my hips and it tends to get caught on my belt/the waistband of my jeans. I think if I had a little bit more room there that it would sit better and I wouldn’t get that bubble at the small of my back.

p1030920

I’m looking forward to cranking a few more of these out, I thin it’ll be cute with high-waisted shorts or a narrow skirt in the warmer weather. I also have a length of silk velvet (also a remnant, I love rummaging through those bins…) which I think would work perfectly as this top! I might even look for a metal toothed separating zipper to put up the back…

 

Layering for Spring

Ugh, this week. I’m very glad it’s over! Last Sunday evening the hard drive on my laptop gave up completely as I was trying to back it up (oh the irony). Normally the loss of my laptop wouldn’t be the end of the world (I don’t use it too much), but my final assignment for trimester two is due tomorrow, and I had everything I had written and all my research on it. Thank god the partner of one of my friends is an IT guy, and he managed to retrieve my info off the hard drive before it completely crapped out, so I managed to get it all done (though I still need to edit about 500 words out of it, bit of a pain…). I’ve also been struck down with my usual spring hay fever (thanks pine trees, you dicks!), so I feel like a bit of a snivveling mess. But now that my paper is written and I’ve bought myself every antihistamine on the market things should be looking up, and I have some new sewing projects which I’m really happy with to share.

  

First up is my first True Bias Ogden Cami, in a lovely rayon from The Fabric Warehouse. I’m really going to have to get over my hatred of strapless bras, because I really like this top and have several lengths of fabric earmarked for more! 

   

It was such a quick satisfying project, I was able to easily get it out of the metre of fabric I had and it probably only took two hours from cutting to finishing. I took the advice of the instructions and added a ribbon to the back facing so that I can tell the front from the back, which was a good call. I love the facing, it gives such a lovely smooth finish at the neckline, and the double layer of fabric means that it sits really smoothly over my bra and a coloured bra won’t show through. 

  

I wore this for a night out dancing the same day that I made it, and it was very comfortable in the heat! Unfortunately I clipped the seams around the straps a bit severely, and the next morning I realised that one of the back straps had partially pulled out of the seam. It was an easy enough fix, and I went around and reinforced the rest of the strap attachment points too. Next time I’ll leave a bit more length in the seam!

  

Next up is my Grainline Driftless Cardigan. This is actually the second Driftless Cardigan I’ve made, though the first one never made it to the blog (I made it out of a beige wool sweatshirting, which is lovely and warm and got worn a lot over winter, but it has pilled horribly and definitely looks like a house-only garment). This one is a cotton/poly blend from the remnant bin at The Fabric Store, and it has an amazing bobbly bouclé texture. I had only just enough fabric to squeeze this out, though I did have to piece the neckband. The texture of the fabric means the join is invisible though, I can only find it by feeling for the extra thickness of the seam. 

  

I really wanted to use the high/low hem bands from view B, but due to the aforementioned fabric shortage I could only manage the standard hem band. To compensate, I followed the split hem instructions anyway, and I like the result just as much! 

  

I do like the cocoon shape of the cardigan! I also like the way the slim sleeves balance out the volume in the body, making it look oversized but not like I’m wearing someone else’s much bigger cardi.

  

I overlocked the whole thing, even the neckband (the instructions say to hand stitch or topstitch the neckband over to give a neater finish), which seems to be staying in plave after a good steam. I’ve been wearing it so much, its the perfect weight for this time of year. Unfortunately I realised this morning that I’d managed to get something yellow on it, I suspect it might be a bit of curry paste from dinner last night! So its soaking down in the laundry, and I’m desperately hoping that it’ll come out. Otherwise I might have to get a black felt pen out to disguise the worst of the yellow!

  

So those are my new layering staples! I’m so happy with both, though I can’t wait for it to get warm enough to be able to wear camisoles without a wooly layer over the top…

A very French shirt

I really like Deer and Doe patterns, and when they released their spring/summer 2016 patterns I immediately bought both the Melilot Shirt and the Zephyr Dress. I meant to make the Melilot shirt up during the winter, but I just never managed to get it done…Happily I like the short sleeved version even more than the long sleeved one, so making it up for spring wasn’t a hardship!

  

I’m so happy with the way it turned out! I think its such a flattering shape, and the little round collar and the sleeve cuffs are so cute. I was a bit worried about the very curved side seams not hitting me at the right point, since I have a fairly high waist, but I threw caution into the wind and made it up as is in my good fabric. Thankfully it worked out pretty well! 
  

I had a bit of trouble getting the hem to sit nicely around those extreme curves. The instructions tell you to hem the fronts and back before sewing the side seams, but I was a bit wary of the length so I wanted to be able to try it on before I committed to hemming it! In the end I decided to leave the length as it is, though I might play around with it next time. I ended up sewing a line of basting stitches at 1/4 of an inch to help me fold it up, then folded it up the same again and topstitched it. Maybe I’ll try bias tape next time, I’m always happy with that finish!
  

