All posts by Zara

Sewing Leather – Part 2 – Straight Seams

If you haven’t already, read ‘Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Sewing Straight Seams

  • Your stitch length should be no smaller than 8-10 stitches per inch (2.5-3.5mm).  Smaller stitches could cause your seamline to tear. 
  • Do not back stitch at the beginning or end of your seams.  To secure your threads pull the upper thread through to the underside and tie the two threads in a knot (or pull both threads to the middle between the layers and tie off there)
  • You can loosen your top and bottom thread tensions slightly if you think this improves the look of your seam.  This will probably be necessary if you are using a thicker thread.
  • Leather doesn’t ravel and it’s neater if you keep your seam allowances quite small.  I used 1cm seam allowances but you can use ½ inch seams if you are an inches and feet kind of person.
  • To convert this post to imperial measurements substitute 1/2″ when I’ve used 1cm and 1″ when I’ve used 2cm.

Now we’re up to the action part.


Sample 1 – Straight seam pressed open

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I’ve used a lightweight suede for my sample

  1. Cut 4 squares or rectangles.  Mine are about 12x10cm
  2. Sew them together in pairs, right sides together.
  3. Open your seam allowances and gently hammer or roll them open
  4. Apply a very thin layer of glue to the underside of your seam allowances and stick them down.
  5. Place your pair of assembled pairs right sides together.  Match your seams exactly and use clips to hold them together while sewing.
  6. Clip corners off first seams to reduce bulk then open and glue seams open as you did for the first pairs.
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Sample 2 – Straight seam pressed to the side and topstitched

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In this sample you’ll be learning a clever trick called ‘seam splitting’.  This is used to reduce bulk where seams intersect.  The measurement rule for your seam split is that it is twice the width of your seam allowance or hem, therefore if your seam allowance is 1cm your seam split will measure 2cm.

There is very little gluing involved in these seams because the top stitching holds most of the seam allowances flat.

  1. Cut 4 squares or rectangles.  Mine are about 10-12cm
  2. Sew them together in pairs, right sides together.
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  3. Snip into one seam allowance.  In this case I have a 1cm seam allowance so I’m making my snips 2cm from the raw edge.
    Note:  Clip only one seam allowance
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  4. The ends of the seams are pressed open and the middle of the seams are pressed to one side (the side you will be topstitching on).
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  5. Edgestitch (or topstitch) your seam.  With right sides up, start from the opposite side of the seam to where your edgestitching will be.  Begin by sewing across the open seam allowance to secure it about .5cm from the edge (this also anchors your thread).  Sew across the seam, sink your needle and swivel your work then edgestitch the seam, checking that your seams are folded the right way on the underside and being caught in the seam.  When you near the seam split at the end check that the seam allowances are open.  Edgestitch to the end, sink your needle, swivel your work and stitch across the seam and the seam allowance.

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    Once you’re done this is what it should look like on the right and wrong sides.
  6. Place your pair of assembled pairs right sides together.  Match your seams exactly and use clips to hold them together while sewing.
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  7. Snip into one seam allowance 2cm from outer edges as in step 3 above.  Edgestitch the seam as you did in step 4 above making sure that the seam allowances at the seam intersection are open as you sew across.  You will only catch one of them and leave the other free.
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  8. Glue down the loose seam allowance in the centre of the seam to form a square at the intersection.
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Seam Splitting Rules

Seam splits are used to reduce bulk in areas of the garment where seams will intersect.  Leather seams can be quite bulky and splitting the seam, so that it lies open at seam intersections, reduces bulk and helps those areas lie flat.

  • Use seam splits where you are top/edge stitching seams.  You don’t need to use them for seams which are pressed open and glued.
  • Only snip one seam allowance – the opposite seam allowance to the side where your topstitching will be.
  • They are always twice the width of your seams or twice the width of your hem.  Therefore if your seams are 1cm you’ll make your clip 2cm from the edge.  If you have a 3 cm hem, you’ll snip 6cm from the edge.
  • Seam split 1cm (1/2”) above and below the sewing lines of any pocket or tab stitching lines, ie if you’re going to be sewing a pocket welt, jet, patch pocket, tab or anything else across a seam later in the construction process you’ll want to put a split in the seam to reduce bulk.
  • Make sure you catch both seam allowances with your top/edge stitching.
  • Always glue down loose splits, like you did in the centre of the seam.  Don’t leave them flopping about.

