Sewing makes you love yourself #smyly2018

I have seen some posts and watched some blogs this is my contribution on this subject.

I am almost 50, happily married to the same man for more than half my life and the mother to. Two grown up children who no longer live at home. I have more time to sew than I would ever have dreamed possible. I am thankful for my increased sewing time and resources. But life is never without challenges is one thing I have learnt. I probably have less need to sew than in the past but my desire to sew has in no way decreased. I love new challenges, new patterns, new techniques and my sewing world now is influenced and informed by the Instagram sewing community. I have learnt more in the last couple of years than in the last thirty because of this!

Here is my #smyly2018 garment that I made today:

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Yes it’s a wild top, but I think it meets all the #smyly criteria!

It’s wild and unexpected! Probably not something that most people image someone my age would wear! To me this wild fabric just makes me smile and it represents my still wild fun loving soul! I really don’t care what others think I dress for me. Every morning I get out of bed and look forward to getting dressed for the day and dress very much in the way that brings a smile to my face! Recently I made my husband install a mirror in my walk in wardrobe for this purpose! Some days I days I do dress in a more subdued manner but most are more wild and colourful. I only where my me made clothes because these are the ones that make me the most happy. Not only do I love the feeling of wearing but I have memories of the whole process of bringing these clothes into being. The fabric in this top was found on a trip to Singapore last month, every time I wear this shirt I will be reminded of this trip with my friend Sandra. The pattern is a PDF pattern that I purchased in November during the thanksgiving sales from Hey June handmade called the SantaFe Top, I was attracted to this pattern because of its very feminine flowy shape which I felt would fill a gap in my wardrobe.

This wild top is not perfect (just like me). Twelve months ago I brought a Bernina coverstitch machine and I have to say this machine does take a bit of mastering. I resisted the urge to unpick and redo the coverstitching over the neckline binding that went a little wonky … no one will notice (apart from me). I have to keep telling myself to stop obsessing over the little details and just enjoy the whole picture. This is another way sewing really helps me maintain my balance in this world. My sewing more often then not fulfilled my need to create and finish something that I can be proud off. My work as a teacher by and large does not provide this sort of satisfaction. To be totally philosophical sewing and the experience, learning and sense of community provides a great template for life. It is a small model for life’s experiences lessons learned can be reapplied to the rest of your life. If I am being particularly shallow at the very least Sewing gives you great clothes!

Happy sewing everyone! If you haven’t yet maybe you want to now?

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The Mayberry Dress review

This pattern is a particular favourite of mine. I do love the understated style of this particular dress. It is comfortable to wear the more formal touch of the asymmetrical button up front makes this dress smart enough to be a good choice as a work outfit. The drawstring waist of this dress can be easily adjusted and the straightness of the skirt makes this dress very comfortable and practical for sitting for long periods of time at a desk. I brought this pattern as soon as Jennifer Lauren released this pattern back at the end of August. I could see the potential of this dress as one of my favourite work dresses straight away and of course the 20% off introductory offer was too good to resist!

I did make my first version out of a beautiful batik printed rayon straight away. I wanted to make the longer sleeve version but had to settle for short sleeves due to lack of fabric. I brought a bolt end and although I knew that this was a way shorter length than what it said on the pattern I brought the fabric anyway because I loved it! Try as I might I just was way too short for longer sleeves.

I recently went with a friend to Singapore and as we both love to sew we of course went fabric shopping. I brought lots of fabric and other things like buttons and sewing tools. We had a great time enjoyed all the sightseeing and food. The second Mayberry that I have just finished is made in some I think cotton poplin fabric that I brought in the People’s Park Textile Centre in Chinatown in Singapore.

This fabric is stiffer but there is still enough drape for this design to work. I lengthened this version so it just covers my knees. I really like the design of these 3/4 length sleeves.

I love these sparkly heart shaped buttons that I got from a shop in Arab street Singapore.

This is an innovation that I am quite proud of. I wanted to secure the back neck facing and had the idea of using this as an opportunity to do some sort of label. I had a brain wave and decided this was the perfect opportunity to get my Bernina sewing machine to do some lettering. This is a great way of permanently anchoring the back facing and adding a really neat design touch. I will do this again … next time I will program it to sew “anakiequilter”.

Here is my formal review of the Mayberry dress pattern.

