Hello, Strangers!

“Hi, my name is Melanie, and it’s been 6 months since I last posted”.

Yep, and about 5 of that have had zero chances to sew. But – our unlivable house is now moderately livable. Sort of. Still a lot of work to do! But the last month has had some productive sewing in it, culminating in a seasonally inappropriate top that is very different to my usual style. I do really love it though. Photos just as soon as I find my missing camera battery charger, and brave the cold! (Some sunshine might be nice too, but I wouldn’t want to be too demanding or anything…)

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Just a little seam matching perfection…

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I’ve also been working on the French Jacket for my mum. I originally thought having it done for her birthday in early May would has been SO achievable. But that didn’t quite work out, so the new delivery date has been set for early August. Better get my skates on…

Because I’ve also started sewing a new jacket (for me). Marfy 3022!

F3022 SS 2014-15 Jacket

The muslin for it is getting me very excited. Even with no adjustments I really love the proportions. Having been out of sewing practise for so long, and also because this pattern had a rather tricky looking dart/pocket configuration – I went to a lot more effort than I normally would in a muslin.

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But that’s all come to a screaming halt, because my usual size 46 is a little on the snug side. After many months of intensive renovating, with a non-functional kitchen and limited time – a continuous succession of bad dietary choices (and an underactive thyroid!) have left me about 6kg’s heavier than at the beginning of the year. So I’m deciding whether to buy the Size 48, or make it as the 46 as by the time I finish it, it will be Spring and I should be back to normal by then. Decisions…

Regardless, it’s so lovely to be back and sewing!!

 

Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion

A week after watching these videos, and I still can’t get them out of my head.

Watch the mental shift of 3 young Norwegian fashion bloggers who come to realise what life is really like for textile workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Ep 1   –   Ep 2   –   Ep 3   –   Ep 4   –   Ep 5

The trailer for this series is on YouTube, or you can watch each episode in the links above.

F3453: Back to Basics Dress

I had forgotten how quickly a simple 5 pattern piece garment can come together…. and is there anything more frivolously fun than sewing a dress for a special occasion? I savoured making this dress, as this wedding I wore it too is probably the last I’ll get to attend for a very long time.

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The dress is Marfy 3453 – a fairly simple fit and flare sleeveless dress. The bodice has two darts, a v-neckline at the rear, centreback zip and evenly spaced pleats in the skirt. I think what I love most about simple patterns is that they really allow your fabric to shine.

I had wholly intended on sewing this dress ‘as it is’, but I quickly discovered that a 2 dart bodice on me just looks not-nice. Perhaps its the ratio between my bust and my waist? So I converted it to a four dart bodice. This was the only fit adjustment I made.

Also, I had wanted to use the lace border detail on my fabric around the hem, which meant I replaced the pleated A-line skirt with a simple dirndl. I was a little sad about this as the A-line looked great in my muslin, if a little long. I don’t have the amazonian length pins Marfy designs for!

Although… I’m very close to a tipping point for preferring a pencil skirt over a voluminous skirt. I’m not there yet, but can see it looming on the horizon. I can see myself wearing this particular dress in my later years as a fitted sheath style, which would be quite easy to achieve.

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I decided to prewash the fabric, so I could launder the dress myself instead of having it dry cleaned. As soon as I dipped it in water – it STANK. Thanks to an instagram conversation, I was informed that sometimes silk does stink, and it has to do with a gum residue the silk worms leave behind called ‘sericin’. The less processed the silk is, the more likely it to smell, apparently. I was then informed by a google search that you can just keep washing it until it comes out, which it did. Thank goodness.

The fabric is an incredibly pale pink, very slubby raw silk – not a fabric type I’ve worked with before. It also had floral embroidered circular cutouts as a border detail in a 1.1m long repeat. The fibres that came off the cut edges of the fabric are wonderfully fuzzy, thick and incredibly soft:

raw silk fibres

The dress is underlined (organza) to give the fabric some more body, and lined at the bodice in a matching but slightly darker silk charmuese that was also used as the contrast trim around the neckline and waist. This was a stash fabric that just happened to look rather lovely against the raw silk.

Whilst sewing I kept the seam allowances large – I want it to be a wearable option for many years to come, so I look at those seam allowances like an insurance policy. You don’t intend on using it of course, but it’s there just in case it’s needed.

I wanted to try and work in a bit of the embroidery into the bodice, so I appliqued a small lace circle in. Cutting into the bodice fabric to do this was a moment of terror; not having appliqued before! I treated it a bit like a welt pocket – sewing a scrap of organza onto the front with my machine’s smallest stitch, cutting into the circle then turning the organza to the wrong side and ironing flat. Getting the circle to be the right size was the hardest part – it took me two goes. After that I hand sewed the lace circle in with a fell stitch and pressed again. Pretty happy with how it looks!

