A Christmassy Eve

I know, I know, it’s only the middle of November, I have no business posting about any Christmas things so early. But my work Christmas do was yesterday (maybe the venue was all booked up on more appropriate Christmas party dates?), and I really wanted to wear this dress, so I’ve had to be super organised…

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This is the Sew Over It Eve dress, a woven wrap dress with the front gathered onto yokes at the shoulder, and with awesome 1970’s flutter sleeves. There is the option for a high-low hem, but I opted for the straight hem from version 2 of the pattern. There is a lot to like about this pattern, the wrap front fits beautifully with the gathering above the bust, and the wrap edge is shaped just right to sit close against the body without gaping.

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See how well that neckline sits? The instructions give you specific measurements for how long each front edge, yoke piece and back neckline half should be, so that you can ease it onto a length of twill tape, which I thought was brilliant. I feel nice and secure in this bodice, not like it’s going to fly open at any moment! I’ve never managed to find a wrap dress which fits my weird short torso without gaping open, so I’m super happy with the fit of this one.

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I feel pretty safe in the skirt too, the underskirt is the full width of the bodice so hopefully that’ll mean fewer wind-related incidents, even in Wellington. I made the size 10, which is where my measurements put me, and made no changes to the pattern. I might yet go back and take a tiny bit of length off the bodice, I’m undecided. I quite like the slightly bloused look, I think it suits the romantic, vintage vibe this dress has, but I’m also concerned that it might grow a bit over time, with the weight of the skirt hanging from it.

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The fabric is a Telio rayon challis from Fabric.com. It’s lovely and smooth and floaty, but it is a bit sheer. It was pretty easy to sew with, I used a microtex needle and my silk pins to keep it all under control. The hardest part was leveling the hem! I let it drop for nearly a week, and it was 3” longer at the side seams than at the front edges of the skirt. I find leveling hems a challenge, even with my dressmakers dummy and a hem ruler. It’s like cutting your own hair, it always ends up shorter on one side! Eventually I got it pretty much even, though when I wear it it looks less even than it does on the mannequin. I’m going to blame that on the way I’ve tied the wrap, and on how I’m standing.

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In the end, I didn’t wear this dress to the Christmas lunch after all, it was way too cold and windy! I came home and decided to take some photos of it anyway, so if I’m looking more cheerful (manically cheesy) than usual in these pictures that’s because I’d had a few glasses of wine before getting the camera out…

Is anyone else doing some very early Chrismas sewing or attending any premature Christmas events? Tell me I’m not alone!

 

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Kalle-ish

I’m probably about to jinx the entire Wellington region here, but it’s really feeling like summer is nearly here this year! We’ve had a gorgeous spell of warm sunny weather, and it’s got me dreaming about linen and silk and loose, cropped silhouettes. As usual I’m looking to make tops which are a bit more fancy than just tee-shirts, and I’m loving the high waisted bottoms/ cropped tops look which seems to be around this year.

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I pulled the Kalle Shirt pattern by Closet Case Files out and matched it to this windowpane check from Indie Sew on my first weekend back after our trip, when I was desperate to sew something, but I just couldn’t be bothered with the idea of sewing a collar in that shifty fabric. I loved the idea of the faced high/low hem and the kimono sleeves though, so I decided to do a bit of pattern modification to get a simplified top.

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I kept all of the bits of the pattern that I really liked, the hem and facings, the sleeves and cuffs, and the back pleat, but obviously I ditched the shirt bits! I used the pop-over front pattern piece, which is cut on the fold anyway, and just didn’t put the placket in. I traced off the front and back neckline from the Willow Tank, and then traced off a facing to finish the neckline. Other than the neckline, I followed the instructions exactly.

