Monday, December 05, 2016

Sewing successes (2)

Here are a couple of photos of one of my more successful trouser sews (mentioned in an earlier blog post.
Here's a closeup of the button, button fly and contrast waistband lining. The same fabric lines the pockets.
This is Simplicity 1430, made in very stretchy denim that I got from the Fabric Store on sale. I cut a size 12 at the hips (widening up towards the waist) and blending into a size 10 on the legs. I also shortened the legs, of course.

Normally I wouldn't wear them with cow-skin slippers, so just imagine I've got stylish slingbacks on my feet 
instead. No doubt the trousers would have looked better if I didn't have my hands in the pockets, but I wanted to show off that there were pockets... they are slant pockets.

I didn't interface the waistband and I may end up unpicking that bit of the waistband and adding some layer of stiffening to keep the button end of the band from folding over when I bend.

I'm pretty happy with the fit.

Next up, some tunics.
This is KwikSew 3161. Once I worked out that I needed to cut a smaller size at the shoulder (which was a revelation, as I'd always thought I was broad in the shoulder), I liked it so much I made second one. This one's in an organic cotton I bought at Spotlight, and the other one was made in a purple linen (not shown).

Then I wanted to make a long sleeved version of the top that came with Simplicity 1430. Rather than try to adjust the pattern to fit a sleeve, I decided to modify the KwikSew pattern to make it more like the Simplicity top. Below is a close-up of the neckline detail I was after.

The Simplicity top has a zip at the back but I didn't want to put a zip in mine, so I just re-cut the neckline to ensure I could get it over my head. This fabric is actually a cotton bedsheet that I bought from the Salvation Army Family Store for $5. I still have half of it left for another project. The only thing about this fabric is that it's a bit see-through so I have to wear something under it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On shaky ground

In case you are concerned about the welfare of me and mine since the massive earthquake at midnight on Sunday - we are fine. Our house shook a swayed a fair bit on the night, sent us gentle reminders throughout Monday, and had us diving under our desks today at work.

Work and school were cancelled on Monday, which was a relief because we were all very sleep deprived (that's what happens when your daughter crawls into bed with you and, over the course of the night, steals your duvet and leaves you clinging to the very edge of the mattress).

At home only a couple of knick-knacks fell off the shelf. At work we were mainly affected by a big water tank upstairs falling over and leaking its contents all over our kitchen - though I noticed that two of the big round windows in the stairwell were either cracked all or blown in and boarded over.

We really should replace our emergency water at home.
At least at work I have replenished my civil defence kit with five Whittakers peanut slabs. If I ever get stuck at work in a natural disaster I will have enough to last me maybe a day...

Anyway, this is pretty small stuff compared to what's happened closer to the epicentre of the quake. Huge cracks and rifts in the roads and farmlands, seabeds lifted up into the air, landslides destroying road and tunnels, livestock stranded on quake islands - my heart goes out to the people who live there.

Friday, October 07, 2016

My holiday was pants (and tunics)

After the last two pairs of trousers I sewed up (the first - a basic style with a back zipper and no pockets or waistband -  was successful; the second - more ambitious but ultimately fitting failure), I was on a roll. Then the latest season of Great British Sewing Bee started here, so there was no stopping me.

During my week off (ostensibly taken to spend time with TLM, who is on school holidays, and the boy, who is still between jobs) I was hellbent on sewing more trousers until I produced more pairs of fitting successes.

Trousers number 3 were based on the muslin that produced trousers number 1 (which fit me well but for which I was a bit slack with recording the adjustments), in a light poplin-y fabric of navy with with dots. I was finding it a bit loose around the highs and waist. Then I decided it was because that fabric really wanted to be elastic waisted jogger-style trousers.  So I took out the zipper, put an elasticated waistband and inserted elastic cuffs into the hems. They now fit alright, although it would have benefited from a decrease in the front crotch.

(Lesson: definitely shorten the front crotch next time, maybe lengthen the back crotch).

For trousers number 4 I used an old Vogue pattern which offered two views: high waisted, jeans-style pockets and tapered; hight waisted, inseam pockets and tapered. Because it is an old pattern. The only other time I used this sewing pattern was to make some faux leather trousers to wear to a pre-millennial Village People-themed pub crawl. That's how old it is.

Guess what - it fit me almost perfectly, once I'd let out the front inseam, scooped out the centre back curve, taken in the outer leg seams quite a lot and drafted a new waistband to fit my wider waist. Although they fit well in the sense that it is relatively free of bagging and wrinkles around the crucial hip and thigh areas, the legs are still much wider than I'd like. These were made in a light grey denim. I have effectively made mom jeans (though I made the view with the inseam pockets rather than the jeans pockets). Also the back wants to fall down a bit and the front is a little high.

Nevertheless, I'm calling this a great success and will wear them to work.

(Lesson: I really really should shorten that front crotch and lengthen the back the next time. And work out how to slim down the legs without creating new wrinkles).

