Sunday 28 April 2013

Don't judge a pattern by its cover

I thought I'd try something different for this post -- I'm going to share one of my biggest sewing realisations with you! It may be staying the obvious, but it sure took me a while to get to such a conclusion, and I still do struggle with it on some level. 

So here it is --  over time, I realised that it is not the best idea selecting patterns by looking at the envelope. Indeed, the cover could be very misleading! Yes, I do try and check out PR for, well, pattern reviews, but this really only makes me steer away from bad patterns with lovely covers. On the other hand, potentially great pattens with bad photos/illustrations don't make way to my shortlist, and slip under the radar. 

Here are three patterns in this category that immediately came to mind:
I mean, McCalls's, seriously?! I would go as far as saying that the envelope is hideous! OK, view D isn't that bad, but the other views really aren't great, are they? If you manage to look past the terrible cover though, you will see a decent pattern, which could be turned into a wardrobe staple. If you need some more convincing, check out these beautiful versions - from four square walls, and yes i like that

The second one is Simplicity 2959 - yep, the one I used to make my wedding dress! But I couldn't bear looking at that pattern the whole time (10 months!) that I was making it! Yes, I did change it a fair bit, but let me tell you that every single version that I have seen made-up is much, much better than that terrible blue dress up there! I even feel a bit sorry for that poor model who, not only had to wear that dress, but smile for the photo. 
Then there's Simplicity 2444. I would like to thank the wonderful blogsphere for bringing this fantastic pattern to my attention! I have seen great versions here, here, here  and everywhere, and have made this pattern twice myself (see my cherry version here and fresh as a daisy version here). But judging by those two photos on the envelope - I would never have bought this pattern in a million years, despite my soft spot for Project Runway patterns. 

I must admit that I tend to "discover" these patterns by following lots of wonderful blogs (trusting that someone out there is much more able to look past the exterior), and looking on sites like Burdastyle and PR. But how about you? Do you know any ugly ducklings in the sewing patterns world that you would like to share with us? and how to you spot these hidden gems? 

Sunday 21 April 2013

Mad Men challenge 2013 - my entry

At the very last minute, I decided to participate in the Mad Men Challenge 2 hosted by the beautiful and wonderfully talented Julia Bobbin. After dithering for a number of months (yes, months!), considering whether to commit myself to a project, given how busy I normally am with work in the first few months of each calendar year (and the last few, so let's face it the only "quiet" time is the summer), I decided to just get on with it and copy this shirt dress as seen on the stunning Betty Francis (nee Draper).  

For one thing, I wanted to make use of something from my ever-increasing stash, rather than buying more fabric, and ending up not using it, thereby making my stash situation even worse. I remembered this white and pink check medium weight cotton (it looks like gingham, but the check pattern is printed, rather than woven) that I bought in Prague last year, and thought that it would be a good candidate for the stripy pink dress as worn by Betty. 

Another key criteria for me is that I wanted to make something that I would actually wear. However, with hindsight I am not sure if I have achieved this goal as the whole outfit looks a bit like a nurse's uniform! What do you think? I am considering wearing this with a leather belt, but I have not ruled out making a matching self-fabric belt (I even cut out the fabric for it, but have nott manage to track down a plain white/clear buckle for it...). 

So I used the tried and tested Simplicity 2246 Lisette Traveler (I am going with the spellingo on the envelope this time, ignoring the spellcheck) with a few changes from my last version:

  1. I made the skirt fuller - instead of following the pattern, I cut out a rectangle for the skirt, and gathered the top to the width of the waist seam. Based on my calculation, this increased the fullness by just under 50%;
  2. I reduced the amount of SBA that I did, as I find that at times, usually after a three-course meal, some parts of the placket gapes a bit. The problem was that I ended up with a much looser fit for the bodice, which I then had to alter again... It turned out to be a much bigger job in the end! 
  3. I used the sleeve pattern for view A/B (I made a view 3 dress) but shortened the sleeves and rolled them up to make the copycat more similar to the original.  
  4. I changed the collar from a square one to a rounded one for the same reason. 
  5. I also lowered the buttons slightly, for the same reason as above, and also because I think the top button on my previous version was a bit high.   

