Experimentation & Personal Style

I’ve been quiet on the blog lately but busy nonetheless. I’ve found myself wandering down a lot of rabbit holes lately, as is wont to happen when one is part of an online community; I am inspired by what others are wearing, new patterns released, trends and so forth, and despite me knowing what’s best for me, I sometimes need to try new things out.

There are goods and bads in this, for me. The main bad of course, is that I spend a lot of time constructing garments that I ultimately find uncomfortable or unflattering, and thus, unwearable. The main good is that I’ve strongly reinforced in my mind what I really love wearing, and also what really doesn’t suit me.

Lessons learned:

BAD: I recently made both the Colette Moneta and Myrtle, both of which feature a softly gathered elastic waistband which does absolutely NOTHING good for my figure, despite how pretty and flattering they are on seemingly everyone else.
GOOD: I like the Moneta bodice & the Myrtle skirt, and i do like wearing knits, so if I can splice them together without the elastic waistband we may have a winner.

BAD: I recently made two different pair of pants – both with a slim fit & side zip; in addition to the numerous woes we all feel when attempting to fit pants, the realization is that I simply cannot comfortably wear anything at or higher than my waist; I just hate the way it feels & looks. Also, personally, I think invisible zips on pants is just stupid. Maybe it’s just me but I break them every time.
GOOD: I’ve identified the main few fit issues I have with pants & I think if I stick with low rise styles I may be able to get at least wearable (if not perfect) pants block with a bit of work – and that would be spectacular because I do love pants :)

GOOD: I recently made the Papercut Patterns Midsummer’s Night Dream dress out of silk I got in Australia & it’s wonderful; I totally love wrap & V-neck bodices. Will post soon.

BAD: I stink at the narrow hem foot lol
GOOD: I have a narrow hem foot, and the more I practice the better it gets; even imperfect edges look pretty decent – and less fussy than bias edges on delicate fabrics :)

In conclusion, while I don’t have a lot of tangible successes lately, my mind is more focused and I have a clearer idea of what I need to spend my time on. I’m working on three projects that are much more my own style so I hope for some successful, blog-able projects soon :)

And since i have no garment photos to show, here’s a photo of lovely white fabrics I’m working with – perfect for this summer heat!!

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Deer & Doe Sureau

My first Deer & Doe pattern! So as usual I’m late to the party… but at least I came dressed well! LOL

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First of all I have to say, I love this dress! I loved making it, and I love wearing it – it’s comfy and pretty in an old-fashioned kind of way :) In fact, I found myself feeling a little out of place when we went out because all around me were girls wearing short shorts and skimpy clothes, and here I was wearing this quite modest dress :P That’s ok, I’m not exactly one to fit in with the crowd – haha ^_^

The fabric is a pretty Japanese cotton that was a dream to sew, and press, and which makes me so happy to wear – I love the colour and I love the print – pretty but not too sweet :)  The fabric was 55″ w so I only used not quite 2 yards, which means I have some left over for a cute skirt or top ^__^ (LOVE it when that happens!)

Not being a super big fan of gathers round my waist, I traced a sz 38 on top & 34 on bottom to reduce the skirt fullness & gathers. You can see how I somehow managed to still get a bit of poofiness in the front, so I will probably reduce the skirt at the waist to match the bodice waistline for future versions :)

Sureau-2

As per usual, of course did an FBA – I used Paunnet’s tutorial but rotated the dart amount into gather area, and added extra length to button placket. I think I may not have needed to do such a big FBA because it’s a little gapey in the front, but that’s easy enough to fix next time. Also I think the waist could be nipped in a bit; it’s kinda loose, but again – easy to fix next time. Better too big than too small! LOL

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Looks like I have to switch to summer sewing soon – the sunshine is returning! :)


Elisalex – No Such Thing as “Overdressed”


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When we were shooting this dress in front of the apartment building, one of our neighbours came out and asked what we were all dressed up for, and we answered “Just cause we feel like it!”. He either thought we were cool or very very weird – either way, I thought it was appropriate – after all, Elisalex doesn’t believe in the concept of being overdressed, right? :) We followed by having dinner together in a local (fairly divey) Chinese restaurant, whereby everyone there in their jeans and ratty clothes stared at us while their dinner got cold and we discussed finances and video games LOL.

