Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Atma Alam Batik Village, Langkawi (Malyasia)

During the Easter/Anzac Day break this year Dave and I jetted off to spend six nights on Langkawi, a small island in Malaysia.

Unlike other places I've visited in South East Asia Langkawi was SO laid back. There's a notable absence of touts trying to sell you everything and anything as you headed out for a walk. This made window shopping for fabric (and other goodies) an absolute pleasure!. During an entire stay we only had "taxi" shouted at us twice (and one lot of taxi drivers told us they couldn't take us right now as they were it)!

With my recent obsession with buying fabric (I do more fabric accumulation than actual sewing so I think it's safe to say that my hobby really is fabric shopping) my main goal for our stay in Langkawi to was find out where to shop for fabric.

The Atma Alam Batik Art Village seemed to be the place (and possibly the only place) to go on a fabric binge in Langkawi and came very highly recommend by our taxi driver (taxi drivers know everything so I always value their opinions). All of the fabrics for sale are printed in-house and most of the dress-making fabrics seem to be block printed.

There are no photos allowed so excuse the blurry (illegally snapped) phone photos! As you can see there is quite a lot of beautiful batik fabric to choose from and most of it is REALLY lovely with tasteful, modern prints. Fabrics on offer range from cotton voile (what exactly is cotton voile), pure cotton, cotton/silk blend and pure silk.

Initially I walked away with three pieces of cotton/sSilk blend (for about $10-$13/meter from memory). The next day I jumped in a cab and headed back there as I was feeling VERY uneasy about all the fabric I'd left behind!I was anticipating massive anxiety if I landed back in Australia without MORE fabric! MORE!

Now that I have all of this lovely fabric I'm not really sure what to do with it. It's not yet pre-washed so it feels a little stiff and not very drapey. Hmmm.....

I had plans to make a pair of Suzy Pants with the fabric below...but my stunt pair didn't really work out fit wise so it's back to the drawing board on that one. I've also decided that I like pants with stretch...think jersey harem-style pants (if only I could find an easy pattern for them)! I have 3m of this fabric. Any ideas?

This fabric will probably be a dress. Probably a Peplum Party dress (I know I know) as I realize this is more my style than a fit and flare dress! I don't own any fit and flare dresses (that are woven) as I find them really uncomfortable and too tight on the tummy/arms/bodice. This fabric is really wide and I have about 2.5m of it (from memory). Not a great photo of the fabric but it really is very lovely and would make a nice dress for Frocktails which is on in September (let's hope it's WARM then)!

I have 1.5m of this super pretty fabric that I bought with the view of making a tank top from. I've since decided that I'm not really liking the Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank as the bust dates are tres strange on me and I don't have the skills (or desire) to make the top work for me.

I'm thinking I could give the Roxanne top a whirl (by Victory Patterns) for this fabric. I think this fabric would look GREAT in a sleeveless version of this top. Of course I've never made this top before so a toile would be in order which is turning me off taking the plunge. Yawn.

And...last but not least is this fairly traditional looking batik. I have enough for a dress...but what dress? I really like the Salme Button Shirt Dress that I saw recently on Alex's but. I wonder if this pattern would suit this fabric? I seem to have a bit of trouble matching fabric to patterns.

Atma Alam has a lot of ready made garments for sale also...if you're that way inclined. I bought this nifty little cape/vest/thingy with the idea that it's something I could replicate at home (though I'm not sure why as I have one now and that's probably enough). Dave bought himself two button up, short-sleeve shirts (one for work and one for the beach).

If you're in Langkawi I'd recommend a visit to Atma Alam...they have some beautiful things (and you can even do a batik workshop if time allows).

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Anita Ponti Pants...of broken hearts (and needles)

These are the pants that broke not only my heart and my sewjo, but TWO overlocker needles and one sewing machine needle.  Let's just say this was NOT a fun sewing weekend for yours truly!

I've heard Tessuit's Anita Ponti Pants being described as "secret tracksuit pants" by various sewing bloggers (you know who you are)! Naturally I wanted in on this. A nice, elastic-waisted slimline pant that are as comfy as tracksuit bottoms. That I can wear out to work. Or dinner. Or on the couch. YES YES YES!

These pants were only ever going to be a practice pair (stunt pants/toile/muslin - call it what you will) so I was prepared for them not to fit (they mostly don't fit though they look fine in the photos). What I was NOT prepared for was a battle with both my sewing machine AND my overlocker.

Things started off badly (with some crazy sort of bobbin tension issue that I have NFI how to fix) and reached epic tantrum stage (from me and the overlocker) when I tried to attach the elastic to the waistband using the overlocker. One needle simply broke in half and then another bent to nearly 90 degrees! When I tried to install a third needle that darn overlocker WOULD not stitch. I took me about TWO hours and 2,000 f-bombs (and some other choice words) to figure out the needle (that has no obvious front or back) was in backwards. It's sewing now, but the tension is bonkers (again, I have NFI how to fix this).

