Saturday, 11 August 2012

Promaballoona - how it happened

Well in the end it was a very jazzglamorous evening!

We started out at the Fortune of War pub, for jazz courtesy of moi.

Last Sunday, not only were we celebrating Oona's birthday, but also the birthday of ol' Satchmo, with the 2nd annual "Oh Yeah Day".   We got plenty of "Oh Yeahs" and even a tear or 2 from an audience member when we performed "What a Wonderful World" with special guests Virginia and Daniel.   (I hope to have a video to share of some of the tunes soon.)

We met an ever-so-handsome and talented photographer, who kindly took these awesomesauce pics of Natalie, moi, Manisha, and Laurel.  And did our cups not runneth over with attention in town for how delish we all looked?

I had hoped to go to Stitch Bar after the show to start off our night, but it turns out they don't open Sunday evenings, bah.  Never mind, 4 is the perfect number to jump in a cab and wing it over to the Wine Library for a bit of indulgence.

So Oona, even though I'm the only sewist in this little group, we all subscribe to the "dressed up?  I always look this good!" philosophy, so that makes us Team Oona.  So we had a few drinks for you, a bit of a boogie afterwards elsewhere, and a good time was had by all.  

Serendipitously, the next morning as I was running around town for work, I ran into my old prom date Chris, and made plans to catch up for lunch or beers soon, celebrations all round!!!

Next up, my birthday, yay!  And maybe some sewing.   Actually I can say definitely some sewing.

Happy Birthday Oona!

Saturday, 4 August 2012


My poor, poor, neglected blog.  It's not that I haven't been sewing or having adventures, I truly have.  I keep meaning to post something, it's just such a trial uploading photos and thinking of something witty to say.  I really take my hat off to you gals who manage to do it so regularly.

Anyway, off with my hat and on with my curlers, for I am off to Promaballoona tomorrow night!!!  The Sydney sessions of Promaballoona, that is.  I sure hope there is room in the limo for moi!  If there are limo points for effort in posting, I might have a chance.  Having hunted for the very old photographs of my prom, I am getting no love from my scanner.  Undaunted, I've taken digital photos of the prints.  So, apologies, the pics are a bit lame, but all the better for not looking too hard at my dress.

I had not one, but two dates to my year 12 formal (Australian for Prom).  Diamando, and Chris.  Diamando is gorgeous in a dress made by her mum, Chris very handsome and ever so tall.  I'm happy to say that almost 20 years later, he is still a mate.

I really can't remember many of the details of the night, and not because I had too many wines either.  It's just too long ago for my poor old memory.  I don't think my group had a limo.  We may have caught a train.

But, I did make my dress.  I vaguely remember it was a vogue designer pattern, and I'd made a complete hack job  of it by the end, but it was blue and it stayed on for the night.  I recently unearthed the dress while decluttering, but when I tried to find it today to take pictures wearing it, (yes it still fits, albeit as poorly as it did then) but without completely turning my bedroom, sewing room and garage upside down, I don't like my chances of getting my hands on it today.

Unfortunately, I've been too low on sewing time to make a dress for Promaballoona, so I'm grateful for the permission to just wear something from my closet (it is also blue).  I'll be joined by the beautiful Laurel and the stunning TeaLou.  I wish my sewing pal, the wonderful Lucinda could join us as well but I think she's at another event interstate this weekend.  But I believe it's a dance, so it qualifies as joining in.

I will try try try to take loads of pics tomorrow evening and post them on Monday (which is still Sunday in LA, so I make the deadline!)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

UFO MkII - someone else's UFO

Inspired as I was by Marina's challenge, I also had another project that was fit to include.

My auntie, one of Australia's top embroiderers, had given up on this dress (I'm not sure why) and given the pieces to my mum, who then gave them to me.

My auntie is now in her eighties and maybe one or 2 sizes above me.  I don't know what the original project was to be - but it was a very loose fitting shift with french darts and simple lines.  The fabric falls beautifully, and feels like a soft linen, but a burn test indicated it's some kind of poly blend, (easy care!) and has an open weave.