Further reading

There are many other ways to sew seams in leather.  I’ve included these two because they’re the ones I’m planning to use in the garments I’ll be sewing.  For more techniques you can refer to other resources like:

Coming Soon

I’ll be adding tutorials for sewing curved seams, trimmed facings, jet pockets and zipped sleeves with godet inserts as time allows.

Please note:  I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Have you ever wondered whether you can sew leather on your domestic machine?  Well have I got great news for you!  The answer is yes, and with a few easy to find tools, many of which you may already own it’s not difficult.  My machine copes better with leather than it does with a heavy denim.  For these tutorials I have used apparel weight leather, the kind you’ll find in leather jackets, skirts or pants.  I have sewn them on my ancient Bernina Favorit 740 which was manufactured in 1964.

First of all you’re going to need a few tools.  Most of this is pretty easy to get your mitts on, and it’s not expensive, unless you own a Bernina and need to buy a walking foot.  But don’t worry, there are work arounds.

Presser feet

You will need a Teflon foot, a roller foot or a walking foot.  The Teflon foot prevents the foot from sticking to the surface of your leather.  So far my Teflon foot has been working fine so I haven’t tried using my walking foot or roller foot yet.  If you don’t have these try applying a strip of Scotch invisible tape to the bottom of your regular presser foot, apparently it works like having a Teflon foot.

If you have difficulty with the leather sticking to your foot or the bed of your machine, or stretching when you sew it, you can place tissue paper underneath and/or on top of your leather pieces to help it slide through and tear it away after you’ve sewn your seam.

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Top:  Walking foot;  Left:  teflon foot;  Right: Roller foot.  This is a low shank foot with a Bernina low shank adapter. 

Leather needle

The leather needle has a triangle shaped point which cuts a neat hole with every stitch into the leather.  If you are doing any hand sewing use a glover’s needle which has the same shaped point.

Leather needle

Glue

Because you can’t iron leather to press it flat, you’ll use glue to stick your seam allowances down so they lie flat.  Professionals use white cement, Barge is a brand I’ve seen people use online but that’s not available in New Zealand so I’m just using Uhu glue and I’ve also got a tube of Ados contact adhesive from Bunnings.  They seem to do the trick fine.  You need a glue which is tacky when it’s applied so don’t use PVA or anything like that.  It’s super stinky so make sure you’re not getting high while using it, unless you like that kind of thing.  There’s no judgement here…

Professionals use an oil can to dispense the glue but I’ve gone with the low tech option of a cotton bud (Q-tip) to spread mine on.  I squeeze a thin layer out of the tube onto the underside of the seam first and then smear it around with the cotton bud.

There’s no need to go crazy here.  Just a little bit holds the seams in a lightweight leather.  Try to keep the glue away from the area where you will be sewing later so your needle doesn’t get glue on it.

My first sample was a very lightweight suede which moved around a lot when I was applying the glue.  In this case I found it easier to smear the glue onto the garment where the seam allowance will be stuck down.  When I put it on the underside of the seam allowance it flopped around a bit and I sometimes got some on the right side of the seam allowance.

Thread

For my samples I used standard Mettler sewing thread but if I was sewing a garment I would use a thicker stronger thread.  It would be very disappointing to have a seam break in a garment and this would be likely as leather does stretch and a leather garment may have a much longer life span than other clothing.  I’ve bought a thin but strong Coats Nylbond industrial thread for when I eventually make my daughter’s leather jacket.  I expect my domestic machine will have no trouble sewing with it, some thicker threads don’t work well in domestic machines, but this one is not much thicker than a standard thread.

I have seen a suggestion in a bag making book to use two strands of standard thread in the needle if you can’t find a matching colour for top stitching.  If you are going to do this feed the threads either side of the upper tension disc in your machine.

Hammer or Leather Seam Roller

I have a leather seam roller because I found one in a op-shop many years ago and bought it on the off-chance it might come in handy one day (it’s like I’m psychic), but if you don’t have one of these you can use a ball pein hammer or a rubber mallet to gently hammer your seams open.  I’ve got a hammer too as I think thicker seam allowances might benefit from a bit of bashing to lie flat.