  1. Fit: I made this dress in size 18 with b cup bodice, it seems to fit perfectly though I did discover that the top button was sewn a little bit away from where it should have been. I have since moved the button and now the neckline sits where it should. I added 5 cm to the length of the cat dress so that it just covers my knees. I am 165 cm in height.

  1. Construction/instructions: I made an effort to follow the instructions step by step and found them to be very clear and logical. I personally have been sewing for more than 30 years and so would tend to use the instructions only when I came across something that I had not done before. But I did find that the instructions were very sensible and simple. I would normally do two lines of gathering stitches at about 10 to 15 mm from the edge rather than just one 3mm in as Jennifer advises in this pattern. This 3 mm approach does makes sense as gathering the fabric close to the edge means less strain on the thread and that it does not break which means that two lines of gathering stitches is a waste of time. You just have to make sure that the gathers are evenly distributed which is easy to achieve as you sew since you are not stitching anywhere near the gathering stitches. Learnt something new! In terms of the construction this is a very straightforward project.

  2. Pattern printing: I printed on to A4 and used my home printer. I love the fact that the pattern prints out in chunks so that you don’t end up with a single huge sheet but several smaller ones instead. This is genius and makes all the difference.

TNT: Blueprints for Sewing AFrame skirt

This November the Sewialists theme is TNT this is my contribution. TNT stands for tried and true it is that no fail versatile sewing pattern that does not disappoint. I do have a history of these and it is not unusual for me to make each of my favourite patterns a few times. I only came across Blueprints for sewing patterns in the last 12 months, I was initially excited about the Geodesic sweater and have made that only once so far ( but I intend to make it again). I decided to buy the AFrame skirt after seeing it worn buy Taylor the Blueprints for Sewing designer. I love the pockets and decided that an A line skirt would be great o have in my work wardrobe. I work as a secondary school math teacher and really like to have pockets to keep my iPhone securely in. I love the unique way the skirt front and back are pieced it gives a great vertical line that I think is quite flattering. The instructions are very clear and this pattern is very easy to put together.

This is my first version made in a combination of Outback Wife barkcloth and Maker Maker linen. This is version 1 of the AFrame which is the straight pencil silhouette.

The second two versions are the more flowing version two which is more of an Aline shape, the front centre piece is cut on the bias to increase the feminine shape. The plain blue purple is a light weight linen. The patterned on is a light weight purple okay. Love the length and the shape.

The last is a magenta linen that is quite crushed because I have been wearing it all day! I celebrated the return of my Bernina from being serviced by trying out a lot of fancy top stitching… anything but straight stitching. This is the version one again.

The Laneway dress

This is another superb design from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. I found it a quick easy sew. The pattern is very true to the measurements, so I made the size 18 with the B cup front. I really wanted to use this green, purple and brown African wax fabric and decided to cut the skirt with the linear design going vertical and then cut the top and sleeves with the design going vertically, I went for a purple contrast facing (this piece I found in my quilting fabric stash). I have to have pockets in my clothes these days …. so I can carry my phone with me all day at work! These pockets are great and are sewn into the waistline as well as the side seam so they should be super strong!

This is going to be a fun dress to wear!

I decided to put a press stud under each corner of the collar so I can undo it when I iron. Because the collar is asymmetric and one side is larger than the other I stitched a large beaded button on the large side and then took apart another button and stitched three of the beads from that button on the smaller side.

I picked up this beautiful zip for a dollar from the Alannah Hill clearance store in Fitzroy, I looked up the directions and sewed it so the satin and metal as well as the gorgeous zip pull was a feature. This fancy zip pull looks great and is real easy to reach to undo. Very pleased.

I am 165 cm tall but prefer my dresses to be below the knee, so I added 3 inches to the hemline when I was tracing the pattern.

Jennifer Lauren Handmade Auden Cardigan Review

I made this Cardigan for my husband Peter who is pictured wearing it out in his garden.img_0523

Fit: I made the XXL size and the is fits beautifully across his back and shoulders. Peter has quite broad shoulders. I did try to do the “beer belly” adjustment that was on Jennifer Lauren Handmade blog but went back to the straight XXL as I think this fit better (this fabric is quite stretchy for a sweater knit). The sleeves are a little long but with the cuff folded up they are ok. The tummy fit is a problem always but it is comfortable and looks ok.

