Saturday, 27 December 2014

A (final) Myrtle...with added kittens

Oh look, it's ANOTHER Myrtle dress...this time with armholes that fit; and accessoried by the foster kittens we are currently minding at Chez Melanie.

Because you've seen this dress, and this Spotlight fabric before, I thought it'd be nice to introduce you to Socks (with the white feet) and T.O.O (called The Other One as we couldn't think of a name for her).

Dave and I have been fostering kittens for the Cat Protection Society in Enmore for about two years now. We host a few litters each year who live in our study for a few weeks at a time (which they have totally destroyed - the couch is shredded, and the books on the bottom shelf are chewed, cables are gnawed upon and the carpet well and truly christened with pee and poop). People wonder how we can give them back...with all that destruction it's pretty easy actually.  The kittens come to us at about 7 weeks old and stay until they are 1kg. At the 1kg stage they go off to be desexed and then back to Cat Protection where they await their "furever" home.

These kittens are well over the 1kg mark but we're keeping them until the New Year as the shelter is currently full. You can see though they are still pretty light; and I can easily lift Socks with one hand...demonstrating how perfect the depth of the armhole is now. After lowering it by 2cm on my last few versions; I raised it back up by 1cm and cut the armhole as a L whilst keeping the rest of the dress as an XL. The dress is SO comfortable now...I wore it out shopping in Chatswood today and in the car as I drove there...comfy comfy comfy.

After the back neckline of my purple Myrtle stretched out to make it unwearable I stay stitched the heck out of the back neckline and back armholes of this bodice (and used tearaway too just to be doubly safe). The back neckline looks a bit stretched/bunchy, but it's just my kitten wrangling making it bunch up. That said, the back bodice is a tad wide though so if I knew how I could pinch out some fabric here...but I've had enough of fiddling with this dress. I just wear the top pull across in a faux "off the shoulder" kinda of way which makes the back fit perfectly.

Oooh, this is Flash (who I call Sad Panda as she just looks so glum all the time). She is melded to this cat bed so the best way to get some Sad Panda time is just to pick her up...bed and all!

Back to the dress: I'm still having a bit of trouble figuring out the elastic waist for this dress (and anything that requires elastic). I *think* this could be a smidgen tighter, but I'm not 100% sure. I also thought I should perhaps lengthen the bodice a bit to make it more blousey and to hide the elastic waist a bit...I don't know? What do you think?

And just a safety note for those of you who like to sew with cats around. Thread is VERY dangerous to cats...they eat it and it gets wrapped up in the guts/intestines. This can actually result in death (and a lot of pain too) and costly operations if you choose to go there. So the motto is...cats and sewing don't really mix.

Pattern: Myrtle Dress by Colette Patterns
Size: XL
Modifications: Armholes changed to Size L; and then lowered at the arm pit by 1cm.
Fabric: Polyester Elastaine from Spotlight (the same print I made my very first, too small, Myrtle out of).
Notions: Elastic, thread and kittens.
Changes for next time: None, though I'd like to try it in a "not" polyester elastaine.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Purple Myrtle

I've decided to make ONE MORE MUSLIN of the darn Myrtle dress before I bite the bullet and cut into my floral Spotlight fabric which I bought to replicate my first, too small Myrtle. Lizzie from Busy Lizzie in Brissie sent me this purple knit quite a while ago with the idea that I might like to make myself a Keilo dress...which of course never happened.

I'll keep this short as I'm sure you are as sick of the darn dress as I am. After my last Myrtle, I raised the under the arms by 1cm as I felt lowering it by 2cm was just too low for my liking. There's only so much armpit that is fit for human viewing I say! I think it's pretty much perfect now.

I was super dooper excited when I finished this dress and I planned to wear it to work for my last day at "the job" and to our team Christmas lunch. Of course the sewing Gods decided to punish me for my smugness and overnight the back neckline stretched out so much the dress was basically...ruined. Because of the way the bodice is constructed and enclosed it's pretty much impossible to fix this...into the recycle bag she goes. Lesson learned = stay stitch your necklines people. Each time I tried on this dress it stretched more and more.

Oh look, thread! Our whole house is basically covered with bits of cotton these days. Dave says it makes a nice change from the long hair that used to litter the floor and clog up the vacuum cleaner.