Leather seam roller
Leather seam roller – image: Craftsy

Clips

You’ll need some clips to hold your seams together instead of pins.  You can’t use pins because they make holes and that’s very undesirable when using leather.  I use amazing clips from Made Marion and I have them in two sizes for different size jobs.  They come in super handy for all kinds of tasks so once you have them you’ll probably find other things to use them for.  They’re normally used for quilting so are easy to obtain from quilting shops.  Clover call them Wonder Clips.

Wonder clips

Now you’re ready to practise sewing leather by making some samples so head to the next tutorial – Part 2 – Sewing straight seams.

Please note:  I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

My Leather Obsession

It’s time to pick my blog back up again.  It’s been very neglected for a long time.  I’m not the most tech savvy blogger, I struggle a bit with posts and getting photos the right size and correctly aligned and stuff like that and I tend to start writing a blog post and it takes me all afternoon by the time I’ve fiddled with the formatting and getting looking ok and then I have to leave it to go do important stuff, like life, and I never get back to it again.  But I’ve got some exciting stuff happening now and I really want to tell you all about it so I’ve persevered and written two tutorials, as well as this post (and now I think I need a big lie down).

Here’s the back story which has led to this change of events:  Firstly, I got a new job last year, and it’s the best job ever, it’s fabulous!  I work at The Fabric Warehouse in Wellington which is my happy place.  I love my job and I look forward to going to work every day.  My workmates are fantastic, my boss is awesome and the customers are lovely.  There’s nothing not to like about it.

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Here I am at work.  As you can see, I like to blend in.

Secondly my boss, Stephen, recently acquired a lot of beautiful apparel weight leather, a mountain of lovely leather.

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In case you’re wondering, this is what a small portion of a leather mountain looks like.

I love leather, I’ve always wanted to have leather clothing but it’s really expensive and it’s usually very expensive to buy leather hides so it’s too intimidating to try sewing it.  I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin a lot of expensive leather.  But then Stephen bought the leather mountain and it’s cheap enough to take the plunge and try sewing it without worrying about losing too much money if it doesn’t work out.  It’s worth the risk.

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I’ve got four garment lots of leather and I’m busy up-skilling so I can get these made up.  The coral leather and purple suede are to make jackets for me and the black and beige leather are for a jacket and skirt for my daughter, Monica.

Here’s a photo of my daughter, as you can see she really looks like she needs some leather clothing to go with her awesome life 🙂

In the past week I've got a degree, a job, and a (pink) car 🚗🎉

A post shared by Monica Hawthorne (@monicaursula) on

My problem was that I didn’t know if I could sew leather with my ancient 1960s domestic sewing machine so I did a bit of testing.

Now, it’s not that easy to find information about sewing leather and it’s quite different to sewing fabric.  I’ve been scouring the internet and libraries for techniques, and I’ve got some invaluable information from my colleague, Caitlin, who is a Massey Uni fashion grad.  I’ve made a few discoveries and had amazingly good results with the samples I’ve made so far.

So, I’m going to share my discoveries with you so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I’m starting with two tutorials covering basic supplies and sewing straight seams

Don’t be afraid to try sewing leather yourself, it’s not difficult.  In fact, it was easier for my machine to sew than denim.  Using a leather needle makes it easy for your machine to puncture the leather.

Remember though, that I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

I suggest you try all the techniques by making samples until you are confident, as I have, before you tackle a garment.  Leather is completely unforgiving of mistakes.  You can’t rip a seam out and resew it because it leaves permanent holes.

The Fabric Warehouse sells leather scraps and these are what I used to practise on and make my samples.

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Some of the scraps are quite colourful

I’ll be adding tutorials as time allows and as I try out new techniques so follow my blog if you’d like to see them as they’re posted.

Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Part 2 – Sewing Straight Seams

Meet Tina Tuna

Hi everyone! Look I made a gigantic eel! I know you’re probably wondering why… It’s not the sort of thing I’d wake up on a random morning inspired to make but I work with creative people and that’s just the kind of stuff they think up so a couple of weeks ago my colleague, Margaret, decided that we needed a four metre long replica of a New Zealand native long finned eel for the Porirua harbour themed revamp of the children’s Tuatara education space at Pataka. I’m not sure how many other people she asked to make it before she came to me but I know there was at least one and she said no, luckily for me 😉

Of course I said yes! I actually said, ‘OMG, YES PLEASE!!!’ Nothing this exciting normally happens to me at work. I was so excited I was two year old excited. You know how excited little kids get about really great things that happen to them, well I was that excited. I was so thrilled I told some of my work colleagues that I was making a giant eel three times without realising I’d already told them twice already.

