Merino cowl dress (for the win)

Don’t you love it when you do an experiment and it isn’t a Pinterest Fail? I impulse-bought some green merino from Levana, with an interesting chevron pattern, to make a cowl neck dress. Not having a cowl pattern, and having already done a significant amount of internet shopping that week, I scoured the web for a free pattern, and found this one.

cowl dress

Happily for size 36 people, but sadly for me, it’s only in one size. I thought, ‘oh well, I’ll just add the extra inches at the centre seam’. In my experience, this sort of blind optimism often leads to disaster, but not this time. It meant that the cowl was deeper than planned, and the back neck was a lot wider than it should be. I added a box pleat at the centre back neckline, and it draped beautifully. Actually this pattern was released a couple of weeks later, also with a draped back, and I felt very on-trend.

cowl dress 3

I find that having an unexpected success like this really motivates me to sew more. Or maybe it’s just the time of year, now the days are getting shorter and there’s more inside time. Either way, there’s more to come…

 

 

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Männerjogginghose (tracksuit pants, for the non-Europeans among us)

I was noodling around online, looking for a tracksuit pants pattern for the Fashion Critic, when I clicked a link on Pinterest and ended up here.

This led me to a mystery pdf download, all in German with no instructions. Since I don’t speak German, but like a challenge (and a free pattern), I decided to print it out and have a look.

This is what happened:

jogginghose jigsaw.jpg

Eh? What kind of German jigsaw puzzle is this?

I went back to the original link, and googled “geschickt eingefädelt”, the heading at the top of the page… and was delighted to discover the German version of the Great British Sewing Bee! This was one of the challenges.

Geschickt eingefädelt auto-translates as “Cleverly Threaded”, and is clearly a close cousin of GBSB. It has presumably been sold to Germany by the BBC (or the other way around) because the format and even the soundtrack are identical.

Luckily there is a tutorial for sewing these bad boys here, which auto-translates well enough to work out how to construct them. (Mostly translates, anyway. I’m pretty sure “bügle” means “iron”. I was very happy to announce “I’m off to bugle my jogginghose!”).

There is also a video of the segment when all the jogginghose were judged… it’s nail-biting stuff, even when you don’t understand the language.

As you can tell I was tickled pink to discover all of this. I’m a huge fan of the GBSB, and glad to see that it’s been a winning formula elsewhere as well.

So – no doubt you want to know if the Fashion Critic got his trackies? Well yes, he did.

jogginghose front 2.jpg

I used a navy sweatshirting from the recent Fabric Warehouse pop-up sale. I added an inch to the length, otherwise they’re a size L.

There are a couple of things I’d change next time, and they’re both about the crotch (sorry, Fashion Critic). First, it’s a bit low and I think I’d raise it an inch next time. Second, I’d deepen the front crotch curve. You can see on the pattern that it’s very shallow (almost straight in fact).

jogginghose front piece

When combined with the way the pattern is pieced at the front, the (um) groinal area is really baggy. In the line drawing it looks a bit like a nappy. It’s better in real life but still not ideal.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 9.38.59 pm.png

Otherwise they’re ace. The wrap-around pockets are interesting and functional. They’re a relaxed fit, and for a slim fit I’d probably take 2cm off each side seam, rather than sizing down (the smaller sizes aren’t that much narrower in the leg). The TV show website suggests using leather or sequins to turn them into eveningwear, but I don’t have any immediate plans for that. That said, at least one sewer has made them with contrast pockets, and they do look pretty cool.

Please let me know if you end up making these! I’d love to see how they go.

A very short entry, and a very short poem

Here are two Plaintain t-shirts (free download from Deer & Doe). I reduced the flare at the bottom a little. Also I might have raised the neckline a bit. I made them at a retreat in February, so can’t remember exactly. (The retreat was FABULOUS by the way. 48 hours of sewing and chatter and tea. And jumping into the icy river). The blue stripe was a remnant from Levana – a bit unusual in that the stripes only covered part of the width. blue stripe plantain t-shirt The dogs are from Spotlight, I just couldn’t pass them up. In fact I even went back to buy more, to make one for my friend Ali who is a crazy dog lady. dog plantain t-shirt My favourite one is this little guy, whose head is on the neckband. Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 7.57.57 pm There’s not much else to say, so as promised:

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

– Ogden Nash

Joining the Jenna fan club

Perhaps Kat of Modern Vintage Cupcakes has a time machine of some sort, because she has such a busy life and how else could Muse Patterns exist? I’d really love a time machine too, but instead I’ll settle for her patterns; they’re gorgeous. The Jenna cardi has filled a niche and I hope it’s a huge success. It’s a great pattern and I can’t think of anything like it out there.