Then I made two tunic tops in a row. I used a Kwik Sew pattern. It is great, except for these things:

  • the seam allowance is 3 mm. That's crazy narrow, and obviously intended for sewer who overlock (serge)
  • It was way too big at the shoulders, yet fit fine everywhere else. So for the second top I cut a small in the shoulder and armscye then a medium elsewhere.
  • The sleeve would not fit into the armscye. Both times. This meant I had to take it in further at the sides in order for the sleeves to fit.
I do intend to put some photos up, but I just can't bring myself to ask the boy or TLM to take any more pictures of my backside.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The last of the knits and lessons learned in pants fitting

After I finished knitting this scarf (from an unravelled failure. It's edged in i-cord,  but you can't see it because the sides roll in so it looks like a narrow tube. I do like the tweedy texture though - from a stitch in the first Barbara Walker book - so might use it one day to make a Chanel-type jacket).

I knitted this cardigan -
Then, because I was on a yarn diet (for budgetary reasons), have way too many hand knits anyway, I am switching codes - to sewing.

I have nearly finished a pair of curved-waistband trousers, in a stubby linen/cotton blend. These took way too long to fit, seeing as I based then on my curse-busting muslin (see earlier post). I bought three more lots of fabric to practice pants-fitting on: some non-stretch grey denim,  some blue organic cotton and some navy poplin with tiny polka dots. It's fantastic that Spotlight is right next door to the Fabric Warehouse.

Going by the last two pairs I made, I've concluded that my main pants-fitting modifications should be:

  • extra space on the inseam (for my generous inner thighs), just down to the knee 
  • less space on the outseam (for my stingy outer thighs), also down to the knee, and 
  • a deeper crotch curve (for my low-hanging bottom). 

That's aside from the obvious shortening of the legs (which are so short they only come up to my knees).

Also - baste! Using thread in a contrasting colour! Definitely not using the thread you need for your final sew!

The next step up in trouser-making will be to add pockets with pocket stays (to keep my slightly protruding tummy from falling out).

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The lifting of the trouser curse

I have tried, and failed, many times to sew a pair of trousers that would fit be well. There were near-misses and epic fails, but never a finished product that I was happy with.

In Season Two of the Great British Sewing Bee, the contestants had to made velvet trousers for themselves. This challenge was meant to test their ability to sew with difficult fabrics, but I was terribly envious that they could make themselves trousers at all.

As any sewer will tell you, it's not the construction that's a pain in the butt - its the fitting of them.

Today I had a trouser triumph, and that came about when I realised that I have been cutting a size too big. I don't know why it took so long for me to come to this conclusion, because I've already made a few tops that turned too roomy even for my tastes.

Not that going down a size was a magic bullet though - I still had to made some tweaks:

  • take some width from the outside leg seams from the hip down
  • add some width the inside leg seams just around the inner thigh
  • add a tiny bit of width at the centre front, from crotch to about half way up.
  • remove about an inch of the top
I'm so happy.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Am I too old for denim jackets?

I'm already thinking of what I want for my birthday present, even though it's a couple of month's away. I want a denim jacket. I've spent a number of lunch hours scouring the range of denim jacket styles on offer, including frequent visits to opportunity shops and on TradeMe.

And the one I want is the Levi's Boyfriend Trucker denim jacket, in mid-blue rigid denim (rigid, so it will take longer to lose shape with repeated washing and wearing). I've figured out that if I only ever button it up at the two middle buttons, it can look shapely rather than boxy.

Now, I have tried and failed a couple of times in the last few years to sew a light jacket suitable for spring and autumn, in both denim and other fabrics - but neither of them have turned out to have the right silhouette or amount of structure.

I've since discovered the Style Arc Stacie sewing pattern and now know to look for 14 oz denim, so I could sew it myself and make it exactly the size, shape and style I want. What would be great is a collarless version of a trucker jacket with waist shaping, mid-hip length and in a really dark blue. But that's never going to happen as I don't have the time or patience at the moment (and that's assuming I can find the right denim). Plus my fitting skills are less than genius.

So anyway, how old is too old to wear a denim jacket?

A break from knitting

After I used up the last of my Malabrigo Arroyo yarn to make myself a cardigan, I ran out of virgin yarn. So when I wanted to make TLM a new pullover for winter, I decided to unravel two older cardigans that she had stopped wearing because they weren't oversized enough. But since I finished that (photos later) I seem to have lost my need to knit.

It's probably partly because I now have too many hand knits, and partly because the weather has been so spring-like that I just don't want to think about cold weather garments any more.

In the meantime, TLM turned eleven and acquired a bike. She is only just learning to ride, and the bike is big enough that she is only just tall enough to ride it. But I'm optimistic. It's gotta be easier to learn anything at the age of 11 than it is at middle age!

I have been neglecting my kombucha bug. Ever since I found a supermarket that sells miso paste in decent-sized tubs I've not felt the need to drink kombucha - but I'm sure that will change once it gets a lot warmer. In the meantime I'm sure the current batch is aging into some powerful vinegar.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


We were having a wonderfully mild winter, when suddenly winter just crashed the party and drank all the alcohol. Since then it's felt like we are getting a crash course on coldness, wetness and windiness.

And funnily enough, all this happened soon after the spring fashions started appearing in all of the shops...