MN1008: ‘Erin’ – Ruched Maternity Skirt

There was a point where all of a sudden I had nothing that fit. I procrastinated about sewing knits by concentrating on working that Marfy Jacket – which came to a screeching halt when I realised I’d cut, sewn and prepped TWO RIGHT SLEEVES. Time to procrastinate no more.

My first Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Skirt was from an off-white ponti knit fabric from The Fabric Store, labelled as a DKNY fabric. It’s lovely – soft, incredibly stretchy (50% by my calculation) with good recovery, and would provide a great base for my intended maternity wardrobe.

Apart from being a little anxious about sewing with knits (you can’t exactly muslin it… where’s the control over how the fabric behaves?!?!), I was wondering how it would fit/look.

As a thicker knit, I had read that the ruching would be less obvious due to the fabric, and that was true (that was fine by me) – but the end result was great:

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I knew I was onto a good thing when I sewed that Marfy Safari Blouse!

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I cut the Medium, which matched my pre-pregbot body measurements almost spot on. At the time of cutting this out, I was still the exact same hip measurement, but there was an additional 12cm where my waist used to be. Being so unused to knits – I was quite concerned about how the end result would fit. The PR review by Clio & Phineas is one of the more useful in this regard. She used a super super stretchy knit, and it was very close fitting. Being less further along in my pregnancy, and happy to have a well-fitting skirt in a thicker fabric that would at least see me through until it starts to get warm (not to mention I got the fabric at 50% off so I wasn’t too precious about it) – I took the risk of sticking with the Size M instead of sizing up.

The skirt comes with 3 variations – knee length, midi length and with an optional ruffle (similar to the By Hand London Charlotte skirt).

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I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this skirt in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

As for construction, well this is a pretty simple beast. For me to be able to say I cut AND sewed it up over the course of a day (in between life distractions) totally feels like an anomaly.

Elastic? Drama. I bought three types – the only purveyors of such notions I know of are Spotlight and Lincraft, both of whose selections are incredibly lousy. One Lincraft I went to had rubber elastic – this turned out to be the best option and worked really quite well with the heavy ponte knit. (The other heavy-fabric suited elastic I bought didn’t have enough stretch in it). I’ll be going back for many more meters of this. I found it easier to cut the length longer than specified in the instructions, then mark within that the length required – giving you space to hold the elastic taught between the notches on the skirt- you get a more even tension that way. Then just cut off the ends afterwards.

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Heavier duty elastic for thicker fabrics, lightweight elastic for thinner fabrics.

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The high curved front of the skirt to fit over the expanding mid section

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Instead of making casing like the instruction said, I sewed the elastic down to the inside, then turned it down and used a twin needle and wooly nylon to finish it off.

When I put the pattern piece against my body – the Midi length nearly hit my ankle. I nearly shortened it right there and then until I remembered the whole thing about ruching!!!! #babybrain

So I cut the midi length to see where it would sit on me once ruched – about 2/3 down my calf. I played around with lengths, and eventually decided on one that is quite long – below my knees and almost exactly halfway between the knee and midi length on the pattern. In future I’ll probably cut at midi length, then adjust because I suspect fabric type (namely, how well it ruches!) will affect this.

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Hem of the ponte knit skirt on the left, hem of the stretch silk charmuese slip on the right.

I left an inch for the hem, then used a twin needle (with wooly nylon in the bobbin) to finish it off.

Even though this was a substantial ponte – it was still slightly see through. My memory alerted me to the fact that aaaaages ago, I bought a 0.7m length of stretch silk charmuese (from D’Italia). So I made a short slip from the same pattern pieces as well. Bingo!

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Frenched side seams and a miniature hem at the bottom – makes me feel slightly less lousy about the nasty finishing on the ponte version!

Except that this slip will probably only last me for a week – the stretch charmuese only has about 10% stretch, so even though I cut the Large for it, I will most likely outgrow it in a fortnight, if not before. It will still work really well for use under skirts when I’m not pregnant, so not a total loss – but I will need to find an alternative if I want to keep wearing the ponte skirt (which I do).

Verdict? I really like this pattern. It came together in a timeframe I never dreamed possible to finish a garment in (is this why everyone sews with knits??). The only thing that irks my about my handiwork is the lack of nice finishing on the inside, the only thing that irks me about the pattern is that the side seams don’t match at the top. The Medium works well for now in this fabric – lets see how the 50% stretch works out over the duration of this pregnancy, because I can see that I’ll be wearing this A LOT.

