Saturday, 31 August 2013

September Goals

Today is a perfect day for the start of Spring! Not a day for the sewing cave. It's going to be a busy month.

I'm going to enter the Mini-Wardrobe competition on Pattern Review.
This means I need to complete 4 items, review them and enter a composite review for the comp. I'll be further exploring my Sure-Fit Designs kits for this. My plan is:
1. Sleeveless V-neck  top reusing a light blue slinky knit from a disastrous attempt at a maternity top over 10 years ago. Why did I keep it? Glad I did! I'll bind the neckline and armholes with an ivory slinky using a technique I learnt in my latest Craftsy class.
2. Tee shirt using an apricot slinky. Round neck, possible with bust darts rotated to gathers - haven't done that before.
3. Denim skirt with faced waist and zip.
4. Linen shorts (maybe full length pants) using my new SFD Pants Kit. Maybe try an invisible zip in these.
I have absolutely no spring clothes due to my recent weight loss, so the pressure really is on!

I'm also participating in Scary September where BeaJay is encouraging us to step out of our comfort zone and try something we've been avoiding. For me, that's inserting zippers. I've also never entered a sewing competition before. I've planned, and got involved in the chat on the boards, but not actually finished a garment and entered it. Now I need to do that 4 times over!

August Wrap-Up

August was a very busy time in my sewing cave. I pretty much achieved all my goals for this month.
I have posted articles on the backlog of sewing projects - just waiting for photos of my Sure-Fit Designs cardigan and jumpers.
I'm very proud of myself!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Velvet Dancing Pants - Kwik Sew 3498

Children grow. You can't stop them. My daughter's blue crushed velvet dance pants were showing way too much ankle. It was time to trace off the next size of Kwik Sew 3498 and get sewing. This time we had a very cheap, but lovely green crushed panne from Lincraft, and a gorgeous top quality purple stretch velvet remnant from GJs.
I made the green ones first to test the size. Her measurements were an exact match for the size, so I was a bit surprised when the pants were a tad short. My solution: add a 1" band to the hem. It was easy enough but when I was working out which way to sew to keep the pile going down...... well, let's just say I spent so much time graining the fabric before I cut it and not enough time (or any time) checking the nap!! Never mind - no one will notice....
These pants are very easy and quick to sew. My daughter prefers the crossover slightly dipped V waistband to the roll top waistband.

I couldn't wait to cut into the purple velvet. I lengthened the pattern 2" and set to it - checking the nap as well as graining the fabric this time.

There was a tiny bobble when I sewed the waistband on, which became a more obvious bobble when I tried to fix it. :( Other than that - they looked great - until she put them on - too long!! I always fall into this trap - just when I think my fabric assessment skills are improving - this velvet has much more vertical stretch then the green crushed panne. I didn't need to adjust the pattern at all. Grrrr.
My solution: to turn up the hem once more, which will be a bonus for next winter when she has grown again!!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sewing for Boys - Camouflage Doona cover and Pillows

I've been feeling increasingly guilty about not sewing anything for my son. He sees me spend hours upon hours sewing dance costumes, and clothes for myself, but nothing for him. We have planned a few things. I have a couple of boys patterns in my stash, and fabrics too, but with kids clothes being so cheap, and the boys clothes styled with cool stuff like skulls and monsters and the like, I just can't make what he wants.

He has grown out of his little boy style bedding - rockets, soccer themed doona covers - and Kmart had a camouflage set on sale. It was only $9 so I bought it for him. He really liked it (yucky shiny polyester) but asked me to try to get a more green one - more army style. He was disappointed that Kmart only had the blue colour-way.

On Monday I went to Darn Cheap Fabrics to check out their end of season sale, and in the far corner was a camouflage 100% cotton jersey for $6.95/m. I knew exactly what to do with that, and did a quick calculation of how much I needed: 4m for the doona cover and extra for the pillows. There was just over 6m left on the bolt. This was meant for him!

I used one of his current doona covers for the "pattern" and made it like a giant pillow slip. I had hoped it would enclose the doona well enough, but I think I'll put a couple of press studs to close off the bottom. He has 2 U-shaped pillows and 1 normal pillow. Again, I used his pillow cases as templates. The U-shape pillows take a lot of fabric to cover, so for one of the backs, I needed to piece some off cuts together, but I'm really happy with the result - and so is he!