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I love the back and the hem! If I made this modification again, I wouldn’t drop the back neckline so low so that I could keep some more of the yoke, I think it’s a bit disproportionate on this one. but I can’t see it, so that’s okay! I’m trying to be less obsessive about getting things perfect (the Love To Sew Podcast episode on perfectionism resonated with me, I definitely let my perfectionist tenancies get in the way of my sewing enjoyment), and I definitely embraced the ‘done is better than perfect’ ethos on this project…

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I really love this fabric (in fact, I was so keen to get my hands on some that I managed to submit my online order to Indie Sew twice. So glad I managed to cancel one order before it was cut out! It’s no longer available, sorry.), I’ve got the white with black check colourway too. It feels lovely, it’s a very smooth and floaty rayon crepe, but it was pretty shifty and difficult to cut out and sew! I cut it on one layer, and used all of my pins to keep it all square and in line. The finished top tends to slide around a bit too, I think that it’s too heavy in the back. Between the double layer of crepe for the yoke and the longer length, it slips back on my shoulders a bit. Using a lighter weight cotton for the yoke lining would have been a better idea. But never mind, that’s what hindsight is for!

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The highest point of the hem is a good height for my high waisted trousers (these are my Safrans, but they’re good with my Gingers and my Flint trousers too, as well as my high waisted skirts), but clearly I’ll need to be careful getting anything down off high shelves! I’m wearing a tank top under it in these pictures, I’m not quite that anaemic…

I’m definitely keen to try out the pattern as drafted, I have some lightweight Japanese cotton earmarked for another cropped version but with all the shirt details included. Looking at my sewing plans for the summer there are going to be a bunch of collars and plackets and buttonholes involved! Also some more wide legged trousers, and hopefully a swimsuit…

A Very Preppy Sigma Dress

Another holiday post! I’m hanging onto my holiday for dear life (can you tell?), it feels like we’ve been home forever…

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This is the Papercut Patterns Sigma Dress, made up in a medium weight yarn dyed cotton from The Fabric Store. This pattern has been out for ages, but hadn’t really been on my radar until I started looking for a simple dress pattern with a darted bodice and long sleeves to make a winter dress with. Obviously this isn’t the winter dress I was planning, I didn’t get around to making that before our trip (and it’s too warm now, it’ll need to wait until next winter), but I thought that a short sleeved version would be a handy dress to take with us.

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There was nothing in there, very disappointing.

I actually made up a muslin of this dress before cutting into this cotton, which showed that the bust dart was way too high for me. I ended up moving it down by over an inch, but now I’ve got something funny going on with fabric pooling under the dart. I’m going to have another play with the bodice, maybe doing a small FBA to try to get rid of that excess. I’m not too bothered about it with this version, it’s a bit rough anyway! I utterly failed to match the gingham across the centre back seam as well, so it’s definitely not a perfect dress. Aside from the weird fit in the bust, I’m happy with the way this pattern fits. There is a bit of ease in the waist, which I like, and I think the shoulders and sleeves fit really nicely.

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I really like the little gathered patches on either side of the skirt, they add a bit of fullness and movement without adding any bulk or making the skirt too big. I didn’t put the pockets in this one, because the pocket pieces looked really tiny and I couldn’t be bothered pulling out another pattern to find some proper sized ones (I was sewing this pretty close to the trip), but the gathers will help to hide any bulk from the pockets too.

Much as I like the pattern and fabric, I was initially a bit worried that I had made a school uniform when I finished it and tried it on! My uniform was teal, yellow, and black tartan (hideous), so not at all like this, but the grey gingham gave me an unexpected schoolgirl vibe. Definitely not what I was looking for! I’ve tried styling it a few ways, from this super-casual-with-sneakers look to a ultra preppy with brogues and tights, and I think it’ll be ok. Just as well I haven’t made that grey blazer I’ve been planning!

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I was very pleased to have this dress when I was packing for our mini-trip to Portugal, as it ended up being over 30ºc the week that we were there! I got pretty sunburned on our first day (bad!), so having this dress with a higher neck and covered shoulders was perfect. You can see a bit of my sunburn radiating up from my neckline in these photos. It was nice to have a loose dress to wear too, something to let the air circulate around my torso as we were out walking up hills in the heat! These photos were taken at the Castelo São Jorge in Lisbon, in the ‘romantic garden’. The Castle has the most amazing views over the city, it was beautiful! the loose waist also meant I had plenty of room to eat pastel de nata, the amazing custard tarts that are so prevalent in Portugal. I love custard, so I was in heaven with all of their variations on custard and pastry!