Pattern: Myrtle Dress by Colette Patterns
Size: XL
Modifications: Armholes changed to Size L; and then lowered at the arm pit by 1cm. Mmm, armpit - what a delightful word.
Fabric: Polyester Elastaine from Lizzie from Busy Lizzie in Brissie (thanks lovely lady)!
Notions: Elastic, thread and my tears
Changes for next time: None! Let's make this dress One. Last. Freaking. Time. and then move on!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

It's raining Myrtles

Although the armholes of my first Myrtle Dress were WAY too tight I really loved the dress and was gung-ho to make myself another one ASAP.

At our recent Spoolettes sewing day my Sewing Yoda, Susan from Measure Twice Cut Once had a look at the dress on me and made a few simple changes to the pattern. She reduced the armhole from an XL to L and dropped the finishing spot of the armhole by 2cm. Simples.

I went home and knocked up a toile of the new bodice and attached the skirt to it as I think the skirt is necessary for the toile as the weight of the skirt pulls the top down somewhat and gives a true indication of what the finished garment would look like. This was a SHAMEFUL piece of lazy, haphazard sewing with a super slinky fabric that made me want to jump off our balcony. But it did reveal the armholes were VERY comfortable now, though possibly slightly too low under the arm (fine everywhere else though).

I wasn't really sure if I should raise the armholes up a bit so went ahead anyway to sew my next Myrtle with this fun, 100% cotton jersey from Spotlight. This umbrella/raindrop clad fabric is pretty appropriate for the current Sydney weather that has been non-stop rain for about 2 weeks.

On the plus side this fabric sewed like a DREAM (though was really hard to iron for some reason - the iron would not glide over the fabric like it should do) however it is quite stiff and I have to say I'm not in love with the fabric or this dress...I probably won't wear it be honest.  Look how STIFF the cowl is. I also totally botched the hem and am still tramatiesed when I look at it (FYI, heat + bond is THE enemy)!

With this version of the dress can also confirm with me 100% that the armholes are too big. The are fine at the front and back, but just too low under the old armpit there.

When I tried on the finished garment the stiffness of the fabric was making the shoulders really stick a very bad, 80s "hairband" kind of way, so I jimmied up a makeshift tab in order to contain the shoulders. It took a few goes to get this right, and it's not very neat on the inside, but it's what on the outside that counts...right?

So whilst I don't "love" this particular Myrtle, I do love this pattern and I've already adjusted the pattern and made my next watch this space for more Myrtle Mania coming soon!

Pattern: Myrtle Dress by Colette Patterns
Size: XL
Modifications: Reduced armhole front and back from XL to L; and dropped the underarm by 2cm.
Fabric: 100% cotton jersey from Spotlight - purchased 3m and used most of it
Notions: 25mm elastic and thread
Changes for next time: raise armholes by 1cm.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Anita Ponti stretch cotton (an experiment)

After the success of my most recent pair of Anita Ponti Pants I feel super keen to make ALL the Anita pants I can. After the pants alteration class at Tessuti our teacher Megan pointed out this super stretchy cotton elastaine to me and suggested that they could make a good pair of Anita's. Because I always do what the teacher tells me this fabric came home with me...

The fabric is just 140cm wide and it was a VERY tight squeeze to say the very least.  This is the closest I've come to not having my pattern pieces fit onto the fabric and I certainly had to jiggle things about quite a bit. One of the legs was sitting well into the selvage, but I thinking that's not going to stop the world spinning.  Ah well, the joys of being at the bigger end of the size scale is you need more fabric to make things fit...I blame my bum on this occasion.

I had NO trouble sewing up these pants. The fabric was a dream to sew - so stable and it pressed really nicely. Looking at the finished product though I have to say that the fabric doesn't suit the pattern...I feel the Anita's definitely needs the "softness" of a Ponti to fall nicely and sit smoothly on my body. You can see here how lumpy and bumpy things are from mid-thigh downwards probably due to the fabric being so stiff. The pants do fit well on my thighs and butt though so (mini) winning.

The only silly thing I did was make the elastic waistband WAY too if I were to keep these pants I'd have to unpick the waistband top stitching and make the elastic a bit smaller (I sewed the elastic in by making a channel again, not attaching it directly via overlocker to the waistband as suggested). The elastic waistband is my main stumbling point on these pants (or on anything really...even undies). I DETEST tight things on my tummy and I'm paranoid about making my Anita's too instead I make them too big. Smart, huh? I've come home from work early before because my undies/pants have been too tight so tight elastic is NO joke.

Speaking of elastic, this is what I have used for my last two Anita pants. Prior to this I was using the ribbed, non-roll elastic and oh boy, talk about uncomfortable - it feels like a steel belt clamped onto my waist.  This elastic (pictured below) is not as stiff as the ribbed elastic, but it still feels really stiff and uncomfortable to me - ribbed for my displeasure that's for sure! I'm wondering if there is another type of waistband elastic on offer that I could be using - your advice would be VERY VERY much appreciated!

