Thursday, December 11, 2014

Iggety ziggety zaggety zoom and a story about body respect (or LadySkater v Moneta)

Me, loving zig zags
I love zigzags. I love chevrons, but I also loved them before when they were just zigzags. I liked them before they were cool and I will love them long after they are (which I think starts now, recent shopping suggest quatrefoil is the new chevron and teal is the new navy).

I made two dresses quite a while ago, both in different colourways of Riley Blake's medium chevron knit. I considered one dress much more successful than the other, but I wear them both, so that must count for something.

I sewed up Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater dress first, in red on white and then Colette's Moneta in red tone on tone. My pre-sewing thought was that neither of these would end up wearable outside the house, or at least beyond a cover up at swimming (my minis still need a parent in the water with them). I was pleasantly surprised with both, but let me go back to why I sewed them both.

So I only have front-on pictures standing at odd angles. No, I can't remember why.
I wanted to try sewing a women's knit dress. This was a big deal for me, because I am very uncomfortable with the squidginess of my body. Leaving aside that bodies are inherently squidgy, I nonetheless am quite self-conscious about my mid-section. I have always been conscious of how that part of my body looks and having children has done little to dissipate my reservations.  However, the example I want to set for my children is that our bodies are remarkable and useful things and to admire what they can do, rather than focus on how they look - and any dissatisfaction that comes with that.

So, why knit dresses? They are super-fast to put together (stitching and finishing all in one, thank you Veronica - that's my overlocker) and they require fairly minimal fitting (gee that looks loose, another pass with the overlocker - woot). Plus they are comfortable and don't need to be ironed. So. Much. Winning. Also I make a lot of them for my daughter and it is my not-so-secret dream to dress like the Von Trapps.

Bravely wearing Moneta sans belt
This was around the time of the Moneta blog tour (I particularly like Sophie-Lee's and Mrs Hughes') and the launch of the Curvy Sewing Collective. I think they are a wonderfully talented group and the Collective has certainly increased the range of blogs that I read for the better. At the time I also stopped following another blogger because of a blog post written about both the Moneta and some comments, which to my mind totally disempowered the women sewing these dresses and clearly enjoying them, based solely on a subjective and normative/abject view of bodies.

So I decided that in order to live what I espouse I needed to sew up these dresses and enjoy whatever features they had without overthinking how my body looked.

So, the sewing.

It appears I can stand up straight, but only if I'm doing something supremely awkward with my feet.
I feel like I am the last person on the internet to sew a Lady Skater (Here are Heather B's and Kaddidlehopper's). I purchased this pattern as part of the first Perfect Pattern Parcel and then printed up and glued together my pieces with an unexpected surge of energy. Then I got distracted by other things and they sat around in the shovatorium for a few months. Word to the wise: do not store your pattern pieces and tracing like this if you ever want to find all the pieces ever again. I did manage to find all the parts of the dress pattern, but there was some shifting of furniture and giant piles of mess to do so.

The Riley Blake chevron jersey is fantastic to cut and sew with. Very little curling and very well behaved. I made absolutely no attempt to match the chevrons on either dress and I think that is obvious to the eye that looks for it. The number of compliments I have received (and requests to make the dresses for other people!) suggests that the non-sewists (I want to write sewer, but I just can't, it looks wrong) really don't notice these things. I did find that the tone on tone jersey has that over-printed look to it and I find the tone on tone makes the red look less a true red, but I don't mind it too much, although I prefer the red on white.

I was worried about where the waistline of both these dresses would hit me (not worried enough to sew a muslin, just quietly concerned), I was pleased with how the lady skater worked out, but the Moneta I find is a bit high. I have a short waist (and no hips), so tend to prefer a lower waistline to help create an illusion of more normative curves. It really depends on what makes you comfortable. Both these dresses made me realise that when it comes to clothes, it's best not to look down, look in the mirror, but looking down everything you worry about is amplified and generally no one else is looking at that. Particularly when they are distracted by zig zag awesomeness.

The lady skater pattern was very easy to work with, my only deviation was to stay stitch the front and back bodice pieces at the neckline. I'm cautious by nature. I mostly followed my usual approach of machine basting and then overlocking, but by the time I was attaching the skirt and sewing the side seams, I got the shi, couldn't be bothered and so just went straight to the overlocker and they were fine. I love the sleeve and neckline bands, they have really helped the dress to hold its shape in spite of a lot of wear.

The back of the dress. Because sewing blogging.
Moneta was also an easy pattern to follow. Colette do instructions very well and there was also a sew along, which provides that extra resource for putting things together. The sleeves are sewn in flat and the skirt is gathered with clear elastic. I also like the pockets. I put it together primarily with my overlocker, with things like hems done on my regular machine.

