skirt

Colette Sewalong: The Pavlova Revealed!

Colette Meringue 13

The modified (beyond recognition) Meringue – the ‘Pavlova’ – is revealed! Linen really is such a beautiful fabric to work with.

Colette Meringue 11
Not quite sure what I’m doing here…
but it’s a good shot of the skirt!

When I went to put on this skirt, I realised after dumping my entire wardrobe on the bed that I have NOTHING to go with this skirt. I had specifically made this top to wear with it, but turns out it looks better out than tucked in… 

So I’m going to need to make something to wear with it – something other than this boring grey cotton top. I’m thinking a pale yellow Sorbetto. I haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet, so it’s about time. I keep seeing everyone else’s and the pale yellow is in line with the original inspiration for this skirt – the Louis Vuitton Spring 2012 RTW collection (via style.com):


As you can probably tell, I ended up making a LOT of changes to the Meringue. 

Colette Meringue 4

Summed in short, I moved the zip from the side to the centre back, added a vent and a waistband. The straight hemmed Meringue was tapered to make it look more like a pencil skirt, and the scalloped Meringue on top has been hoiked up and adjusted to match the side seams and waistband.

Colette Meringue 7

But the biggest challenge by far was matching the scallops to the cut-outs in the white linen. The Colette scallops were about 12cm wide on the size 6 skirt I used, but the repeat of the cut-outs in my fabric was 11cm in width. I wanted to ‘match’ the linen to the scallops – Calamity Central! The 11cm repeat meant I’d either have a peplum-skirt that was too big or too small (multiples of 11!). In the end I compromised and I have one mini scallop at the back. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this – it does look a wee bit odd!

Colette Meringue 14
 

On the other hand – check out the seam matching at the back:

Colette Meringue 6

I’m pleased to say this is yet another garment where I’m as happy with the inside as I am with the outside. I love seeing the insides of other people’s garments, so indulge me whilst I show you mine:

Colette Meringue 3

To try and reduce the bulk around the hips, I made the top half of the underskirt from silk I had left over from a previous project that just happened to match. Lovely!

Colette Meringue 9

Sadly for me, this is where my participation in the 5 month long Colette Sewalong ends… I just have too many other projects on my mind – and then at the end of March, Mr poppykettle and I are heading off to South America! Whoohoo!

It’s been a stinking hot weekend here in Melbourne – but perfect beach weather. Shortly after these photo’s were done and dusted, Mr. poppykettle & I enjoyed a lavish picnic whilst watching the sun set…

Sunset

101: Finishing the facing/lining on a sleeveless bodice

The first time I was shown how to do this, it was (and still is) one of the most ‘a-ha!!’ moments in sewing I’ve ever had. I still grin to myself when I pull the fabric through to the right side when done!

When you need to apply a facing (or a lining) to a garment with no sleeves, and the facing/lining is joint to both the neckline and the arm holes, like with my Marfy Top above, this little trick will allow you to have the same finish at the arms as what you have at the neck.

1. Sew and then under stitch your facing/lining to the neckline. Clip and press  as is required. You now have a beautifully finished neckline, but you need to somehow get the same finish on your arm holes:


2. Here’s that ‘a-ha!!’ moment I was talking about. With the wrong sides of the fabric facing, roll up your garment towards your unfinished arm hole:



Try to keep it as tightly rolled as you can.

3. Keeping a grip on your roll, fold one of the loose ends back over the roll, so that it comes around and meets the other loose edge:

Now the right sides are facing each other. If the shoulder seam was rather narrow, you can pin the ‘roll’ inside your shoulder strap so it stays in place. 

4. Sew your lining or facing seam – press flat to set and clip where necessary. 

5. To turn this back around, simply pull the rolled fabric back through the shoulder. Roll the seam between your fingers to get the seam on the fold, then iron flat.

6. If you wish, this is the point where you can under stitch the seam allowance to the facing or lining, going up as far as you can towards the shoulder seam.

To get a nice finish at the start of the under stitch, flip your bodice over so you’re looking at the thread on the wrong side of the fabric – pull this so that the loop holding the two threads together comes up. Using your quick-un-pick or a pin, pull the top stitch thread all the way through, and tie them both off with a knot. 

Repeat steps 1 through 6 on the other side, and there you have it! Your sleeveless bodice is lined (or faced) to perfection :) All you need now do is to sew the side seams.

F2465 Marfy Top 21

F2465: Mad about Marfy

F2465 Marfy Top 21

Yup, I am completely and wholly Mad about Marfy. The fit! The cut! I’m a huge fan of the swooping circular neckline – it hugs your decolletage and doesn’t even undo your modesty when you need to bend (or slouch) – and how the shoulders are ever so slightly ‘off’ the shoulder. 

F2465 Marfy Top 22

Made from a beautiful oak green silk charmeuse that was rescued from the remnant bin at Tessuti. It was indeed tricksy to work with, but it feels so luscious that I feel like a million bucks just putting the thing on. 