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The skirt is one single piece of fabric, gathered. I was basing the length of the skirt off one of my most favourite dresses – and realised that the height of the cutouts would potentially make my underwear visible… so I added in an additional layer of organza. If you looked really close and really hard, and if I had fluoro underwear on, you’d probably be able to see it. Eh.

I had a first attempt at lace matching down the back centre seam, and am very happy with the results. The main challenge was that the circles were not perfectly circular.

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For the hem, I folded it over, sewed it down to itself, then catch stitched that to the underlining. The result is a soft hem that has a tendency to crease in on itself, but I don’t mind the effect so much. Even with the underlining, the raw silk isn’t really interested in being pressed – it will hold the shape, but it won’t be crisp.

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Due to wanting this dress to be easily adjustable, I machine sewed the lining to the neckline, but hand sewed the arms, down the sides and around the waist. I like hand sewing, and it’ll be really easy to unpick. I also just love the loft of silk charmeuse, and hand sewn seams seem to bring that out.

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Look at that loft...

Look at that loft… The most accurate representation of the two colours together. And you get a really good eye of the texture of the raw silk! Delicious stuff.

I included a hook and eye at the top of the centre back seam, to get a nice closure. At the wedding I wore this dress to, I counted 6 women wearing dresses that the centre back zip was coming down on because there was no hardware to help provide that stability at the back. Funnily enough, they all were on either rounded or V-shaped dress backs. I pointed out so many to my beau that even he started to point them out and was tut-tutting along with me.

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Basically a happily ever after.

And on that note, I will be leaving a radio silence until we have moved and made our new home slightly more liveable than what it currently is. My sewing stuff is already packed away in boxes, and I’m feeling quite sad knowing it will be a while before it sees daylight again. I will be looking forward to finishing and then sharing with you all the two jackets I have in mid-progress from winter last year!

Dry Cleaner Says NO

Do you wash your self-made things separately to your RTW stuff? Hand wash them instead? Maybe it’s never even occurred to you to treat them differently?

I’m going to admit that I’m one of those people who is slightly-hippie-inclined when it comes to household chemicals. That’s probably putting it lightly, because I refuse point blank to go down the cleaning-product aisle at the supermarket. Instead, I have a cupboard full of bi-carb, vinegar, Neways and Enjo where most people have a delightful array of (for me, head-ache inducing and nasal-passage-burning) chemical products. I also have one of those hypocritical first-world double standards going on because I totally send my more-fancy self-made stuff off for dry cleaning.

I have a dry cleaner who knows I sew, so he asks for the fibre content of my fabrics instead of searching for the label. He’s lousy at getting things done within the agreed time frame, but he’s great at everything else. So when I took my wedding dress in to get sorted, he asked me to bring in a swatch of the lace so he could test if his solvents would, you know, dissolve my dress into a blob of bubbling mess. Turns out that lace survived neither of his solvents (!!), so he refused to clean my dress, and it has since been unceremoniously flopped over a coat hanger behind my bedroom door, awaiting the day I would attend to the patch where I somehow spilt gravy down my skirt during dinner. He even gave me a stack of acid-free paper to store it in. But it’s now been hanging up for over 8 months behind my bedroom door and I’ve been having a mini-guilt trip every time I see it, wondering if my continuous inactivity on the matter would render that gravy stain permanent, if it wasn’t already.

So what to do? I hadn’t pre washed the fabrics for my wedding dress, of course. But with some time off between Christmas and New Years, it was definitely time to tackle it.

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My poor hem facing was ripped off the skirt in several places. My shoes kept catching on it when I went down stairs!

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Part of a series of gravy splatters.

I thought maybe I would draw a grid on some scraps of the taffeta and the organza, wash them and see if they shrunk. But in the end I just washed it and if it shrank, too bad.

The gravy came out straight away with not even a scrap of elbow grease. And the hem is now clean! All that took less than ten minutes…

I still want to get a box of some sort so I can wrap it up in the acid free paper my dry cleaner gave me.

All in all, a pretty happy ending! And, it was really, really nice to see my wedding dress again…. *sigh*

So after my dry cleaner turned me away, and seeing as this whole dry cleaner thing was a massive double standard and all anyway, I went in search of products that were toxin free but still effective. The answer came from within my bathroom/laundry cabinet – The Laundress. I bought some of their cashmere wash a few years ago – I’d previously tried washing my cashmere knits normally by hand (this was pre-chemical-freakout days) then getting them dry cleaned – both which left them worse for wear. So the cashmere shampoo was an absolute revelation because it keeps them in great condition.