You can barely see the pillow at the end - camouflaged!

This project came together in record time. Fabric purchased on Monday, washed on Tuesday, sewn Wednesday and Thursday, and in use Thursday night!

Jalie 2105 Revisited

I thought I had finished my daughter's tap costume! Her teacher thought the leotard (Kwik Sew 2679) was too low cut. Never mind. I decided to have another go at Jalie 2105 which I knew was much, much higher cut.
As always, I made a test leotard. Jalie tends to run small, and the sizes are very close together.
Jalie 2105- Adjusted. Front view.
This pattern is out of print now. I think I finally solved one of it's problems. The leg elastic guide made for very loose legs, and the neck elastic guide made for a very tight neck. I think they were labelled incorrectly. The longer length of elastic was much easier to apply and the neckline sits very nicely.
The legs were still too high cut, even with a more appropriate length of elastic. My daughter and I settled on a leg opening that required a further 2 inches to be taken out of the crotch.
In this design, the back neckline of the leotard is cut lower than the front.



Once we were satisfied with the fit, I made the costume leotard in black lycra with the front panel out of a remnant sequinned lycra underlined with the plain lycra. I was going to just use the sequins for the lower half, but decided to do the whole front. While it looks great, it probably wasn't the best idea. Firstly, the sequinned lycra isn't as stretchy as plain, so I might need to make yet another one depending on how much my daughter grows before next year's competitions. And secondly, the neckline was very scratchy, so I sewed a plain lycra band over the top. I wish I'd thought to do that during construction, rather than after, as the finish would have been better, but I'm the only one who notices.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Evolution of a tutu

How many hours does it take to make a tutu?
I have no idea. I lost count. I also lost a lot of sleep. My fingers bled (only a little bit, but there is a sample of my DNA in the inside of the bodice).
I did enjoy the twice x 3 minutes my daughter has danced in it on stage. Here's how I got from the test tutu to this one.

Test tutu - as per pattern and instructions from
The first thing to needed to do was get a better fit. The panty pattern from didn't come close to fitting nicely, so I decided to use the bottom of  Kwik Sew 2679 which I knew fit her perfectly. I still wanted that fitted bodice over a basque look, so I used the 6-piece bodice pattern (which was intended for woven fabrics) from and redrew it a  bit smaller to suit Lycra. This took me ages as it's tricky to guestimate how it will stretch on to the body (well, it is for me, anyway).

I then made a test leotard and took the hipline measurement before I started with the net. This one turned out to be a disaster. Somehow I had the hipline way too low and could only fit 4 layers of net on, so it was a rather droopy tutu, and to top it off, the bodice was now too short and the princess lines too close to centre front. Disaster. I think her teacher was quite concerned at this point, and the competition was getting very close.
She refused to model this one.

There were some positives from this effort. Firstly, the skirt width was correct, even if floppy. And secondly, I had successfully put the plate layer over the net, and sewn the net on "in the round" with the panty crotch open, rather than flat with the panty open at centre back. This technique suited me much better, even though I did manage to get the basque caught in the stitches a few times, requiring some unpicking. Unpicking zigzag on Lycra is not fun.

It took me a week or more to start on the real tutu. This also made it a point of no return, as it was now too late to chicken out and get one made for her. I do work best under pressure! In this time I re-read Claudia Folts's book Classical Tutus for Children to make sure I was in the best headspace for this project. She doesn't cover stretch tutus, but the book is full of step by step tips on everything from calculating length and width of  net layers and cutting out, to fabric choices and construction. During this time I also discovered the Dance thread on The Sewing Forum. Members of this site include some well known professionals as well as mums like me having a go. I wish I had found this sooner. I learned a lot from searching the site as well as asking questions, particularly about sewing with Lycra, and more local issues, like where to get the best net. If  you're wondering, Spotlight has the best 100% nylon net. Now I know. For next time. I had already purchased net from elsewhere. (Polyester net from Lincraft and nylon from GJs in the colours I wanted. Apparently these will be less stiff.)

