When last we left the garden, it was pretty much a blank canvas. What a delight! I had a long list of plans in my head even before we moved in, but I wanted to sit and see what I could observe before I did anything permanent. Besides, there were plenty of other things to do around the house, so I kept any planting to the pots and bits and pieces.

In January, my sister came home from Ireland, where she’d been living for four years. She stayed with us for about a month, which was as delightful and also as infuriating as you’d expect. It was so so lovely to have her, and it was also lovely when she left. She’s living in Melbourne now, going to Melbourne U, and I definitely wish she was closer, but this is closer than Ireland so I’ll take it!

Anyhow, while she was down she VERY kindly helped me measure up my garden and draw up a plan, and then she made it up for me in Sketchup. With a minimal amount of swearing, for that kind of process.

Here is the to-scale plan of the garden as it was in January, minus the prickle tree and palms because we already knew they were coming down.

Kate's Backyard amended

 

I would like to point out that I do not actually have a giant ‘google’ sign on my shed. You can download things that other people have made, in Sketchup, and that was one of them. Why not? The man comes with every plan, for scale.

I thought a lot about what I wanted from my garden. I want less lawn (I hate mowing, I’m allergic to it, and the kikuyu is super invasive). I want greenery PACKED in, I don’t mind if it’s often overgrown although I would like the possibility of keeping it under moderate control. ‘Lush’ is the word I’m looking for. I want it to be beautiful and pleasant to sit in, although I don’t need designated seating areas as we already have the verandah, but it would be nice to have little nooks. I want chickens, eventually, and I’d like them to be able to be integrated into the garden system as a useful tool, and to expand their diets. I want a garden that we can eat out of often, but that can also go through ebbs when I’m busy or tired, that doesn’t need constant, everyday care, or even every weekend, since in winter I have very little opportunity to be out there. But I want it to be flexible enough to ramp up in summer when I have more time and energy, and I want the opportunity to expand the productivity of the garden if the chance arises so that means using space efficiently to leave room for future plans.

Here are some observations I made about my garden:

  • Very windy – we get the strong wind right off the ocean. Wind can be quite strong and quite drying. Anything in line with the shed is ok but after that things will need to be able to support themselves, or will need supports and windbreaks. It would be good to plan for more trees etc to break up the wind, in the future.
  • Because the garden is long along the E-W axis, it gets a LOT of sun in the summer. It especially gets a lot of afternoon sun, even in winter. And even in winter, that afternoon sun is HOT. Plan for sun protection, both temporary and perhaps plan deciduous trees to shade in summer.
  • Don’t bother with anything along that western facing fence, it will cook. Possibly that space can be used later, when there’s more in the garden to shade it.
  • No point planting anything much under the gum tree.
  • The back bed will be annoying to plant in – it’s barkchips over river pebbles, lined along the front with HEAVY rocks. Excavating all that will be good – those resources can be used elsewhere in the garden – but certainly not trivial.
  • The Kikuyu is invading the shed. Honestly. Any garden in the lawn area will need some solid defenses against the grass.
  • The bins already live behind the shed. The compost bin and potting bench is there too. That area gets accessed fairly often but I don’t want anything there that needs keeping an eye on. Beds would ideally be close to the kitchen door, or at least with a direct line between them. Chicken coop too, for scraps and for checking on them and collecting eggs. I also need to keep enough space open for the bins to be taken back and forth.
  • In terms of zones, though, because the yard is long and thin, it’s pretty easy to access all of it. Nothing feels very far away, although there’s still plenty of space. The only bits that are hard or annoying to access is behind the shed, where there’s quite a lot of room but it’s a bit of a dead space, access and attention wise. And also down the side of the house where the water tank is is hard to access.

I’d already decided that I wanted wicking beds. While this does limit the way I use the space in the future – they’re hard to move, although it’s certainly not impossible – and they are a big resource and time investment up front, it solves a few problems. First, it gives me a bit of extra wriggle room in terms of timing of care. Second, it protects a little bit from the wind and the sun, giving plants a bit more reserve than they would have just in the ground. Third, since they’re raised up, we can put them on top of weed barriers and protect against the kikuyu.

I looked for materials in a bunch of places, and found that it was hard to find timber not treated with arsenic and copper. When I could find it it was prohibitively expensive. I didn’t want metal beds because they would get hotter and also we’re close enough to the beach that corrosion is an issue. I ended up finding dovetail timbers and ordering from them. Because of shipping costs, I knew I was going to get three beds at once. I’d originally thought I might just do one and see how I went but since shipping for each extra bed was minimal, I thought it would be better to get multiple. All up, the price of the three beds, plus shipping, was really reasonable (although not cheap) and I LOVE my beds. I’ll talk about them more in a future post when I detail the building of the beds. Suffice it to say, at the planning point I knew I was going to order three beds, 2.4m long x 1.4m wide x 0.6m high. That would give me enough room for 25ish cm of wicking reservoir, and a good amount of soil, but not so much that wicking would be compromised. Again, a lot of planning went into the beds themselves but I’ll leave that for another post.

So I wanted three beds. And I wanted fruit trees, and chickens, and still a good amount of walking and working room around the beds. Here’s what we came up with.

Kate's Backyard FUTURE

 

The structure under the existing gum tree is to be the chicken coop. It’s easy to access from the kitchen door (the door is roughly in line with that first bed). It will have a dayrun attached, room for maybe 5 chickens to be comfortable even if they never get let out of their coop/run area. But they’ll also have the run down the back bed – I’m not sure you can really see it in this shot but you can see the end of it up against the yukkas (you might need to use your imagination…) There will be some fruit trees in this run. There’ll also be another run down the west facing fence… maybe. I’d like to maybe plant berries or something there, perhaps. Or bananas? It’d get hot enough! Still unformed at this point, we’re also debating a line of water tanks there. I’d like to grow a grapevine or something over the everyday run, to utilise the growing space and provide summer shade. Ideally the rocks lining the back bed will go, to be replaced with a perennial border lining the extra run’s fenceline, but I’m not sure that’s possible because they are very heavy. I might have to work/plant around them.

We’ve also go two trees (probably two nectarines, although it’s up for debate, I want to plant them next winter) and the three beds. On the right, down the east facing fence, we’ve planned for three citrus (now planted). I’m privately plotting for another bed, probably in-ground or slightly built up, between the washing line and the shed, but that’s a longer term plan involving killing off kikuyu,

Speaking of killing things off, by the middle of February we’d had the trees cut down – the prickle tree up the back and the three palm trees, which I was kind of sad about but citrus beats palm tree, every time. And the temperature of the backyard and house went up by a significant amount, I’d say probably almost five whole degrees.

Where the prickle tree isn’t.

The lagunaria had shaded most of the backyard for large parts of the day – everywhere got sun still but it meant it wasn’t all sun, all the time. Thankfully next door has privacy film on their windows – unfortunately it probably made them a bit hotter, too, although I bet it saves them some dollars because they have solar panels on one side of their roof. It definitely upset the pigeons, who used to nest in the tree (I did wait until everyone had fledged before getting it chopped) and now huddle miserably on next door’s solar panels.