This was my first time sewing a princess seamed bodice – weird right? What took me so long? I initially did an FBA following the standard method for just extending the princess seam at the bust point, but I had made the muslin from a fabric with a slight stretch because my initial fabric was going to be a stretch sateen. When I decided to use this fantastic Radiance silk cotton from Hart’s Fabric, I knew I needed to revisit my FBA and ensure it was going to fit perfectly. I wasn’t sure how to do a fairly big FBA (4″!!!) but found this great tutorial by Mary from Idle Stitch & it worked like a charm! :)

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I’m really proud of the fit on this one – I worked really hard to get it just right; even Maz commented how well it fit! :) Of course I did another muslin after the second FBA (as always) which confirmed the bust was a great fit, but I then had some pretty major back gaping so I took out a 1″ wedge from back bodice to correct this. Three bodice muslins in all. Then I made a muslin of the top part of the skirt, and forged ahead!

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I only had 2yds (preshrunk) of the fabric to work with so I took 9″ off the hem, which actually worked out perfectly because I prefer my dresses either above-knee or maxi length, so this was ideal. The fabric was a bit lighter weight than called for, and if it was 100% silk, it probably wouldn’t have worked because it would be too soft and drapey, but the silk cotton was PERFECT as it added just enough crispness to hold those box pleats and the unique tulip shape of the skirt :)

As for the pattern; it is drafted really well, and the instructions are very clear. I thought the method for lining bodice was explained particularly well; I like the easy finish on the side seams – clever! I did need to look up the BHL sewalong to see how to finish the lining, as there were no instructions for v1 in the pattern instructions.

I’m particularly proud of the zipper installation – I’ve had some major issues with invisible zips lately, and it looks like we might be able to be friends again. I got a perfect seam matching at waist, and painted the zipper pull to match the dress fabric, as I had to use a light grey zipper.

I also spent a fair bit of time and care adjusting the pleat placement to match the princess seams in front and back, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

And here’s my brave and wonderful photographer, also looking very sharp!

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Maria Denmark – Pernille dress

Pernille

So I’ve never made a Maria Denmark pattern before but as soon as I saw this one, I knew I HAD TO have it; it’s knit (so it’s comfortable), plus it’s my preferred kind of silhouette – a nice slim pencil skirt with a semi-fitted shape. No gathered or full skirt here! Not that I mind one occasionally but they seem to be rampant lately, and honestly, they’re not the most flattering on me, so if I use a pattern that has one, it requires me to re-draft the skirt bit to make them work :) Not so here – it was a nice easy make!! :)

Conveniently the dress comes in two different versions, one with regular sizing and one drafted for a C cup. I started with the latter, so I wouldn’t have to do as big an FBA. I did do a traditional FBA, for this, as per usual – sometimes I can get away with just grading sizes if I’m using jersey, but I was using ponte & it’s not as stretchy as jersey. I debated whether to keep the dart in, and I could have in this fabric (the back has darts to give it shape) but I decided to just try easing the extra length of the front into the back piece. No problem – easy peasy!! :) The only other alteration I made was to make the sleeves longer (again with the monkey arms LOL)

The pattern was well drafted, instructions clear, and even being a dress, the pdf pattern didn’t take much paper to put together, so I felt it was very well designed. It’s a great basic I’d love to make again.

If we’re honest here, I should be calling this the Dress that Almost Didn’t Get Blogged, because I only wore it once before the weather got too warm to wear it. So I finally decided to wear it just for photos the other day, but it was super hard to photograph; it almost caused a small war in our household but got it done in the end LOL – only one photo was decent, but one is enough (even if one has to screen out the very attractive apartment in the background LOL).

It’s definitely a great work basic & is warm & comfortable for rainy days; of course, as I mentioned, just as I finished it our weather fined up & I haven’t been able to wear it; now I need summer dresses! lol But the next time it rains, you better believe Pernille is gonna be my first go-to :)


Colette Mabel: Pencil Skirt

Oh knit pencil skirt, where have you been all my life? You are classy yet comfortable, both before lunch and after – you make me feel good AND look good when it’s raining.. or I’m tired… or it’s that time of the month – anytime, and I’m POSITIVE every girl needs you in their life! 

Colette Mabel skirt

I LOVE this pattern, folks!