There are lots of versions already on the internet and here’s one more:

Muse Jenna cardi

Muse Jenna cardi

I made this in a very fine merino from Levana. I used my high bust measurement as some people had found it too big using their standard measurements. It’s still a little bit wide in the shoulders, maybe because my fabric is quite stretchy. Next time I’ll size down again in the shoulders, grading out to the waist. I lengthened it by 2cm and it’s a good length for me.

Muse Jenna cardi

4

As in all my knits, I used tape to keep the shoulder seams stable. Also I sewed the button bands on, rather than overlocking them, so the inside is neater.

This involved:

  1. Sewing the flat (unfolded) button band to the front piece, right sides together
  2. Folding the band lengthwise, right side together, and sewing across the ends so they’re level with the top of the neck band and bottom of the waist band
  3. Turning the button band inside out, pinning it carefully so it just overlaps the seam in step 1, then (from the outside) stitching in the ditch along the length of the band.

There are some really nice features in this pattern. The topstitching looks really good, and so do the sleeve bands. Now to make versions 2 and 3!

Travelling light with the Lady Skater

This year I had a rather nice holiday to central America, and wanted to travel light. I was inspired by people who can manage with a carry-on suitcase. So, I made three Lady Skaters. Possibly this is the most popular pattern on the internet, and for good reason. It’s perfect and I have nothing to say about it, so here are three travel tips instead:

1. Pack light

1

2. Don’t forget your hat

  2

3. And have fun!

3

It’s a wrap – McCall’s 5974

OK, I’m on a major catch-up before 2015 arrives, forgive me. Here’s a dress I made months ago.

McCall's 5974

This is McCall’s 5974, allegedly “the perfect knit dress”.

McCall's 5974

I borrowed the pattern from Jo, after seeing her lovely grey one. Mine is OK but I wouldn’t say it’s perfect. It’s made from a cotton/nylon knit from Levana, and lined with a mystery fabric from the Fabric Warehouse pop-up sale.

3

Things I like:

  • The colour! It’s cheerful in winter.
  • It’s super comfy and warm. It’s basically one step up from wearing a sweatshirt.
  • I made the sleeves really long to keep my hands warm.
  • The wrap/pleat detail is really nice.

4 sleeves

5 wrap

Things I don’t like:

  • On me, it’s a bit low-cut to be work-appropriate, hence the stupid-looking pin at the front.
  • There’s not enough fabric in the front piece, and so it forms a bat-wing with the sleeve. Maybe it needs a FBA? Is that even a thing in a knit pattern?

6

I could make it again and try to fix these things, but I probably won’t bother.

The Great WSBN sewing room tour – and we’re off!

Well here we go! It’s spring in New Zealand and the WSBN is going to show you where it all happens… with a little peek at our pretty city, too.

I’m the first stop on this blog tour, then tomorrow you’re off to visit Laura at Laulipop NZ.

My sewing space

Technically, my “sewing room” is a little bedroom on the southern side of the house, which is always dark. So I usually relocate to the dining room table. Much nicer.

workroom

Here’s the back bedroom, where the stash still lives (I’m sure it grows better in cool dark conditions)…

other room
And these are my workhorses.

workhorses
My sewing machine is a Bernina 1008, and my overlocker is a Bernette Funlock. The sewing machine was a 21st birthday present, when I lived in a hall of residence at university. I have fond memories of whipping up dresses for fancy-dress parties (including an emerald green flapper dress with black fringing, and a white one for a friend… someone throw another 20s party, please). The overlocker was a later arrival, but I was overwhelmed by the threading instructions, and it sat unused for a good five years before I finally did a course last year. Now I couldn’t live without it.

What I’m working on

My good friend New Look 6097 appears again. I’m making another dress for a gift, with leftovers into a t-shirt (sound familiar)?

WIP

WIP t-shirt
All that’s left is to hem them, and I’m using Wonder Tape. This stuff is magic for hemming knits, it means many fewer pins and no rippling. I only discovered it this year and can’t live without it.

wonder tape

Next project in line

Ahem. My queue is literally in a queue, lined up on chairs by the wall.

queue
From top to bottom:

I’ve borrowed McCalls 5974 from Johanna and I’m going to make a dress out of this raspberry knit, lined with some pinkish stuff from the Fabric Warehouse sale. Spring’s virtually here but I’ve got one more winter dress in me.