Me and Tina

There is a back story behind this which may explain my excitement. Recently work sent me on a Dale Carnegie Leadership for Managers course which is a fantastic course, I’m enjoying it immensely and learning a lot. As part of the course we’ve done a Myers Briggs personality test (I’m an ENFP) and when our instructor read out the summaries of our personalities I found out that I am not suited to jobs involving figures. Guess what my job is! I’m the Finance and Reporting Co-ordinator (I love my acronym). Figures are just about all my job consists of! But it actually gets worse… While I was googling away finding out info about my personality type (and I know that lots of people think they’re a bunch of unscientific crap but mine is pretty much spot on so I’m going with it) I found this blog post about the definition of Hell for each Myers Briggs personality type. Mine is ‘Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks’. This description is alarming close to what my job consists of (admittedly I didn’t like the sound of any of the other personality types’ worst nightmares either). So when I was offered a chance of escape from the drudgery of my day-to-day existence I was so thrilled I was bouncing off the walls. I was more excited than this.

Margaret and I headed off to Pete’s Emporium, which is the local shop where you can buy almost anything cheaply and we got some fabrics and a gigantic bag of stuffing, which is what you need to stuff a colossal eel. We made the mistake of not taking a vehicle and must have looked interesting carrying it across town back to work. Here’s Natalie, my stuffing assistant posing with the bag of stuffing, she’s quite a lot taller than Margaret and I.

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After getting the materials I got quite busy with other things and didn’t start on it until the education team were beginning to worry that I wasn’t going to get it finished in time, but finally after rushing through all my soul-destroyingly-boring normal work I was ready to crack into it.

Making a four metre long eel takes quite a lot of space and I realised after contemplating it for a few days that I wasn’t going to be easy to make it at my house. I don’t have that much room and I didn’t fancy crawling around on my floor marking and cutting it out (and I’d have to tidy up to do that too) so I decided to take my sewing machine to work and make it there in the education classroom space, which is perfect because they have big long tables, lots of room to spread out and great lighting.

See, there’s enough room to swing an eel

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My creative process works best when I have a few days to think a project through, sleep is a very important part of the process. First I think it over for a few days and form a bunch of ideas of how it will work, then I put pen to paper and start to rough out a plan. After that I leave it until the next day because I come up with more ideas and refinements to my plan after a night’s sleep. Often there are some details that still need to be ironed out but I’ll make a start anyway because some things have to be worked out once I get to that stage and can see it in front of me. During the making process it’s beneficial to take a break and pick it up again the next day because refinements and solutions to problems come to me after sleep. Interestingly that’s pretty much exactly how I approach doing a budget as well.

I started by downloading and printing a few images of eels from different angles.  They’re not the prettiest creatures…

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I found a handy diagram which I took measurements from and with the help of an online ratio calculator scaled them up for the four metre long eel, then I started drawing plans. Fortunately an eel is really just a simple tube so it wasn’t difficult to work all of this out. The trickier parts were getting the mouth, lips and the shape of the head right. They took a little more thought and the finer details were worked out on the go.

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Above left:  Alice, the Social History Curator dresses up as an enormous eel
Above right:  The lips get some contouring done from the inside

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Above left:  detail showing the contrast lower body intersecting with the bottom fin
Above right:  Margaret appliqued the eyes, I assembled and attached them

There are a couple of things I would change if I made another eel. The lovely red velvet in the mouth is stretchy, I should have interfaced it so it didn’t stretch when it was stuffed. I’ve hand sewn some darts to take in the excess inside the mouth which actually looks quite good, it gives the impression of contours so it wasn’t a complete disaster. For the bottom lip I extended the head bottom piece out then gathered the outer edge, folded it in, stitched and stuffed it but because it’s partially on the bias parts of it want to twist and buckle. If I was making it again I would cut the bottom lip separately and attach it like I did for the top lips. The stiffening in the lower and upper jaws aren’t ideal. I’ve used plastic embroidery canvas and cardboard but they’re not as stiff as I’d like and they aren’t secured in place very well so they may migrate a bit. Next time I’ll try to find something better to stiffen this type of project and attach it more securely.

