Category Archives: OMGoodness, I managed to finish something!

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 ūüėČ

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 ‚Äď and it‚Äôs 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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Lady Skater dress – but with stripes and without skates

Indie pattern month on The Monthly Stitch is going to be the death of me! I missed dresses week but next up was “New to me” week and I managed to make two entries for this section¬†of the competition. Early in the week I finished the Watson jacket from Papercut Patterns and now I’ve made the Lady Skater dress from Kitschy Coo. If I’m still alive by the end of the month I’d like to enter the “The Indie Fan Girl, Level: Ultimate” however as this one involves making an entire outfit (two garments minimum) from one indie pattern designer I’m not sure I’ll be getting it done, mainly because I don’t really feel like making two indie patterns up at the moment, but that could change of course.

I usually don’t manage to submit anything for The Monthly Stitch because I’m not that good at managing my time outside of work. ¬†Life tends to get in the way, other things take over and meeting deadlines in my personal life just seems a bit daunting most days. ¬†Then there’s the blog writing and posting wrestle with WordPress which is made tricky by the fact that I prefer to use my iPad for everything and WordPress and the iPad don’t play nicely together. ¬†However the prizes on offer for Indie Pattern Month were so good I had to try to win something. ¬†The competition is very stiff though, head over to TMS and take a look at the other entries for yourself.

I had four hours sleep last Tuesday after finishing sewing at midnight, then waking up at 4am and not being able to get back to sleep because I started thinking about sewing so I got up at 5.30am to trace patterns for some more indie sewing projects. But who needs sleep when you’ve got indie pattern challenges?! It would be nice if 40 hours of potential sewing time a week wasn’t taken up by my job, but I guess that’s how I get money to buy fabrics, patterns, notions and all the other sewing stuff I love (just between us, I do have a large enough stash to probably keep me sewing full time for months so maybe earning money isn’t that essential).

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Meanwhile I present my lady skater….! Isn’t it lovely. It was great to make something very easy for a change and it took just one evening to put together including cutting out. I have carefully and deliberately not matched most of my stripes except for the dominant white stripe on the skirt. I didn’t have enough fabric to match them anyway but I thought that the mismatching would compliment the casual style of the dress and fabric. I wanted to have chevrons in the front and back skirt panels and, because this was a cheap fabric and it’s effectively a wearable muslin, I didn’t pay any attention to the grain line when cutting the skirt pieces, just cut them the way I wanted the stripes to go. The grain is on various angles of bias, not the true bias, but that doesn’t matter at all, knits are so much more forgiving about this kind of thing.

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I had fun deciding on¬†stripe placement and I’m hoping that by putting the white stripe across my bust and the dark stripes around my waist I’m creating the illusion that I actually have a bust and waist. ¬†I was a little disturbed about the arrow I accidentally created at the top of the skirt but I have been assured by everyone else that it’s fine.

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This dress is fast and easy to make. I finished it in one evening, and that included cutting out. I’m afraid I can’t comment on how easy¬†the instructions were to follow because I only glanced over them to see what seam allowance to use, then put them aside. ¬†Ironically I managed to get the one thing I consulted the instructions for¬†wrong – I’ve just had a look at the instructions so I can comment on them and discovered that the seam allowance is 3/8″, I thought it was 5/8″ and used that throughout. ¬†Thankfully it ended up the perfect size anyway so maybe 3/8″ would¬†have made it too big. ¬†I like the way that there are two levels of instructions though. ¬†One comprehensive and illustrated with lots of colour photos, and a second entitled “Skater Dress crib sheet for advanced bad*sses”. Even without the instructions this went together well and was very simple to make. ¬† I’m feeling like a total bad*ss now.

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I would highly recommend this pattern to anyone, it’s simple enough for a beginner and the instructions look extremely comprehensive. I got the pattern when I purchased the Perfect Pattern Parcel #1, along with 4 other lovely patterns, all of which I’m pretty keen to make up at some stage in the future. ¬†If you’re a fan of indie patterns (or patterns in general or just sewing) take a look at the Perfect Pattern Parcel website. ¬†They release parcels of¬†indie pattern parcels periodically and¬†you can purchase¬†a parcel of indie patterns and choose from a range of prices depending on what you’re willing to pay for them. ¬†Part of the purchase price goes towards children’s education.

Fabric: 100% merino from Levana textiles which I bought on the recent Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network road trip. This fabric is a bit weird and the wrong side sticks to itself like Velcro. ¬†I prewashed it twice and I’ve worn and washed the dress again and it’s definitely improving with each wash and sticking to itself and me a lot less now.