There are some really lovely details in this pattern. The pockets are lined! I’ve only ever lined the pockets on a coat, but it does give a lovely smooth edge and makes it easier to get both pockets the same. Though in this busy fabric that isn’t such a major… I also really like that the collar on this shirt is a proper two piece with a collar stand, it sits really nicely and fits really well. I noticed when I was looking at the pictures of my M7351 shirtdress that the collar is really too big for my neck to be worn buttoned all the way up, but this one is a good size. 
  

One thing I wish I had done better is matching my thread colour to the fabric. I sewed the majority of this one in the evenings, and it wasn’t until I looked at my topstitching in daylight that I realised that it was really really white against the much more cream fabric. And then, instead of fixing it, I just carried on, and sewed the buttonholes in the same white thread. And of course, the button holes look even whiter and shinier than the topstitching… I wish I had waited and matched the thread, or that I had gone and fixed it before opening the buttonholes, but I’ll live with it! Those glaring white buttonholes will be a good reminder not to be lazy next time. I know you can’t see them in these photos, but I can definitely see them when I look down at the shirt!
  

The fabric is Atelier Brunette, French fabric for a French pattern! Last month there was a vintage fair in my local town hall, so I wandered down to have a look (hoping to find a pie dish, as I had just figured out that the one I was looking for in my kitchen actually belongs to my Mum, so was in her kitchen instead). Just inside the door was a pile of stunning bolts of French fabric, attatched to a stall that I realised was being run by Miss Maude. Thank god she was taking payment by automatic bank transfer (and thank god for banking apps!), because I would have been sad to miss out on this gorgeous cotton. I also bought a length of Atelier Brunette modal, so I’m sure that’ll be making an appearance this summer! The little black buttons came from my button stash, but I think they originally came from Made Marion, like most of my new buttons. I really like how they look on the fabric, though  sewing 11 button holes was a bit of a chore! 
  

Expect to see a few more of these over the summer! I really want to make a white silk version with sleeves, and I have a really lightweight cotton plaid that I’ve been planning to make into a button up shirt for over a year, so hopefully that’ll happen this summer too…

Trans-Seasonal Shirtdress

So it’s technically Spring down here in the Southern Hemisphere, but the weather in Wellington this month has been particularly horrible. We’ve slid back into single digit temperatures, and we’ve had hail and gale force winds and torrential rain, so my spring sewing has been bumped back a few weeks! I had meant to make a shirt dress out of this fabric last winter using McCalls 6696 (the pattern which barely needs an intoduction) but I had a list of adjustments that I wanted to make so I never got around to it. Then McCalls 7351 was released, and it had most of the features I was going to try to change M6696 to have (the shirttail hem, the slim back without the gathers, no waistband), so I cheerily switched patterns, and then fluffed around all Winter and never got it made. But finally, here it is finished!

I really enjoyed sewing this dress! I haven’t had a lot of practice with big 4 patterns, but I’ve recently bought a bunch because I’ve had such a good time sewing up the ones I’ve tried. I’ve found that I get the best results if I sew a 12 in McCalls patterns, even though my measurements put me in a 14. M7351 has multiple cup sizes, and I used the C cup bodice. I think it fits well, though it does look like I have a bit of gaping at the buttons across the bust in these pictures.

I love the curved hem and the sleeve tabs!

I did my usual adjustments here, I took 1 inch off the bodice length, and another inch off the bottom of the back bodice at the centre back for a sway back adjustment. I also shortened the skirt by and inch and a half. The only place where I ran into a problem was the sleeves, they tapered so much towards the elbow that I couldn’t lift my arms when they were rolled up into the sleeve tabs. I ended up shortening them by 3 inches, and they’re much better now! I’ll never wear them not rolled up, so I don’t care if they’re weirdly disproportionate now.

I possibly could have taken a little more length off the bodice, but I don’t think its too bad. I never pictured it without the belt, but it actually looks ok!  I’ll also probably never wear it done all the way up, which is good because something a little bit funny has happened with my top button, its a bit off centre…

if the bodice was a wee bit shorter my belt wouldn’t ride up like this…

The fabric is a cotton/linen/elastane blend, so it’s really light and breathable and holds a crease really well (good for sewing, less good for wearing…), and has a little bit of stretch. Its basically a really comfortable lovely fabric, and I’m really glad that I have enough left to make a pair of shorts! The buttons are fake shell ones that I found in the $1 bin at The Fabric Warehouse, which is my favourite place to find packets of buttons. I also used some Liberty Saville Poplin to line the yoke and for the under collar and inner collar stand.

So I’m really glad I finally got this dress made, I think I’ll be able to wear it with tights and boots just as easily as bare legs and Keds, so it should get plenty of wear! Though I am hoping to be in shorts and sundresses sooner rather than later…