I managed to stab myself with pins and needles on this project more than I’ve ever stabbed myself making anything. That may be because of the layers and thickness of the fabrics, the unwieldy size of the project, being unaccustomed to the 10-15cm dollmakers’ needles I was using to do soft sculpting etc. I probably should fill in a health and safety incident report and do a hazard assessment, if only for the entertainment value it will give the HR department. After all these years sewing I’m not sure that there’s a way to entirely eliminate accidental pin stabbings. I’d like to know if anyone else has figured it out.

I also got very tired sore hands from wrestling with the project while doing the handsewing parts. On the last two days I wasn’t able to snap off a row of Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana chocolate for my dessert after dinner. It was a problem until I realised I could just gnaw on the whole block. I may have lost track of how many lines I ate…

Tuna is the generic Maori word for freshwater eels, hence the name Tina Tuna, that and she has a good singing voice…

Here she is immediately after being released into her natural environment.

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One of my other work colleagues, Mark, has a pet eel in the stream at the back of his country house. She’s quite tame and comes to be fed (raw meat). She’ll even come up out of the stream and slither around people’s legs like a cat… a big freeky wet slithery cat. Can’t say I’d be keen to experience that. I asked him if Tina looked like his eel and he said she looks a lot friendlier and less aggressive than his.

I hope she doesn’t give any children nightmares.  Are you a fan of eels?

The weirdest thing I’ve ever sewn

I was just over on the Monthly Stitch checking out what everyone’s been up to for the current month’s challenges and I saw Melissa’s post about the crazy things she sews for her husband and it reminded me of the craziest thing I’ve ever sewn which is a deck screen/side thing for my man – I’m not sure what the proper name for this is.

Scott was having a party and wanted to enclose his deck so it wasn’t too cold because it was happening in late winter/early spring so we needed something to keep the wind and rain out in case the weather wasn’t good on the night.  The professionally made deck screens are quite pricy and he had access to a free Toyota advertising billboard.  They’re made from a reinforced plastic canvas sheet probably pretty much the same stuff as the bought deck screens are made from so we thought why not have a go at making one ourselves.

The tricky thing is sewing something this large, awkward and heavy but we solved that by putting the sewing machine on a trolley and moving that instead of the canvas sheet.

From one end of the deck...
From one end of the deck…
... to the other
… to the other

We cut out recesses so the top edge fitted around the deck roof rafters and then sewed a pocket along the top edge which a thin pipe was threaded through above the rafters to hang it up.  The bottom was attached to the deck by laying a wooden batten over the bottom edge and screwing it onto to the decking.

And here’s the end result…  It’s pretty impressive – the ultimate man cave accessory

Hilux deck side

One day we might get around to figuring out how to put a door in it where the steps up to the lawn are…  There are also plans to make screens for the ends of the deck.  We’ve got another billboard for that – anyone remember the Toyota Corolla ads with Smitten the self-harming kitten?  I’m not sure how he’s going to look with the Hilux, but hey cats… 🙂

0 Degrees of Separation

I haven’t blogged for a long time! I have done a little bit of sewing over the past few months and I’ve started writing some blog posts but haven’t quite got to the stage of actually posting anything but fortunately Leimomi The Dreamstress came up with a brilliant idea for a challenge which would force me to blog about it.

Based on the fact that all of us in the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network (WSBN) shop in the same fabric stores (often at the same time – just imagine the enabling that goes on!) and we often buy the same fabrics quite by accident, Leimomi had an idea to see if we could create a chain of makes linked by either the same fabric or the same pattern as the previous person. You can read her explanation here, and she has links to all the posts which are being updated daily.

A few of us caught up for a photo session in our 0 Degrees dresses.  It was a bit of a flying visit for me because I had to rush off to look at a flat with my daughter (she’s moving out!  I’m going to have a sewing room!!) but I had enough time to sit on a wall at Te Papa with everyone while we looked very happy in our dresses.

