Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Eating elephants - bite six

I have been remiss in posting, but I have installed the fly zipper and facing, using the tutorial from hot patterns.  I went as smoothly as it did the first time I used this, until I realised that the tutorial was based on a woman's garment - men's openings go the other way round!
 I've decided to leave it the wrong way and hope no one notices.  Undoing it would be a real pain, and probably damage the fabric at the centre front.  Other than being the wrong was round, it work well, and the zip is nicely concealed from view.  The next step will be to put it together so that I can fit it before continuing.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Eating Elephants - bites four and five

I've now caught up with my schedule for sewing these men's pants.  The Ex is taking my car for its annual test at the end of the week, so I should be able to fit them when he drops it back.  (if "still being friends" means that I still sew his trousers, then I figure it also means he still deals with my car) 
Since my photography skills are decidedly dodgy, the fabric looks rather grey.  In fact, it's a dark olive green.  The bound pocket is not as neat as would have liked, but I ended up having to do it several times anyway, so I figure that's as good as it's going to get.

The next bite is the fly area.  I always hated installing zipper fly front, but last time I needed to install one I found a great video tutorial from Hot Patterns on YouTube.  I will admit that watching the tutorial it didn't seem to make sense, but when I played it while I was actually doing it, pausing the video as I completed each step, it worked, and was undoubtedly the best zipper fly front I've ever done.

I won't say that I'm an expert now, but I've saved the video to my I-pod so I can repeat the same process every time I need to install zips like this.  Hopefully I will reach a point when I don't need to watch the video every time.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Eating elephants - bites two and three

Having got side tracked by a new T shirt for my sewing chair, I figured I'd better get back to the elephant project.  I realised that I'd got bites two and three in the wrong order.  it makes much more sense to sew the darts and pleats BEFORE I overlock all the pieces.  Since I haven't bitten anything off this project for three days I figured I might as well jump in and do both.  

One of my all too frequent mistakes is forgetting that two sides need to be mirror images, not identical.  I was determined not to make that mistake and copied all the markings onto both pieces as mirror images.  Of course I forgot that men's pants usually only have the bound pocket on the right hand side, and I marked the pocket placement on both sides.  It is only tailor's chalk, so I'm hoping that the marks on the left hand piece will rub off.

I overlocked the pocket piping pieces in half, since that's how I'll fit them.

I'm still a day behind, so I might try and get the bound pocket done later today.  I found a set of really easy instructions   for making a bound pocket, so rather than try to follow the pattern instructions I'm going to work through these instructions.  She's put a button on a flap on hers, but I don't want that so I'll just leave out that bit.

Now I have a pile of prepared pieces for these pants, ready to be assembled.

Side Tracked

OK, so my progress on the elephant project sort of ground to a halt over the weekend.  I had a house project (sewing for the house) sitting in my sewing room for a couple of months, and it was taking up so much room that I didn't really have room to have all my machines out in there.

This rather tied looking chair was a junk shop find for about NZ$30 because I wanted a chair to do my hand sewing and knitting in.  I originally bought it about 15 years ago, and recovered it a vibrant green, gold and purple print.  It sat in the corner by the window for years, with a floor lamp to illuminate my hand work in the evening, although it was in full sunshine, so was an ideal place to work during the day.  

Of course, 15 years of sunshine had taken it's toll on the fabric, and as well as fading the colours, several of the seams were looking a little fragile.  As well as starting to look a little tired, it didn't suit the colours in the new house and so had been stuck in the corner of my sewing room since I moved last October.  

This weekend I finally decided that I'd get it out and give it a new lease of life.  My son likes to watch TV in the dark, so a chair with a localised light was required anyway, and at least I'd be able to reclaim the space in the sewing room.

Last time I recovered it I used a curtain fabric with thermal lining, which was far from ideal.  it wasn't as hardwearing as a proper furnishing fabric and had absolutely no give in it, adding to the stress on the seams.  This time I decided to make life a little simpler and use a stretch fabric.  It was quite a thick Lycra print, which made it really easy to "fit" to the chair, as well as taking the stress off the seams when I sit in it.

I used newspapers to make a rough pattern for the chair pieces and covered the seat cushion separately.  Once I had a snug fitting slip cover I stapled it round the underside and put the legs back on. 

Overall the project should have taken me a day, but I ran out of staples for the staple gun on Saturday evening, so the project was shelved until Sunday morning. 

I think that it looks much better, and certainly a lot more modern, with the new cover, and it has now been installed in the living room with the floor lamp sitting behind it to light up my work.

I'm not sure about the legs - a wonder whether a lick of paint will complete the modern feel, but the legs unscrew so i can always do that at a later date.  In the meantime I have a great place to curl up with my knitting and hand sewing, while still being part of the general activity of the household.  Unlike Karen of Didyoumakethat I like to be around people when I'm sewing.  Even if I don't take part in the conversation, I don't feel so isolated when I can hear the conversations going on around me.  Although I frequently can't resist butting in, even if I'm sewing.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Eating Elephants - the first bite