So all in all I'm not sure if this is a win...or a fail. I don't think I'll keep the pants, so some chunky waisted lady is going to be VERY happy when she goes shopping at Vinnies next week. I would LOVE to find this fabric again and make a Mabel skirt out of it...that I think would be the perfect fabric/pattern match.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The flaming Mabel Skirt

Last weekend I headed over to Bobbin and Ink's new store in Petersham to attend a sewing day with the Sydney Spoolettes. This was fresh after my Tessuti class so I was on a sewing HIGH!  This is the second sewing day the Spoolettes have had together and I have to say I love them...there's a LOT of chatting and meeting new people, but surprisingly quite a lot of sewing takes place too.

The fabric I've used for my second Mabel is a thickish cotton/poly/elastaine from the remnant table at Tessuti. The price tag says $42 for 1.2m but I'm fairly sure I only paid $18 for this...I hope! 

I had plans to make two Mabel skirts AND a Casual Lady Dress at this sewing day but I crashed and burned after finishing this first Mabel skirt. Talking, snacking AND sewing is hard work. So this is all I have to show for 6 hours in the sewing room...ahem. These photos are a bit dark and dodgy, but I got Dave to take them as soon as I got home...just as the skies darkened and a huge storm descended. Oh well...

I had thought that this version would be more tight than my first Mabel as the fabric was a lot...firmer, but it's actually turned out to be a much better fit. When I compare the sizes of the two skirts though (laying one on top of the other) this one is bigger than my first version...not sure how that happened as both were cut as an XL.

There's not much else to say about this skirt. I added the clear elastic into the waistband again to make sure the skirt didn't slip down though I found out the hard way that the elastic shouldn't be wider than the overlock stitch otherwise things become too bulky and it's impossible to turn the waistband neatly.

I'll probably make a few more of these along the way...I have some fabric in the stash that would work well, but I guess I'm trying to avoid a cupboard full of Mabel skirts (in a cupboard where I already have about 6 RTW versions of this skirt). What about you sew multiples of a pattern once you find one that works well for you?

Pattern: Mabel Dress by Colette Patterns
Size: XL
Modifications: add 6mm clear elastic into the waistband to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions; lengthen by 15cm
Fabric: Polyester cotton/poly/elastaine from Tessuti
Notions: Elastic and thread
Changes for next time: NONE! Why mess with perfection hey?

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Anita Ponti Pants OF JOY!

Normally when I make something that is a wadder I ditch it almost ASAP - either to a charity if it's wearable, or in the bin if it's beyond all help. I am the opposite of a hoarder! For some reason I hung on to my Anita Pants of Broken Hearts as I felt they didn't need all that much help to make them wearable...I just didn't know how to fix the pattern.

It's about 6 months down the track, but today I finally I attended a class at Tessuti in Surry Hills that was all about altering a pants pattern. I actually thought this pattern might be TOO easy for the class but it turns out they were the perfect project as we got the pattern altered and the new toile all but complete within 4 hours!

When I tried on my dodgy pants our teacher Meghan actaully said they weren't too bad at all - they just needed a few tweaks to make them great for me.  Just to jog your memory here's the aforementioned "evil pants of pain, heartbreak and broken needles"...

Confession: I am really bad at spatial stuff and maths, which makes it near on impossible for me to figure out how to make changes to a pattern; and how "things on papper" and "numbers floating around in the air" would translate to the sewn garment. I tried to concentrate on what Meghan was doing, but I got a bit lost.  I'm not sure I could replicate these changes again, but I have a "general idea" of what went on.  In summary this is what I "think we did":
  • Added 5cm to the back rise
  • Lowered the front rise but about 2cm
  • Lengthen the hem by 5cm
  • Added 7mm to each leg seam allowance (which we later shaved off below the thigh as the pants were too roomy)
  • Added more material to the crouch area so they didn't sit so low
  • Made the waist elastic looser (though I think I still need to work on this as I think it's a fraction too tight -- I have "issues" with tight stuff on my guts, so perhaps a regular Joe would think they are fine?)
  • Changed the way of sewing on the elastic - made a channel and threaded the elastic through the channel, which I think I like better than over locking the elastic to the pants (at least this way if the elastic is too loose/tight it can easily be fixed...over locking it to the pants is too much "elastic commitment" for me)

The fabric is pretty crazy, a ponti knit from that I bought back when I first thought I'd be making Anita's by the truck load. It is much thinner than my purple Anita pants which may account for some differences to the feel of the fit.