To be  honest, I wasn’t immediately blown away by the innovative-ness of the designs of Colette’s 2 new patterns – after all, I have a LOT of patterns at this point and if I’m going to buy another, it needs to be different enough from what I already have to make me open my (admittedly quite loose LOL) wallet. But upon further consideration, there were 2 things that struck me on each that tipped the scales: V3 of the Mabel skirt has panels and a back vent – nice details that make it a little more office-friendly.

Colette Mabel - front and back vent

And after checking out all the initial versions of Moneta, the one common theme I noticed is that the bodice looks to have an immaculate fit (plus it can be made as a top) and the sleeveless version of the bodice is lined – something I’ve never tried before with knits.

As my time is very VERY short these days, knits are my new best friend – both sewing and wearing – so basics in knit fabric are EXACTLY what I need. Bonus: no finicky fitting & no closures – fast & painless! So even though I’m really trying not to buy new patterns, Colette’s 2 new patterns got ordered pretty quick.

Some construction notes (although it’s quite a simple make so not much to say): I graded between M at the waist and S at the hip (didn’t bother with a muslin – yay stretch!! :D). My fabric is a stable ponte, I think a rayon/poly/spandex blend – a remnant from a soon-to-be blogged project. Yes, it was a very little fabric – less than a metre I believe! I attached all my seams using my serger, and then used a twin needle for the hem. 

Mabel is a quick make – I was done in 2 evenings – including tracing (which translates to less than 2 hours in Amanda-land) I will definitely be making more of these, and a Moneta too, very soon! I only wish I could source more good quality knits locally – they are not easy to come by here, so my knit stash is sparse, otherwise I’d be making an army of these skirts, pronto!! :D

Next up on the blog – another quick knit wardrobe staple I’m in love with! (hint: the project from whose remnants my Mabel was born!) Stay tuned!


Back from Down Under!!

Hey, how y’ goin’? :D

We’re back from our trip to Australia (well back for about a week now) and still reeling from all that’s happened! :) In just two short weeks we did SOOOOOO MUCH!!!

The first week we were there, we went to Phillip Island, where we visited the Penguin Parade; a protected area where the little penguins come ashore every night at sundown by the hundreds, to head home to their little shelters in the hills :) We weren’t allowed to take pics of the little guys (flash scares them) but Maz got a picture of me on the beach waiting for them to come :)

waiting for the penguins!

waiting for the penguins!

We were only there overnight but we did manage to explore the beach a little and walk down the pier – I promised an action shot of the Cooper bag so I made sure we got a shot – it went with me EVERYWHERE down there!! :) Unfortunately, the weather was warmer than it looks so I had my sweater draped over the bag, which kind of obscures the bag in the pic – oops! LOL.

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Me & Maz & the Cooper bag in action!

Phillip Island beach

Phillip Island beach

After we came back, we spent a couple of days with friends and family, then we were off to the Gold Coast for a few idyllic days alone in paradise! We stayed in Surfer’s Paradise, which was without a doubt, very much paradise, even though I’m about as far from a surfer as you can get. The weather was lovely: warm, sunny, windy, very humid and perfect for long, languorous days strolling around the beach, shopping, exploring, eating and not being in a rush for anything :)

view from our hotel room… RIGHT??

view from our hotel room… RIGHT??

While those three days on the Gold Coast couldn’t have been more perfect, the best part by far is that

WE GOT ENGAGED!!!!

That’s right, my very sweet, romantic FIANCÉ proposed to me right on the beach, at night, when it was just us and hundreds of adorable little white seagulls and miles of sand and waves :) How could I NOT say yes??? :D

my beautiful engagement ring!

my beautiful engagement ring!

us on the beach where we got engaged, the day after

us on the beach where we got engaged, the day after

Of course, nothing can top that as best vacation memory EVER!! but petting kangaroos and holding a koala was right up there in coolness factor as well – we did that the last full day we were there!

I'm petting a giant kangaroo!! He's so soft!

I’m petting a giant kangaroo!! He’s so soft!

After spending a few days there, we headed off to Sydney for a day before returning to Melbourne. It was a bit of a culture shock at first, as Surfer’s Paradise definitely has a slow, laid back feeling to it, while Sydney is a very bustling, fast-paced city. We explored the city a bit and took the ferry from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour (my favourite part!). It was a perfect way to take photos of the city and harbour from afar :)

On the ferry at Sydney, with the Opera House behind me!

On the ferry at Sydney, with the Opera House behind me!