That's enough procrastination! Back to the job at hand! Cutting the net. The best possible use for a cutting mat (with grid lines) and rotary cutter ever! I settled on alternate layers of mint green and pale blue net. I wanted a more fancy edge so decided to scallop the edges and made a template to cut around from a plastic lid. I folded each length in half and again until I had just the width if the template to cut around. It worked really well. This photo also shows my gathering method. I used a zigzag over fishing line. Gather using the fishing line and remove it once it is sewn onto the tutu. For the previous 2 tutus I had used zigzag over dental floss, but sometimes the needle pierced the dental floss, which made it more difficult to pull out, so I thought fishing line wouldn't do this. Well, maybe if my sewing was better! I did manage to pierce the fishing line a couple of times, and I found that the leftover fishing line poked through the Lycra when it was relaxed. My daughter doesn't complain of prickles when worn, but I am concerned it might cause a hole or 2 over time, so I'll go back to dental floss next time. To keep the gathers even, I marked 1/4 and 1/2 points with pins prior to gathering so I knew when I pinned it to the tutu it would be as balanced as possible.

Cutting into the Lycra was a bit nerve wracking. Don't really know why.  I tested the "greatest amount of stretch" direction so many times... The panty came together easily, as expected. The bodice I was unhappy with. Skipped stitches along the princess line topstitching. Lesson: Don't buy cheap needles. Rather than unpick, I cut out more fabric as this would have been a lot of trouble to unpick. Lucky, too, as I discovered a light stain on the bodice I hadn't noticed before. The second bodice sewed up very nicely, and I even got it attached to the bottom evenly with perfect topstitching. Yay!
Next was to insert the V into the bodice. I used the previously discarded bodice front to test my skills, which is just as well, as the second attempt was much better! This also fixed the problem of the princess lines. They now fall exactly over the bust line.

For the skirt plate, I had decided on a 2 tier style with the Lycra coming out half way over glass organza sewn on to a circle of net for stiffness.

Time for a mark from the teacher again. She's happy with the skirt, but my adjustments to the bodice made it come up way too high this time. Hmmmm. How to solve this one without undoing..... My solution: Sew ribbon on the inside to stabilise the vertical seams. Worked a treat!

Now for embellishment!

I found some lovely blue flower motifs at a liquidation sale. They were perfect for the bodice. I just needed some matching trim for the skirt. I found some lovely aqua beaded and sequinned trim at Trimmings N Remnants and was very excited. I'd done all the hard work. Sewing the trim on would be easy!!  NOT!!! I'd sewn trim on many costumes before. However, I hadn't had to factor in a tutu skirt. Sewing motifs onto a bodice whilst trying not to crush the skirt was tricky to say the least. My usual techniques were not very satisfactory. And I was doing this the day before the first competition of the year. Even I was getting worried.

No one wants a disaster at this stage, but...... My beautiful trim, oh, my beautiful trim. I had read's book Finishing touches. The Art of Embellishment several times. I had been warned! The trim was way too heavy. Look how much it drags the tutu down. How stupid am I???? In a panic I took the tutu to dancing with me to pick my daughter up and show her teacher. Hmmm. I couldn't find any trim in the stash there that would suit. OMGOMGOMG What to do!! Thank the maker for Spotlight. On the way home late on a Saturday afternoon, it was still open and had some ribbon in the exact same colour as the Lycra. I was saved!!!! Now to unpick that outer circle of trim that took me ages to sew on....
I weighed it. 96g compared to the 32g of ribbon I replaced it with. Lesson learned.

Tick, tock, tick, tock. The hours passed. More hours disappeared into the night.

The tutu was finally done. Breathe out. Now for the arm bands. How to be creative at 3am!! I had another quick look at The Art of Embellishment and the internet for inspiration. I had her measurement sheet in front of me. The arm bands need to complete the outfit, not swamp her or be a distraction. I opted for simple. I wanted some sleep before I had to do hair and makeup and drive her to the theatre.
Simple arm bands with the lovely trim in the centre (well, I had plenty left over!). I was in bed by 4am.

We got to the theatre on time. She looked lovely. She danced beautifully. She came 2nd!!!! Very proud!

Now back to me ;) About 2 minutes in to her performance, horror of horrors, the edge of the organza skirt flipped over slightly and exposed the net below. My heart sank. My work was not done. Yet. She also found the sleeve puffs too loose. More alterations to be done....

You can see from this photo that the skirt still drops. I wasn't trying for a "pancake" style, but I wanted it to be a bit flatter. I think the scalloping I did to the net layers also contributed to this, as they were not "strong" all the way to their edge. That's a lesson for next time. My solution this time was to insert more net circles just under the organza. I made 3 more circles and sewed them together at the inner and outer circumferences. Then I hand sewed this piece to the tutu. I hoped this would give the top layer enough strength to stand out and not turn up when she dances. If this didn't work, I'd need to insert more layers of gathered net - something I wanted to avoid.