A Sunday afternoon sewing win.

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G32001: Moss Mini Skirt

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After a over 4 weeks of not being able to sew, I’m finally back in action and have made Grainline’s Moss Mini Skirt. The above photo courtersy of TJ from The Perfect Nose, post a frenetic morning of Christmas shopping, humidity and an hour or so sitting in the car (turns out the fabric I used likes to crumple. *sigh*).

But before we get down to business – the consumables need to be thanked. I’d like to take a quick moment to think about all of the now bent pins, snapped needles and bobbin thread snags’n’snowballs that sacrificed themselves in order for me to complete this project.

Because my deep-seated need to own and wear something in a bottom weight army green canvas fabric was stronger than the stab of fright I got when the upholstery topstitching thread I’ve become such a fan of chewed up yet another bobbin. I should have taken photos of the three occasions this occured… but I felt guilty for my poor feather weight Janome so they got removed asap.

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The fabric is a cotton canvas, from Tessuti, similar to the canvas I made my Baby It’s Cold Outside coat from, and the facing and pocket linings are leftover Liberty lovelyness from my Freddie Vest. The only thing I actually bought to make this was the pattern, matching thread, topstitching thread and a zipper – a total score for my fabric diet, which I’ve been on since mid-September. I’m on a mission to sew up stuff with what I already have, and barring the seriously freaking awesome Tessuti Silk Stash giveaway I won (whoohooo!!!), not a single scrap of fabric has crossed the chez poppykettle threshold since well before my birthday back in September (Kat, that fabric you ‘gave’ me is still sitting in the car – on purpose I might add! :P). I would like to claim responsibility for this, but really, my work & personal life has just been so NUTS recently that enjoyable things like drooling over fabric and then buying said fabric (maybe even a bit of sewing with said fabric?) have been pushed out of the schedule.

Call me a skank, but I totally shortened this mini-skirt. By a good 3 inches! I gave the skirt some little splits at the side for ease of getting in and out of the car and the like.
I did my own shank button hammering, too – a first! I bought a huge pack of these off ebay when I was making my Turquoise Terror Jeans, but hadn’t had the guts to try. Like all things I’m scared about that are sewing related, I more than quickly realised I was being stupid. Really stupid. I want to hammer more shank metal buttons! 

Lisa from Notes from a Mad Housewife totally inspired me to go a bright red button hole after seeing her winter coat creation. I’d say the honeymoon period with my Janome’s automatic button hole attachment is over though – it really struggled with the thick layers of fabric, and I’m still a bit miffed that this was the best result I got:

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It’s a great little pattern, but I do have one major gripe. I get that the reason we love independant pattern company’s is because they do things differently to the big 4. That’s cool. But it’s not cool when you’re being different just to be annoying. Like, having 1/2 inch seam allowances? Come on guys – we have standards for a really good reason. I’m sure that 1/2 an inch is fine when you’re sewing up one of those lovely Tiny Pocket Tank‘s, but when you’re sewing up a pattern designed for denim, I automatically think “yeah, flat felled seams would be nice!”. You can do flat felled seams with a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance – just. You can’t do flat felled seams with 1/2 inch seams. It doesnt even convert into metric measurements nicely. Luckily our good old friend Unnecessary Ease came to the party, so I was able to save the day and end up with 2cm seam allowances – the ideal amount for flat felled when sewing with a thicker fabric like canvas or denim, methinks.

Oh yeah, and that little square you use on printed out patterns to check the scale? It’s printed across two pages. Might wanna fix that up, Grainline!

**UPDATE – The lovely Jen from Grainline Studios has advised me that this has been fixed up :) Oh, and they will soon be offering printed patterns. Yay!

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I managed to squeeze in an hour or two with TJ on Saturday who shared with me what she thinks is quite possibly the only copy of these books in this Great Southern Land. You heard it from me that they even smelt amazing. 

Thanks to her University Library access priviledges, a copyright past its use by date and a super high-tech scanning system (couldn’t help myself TJ!), we should be able to convert this into a digital copy for our use. I use the term  ‘we’ loosely because my role in this is simply supplying a piece of glass. She’s going to be an absolute champ and do all the grunt work. 

 
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yay, TJ!

In other news – I’ve decided to start keeping a record of how long it takes me to complete the various ‘stages’ of sewing for each garment I make. Kinda like how some people record the cost of a finished item… but for me this will be a bit more scary than the $! So each finished thing I make will be accompanied by this little table – proof of how slow the process is I am!