Then two long-ago friends that I used to play violin with in an orchestra during our high school days started up an online shop – The Natural Supply Co. I was browsing soon after they launched, as you do, and discovered that The Laundress don’t only make cashmere shampoo, but a whole bunch of other stuff too, all toxin free. So I bought some silk wash, and have been happily pre-washing all my silks since. This is what I used to clean my wedding dress.

Including, some uber pretty silk which is going to be my next make – a wedding guest dress. Here’s hoping I actually get it done during my Christmas break!

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If you’re precious or have got a certain habit when it comes to washing… I wanna hear about it ;)

F3093: Safari Blouse

Merry Christmas Eve, all!

May I present to you, another green Marfy blouse.

This may not seem like much to some, but this is the first thing I’ve ever sewn that I didn’t initially muslin to test for fit. It was a little exhilarating, not knowing whether or not I would like it! I need to get out more.

I think I do now understand a little better why some sewists are dead set against muslining. I’ve been super time poor these last few months, but still wanted to have a wearable outcome from my sewing efforts. I compared the pattern pieces for this against my last Marfy blouse at the shoulder and bust, and my Blue Blotch Blouse (a McCalls pattern) through my mid-section. It was pretty much on par, I ranked it low risk, and so away I went.

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Yeah, there are probably a few things I would alter had this been my actual muslin. You can see from the Marfy sketch below that the shoulder seams are not quite dropped – but still gently off the shoulder. I brought them back in by 0.5cm (because I was so thrilled with the shoulder seam location of my last Marfy blouse, which I used to copy the alignment of) but actually I regret this now and would stick to the original design if I were to make it again.

Marfy 3093 S-S 13-14 (blouse)

In fact, I would say the sleeves of this blouse are my favourites, ever. No ease – it fit into the armscye perfectly, slim-fitting but still with enough space for movement, and I love the button down tabs to roll up the cuff. They aren’t full length when unrolled – more midi.

There are no darts for shaping in the bodice here, unless you count the centreback seam. Not normally one for loose fitting clothing around the mid-section, I figured the CDC would billow enough to compensate for any sack-style leanings.

I like the front side pleats more than I would have thought, and the only thing I didn’t think about until I put it on for the first time (at the 80% completed mark) – is that it’s awfully low cut. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable without a singlet for weekend wear, let me put it that way.

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On the inside, this blouse is not my best work. I french seamed where possible, overlocked the armscye seam (thanks to Helen bringing along her machine to social sewing!), and top stitched over folded seam allowances everywhere else. I tossed up whether to interface the collar and facing, but ditched it in favour of keeping with the drapey look of the blouse. I did use a few scraps of organza to help stabilise the four pivot corners (front and back) of the collar, which worked like a charm.

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The fabric? Silk CDC, from Mood. If you recognise it, it’s one of the two fabrics I used to sew my bridesmaid’s dresses. I had enough left over to squeeze this out of. Actually, I was really surprised I had so much left over – especially as I had nothing left from the other dress. Turns out I had extra because there was a fault – which of course I didn’t realise until I’d cut everything out, with nothing to spare.

Thankfully the flaw was half covered by one of the front pockets – and due to sewing ‘couture’ (marking the seam lines and having large seam allowances) I was able to shift the entire pattern piece across by the 1.5cm required to get that flaw entirely hidden by the pocket. Not too shabby an effort, if I do say so!

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I’ll admit this blouse was partially inspired by both Reana and Sallie. CDC is just a wonderful mix of opaque and floaty, and feels just lovely and cool on the skin to boot.

It is incredibly low cut – and I’ll probably be wearing it as a beach cover up when I’m chilling out in Byron Bay this summer, or unbuttoned with a singlet underneath.

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IMPENDING DOMESTIC BLISS
If I thought my sewing time couldn’t get any less right now, I thought wrong. We bought a house! We’ve got a week holiday booked in at the end of January, and we move in after that. At which point we will be waging a war of attrition on asbestos, sinking foundations, decrepit shag-pile carpet, shiny olive-green drapes, and original 1960’s textured wallpaper. The first major aim will be to get a toilet actually plumbed on the inside of the house so we don’t have to spend next winter going outside to go to the loo. No joke. At least I’m having fun putting together the epic spreadsheet that we’ll use to project manage the whole thing! It’s going to be such a long and ongoing project that I’m actually fighting the urge to start a renovating diary blog. So far my sensibilities are winning on that front!!

So from February onwards I’ll still be squeezing some sewing in where ever I can of course – but there will be a bit of radio silence for the first few months whilst we tackle a few bigger projects. I’ve got an exciting project to work on prior to then though – a wedding guest dress!

Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday period everyone – and a safe and happy new year!!

Much Love to you all xx