The only change I made was to stabilise the pocket openings with fusible tape. Tell a lie, I also took about six centimetres off the hem. If I were to make this dress again, I would maybe lengthen the bodice, stabilise the shoulders, reassess the hem length and look at other finishing options for the neckline - it has stretched out over time.

More back.

I chose to do a zig zag for the hem on both dresses, because I find twin needling so slow (and painful). Also zigzag dresses need zigzag stitching. I now own a coverstitch and would probably use that, or alternatively just a long top stitch on a future dress, because there isn't really any great pressure on the hem of these patterns.

Both dresses stand up to everyday wear very well. My lady skater has been shopping, to a play school concert, out for lunch, playing with little tikes and baking and didn't sag or look tired at the end of the day, so massive win there. Moneta has done a similar range of things, as well as being handy to chuck on before swimming on a Sunday morning. I have even worn my lady skater to work, I was a bit unsure as my workplace is very conservative, but on a Friday with no external meetings, I figured I was at least as well dressed as the man wearing socks with his sandals (and my senior boss who takes two hours to change out of her sportswear after going for a walk at lunch).

Interestingly although I prefer the shape of the lady skater, I think Moneta may be more flattering. I think part of that may be due to my aversion to gathers. In the end though, how it looks is and should be secondary to how it feels and I like how I feel when I wear both of these (although I wish I hasn't been so cavalier shortening my Moneta).
Moneta out and about

If I had written this post when I first sewed up these dresses I would have called Moneta a failure, but truly I wear it a lot, so by that metric it is far from a failure (and believe me, they definitely exist). I prefer my lady skater, because I like the lower waistline and smoothly tapered skirt, over a gathered one, but it turns out they are a couple of very handy additions to my wardrobe. And even though you can't tell by looking, they also represent my support for everyone everywhere to wear and sew what makes them happy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

TMS Frocktober: A birdy dress all grown up?

I really enjoy following along with The Monthly Stitch, while it is clear I am fairly rubbish at regular blogging, I often do complete the challenge (and even within the month), I just rarely post. I think this is a feature of blogging not being a habit, so I fail to include it when budgeting my time.

Anyway, my goal for Frocktober was to complete at least one dress with a view to entering at least one competition, meaning I was aiming to blog at least once. This is actually the second dress I have finished, but the first, well, if it sees the light of the internet, it will be as a miss. I have worn it out of the house, once, but honestly, I think it is probably best suited to charity where someone who can pull it off can wear it.

I definitely prefer it with the belt (or a contrast waist)
But I digress.

This is Deer and Doe's Reglisse dress. I loved the simple lines of this dress and I think in a nice cotton it looks so crisp and fresh, which it was I would do for another version (yes, there will be another!). I ordered the pattern during the time it was on sale before Frocktober and I was very pleasantly surprised when it arrived here in the antipodes in less than two weeks after it left France.

The instructions are quite clear and I sewed this up in an evening (well, I did do a bit of quick Friday morning pre-work sewing to insert the elastic), I think it took no more than four hours, including pattern tracing and a number of small child related interruptions.

The pattern is clearly printed on nice sturdy paper - the pattern tracers dream.
Fabric-wise I chose a polyester with nice drape from the clearance stack at Spotlight. The fabric has more drape than the recommended fabrics for this pattern, but I saw a lovely rayon version on Pattern Review, so I decided to take a chance. I quite like the print (I am a complete sucker for a bird print, luckily I have children for the times when what I have purchased is completely inappropriate for my age and lifestyle) and the fabric holds a press reasonably well, but other than that, it doesn't have much to recommend it, I'm afraid.

Look at all that skirt and it's covered in birds, woo hoo!
It is slippery and plastic feeling and quite prone to static. Plus - and this is something I've never really had to deal with before, it just wouldn't keep markings. Usually when I have trouble marking, I pull out washable textas, but because I wanted to wear this the next morning, it wasn't an option (imagine, heading off to work with big black texta lines pointing along the bust darts, classy) I think I paid about $3 a metre for this fabric and that is probably an appropriate price point. I will make this dress again in a lovely cotton, probably a voile, thus avoiding all these issues.
Because everyone loves taking pictures of their back

In terms of the pattern, I mostly followed the instructions, the small changes I made were, that:

  • I didn't topstitch the collar, because my thread didn't quite match (red, but not the right red) and I didn't want to draw attention to that;
  • I didn't use bias to hem the dress, given this kind of polyester's propensity to pucker, my concerns about the length of the dress, and the fact that I wanted to wear the dress to work for casual Friday, I chose instead to do a narrow hem (about 1 cm, folded over twice) and machine stitched it; and
  • (this was unplanned), even though I was very careful, I still managed to end up with the slot for the elastic on the outside of the dress (I'm so clever like that), so I just zigzagged it shut once the elastic was inserted.