OK, so my fabric isn't exactly stripy, the button placket runs all the way down (I did not fancy inserting a side zipper as well!), and I've not yet made the self-fabric belt, nor am I wearing a petticoat... But overall I was pleased with the dress, obviously with the slight concern that I am not going to actually wear it other than at a fancy dress party... 

Even the gathering (which is my pet hate when it comes to sewing!) didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. As it turned out, the trick (to keep myself calm) is 1) to buy a gathering foot (raved about here) and 2) to use extra-strong thread so it doesn't break all the time when you are pulling hard. I may just be getting over this irrational fear, can you tell? 

So this is my attempt with copying Betty's dress, and my first year of participating in the fantastic challenge. I am very excited to see everyone else's entries, and am already looking forward to this challenge next year ;)

Thursday 18 April 2013

Honeymoon round up - Part 3 - DIY wardrobe

Alight, thank you for indulging me with all the honeymoon posts and photos. I promise that this will be the last one, and will also actually contain something sewing-related... 

It's my DIY honeymoon wardrobe - in action photos! I was really pleased to have worn a number of my handmade items on this trip (though I brought a few more, like my daisy dress, for example). 

By the "dragon teeth" in my Little Lisette Traveler (I have only just realised that the spelling of "traveler" with just the one r on the pattern - how very ignorant of me to have completely looked past this and written an entire blog post spelling "traveller" a hundred times previously!) - it was rather windy!

In my pullover beach cover up top on the beach (Vogue 8278)

On the beach again in my heirloom top 

In San Fran, I also wore my very latest Sew for Victory top but I didn't get any snaps taken as 1) it was completely covered by my jacket and scarf 2) after all that travelling and lack of sleep, I was not feeling particularly photogenic. 

There is also of course the little romper (Mccalls 6331), which you will have seen already earlier this week. 

And finally, there was another beach cover up - a kaftan - let's save that for next time :) 

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Honeymoon round-up -- Part 2 -- Hawaii and San Francisco


We spent second part of our honeymoon in the beautiful island of Maui, a pure paradise! After two very average flights from NYC to LA, then to Maui, with United Airlines (which made us remember very fondly of our experience in the upgraded Virgin upper class cabin), my highlights in Maui were:
  • Sea kayaking -- we were lucky that nobody else booked Brice for that morning, so it was just the three of us in the middle of the very calm ocean! We saw two huge (fully-grown, apparently) turtles next to us
  • Road to Hana - seeing the beautiful waterfalls, and being able to purchase fruit directly from the farmers
  • Hiking down (and back up!) the Haleakala volcano crater at >10,000 feet (>3000 metres) above see level. It was spectacular, and different from anything that I have seen in my life
  • Whale-watching and actually seeing 3 whales - a baby, a mum, and mum's boyfriend!
  • Enjoying a very relaxing massage, with wind blowing and birds singing in the background - it sounds just like one of those CDs with relaxing background music!
  • Drinking coconut water, and convincing a coconut sweet making dude into selling us a coconut for drinking
  • Snorkelling and seeing all the colourful tropical fish! 
  • The stunning beaches, and the lovely, warm sun.... I can still just about feel it... 

On our way back to the UK, we spent a day and a half in the compact San Fran, too. Although we were both jetlagged and had been overfed constantly, we had a lovely time. Taking the cable car and walking the Golden Gate Bridge was very enjoyable indeed. 

Until next time, my dear readers, aloooooooha! 

Tuesday 16 April 2013

My first homemade onesie - Mccalls 6331 Romper!

As I hinted in my previous post before Easter, there was a playsuit/romper in the pipeline. Now that I have worn it in the beautiful Maui, on the Road to Hana, I am ready to share this project with you. 