You can see by the long shadows that this is afternoon – I probably took this about 7pm, I’d estimate, and look how bright and sun-filled that backyard is. Also note the grass browning off from the heat. I don’t appear to have taken any photos, but I later poisoned a whole swathe, and then laid black builders’ plastic over it to solarise. Lots of it was already dead anyway. It seems to have been pretty effective. Killing off the grass also kicked the temperature up a degree or so. Hopefully that means that with more vegetation in there this summer, it won’t be as brutal? From that point of view I’m pretty keen to get going on the front yard, but it’s not really a priority.

And baking sun over where the palm trees aren’t. And citrus will be one day.

I’ve been meaning for ages to post about my garden at my new house (where we’ve been living for nine months now, not so new!) I love going back and looking at my old garden posts from my old house, and it’s good for me too because I tend to think that I did a lot less, and got a lot less produce etc, than I really did. So it’s nice to have a record. There’s going to be a string of these posts, and they might not interest anyone but me, so be warned!

So, first, a quick trip back to October 2014. Here’s what the backyard looked like in the realestate listing. The photo is taken standing right against the Western fence, furthest from the kitchen door.

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The shape of the garden is basically a long rectangle, although the back fence is angled so that there’s more length behind the shed than at the other end. Features to point out: verandah and paving – that little extension of paving is where the washing line extends to. Those rocks at the back are heavy heavy moss rocks, surrounding a mulched bed with succulents in it. That tree there is a Lagunaria tree, also known as ‘Cow Itch Tree’ also known round these here parts as ‘that bastard prickle tree’. You can’t really see it but there’s a big gum in the back corner there. I’ll show you some more presently but basically, when we moved in, it was a big expanse of kikuyu grass [shakes fist] and not much else. When we were inspecting the house, S was worried that the garden wouldn’t be big enough for me. In fact, it’s quite large, but with nothing in it it looked relatively small. There’s a front garden too, another, smaller rectangle of grass edged with hardy things, but I’ll stick to the backyard for now.

Here it is again in February, much less groomed and tidy, and also much less oversaturated.

Here’s what you see when you step out of the laundry door

The stakes and shadecloth is a tomato, and the other shadecloth thing with all the junk around it is my potting bench, for seedlings.

Here’s what you see if you look left

More tomatoes, bastard prickle tree, trunk of the gum tree. There are two dwarf fruit trees in pots from the last owners (a peach and a pear), that I really struggled to get enough water to. We got a few teeny fruits but I’m not very invested in keeping them alive, to be honest.

And if you look right

Palm trees, miscellaneous ‘low maintenance’ type tropicalish plants, assorted laundry implements. Also a makeshift fence because the last owners had a large dog. It’s just star pickets and hardware cloth but it was sunk a good half a metre into the ground and was quite tricky to pull up. The tree in the lawn in an ornamental plum. You can also see, in the righthand corner, the pump for the rainwater tank, which is quite handy. Except that the rainwater tank (which is down the side of the house, there’s just room fore the tank and a small path) doesn’t have a first flush system, so it’s full of gumleaves and the water is very murky.

Here’s the view the other way, if you march straight forward and turn around

Laundry door, bbq, assorted outside rubbish. The windows are, l-r, bedroom window (actually out of shot) toilet window, bathroom window, laundry window and door, kitchen windows. Then the little setback bit is what used to be a garage but the last people refurbished it and now it’s where the teen lives.

And if you turn right from there

Same palm trees, different angle. Water tank peeping out from behind the house.

And if you turn left

That blank wall is the back of a barnacle bills and a real estate agent. There are people up the back we never see, and friendly but sometimes rowdy people over the other fence. They really like 90s pop music.

The last owners mulched everything good and proper before selling, for which I am very grateful. I also suspect they roundupped the crap out of everything, which I am less grateful for but it does mean fewer weeds.

The lurking green things against the fence are various ‘hardy’ shrubs but they are not doing very well because that’s West facing and there is a LOT of afternoon sun against that fence. It’s so so hot, and basically everything cooks. In fact you can see that the kikuyu grass  is cooked, in this photo. On the street out front, the gum tree and palm trees got burnt in the heatwave. That’s the kind of sun we’re talking.

Ok here is a view of my potting bench and a little bit behind the shed

The shed is quite generous but it’s also where we dumped everything when we moved, and it’s still not sorted out. There’s the leanto behind the shed, for the bins. Potting bench, compost bin…. christmas tree. You know, the usual :-/

There’s an oblong of space back there, with a flourishing ornamental pear tree, and not much else. It’s very tucked away so not a very useful space.

Here’s what was going on under the shadecloth over the potting bench

This is a self-watering/wicking seed raising tray from diggers. It worked pretty well.

Here’s what was growing in it. I just ate some of these for dinner today. Feel pretty good about that!

However, I ended up putting this tray away and going with this set up

It’s just a plastic tub with holes drilled about an inch from the bottom – we had a bunch of these storing stuff in the shed before the move, so we have heaps left now we’re unpacked, and I didn’t have to buy any. Anyway, holes about an inch up, fill it with sand. The soft drink bottle is sitting inside a yoghurt container with the bottom cut out, so that the lip of the bottle is buried about a half a centimetre into the sand. As the water in the sand evaporates, the bottle empties. It’s self wicking, and with the lid on it’s a little greenhouse, and it worked much better than the bought tray, because it has more water reserves. The lid is too dark for winter, though, the seedlings got leggy. Here is how to build one.

The garden bed along the back is mulched with barkchips over river stones. So to dig down to the soil is quite hard (plus side, no weeds at all). Adding to this, the prickle tree left its prickles all over the bed, so you HAD to wear gloves and even then you got prickles. They are little needles, like running your hand over fibreglass. Just awful. I did plant a few things in the bed but it was just too torturous to dig into to plant much. By the time these photos were taken I’d planted and then pulled out spent zucchinis – we got a reasonable crop. I also planted beans

The ants got all but two of the seeds, one of them burnt in the afternoon sun. This one thrived but I planted them a bit late really. I got three lovely beans from it, which wasn’t really worth the effort. I also planted tomatoes

Which did ok but struggled in the afternoon sun too. I got a small crop from them, again not really worth it but it was nice to be out there in the mornings, watering them and planning the future of the garden. I had more success with pots along the verandah.

Some lettuces which got a bit bitter, and a cherry tomato that looks a bit sad here but perked up after some fertiliser and some more consistent watering.

These pots were all self watering, but I used gravel that was probably too large and they weren’t very efficient. You can see the asian greens have gone to seen and the lettuce looks sad, but we picked and ate those plants steadily for a month or so. Chilli thriving in the background is overwintering pretty nicely at the moment.

More lettuce, and the real stars of the show, the basil and thyme

Going to seed here after two months of hard work.

And that was the garden in February! That’s enough for one post, I’ll save the next batch for later.

You sick of them yet? I’m sure not!

Look how NICELY that collar sits

This one is in a cotton flannel from DK fabrics. I’ve already made a shirt out of this although I never wear it because the buttons I chose have a delicate shank (sounds like a euphamism) and keep popping off. It’s in my teetering ‘to fix’ pile.