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Kelly Anorak

I’m finally home! The trip back was pretty dire (I really wish someone would get on with inventing human teleportation, please and thank you), but that’s what I get for living a million miles away. I’ve integrated my UK fabric purchases into my fabric stash, I’ve uploaded my photos, and I’ve spent some quality time with the cats, so I thought I’d finally blog about the Closet Case Files Kelly Anorak that I made up before my trip.

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Best turtle impression

This jacket was so useful, it was the perfect weight to wear once we got further north and the weather started to cool down. I think it looks more stylish than my Waver raincoat, which I also took and wore loads (since it’s waterproof) but which is beginning to get a bit scruffy. I used a stretch twill from The Fabric Store, which I think was marked as Marc Jacobs. I’m always surprised at the rolls of designer fabric which pop up at TFS! It was the perfect colour for what I was after, and it’s quite nice to have a little bit of stretch in a casual jacket. I realised as I was assembling the navy fabric and gold hardware that I was copying this amazing Minoru hack that Sallie Oh made years ago and which I coveted, but didn’t think I had the skills (or the patience) to make such big changes to the pattern. I’m glad I procrastinated long enough for the Kelly pattern to be released and save me the hassle!

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I love hardware-heavy projects like this! I really wanted spring snaps rather than the ring snaps which I used on my Waver, but I haven’t seen them for sale anywhere in New Zealand. I was looking to buy a bunch of bag hardware at the same time, so I just bit the bullet and put an order into Pacific Trimming. It wasn’t too expensive, in the scheme of things, but shipping and the conversion rate definitely made it a bit of a splurge purchase! I got the snaps, draw string stoppers and cord ends from there, and I’m really happy with them. They’re all the same gold tone, which was important to me, and the snaps feel much more sturdy (and make a much more satisfying snapping noise) than the other type I’ve used. And they just look nicer! Similarly, the stoppers and end caps are nice and weighty and look good, I wish I had bought a few more sets. Of course, after I put the order in Closet Case Files released a gold toned version of their hardware kit, but never mind… The zip was a lucky find at Spotlight, I didn’t expect to find a gold and navy separating zip there but I got lucky! It was too long, but I don’t mind shortening zips.

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I used the scraps of Liberty lawn left over from my Willow Tank for the hem binding and the drawstring casing, and I’m really happy with how it looks against the navy. Instead of using standard cord for my drawstring I used some heavy cotton twill tape. I think it looks good, it’s a bit nautical! It’s flat, so squeezing it through the eyelet and the cord stopper (what are those called? I’m sure that isn’t the right word…) was slightly challenging, but now that they’re in place I won’t have to move them again! I also used the twill tape for a hanging loop inside the collar. Also, how good are those pockets? I love big pockets, and these ones can fit pretty much anything I want to put in them.

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So, onto the pattern! I know there has been a bit of negativity around this pattern recently, but I didn’t personally have any issues with the drafting. Because I had to shorten the zip anyway I didn’t really pay attention to the recommended length on the pattern and just shortened it until it fit. I wish I had shortened it another inch, to be honest, because the end of the zipper pull hangs over the edge of the hem when it’s undone! I can’t see it, but I know that it’s there…I did have issues with the zipper and placket though, which were my own stupid fault. I was absolutely flying along on the Saturday I started this, everything was going really smoothly and I was really happy with my progress by the end of the day. On Sunday, I picked it up again, and realised that I had sewn the zip in with the wrong seam allowance, so there wasn’t enough room under the placket for the snaps. I was so upset! I considered carrying on and just fudging it, but I knew that would ultimately really annoy me, and I didn’t want to risk messing up the snaps after getting them all the way from LA! So I gritted my teeth and unpicked the whole damn lot. It’s definitely not as square or as nicely sewn now, as I had graded those seams pretty savagely, but at least the snaps are where they’re supposed to be! it turned out that I had just aligned the edge of the zipper tape with the edge of the fabric, instead of using a 5/8” seam allowance as instructed. Lesson learned there!

