Adventures in Patterns

May 24, 2012

I’ve only just started venturing into independent modern pattern companies.  I’d seen the Colette patterns at the local fabric shop but wasn’t sure how good they’d look from looking at the illustrations.  Then I saw some pictures online and decided to give them a go.  I even found some perfect fabric (on sale!) to do a Rooibos, but I when went to to the shop the only dress pattern they had was Ceylon.  I decided to try it anyway, which was possibly not the best idea, given how many pieces it has – it probably wasn’t going to be that quick to whip up just to see how I like the pattern company.

Ceylon by Colette Patterns

However! All went well.  I love the cute booklet and the clear instructions. The slightly unusual construction of the yoke went together beautifully and the finished product is comfortable and flattering.  I now know which sizes fit me and that I can probably get away with less fabric than the pattern says.

So now I want more! But where to start?

  • I already have the fabric for Rooibos
  • Macaron looks really  sweet, though it seems like finding a perfect mix of fabrics is hard
  • The Beignet skirt looks really versatile and a good change from dresses
  • I want some high-waisted shorts like Iris (though I don’t need them, having bought 3 pairs of shorts last summer…)

I wasn’t that inspired by the Sewaholic patterns – Lonsdale is a bit angular for me, and I’m not that enthused by sewing tops.  But the other day I saw the Cambie dress and I LOVE it, so I’m very willing to be converted.

And on top of those…

I want some lightweight pants for our trip to Turkey, so I should start that.

I also have some Liberty fabric to do a skirt, plus a couple more pieces I haven’t decided what to do with.

Plus I love this patttern.

And this dress, which could work with the Burda pattern I’ve used a few times.

Oh, and this dress.

Not enough time! So many patterns to buy, and make!


Making it Work: Fabric

May 23, 2012

I was taught to sew by my mother and grandmother, who, to varying degrees, belong to a generation for whom sewing your own clothes was cheaper than buying them.  That has certainly never been the case for me, though the two are becoming more comparable thanks to the advent of internet shopping.  Still, their thrifty habits taught me a couple of things:

  1. You never need as much fabric as the pattern says
  2. If you don’t have quite as much fabric as you need, or it’s not quite right, you can always make it work.

Working in a fabric shop, I always find it hilarious when people say “The patterns says I need 1.5m.  I’ll get 2.5m just in case”.  I guess it’s good if you’re not confident – I’m so paranoid cutting things out I rarely get it wrong.

This attitude has certainly saved me money, but it’s also got me into some tricky situations. Usually I’d get 0.1 or 0.2m less than the pattern says.  But on one occasion a couple of years ago, I went a bit overboard with a Regency day dress. The pattern said something like 4.5m, I decided 4 was OK (having used the pattern before), then they unrolled the fabric I chose… and there was only 3m left.  So I said “we can make it work!”.  And, eventually, we did, after a lot of fiddling.  Of course, I’d also managed to chose a fabric with stripes.

But the fabric was so pretty…

When I decided to try out Colette’s Ceylon pattern, I couldn’t find any fabric I was happy with in the shop and I couldn’t quite believe I needed 3.5m.  Although, not having used Colette before, I didn’t know how much leeway I had.  In the end, I dug out a piece of cotton poplin I’d got from work which had come out OK after a turn in the washing machine.  So it turned out I had 2.6m of 115cm wide fabric and it had some holes along one side where it had been stapled to a table, just to make things more interesting.

In the end, it worked.  I avoided the holes and the only pieces I had to put across- rather than length-wise were the front facings.  The moral of the story is: you can make a Ceylon from 2.6m of fabric, but only if you want to muck around for hours and cut it out piece by piece.  I think I’ll be getting at least 3m for my next Ceylon!

Blue Poplin Burda Dress

April 19, 2012

Fabric: printed poplin from Lincraft

Pattern:  BurdaStyle 02/2011 #104

This was my first attempt at this pattern (later used in the London-Delft dress) which I made last year.  I cut a size 40 but I think I should’ve cut a 38 – I took it in at the sides and kept having to cut the armholes deeper as they cut in at the front every time I tried to move my arms.  I added a waistband because I thought the bodice looked rather short, then realised it looked terrible with the extra length.  So I kept the waistband, but this time I just laid it on top of the existing bodice.  So it may look like it has an extra piece, but it isn’t really functional.  It adds some extra definition to the waist though, which is nice.  I think the skirt might have more fabric in it than it’s meant to – I just used the whole width.  Anyway, I’m very happy with this dress : )

Babushka Sewing Bag

April 18, 2012

Here’s another project I did in the last few months: a sewing bag made from adorable babushka fabric.

I found the gorgeous babushka fabric at the craft fair and knew I needed some.  It’s actually printed cotton drill, so it’s a good weight for a bag.  Then I came across this pattern and went looking for some matching fabrics.  I love the turquoise, I wasn’t super happy with the spots but I like them now. They look like smarties : )

Cute babushka fabric!