Gosh I love this fabric. It’s so soft and lovely and the colour is fantastic. I wanted a straight skirt, longer sleeved version of my own precious shirt dress. I sewed this on the last day of craft camp and I kind of rushed through it. It’s fine but there are some wonky bits and I just wish I’d taken a bit more time. That said, the things I’m not happy with now aren’t due to rushing. They’re due to not listening to the my instincts. It’s hard, though, when your instincts so often lead you astray!

I’ve photographed this after a day of wear. It’s wrinkly, but I think the wrinkles are instructive about the things that need fixing.

I initially cut a size 22 skirt and button band, as indicated by my twister dress. The joy of a dress with a waistband and pleats/gathering is you can basically make the pieces whatever size you want, without reference to each other. But when I tried on just the bodice, it looked like it was going to be over large, so I trimmed them down. Although it fits, I wish I’d stuck with the larger size. In future I will cut a size 22 button band and skirt. I think, tbh, that I should really be a size 22 all over, the bodice looks over fitted to me when I look at it objectively. Except that I like a close fitting bodice, so I’d rather have slight pull lines than it be baggy. Just my preference. But NOT for the skirt! I think this might need fixing because it’s quite tight in some strategic places.

In fact, when I got to button stage, I ended up going back and unpicking the placket, and sewing it with the smallest seam possible, from the waist down. That left me with a slightly wonky placket, and some dodgy insides, but it fit much better and tbh I think it would have been impossible to sit down in if I hadn’t done this.

Dodgy innards

The one I most worry about is the skirt. Since it’s a straight skirt with no vent, it’s tiiiight when I sit down. Here is what it looks like from my pov

Btw, aren’t these buttons lovely? I don’t even care that they are two-whole buttons and so twist around.  I can’t decide if I think they most remind me of an art deco Olympic torch, or a Sims plumblob. All credit to the delightful Barb at the button bar in the Adelaide arcade, who always knows the right button for the job.

Anywho, here are the instructive wrinkles it causes at the back

Too tight! The fabric is sort of a medium density weave and I worry about the strain being put on it. It also pulls across my upper butt

Related wrinkles and strain lines – you can see they are most pronounced right in the centre, between the darts

And it’s too tight at the waistband. Here are the damning wrinkles

Look at that strain! All this tells me that yes, I should have cut the larger waistband and skirt. I have these pulling areas in my other versions, but with a gathered skirt it’s less pronounced. In fact, the waist fits fine when I am standing (Before a day of wear there was no pulling at the middle button), but when I sit my stomach expands, not to mention I have bad posture and lean forward which accentuates this. So when I sit, the waistband is quite tight. To some degree, that is just part of how my body is, and how fabric works, and I was always planning on inserting a backwards-button above and below the waistband button, to prevent gaping. (I find this snugger than snaps)

That said, this is just too too tight. I am worried that the fabric/buttons will tear, and it doesn’t look neat, which is basically my primary goal when I dress. So I’m planning to go back and take the back skirt off of the waistband, re-sew the side seams as small as possible, and extend the waistband. I suspect I am too lazy to recut and reattach the waistband, and I’m not sure I have enough fabric, so I may just cut it at the side seams too, and add in an inch or so. Probably that will turn out to be one of those ‘shortcuts’ that takes three times as long as it would to have done it right. I’m also debating sewing some lining fabric (or organza maybe? I’d have to order it online) to the skirt, to make it less wrinkly and sticky. Oh, and, I’m going to unpick the hem and lengthen it about an inch, it’s just a tad shorter than my preference for straight skirts, especially when I sit down!  This will mean attaching an extra length to the placket, which will look dodgy, but can’t be helped.

Wrinkle wrinkle wrinkle. That’s natural fabrics for you. To be fair it HAS just been sitting in a pile waiting to be photographed.

The other thing is the sleeves. I debated whether to just make the shorter sleeves again, but in the end I couldn’t resist those cuffs. Look at them! Delightful. I adjusted the sleeves for my twister/anchor dress by tracing the sleeve cap of another dress sleeve that I know fitted better. It worked but the sleeve twisted a bit and I didn’t want to risk that with the longer sleeves. But I should have, because these are tight in a specific way. Here is my ‘aha/duh’ moment. I have a broad back and narrow shoulders – what this actually means is that I hunch forward. So if you imagine my clothes moving and stretching with me, if I’m standing up straight, all good. Then I go back to my actual posture… the front armscye folds in as my shoulders go forward, and the back armscye stretches out (man, if only fitting were that easy). So OBVIOUSLY I need more room at the back armscye than someone who doesn’t slump. Actually, the M6696 armscye works fine for me, once I took the dart out of the from (DUH because I need less room there, fitting is hard) but the sleeves don’t. The sleevecap is where you get all your movement room from, basically.

I couldn’t fit away that fold at the front armscye, because I need that to be able to move my arms.

The sleevecap in M6696 is almost symmetrical, which is not really how arm movement works, even if you DON’T slump. That’s fine for me in front, but because my shoulder and arm are already starting from a more forward position, I need the back sleeve cap to be fatter, like it was when I traced the other sleeve.

I think what I should have done, is traced the back sleeve cap and not the front. See how the angle of the slope is so much shallower? I’ll show you what it means in the dress. Here is the back when my arms are forward

Also, note to self: expand the area where the gathers are in the upper back. I need the room ALL over my back, not just at the centre.

Obviously one arm is way forward with the remote, but the on on the left in the picture is just sitting about neutrally. But see the drag lines? It’s pulling exactly where the extra room would be, had I traced the shallower curve. I know it’s not the bodice that’s the problem because this is how it sits when my hands are on my hips, artificially creating more upright posture:

You can see there that the back bodice actually overhangs my body. It’s fine. But the sleeve doesn’t really come to meet it, if you see what I mean.

I’m not going to fix that in this dress – I definitely don’t have the fabric to recut, and it’s annoying but bearable. But it’s something to bear in mind in the future, not just for this dress but in general.

The other issue with this sleeve is that it’s either too tight or too short. The cuff hits me at a point that’s too wide for it, and so it either tries to pull the sleeve down, exacerbating the tight sleevecap issue, or it creeps up, making itself wrinkly and sitting funny. When I first put it on it was really tight and uncomfortable. After about an hour it found a place where it could sit ok and felt fine, but I still keep messing with it because the cuff is flipping around and it sits all bunched.

I think you can kind of see what I mean here, with the bunching.

And here are the wrinkles: on the sleeve where it rolls itself up, and also across the cuff where it folds itself in half at an angle, because that way the circumference around my arm is wider

I THINK what I’m going to do is take off the cuff, add an inch of fabric in there, reattach the cuff. The folded up cuff will mostly hide the addition, and even where it doesn’t I think it will look neater than it does now. If I make the longer sleeves again, I would slash and spread the sleeve so that it is longer, but from the top if that makes sense, so that the sleeve narrows more gradually, because I could use an extra bit of room all the way down the sleeve.

I looked and I can only find a few other people who have made the long sleeved version, and they’re all a bit thinner than me. And/or I have extra muscly lower arms? It IS tighter on my right arm…

Oh AND the bust dart is in the wrong place

Too high

I have real trouble sewing this bust dart, for some reason. It’s too high but partly that’s because the waist, being too small, wants to ride up. I won’t be fixing it.

