Double flannel

Why should babies have all the fun?photoI’ve made a few quilts for babies over the years, which are nice and all, but you know, babies. So I thought I’d scale it up and make a queen size quilt for a 40th birthday present. The non-infant human recipient liked it. Quite a bit.

I went back to uni this year. Because I’ve been busy jamming all sorts of interesting new stuff into my head and still working more or less full time, I haven’t had much room for makin’ things. I did invent a genius garment for coping with winter, though: double flannel PJs. You heard me. I made two pairs of PJ pants and joined ‘em together. TWO LAYERS of flannel. Freaking fabulous.

Last night I started cutting out Butterick 5880. Now the race is on to finish it before uni goes back and I hit the books again!

Jungle January in by a cat’s whisker

Deadlines. Sometimes they’re oppressive. Other times they’re inspiring. Jungle January, by definition, finishes today and look at me scraping in just in time!

As promised, I made a frock from vintage Japanese silk twill with some kind of animally dot. I don’t think any real critter is bedecked thus, but this is as close to animal print as I’ve ever been or, in all likelihood, will ever get. I worked out why most animal prints make me wince – it’s the beige background. I loathe beige. Ugh. No matter how wacky the spots and stripes are, if the background is beige, I declare BEGONE FROM MY EYES.

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The fabric came from Rathdowne Remnants in two pieces. It’s clearly from some old lady’s stash – sometimes RR has utter diamonds buried in their remnant buckets – and smells faintly of mothballs when wet. One piece had the end of the roll stamped with the manufacturer’s details, which is why I’m clear on its Japanese origins. It’s the softest, slinkiest stuff and required a good gelatining before it would sit still enough to cut and sew.

Soft folds at waist

Soft folds at waist

I made Butterick 5850 view B but left off the bow (for I am not a box of chocolates, thankyouverymuch) and added length and width to the skirt. For those keen to make this pattern, be aware there’s an error in the neck where one piece (back neckline) is impossibly too big to fit to its intended neighbour (the collar). I did some darts in the spot fabric and gathered the lining to compensate. It’s ugly, but works. Not sure I’d recommend the pattern for this reason though.

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I think the animal print discombobulated me because I put the bloody zipper in upside down! Ah well.

 

Warming up for Jungle January

I am not a proponent of the ‘pard, nor spruiker of the snake. The closest I’ve ever been to an animal print fabric was a bike seat cover in fake tiger fur. But for our beloved Pretty Grievances, in thanks for many years of sewing LOLs, I will sew me a zoo this month.

I thought I’d ease myself gently into this alternative lifestyle with a couple of almost-animal-prints. I took this here op shop pattern (Simplicity 8523) and modified it a little – added kimono sleeves, shifted darts, added length, bound the neck – to make a go-to woven tee pattern to use up all those little bits of lightweight stuff I’ve been hoarding.

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The first is in a voile printed with fake ikat that looks a bit, if you squint, like snake scales. The second is a silk chiffon spot. Both are a bit ace to wear.
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And next? Boldly, a frock, in true animal print. Well, sort of – not sure what animal these spots came from. This is a vintage Japanese silk twill remnant from Rathdowne Remnants. To the pattern stash!

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Things I’ve learned sewing this year

1. When you find a great palazzo pants pattern, you’re going to need to make more than one pair.

Because, according to Else, “since the days of the Romans, there is no style more graceful, elegant or more flattering to the feminine form.” Seriously, the marketing copy on these suckers is just one florid adjective away from AS SEEN ON TV. (The pattern copy also declares them ‘party pants,’ a term better left to German Sparkle Party, I feel.)

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Also, if you make a pair out of a large blue and white gingham, your boss will tell you “I have pyjamas just like that” every time you wear them to work. Oh, and, the legs are so wide – so wide – that you can tie the ends in a bow when you’re riding your bike to prevent oily caught-in-chain mishaps, and sport a temporary pirate pantaloon look.

2. The stakes are very high with wedding dresses. Especially when the fabric is hand-woven.

But if you can hack the pressure, it’s just about the nicest thing you can do for a beloved chum. I don’t have a photo of her wearing it (actually, rocking it is probably more accurate because she looked flipping amazing) but I do have a photo of the silk she wove, YES, WOVE, to make the bodice. The pattern, the drape, the lustre – oh so very lovely.