After I’d bought the fabric I looked at the finished dimensions: 8 x 10 x 4 inches.  That seemed a bit small, so I decided to multiply all the measurements by 1.5 so it would be a bit bigger.  Then, of course, I didn’t have quite enough fabric so I lined the bag with calico, which actually turned out well because now the interior is bright and unfussy, so it’s easy to find things.  Then I spent the whole process worried that it would turn out absurdly huge, but once I did the mitred corners (is that the word I’m looking for?) I decided it was exactly the right size.  I put in a pocket in the side which fits A4 paper perfectly.

I also added a small pocket on the other side for small bits and pieces, like a needlebook, thread scissors, unpicker and tape measure.

I’m really happy with this bag! I use it to keep current projects in, so they’re easy to transport if I’m moving around to sew. There are lots of different pockets for all my tools and if I’m organised and remember to put them back when I’m finished I can always find them! I also made a little matching case for my scissors, so the sharp point is protected and won’t damage the bag.

‘Babushka’ is a funny word, isn’t it? I find Australians usually say ‘Babushka’ but other people say ‘Matryoshka’. I’ve heard that ‘Babushka’ is inappropriate, but wikipedia doesn’t think that’s true.  It’s just… different to everyone else.  Anyway, I usually stick with ‘Babushka’ because, well, it’s what I’ve always said.

The London-Delft Dress

April 17, 2012

I’ve been following The Sew Weekly closely for the last few months.  I haven’t joined it (I can’t sew something every week and I’m not sure how it all works anyway) but I really like the idea of the weekly themes.  They’ve been making me think more creatively about my projects and their back stories, but not enough for me to actually finish anything coordinated with the themes… But this week I finally finished something that does fit in with a theme! And it’s only a day late!

Fabric: Lillian’s Berries Tana Lawn from Liberty of London, bodice and skirt lined with white cotton voile.

Pattern: BurdaStyle 02/2011 #104

I remember when I was growing up hearing ‘Liberty’ fabric mentioned, and my Mum had a few pieces in the cupboard which I knew I wasn’t allowed to use, but I don’t think I really understood what made it special.  Then when I was studying in Denmark we finally managed to make it to London for a few days and I saw the Liberty shop marked on the map and decided to check it out.  I think during the 5 day trip I managed to drag us back another 2 times, and I’ve basically been obsessed since then.  The fabric was all so beautiful but rather pricey, so I decided I could get enough for one dress as a special London souvenir.  Given how much it costs elsewhere, as I’ve since discovered, I wish I’d bought more!

I was really torn on which fabric to choose and I didn’t have a particular project in mind.  Eventually I settled on this one because the simple blue and white colour scheme reminded me of Delft tiles.  I’d spent a very pleasant afternoon in Delft a few years before and had been a Vermeer/Girl with a Pearl Earring fan for a few years before that.  I also bought a Delft tile cross stitch pattern at Liberty the same day.  I don’t know why my mind was making the connection that day but anyway, it was.  Once I finished the dress I felt it just needed a little something to accent it a bit so I got some matching blue grosgrain ribbon, which I think turned out beautifully.

As for the pattern: I’ve made this pattern twice before (more on that later) and each time I’ve got the fit a little better, so hopefully it’s pretty good on this one! As in the last version I didn’t cut the bodice on the cross as recommended because it takes more fabric.  I think it’s fine like this.  I added a lining to the skirt, just a rectangle but less gathered than the main skirt.  The skirt itself uses more fabric than the pattern recommends – Liberty fabric comes about 135cm wide so I used the whole width. The ribbon sash sits just above the waist seam and I added a little double bow for some subtle girliness (in case this dress needed to be more girly).

I decided to use this pattern because it’s fairly classic –  it can be casual or dressy and hopefully I won’t hate it in 10 years time.  Also the skirt pieces are just big rectangles, so if I do I can always pull it apart!

Then last night I thought of a really good way to do a dress representing Canberra, my home city.  But I’ll have to order the fabric.  Oh well, that’s another project…

Blog revamp

April 16, 2012

I’ve decided that my blog needs a bit of a revamp. I’m very slack about updating it and I think this is largely due to the fact that it’s so costume focussed.  I haven’t been doing much costuming recently, for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything! So I’ll be making things a bit more general and trying to update more often.

I’ve been really enjoying sites like The Sew Weekly and BurdaStyle, they’ve been inspiring me to get back into making everyday clothes, so there’ll be more of that, as well as some crochet, cross-stitch, general craft and, hopefully a bit later in the year, some diy and home decoration! And still some costuming, when I get inspired.

Right. Onward.

More on the new stays

January 31, 2012

So I cut a new  piece for the stays with the centre front fold on a slightly different axis and a higher neckline and it seemed to work out fairly well.  I wore them for a few hours and they didn’t hurt too much, although it’s hard to tell when they’re not boned as heavily as the finished thing will be (I ran out of boning) and it’s the crappy sew-through boning that doesn’t really work the same way.  The sew-through boning has actually been really good, it made it much more achievable to do a toile with boning in it, but I’m not sure how the feel of it will compare.  The boning that angles in and finishes around the waist at the front was digging in after a while, and I don’t really know whether that would still happen…

Anyway, I need to try it on again, but I need some spare time when I’m just going to be a home for a few hours! That hasn’t really happened recently.  And then I need to make final decisions about fabrics, boning etc.  Blah.