So, here I am once again proving I can’t write a concise post, even for a dress I’ve made before. :P But you know, I had some real lightbulb moments on how to fit my body, and each time I make it I fix something. The collar on this is perfect. So, you know. Win? I will go back and fix these things, but tbh I’ll probably wear it in the meantime, or at least once I’ve fixed the skirt. The issues bug me but even with them it’s a great dress. I need to fix the buttons on my anchor dress but I wear that at least once a week and it bugs me but not enough not to wear it. These two dresses still fit me better than any of the rtw items in my wardrobe.

Oh, and, I lined the pockets with scraps from Miss Caroline’s orsome tunic dress that she made at craft camp, which just happened to match perfectly.

I debated using more of this for the collar stand but then didn’t because I was lazy, and also this way the dress is more neutral, which is good and bad. Yes, a teal dress is some kind of neutral in my world, what about it?

When I made my anchor M6696 I thought a fair bit about the collar. It felt too floppy and wide and tall.

I’m not sure you can really tell here. I have worn this a fair amount in the real world (although with a new rule of not with knee socks, as I feel too juvenile), and here is what the collar does.

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It sits up and sags out. This is after one day of wear, with a good iron in the morning. Also proving that my resting bitchface isn’t just for regular blog photos. Here’s a bathroom selfie of the whole outfit, with cropped Bonnie which is basically my platonic, ideal outfit, but where I’ve strategically accidentally hidden the collar from view.

IMG_4995I need to make a million more of these so I can wear them every day.

And here is my twister dress, which I managed to also not get any good collar photos of, but where you can see it’s better.

I would say this is one less button done up than the anchor dress, and the collar is sitting in a similar place. Which means that, when done up, it would sit actually at the base of my neck and not about an inch forward as the anchor dress does.

Here is a photo of a boughten shirt I own, and now only wear for interviews because, although it was the most comfortable, well fitting shirt I’d ever owned when I bought it, it is actually a fitting nightmare.

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I wish I’d taken one of just the shirt, but since this was an actual before-job selfie (I didn’t get it) I couldn’t bear to. It was too much of a mess. The collar, as you see, is too big and high, even after ten minutes of fussing with it. The armscyes pull. The back yoke pulls. There are strain lines EVERYWHERE. And it fits me about as well as any bought shirt is going to. I notice people wearing similarly fitting shirts all the time.

I’m not quite sure where this is leading. I guess the thoughts I have about this are yes, I was right that the collar was sitting funny, and right about why and what would fix it (HOORAY! That happens so rarely, it’s almost worth a whole post by itself). And also, about RTW standards vs sewing standards of fit, and where that line is between reasonable fitting and over fitting. I basically can’t bring myself to buy tops anymore because the armscyes are all too low, and quite often the sleeves are on the bias or set in wonky and I know it will always pull. I would never have noticed that before getting better at sewing. I just would have noticed that that particular shirt was annoying to wear.

I know a lot of my makes are far from perfect. Some have flaws that are pretty glaring to me, and sometimes make me feel a bit shy about sharing them when there are so many amazing, skilled people out there. Mostly I share them as a record for myself, because I think flawed makes are still makes and I like it when I see other people making things that aren’t perfect. Those can be the most constructive makes, as well as not making me feel as if everyone else has some magic fitting spell that I don’t know, when really everyone has fit issues they need to work out. Some more than others, but everyone has something, or sometimes, when their garments aren’t fitting right.

And another large part of why I share them is to reflect on a make and what I did that was good, and what I could have done better or more precisely. I know I’ve been sewing quite imprecisely lately and I’d like to make an effort to slow down and be more careful, because those are the mistakes that I feel really let a garment down. Like the placket on my twister dress, or the wonky waistband on my latest in-progress M6696. I will still wear them. Some of them won’t be noticed by non-sewists, I think almost no one in the non-sewing world notices drag lines, for example. And if they do, who cares? Sometimes there’s a dragline there because we have growing, changing bodies that need to move, and unless I want to dress like a female superhero, I am always going to have some fitting ‘problem’. So there’s no point getting too het up about it.

Life has wrinkles. And RTW clothes, even high end ones, often have wonky seams and strange fit quirks. We just don’t always notice as much because we didn’t sew the seam ourselves. And yes, I do want to get better at fitting my clothes to my body, that’s a large part of why I sew, plus getting to feel smug about solving a puzzle, like I do about that collar. But I also don’t think I’ve failed just because a particular garment isn’t perfect. Putting on the RTW shirt and remembering how pleased I used to be by the fit was an interesting moment. I don’t think I’d buy it now. It just looks like such a mess to me. And maybe in another era it would have been not fit for public consumption. But I don’t like in the 30s, I live now, where most people wear ill-fitting RTW and it’s normal. So if I still have little dimples in my knit tops above my boobs, that’s fine. I’d rather I didn’t but I’d also rather I never had to wear shoes or stockings ever, but I live in the real world, where I have to, and where my body is a certain shape, and where I don’t really have a conclusion to this post.

Here’s a picture of my cat.

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When last we left the solstice dress, it was… not good.

Now it’s…. fine. I guess.

Long story short, I did end up ripping out and moving the darts. But it turns out the problem was not the position of the darts as much as the depth.

Saggy as, bro.

At that point I was pretty done with the dress so I just sewed the zip in with a massive seam allowance, put the bias binding round the neck, turned the hem up and sewed it, and called it a day. At least now I know why it wasn’t fitting, so I am not so despairing about a pattern I had fitted to myself suddenly going rogue.

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It is quite possibly the most poorly executed thing I’ve ever sewn.

I solved the baggy bodice problem by going and buying some more sparkly fabric, and wearing it as a belt.

Which worked fine, to a point.

And you know what? It sure was sparkley. And solstice dinner, it was great. We decorated the house with fairy lights and candles, and there was excellent food and even better company, and now I am going to put this dress away in a bag or possibly throw it in the bin. The end.

I made a mashup!

This one is another unlined Moneta bodice, this time with the pencil skirt from Violet. I’m calling it ‘Violeta’ because the alternative is just ‘Monet’ which is less exciting and also I do not want to be thought of as a ‘full on Monet’. If you think so, keep it to yourself. Also because every time my suggestable brain hears ‘Violeta’ it starts singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ because apparently it sounds enough like ‘silhouette-a’ and I’m all about that.

I sewed this project a couple weekends ago, trying to jolt myself out of a sewing slump. I’ve still got some lingering craft camp makes to finish off – the Twister dress was one of them, and there’s another M6696 that has some more work to go. And… well, anyway. I was not feeling it. I thought that maybe if I sewed something new, and quick, I’d feel less cranky about my ‘to fix’ pile, which is quite teetering at this point. (It usually lives where I am standing on these photos and I almost did myself an injury moving it out of the way.)

I wear the last Moneta I made at least once a week, twice if I can get away with it. It’s so easy to wear and, since it’s a merino knit, it’s so so nice and warm. Which is good because it’s bloody freezing here right now. I know all you from cold climes will be staring at me in disbelief when I tell you that at an average high of 14°C – which makes it usually about 7°C when I’m walking to and from the train, I am losing my mind with the cold. That’s ok. I’ll forgive you losing your mind over 25°C in summer, because I know it’s all about what you’re acclimatised to. And I am NOT acclimatised to this. At. All. So my primary wardrobe priorities right now are:

  • WARM
  • able to wear a thermal under it
  • able to wear a jumper over it
  • able to easily wear it with tights or knee socks
  • WARM.