The Stats:
00:45  Pattern Preparation
00:00  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:50  Fabric Preparation (cutting/interfacing)
09:10  Sewing
10:45  hours

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V8739 & V8543: The Vogue Suit

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It’s so exciting to have this outfit finally finished and wearable! It’s been a long time in the making. I got distracted SO many times! And then it was stinking hot… so the last thing I felt like working on was a winter wool suit. But I eventually got my sewing mojo back and dived into getting it done like another life force had taken me over. 

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A few weeks before I finished this suit – intended for office wear, obviously, I got a promotion. A big one, too! The ironic thing is that I will now no longer be based in an office, but on site. Which means I’m swapping my carefully crafted office wardrobe for steel capped boots and hi-vis clothing. Hot. (not). It also means I’ll no longer be able to admire this amazing view from my desk at sunrise: (click to enlarge)

 

But at least I know that when I get to come back into civilisation for a meeting or what not, I’ll have a little something pre-prepared. This also means I’m going to have to be REALLY organised with future fabric/notions shopping as I won’t be able to ‘just pop in’ on my lunch break…

 

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The jacket pattern is Vogue 8739 I adore it – it camouflages a bit of a protruding tummy in a very flattering manner! I can see from the photos now that the darts the front are too long though – they should ideally be stopping before they get to the bust point. I’m annoyed I never picked this up! The jacket is supposed to be fully lined… but as I liked the structural seam lines on the back so much, I decided to try and emphasise them with a bit of contrast binding – I really love the finished effect, even if it is in hiding when I’m wearing it! I used the trusty catch-stitch to prevent all of the seam allowances from flopping about the place. 

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The jacket front and sleeves are still both lined, so it’s super easy to wear.  But I won’t ever be doing this particular treatment again… it was tricky! It meant I needed to cover my shoulder pads with the wool so they were camouflaged, and I was at an absolute loss as to how to invisibly include sleeve heads, which it needed – there was quite a bit of dimpling at the shoulder seam on the sleeve side.

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The fabric is a gorgeously soft brown wool flecked with orange and grey, from Emma One Sock – and was a dream to work with. Although if I make a work suit in the future I’ll be looking for fabric with some synthetic content – considering how difficult it was to press in place, it’s creased quite a bit from a day of wear! For the lining of both pieces I used a peachy tangerine silk charmeuse from Clegs – I do love a brightly coloured lining! And my love affair with Charmeuse continues – not only is it an amazing fabric to work with, but it feels divine up against your skin.

I was worried that my wool would be a bit too structural to give the softness the peplum required – and I think I was on the money here as it is a wee bit stiff (and not as floppy as I’d hoped). I would recommend anyone else who wants to make this pattern to stick with a more drapey fabric (like the ones recommended on the pattern sleeve!).

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The skirt is from another co-ordinates wardrobe pattern – Vogue 8543. I love the curved lines on this skirt, and whilst it’s a bit of a fabric hog (for a straight skirt, at least) it was good fun to put together and I love the visual result of all of those curved lines. 

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When it comes to the skirt – Vogue really needs to kick their editor up the bum for the inordinate number of spelling mistakes, references to incorrect pattern pieces and general confusion caused by the pattern instructions for this number. Oh yes. I won’t even mention the mis-printing of fold lines on the actual pattern pieces. 

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Glorious charmeuse lining and my added fabric facing at the skirt front

I definitely take issue with the fact that there is no facing in this skirt – the lining is simply sewn on at the waistband – not even a whisper of a mention of understitching! Had I not been the wiser, this would be a disaster waiting to happen and I wasn’t going to have my lining ride up. I modified the pattern so it would have a fabric facing at the front which was ditch-stitched down, hopefully avoiding that potential issue.

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I am super pleased with my seam matching at the side zip though! Wool is such a friendly fabric to work with, so it was easy to baste, push and pull into place before sewing that zip!

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My favourite part of this skirt is the kick pleats at the back :) Letting my inner geek out for a moment – I was absolutely fascinated with the pattern pieces for putting this together.

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They allow for so much leg movement! Although it makes hemming a tad tricky (you need to cut the seam allowance so they will lay flat).

Back to the jacket – I did my usual trick of replacing the sleeves from the Vogue 8739 pattern and replacing them with my favourite sleeves from Vogue 8333. A much better look. You can check back here if you’d like to see the difference! I also drafted my own sleeve heads

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How do I like it? Very much so. I’m simply LOVING the peplum. It’s a great thing being able to have a suit with a bit of femininity!

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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.