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However I was filled with terror that one foul snip would send her back to the loom and our friendship on the rocks. Because you can’t just buy more fabric if you bugger it up. To insure against buggering up, there was a lot of fitting and hand-basting-with-silk-thread, and prevaricating and hand-wringing. It paid off.

3. If it’s nice, make it twice. Immediately.

A lesson learned with the palazzo pants but reinforced with Butterick 7394.

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The first iteration made from a vintage 1960sish poplin (thank you, Queensland op shop) uses the bodice from Butterick 9394 with a frankensteined-on-the-fly full circle skirt. Because I wanted something new to wear to the wedding, and circle skirts are good for dancing, and you dance at weddings. Plus, geometry is cool; I like pi and any practical applications thereof. Then the simplicity and goodfittingness of the bodice persuaded me just days later to try once more with feeling, using a stretch cotton sateen from the stash (Rorschach or dalmation spots? You decide) and the original 6-gore skirt from the pattern. It is pink, though, so I don’t quite trust it yet.

4. Gelatine is amazing

I read somewhere on teh interwebs (aha! It was in Threads) that putting slippery fabrics in a gelatine bath makes them stiff and much easier to cut and sew. I fished out an ancient jar of edible gelatine from the spice shelf, dissolved it and chucked in some silk twill that had vexed me and my sewing machine in the past. Hung it over a clothes horse and waited for the magic to happen.

THE MAGIC, IT WAS EXTRAORDINARY. That bratty vile stuff turns into docile papery compliance. A complete piece of piss to handle – why did I not know this sooner? Suddenly I am unafraid of the whole swathe of my stash I had felt unable to tackle.

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And lo, I whipped up these silk pyjama pants for my sister-in-law’s BD in just an hour or two and I did not cry or swear [much].

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Smug mastery of silk twill.

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Nice photobomb, dog.

 

5. W.M.C. Jackson is delightful

If you live in Melbourne and your machine needs a tune-up, go to W.M.C. Jackson. I took my Bernina sewing machine and Janome overlocker in prior to sewing the wedding dress, and scrawled a note to the technician with descriptions of their ailments. In return I received detailed diagnosis over the phone and a reply neatly written below my messages. My overlocker, which has NEVER worked well, is  now *perfectly* balanced. Plus, when I couldn’t get a taxi home, one of the fourth-generation owners gave me a lift because he was heading to the bank near my place anyway. So, so lovely.

6. You can survive a stash cull

Between eBay, a garage sale and making things, my stash has taken a significant hit. And look! I still leave and breathe! Who knew?

 

So, what did you learn this year?

50s blouse

Look, I made a thing! That hardly ever happens anymore.

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It’s a super-simple bias-cut blouse made from an ancient rayon faille curtain. The print looks like crazy paving – I imagine this curtain hung on long windows looking out to the patio, daddy-o.

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Age and light damage had shredded the curtain edge. I trimmed out the worst of it and had just enough to squeeze out this blouse. The shape is great, mostly because of the slinky drape of the rayon, but the 50s pastels have turned out a bit nanna, methinks. Imma wear it anyways!

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Too cold to sew

Winter is a season of sewing senescence at my place because my house is largely unheated and my sewing room is Siberian. I can’t face sitting at the machine in there, not to mention shedding my many layers to fit garments-in-progress.

But I do go in there and potter about, stroke the pretty things in the stash and whittle away at the junk. I found this ad in an old Sewcraft magazine last night and it tickled my fancy because I have a bunch of old Lightning zippers in their original packaging. A zip that is unfazed by strap-hanging! That’s my kind of fastener.

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I pulled some ugly things out of the stash, too. I read a very sensible sewing blogger’s declaration that she never, ever sews with fabric she doesn’t love because otherwise when things go awry, she won’t bother rectifying the project. Wise words and I’m sorry I can’t properly attribute them because I forgot who wrote them. I’ll add this to it, too – sometimes leaving things you love in the stash for too long means your tastes change and you don’t like them anymore. To wit: this quilting cotton with reels of thread. It still sorta amuses me but I can’t imagine wearing it, yet several years ago I thought it was hilarious and I had all kinds of stunt frock plans. Now I think it’s best that I eBay it. Maybe that’s what winter is for – raking and pruning and composting while everything’s dormant.

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Buuuuuut, I have actually been sewing a little bit – things that don’t need trying on, such as quilts to diminish the scraps pile. Here’s the latest in the series of quilts for babies. I’ll be delivering it to its new owner (and she’s very new, just 2 days old) as soon as her mother is up for visitors.

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