I used packaged bias for the collar, because I had no interest at all in trying to make bias out of this shifty sneaky fabric.

I made no changes to fit and I was quite pleased overall. It was nice not to have to worry about bust proportions in a pattern. I'm still tossing up whether for a future version I would lengthen the bodice a bit, the waist feels a bit high to me (but it doesn't look as high as it feels), but that could just be because I wear more skirts than dresses, with lower waists. If I didn't lengthen the bodice, I would probably lengthen the skirt, simply to be able have a deeper hem, which I think would be nice in a different fabric.
Oops, slip-flash

The main challenge I had was the fabric, but I did know that going in to it, so I had decided all along that this would probably be a test garment, with the hope that it would be wearable. Given that goal, I was quite pleasantly surprised at how it turned it. I was even complimented by my boss, so that's always nice and a good sign, I think. I'm not sure how much wear it will get now, given the weather is heading towards very warm already, but I think in Autumn, it will definitely get some use.

My toddlerboss and I, she graciously agreed to me making this dress for myself.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Online fabric haul 2 - some designer knits. recently had a sale on designer fabrics, so I took the opportunity to purchase some designer knits, some I had already been pleased with, the Riley Blake knits in particular and some I wanted to have a feel an inspect for myself, so I also purchase some Robert Kaufman Laguna jersey and some Valori Wells (for RK) interlock. It was a good shop and a nice present to receive from past Erin (because it's past Erin who spent the money, Erin today just gets to enjoy the fabric).

Just to put the pricing in perspective, Riley Blake knits are AUD$20-$24 per metre, the regular price per yard on is USD$13 per yard, so on sale and being smart with postage, it is a significant saving.

The fabrics I purchased were (links are to, because that's where I purchased it):

Riley Blake pink and navy one inch stripe jersey
Riley Blake rainbow small chevron
Riley Blake tone on tone red chevron
Valori Wells interlock
Robert Kaufman Laguna jersey aqua polka dot

And now, I have some sewing to do.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

TMS July Mono-sewn: A Mono Coco (and her wearable muslin)

July's challenge over at The Monthly Stitch is Mono-sewn, which in this instance I've taken as the black and white monotone. I've sewn a Coco dress in houndstooth double knit from

The dress was originally sewn as part of last month's Indie Pattern month, but unfortunately I just couldn't get my act together photos-wise. However, I have come to realise and accept that this is really about sharing the sewing love and if that means taking a picture without perfect hair, that is not the end of the world. I also cut out the top as part of Sew Stretchy, which I think was April's challenge? Since cutting both I have lost quite a bit of weight, so neither fits quite right, although this is more noticeable in the top, which has become more of a tunic.

So, on to the dress. Coco is a knit dress or top designed for sewing with stable knits. It's a very quick sew - even for me who machine bastes before overlocking seams - and quite satisfying. There also isn't a huge amount of hemming, which is always nice.

The fabric is a bit thinner than I initially realised, but I love the houndstooth enough that I can get over it. It is a double knit, with the houndstooth on one side and just black on the other and the layers can be pulled apart (if you want to, though I'm sure I would never play with my fabric in such a naughty way).

In terms of sizing, it is supposed to be a relaxed fit, although probably not a relaxed as my dress, based on my new measurements I would sew at least one size down, if not two. The sleeves are set in flat, so that's pretty easy. Length-wise, I have (relatively) long arms, so I find them a little short, they tend to sit at bracelet length, but those with normally proportioned limbs probably will not face this issue.

Disproportionately long arms
I generally sew knits up on my overlocker, but because I don't trust myself to evenly feed the fabric through the machine, I machine baste it on my sewing machine first. Well, except for the bands, because I don't love sewing around in circles very much and so I'd rather not have to do each on twice :). The dress comes together very quickly though, even with basting (not that I'm suggesting everyone do it, but if you ever find that your overlocked seams have that 4 mm creep, give the basting a crack). I used a double needle to hem the skirt and sleeves, but chose to zigzag the neckline, because variety is the spice of life. I used fusible web and made sure to sew slowly and steadily (it's an adjustment after overlocking!) on the hems sewn with the double needle to avoid tunnelling, although it probably wouldn't have been an issue with a knit as stable as this one.

