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.

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 ;)

A distraction from my lack of tangible sewing progress.

Today’s post will be a delightful distraction away from me not having anything currently worthwhile talking about when it comes to sewing.

Lisa, from Notes from a Mad Housewife nominated me for the blog hop that’s currently making its way around the online sewing space – I’m not actually sure where it started exactly but I’m in excellent company – Heather from Handmade by Heather, Leila from Three Dresses Project and soon – Morgan from Crab and Bee. They’re all ladies who have wonderful writing styles and whose sewing I really enjoy admiring!

what am I working on?

Recently I’ve been losing a lot of battles in the land of The Trouser, but I’m gearing up to win the war. In between pondering that, I’ve been working on my hybrid jacket, which is coming along really nicely!

poppykettle on instagram

I’m also just about to start basting together my mum’s jacket, as she’s popping down to Melbourne for my birthday next week so I want to squeeze in a fitting session :)

Otherwise, I’m trying really really hard not to start a fourth project. The only reason I haven’t is because I feel a little bit sewing-output-constipated right now. A lot in the pipeline… and well yeah – you get the analogy. So many things I want to sew!

why do I write?

Because I have to. Otherwise this blog wouldn’t be a blog, but a Tumblr, right? :)

I decided to start a blog when I was at the end of a my first year of sewing lessons, when I knew I wouldn’t be continuing on with that but wanted to maintain a connection to other people that sew. I had only just discovered the online world – Julia from Julia Bobbin had just started a blog and from hearing her talk about it and being inspired by her Tessuti Competition win, I decided maybe it would be something I would try, too. It took me a while to get used to the whole ‘writing’ thing!

Fast Forward a little and the fabulous Rachel from Boo Dog & Me organised a Melbourne meetup. I remember being pretty nervous rocking up to Tessuti where everyone was meeting, and I’m sure I did a lot of incoherent babbling (it’s a nervous thing) and Rachel didn’t even bat an eyelid (so polite!).

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Since then I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful sewing enthusiasts overseas, had a few incredibly supportive and beautiful emails from people who read my ramblings, received unexpected fabric/pattern/care packages in the mail and made some wonderful friendships, as well as come into contact with people who I don’t necessarily get to spend much time with, but adore none the less. It’s kinda corny, but I feel that by writing I’m somehow giving a little something back in turn for all that I’ve received. That, and I love hearing from those of you who take the time to comment :) Commenting can be hard work, I know!

how does it differ from others of it’s genre?

my blog you mean? Um, I don’t know. And quite frankly, I don’t really care. This little space has given me so much more that I had ever anticipated – wonderful real life friends and the love of seeing what other people create, so I’m not really interested in getting all competitive about it all. I direct that energy into being the best I can be at doing this, and learning new sewing-related things. Everyone contributes towards the sewing blogosphere in their own way, and I think that’s what makes it so wonderful.

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And of course spending time with other sewing enthusiasts!! Myers Briggs classifies me as an introvert, but I’ve not yet been to a sewing meetup or social sewing day when I haven’t come away completely buzzed and on a high because there are just so many bloody fabulous people out there who sew. (Is that what it’s like to be an extrovert all the time? That must be exhausting!). So I’m super, super duper looking forward to the next Frocktails – which is this coming Saturday! I’m predicting that sequinned dresses are going to be all the rage…

how does my writing process work?

You know, back when I got a job with my current employer, it was all the rage to do psychometric testing. I had to do three tests – Maths, Problem Solving and Language. My result announced I sat in the 91st, 93rd and 23rd percentiles respectively. Of course, being an engineering/construction company, they hired me instantly. Ha! I recall having a little giggle with myself that I had at least managed to pick a profession that suited my abilities. No seriously, my geek high school friends and I used this integral expression as a joke that really, we no longer needed English classes:

Integral Expression of Life

Lame-osity aside, my blog writing process reminds me of writing a lab report – I stay focused on the technical process and outcomes. It’s also a really good challenge for me – writing a coherent post that flows. These days I usually start writing a post when I start making a garment – that way I can capture those ‘aha’ moments that I would otherwise forget about by the time I came to writing a post. It also means I remember to get decent WIP pictures, and that my post changes constantly up until the point I take photos, after which I proof read and then hit publish.

nominate!

I for one would love to know a little bit more about many people, but the two sewing bloggers I’m going to nominate here are Karen, from Fifty Dresses, and Leith from Sew Brunswick. Both sew and blog things that I really enjoy reading about! It’s a matter of writing about your writing process, by answering the questions I’ve got bolded in this post. Of course, this is totally non-obligatory thing :)

And I’ll be back soon with some real sewing stuff, promise!

P1003 & P1004: Hi-tech Fabric

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but in the last decade of so fabric technology appears to have developed in leaps and bounds. These days there are all kinds of sports-related garments with hi-tech fabrics spruiking various benefits, from the moisture-wicking quick-dry standard gym fare we probably all have, to compression undergarments designed to decrease muscle fatigue and aid in recovery. Or just suck in your gut, like spanx.