The project included facings that were already made up.

But of course once I made up the dress the way I wanted it I had to change the shape of them, thus:

The pieces were all the fabric I had to work with.  I decided to attempt to copy another shift dress I own: a vintage crepe shift that my mum had in the early 1970s - simple and flattering.  I didn't do all that well with it, and because this fabric doesn't actually fall the same way as crepe, what ended up happening was I made up the dress, then altered the hell out of it.

It was kind of cool though, Auntie Pat had overcast all the seam allowances and where I could keep them I did.  I finished my own cut seam allowances with a line of stitching and pinking (with my brand new pinking shears!)

The facings were all interfaced.  When I made it up, the armhole facings were far too stiff for my liking, so I took them out, removed the interfacing, and put them back in again.  This was a pretty confident move, as I had already clipped & pinked those armhole seam allowances.  I was amazed that it worked out OK and thrilled that it had the desired effect of making a softer line.

I've styled it with a belt as it really needed it (unlike the dress I was intending to copy from).

Here's the back (the fit of which is not perfect, but will learn from it!):

It kind of has a Tiffany & Co colour to it, don't you think?

Actually, you can see here it's a couple of shades deeper than Tiffany blue, but close!  Lovely things come in Tiffany packages!

Overall, happy with this one as it's something I can definitely add to my office wardrobe!

UFO complete! The "Don't take shortcuts!" dress


And, as soon as I completed it, the weather got too warm to wear it - so I'll take the credit for that too.

Aaaaaaanyway.  Finished a bit over a week ago, but then I took out the zipper and reinserted it for the millionth time and I think that was worth it.  This dress is a cautionary tale about taking shortcuts in sewing.  The photos don't show up all the errors in a glaring way, but see if you can see them anyway.

I mentioned in the original post how the sizing of this dress was a bit generous.  As I was making it I thought if I took it in at the sides I'd have to first undo a lot of the insert, including the handsewing, so genius that I am I took it in at the back, hacking away at it.  As a result, I'm not happy with the dress.  It's a shame, because the pattern is great and it should be a really flattering outfit.  I'm tempted to purchase the same fabric again and re-make it again from scratch, before making it up in some more expensive fabric that I have earmarked for this project.  But then again, maybe it really is OK.  I am still learning after all.  And this was a great learning process. 

Here's the back view - see if you can see the worst errors:

All in all it is still a nice dress I think, and one I can wear to work.  If you're interested, it's V8409 using Sophia doubleknit fabric. 

I'm grateful to Marina for being the catalyst and inspiration for me finishing this dress after getting a bit despondent about it.  I'm also grateful to Gretchen for being the creative muse - I probably would never have discovered or tried this pattern if it weren't for having seen her version when she did it.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Frabous Couture's UFO party

Oh man.

Ok well the reason this one-armed beauty is a UFO is because I made so many rookie errors with this one, then while I was musing on how best to solve it, the weather started getting too warm to wear it so I thought I'd just leave it till the fall.

And then last week it turned cold again, so I thought it might be nice to participate in Marina's party.

This is Vogue 8409.  I should have realised when Gretchen said it was a bit roomy in the bodice, but I'm a bit busty so I didn't want to take any risks.  By the time the inset had gone in, I didn't want to unpick as much as I would have to to take in at the side seam, so yeah, I tried to take in at the back seam.  Oh what a hot mess.

Also I tried to do a lapped zipper on this project.  Blame my inexperience.  Sophia doubleknit fabric is NOT the stuff to do a lapped zipper with.  

Solution 1:  Unpick and go back.
Solution 2: Buy replacement fabric and re-do the back panels.
Solution 3: Junk it, buy full amount of replacement fabric and re-do, adjusting heavily for what I'm realising is my narrow back.
Solution 4: Complete it as is (re-doing the zipper for a plain insert).

I'm going with 4, although the zipper has been chopped to waist-depth so I could lay the back seam flat - the zipper was all over the place.