F2465 Marfy Top 15
 
Actually, this is a surprisingly simple top, which came together in very short space of time (over two evenings) – once of course, I’d figured out what the markings on the pattern meant. That did take a while, and included a bit of seam-ripping on my first time around that mulberry bush. Thank goodness for toiles!

After that, it was delightfully simple to finish off – sew together the shoulders, sew the facing around the neck and arms, then the side seams last. Really very quick to put together – I promise! I finished my seams off with some cream rayon seam binding.

F2465 Marfy Top 23

F2465 Marfy Top 25

This is the first time I’ve tackled a slippery silk that was destined for outer wear, rather than being hidden away as lining. Just the thought of cutting out silk gives me chills, but no longer. My beau bought me an incredible invention for Christmas – one of those nifty self-healing cutting mats and a rotary cutter! Oh, I’m in heaven. It’s SO much faster, more accurate, no more hand cramps, and once you’ve got your silk weighted down, it can’t slip’n’slide anywhere. I still use a sharp little pair of embroidery scissors when it comes to concave corners, but otherwise, I’m hailing it as the best invention EVER. Well, since the sewing machine, anyway.

F2465 Marfy Top 20

To avoid the task of hemming, I finished it off with some of the charmeuse in reverse, giving a lovely contrast between matt and shiny (which is surprisingly difficult to catch on camera). This conveniently averted my absolute loathing of hemming, and avoided any stitches on top of the silk. 

For those of you who are curious about Marfy patterns, I say go for it – this has been such a positive sewing experience for me (only one tiny alteration – taking in the side seams 0.5cm both sides) that I’ll definitely be buying some more of their patterns. In fact, I’ve got a cup of tea handy and I’m about to head over to their website. If you’d like more information on measurements and the amount of ease, you can see my post on my toile of this top here. If you’re planning on making this at all – I ended up using about 1.1m of fabric that was 1.35cm wide, for the size 46 pattern. 

Now, I’m off to finish my tea, peruse some patterns and enjoy the leftover Australia Day Lamingtons made by the super talented Mr poppykettle… 

Lamingtons

Pavlova on the cutting mat, and in the Oven…

Construction of the Pavlova is well under way. After nearly suffering an apoplexy over trying to get the lace to match the scallops and whatnot, moving the zip to the centre back and adding a waistband, I’m at that horrid stage of wondering whether or not this is going to pull together and be wearable. I’ve come close to throwing in the towel and just going with the ridgy-didge Colette pattern that many times…

I decided to use some interfacing on the scallops – linen does tend to be a bit floppy after all. This should help to sharpen up the curves. Has anyone else felt the need to do this? 

I’ve also interfaced and used some horsehair in the waistband, and tried to lighten the linen load with some leftover silk from lining my Lady Grey Coat, which just happens to match rather nicely :)

I’m so close though, so all should be ready for the big reveal on Tuesday next week!

Today is also Australia Day!! Marking the occasion when the First Fleet (11 ships with the first load of penal convicts) landed at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation that the lands belonged to England’s King George III. The French were in hot pursuit behind the Brits - apparently the Brits could see the flags on their ships on the horizon as they came ashore. It’s bizarre to think how different things would now be had the French got here first!

Seeing as I’m making a wearable Pavlova, I may as well make an edible version too. It’s a dish that is claimed by both New Zealand and Australia (although I believe New Zealand has the rightful claim) and named after the Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured both countries in the 1920′s.

For those not in the know, the Pavlova is a meringue base (crisp on the outside, soft on the inside) topped with cream and then fruit – usually something tart like passion fruit pulp, pomegranate seeds or berries, which offsets the sweetness of the meringue deliciously. I like both toppings, preferably all at the same time…

A previous years Aus Day Pav wilting in the heat: Bon Appetite!

My favourite Pavlova Recipe:
4 egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
250g of castor sugar
2 teaspoons of cornflour
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
a few drops of pure vanilla
300ml of cream, firmly whipped


1. Preheat your oven to 180 deg C, Line a baking tray with baking paper and draw a 20cm circle on the paper.
2. Beat the egg whites and salt until satiny peaks form.
3. Beat in the sugar a third at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
4. Sprinkle over the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla – then fold in lightly.
5. Mound onto the paper-lined baking tray within the circle, flattening the top and smoothing the sides.
6. Place in the oven, immediately reduce the heat to 150 deg C and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce further to 120 deg C and cook for 45 minutes. 
7. Turn off the oven and leave pavlova in it to cool completely. Invert the pavlova onto a platter (this means you get a crunchy base and the soft meringue mixes wonderfully with the cream!), pile on the cream and spoon over your preferred topping – passion fruit pulp or berries. 

The Vogue Suit and the Economics of Sewing

Between all of my other sewing projects on the go – I’ve been working steadily on my new suit jacket, and doing a bit of thinking too. 

As for the jacket, I’ve been using some bright orange rayon seam binding to finish the seam edges at the back, resulting in a rather striking look. It also appears to be a completely unintentional homage to the Pantone colour of the year – Tangerine Tango.