Construction and instructions: Overall the instructions are quite good and straight forward to follow. I had a problem with the marking of the notches on the front pattern piece they did not seem to meet the sleeve notches …. there was a discrepancy of about 1 to 1.5 cm I think. I also had problems attaching the back to the sleeve the notches matched ok but I had trouble working out where the to match the top of the sleeve with the back, I picked up my error when I tried to put the facing on and found it did not fit, but I unpicked and was able to sort it out. I under stitched the facing and then top stitched, both of these I just used an ordinary machine straight stitch. The rest of the seams I sewed using a four thread overlock on my Babylock overlocker (this makes it a very quick sew and the seams remain stretchy). The hem was stitched using my Bernina coverstitch machine (this is a luxury to have but the hem is very stretchy and the finish is beautiful).

Pattern Printing: I love the way these Jennifer Lauren Patterns print into chunks of pages that are easy to tape together rather that one massive sheet. I like to trace my patterns and us 60 cm wide tracing paper for this. I do keep my originals, I fold them up and store them in a box. I am happy to print out onto A4 paper and now prefer this to tissue paper patterns (still quite like those ones that are printed onto proper white paper).

Other thoughts: I am really quite interested in sewing clothes for my husband. It would be a dream to have a choice of different front pieces to cater for the belly in the same way as Jennifer Lauren’s women’s patterns cater for different cup sizes! Ooh and you know what else would be fantastic is a vest or waistcoat pattern. Yes I know other Pattern companies have them and I have made the Threadtheory one, but a really good one that includes a choice of front pieces to cater for different body shapes would be a winner! After all our partners need to look as glamorous as us.

Here is an action shot … Peter’s thoughts are that he thinks this is a wearable garment and that a cardigan is good for autumn or spring and would be useful for travelling or going out in the evening as it is a garment that is quite light and easily taken off and stored.

“Sewcation” the Day of the Port Trousers

This is the second Pauline Alice patterns I have sewn this year. I initially brought the pattern and downloaded it 6 months ago. Like most sewists the initial inspiration and excitement is about searching for the ideal pattern. I love the fact that you can do this on the early hours of Sunday morning in the comfort of your bed with your husband snoring beside you. My iPad is an essential part of my sewing equipment! At the time I was looking for a comfortable relaxed fit trouser pattern to be made in a non stretch fabric. In recent years I have preferred to sew pants that were out of stretch denims and bengaline that were more body hugging. I went on the search for a new pattern in a new style because I have grown tired of my old pants!

I read the pattern and measured myself and decided I was very much a 48 so I printed stuck together and traced the pattern in my chosen size. The fabric I chose is a printed denim that is on the light weight side of medium weight. The fabric was purchased while on holiday in Singapore last year. It is a beautiful quality so I thought although the print was a little busy I thought this would work well.

Many a time sewing a new style of clothing for myself I have a crises at the end when I am not sure that I like the garment that I have just spent hours/all day sewing. Yes I did try on the pants for fit before putting on the waistband and finishing it… yes they did fit …but maybe the fit was too relaxed??? (Remember I have been wearing close fitting pants for years…). So I did finish the pants and tried them on and still did not feel the love! I resolved on getting up this morning that I wold put the pants on and wear them all day … a day of being home alone on my “sewcation” (I am a school teacher and it is currently school holidays). I have cleaned the bathroom wiring them as well! Now half way through the day I can tell you that I am loving the relaxed fit and no they have not fallen down and I think I am starting to love these trousers!

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Here is me wearing them in my sewing room … how well does the top go with the pants!

Jennifer Lauren Handmade: The Afternoon Blouse & Shift Dress Review

I was honoured and thrilled to be chosen as a reviewer this month to review the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Afternoon Blouse and Shift dress. This was a design that I immediately liked the look of the first time I say it. I liked the simple lines, the modest neckline and the button feature. I love buttons and do have a collection of them! I could see myself wearing this dress to work in the summer. I Teach secondary school mathematics at a Government school and often the air conditioning is very ineffective and our Australian summers can be very hot. I also thought this would be a great dress to wear on a holiday… I like to go places like Singapore and Malaysia where it is very hot and humid. I admit I got a bit excited and sewed both blouse and shift dress versions. All up I made 2 dresses and a blouse in three days sewing…

First the Carousal dress version … I loved this fabric it is just whimsical and interesting and the blue/purple colour really appealed to me.