I had a recent revelation that I don't mind zigzagging hems because I actually don't mind if people realise my clothes are homemade. I know that I sew reasonably well and the clothes I make I'm happy to wear out and about and I'm not ashamed if someone is able to pick that I made it. Plus when you zigzag you don't have to stress about tunnelling. That said, I'm going shopping for a coverstitch machine in the next couple of days.

Look! Too fast for the camera!

This dress has been great to throw on and pop up to the shops, particularly if you have been flaunting convention and wearing leggings as pants around your house (or out and about, no judgement here!).

Are those leggings as pants?
I quite like Tilly's patterns in general, they are targeted at beginners, with lots of pictures and hand holding, which is nice. I choose to buy her paper patterns and have them shipped out to me, which is expensive, but a price I am willing to pay to avoid having to deal with the printing and the taping (sorry PDF patterns, I use you and respect you, but I just don't like you that much). There is a lot of information on her blog, including a sewalong and some pattern variations.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An online fabric haul

Recently Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow put up a fabric haul video and review of some fabrics she purchased online. I thought it was a great idea, partly because it is nice to see people and hear them talk about their sewing/fabric and partly because it is great to actually see how fabric behaves when a person is touching it, particularly when shopping online.

So I had a parcel arrive today (or a present, as my daughter calls it), from Crafty Mama's Fabrics. Crafty Mama is an Australian seller who stocks beautiful fabrics, as well as Ottobre magazine and other interesting patterns. I hadn't ordered from there before, because I got a bit confused with the website and then paralysed by the choices. Indecision may well be the budgeter's friend. However, on a recent browse, I saw some lovely deer fabric (no longer available as far as I can see, but there is this one) and as that is the current movie obsession in our house, thought it would make a great dress. I also fell in love with some kite Lillestoff in the sale section, so they went into the cart. Then I realised that the lovely Lisa (Crafty Mama herself) will also select a surprise range of fabric up to a given value (called a Happy Happy Joy Joy pack), the perfect solution to my indecision (and frustration when I can't find the coordinates I want). I've made a little video of my purchases and I've pulled out some Riley Blake knits (a chevron and a stripe) and Girl Charlee ones (anchors, birds and hearts), for anyone who is curious to see how these behave and sew up. Something I didn't mention in the video, but probably should is that I think I (and others?) can often assume that all jersey will behave like stretch jersey and that isn't a realistic expectation, if a fabric doesn't contain lycra it isn't going to have that awesome stretch, but sometimes that's a good thing.

br />

If anyone ends up watching this, I'll be sure to post another with my next purchases, probably next week...

Just a note, I purchased all these fabrics and am not affiliated with any retailers, the opinions are all my own.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Try something Tuesday #2

So I had some stitching success last week - I stitched two lines of my son's blanket with my walking foot. 'Twas easy, but good grief it was slow. I *will* keep going with the blanket, but I get bored and seek the more instant gratification of sewing new clothes.

Today I decided to revisit a previous  fail, using a Big 4 pattern to make children's pants. I have attempted this before, the results were not very wearable. Since then, I have just avoided sewing pants from these patterns did children. This was fine when I was only sewing for my daughter, but now I am sewing for my son too, pants need to come into the equation. 

So I traced off McCall's 6779 in some stash pin whale cord - fruity no less and we'll see how they go. Hopefully they will be assembled tomorrow.

I'm planning in sewing some pants for myself  in the next couple of weeks, so it's always good to have a mini  practice, it's just a shame mine won't be fruity, or elastic waisted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Try something Tuesday

I am an enthusiastic person. I love to learn new skills and have fresh experiences. Sometimes though, I get a little too excited and buy all the things! And then get overwhelmed and fear of failure creeps in.

A classic example is how I have quite a few craftsy classes that I have either never or barely watched. Or the number of unread sewing books. And uncut fabrics. We all know that fabric isn't truly loved until it is seen. It's like chocolate cake, it can be admired or revered but it's all just potential until you sew it.

So with this in mind, every Tuesday I am going to try  something new. A new pattern, gadget, fabric, class. I am going to have a crack at something I haven't done before. I don't want to feel sad and overwhelmed by things undone and truly, what is the worst that can happen? So a class or a project doesn't pan out, then it's up to be to find the benefit.

Today was an easy one. I intended to make my son a faux chenille blanket since about this time last year (when I was pregnant with him. I purchased fabric and prepped it, found tutorials, I even bought a walking foot and chenille cutter, and then it all just sat there. So for today's challenge I pulled out the fabrics again, pressed, pin basted and has a crack with my walking foot.

It was all fine. I've been watching the Craftsy Creative Quilting with your waking foot and I not only picked up some tips, but realised even if I completely stuff it up, a nine month old will not care and if it's really that bad, nothing I am working with is irreplaceable, even my pride.