I’m still going to need to catch-stitch the seam allowances down to prevent them from flopping about though. I’m waiting to try it on to see whether or not it will need shoulder pads – if it does, I’d like to try making my own. With no lining to cover them up, I’d like them to match the rest of the jacket. More on this soon!

I’ve also found the pattern for a matching skirt – Vogue 8543. It has as equally interesting lines to match that of the jacket:

As for the thinking – there’s been a fair bit of chatter on the blogosphere recently over what we pay for our clothing, or what we pay for fabric. Whilst I tend to feel the same way as Carolyn on releasing such intimate details about my fabric habits, other seamstresses openly talk about what each garment cost them, which I will admit often makes me envious that I don’t live in a country with options as inexpensive as theirs, nor do I spend the time to go ‘thrifting’. 

But it became personal for me the other week whilst in Cleggs, where I came across the silk fabric above which I thought equally beautiful and appropriate to be a lining fabric for my jacket front, sleeves and skirt. I arrived at the counter and chatted with the fabric enthusiast on the other side of the bench, each of use talking about what we were making at the moment. As she lowered the shears to start cutting into the silk, she asked what I was going to sew with it. 

“It’s going to be the lining for a suit jacket I’m making :)”

She recoiled her arm like the fabric had suddenly morphed into a funnel web spider and said with a look of horror:

“You DO realise how much this costs, yeah?” 

Never have I been made to feel guilty over a fabric purchase before. As I walked out of there, I began to question my habits a bit…

I do have a budget for fabric, which I don’t overspend on (I don’t underspend, either) and I also believe that their ain’t no point in making a dime if you aren’t going to spend some of your coin on things that bring pleasure and happiness. I love beautiful things. My budget fits my fiscal status – had I started sewing as a University Student, then my budget would have matched the times here too. 

So as what can be considered ‘expensive’ or ‘cheap’ differs from person to person due to so many reasons that my head begins to hurt when I try to round them all up, why do we judge others who fall outside what we consider to be reasonable? And how do we come to define our upper and lower limits of ‘reasonable’ in the first place? 

Were I to purchase a suit of this fabric quality (wool and silk? I’d be lucky to find something in this combination in the first place) in a retail store in my town, I’d be looking at spending well over AUS$700 (and I’d still have to pay more to get such a thing altered to actually fit me properly). So the fact that I can make one for less than $200 to me makes it a very economical option. Never mind that since starting this suit I got a promotion, and will now be site based – meaning I’ll be swapping my corporate uniform for steel-capped boots and hi-vis clothing. Hot.

I buy a fair bit of fabric online – for many reasons. Mainly because it’s cheaper (I’m using the USA as a benchmark here). In a country that is geographically isolated from the rest of the world and has a small population (23-odd million) to boot – things cost more, because there’s less people to support a broader range of products that can be stocked on shop floors and still allow a business to turn a profit. Also because it costs a bomb to get it here in the first place. But we also have a minimum wage that is more than double that of a certain country in the Northern Hemisphere – so we have the higher living standards of our fellow country-people to support as well. But these issues are not always the cause of the higher prices we pay; I’m sure most Aussies are familiar with iTunes’ blatant price gouging where a song costs 70% more from the Australian iTunes than it does from it’s American counterpart, even though our respective dollars have been sitting comfortably at parity for some time now. 

So whilst I’m accustomed to paying more when I walk into a store (which I won’t stop doing either – the sensory experience is a wondrous thing), there’s also the other end of the price argument spectrum. 

When I read of a certain blogerette’s purchase of silk jersey for $12/yard - alarm bells start going off in my head (…once the envy disappears). I ask myself – how is this even possible? Lady Katza of Peanut Butter Macrame recently posted about how the “manufacturing of fabric is just as problematic in the social justice and environmental arena as any other massively consumed goods” (read her very interesting post on that here). 

Like the Lady K, I’m not always aware of where my fabric comes from, how it came to be, how much the workers were paid and the conditions they had to work in. Fabric manufacturing is complex, wasteful and resource hungry, like most other manufacturing industries that pander to the masses.

I’m obsessively anal about not wasting the fabric that I purchase – I ALWAYS have a pattern in mind before purchasing fabric. Where the bolt is a non-standard width – I often pre-calculate using the pattern pieces how much to buy, as this non-standard-ness voids the recommendations on the back of the pattern slip. I still feel horrid putting my scraps in the bin, and dream about the day of owning a home that comes with a backyard so I can add my silk scraps to the compost for future use on my imagined veggie patch. 

So, besides not judging others against our own personal ‘reasonable cost’ barometer, what’s a fabric enthusiast to do when she wants to do the right thing regarding the cost and origination of said fabric? I just might have to ask if my favourite fabric haunts have the ability to track where the fabric they sell actually comes from, a la what the International Labor Rights Forum does for sweatshops, blogged about here by Waves from No Signposts in the Sea.