OK, we're going to try it!  It actually doesn't look too bad on, and even though the zipper doesn't extend down to the hipline, it still goes on ok.   Will post back shortly!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Vivian at the Polo

Lady at polo match:  Edward is our most eligible bachelor, everyone is trying to land him.  
Vivian:  Oh, I'm not trying to land him, I'm just using him for sex.

Not long after Pretty Woman came out in 1990, I was working in a chain store and they did a knockoff of that dress Vivian wore to the polo match.  I bought one and I think I loved it to death.  It wasn't even a very true copy - it was red and in maxi length.  But I think I wore it until it fell apart.

And I've wanted another for ages.  So a couple of months ago I scoured for patterns and found one that I thought would make a good version of it.  Jewel neckline, cutaway armholes, slightly blousy in the bodice, not too much flare in the skirt.  Then I hunted for fabric - more difficult than you'd think to find brown with polka dots.  It's a little heavier than I would have wanted (I think the real one is like a silk crepe de chine maybe?) but it works ok.

I am so proud of this outfit.  I had to go hunting for the belt too - not an exact copy but good enough.  I don't have the bag!  I got very lucky with the gloves.  I was headed to my local vintage store, but decided to go to the markets nearby and hit the jackpot bigtime.  Just a basic hat that I trimmed.

I wore this dress on Melbourne Cup day.  Lots of people commented "Oh, that's the Pretty Woman dress!"  and I just love that it's recognisable like that.

I think it's a flattering and classy dress in its own right, even though it's got its story.  What do you think about wearing iconic dresses like this one?  What famous/iconic dress is on your wishlist?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Grand Maternity Dress

This week has been a busy one.  I had lots of good intentions for sewing projects (including getting things more organised) but work has been busy and I've been immersed in an amazing book that I can't seem to put down (Shantaram), so I didn't make as much progress as I intended to.

I did a lot of planning!  This week happens to be National Recycling Week so I wanted to do some mending, altering and upcycling.  Saturday rolled around, and I went to week 2 of my overlocker course, then I was all in the mood for an evening of sewing.

In my sister's stash (which I have) were some pieces of this cute yellow polka dot crepe.  I remember when I was a little child that fabric was in my mum's stash.  Of course, as it's recently become mine, it stood out to me in its cuteness and on inspection, I realised that it wasn't just a bit of fabric, it was unpicked pattern pieces.  No, it was an unpicked dress.  Obviously someone (I think my mum) wanted to reuse it and never got around to it.

I had started thinking about what I could possibly make with it - maybe a cute skirt, when last week my sister asked me if I could dig it out for her.  I was like, actually it's already dug out.  She's like "oh good, it was Mum's maternity dress, can you put it back together? I want to wear it". 

Of course it was a maternity dress!  That wide empire line with the pleats.  And of course, there's a good reason my sister wants a maternity dress.  How can I refuse this favour for her when she's busy making me a new niece of nephew?  Awwwwwww!

So I put together all the seams.  Thank god no one had unpicked the zipper.  Then there was the sleeves and neckline.   Hmmmm.  Long flared sleeves.  Very cute and late 1960s, but not really my sister's style, or appropriate for a Sydney summer (I think the fabric is poly).    So I had to shorten them, but there's no return from that.  I took out the pins and folded them up to try out a couple of lengths.  There was another scrap of fabric - a remnant and evidence that the original dress was handmade probably by our Mum. No facing pieces for the neckline.

I was mulling over the issue of sleeve length, texting photos to my sister.  She wanted short, not sleeveless (that was my first choice).

Then, last week Gertie posted the solution:  band sleeves!  Cute as a button.  Last night I set about making the band sleeves out of the extra piece of fabric (so the cute winter flared sleeves can still be used if we change our mind).

And here's the result:

I cured the lack of neck facing by using white bias binding, fixed up the hem and voila.  I hope she likes it!

I love that this is a "restoration" of a dress that both my sister and I have "worn" before, in a way, even before we both drew breath.