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Why am I wearing a dress with babies on it? Well Juliet from Crazy Gypsy Chronicles went into her local Spotlight store and saw fabric which horrified her so much she took several photos and posted them on the WSBN Facebook group page with a comment about how creepy and awful they were. She probably wasn’t expecting what happened next which was that a lot of us said “Gumnut Babies! Cool, can you buy us some”. So poor Juliet, having one day regarded the Gumnut Babies fabric with derision has to go back the next day and buy almost all of it. When this challenge came up and the complicated process of working out the fabric and pattern matches and creating the chain of links began it was especially easy for me because we already knew who had this fabric.

‘Twas the night before the get together for our group photo for this challenge so I thought I’d better start making the dress, so finally at 8.30 I made a start. Luckily, having made the Alder twice before and this being the easiest fabric ever to sew (it’s a lovely crisp stable cotton) I didn’t run into any problems and the dress went together quickly over the course of the evening and the next morning. You might notice the fact that I didn’t bother doing any pattern matching or centring at all. For starters there wasn’t time for that but I also thought this might be a one wear dress, after all it has babies on it! When I first looked at the finished dress I thought I should have at least centred the pattern on the front and the back but I’m not that bothered by it. I’ve seen so many quite expensive ready to wear clothes lately with uncentred patterns I figure I’m not going to get upset about this. The only thing I made an attempt to match was the pocket (only in as much as I’d cut two out and just picked the one where the pattern seemed to line up with the pattern on the dress in the pocket region).  Oddly the pattern on the back lines up perfectly at the bodice/skirt seam.  This was a total fluke because the pattern isn’t even centred across the back.  Leimomi mentioned that she liked the way I’d put the babies heads and butts on my button band, that was a happy accident too.

Grainline Alder shirt dressGrainline Alder shirt dress

One thing I’m very happy with is the buttons.  I had bought a bag of buttons at the op shop (thrift store) earlier in the day for $1 and there were some just the right shade of yellow in the bag.

I love this dress, it’s not very obvious that it’s covered in babies, it just looks like a busy print. Like my other Alders (which I haven’t blogged about yet) it’s a great comfortable throw on summer dress. It’s a pity that summer is over here and it’ll have to live in the wardrobe for a few months until the weather warms up again, even so I’ve still worn it two Sundays in a row.

Grainline Alder shirt dressGrainline Alder Shirt dress

In case you’re wondering what the story is about the weird fascination with baby fabric there is a series of children’s books about the ‘Gumnut Babies’ by Australian author May Gibbs and these fabrics feature the cute characters from her stories which many of us remember from our childhood.

There were other prints in the range.  Check out this cute shirt dress that Jo at Making it well made from the fabric she got.

Less well known are the New Zealand equivalent of the Gumnut Babies, two little characters called Hutu and Kawa from a series of books written and illustrated by Avis Acres. If anyone printed these little cuties onto fabric I’d be tempted to wear babies a lot more often.

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Two dresses, a jacket and no funerals… yet

This all happen last month.  I was so excited about my amazing accomplishment and wanted to broadcast it to the world but life got in the way.  My mum got out of hospital after a three month stay and I’ve been kept extremely busy looking after her since then so haven’t had a chance to blog about this but here’s my big news:

I made three garments in two weeks! Wow! I’m not sure I’ve ever managed that before. I probably have in the misty obscurity of my past when I was young and full of the joys of life but these days I’m just not normally that productive.

First I made my Pacifika garden party ensemble for the big garden party we’re going to have at work this Thursday.  I’m kind of a bit too wrung out now to organise the party but my colleagues are going to help.  I’m really looking forward to wearing this crazy outfit, it’s been a bit difficult to resist the temptation to wear it before the party now that the weather is improving.  My daughter has told me that I’m not allowed to wear the dress and jacket together unless I’m at the garden party but sometimes she’s still asleep when I’m leaving the house and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

I love these bright colours and now I want to get more of this kind of fabric to make stuff.

I seem to have put the patterns I used away and can’t find them to show you but the dress is the super-cute Simplicity 1873 by Cynthia Rowley and the jacket is a discontinued Butterick pattern.