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Next was a real hot weather dress and much more neutral but possible not so much me. This made from a very soft light cotton, I took the button off one of my jackets (and had to find a new button for the jacket). The pearls are a little much aren’t they?IMG_0917.JPG

Lastly I made the blouse in a lovely batik and I reckon this is more me…IMG_0897.JPG

So I love the afternoon blouse and shift dress, because it is a fast and stylish make and can be made out of variety of fabrics. Here all of my fabric is quilting fabric from Tracey’s Discount Fabric in Geelong. The pdf pattern is the best to work with and is set out so you can tape it together in chunks rather than having to do one whole page. This feature is a great innovation. I have come to terms with printing and taping together patterns at home and now prefer it. I like to trace my patterns so tracing over white paper is much better than the tissue paper of printed patterns.

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I was between a 16 and an 18, but decided to sew the 16 after looking to see how much ease was in the finished garment. This worked out well and I am very pleased to see that the measurements given are very accurate and reliable. I followed the instructions mostly. Under stitching the neckline facings was one thing I did extra,  this pattern is designed I think for beginners so these fancier finishes are not part of its scope. I also ended up adding some interfacing to strengthen the back pleat on the white fabric as this was so fine that this would give it more strength. Overall a fantastic patten!

Art quilt Australia 2017 enteries

This year I challenged myself to enter a wool quilt in Art Quilt Australia. This is a biannual exhibition organised by Ozquilt network, an organisation that brings Australian art quilters together. The exhibition with be held from 9th of September till the 22nd October at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery in Launceston Tasmania this year.

My wool quilt titled Woman of the Wagga: the lifelong partnership, is finally finished and my online entry completed.


I stitched together pieces of pure wool fabric, this time joining them together by simply butting them together and using a machine feather stitch to join both pieces (I used strips of fusible interfacing to hold the pieces together before stitching). I did this because wool is thicker than the usual quilting cotton and wool seams are really thick and difficult to freemotion quilt over. Once I had made the Wagga (a historic Australian version of a quilt that was wool fabric stitched together to make a warm blanket) I layered the batting and backing together and used my quilt frame to baste the layers together using large spirals. I then used my dyed un spun pure fleece to ‘paint’ the picture, simply stitching over with free motion machine quilting to hold it together. This was very challenging and time consuming as the wool is very think and doesn’t slide easily under the darning foot. I used a Taylor’s awl to hold the fleeces flat so the foot moved over it without getting stuck. The beauty about this technique is more fleece can be added one small piece at a time. Once I had done all this and was having with the colour and form I freemotioned around using a much tighter design. I used a dress making style facing instead of binding.

In these close up pictures you can see how the detail is formed using fleece and stitching.



This is my other entry. MMXVII Made I’m Australia. Originally made for AQC2017, but since it was juried in to that exhibition I have submitted it into Art Quilt Australia. I wanted it to read like a painting and included as part of the design a Matt and gold leaf frame. I also added a brass plaque and decoration. It was a lot of fun to make … I used the wildlife around my Australian bush home as inspiration. The cheeky possums are frequent night time visitors to our house and the view is of Kangaroos of koalas in the bushland at the front of our house. This is the view from our large front windows! The fabric is natural linen and I have used paint and inktense pencil to paint the design before free motion quilting. I have used black thread to outline and used recycled banana silk to form the leaves on the gum trees, using sari silk thread for the flowering gum at the base of the frame.

Gertie: The Shirtwaist Dress

I own all three of Gretchen Hirsch’s sewing book. The first Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book was found during a visit to a second-hand book store five months ago. I did not think I was much of a dress wearing nor was I particularly interested in the vintage look as far as clothes were concerned. So why buy it? Well it was a clothes sewing book and looked very comprehensive and interesting and a book that was new to me! I did read this book from cover to cover and found it very interesting and I found it very clear and easy to understand. With 30 years of garment sewing behind me I am far from a beginner but this book had a lot of techniques and ideas as far as pattern drafting and construction that I had not tried.

I also make art quilts and as such I have also attended quite a few Quilt Conventions. I am always surprised that these ladies who make such beautiful quilts could go to these events dressed in polar fleece and denim! Style girls … we should look as glamorous as the objects we make! So here was my first challenge as a proud winner (second place) of the Minda Quilt challenge… I was off to Adelaide in August to be presented with the prize at the Australian Machine Quilters Festival. I made the Peplum Wiggle Dress from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book out of a beautiful Japanese texture linen. I enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot from the book. I have also worn this dress quite a number of times … this dress has become a firm favourite.