Overall I am SO happy with how these pants turned out. So happy that I gave the teacher a big hug for helping me out and I almost burst into tears I was so RELIEVED that something finally fits me. After well over a year of sewing I don't have many wearable garments/"go to patterns" that have worked for my this pattern alteration means the world to me. I know that it takes time blah blah blah but that dosen't stop me losing my sewjo in a major way when things go peared shaped.

So YAY for Anita Ponti Pants and yay for classes! Dave says my tiger roar below is null-and-void as these pants are a zebra perhaps this is the sign of a zebra being eaten by a white tiger?

I'm so excited to try these pants again. After the class today I bought some black ponti which is washed already and on the clothesline as I type.  Meghan also found a remnant in the sales bin of a cotton/elastaine that she thinks could work well with this pattern as the fabric is very stretchy.  I think they could make good work pants if they work.  Watch this space...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A floral Myrtle

Like the Mabel Skirt, I bought the Myrtle pattern as soon as Colette released it...and then sat on it for months. I think my main stalling point was that the elastic waist and "self-lined" bodice would be too hard for me. I also worried that I wouldn't be able to turn the neck and arms under neatly enough and that the whole thing would look like a blind 4 year old with no thumbs had made it.

In just over a year of sewing I still don't have much faith in my abilities and I try to keep things as easy as possible.

Anyhoo, inspiration finally came to me in the form of this blog post by a Melbourne fashion blogger who occasionally dabbles in sewing too. If she could sew not one, but THREE Myrtles, surely I could sew one. And I did...

I absolutely love this dress, from the groovy fabric purchased from Spotlight to the cowl neckline to the blousey-ness of the bodice. This is EXACTLY the kind of dress I would buy if I saw it in store!

All the love aside the armholes are just WAY too small for me to wear the dress and be at all comfortable. This is kinda upsetting as nearly every other blog post I've read on this make says the armholes are REALLY big. I think, thanks to sewing, I have now developed a mega complex that I have arms bigger than a X-mas ham! Excuse the shot of my armpit - but you see that I have nearly NO room under my arm...mucho uncomfortable! It also digs in at the front and back of the "sleeve".

Whilst we're still on the topic of the ham-arms, I think that perhaps the pattern piece for the front/back bodice at the shoulders is a bit too wide? It's sort of like this dress can't decide if it wants to be sleeveless or have cap sleeves?

I'm definitely going to make this dress again -- I just need to figure out how to make the armholes bigger whilst not stuffing up the pattern completely. An FBA has been suggested but I'm not even going to go there (plus it fits well across the bust).  This make is a straight XL and I think in order to bring the shoulder width in somewhat I'll reduce from an XL to an L, or perhaps even an M from the shoulders to the underarm...and then I also just hack into the pattern at the bottom of the armhole to give myself an extra cm front and back...what do we think people? Is that a good or a bad strategy?

Moving right along, the construction of the Myrtle is really easy. I had no trouble making the bodice at all and like I said I LOVE the cowl neck and blousey-ness of the front/back bodice. Very flattering on my figure I think. The instructions for this pattern were very good - very easy to follow and great for a beginner.

I had been worried about turning the neckline and sleeve hems of the back bodice under (they are not self lined) but this also proved to be a breeze thanks to my new BFF, Wondertape (bought from Addicted to Fabric in Canberra).

I also thought I'd have trouble with the elastic waist, but this also turned out to be...not too bad. I inserted the elastic twice as the first elastic was very stiff and uncomfortable (it was a non-roll elastic). My second elastic is quite supple and does roll a bit so I've sewn down the elastic at each side seam to prevent it moving around too much. Next time I think I'll just sew the casing channel and then thread the elastic through, rather than trying to wrangle the elastic and channel and sewing all at the same time which is what the instructions suggest.

That said, I'm wondering if I could forgo the elastic channel altogether and just sewing less wide elastic (or even clear elastic) onto the waistband as I join it to the bodice. I feel like that would be more comfortable.

So there you have it. Even though this dress was a fitting-fail; I would call it a win in terms of sewing and construction. I'm happy I saw it through to the end as I think my work colleague would like this so it's not going to end up in the bin. She wore one of other sewing fitting-fails to work the other day and I was super thrilled!

Also, it's worth noting that if you get tired whilst you're out to dinner or at work whilst wearing this dress you can pull up the cowl and catch a few Zzzzz's.