When it came to hemming the pants and stitching down the waistband using my twin needle my regular machine will all of a sudden only stitch one line of matter how many times I re-threaded the machine, glared at it, turn it off/on, spoke to it nicely and swore at it. Nadda.  So it's zigzag stitch for these babies, which to be honest I'm fine with as it's easier than twin-needling (and you can do it from the wrong side so yay to that).

Apart from ALL the heartbreak and dramas some of the sewing on these went quite well (mainly the straight stitching, top stitching and seam finishing)...though I'm still confused at how to sew the crotch seams together (put one leg inside the other and...WHAT)?

Like I said these pants looks OK in the photos but they don't really fit. The back rise is WAY too low for me (think the worst kind of plumbers crack too low) and I made the elastic waistband too tight. The crotch is too low and the legs are a tad firm.  These are one uncomfortable pair of pants.  There's a fine line between too tight and too loose that I'm yet to master.

So yes, I am going to make these pants again (as I have four lots of ponti stashed away for them).

Future changes: 
  • I will have a G+T beside me to calm the nerves before I embark on pair #2.
  • On this pair I sewed all the seams at 5/8" as recommenced and the legs are...firm. Next time I will sew the inside leg seams at 1/2" (that's SMALLER than 5/8", right)?  This ponti isn't particularly stretchy so I guess I adjust the seams based on the fabric...or something like that.
  • The crotch isn't sitting quite where it should...too low in a bad "I'm wearing an adult diaper" kind of way. Perhaps I can fix this by sewing the crotch seam a bit smaller (or actually wearing aforementioned adult diaper)...or something?
  • I'm going to heighten the rise at the CB and taper it off towards the side seams. I'm also going to lower the front rise at the CF as they are bit too high on my waist. Of course I have NFI how to do this so it's all just a pipe dream.
  • I might lengthen them hem and make my next pair an inch longer too, though I do like this length I might get cold ankles in winter...brrr.
  • I need to figure out what length I need to cut the elastic at to make these comfortable rather than torturous.
  • I'm changing my overlocker! Yes, really!  I've realised that this old machine is really only good for seam finishing. It's lacking the fourth spool/second needle that you really need to construct secure knit garments. My yellow + mustard Mandy Boat Tee is already falling apart at the seams and if I am going to continue to sew knits (which I want too) then Mr Singer, sadly, isn't going to cut it.

In the meantime I've totally lost ALL my sewjo after this traumatic experience...I'll be back...eventually! 

Monday, 12 May 2014

60s style Tessuti Gabby Dress

I have no idea of what to say about this dress other than, no I am NOT pregnant. And yes I'm sure!

I've seen the Tessuti Gabby Dress on a lot of people and it looks SO cute! I love the A-Line shape. It looks so cool, and summery, so of course I wanted one for myself! I wasn't sure the dress would fit so I went into Tessuti and they measured me, and the flat pattern and me were a match! Hooray!

I made a sleevless toile of this dress before chopping into this nice fabric from My-Hung Fashion Fabric in Parramatta (it was about $5/meter = bargain)!  Whilst I love the fabric I think it's just too thick for the style of this dress - it needs something more floaty and drapey. As it is it looks like a tent...but it was only ever meant as a test to see if it fits so no big deal.

I'm also not sure if this style suits my figure as I'm quite busty with big hips and thighs. Whilst I love a shift dress, or even an a-line dress in a floaty knit perhaps such a stiff a-line silhouette isn't for me?

Whilst the toile of this dress felt fine without sleeves as soon as I saw the cut out of the sleeves I thought it might be too tight on my upper arms/biceps. I tried to figure out a way of adjusting the sleeves -- to make them a bit more loose and flared but I couldn't wrap my brain around it so the original sleeves went in. I didn't have enough fabric to cut them on the grain which might be accounting for the fact they feel snug under the arms.

As you can seen the sleeves fit me (I couldn't be bothered hemming them) and aren't cutting in on my biceps like I thought. BUT the dress feels too tight...somewhere. It feels restrictive. I can't figure out if the sleeves are too tight under my arms or of the dress is pulling on the upper back now that the sleeves are on.

All of that aside, I'm pretty pleased with the job I did of setting the sleeves. First time, no problems! 

Oh, and you can see my knees! How scandalous! The dress is fairly short (I'm nearly 5ft 8') and as I didn't have enough fabric to extend the length I've hemmed it with 3mm bias binding which I'm liking the look of.

I'm not sure if I should have another stab at making this dress - what do you think?  There's a bit I want to change - more drapey fabric, make it longer, taper the sides in so it's less of an a-line shape and somehow figure out what's going on with the sleeves. Maybe I should just make it in a new love!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Tessuti Suzy "stunt pants"

For some strange reason I have been overcome by the need to wear pants as the weather cools down. My general winter uniform is boots, tights and dresses (or tunics) but for some reason this year I’m just not feeling it. Putting ALL those layers on in the morning is a chore-and-a-half that makes me just want to get back into bed.

