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C1020: The Phoenix Lily

Rising from the ashes of one failed dress attempt… is another. And as McCalls 4993 was such a fabric hog, there was plenty of ashes to go around!

The only problem with sewing up a summer dress when the temperature has plummeted and day-light hours are short is getting photos of it in action. Thanks to lousy efforts at getting correct settings on my camera and not checking mid-way though, I have a stack of blurry photos. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time daydreaming and listening to James Vincent Morrow, but I kinda like this dress shown in this way. I won’t be making it a regular feature, but you are just going to have to deal with it this time around.

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IMG_5322Princess seams lend themselves so wonderfully to getting a flattering silhouette, even with all the added work that comes from cutting out so many extra pieces. I cut the size 10 for my toile, but ended up grading the seams back so much I probably could’ve gone for somewhere between a 6 and an 8. As with all Colette patterns that are fitted, I needed to do a flat butt adjustment… I’m not in possession of a rear end to fill their designs out! Thankfully due to those handy princess seams, I could grade it in where necessary.

Whilst I was trying on and fitting my toile, I started thinking about rigilene. Now, I know rigilene doesn’t have the best reputation as boning in comparison to it’s more accomplished sibling – spiral steel – but for this day-dress the softness of rigilene lends itself beautifully. As the four seams I sewed channels into are not curved, the negatives of rigilene (the combination of exposure to body heat and time means it can end up setting in the shape you were trying to prevent in the first place) don’t come into play as much.

Boning is most effective the closer it is to the outer layer of fabric, so I sewed my channels by sewing down my seam allowance to the inner layer of underlining, which was silk organza.

IMG_5284For such a little dress, there is a ridiculous amount of fabric hiding away in there. Not including pockets and straps, there’s 14 panels – each of which has four layers of fabric! The oatmeal cream and duck-egg blue eyelet cotton is a Marc Jacobs fabric I bought from Kat after she decided she wasn’t too keen on it, which is underlined in a silk crepe matching the blue tones of the eyelet, from The Fabric Store. Then underneath that is a silk organza underlining, which gives the two really rather lightweight fabrics above a bit of structure and support. Then under that is a silk charmeuse lining (also from The Fabric Store) to match the earthier tones of the eyelet.

Now, there’s silk charmeuse and then there’s silk charmeuse – this is unfortunately the latter. I bought it because I was seduced by the minimal price tag… but on bringing it home and placing it up against other charmeuse’s that cost 3 times as much – well, the difference is stark (big differences between the drape, the hand and the degree of opacity of the inexpensive charmeuse). But it’s still beautiful and feels delightful to wear.

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IMG_5353In other pattern adjustments, I elongated the straps a bit, and changed their position outwards a little. The blue ‘trim’ at the hem wasn’t exactly a choice – due to the length of the M4993 skirt. It was also a lovely way of enclosing the hem with a sort-of-facing. I chose to leave the waist seam of this dress slightly above my natural waist (by about 3cm)… purists may baulk, but I like the original proportions of this dress as they are.

IMG_5345My beautiful fabric covered belt was always going to be the centre feature, so I decided not to go with the pocket flaps to tone down the busy-ness. However… those pocket openings are not on grain – they’d stretch horridly if I left them to their own devices. The pocket flaps are cut on grain though, so this would have done the stabilising job – instead, I used some silk organza selvedge scraps sewn in the seam:

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I really do love this dress… it’s comfortable and a lot more flattering than I thought it would be. Shame it’ll have to wait a few more months, but I was hardly going to let McCalls 4993 get the better of me. Take that, vintage pattern. Now… it’s time to start sewing something a little more seasonally appropriate!!

The Stats:
00:50  Pattern Preparation
06:35  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
04:55  Fabric Preparation (cutting/interfacing)
19:20  Sewing
31:40  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.5m (from the addition of lining only)
Stash total remains = 86.3m (Goal = 50m)

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C1017: Get Your Frock On

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October is also known in these parts as Frocktober! I’m not quite able to fully join in the mantra of Frocktober (a dress a day, ever day, during the tenth month of the year – to help raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer) but I’m going to try it on for size at the weekends. For those that don’t know me – this is actually quite a challenge… I’m not really a wearer of dresses. But October has been set aside for dress sewing and dress sewing alone, so you can expect to see another dress following hotly on the heels of this appropriately floral Peony! The dress is very… sweet? – definitely a million times more girly than what I would normally go for. But after wearing it two days straight, I’m really rather liking it. Why do things never look as good in my photos as they do in real life? 

I saw the floral fabric on Gorgeous Fabrics back in July and knew it would become Peony were it to fall into my hands, and there was a perfectly matching apricot coloured cotton as well which I used for the trim, bodice lining and an underskirt. The combination of colours reminds me of these beautifully hued peonies…

peony flowers

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Back when I was searching for buttons for my Baby-its-cold-outside Coat, I came across L’ucello – the kind of kitschy, vintage mishmash of sewing related paraphernalia shop that makes you involuntarily smile as you walk around because there’s beautiful things as far as the eye can see. True to their vintage haberdashery purpose, they have an outstanding collection of lace trims (and buttons!), and I fell for the geometric floral lace trim that is now securely applied (by hand and with silk thread so you can’t see the stitches!) to the waist of this dress. At the time of writing this they don’t yet have a website, but their blog gives you a wonderful idea of what’s in store if you care to visit them (in the Nicholas Building off Swanston St, right next door to Buttonmania, another totally awesome shop you really should visit!).