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.
I'm about to apply the same principle to a sewing project that I've been putting off.
My ex-husband is 6 ft 6, with long legs.  He has always had problems getting trousers to fit, so I used to make his formal trousers, and even on one occasion ventured into men's tailoring with  a full suit.
When we separated we divided everything up in a very grown up and amicable way, and resolved to remain friends.  What I didn't realise was that remaining friends meant that I still had to sew his trousers, until he arrived on my doorstep with a bolt of fabric, a zip and thread.I don't find men's trousers especially easy, and I struggle to work up much enthusiasm for sewing for other people.  Instead of putting it off until the last possible moment then doing a rush job, I'm taking the elephant approach: Cutting it up and tackling it one bite at a time.
  1. Cut out pieces and lining pieces
  2. Overlock all pieces
  3. Stitch and press darts
  4. Sew bound pocket on the right back piece
  5. Attach and top stitch front pockets and lining
  6. Install fly zip and facing
  7. Sew side and inside leg seams
  8. Make belt carriers and tack on to trousers
  9. Attach waist band
  10. Sew loose end on the belt carriers
  11. Sew button hole, button and trouser bar
  12. Hem
That's come out at 12 bites.  It doesn't seem very many for a task that I have always considered a "major" sewing project.  I can't help feel that I've missed something.
Anyway, If I'm right I should be able to finish these in under two weeks just be eating one bite a day.  None of the individual "bites" are going to take long, so I can still have other projects going on that I am actually inspired by, and by overlocking all the pieces at the beginning I only need my ordinary sewing machine out (which it usually is anyway).
Fired with enthusiasm I've alreading crossed number one off the list, I've cut out the pieces.  I'm using a pattern that I have used several times before (I got custody of all the patterns which was probably a strategic mistake) so I've already made the required adjustments to the pattern Burda 8186 , but today's bite and tomorrow's bite (overlocking) are probably the most time consuming.

Me-Made-May '12

I spotted this on So Zo...What do you know and my first thought was that I do this most of the time anyway.  Then I started looking at what I actually wore over the last week, and, despite a wardrobe full of me-made clothes, since being made redundant all I've actually worn is (RTW) jeans and T shirts.  What a waste!  What I need is a reason to actually look in a mirror when I get dressed in the morning.  Hopefully this challenge will get me actually thinking about what I wear each day and adapting my wardrobe for the life I have now. So....
'I, Michelle, of EveryStitch, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '12. I endeavour to wear only self made clothes each day for the duration of May 2012.
If I actually have to take a picture of myself everyday I'm more likely to make an effort, so  I will only wear me -made stuff (apart from underwear).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Miley Cyrus's dress

Once upon a time my kids were horrified at the thought of wearing home-made clothes.  While my son is still a label junkie, my little girl has re-branded home-made clothes into "tailor made"  and delights in having stuff that nobody else can afford.  The process starts with a picture:

Followed by a fabric, then a deadline - usually only just acheivable.This outfit looked very ornate, and obviously relied on the embroidery and sequins to make it special.  Fortunatley she found a burnt out fabricc at the local bargain emporium (Geoff's Emporium) and didn't want the beads.
The skirt was relatively straight forward.  I have a skirt block for her and used it to make a wide yolk.  Rather than gather the rest of the fabric as has been done on Miley Cyrus' dress I made it a semi-circle piece to avoid too much bulk around the booty.  I also lined the top part of the skirt, but left the rest to show a little flesh throught the burnt out pattern.  
The top was more of a mission.  The one on Miley Cyrus barely covers the subject, and my little girl has more to cover as well.  I made it two parts, a top bodice that had multiple pleats down the centre and side seams and was lined with a heavier cotton, and a lower bodice, which I didn't line, allowing the burnt out effect of the fabric to show through.  It took three calico muslins to get the fit right.  After several nights of cursing my daughter and the fabric we did end up with something that looked a lot like the original.
The top still looks a little brief but she's happy that it was reasonably true to the photo.  I did give her a small bag of sequins to embellish if she wanted to, but I suspect that the work involved in actually sewing them on herself may not be considered worth it.

Friday, 6 April 2012

New toy from Mum

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to the Gold Coast (Australia) to visit my parents.  My mother used to be a keen sewer, and got out her machines so we could do a bit of mother/daughter bonding.  It didn't take long for me to realise why she hardly sews anymore.  She maintains that she doesn't need glasses, because she's too vain to wear them, but I had to thread up all the machines and every needle we needed.  At the end of my stay she offered me her embroidery machine.  Apparently she reckons I'll use it more than she does.  She packed it up for me and, thanks to the awesome staff at Emirate Airlines, (who pretended not to notice that my luggage was 14kg over weight) the mysterious embroidery machine came home with me.
I've had a few projects on the go lately and only got around to unpacking and trying out this machine this week.  It's great.  It comes with software and usb cables so I can scan, digitise and embroider my own designs.  
 So far I've limited myself to monogramming my towels and fairly subtle decoration on a couple of my diving thermals and plain T shirts, but I can see me letting this machine get out of hand.  It would be too easy to start a little bit of embellishment and end up looking like a walking craft exhibit.  

Hopefully by writing it down here, I will see it in the future and remember to apply an editing eye to my projects.  All those soooo plain T shirts can now be lifted to new heights.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


A native Brit, I've lived in New Zealand for 17 years now, raising my two little ones.  Coming from a country with HEAPs of people to one that's almost empty I struggled to find clothes to suit me that I wouldn't see three copies of every day.  NZ is a small country without the population base to support a vast fashion industry.  I'm not 22 anymore, and I have a very limited budget, which rules me out of the two main types of fashion available.  I desperation, I taught myself to sew... and then sewed... and sewed, and sewed some more (I also knit occassionally).
Lately I've moved house and had to evaluate my ridiculously extensive, but boring wardrobe (did I really need 32 jackets?) and decided to make every stitch count.  I will no longer sew stuff just because I feel like it/because I can/because it was raining and I couldn't think of anything else to do.  Everything I sew I will think about first - my 2012 goal is to sew less, but sew well and sew stuff that I couldn't buy.  I may be able to sew a basic T shirt, but I already have 20 odd of them in the wardrobe.  I will be sewing with a purpose.