And my last moneta fit the bill nicely. But I didn’t fancy another Aline skirt, so I thought I’d swap in the Violet pencil skirt.

The fabric is some thick merino/nylon blend from The Fabric Store in Melbourne, I forget what content exactly. I can tell you that it is thick like a ponte, has good recovery but also will pucker if put under too much strain (I had to cut around some peg-induced puckers) and smells like wet dog when washed. I used the same altered neckline as last time, and I remembered to lengthen the bodice.

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Because the bodice has a LOT of negative ease, and I was getting to where I go out again, when I lengthened it I also angled it out. I then compared the pattern to the skirt pattern, and cut out the size that was closest to the bodice size, size 22, not thinking too much about it. I did still have to ease the smaller skirt in to the larger bodice.

That gave me quite a baggy skirt. It actually doesn’t look terrible here, not great but not awful, but it felt… ehhhhhn. Like, the bodice is making me feel like a pinup model, and the skirt is making me feel like a baggy elephant. And while I have a lot of respect for elephants, they are not style icons.

Bodice: AWWW YEAH Skirt: feh

You can see that the bodice has enough negative ease for wrinkles to pull out, but the skirt, despite being folded nicely before wearing, is a wrinkled mess, the side seams are puckered, and the gentle outward curve for the hips is sitting like saddlebags. The back was worse.

UGH

ERGGGKK.

It’s not helped by the clear elastic I put on the waistband. The fabric is quite heavy so I thought I should but it may have been a mistake – it made the seam even more puckered than it would be otherwise, besides sitting a bit weird in the seam and needing adjusting when I first put it on so it doesn’t stick to me.

At least 2″ of ease each side.

I did wear it to work once and it wasn’t awful but I wasn’t feeling like a million bucks. I felt more like, specifically, this elephant (you will not convince me that elephant is in distress. That elephant has promised he will walk rather than go in the pusher, and now he wants a treat, and that’s what’s happening there. I’m particularly into the sibling elephant in that video).

So ANYWAY the next weekend I sat down and nipped in the skirt, quite a bit. I re-adjusted my traced skirt pattern, taking it down from a 22 at the waist to somewhere between an 18 and a 16, as per my measurements for the pattern.

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Two new seamlines, and my hand for scale… until I realised it’s on a lined cutting mat. SMRT.

Here is the intial adjusting, to about a size 18

Still some ease. I asked S and he said ‘yes make it tighter’ which is what he ALWAYS says. But I did anyway.

MUCH better.

Yes. Good. I also took a wedge out for the back seam, and it still pools a bit but it’s MUCH better. I don’t look like I have a huge weird fabric scar on my butt, and that can only be a good thing. I should remember to go back and adjust my pattern pieces…

There are the sideseams, complete with a little pucker where I took it in, which I might eventually hand sew down but I also might not. I’d initially put self-drafted pockets in but of course they had to come out with the taking it in so drastically. Also, although I do love pockets, and this knit is thick enough to support them, it’s also drapey enough that they messed with the line of the skirt. I also took the sleeves up since they were sitting literally on my elbow.

It was all sewed with lightning stitch except for I forgot to change the setting when I sewed the new skirt seam so that’s a straight stitch. I’ll just fix it if it pops. The hems are twin needled and I also twin needle topstitched the neckline, which was maybe a mistake because it’s bubbly, but I think perhaps that’s just how this fabric do.

You’re welcome again.

Actually you can see an annoying thing in this photo. Stare, if you will, at my boobs, and you will see faint lines running through the fabric. About 1m of the fabric I bought had these horizontal runs, and I managed to cut the bodice pieces out of it – after having to recut because I had a peg-ripple where a nipple would be. So this is LESS of a bad look than that, at least. And it’s not so bad that I am going to fix it but man, I wish I’d noticed it before sewing.

DSC_0214Here you can see the elastic at the waistband, the unfinished seams (I never bother, for knits), and the LINES.

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And here you can see my cat modelling it for me. As you can see, he loves it almost as much as I do, which is a lot.

More craft camp sewing! More of that one same shirt dress!!

I bought this fabric from Lincraft because it reminded me of a shirtdress I had when I was a kid. I suspect handmade by my mother or grandmother, it was a twin of this one

I'll probably give the socks and sandals look a miss, though.

I’ll probably give the socks and sandals look a miss, though.

but with 80’s coloured spots, like this

ooorrrr

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So yeah, clearly throwing the ‘do I look like a child’ caution to the wind.

I wanted to make a couple more M6696s (natch) but I wanted to try a couple of fit changes so I thought I’d use this fabric first. That way, if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t be too upset since it has limited wearability anyways.

The main alteration was at the neck. I took a small wedge out of the pattern at the centre front. Just under 1cm at the top, tapering down to nothing. Then I took the original pattern piece and traced the neck curve, so that it is the same length but angled further down. I was pretty apprehensive about this because I was making it up as I went along but it seems to have worked and totally eradicated the floppy, loose collar issues I was having before. What a difference half a centimeter makes, huh?

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My adjusted bodice on top of the original

Adjustments from last time include doubling the vertical dart and moving it 1.5″ to the left (although I forgot this when I traced it off this time, and had to re-add it), armscye shape changed by taking a dart out of it and then closing it up and retracing. I also added an inch and did the centre front/collar adjustment I’m talking about. I’m not sure I don’t still need a bit more length in the bodice, it’s still sitting on my ribs rather than my actual waist, which makes it a bit tight when I’m sitting. But when I look at my black voile one it looks too long in the bodice at the front, and that was the unlengthened pattern so… I just am not even sure. What is this, is it a fabric choice thing? A bust thing? I have now shortened the back a couple of cms, and lengthened the front 1cm, and the front is STILL longer than the back.

Despite not setting it properly before taking photos, that collar is still sitting so so much nicer.

I also traced the horizontal dart a couple of cms higher, which I am not totally sure is right, but seems at least better than where it was before. I re-traced the whole pattern piece and forgot that I’d initially moved the vertical dart over by quite a lot, so the dart is in the wrong place in this dress. It’s not terrible, but just not really where I want a dart, either visually or in terms of shaping. I’ve made the fix change on the pattern piece above now so we’re all good for next time – you can see how different the placement is.

I need to trace the skirt pieces, and I also need to spend some time thinking about how I’ve adjusted things because I made the front dart a lot deeper, so the front skirt piece is now too big for the skirt. It would be good to iron that out and trace off a correct pattern, because for the last two I’ve just adjusted the depth of the darts on the fly. Which works ok, I guess that’s the benefit of a pleated or gathered skirt, the fitting of it can be independent of the bodice. But it’s not a really exact way of doing it. I also just winged it with the back, I simply lined up the side seams, found the CB, and made a pleat on the fly. So it doesn’t really matter how big the back is, as long as it’s bigger than the bodice.