Pattern: Myrtle Dress by Colette Patterns
Size: XL
Modifications: None
Fabric: Polyester Elastane from Spotlight - purchased 3m and used most of it
Notions: Elastic and thread
Changes for next time: lower arm holes to give more room; perhaps reduce the bodice size from the shoulders to the underarm fom an XL to L or M. Possibly look at changing method of attaching the bodice to the skirt with thinner elastic and no elastic casing (would reduce the whole dress to an L if I did this as it's very roomy without the elastic casing feature).

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

"Heart on my sleeve" Casual Lady Dress

Geez, coming up with post titles is HARD work. My fabric has hearts on it, the dress has a little sleeve...and the sleeves on this dress are literally causing me pain (why so tight little sleeves)...hence "heart on my sleeves". It's a leap but let's go there shall we?

After the success (sort of) of my first Casual Lady Dress I was keen to whip up another one ASAP. I rushed out to Spotlight that very day and found a GORGEOUS heart print Polyester Elastane.  Better still it was on sale and I bought almost all of what was left on the roll.

When I was cutting out my first Casual Lady Dress (aka the Giant Sperm Dress) the fabric moved somewhat so I ended up with one WAY too big sleeve and one kinda normal sleeve. Of course in hindsight this means that I didn't actually know what the sleeves were meant to be like on this dress. On top of that for some CRAZY reason this time around I sewed the seam allowance joining the front and back to together at 5/8" rather than the recommended 3/8'...ergo, the sleeves they are TOO small. I think I was trying to make sure that the clear elastic on the shoulders fell well within the seam allowance...because clearly my skin would melt if the elastic touched it...or something.

Apart from the Sleeves of Torture I REALLY like this dress. I think the fabric is tres cute and the style really suits me. The dress is "curve skimming" without being too tight; and is loose without being sack-like. It's really simple to sew.

I think the dress looks quite good from the back possibly helped by how drapey the fabric is. There is a bit of pooling in the small of my back where the fabric hits my derrière but I'm OK with that. I like a looser fit around my hides a multiple of "squishy bits".

On this make I decided to leave off the facing altogether and use a light pink fold-over elastic (FOE) to finish the neck and "arm hems"...cos I'm lazing and I also wasn't super keen on the facings last time.  Attaching the FOE was, for some annoying reason, much more difficult than my last go at this dress. On top of that when I released the sleeves were too tight (especially on my right arm) I tried to unpick the FOE in order to reapply it. That was NOT fun as I'd been sewing it on with quite a small stitch length. Gah. I'm also not loving the way the neckline is sitting - it looks mega homemade to me...and not in a good "I'm a sewing genius kinda way".

The fabric is quite thin and I agonized for DAYS over whether or not to line the dress (not that I know how to but I would've muddled through by making another dress from lining and just treating the lining/dress as one piece). Over the October long weekend I went to Canberra and met up with some of the Canberra Spoolettes...fabric sample in tow. I was told in no uncertain terms that the dress DOES NOT NEED LINING. Ok then...but I might pack a slip in my handbag as I feel the dress may be *just* a bit too see-through when the light hits it in the wrong way.

The hem is done using a zig-zag stich as my machine eats twin-needles for breakfast. I used a bit of that iron-on stay tape stuff to get the hem nice and even, although I cheated and over locked it on to the fabric first before turning it under to iron on which is less faffing all round really.

Update:  sooo, since drafting this post I wore the dress for an ENTIRE day! Gasp! First I lay around on the couch watching Project Runway and Grey's Anatomy whilst eating toast and oranges. Later in the day I drove the car over to Spotlight in Castle Hill where I found MORE of this fabric for a do-over. Note to self: when shopping for a particular fabric probably best NOT to wear a dress made of said fabric as you will attract much too much attention in the fabric store (though this did garner me a few nice comments on my first even unsolicited comments on a me-made garment).

Whilst the arms were tight, they weren't TOO bad...bearable if I had my mind on other things. The arms didn't prevent me from stuffing food into my face or driving the car. And as it was a really really hot day I couldn't have cared less if the fabric was see-through or not! So semi-win.

Pattern: Casual Lady Dress by Go To Patterns
Size: XXL (I'm think that's equivalent to an Aussie Size 16 - 18).
Modificaitons: left off facing and finished neck/arms with fold-over elastic. Hem has been lengthened but about 5cm.
Fabric: Polyester Elastane from Spotlight - purchased 2.1m and used most of it.
Notions: Fold-over elastic from Tessuti in Surry Hills - purchased 2m and used most of it.
Changes for next time: revert back to a neck-facing; increase size of arm-hole to less torturous proportions.