The second dress I made for my lovely friend Tracy to wear to the Porirua Business Excellence Awards.  Tracy is my double neighbour, she sits next to me at work and we live really close to each other.  She asked me if I could copy a dress, which she’d bought recently, in a more evening appropriate fabric and I said yes, crazily thinking a week would be plenty of time.  It would have been if things had gone normally, but you know how sometimes stuff which is normally a piece of cake and you’ve done it a million times before so you can normally do it blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back just doesn’t go as you know it should.  The pattern just didn’t work out.  What should have taken me an evening took a whole extra day of mucking around, but fortunately once I got the pattern wrestled into submission the rest of the project behaved and I got it finished at lunchtime on the day of the Awards.

First we went for a speed shopping trip to The Fabric Warehouse which had just had a huge shipment of gorgeous spring fabrics arrive and this fabric jumped out when Tracy saw it.  It’s an utterly gorgeous cotton/polyester blend with a little bit of lustre so it can be worn for dressed up daywear as well as in the evening.  It has a subtle brocade type texture in coral, peach and hot pink. This is what it looks like in natural light.

 

This is the dress I copied, it’s the Loobies Story Indochine dress and it’s very beautiful, the fabric is a lovely heavy textured cotton which holds it’s structure really well.  To get the same structured effect I underlined the fabric with a silk organza.

The fitted dress has princess seams, pleated cap sleeves and a slit in the front, which turned out to be a bit indecent without the mini pom-pom trim on the neckline of the original so I sewed a modesty panel behind the slit so everyone at Tracy’s table didn’t get an eyeful of her spectacular cleavage all night. The original dress has a vent in the back but I didn’t put one in the replica because the skirt isn’t tight.

I used an old Vogue princess seam sheath dress pattern I had in my stash. It’s a size 10 and Tracy is slightly bigger than that with a full bust but the fit was ironed out with a FBA and some adjustments to the muslin.  It’s been a long time since I made a garment for someone with a bigger-than-B-cup bust.  I’m so used to patterns just fitting me out of the envelope, I had forgotten what an interesting exercise it is to get a 2-D object to fit around a very 3-D surface, but it all came back to me pretty quickly.  I had trouble with drafting the sleeve and adding in the pleats, it kept pulling and not sitting right so in the end I just draped it which was what I should have done in the first place.

Vogue 7995
The assembly was very straight forward once I’d got all the organza and fabric layers hand basted together. It’s a simple dress and it went together really quickly. I had to use my walking foot to feed the layers of silk organza underling and outer fabric evenly and I hand tacked the invisible zipper before machine sewing it in with my invisible zipper foot otherwise the feed dogs were going to pull the fabric too much and kind of gather it onto the zip. I overlocked/serged the raw edges after I stitched the seams.

Muslin used as the pattern which is marked onto the silk organza with a tracing wheel and dressmakers carbon
Hand basting silk organza onto fashion fabric with silk thread

I was intending to line the dress but by the time it was underlined I felt it was heavy enough for a spring-summer dress and didn’t want Tracy to roast if she chose to wear it in warmer weather.  I can always put a lining in it later if she decides she’d like one.

The only hand finishing was the hems, stitching down the facing and sewing in the panel behind the slit.  Then I dropped it off after a thorough press over my ham.  After Tracy put it on she had to dash off to the event so there was no time for a photo so, until I get around to visiting her and getting a proper picture of her modelling it I just have a hanger picture, which really doesn’t do it justice because it looks about a million times better on.

My timing was a bit out on these projects, I was a month early for Froctober over on The Monthy Stitch and now I’ll have to make another dress for that. I have plans to make a lot of really nice dresses for the coming summer and my daughter has a growing list of sewing projects for me too.

I’m very tied up with looking after Mum so hopefully I’ll manage to get something done, in between spending almost all my time, when I’m not at work, looking after her, and hopefully I won’t die of exhaustion or go crazy before she’s able to move into a rest home in two weeks.  As I type this at 10pm, she is getting things out of the pantry to make her breakfast because she thinks it’s the morning even though I’ve told her twice that it’s time to go back to bed.  Hanging out with her while she wanders around the house six times a night thinking it’s time to get up could be quite entertaining if I didn’t have a full-time day job as well.  Thank goodness I only have to do six nights of sleepovers before her night carer comes back from her trip away, then I’ll be back to just visiting two or three times every day.  She’s pretty hardy despite her dementia, I’m definitely not as resilient and I’m finding it really hard to keep up with all my commitments.  When she gets into her rest home apartment I’m going to be so excited to have a break.