Upon our return to Melbourne, I was very blessed to have the opportunity to get together with a bunch of AWESOME sewing bloggers for an AMAZING afternoon of fabric and notion shopping organized by Bella of  http://www.bellacollectanea.com – thank you so much Belle, and thanks to all the girls who came; it was so awesome hanging out with you all and meeting new friends from across the globe!! :) The fabric shopping in Melbourne is absolutely incredible. I mean I could have spent a day in each shop alone. I had to restrain myself but I think I came away with a pretty decent haul that didn’t overload my weight allowance on my case, and didn’t max out my credit card LOL (Although I did discover that Tessuti does international orders… OMG LOL)

from left to right: merino, charmeuse, silk suiting

from left to right: merino, charmeuse, silk suiting

The merino on the left is from the Fabric Store, the charmeuse in the centre is what MAY be silk or a very good replica thereof, and the silk suiting on the right is BY FAR the most expensive fabric I’ve ever bought, and even though it gave me a minor coronary, I couldn’t leave Tessuti without it – it was definitely love at first sight!!! :)

from left to right: linen, silk, silk

from left to right: linen, silk, silk

These fabrics were from a second trip to The Fabric Store with my fiancé and his mum in tow, as I didn’t feel satisfied that I’d bought enough LOL. (I’m so lucky to have enablers LOL). The copper on the left is linen; I got 2m – enough for a dress, and the other two are silks that Maz’s mum spotted – I loved both colours and figured with 1m of each I could maybe come away with a couple cute tops :)

We spent the last few days of our trip visiting family (or to be more specific in my case, meeting family). Maz’s mum had a lovely afternoon get together which served as both a meet-and-greet and an engagement party. One of her friends’ daughters took some lovely professional photos of us, and we are so impressed that despite the fact this was a spur-of-the-moment endeavour and we weren’t prepared to have photos taken, she managed to make us look pretty spiffy!! :)

engagement

 

FYI I made that skirt the day before we left – lucky right? LOL

Before we left, we spent a day walking around the city of Melbourne, and even though it was pouring rain (which I’m used to, as a Vancouverite), it was indeed a spectacular city. I adore the little alleyways lined with secret cafes and shops, and the old buildings side by side with new architecture. One of my favourite buildings was Flinders Station, partly because I loved the juxtaposition of the old outer facade with the new, modern interior.

Flinders St. Station

Flinders St. Station

After the amazing two weeks away, we have had a hellish week back, with everything from work crises to a leak in our apartment (which is incidentally keeping me from sewing all that gorgeous fabric – ARRRGH!!!) but I am not at all exaggerating when I say my first experience overseas was life-changing and I will carry those beautiful memories with me forever… Australia, I promise you – I WILL be back!! :)

 


Sewing without fitting: the Cooper Bag

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This was a really fun project for me, and one I’m pretty proud of. In addition to the fact that this is the first bag I’ve made (besides a basic tote), I’ve been feeling down about the quality of my sewing lately; fitting issues… zipper woes, etc, and this project really helped me get back to basics & focusing on improving quality of the basic skills, while still challenging me with learning new skills.

One of the main new skills I learned was working with waxed canvas. I couldn’t find any pre-waxed in the colours I wanted so I decided to wax my own. It was fun – time consuming but worth the time & effort; I used a particularly heavy washed canvas and I thought it was really cool how the thick, stiff canvas changed colour & became more supple once cured.

Working with this very thick fabric was a challenge in itself. My machine is a trooper – it handled 4 layers fine, but as soon as there was more, or a thick ridge (which happened often) it needed help. There was a lot of hand cranking and I went through 3 denim needles in the process lol.

Another thing I learned is that you can’t press waxed canvas, even from the inside; I was gentle & used a press cloth & low heat but the waxed surface blotched & I had to re-treat that area; afterwards I pressed using pressure only; only heat from my hands and in cases with thick seams, I used a hammer to pound seams flat or open.

I’ve worked with some hardware before (boning, belts, eyelets, etc) but this time I got to install rivets & magnetic snaps too, as well as assemble the bag strap using sliders. I find working with hardware in conjunction with sewing oddly VERY satisfying!! so that was fun :)

I reinforced the straps with a double pass of zigzag stitching because I find those tend to go first on my bags – I must carry a lot of heavy stuff! lol

Shot of inside:

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I’ll be using this for my carry-on on my upcoming trip so I’ll get action shots while we’re in transit – for next time! :)


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