Mr poppykettle competing in the Shepparton Half Iron Man, 2012

Mr poppykettle competing in the Shepparton Half Iron Man, 2012

Open any of the cupboards at chez poppykettle and you will find all these things and more – and not just because I enjoy a bit of gut-sucking-in action, but because Mr poppykettle’s hobby is competeing in triathalons and IronMan competitions (he even has a wet-suit that purports to increase buoyancy by up to 40%, thus allowing you to ‘save’ your legs for the ride and run segments). The pictures above and below are him during his first and second 70.3‘s. A little gloating if you don’t mind – he completed last years competition (a 1.9km/1.2mile swim, 90km/56mile bike ride and then a half marathon – 21km/13.1mile run) in 4 hours and 22 minutes – just missing out on a podium finish by coming 4th in his age group, and 41st overall out of nearly 1400 competitors. Proud much? Just a bit! Unfortunately due to a stress fracture injury he’s had to pull out of his events this year, but still.

2011 Half IronMan

2011 Shepparton 70.3/Half IronMan

For me though, fabric technology began back in 1935 with the creation of Nylon. Like most fabric developments since its time, it was originally a military innovation. The thermoplastic polymers that make up nylon give it a ‘silky’ and smooth texture, and Nylon was designed as a replacement for silk which was scarce following the end of WWII. Likewise, viscose rayon, polyester and other synthetic fibres were also designed to mimic their natural counterparts.

Image via allposters.com

Image via allposters.com

Side tracking yet again – Nylon was first used for fishing line and toothbrush bristles – but ask anyone what you associate with Nylon and undoubtably the answer will be stockings! The original stockings made from Nylon were so strong and durable that they could be used to tow a trailer behind a car. In my world, that is just pure awesome. They were obviously a big hit with women as no longer did our fore-sisters have to worry about runs and holes appearing. Of course, this also meant that manufacturer’s weren’t selling as many units, because Nylon stockings lasted so much longer than their predecessors made from silk, wool and cotton. Big Industry sent their engineers back to the drawing board to decrease the life of nylon stockings – and so this product became the second documented instance of the manufacturing phenomenon called ‘planned obsolescence‘ – where products are engineered to fail. (The first was the humble incandescent globe – check out this info on the Pheobus Cartel if you’re up for a bit of conspiracy theory).

So the next time your $14 pair of Levante‘s ladder, tear or rip – you’ll know who to curse. Your friendly neighbourhood engineer.

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But marketing of fibres has of course moved on from stockings to sports fabrics that combine the technologies developed in the 20th century, and now it’s the turn of the high end stuff to get the high-tech treatment. ZZegna (the younger, more fashion-forward brother to Ermenegildo Zegna) has been including some pretty cool fibre innovations in his collections, like Microsphere – with which you can wipe off those pesky wine and mustard stains at the swipe of a damp cloth. Giotto New-Gen (an Aussie brand) have applied the slip slop slap mentality to their fabrics, launching Cold Black – a “special finishing technology for textiles which reduces heat build up and provides reliable protection from UV rays”. Presumably this will make wearing your favourite tux on a warm summers evening feel like you’re really just wearing a seersucker suit.

Or this rain jacket from ZZegna‘s Autumn 2013 Menswear collection which sports rubber bonded onto wool garbadine to keep your beau warm and dry:

via style.com

via style.com

Then you’ve got the flip side of fibre technology mixing with recycling – Sax Altman makes chino’s (Repreve) from cotton interwoven with recycled plastic bottle polymer strands; although this would help offset the rising cost of cotton I doubt you’d end up saving much. You’ve also got fashion houses like Martin Margiela perhaps taking the fabric/recycling cross over to the extreme – with this jacket made from recycled polyethylene garbage bags:

Many thanks to the article bty David Waters in the Qantas magazine for bringing these designs and fabulous fibres to my attention. But really, there hasn’t been to the best of my knowledge any new commercially significant developments in fabric since nylon, lycra and maybe kevlar. Actually, one day I’d really like to sew something out of kevlar. A wicked-ass biker jacket would be totally appropos made from kevlar! What we’re seeing here in sports gear and rubber rain jackets isn’t actually new, it’s just taking already existing technologies and combining them together to get the next evolution. Kinda like mixing chocolate, caramel and salt (all equally delicious in their own right) to get the mouthwatering creation of salted chocolate caramel. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?

via mushitza

via mushitza

…. Sorry, I got distracted thinking about salted chocolate caramel for a minute there.

But I’m here today to talk about sports fabrics. Because these innovations have trickled their way down into our fabric stores and even though I don’t spend upwards of 25 hours a week training like my beau, I’m not a complete couch potato either (well… maybe sometimes) – I’m in the market to make some gym clothes – I’m sure I can’t be the only one suffering with ill-fitting sports gear?

I’ve got my eyes on New Zealand’s Papercut Patterns: the Ooh La Leggings and the Undercover Hood.

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I’ve been looking high and low (not really, just googling from the comfort of my couch) for some high tech fabric I can get my hands on to make the leggings with, ending up with some 80% Nylon 20% Lycra black and turquoise fabric that looks and feels identical to the fabric my current Nike gym pants are made from, and some pink, grey and black striped unknown fabric with good recovery from a mystery bolt at Trimmings and Remnants.

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And some gorgeous textured blue merino wool/lycra blend from New Zealand Merino and Fabrics for the hoodie:

wool lycra blend fabric

Because hey, you can fiddle with fibre as much as you like but as far as I’m concerned, wool will always be the ultimate in high performance – and you don’t need a lab to create it. It’s renewable too! Keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter, sheds water to a degree (even if you do end up smelling like a wet dog) and most importantly to me – is breathable.