Wussy little back skirt pleat. I think I could do with making that bottom pleat two smaller pleats, maybe. And I could also do with being more neat and precise with my gathers (but, eh) AND with checking my collar is sitting properly before taking ding dang photos.

I cut the waistband between size 20 and 22. And it’s a bit tight still. I’m not sure about this, it’s maybe the fabric? [shakes fist at imaginary gauge swatch] The fabric is fairly polyestery and doesn’t have much give at all. It was ok to sew with but not as nice as cotton. It’s from Lincraft’s ‘sunprints’ range, and I have no idea what makeup it is. You can see strain where there isn’t strain in my other two version of this pattern, including noticeably the arms being way to tight to the point where, when I take it off, it hangs off of my arms like some kind of trapped cape, and I have to either ask for help getting out of it, or jump up and down swearing about it until I can shake it off. Or both.

The above photo demonstrates both the strain lines on the bodice, armscye (STILL) and arm hems, and also the fact that I’ve given up on the freezing outdoors for photos, AND got a camera remote. So welcome to a glimpse of my craft area and also sorry for the deadface – the remote is pretty finicky and I’m still working out how to use it and also make expressions at the same time. Those strain lines make me think I shouldn’t have taken that centre front wedge out, but it sits so much nicer now so??

Demonstrating how I need all that room in the back,

I did the contrast button band to break things up, after a quick poll of the craft campers. I probably would have struggled to get it out of the fabric I had, anyway. The fabric was pretty narrow, so I couldn’t cut the full width of the skirt.

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I cut the back on the fold to give myself a bit of extra room, too. When it came to the pleats I winged it (wung it?) again in a highly unscientific way, so they are a bit wonky and small and weird. At least they all point the same way this time, and the skirt still seems plenty full enough to me. I also used plain white fabric to back the waistband, the collar and collar stand, because the fabric is see through and if I used a double layer, the dots peep through. I thought about underlining the whole thing but couldn’t be bothered, and besides, I’ll probably wear this with just a white bra and light coloured bike shorts in summer, and who cares? It’ll be floaty and nice (although I am wearing a black bra + white thermal singlet for this, because I couldn’t be bothered to change.

You’re welcome. I also couldn’t be bothered ironing it. Keeping it so real.

I do wish I’d spent more time thinking about how the dots sat on the waistband, but I was too busy trying to make sure they weren’t wonky because they are slightly off grain, and I didn’t think about centering them or anything. But maybe random is better? And I am cross that I forgot to put the dart in the right place.

That dang dart

I also, annoyingly, put the snap for the waistband slightly too high, throwing the whole dang placket off, and didn’t notice until they were very very securely hammered in. Note to self, you can be sloppy about a lot of things, but a placket is NOT ONE OF THEM. Ugh it’s so annoying. I’m going to put a press stud or something in between those yellow and red snaps.

The snaps I already had from sewing baby clothes

The snaps I already had from sewing baby clothes

Putting the press studs on was what took me a whole two months (and then it took about ten minutes). It came home from camp totally done except for that. I wasn’t particularly motivated because it’s too cold to wear it. I also should fix the tight sleeve hems and the wibbly bottom hem which I just dashed off in a rush, but technically it’s now done.

All in all, this is a pretty silly dress. I don’t know how much wear it will get, being polyestery and also a bit transparent, and definitely NOT work appropriate. But it was good to work out some of the tweaks I needed for this pattern, and man. I am so not blind to all of it’s flaws but the bottom line is, those spots make me stupidly happy.

I’m calling that a win

Hello all! Last weekend as I write this was craft camp, which was a joy as usual. There were so many lovely people, good laughs, wonderful story sharing, and delicious food – which everyone so thoughtfully made sure was gluten free for me, which I appreciate more than I can say. Thank you so much to everyone. The only downside was that we all missed Janet, who couldn’t make it. It really wasn’t the same without you, Janet! I’m trying in general to be better about recording what I’ve made. Last craft camp I went to look up a pattern I’d made to check for adjustments, only to find that I’d blogged that I sewed it, and would blog the adjustments later. And then didn’t. Useless! It’s also more useful if I blog soon after making because I can still remember every little thing. I’ve split things up a bit to make them easier for me to find when I come back to look for them, instead of in one massive craft camp post (although this still got long because that’s how I roll). So! The knits!

Yes, I know there’s a thread there. I’ve left it pending fixes but you would have thought I could have snipped it for photos, wouldn’t you? Nope.

The first day I sewed the solstice dress, and it was clear by the end of the day it was not perfect. So I decided to sew some knits to get some quick projects out of the way. So obviously I decided to do this by cutting out the flimsiest, drapiest knit. https://i2.wp.com/stream1.gifsoup.com/view7/2416193/headdesk-o.gif The fabric is a beautiful merino knit from the Fabric store. It’s so warm and lovely to handle and the colour is just gorgeous. It’s also made out of broken promises and fairy farts. Suse’s Elna which she lets me use at camp wasn’t having a bar of it. Julie very kindly let me use her modern Bernina while she sewed on buttons. Even then it was a real struggle, especially when it came to anything where I needed to stretch while sewing. As a result the band is… eh. And one sleeve is more puffed than the other. AND I hemmed the sleeves just slightly too short and I don’t think the fabric will stand unpicking.

You can see the right sleeve (left in the photo) is gathered and the other isn’t. Also more armscye pulling but it’s pulling or pooling so I’ll take pulling, although maybe I could go up a size in the shoulders.

Anyway, it’s a Bluegingerdoll Bonnie, view B but with the long sleeves. I wanted some cropped jumpers to wear over dresses at work, because the ones I have are all an inch too long if I wear anything at my true waist, and they ride up and annoy me. I initially bought the Seamwork Astoria pattern and taped it together, but I couldn’t find many examples on the internet yet so I wasn’t sure how it would look. Then Cookin’ and Craftin’s post about her Astoria also reminded me about Bonnie. I was worried that my thin fabric wouldn’t look good as an Astoria, but there are lots of thin, lovely Bonnies. I already had the pattern and I know the Violet dress works well for my body, so I went with that.

Wrinkle wrinkle wrinkle.

The pattern is lovely and simple and well put together. I didn’t particularly look at the instructions other than to glance at the construction order, via the diagrams, but they seemed as well organised and helpful as the ones in the Violet pattern. Which is to say, very. Fitting wise, this is a total mishmash. I cut a size 14 for the shoulders, and graded the armscye out to a size 20 for the front, 18 for the back. The front I graded down to 18 at the waist – so it’s a size 20 bust and a size 18 waist. The neck is a size 16, and the sleeve have a size 14 sleeve cap, size 20 everything else. It seems to have worked out very well for me! Although perhaps I could go a 16 at the shoulders, but then it does sit perfectly when my arms are at rest, as is. I feel very pleased that I am starting to get to know what fitting changes I need to make, right out of the packet. It sounds like a lot of changes, and I did write it down so I could refer to it while tracing, but it really is the easiest way ever to adjust things. I also cut the waistband at the sides, rather than a long band meeting in the back as the instructions say. I did this by accident the first time, by not paying attention to the instructions, but I repeated it the next time because I like having the side seams meet up, rather than side seams and then a back seam. Although maybe the instructions have you put it at a side seam. Did I mention that I didn’t read them? I SHOULD have graded the back seam up for my swayback, since it’s sitting right at the crucial point. I didn’t, though, and ‘compensated’ by getting huffy when it wasn’t working and sewing another wonky seam higher up, so it pulls even MORE.