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There are some fitting issues here which I need to address before making this pattern again (I’m planning a waterproof version with the hood), mostly around the shoulders. Initially, I thought that I needed to do a narrow shoulder adjustment as the point of the shoulder is slipping down my arm, but now that I’ve worn it for 6 weeks I think that the more important adjustment I need to make is for a forward shoulder. The shoulder seam is sitting about an inch behind my actual shoulder, so that is definitely something I need to look into. I may also need to take some length out of that seam, but I’ll see how it looks after moving it forward! I could also lift the drawstring casing up a wee bit I think. but other than that, I think its pretty good really! There are some funny wrinkles in these photos, but I’m chalking those up to 1) the jacket being in and out of my suitcase for 2 weeks by the time these pictures were taken, and 2) it being super windy and it being blown against my body weirdly!

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I know this has been a long post, but I should also talk about this amazing place! These photos were taken on the island of Skye, and it was just so beautiful there. This is the ruin of Duntulm Castle, on the northern point of Skye. It’s slowly falling into the sea, so you can’t get closer than the fence (which I think is actually to keep the sheep out, rather than reckless tourists), but it was such a stunning, lonely spot. There was a fisherman down on the rocks below the cliff where I was standing, who I didn’t spot until he popped up in the middle of these photos, which is why I look a bit sheepish in some of them! I absolutely loved Skye, I would love to go back for longer some time. I bought the necklace I’m wearing in these pictures (its by Wolf and Moon) from a lovely shop in Portree called Òr, where I also got my birthday present Hilary Grant scarf (this one!). I’m almost wishing we could have a bit more cold weather so that I could wear that scarf now rather than waiting for winter (but not really, bring on summer!)

 

 

Travel Basics

I had a ridiculous list of things to sew before our big trip (and I managed to get pretty much everything done!), but I had a few basic things which I knew I really had to take. A white tee shirt, some merino leggings and a new cardigan were all things that I knew would fill holes in both my travel wardrobe (sounds so fancy) and back home for our awkward spring weather. They aren’t really exciting garments, but they’ve been really useful and I’ve taken photos in a pretty spectacular location so hopefully that makes up for it!


First up is the tee shirt. I abandoned my much loved Grainline Lark pattern to try the Deer and Doe Plantain (free download!), and I really like the shape of it. It’s apparently been slimmed down from its original iteration, but it’s still loose enough to skim my hips and tummy rather than being tight. I like the shape of the scoop neck too, it’s nice and deep but not so deep that I’m worried about leaning forward!


I’ve managed to pull it weirdly against my body here, I’m not sure why I’ve trapped it under my arm like that! 

I used a cream merino from The Fabric Store. I don’t have a white tee shirt, but when I held up various white knits to my face in the shop they all made me look a bit grey and sick, so I went with a warmer cream. It’s a lovely fabric, as merino always is, but it is a wee bit see through. I’ll need to be careful to always wear a nude bra with it!


Right, second woollen basic is another Driftless Cardigan! This is my third time making this pattern, and I desperately needed another one because I’ve nearly worn through the elbows of my second (and the first isn’t really something I wear out of the house, it’s more like a dressing gown!)


I love this pattern, it’s so comfortable and I find it a really practical and easy shape to wear. The pockets are especially good! This time I used a beautiful grey Japanese wool (also from TFS). It has less stretch than merino, which makes for a sturdier feeling cardigan and stops the dreaded saggy pocket problem. I used the plain hem band pattern pieces rather than the high-low version, but I sewed them so that they have a split at the side seam rather than as a continuous band.


I don’t have any pictures of my merino leggings, but they’re plain black Papercut Patterns Ooh La leggings. I used a merino/Lycra blend to hopefully combat saggy knees! I’ll get some pictures in conjunction with something more exiting, because they are really dull photographically. I love them though!