Photos were taken at our WSBN group photo shoot with Kat, Nikki, Laura and Sandra. ¬†Here’s a photo of Laura and I freezing while modelling our Monthly Stitch New-to-me entries in the cold Wellington wind

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“Elementary my dear Watson”

Here I am channelling Dr Watson, but I seem to have misplaced Sherlock

It’s indie pattern month and this is my first make from a Papercut pattern, the Watson jacket. I’m ecstatic about how well it turned out. I had my first outing in it today and it think it is probably the most complimented garment I’ve ever worn. It’s a gem.

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The pattern was an absolute dream to work with. I’m a standard block size in the big 4 so I’m used to being able to make my size out of the packet without alterations and this pattern was no exception, I made a size small with no changes. The pieces went together beautifully, it’s such a well drafted pattern. It was a very quick make for a jacket, the absence of pockets and fiddly details made the pattern quite simple.

I made a few changes to the construction, my rebellious nature won’t let me stick to the rules entirely.

I used a fusible interfacing on both the centre and side front panels, rather than just the centre as recommended in the pattern. I normally interface the entire front and side front when I’m making a jacket, it stabilises the front and helps it to sit smoothly, and details like pockets sit better on an interfaced fabric.

I made the sleeveless version, mainly because I didn’t have enough of the fabric which I purchased at Fabric-a-brac a couple of months ago, but I also think the jacket is better without sleeves because my fabric is so busy.

I’ve got eight buttons instead of six, because why use only six when you have buttons this cool? I totally ignored the button placement on the pattern and put them where I thought they looked best (actually where my 18 year old fashion stylist told me she thought they looked best). My front is pulled in a little more that the pattern specifies, I lined up my front edges with the princess seams because I wanted to avoid breaks in the continuity of the plaid pattern lines of the fabric.

For the collar I cut the under collar on the bias and interfaced it with horsehair canvas. I normally do that for coat or jacket collars, it probably wasn’t necessary with this collar because it’s cut to sit very flat.

Horsehair interfacing on collar

 

Trimmed and clipped curve
Lighter weight interfacing on front facing
Interfacing on front panels

 

The fabric is wool, which I would always shrink before cutting out. I use pretty time consuming methods, either the London shrink or just spraying the fabric with water and then steaming the crap out of it with my iron suspended above it. I thought I’d try the dryer method with this to save a bit of time because it wasn’t a fabric I’ve spent a lot of money on. The method involves putting your dry fabric in the dryer with hot wet towels, then running the dryer on hot for a while. This didn’t work at all for me, I don’t know what I did wrong, my fabric was virtually exactly the same size when it came out as when it went in. I thought perhaps it just wasn’t going to shrink but then when I used my normal spray and steam method on it it shrunk up like crazy.

My fabric’s long and fruitless joyride in the dryer

 

Oh look, it’s a sarcophagus, perhaps Sherlock is in here

In case you’re wondering what all this marvellous art I’m surrounded by is, I’d like to be able to tell you that it’s all at my house, but unfortunately it’s not, it’s actually the David Trubridge exhibition at Pataka gallery. He makes some seriously gorgeous furniture, jewellery and lighting which is available worldwide, or if you’re in New Zealand you can come ogle it at Pataka. You can also listen to David being interviewed on Radio New Zealand National recently here. His holiday home is featured in the current issue of New Zealand House and Garden and he’s also written a brilliant book So far

What are you doing up there Sherlock?
David Trubridge lampshades in the Pataka spine

 

The Crazy Butterfly Dress

Apparently there is an age limit on wearing butterfly fabric. I’m fairly sure that at 43 I’m well past that age limit, luckily however I’m also well past the age where I care what anyone thinks of what I wear so when I put this dress on, and my 18 year old daughter said I look like a crazy person, I thought: Good! I was hoping it would look nice but crazy is any unexpected bonus. No one is going to mess with me when I’m wearing this dress. Maybe I should wear it to work… every single day.

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I actually made it for the Zoo at the zoo event today with the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network (WSBN). We all turned up to Wellington Zoo this morning with some yummy food (food is always a fixture at our get togethers, which I’m happy about, food and sewing are my favorite things) wearing something we’ve made which is animal themed in some way. Ok butterflies are an insect but let’s not get too hung up on technicalities. I had five metres of butterfly fabric in my stash and the pattern for the Flirty vintage day dress class on Craftsy turned up in time for me to get it made. I’m not sure how much flirting I’ll be getting done, I think any sane man is likely to run a mile from a crazy lady in a butterfly dress.

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My slip is showing!

I’ve never made myself a 50s style dress but it’s the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to try and recently I’ve acquired two vintage 50s petticoats while clearing out my mother’s house. She’s downsized from a massive 6 bedroom house with a 4 car garage to a 2 bedroom apartment so I’ve acquired a lot more than just petticoats!