Otherwise, this is my kind of dress pattern – bateau neck, little sleeves, waist definition. I do remember having to make a trawler-load of alterations to my toile the first time around though – I’m not quite as curvy as the size models they use at Colette Patterns, and those bodice darts were pointing in every which direction except where they should have been. No matter no more! :)

Because the floral cotton was quite soft and not as tightly woven as you might think it, I also included a little underskirt in the apricot fabric – it gives a little more poofiness where I gathered it, will help protect against wrinkling and acts a bit like a slip. It was also a perfect use of the exact remainder I had left! Ages and ages ago, I bought a really long piece of lace trim off Etsy – it was finally put to use to secure the hem on both of the skirts:

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I did the same seam treatment as on my first version – The Green Peon(y), using orange rayon seam binding to pretty-ify the seam allowances. And it was a bazillion times quicker to make up because a) I didn’t have to wrestle with pleats and b) I’d already toiled it so I knew I could get straight down to the business end of sewing. I really must make the habit of sewing up already-toiled patterns… it’s sooooo much easier :)

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More vibrantly coloured when shot indoors and with a flash…


I pushed all of the easing in the sleeve cap up to the shoulder seam line to give a little poof to the sleeve cap, and trimmed them with some of the left-over apricot cotton.

Bring on Spring and Summer!

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C1019: Crimson and Clover (minus the Crimson)

C1019 Colette Clovers

Do you pick your fabric and then let it inspire what pattern it should go with? Or do you choose your pattern then go hunting for the fabric you’ve already envisaged it must be made out of? 

 

More often than not, I’m the latter. And I specifically went shopping knowing I wanted to buy fabric to make a pair of Clovers. Problems begin fairly early on with this approach though because I’m forever seduced by potentially inappropriate fabrics.

 

The seductive fabric in question is a duckegg twill coating – I spent forever in Tessuti umming and ah-ing over whether or not a wool coating fabric would be suitable, nay – practical – for a pair of pants. In the end, well – you know what happened. Wearing time will tell whether or not this was a smart decision!

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Because of the wool, I lined them with a white and navy blue polka dot silk. Who in their right mind doesn’t love polka dots? I’m a tad annoyed that the photos seem to emphasize things that don’t really come to light when looking at them in person, but hey, c’est la vie. 

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Surprisingly comfy to sit in for a pair of
very close fitting non-stretch pants!

I know that fitting this pattern has been a challenge for some, and I definitely didn’t get away scott-free. There’s a good reason why there hasn’t been a blog post on here for quite some time – I made FOUR practise versions of this before I got the fit right. Frustration quite literally was a moving target on this project. Changes made:
 – scaled up a size to take into account my non-stretch fabric
 – added small darts to the front & reduced the waistband to fit
 – reduced the length (…the capri version probably would have been perfect for me!)
 – increased the rise (I have an uber loooooong waist – hip measurement)
 – shortened the crotch length
 – made the crotch curve shallower (it’s a really deep curve!!)
 – tapered both the side and inseam hip down to get a straight leg fit

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to relax a little when it comes to fitting patterns – especially pants. There’s this idea in my head that if I get a pattern to fit perfectly (a fairly subjective thing when we get down to the minute details), I’ll somehow manage to overcome what irks me about my body shape. Whilst a good fitting garment is going to be more flattering than a badly fitting one, accepting that there is no pattern that is going to make my legs appear longer/straighter/slimmer/whatever has been a quantum leap for me. 

It’s a little liberating too though… my beau and I had a giggling fit at being able to recognise my rather distinctive leg shape on the pattern paper once I’d transferred all the adjustments across :)

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My smoothest yet invisible-zip-to-seam transition!

I also made a few little additions to the pattern – man style pockets at the front replacing the odd little coin pocket things that come with the pattern, and putting single welt pockets on the back. 

To do the front pockets I used the pattern pieces from Pattern Runway’s Sweet Shorts, which worked a treat. 

For the single welt pockets I used the same process as for my Sweet Shorts albeit adding in one extra step. For the pocket lining on my Sweet Shorts I used the same fabric as the rest of the shorts, so it didn’t matter if the welts sagged because you would only ever see the blue polka dot fabric. I didn’t want the lining fabric to show through on these though, so I needed to add a backing to the welt to keep the look homogeneous. 

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Single Welt pockets at the back…

As for the end result, I like them. Whilst the high-waisted pants look is something I’ll have to get used too, they are extremely comfortable. The original waist location of the Clovers was mid-way between my hips and waist which was horridly uncomfortable (I sat around in that toile iteration for a good half a day to convince myself of this), and reducing the rise back to hip level just looked wrong. Also, the man style pockets seem to be a great cheats way of getting a close fit with a non-stretch fabric, but still being able to sit comfortably because of the room for movement they allow. 

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…Peek-a-boo pockets at the front :)

In the end what I really like about this pattern is that its so versatile – you can make them either dressy or casual. I do think it’s worth spending the time to get the fit right purely because the look is so timeless – I can definitely see myself making this pattern up again.

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French Seams for the Lining

Whilst away on holiday I agreed with myself that for every garment I sew on my return, I would take the time out to make it the best I could, and I’m really pleased with these, both on the inside and the outside. This means I’ll be posting on a less regular basis due to my new ‘slow-clothes’ mantra, but I figure seeing as ‘slow-food’ is so good then this has to be too :) 

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Zip end covering

I also seriously need to look at purchasing an overlocker. Colourful rayon seam binding does make me happy – but its such a black hole for sucking up all my sewing time!

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mmm… pretty seam binding

Oh yeah – I’ve also become a Pressinatrix. Do try it – the results speak for themselves.

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Colette Sewalong: The Pavlova Revealed!

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

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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

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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:

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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!

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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…

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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.