McCalls 5974

queue 1 fabrics

Then I’m going to make some baby sunbonnets, using a pattern from the Purl Bee. Cute overload. The plan is for them to use up all my scrappy bits but in reality they’ll use up about four fat quarters’ worth.

purl bee sunbonnetqueue 2 hats

 

 

Then I’ll be sittin’ knittin’ for a bit, to finish some socks. Every three or four years I get a burst of enthusiasm about knitting and make a couple of things, then swear that I hate knitting and will never do it again. It takes about three or four years to forget everything I’ve learned, and the cycle repeats. This time I decided to learn to make socks. I’ve been using this basic toe-up sock pattern (link on the left), and have a couple of pairs to show you soon.

easy peasy socks for first timersqueue 3 socks

Show off your stash

Go and boil the kettle, this could take a while. First I’ll show you around my official sewing room.
hanging space
Here on the left is hanging space with some overload from the bedroom, as well as some things that need mending and also my pdf pattern collection.

patterns
I’m still not 100% happy with this system (hung from bulldog clips on a coathanger), but it’s better than the previous one (jammed into the cupboard).

stash

Next is a big wardrobe full of my stash. I gave it a big tidy-up a couple of months ago and it’s still in pretty good shape. From top to bottom:

  • Top shelf: Patterns, thread.
  • Second shelf: Ice cream tub full of some coasters I started making in 2008 and haven’t finished yet. Old pile of Ladies’ Home journal mags. All the accessories (zippers, ribbons, tray with all those little bits and bobs we need).
  • Third shelf: Slinky stuff (silks, laces, also interfacing is here). Big pile of pieces big enough to make a top or skirt: 22 at last count. Pile of UFOs (3 at last count).
  • Fourth shelf (the big one): lengths big enough to make a dress from: 19 at last count. I’m sure there are more than 19 now.
  • Bottom shelf: box of bits maybe big enough for baby clothes, or craft projects. Pile of clothes I may or may not refashion one day. Pile of fabric to use for muslins.

sewing cabinet
Then there’s a box of old photos I mean to digitalise one day, then some rolls of calico and tracing paper (as well as my bolt-end of blue merino). And the sewing machine cabinet where I really should be sewing.

ironing board and buttons

Lastly, here’s the ironing board desperate for a re-cover, a seldom-used yoga mat and the Buttons of Shame. These fell off a winter coat quite a number of years ago and I still haven’t put them on. Though last year I pulled out some matching thread and a needle, so some time in the next decade it may yet happen. 

OK, now I’ll show you my favourites from the stash. All of these are short-listed for summer sewing this year.

1. Burdastyle Kristen Plus, and some blue stripy fabric I picked up last week from TFW sale:
burdastyle kristen plus

blue TFW

 

2. Burdastyle Alberta Ferretti dress, and some blue silk that my aunt sent me from Hong Kong. This dress has Christmas party written all over it, don’t you think?

burdastyle alberta ferrettiblue silk

 

 

3. Shirt dresses. Goldfish cotton from Ikea, and navy broderie anglaise. Maybe a Colette Hawthorn?

goldfish

broderie anglaise

4. New Look 6557 maxi dress, using this floral cotton.

u.1 new look 6557floral maxi

 

 

 

5. And my favourite. This silk is from Fabric-a-brac late last year, and I’m planning to make a Victory Patterns Nicola dress with it.  Then I will just look at it every day.

q.1 victory patterns nicolagreen silk

 

 

Favourite thing I’ve made

This would be a toss-up between two dresses. One is a royal-blue version of New Look 6000, which I made about three years ago.

y new look 6000

The other is a green corduroy version of the Burdastyle Heidi dress. I wore this one until it fell apart, but plans are afoot to make another one, and I have the emerald-green yardage to prove it.

p.1 burdastyle heidi

green corduroy

 


Snapshot of Wellington

I’ll leave you with some photos of Island Bay in Wellington. I walk here most mornings.

island bay

It’s different every day.

island bay

There are lots of fishing boats, and you can see the ferries going to-and-fro between the North and South Islands. In summer during the Island Bay festival, there’s a “blessing of the boats” festival, and the fishing boats go round and round the island.

island bay

I am so lucky to live here.

island bay

Thanks for reading. Over to you, Laura!