I’ve also really enjoyed wearing “harem style” pants over summer (without the poo-catcher drop-crotch so popular in the 80s mind you) so I thought I’d give the Tessuti Suzy Pants a whirl. I bought myself some snazzy cotton-silk batik in Langkawi last month and these pants would suit that fabric really well.

I’m dubbing these my “stunt pants” and I’ve made them in some truly fugly fabric picked up from…you guessed it, The Fabric Cave. For some reason this fabric reminds me of the Smurfs.

I can’t quite figure out of these pants are a fail…or a win.

On the one hand I made pants (with pleats, pockets AND a yoke). There's also some pretty wonky top-stitching happening, but I top-stitched so YAY MEL!

Go Mel! Pleats AND a yoke.
I made pockets! I am loving myself sick right now.
On the other hand they are a bit too tight around my hips and thighs *if* I sit down (I don't fancy standing up all day so not sitting is not an option). The yoke cuts across my pot belly (aka food baby) in the most uncomfortable and unflattering way. The belly needs room to pop after a big meal and I imagine the seams would bust if I wore these out to a food-blogging event

I'd like to make these pants again and here's what I'm thinking could be a solution for me (and the belly, thighs, hips)...
  1. Reduce the seam allowance from 1/2" to...less (whatever the next notch is down on my sewing machine plate). That would give me 1/2 more on each leg (would it?...I really suck at maths).
  2. Ditch the pleats...or perhaps one from each side to give myself a bit more room and extend the width of the front yoke to accommodate this.
  3. Somehow extend the front/back leg pieces up to the waistband thus eliminating the yoke altogether.
  4. Make them in a knit so the yoke has room to stretch across my tum; and the hip/thigh area has some stretch too.
  5. Go buy myself a pair of pants (kidding...maybe).

As for the pattern, I (mostly) enjoyed sewing it up.   I scratched my head a little reading through the instructions before I started sewing but once I embarked on Project Pants it was mostly OK just plodding along following the instructions step by step.  Inserting the pockets was time consuming but it all went really well.  I've never made pockets before so I have no idea if this method is different or same as other methods but I have workable pockets. Pleats were easy as was fitting the yoke. I gave up by the time it came to putting in the waist elastic...I was tired.

By the time I got to "step 9" however I was exhausted. I could not for the life of me figure out what this all meant and I needed about 100 more photos to help my poor old brain. Obviously I knew I had to sew the crotch together as these were not those "sort of pants" but putting one leg in side the other...what!? After a rant on Instagram and a walk to clear my head (to the fabric shop to buy MORE fabric) I finally got the pants together. I have no idea what I did (or if I can do it again), or how it worked but it worked.

Is it me, but is sewing REALLY darn tiring! I was popped by the end of this.

And what would you do to make this pants pot-belly friendly? Can I sew them in a knit jersey and have the pants of my dreams?

Friday, 2 May 2014

Denim Ginger Skirt + a zipper class

I find the best way for me to learn a new skill, and to become somewhat confident with it, is to do a class! I suppose if I had a mum or grandmother (or anyone) to teach me how to sew I wouldn't need all these classes...but I do love them. And for me the best way of learning is to be real a real person. None of this YouTube business for yours truly!

I recently enrolled in a "zippers + skirt class" at Sew Make Create in Chippendale. I did learn how to do a few zippers back in my first "learn to sew class" but it's been a long time between zippers.

During the class we practiced three types of zippers: a lapped zipper, a double lapped zipper and an invisible zip. Depending on how we went we could choose what zipper we'd like to go with for our Colette Ginger Skirt. For me, I found the lapped zipper the easiset. I thought my brain was going to explode right out of my head trying to figure out the invisible zippper *pop*.

I pretty much completed the skirt over the two classes that we had (I just had to finish the hem at home) and I'm really happy with it. I didn't think it would fit me (my constant worry when sewing) but it fits really well....and I'm actually going to wear it! I did reduce the seam allowances to 1/2" which definitely helped in it fitting.

The style is "high-waisted" which is not my normal style as I like things to sit a bit lower than my waist.  I also wouldn't normally wear it with my shirt tucked in...but just this once for the blog photos (and so you can see my awesome waistband skills)!  I added 2" to the hem as I thought it was going to be too short, but ended up cutting off 1" during the class as it looked a bit "frumpy". Next time I think I'll just stick with the normal hem length.

I had a bit of trouble with inserting the zipper as the fabric (which I bought from Fabric Cave for $5 for 1.5m) stretched from top to bottom rather than across the grain. This meant that as I was sewing the zipper the fabric kept "growing + stretching" and the zipper ended up with lumps, puckers and bumps (despite adding interfacing to the fabric to make it more stable). After two attempts I had a small tantrum (which we like to refer to as a "throw down" in my house) and the teacher finished putting in the zip for me. Thanks teach!

And outfit change...I really like how the light coloured denim looks with grey (and black too)!

I'm so glad I did this class...not only because I made a great skirt that I'm going to wear  ALOT but because I got to hang out with Pepper, the shop dog at Sew Make Create! Woof.

I've already bought some dark coloured stretch denim for a second Ginger Skirt. Hopefully the zipper will be more cooperative this time!