Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cropping the basic white pinny

So I've been loving my white linen pinafore so much that I thought I'd better sew another. This one is just as simple. I removed the side seam to keep the bodice piece as one, and then simply lobbed a big chunk off the length. I curved the hem slightly to a point so I could cross the ends over. Excuse my rough drawings but they should help you understand how I changed my first version. If you follow me on Instagram, I took a shot of the cropped pattern pieces on the cutting board too.

This top is quite structured and I like it that way. I used a medium-heavyweight cotton sateen from Mood and lined the entire top with the same fabric. It's actually reversible because I measured the straps from my last top and stitched them into the seams this time. Then I turned it out the right way and slip stitched the last little bit shut. A single snap fastener holds the back in place. Super basic!

I do love my sunflower Esthers, but I've just realised that I've positioned half of a sunflower perfectly along the centre-back crotch. Maybe that's why I'm looking so glum here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kids and silk: should you go there?

Y'all know how much I love silk, particularly crepe de chine. You know I use my silk scraps to make clothes for my girls, and I'm pretty sure at least a few of you think I'm slightly nuts for doing this, particularly when it's white silk! But seriously, silk CDC makes the most delicious, little, swishy skirts.

As a part of my ongoing quest to create more silk addictions out there, I'm going to show you some evidence that it is indeed as hard as nails. I've said it before, they make parachutes out of this stuff, so surely it can withstand the rigours of preschool play.

Remember this skirt I made for Miss Four in February this year. The waistband is a quality viscose jersey and the gathered part of the skirt is silk CDC with a pure white background, both from Tessuti Fabrics. So let me do some calculations for you. Conservatively speaking, this skirt has been worn at least three times a week since the start of this year, and on the days when it isn't on this child, Mummy Bear (yes I have a bear named after me) wears it. I wash it after each wear (by child, not bear) because my children are grubs. I throw it in with the light colours and use normal clothes wash and fabric softener. Because it is a 'favourite' in Miss Four's wardrobe, I simply do not have the luxury to put it aside so that it can wait to share a wash with my delicates. I don't usually put it in the dryer, but it has, in emergencies, been dried in this manner too.

So, after approximately 80 wears and washes (and this is no word of an exaggeration), this is how the beloved skirt is looking.

The knit waistband is looking a bit pilled and faded, but this isn't a problem. The skirt is otherwise pristine. There are no stains, no discolouring, no tears, rubs, or pulls in the fabric. If I were to iron it, those creases would disappear and we would have perfectly smooth silk. But who irons kidswear? Certainly not me! Seriously, apart from the waistband, this skirt is indestructible. Mum breaths a sigh of relief.

Friday, July 25, 2014

On experimental sewing and getting good results

I don't know about you, but I learn a lot through taking risks and experimenting with my sewing. Playing around with different styles and fabrics helps me understand how much I can bend the rules, as well as which finishes look the best on different fabrics. But I think I've also subconsciously developed a set of strategies to help me get pretty good results most of the time, even when I'm trying to deviate from the norm.

It's been a long time since I've had an absolute wadder. This one is probably as close as it gets for me. But this isn't because I'm fabulous at sewing. I still have so much to learn. I think it's more to do with me getting better at understanding what works for me and what doesn't. Ironically, a large part of this knowledge has come from dozens of disappointing sews and pattern mess ups in the past. I really think that having the courage to jump into challenging projects is the best way to learn, and even more so if they turn into an unwearable mess! So with my past in the past, I had a think about what it is that I do today, to achieve good results.
  • Firstly, I've learnt to recognise pattern pieces that will fit my figure. Sometimes I can do this by sight, but mostly, I line them up with a TNT and can then see right away how much length to add or inches to take away. But this also makes me lazy. I rarely do a muslin anymore, but if I did, I could probably still tweak the fit some more.
  • I have a pretty concrete set of 2-6 modifications that I know I have to make to any of the big four's patterns the minute I take them out of the packet. This has just come from experience.
  • I steer clear of patterns that have a fitted bodice. The fitting issues are just not worth it for me. I have a very basic knowledge of draping and a dress form close to my size. When it comes to close fitting bodices and skirts, I get a much better result by drawing up a design myself and then draping it to get the pattern pieces.
  • I won't start a project unless I am absolutely, 100% feeling it. I used to sew just because I wanted to try a new technique, or to use up fabric stash, or even just to prepare my wardrobe for the next season with boring staples. I've come to realise that I don't wear as many staples as I used to. If I'm feeling frosting, that's what I'll sew, because that's what I'm going to want to wear.
  • I look objectively at pattern cover pictures and pay attention to what I'm seeing rather than what I want to see. If those sleeves look loose in the photo, they're going to be loose on me. That gape at the neckline, or the baggy armpits, well if they can't hide it in the photo, how will I?
  • I'm better at recognising what different fabrics can do. I don't just stick to cottons, silk and knits anymore. If I see something that excites me, I push myself to have a go. Recently, I've had a lot of fun sewing neoprene, rayon, and leather. Getting familiar with different textiles really opens up so many new design possibilities.
  • I'm better at recognising when something is just not working, before it gets to the point of no return. I'm pretty good at sewing on the fly and modifying projects that are heading to the pits. Sometimes a glass of wine helps at this point.
So what started me mulling over all of this in the first place? This top! It's a wearable muslin complete with French seams, because the fabric demanded none other than the best. It's also far from perfect, but it did teach me quite a few things.

The fabrics I used were small scraps. You've seen the watermelon poly before (I call it faux silk because it's seriously the most beautiful polyester I've ever encountered) here and here. I had a little bit left in my scrap basket. All I needed was a little creativity and I was able to stretch it into a top.

The gorgeous, sheer floral silk organza panel, also from Tessuti, was a devastating mistake I made a few months ago (I blame jet lag!). I cut into my little 1m piece of loveliness only to realise that the project I was going to use it for would be completely unsuitable. I was a little heartbroken but kept all the pieces anyway. It makes me smile to see that they haven't been wasted. I'm also happy that the pieces I'd cut were perfectly suited to this panel, even to the extent that I could position the flowers over my bellybutton.

I've been wanting a simple top like this for a long while, but have stubbornly refused to purchase a pattern that I could so easily draft myself or copy. It's basically just two pattern pieces stitched together (middle panel aside). I used a favourite RTW top in my possession as a guide. But I realised when finishing the neckline, that the front piece was more than 4" wider than the back...what?!!! And then I remembered that the top I was copying was designed by the maternity label, Isabella Oliver, so this could have been the reason why. Anyway, the neckline binding isn't anything to write home about either. I was trying to bind it in a fashion that really only suits a binding that will hold a crease. Have I said before how much I dislike sewing with polyester?! 

But back to the pattern glitch. I've fixed the error now so the next top should be perfect. But this version is too roomy in the front for my liking and I've had to add two pleats at the neckline to bring it in a bit. This helps the neckline but doesn't address the fabric surplus. Those pleats really annoy me, but the top is otherwise still very wearable. I've paired it with my leather fancy pant tracky dacks