So with all the stars so meaningfully aligned it seemed like the time to dive into sewing retro.

It all went quite well, there were no major hiccups. I didn’t make a muslin as Laura Nash recommended in the class because the pattern is drafted for a B-cup which I am so I figured I’d just crack on. The great thing about this pattern is that, with seven pieces making up the front bodice, there are plenty of places to make fitting adjustments on the fly so when I found that the fit in the bust was much too big it was very easy to eliminate the extra in the under bust seam.

Left: before alteration. Right: after

The upper bodice is obviously a bit roomy for my little B-cups so I pinned the excess out of the under bust seam.

I didn’t want to make the lower bodice/midriff piece any shorter as it was actually just right for my midriff so I took all the excess amount out of the bust section. I measured the distance I had pinned out and then doubled it and marked that on the bust piece.

Then I unpicked the under bust seam and matched my pen marks to the seam line on the midriff piece, tapering to nothing at the centre front and the sides.
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Because my alteration slightly shortened the length of the bust piece, after the seam was sewn the midriff jutted out about 6mm past the edge of the bust piece so I just trimmed it off tapering to nothing at the waist.

I have a special technique for sewing perfect intersecting seams which I used to get a really good result on this bodice. You can check my tutorial out here.

After that everything went swimmingly. Here’s my clever lapped zipper with “privacy panel”. With the wind in Wellington today I could have used some kind of privacy contraption to stop my skirt blowing up over my head, there was quite an updraft by the otter enclosure!

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Here are the WSBN having a photo break at a hut in the African village. I had a fantastic time, it’s always great hanging out with the other sewing bloggers and I enjoyed scaring the animals. From front left: Sophie-Lee, Kat, Sandra, Gemma, back row: Jo, Juliet, Joy, me

The particulars:

Pattern: Sew Chic Tia Dress

Craftsy class: Sewing vintage: The flirty day dress

Fabrics: This project was made almost completely from stash stuff, the only thing I had to buy was the zip. From left: Quilting cotton for trim, spotted cotton lawn for privacy panel on zip, fine striped stretch cotton for lining, butterfly print cotton

But wait, there’s more

Here’s some interesting useless information. There are a bunch of collective nouns for butterflies. According to Ask.com they are; rabble, flutter, kaleidoscope, rainbow or swarm. Christchurch City Library gives only two collective nouns; rabble or flight.

I think, because of the Wellington-wind-assisted aerodynamics of my dress I’m going to name it ‘a flight of butterflies’

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A useful wind control technique
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Kat’s photobomb

Finito!

My Alabama Chanin sampler corset top is finally done. I sewed the zipper into the side seam last night and now it's all finished. I can squeeze into it and it fits like a glove (quite a snug glove – if I had gloves this tight I wouldn't actually be able to bend my fingers)

There have been a few months of procrastinating along the way and it was a time consuming project to complete, but the nice thing about it is that the embellishment can be done while you're doing other things like watching TV, in morning tea and lunch breaks or on public transport and it's surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable to do.

Because I took it with me so many places and it's been seen by a lot of people I've actually had a few requests to make one for other people. Of course my answer was no, but then I'd tell them they could buy their own from Alabama Chanin. No one actually has yet but at least they understand why they're quite costly to buy.

I learned the techniques from the Craftsy class Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric. You could learn the techniques from any of Natalie Chanin's books but I always like to see techniques demonstrated which is probably why I'm such a big fan of Craftsy classes and have enrolled in lots of them. My daughter bought me all three of the books for my birthday last year so I have plenty of material for inspiration for my next project. Next time I might stick to just one embellishment technique for the entire garment.

Alabama Chanin sampler corset front
The front

Alabama Chanin sampler corset top back
There was no way I was going to be able to get into this without a zip


The details

Fabric: Two recycled t-shirts and some blue stash fabric

Pattern: Corset top from Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin

Stencil: Anna's garden stencil from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design or download from the Alabama Chanin website

Paint: I mixed a grey blue colour with Atelier acrylic paints and mixed it with a Jo Sonja's fabric medium. I didn't use textile paint because I already had acrylic paint and fabric medium in my art supplies.

Other stuff: John James milliners needles, King Tut variegated thread, vintage glacé cotton thread, quilting DMC embroidery thread, Shamrock fine bead thread, Gutermann beads and standard polyester thread for sewing the seams. Invisible zipper. The Button craft thread which Natalie Chanin recommends isn't available in New Zealand and it was going to be expensive to mail order from an international source so I made do with alternatives.

My daughter the pro photographer taking a photo of me putting the cat down, but as it turns out it shows the back quite well