Possibly the worst seam I’ve ever sewn. UGH look at that mess! But when I tried to unpick it it basically started disintegrating.

Bleeeerggghhhh

I am planning to go back and use my walking foot to do a new band, and perhaps sleeve bands also. Because it is very nice and I would like to wear it but as it is I would not wear it out of the house. Objectively I don’t think it looks totally awful, but I still wouldn’t buy it in a store or anything. It’s too wonky and I wouldn’t feel put together. Although actually looking at these photos I wonder if it maybe IS totally awful. I’m not sure the light knit is working as a jumper/overshirt. I have more in other colours and I think it would work well as a long sleeved shirt to go under things, so I might try that later. The next one was in a black, fleecey-backed merino knit, also from the fabric store.

I swear it doesn’t look so noticeably wrinkly irl. Or are they the kind of wrinkles that you only notice on your own clothes?

Which I like very very much. I avoided puffy sleeves by eyeballing it and cutting a little wedge out of the top of the sleeve cap. It worked out pretty well. I also cut the waistband in between the ‘self knit’ and ‘ribbing’ size. I think I probably have a wider waist than the pattern is designed for, it still sits snug but now it’s not tight or puckering where it meets the top. I can’t recall if I adjusted the back for my swayback but it does look like it. In between the two I made a moneta-mash. I finally caved and bought this even though I have similar patterns, like the lady skater. Or any other knit bodice that you could easily put a simple gathered skirt on. However, I wasn’t super happy with how the LS sits on my shoulders. The shoulders are too wide and want to fall off, and the neck sits too loose. I could do more fitting but I just bought Moneta to try first because every. Single. One I’ve ever seen has looked just amazing, and on a massively wide array of bodies. And I’m so glad I did because the bodice might be my platonic knit bodice. I only made minor adjustments on this one. Based on my measurements of high bust 41″, full bust 46″, waist 41″, I cut a size XL at the bust and L everything else, so, the bottom edge of the front armscye is XL, and front side seam starts as XL and ends at L. The back is cut as a straight L. And obviously I didn’t line it, because I had a fleecy backed knit and I wanted that against my skin.

The fuzzy guts of the black Bonnie, to show you the snuggly fabric

The fuzzy guts of the black Bonnie, to show you the snuggly fabric

It’s super nice to wear. So so snuggly. The sleeve and skirt hems are turned and zig-zagged because I didn’t have a twin needle, and I think zig zagging looks fine on a stable knit. On a floatier knit it gets wonky but it’s fine on this. I finished the neck with a ‘self-drafted’ band. That is, I cut it at about what I thought was the right length, and tested that it was tight enough before sewing it on and top stitching it. The sleeves are obviously the longer ‘3/4’ sleeves. These are NOT 3/4, yo. That’s not what that word means. I think next time I’d shorten them by 1/2″.

Sorry for the death glare. It was bright.

I also subbed out the skirt for a lady skater skirt. I’ve seen other people do this with great success (sorry I can’t find any examples right this minute! If you know of some please let me know in the comments) and I just felt that the gathered skirt was a bit casual/young for me. Maybe for a floaty summer dress. They don’t line up perfectly, the bodice is smaller than the skirt. I eyeballed it and cut the skirt longer at the top, but then of course it was too tight on my waist and the seam popped. Duh. I unpicked it and compromised, so it’s maybe an inch longer than the original skater pattern. Then I decided that the waist was too high, which made it too short and gave me a weird shape, so I unpicked it again and added a waistband, It’s actually the Bonnie waistband, cut in half horizontally. I probably could have left it, the knit has stretched out a bit and added some length, but I think it still would have been high enough to bother me. Next time I’ll just make the bodice two inches longer. And there will definitely BE a next time. I am in love with the look of this bodice. Between Bonnie and Moneta I think I have some go-to knit bodices. I need some long sleeved tops, I’ve noticed I’m not wearing my skirts because all my tops are summer weight. I’d really like to make a few of the full length Bonnies, and I think it would make a great basic tshirt pattern, too. Here are some bonus photos of me talking to S while he takes the garbage out/comments on my poses.

The first order of the day when I got to craft camp was to sew a solstice dress. I’m hosting a solstice dinner a week from now (obviously, since that’s when solstice is) and told people to wear something sparkly or bright, knowing full well that I myself have a regrettable lack of such things in my own wardrobe. So I bought this plastic fantastic fabric from spotlight’s ‘Frozen? I don’t know what you’re talking about, they’re just snowflakes, right next to this strategically placed princess dress pattern’ line. I was initially planning to make it into a shirt dress but then I decided that was not really a classic party dress silhouette, so I thought I’d make a binge dress out of it. It’s obviously pretty sheer so I bought some light blue lining fabric to go under it.

So plastic. So shiny.

So plastic. So shiny.

My idea was, being the dress I’d sewn a bunch of times, I could just bang it out and be done with it. This was technically true. I cut it out and sewed it all up on the first day of craft camp, which is NOT a full day so… four hours or so probably? Without a zip, because I wanted to do that at home, and without hems and finishing on the neck and arms because I want to do that with bias binding or ribbon so I won’t be scratched by the fabric, and I didn’t have any on me.

I’m just holding it together in the back, no zip yet, so obviously it’s not sitting totally right. Also it’s crinkly from having been in a Glitter Exclusion Bag.

But… the pattern let me down. This is the dress where I couldn’t wear the last one I made without seam allowances, because it was too big. Idk about you but THIS looks like a dress with double seam allowances, to me.

I’m wearing this over my newly made Moneta, which is now beglittered.

I just don’t even know. If this were knitting I’d be swearing at my lying gauge swatch but as it is…

Trying to demonstrate how much extra room there is at the back. At least 2 inches extra in the seam allowances.

I am still debating whether to just make the zip have 3” seam allowances, or whether to unpick it. I was leaning towards unpicking because the bust darts are in totally the wrong place, but man. I am not excited about it, lemme tell you. The fabric is surprisingly ok to work with except that it does NOT gather well – it doesn’t give at all so it just folds up all dense instead of bunching together like a natural fabric would. And it also is already kind of tearing where it’s sewn. Perhaps poor needle choice? I am just a bit worried about how it will take unpicking in such an obvious area. And while the bust dart placement looks utterly terrible, I’m not sure non-sewers will notice. Or am I fooling myself. I DON’T KNOW.

Trying to demonstrate where the side seams are falling. They’re about 1/2″ back from where they should be.

I also wish I’d picked a darker underlining. I think this looks objectively better than any of the darker colours I tried but… I think if I’d gone dark blue or even black it would have been subtler (I mean… as sublte as a sparkly snowflake dress is gonne get) which is a bit more my style, and it might even have gotten more than one wear. As it is it’s an extremely limited use dress and I’m not sure it’s going to get worn more than once, which makes me very hesitant to spend much time on it.