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Some months later I found one of Gretchen Hirsch’s earlier books in the same second-hand book shop, so now I also own Gertie’s new book for better sewing. My friend and colleague gave me some purple Gertie fabric (that is what it is called on the selvedge and yes Gretchen Hirsch was the designer). Sooo excited best present ever! So I made it my first 2017 sewing resolution to make a shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s mew book for better sewing out of this gorgeous fabric. After all Gertie fabric would have to be used in a Gertie Dress… nothing else would do! This was my #2017makenine instagram post:9a7adb7e-6a4b-4b85-a253-9b9d7aeb655b

Now I am not a sewer who typically makes a muslin to try out a pattern. But this time I was going to aim to make the variation on the Shirtwaist dress which involved tulip sleeves and a round neckline (the picture has a zip but I have decided to use the beautiful vintage buttons). Inspiration, so next step?  I eyed my stash and decided to make the original Shirtwaist dress without alterations in a beautiful floral cotton lawn.

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Really happy with the fit and finish on this dress and I loved the experience of making it. I also love wearing it as the length is great (I hate to expose my knees!), the shirring at the waist make it very comfortable. I love the way I look in it too. Think I will enjoy wearing this next month when I have to start working again as a Mathematics teacher. It will be great to wear in our uncomfortably hot government school classrooms in high summer!

So have to face the next challenge. My friend Sandra came to visit me out at Anakie and we were in the sewing room chatting about this Shirtwaist dress project I had in mind. Tulip sleeve round neckline and we also agreed I should try to do a shoulder adjustment to fix the pattern to fit my slightly narrow shoulders. Big challenge for me but Sandra is more experienced in these matters. We had a lot of fun that afternoon working on these pattern adjustments!

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Here is the Muslin I made initially. The tulip sleeves were a fail…img_0790

This is much better, also reshaped the neckline. The shoulder gathers have turned into a version of smocking using my bernina’s fancy stitching between rows of gathering. Love this!!!

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The dress came together pretty well except for a few misadventures … I sewed the front skirt pieces on the wrong way around and only discovered this after overlocking …. unpicking was necessary… two ways of doing things the right way and the wrong way … why do I always do things the wrong way first???!!! Got over it fixed it put it on Diana the dummy to admire it … but then look at those sleeve backs … the tulips don’t line up … unpick again and fix! Hand stitched all hems and facings… last stage buttons.img_0801Heres a handy trip for marking position with such slippery fabrics. Pin the dress to the ironing board and use a ruler to mark the position of buttonholes and buttons with pins. I used my Bernina to make machine buttonholes, it has an auto buttonhole feature which normally works pretty well.

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Here are some photos before the buttons!

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The finished dress … looking and feeling fabulous!

 

Little red dress project

Purple is more my colour than red… but red is very Christmassy … and I love a sewing challenge! 

I decided to dye some of my pale lilac cotton voile crimson, I used a sachet of Jacquard idye for natural fabric and my front load washing machine … never done this before but very pleased with the effect and so much less mess!


As with a number of me great ideas I ran short of time… but on the 3rd of December I finally got sewing. I had just got my copy of The Tunic Bible from Book Depository so I decided that I would make my little red dress from this. I love the large ruffle neckline and decided to make a sleeveless version. It was too short for my liking so I added a purple border. Only 10% purple, 90% red I also attached a  ruffled pocket bag so I can carry my phone. This is the fitted version with back darts so I added a side invisible zipper. Very pleased with the result. And I finished it that day! The pattern is very simple and the fit great. You do need a bit of sewing expertise as the book’s instructions are a bit sketchy and assumes a lot of sewing prior knowledge. The gallery photos and the many variations to this one simple pattern is a fantastic idea… so much inspiration!

I wore it that very same night for the first time to my 30 year High School reunion, I finished year 12 at Colac High School in 1986.


Our last day at work before the long summer holidays was Tuesday the 20th of December. Close enough to the 21st! I am a secondary school mathematics teacher, my good friend and fellow sewists Sandra is also a teacher at this school. We wore our red dresses… this is a day of celebrations, breakfast with friends, goodbye speeches and spit roast lunch with the whole staff. Thalia (a daughter of our friend Sandra took these photos with my phone). This is me in the courtyard and outside the staff room.

Here is my friend Sandra, she used The tunic bible pattern as well but did the ruffled sleeve and the scooped neckline, she does look fabulous.

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Little red dress project achieved!