These photos were taken at Dun Carloway, on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. It was such a cool place, and there was no one there! We just wandered into the paddock and up to this Neolithic building, then went inside and crawled through that little door and up a 2000 year old staircase to where the first floor would have been. So much history blows my mind a bit, coming from somewhere where our history is pretty recent (Māori settled in New Zealand about 700 years ago and there aren’t any structures even close to that old left), and being allowed to get up so close was awesome. All of the scenery on Lewis and Harris was breathtaking, I’m so glad we got out there. I’ll put my pictures from the Harris Tweed shop in another post!

Going vintage for the Goodwood Revival

Hello from a very damp Scotland! I’m currently in Fort William, in the western highlands, and it’s utterly spectacular (even when it’s pissing down). We’ve had a whirlwind two weeks, driving from London down to the south coast before heading north through Wales and the Lake District to Scotland. Tomorrow we head to Skye and then to the Outer Hebrides later in the week, which I’m very excited about! If you follow me on instagram you’ll know that we went to the Goodwood Revival while we were down south. I know I’ve mentioned it on here before, but in short it’s a vintage motorsport event which celebrates British racing history from the 40’s through to the 70’s, and Hamish has wanted to attend for as long as I’ve known him. I’m not really interested in Motorsport at all, but dressing up in period gear is pretty much mandatory at the Revival, so I knew there would be something to interest me there!


As it was in September in England I decided that separates (with trousers) would be a sensible option. I was briefly tempted to make a 1940s rayon day dress, but I very glad that I stuck with my original plan because the weather turned after lunch and it got rather cold and wet! I was still under dressed (could have done with some gumboots and an umbrella), but I was very glad not to be in a flimsy dress…


Both patterns are from Wearing History, the Smooth Sailing Blouse, and the Homefront Overalls. Obviously these aren’t overalls, but there is a classic 1940’s trouser pattern included! The shirt is made in a Liberty Tana Lawn, and it was really fun to put together. The lawn gathered beautifully, and made it really easy to sew the gathered front and back to the yoke, and to set in those big puff sleeves in. I was a bit concerned about the size of those sleeves and the collar, they would be all balanced out by a big 1940’s hairdo but obviously that wasn’t an option for me! It was definitely the look that I was going for though, so I carried on. I used red shell buttons which match the roses, but you can barely see them in these pictures because I forgot to put my sunglasses back in my bag. I was still hoping I might need them again that afternoon…


The trousers are made out of a fairly heavy brushed twill, also from The Fabric Store. I really like the colour, though perhaps I should have picked a less camouflaging backdrop to have my photos in front of! The trousers were very simple to put together, but I should have picked a size smaller as they came out absolutely huge initially. I ended up taking them in at the pleats and darts, and at the front and back crotch seams to get them to fit. I couldn’t mess with the side seams because I added a grown-on button placket to get in and out of them instead of using a lapped zip. 


The overalls close with a button placket, but I had only printed the trouser pieces so I improvised. It wasn’t difficult to add a curved placket piece to the side seam, but it did make it more difficult to take them in.


I faced the waistband and placket with the scraps of Liberty left over from the shirt to reduce bulk, and I think it looks really cute! The trousers are definitely a vintage fit, with a much lower crotch than modern trouser patterns. It took a bit of getting used to, but they were very comfortable. I always forget how different the proportions of vintage clothes can be! Both patterns went together beautifully, and though the instructions were a bit more sparse than some indie brands they were clear and perfectly adequate. 


To finish off my kind-of Land Girl outfit I wore my brown heeled oxfords and a cream cardigan, and a silk headacarf borrowed from my friend Lauren to cover up my non-era-appropriate haircut. I also took the straw bag that Hamish gave me for Christmas a few years ago. It just matched so perfectly that I couldn’t not take it, but to be honest it was a pain in the arse! A bag with a shoulder strap would have been much better, I’m sure that the reason I got hardly any photos of the event is because one hand was constantly occupied with my bag. I’ll need to remember that for next time…


Hamish was attired even more practically, I was jealous of his tweed jacket when the rain set in! I thought I could pinch some of his photos, as he took loads, but of course they were all of the cars rather than the other attendees! It was pretty amazing though, a scroll through the #goodwoodrevival2017 hashtag on instagram gives a pretty good overview. Some people had such amazing authentic vintage gear, it was awesome to see it out being worn.