Given that it’s Sunday night and I only have one free night this week and the dinner is on Saturday… it’s looking like ‘whack a zip in, call her done’. And actually, although these photos are obviously totally hideous, the bust dart doesn’t look as stupidly placed as I felt like it did. This may or may not be fooling myself. Updates to follow.

I still have a handful of projects I made at March Craft Camp that never got blogged. Since another CC is upon us, I figured I’d better get to that! Some of the photos are from this past weekend, and some from right after the camp, which explains the hair difference.

First, what’s not here. I made another binge dress out of gaberdine from spotlight. I had some fit issues with it, and some construction issues (invisible zip wouldn’t cooperate, gaberdine is lovely to work with but shows imprecise sewing quite clearly with puckers and pulling seams) but the biggest one is that I had thought I added seam allowances to the pattern when I adjusted and traced it. And, can you guess? Yup, I had not. So I sewed a dress that was beautifully fitted dress except that it was 1cm too small everywhere. I soldiered on but when I got home and was going to fix the zip, I finally admitted that it was just too small ever to be comfortable. I threw it into the bin. Whomp whomp!

Also there is another binge dress, thankfully started after I figured out why the first one was so tight, so that I could add s/a. It’s made out of lawn from Spotlight, read with butterflies on it. It just needs a zip and a hem, but given it’s turned for too cold to wear it, I haven’t been motivated to fix it. This was what held up blogging – I was holding off until I finished the butterfly dress and the Anna dress but it’s not going to happen any time soon.

Anna dress! I have been wanting to sew the By Hand London Anna dress for a long time. In fact this one has been to craft camp twice now. Once I muslined it and determined I’d definitely need an FBA – the front panel looked perfect, the pleats were placed and released perfectly, but the side seams were at a sharp angle. I seriously considered just angling them out but decided to be proper and do an FBA. So this craft camp I did that, rotated the dart created by the adjustment into the pleats and made up what I was hoping would be a wearable muslin. However, the poplin – just the cheap polyester stuff from spotters – is so rubbish I doubt it will be. And since it’s poly it’s not breathable enough to even be a pleasant summer housedress.

I WRESTLED with the pleats, just could not get them to sit right, to release properly, nothing. It was so frustrating, since the ones in the too-small bodice had been just perfect. I ended up making them darts. I got the bodice fitted, and sewed on the skirt – I needed to sew the seam allowances smaller, to allow it to be big enough for the adjusted bodice, so the side seams don’t match. It appeared to fit well. When I got home I sewed the zip in, and…

Huge. Sack.

I have lost a little bit of weight since I muslined it, and while it’s not much it has slightly changed the shape of my upper bust. But not my waist, where it is also too big. So…. I don’t know whether the new fit issues are a result of that, or of the change in fit once the skirt is dragging it down and it’s actually zipped, rather than held together while I look in a mirror, which of course would change my posture. So I’m not sure whether to go back to the original bodice, which appears to fit now, or whether to add in a couple more pleats. I suspect, given that the skirt doesn’t match up, that I probably should have made the pleats wider to begin with – I was kind of winging it because I forgot to mark their placement and then got cross about it all and we all know that being cross and sewing really lead to good decisions, right?

Here it is with extra pleats pinned in. Much better, but I’m not super thrilled with the big fold above my armpit. I guess it’s not so obvious here, but when I’m wearing it and looking down at myself it’s very obvious and annoying. And affects the way the dress sits as I move, which is more to the point. This is why I avoid kimono/cut on sleeves, they are not kind to those of us with a big difference between high and upper bust, I’ve found. I mean it stands to reason, there’s basically a big hollow where the sleeve would meet, so of course there’s going to be a fold. It’s why I have such struggles with too-low armscyes, too.

Anyway, I’ll have to play around with this a bit I think. Maybe next craft camp! I have some rayon I want to use to make a maxi version, and it’s already been two summers since I planned this, I’m determined it won’t be a third.

I also sewed some skirts.

First up is another Simplicity 1541, as made here, in the same gaberdine as my ill-fated binge dress. I liked that skirt but I had had to adjust it so much after wearing it for a while, that it was a bit of a disaster. So I cut it apart and compared it to the pattern.

Pretty big difference. I traced my skirt piece and made it up again.

There are pull lines here but I don’t think they are that obvious in person. It has also settled a bit and the seams, which started out a little bit puckery, sit fine now. The zip insertion could have gone better, though.

This is why I didn’t do zips on my other things at camp. I am not precise enough to be able to sew  invisible or, indeed, lapped zippers without leaning heavily on my tools. Suse kindly lends me her lovely old Elna, which is a delight but offers no crutches for the sloppy seamstress. So, zips at home. Also this is not technically an invisible zip, I discovered upon sewing in. It’s a ‘separating zipper’. Because Spotlight is perpetually out of black zips, so I took what I could get. You’d think they’d be on top of that, since I’d assume they want to sell lots of zips. (Hahahahaha! Good one, right?) I stocked up on skirt zips at the Fabric Store in Melbourne, though, so I should be right for a while.

You can also see that the back kick pleat is a bit wonky, I can’t remember why I furfed that one up. It’s not too bad on, but here it is flat

At some point I might redo the zip because it’s not super great, and occasionally gets stuck halfway. Luckily I don’t need to unzip all the way to get it on.

And here’s the front, with a slightly wibbly hem. Note to self, next time make the hem longer so you can do a proper blind hem.

Not perfect, but I wear it all the time and it’s holding up well and looks perfectly fine in person. At least, no one’s said anything yet!

Next two are what I guess you could call binge skirts! That same ottobre skirt I’ve made a million times. First in plain old drill

I see I am having that same pulling issue. I wonder if it is a sewing flaw I keep replicating, or something to do with the angle of my stomach? Perhaps I should smooth out the bottom curve of that facing?

This one hasn’t got much wear because… something. It’s in the mending pile and I can’t remember why. Hem, I think? Also it wrinkles easily and gets covered in cat hair as soon as you look at it. But I think, since it’s quite a light drill, it might see more action in the warmer months. I did a very dodgy lapped zipper:

I flat felled the seams, which was my first time doing that. I liked it! Except that it makes it hard/impossible to adjust. And this skirt needs it – I panicked when I sewed it that I’d made it too tight, but TURNS OUT I just shouldn’t try on things with a fitted waist after dessert on the second night of craft camp… It’s actually a bit loose. The curse of the delicious dinners. The next one I made is also a bit loose:

In denim with a slight stretch, from Rathdowne Remnants I think. I’ve had it for years. And with scraps for the facing, and an exposed zipper

Which I had to attach a hook and eye to because otherwise it slides down.

And it currently sits a bit funny – the zipper I mean, but the whole skirt too. Folds at the front and the zipper and sticks out at the sides.

I think actually it would benefit from coming in a couple cm at the back zip, tapering out to nothing. But since the exposed zipper was a pain to sew, and I just serged to finish the edges, and then sewed a regular seam, I think I will go the lazy route of just sucking in the side seams… eventually. Mending ain’t my favourite thing, obviously.

And that brings me up to speed!

Flickr Photos

Building wicking beds

Building wicking beds

Building wicking beds

Building wicking beds

Building wicking beds

More Photos

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