The skirt also needed more and better tacking. This is where the net layers are loosely sewn together to keep them in place. This is trickier than you'd think. Too loose or the wrong angle, and they pull the skirt down. too tight or the other wrong angle and they pull the skirt up like a duck's behind. Neither are good looks. I tacked tutu layers 4-7 together to the under circles I added at 8 even points around the skirt. Then I unpicked the ribbon, and sewed it back on, enclosing both circle sections. I now had a much stronger tutu.

Her teacher wanted "more" on the bodice. She suggested I use the beaded and sequinned flowers from the trim. This is a perfect idea. It was also more involved than it would seem, as I needed to secure the sequins and beads to each flower, as once cut from the trim tape, they were not anchored. And then there's the time taken agonising over placement of such little things..... And I didn't get a good photo of the final bodice, but it does look really lovely.
 You can see from this final photo that the skirt is much better with the extra circle of supporting net.

I also planned on making a tutu bag. It is all cut out and in my UFO box. I ran out of time. I also ran out of steam. The result of which is that this wonderful tutu which took me hours to make, was transported to the theatre quite unceremoniously in a big black garbage bag. We also had plans and blue crystals so add to the tiara, but maybe next year......

What a steep learning curve! Many lessons were learned. Many hours taken from other tasks. Would I make another one? Absolutely! I just hope she doesn't grow out of this one too quickly!

This is quite a long blog post. Well done if you've made it this far! Please leave a comment if you want to. I'd love to hear what you think.


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Empire Style with Sure-Fit Designs

So I've made my Sure-Fit Designs "body blueprint", what next? For someone who has always used commercial patterns (even though they require many alterations to fit me), designing and drawing up my own dress pattern felt quite daunting. I had a gala function looming and literally had nothing to wear. With the help of a few style books, I was thinking an empire line dress would be the best for my frame.

Fortunately, Glenda from SFD anticipated this dilemma and wrote a companion book to her Dress Kit called Beyond Bodice Basics which comes with a How-to DVD. Perfect!
The DVD shows how to draft a cross-over top, but with my ample bust line, I have always suffered from gaposis, and with a tight time frame, decided to go for a simpler, round neck line. The book explains how to cut the midriff from the upper torso in just the right place for your own body, and then how to move the darts around.

I had an added complication in that I am more comfortable in knit fabrics, so I knew some adjustment would be needed. For my toile, I used a brown jersey knit remnant - a blend I think, but it feels lovely. I drafted this top at my proper "dot" measurement and kept the midriff section separate. I thought I might use a contrast fabric for that section on my dress. However, with careful sewing, I still didn't keep the width totally even, and so it looks a little wonky. For the lower torso section, I slashed and flared it out. It is cute, but not the most flattering look for me, so I decided not to do that on the next one.  I also mucked around with the sleeve. That was a mistake. The top turned out a little too big. I ended up running it in along the sleeves and down the side seams, and adding elastic to the midriff seam. The sleeves were a bit long, so I ruched them up with some elastic.

What did I learn from toile 1?
1: The bust dart size is right as is the midriff line and the gathering points.
2: I am too short waisted for a separate midriff section - need to join it to the skirt as one piece.
3:Don't mess with sleeves when you don't understand what you're doing.
4. The neckline is where I want it.
5: Go in 2 "dots" for the next one.
6: Keep the darts in the back bodice.

For my second toile, I drafted the dress, in 2 dots for the bodice and sleeves, but kept the skirt at my original measurements and I wanted it to flow nicely over my tummy and hips. I used a viscose/spandex "Fantasia" printed jersey from Knitwit. This has been in my stash for a while. It's a little wilder than I usually wear, and, since I recently had a colour analysis, is not in my most flattering colours. Still, I think it's fun and funky and will do very nicely for the rest of this winter going into spring.
For the skirt, I wanted a bit more flare than the blueprint, so I cut through the darts and pivoted them shut. Then I realised that the front and back darts were different, so the flare was different. The front dart created the larger flare, so I measured the distance and made the back skirt piece match. Redrawing the hemline was a bit tricky with this method, so next time I'll flare out the same total distance, but slash and spread 3 or 4 times over the pattern piece, which makes joining the hemline a bit easier.