Isn't this the biggest papaya that you have ever seen? Um well, no actually... You see, this one that I picked up from a roadside stand (with a "piggy bank" next to it) was $2, and the biggest cost $5 (and it was more than twice the size!) I didn't want to be too ambitious, so picked up a "relatively small" one instead... and it was the best papaya that I have ever tasted in my life! 

OK, back to the dress romper. I spotted this little number on the envelope of Mccalls 6331, and was immediately wondering where I had been and why I hadn't seen it before then. The best thing about it is that different patterns are offered for different cup sizes -  I love patterns like this, as although I don't mind doing a SBA, sometimes it is just nice to not have to worry about alterations too much. I also liked the other views of the pattern, and am not writing it off my list to make in the future. 

I made a view A in size 4, with a contrasting facing. I used a vintage looking fabric in cream, with a small floral pattern. It took me a while to track down the facing fabric, as the only thing that I could find was this quilter's cotton in "Turkey red" from John Lewis. It was quite stiff to touch, so I handwashed it for a while and soaked it in some fabric softener. It seemed to have done the trick. 

I liked the pattern, and thought it was pretty easy to follow. I liked the cute design, and the close fitting. The only alteration that I needed was to let out the side seems by 0.5cm on each side so that I can sit down comfortably. I never thought that I had a big bum/hip, so this had come as a bit of a shock... 

I have therefore made two observations from my experience of this pattern:

1) the pattern is probably not going to be long enough for any tall ladies. I am 5'3 and would usually shorten the bodice on any dresses/tops. I have not shortened the shorts either, so would imagine these to be a bit short on taller ladies - I suppose that will depend on what look you are going for ;)

2) The pattern includes a rather tight fitting, especially around the hip area! If you have anything other than a very small hip, be warned! The top is not loose either - to demonstrate this point, I can reluctantly confirm that a little tropical bug managed to fall into the romper from the neckline somehow, and I had to unzip (in public!) (thankfully nobody was around) to get it out!! Don't say that I didn't warn you...

I had to rush this a bit to get this little number, amongst other things, ready for the honeymoon, but thankfully this turned out to be quite an easy project. I would almost go as far as recommending this to beginners. The only thing that is holding me back slightly is the number of pattern pieces - as there are patterns with a lot fewer pieces out there. 

It is probably time now to admit that I had only tried the playsuit look once previous as an adult, and it didn't quite work out... But I was excited to try again. And before you ask, yes, it is a little bit more trouble going to the "restrooms" with these on (compared with non-onesies), especially if you are wearing a jacket or hoodie that is covering the zipper! Other than that, they are pretty convenient little outfits!   

Honeymoon round-up - Part 1 - NYC

What's up y'all?

Haha, I am back from the honeymoon! I hope y'all had a lovely Easter break! Ok, ok, I'll stop now. 

I know that this is supposed to be a sewing blog, but I couldn't help but share a few highlights with you. This was our first trip to NYC, and also the US, and we had such a wonderful time. 

My key highlights were:

  • Getting upgraded to Upper Class on the way out - OK, we were denied boarding onto our plane, and had to wait at the airport for 7 hours. But enjoying the luxury of Upper Class on Virgin on the delayed trip, and receiving free return tickets for anywhere that Virgin flies to (other than Australia) to be used in the next 18 months is really not a bad deal!
  • Going to see Gangstagrass at the Mercury lounge (yes, they were brilliant!), and sitting next to two ladies who were knitting through the supporting act in the dark with a pint each!
  • Seeing Matilda (we couldn't get tickets for the London show!) on Broadway
  • Eating at a number of great restaurants - Bouley, the Modern, Colicchio & Sons
  • Empire State Building, despite the wind!
  • Jogging in Central Park 
  • Visiting Tiffany's on 5th Ave (right next to our hotel!) and making a small purchase
  • Catching up with one of my school friends who's out there over dinner
A few pics to share with you:


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