I’m hoping to get some photos of other things I made for this trip in some dramatic Scottish locations, hopefully I can get some good shots! 

The raincoat which nearly killed me…

I’m a very selfish maker, I hardly ever sew or knit for other people. I’ll sew for my mum (because she’s awesome), and I’ll sew or knit for Hamish (because he’s super fussy about buying clothes, and I’m still trying to get him out of tee shirts that he’s been wearing since before we got together, 10 years ago), and I’ll make gifts for special people in my life, but that’s about it. I don’t usually feel guilty about this, but when my sister asked me to make her a raincoat I felt a bit bad that I had never sewn for her before! I was planning my own raincoat at the time, using the Papercut Waver Jacket pattern, and as Abby also liked the pattern I figured it would be easy enough to make two! Now, if you’ve just followed that link to see my version of the Waver, you’ll notice that I blogged it a while ago. In fact, the fabric for both of our raincoats was bought from Drapers Fabrics when we last visited Auckland…in September 2015. This raincoat was my longest ever work in progress! It was probably also one of my worst ever sewing experiences, and there is definitely a strong correlation between those facts…

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I made her the longer version of the Waver, with the hood and the drawstring waist. I wish I had made the longer version for me too, its a much more practical length for a rain coat! My sister is tiny, so I re-traced the pattern and cut her an XXS, then took an inch off the waist and the hem. She has a lot of hair though (I’m pretty sure she got her full allocation of hair and then half of what should have been mine), so I left the hood at its original size instead of shortening it like I did for mine. I also left the sleeves at full length. I made the same aesthetic modifications to both jackets, adding in-seam pockets behind the patch pockets and a self-fabric facing to the hood.

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So the pattern wasn’t the problem with this project at all. I cut Abby’s coat just after I finished mine, intending to have both done by winter 2016. it was as I was cutting up the waterproof nylon that we’d picked that I started to realise what I had done to myself. This fabric rolled along it’s cut edges worse than anything I have ever dealt with before, all of my newly cut pieces were rolling up into little skinny tubes before my eyes! It’s also completely rigid, there was no easing anything or using any of the tricks I’ve learned to sew nice curved seams over the years. I’m so glad that we picked a pattern with raglan sleeves instead of set in ones! It wouldn’t hold a crease at all once it cooled down (though at least it didn’t melt), and it slipped all over the place under my presser foot, making the stitches an uneven length and the tension a bit wonky. I wanted to cry after a few seams! It was worse than silk velvet, than tissue knit, worse than bag leather or the finest chiffon. The shifty, slippery silk satin lining Abby picked out was honestly a dream to sew by comparison.

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So I put it aside, meaning to come back to it once I had a better idea of how to deal with the fabric. And then it languished, for a whole year, until my sister started asking pointed questions about it’s whereabouts at the beginning of autumn this year. I really did feel guilty then, so I braced myself and pulled it out of the WIP bag of shame. It was still an absolute bastard to sew, but I used a super fine microtex needle which helped with my dodgy looking stitches, and I topstitched where I could to keep the seam allowances flat. I really wanted to seal the seams to make it as waterproof as possible, especially after topstitching them, but I couldn’t find seam sealing tape anywhere, even online sources wouldn’t ship to New Zealand for some reason. Eventually Hamish suggested I get some tent seam sealing glue from a camping store (I got this one), which was a brilliant idea. It comes as a sponge-topped glue stick like I remember from primary school, and I just painted it in an inch wide strip over each seam on the inside. I doubt it’ll be as effective as a sealing tape in the long run, but it seems to be working for now!

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The press studs are the same as the ones I used on my Waver, and I used the same round elastic for the drawstring as in mine. It’s much more comfortable than a rigid cord! Abby had to have two photoshoots for me to get pictures for this post, there’s something weird happening with my camera and pictures keep coming out unfocused. And it isn’t just my shaky hands, it happens when I use the self timer too! At least I know she’s wearing it though, I would’ve hated to go through all that and then have her not like it!

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