I was a bit perplexed when the side seams didn't match when I walked the pattern pieces together. It was very late at night and took me a while to realise that it was because of the way I had altered the midriff sections. I was out 14mm. Not a huge amount, but I wanted it to be "right", so I ended up swinging the midriff section on the shorter side up 14mm and reshaping the join.

I was so excited when I tried this dress on!!! It fits beautifully, the sleeves are perfect and the fabric feels wonderful. Result!

For my gala dress, I wanted simple lines, with some interest. My fabric is a gorgeous greeny-grey viscose jersey remnant from GJs (which happens to be right on the money colour wise). I had also purchased some stretch satin for the (now no longer needed) midriff section, which I thought would work very nicely for the neck binding and the sleeves.

Hmmm, the sleeves - what to do????

Beyond Bodice Basics to the rescue again - there are instructions for a "petal" sleeve bolero jacket. I thought this would jazz up my otherwise plain dress very nicely, and followed the very clear directions. I made it a slightly longer sleeve to balance out my bust line. This fabric is very drapey. If I make a garment with fabric like this again, I think it would be better with a bit more overlap, but is still sweet and comfortable as is.

I also used elastic 1:1 around the underbust, not to cinch it in, but to keep it from stretching out. This happens with the print dress above, but I'm happy with the "tunic" look there. I wanted a more fitted style for the gala.

I work best to a deadline, and close deadlines make me work even better. I was hemming this dress only 5 hours before the event! In my rush, I had a bit of a brain explosion and (after Steam-a-Seaming) just sewed the hem up with a straight stitch. It was fine for that evening, but I have since unpicked it and redone it with a blind hem. I'm much happier now.

This is the best fitting dress EVER!



Monday, 12 August 2013

August Goals

For the rest of this month, I'm going to concentrate on planning new projects and reflecting on the ones I've done. I started this blog in January so it could be my online diary, where I can share my projects, but mostly keep a record of my work. Working month by month has helped keep the goals in reach, but I feel I need to spend more time working on my blog. Writing was a big part of my younger years, and I'd like to rekindle that part of me.

My goals for August are:

1. Write about my work. I'd like to share my tutu, Jalie leotard, Kwik Sew girls pants, and Sure-Fit Designs dresses. Also, talk about the classes I've taken this year and the books I've read.

2. Learn more about blog world. I found the "follow me" gadget, so people can more easily add this blog to their reading lists if they want.  I'm also exploring Bloglovin' and will be using that too.

3. Engage more in blog world. I've been following more and more blogs. It's wonderful to see what others are doing, and learn from their experiences. I think it's time to get more involved in this community.

4. Plan for the Mini-Wardrobe competition on Pattern Review.

5. Decide what to do for  Scary September. BeaJay from On the Road to Sew Wear is hosting a sew-along this September which encourages us to step outside our comfort zones. Zips are definitely something I avoid, so I'll be incorporating at least 1 zip (I've never inserted an invisible zip) into a garment for the Mini-Wardrobe competition. I've also never entered a sewing competition before, so that's two scary things for me to look forward to.

My sewing machine and overlocker are in for a much deserved service this week, so without any distractions from my sewing cave, I should be able to make the most of this time online.

July Wrap-Up

I know it's mid-August!! The days kind of blurred together again late in the month as life got a bit hectic. I did achieve quite a lot last month. First, I'll review my goals.

1. Review the rest of the dance costumes I made - I reviewed 1! I have the photos ready now for the rest. I am particularly proud of how the tutu turned out, so I must share that soon.

2. Make a dress from my Sure-Fit Designs dress kit. - Yes I did! Two, in fact. It was August when they were finished, but the process began in July and I'm excited about the results.

3. Make some knit tops using the Sure-Fit Designs dress kit. - I made one top while I was experimenting with pattern work for my dress.

4. Get back on track with my weight loss. - The general trend is downwards, so I'm pretty happy with that.

Once the dancewear was done, I was able to clear my dining table and my mind. I decided to move my sewing down into the spare room, so I can continue with my projects, but be able to close the door on them too. It's worked out particularly well. I've had a thorough sort out of the crapola which was stored in there, and there's plenty of room in the cupboard for my stash, patterns, notions - well, everything!! It shouldn't be too much trouble to turn it back into a bedroom should visitors come to stay. I call it my cave.