Saturday, 15 February 2020

Merino Crossover tops

Looking through photos I realised I had not written a post about these merino crossovers. I was asked to make them as samples and the fabric was provided. I decided to use a pattern from Mountain Ash Designs as a starting point. I had to tweak the pattern a little to get the look my client wanted, not much though.

Patterns, fabric and foldover, or lip elastic, all ready. I actually took this photo after I'd cut them all out as I didn't think to take one before!

I found it worked well for me to cut out using my rotary cutter. The size 2 pattern fit across the width of the fabric.

I took a few photos as I went. Here I'm pinning the shoulder seam to the back so it will sit there when I stitch on the foldover elastic. Since I was binding with the foldover elastic I needed to work out the order I stitched it on. Neck and front edges were first.

Cutting off the stitched elastic so it is flush with the front side edge.

Elastic applied and side seams stitched. Inside out view.

Sleeve seam stitched and elastic applied. I decided to do this "in the round" I.e stitch a seam in the elastic to make a circle then apply the elastic. I thought it gave a neater finish than the bulk of elastic at the bottom of the sleeve seam, which is the more usual industry look. Although I have a coverstitch machine I used a zig zag stitch to attach the elastic.

Sleeves attached and the crossed fronts pinned before attaching the elastic.

When applying foldover elastic I find you need to make sure the raw edge is snug against the fold of the elastic . . . otherwise it might not get stitched in properly 🙄

So pins, pins, pins. Also I find if I use a needle with a blunt point, such as a wool needle, I can gently stroke the raw edge to encourage it to lie flat as merino has a habit of curling. If you look closely just above my fingers you can see it looks a bit lumpy whereas closer to the machine foot I have stroked the raw edge and it is smooth.

A pile of little pink merinos. These were size 2 - 8 years.
As well as these I made samples for older girls 10 - 14 years. For the older girls there were ties and a lettuce leaf edge on the sleeve.

Front of crossover top.

Back of crossover top.

There was also a V-neck top with lettuce leaf edge sleeve and hem. Although Hetty, my mannequin, is petite the tops were smaller and are a little tight!

Back view of top.

Merino can be a bit of a challenge to work with however I think as samples they turned out well 🙂

Saturday, 26 October 2019

A Jazz leotard for Miss Z

It's a long time since I posted anything . . . Life became busier than usual and I find writing a blog post seems to go in the "not enough time" basket! I realised when I was looking through old photos that I'd omitted to write about this make. So here goes.

Back in 2017 I was asked by a sewing friend, Mrs C, to make a leotard for her niece, Miss Z. It was for a jazz dance for her dance studio's end of year concert.

It was to be a pretty standard leotard, with two spaghetti straps interwoven at the back. Once again I based the leotard on Jalie 2915 but using the lining patterns I created several years ago.

The main request was for a full shelf-bra in the leotard. I.e front and back to fully support the bust. I've made plenty of front shelf-bras in leotards so I figured a full shelf-bra wouldn't be that much different!

Here is the shelf-bra ready to cut out. It's out of black power mesh, a size smaller than the leotard so it gives better support. The dart is to give it some shaping, not needed for smaller cup sizes but definitely for larger.

All the pieces including a modesty panel ready to be stitched together. Since the shelf-bra is black I decided that black plush-back lingerie elastic would look much better than white.

Not having any black elastic I dyed some of the white I had 😁 I didn't have the foil in the pot at the time of dyeing as I used a different pot!

When there are several layers I find it much easier to baste the outer shell and lining together. When a leotard is fully lined there are 4 layers, and if they're all nylon Lycra they slip and slide all over the place. I could do the basting by machine but I find I get much better control if I do it by hand. I find hand stitching quite soothing so don't mind doing it. I'm using silk thread here which pulls out easily later.

Here is the shelf-bra, sides stitched together and I'm about to stitch on the elastic.

All done. This is the right side that will sit against the skin.

The shelf-bra is attached to the main leotard and then overlocked, the point is stay-stitched and marked so I can add the modesty panel. It isn't necessary to overlock the edges but I like things neat and tidy so I do.

Modesty panel basted so it's edges stay together when I stitch it to the main leotard. The purple spot(s) are disappearing ink. Yup, one of them is not in the right place!

Modesty panel added and top-stitched down with a narrow zig-zag stitch. Front view.

And the back view. Just needs the elastic stitched on.

Narrow spaghetti straps added, and all the elastic is done.

The view of the back. The straps are just sitting inside at this point as from memory Mrs C was going to attach them when she added all the bling.

The leotard fit really well and the feedback I received was that the full shelf-bra worked really well and there was no bouncing around of the bust in the Jazz dance it was worn in.  Pretty much a win. 😃

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 - nearly done!

I swear the years begin to go by more quickly the older I get! I'm sure it took longer for a year to pass when I was younger.

This year has gone by fairly quickly and has been a full year for me. Back at the beginning of the year I decided to do some studying. I've always been interested in drawing and painting and a friend Arty Vicky told me about a course she has been studying for the last few years. It is through The Learning Connexion and has several different levels you can study. Having done hardly any drawing or painting I have been working my way through the New Zealand Certificate in Creativity Level 4 as a distance delivery student. Or an older term would be correspondence student. That is, I complete the work at home and it is reviewed by a tutor/mentor.

I also chose to do the course part-time over a year rather than for 6 months full-time. This works really well for me as although I can get to the campus doing the study from home fits in with my life better. It's an average of 3.5 hours five days a week. Of course you can work the hours out however you like so long as each hand-in you've completed seventy hours.

It sounds as though it should be easy, 17.5 hours per week, but honestly there were times when I found it difficult to fit it in with all the other claims on my time! I'm nearly there though. All the theory is completed and when I've done another seventy-odd hours I'll have reached the target for the number of hours required. I finish at the end of February so there's a bit of time left over summer to get those hours done.

I have done some sewing this year but not as much as I usually would. Part of the reason I am doing the course is to up-skill, to be able to draw designs more easily, if needed, for clients. So that has meant my focus has been on creativity in general rather than sewing.

I'm going to share some images of what I've been doing. Disclaimer:- I'm at the beginning of learning how to draw and paint so these are the results of some of my explorations in creativity.

One of the tasks is to create with soap using tools. I chose a woodcarving set of tools and carved the soap.

Then I made some prints with the soap. One thing I forgot about was the fact that the word needed to be in reverse/mirror image so it would read the right way round! All part of the learning 😀

I sketched this elephant at a series of classes I attended at Karori Arts and Crafts Centre earlier this year, where the tutor for the class I took was Helen Casey. There is much room for improvement but I was pretty happy with my effort.

Another of the tasks for the certificate course is to draw with your feet so this was a 5 minute drawing with my foot with charcoal dust.

The next few photos are of a mock-up skirt for a local dance studio. Last year our girls wore a similar skirt with the short side at one side of their hip. The skirts this year needed to be short at the front and long at the back. Front view . . .

View from the side . . .

And from the back.

Something else I've done this year is to mentor a young student with a couple of her projects for school. It is quite fun but also teaches me a lot as I learn how to more effectively communicate ideas and pass on knowledge.

I've made Mrs C a couple more dresses. One to the usual pattern . . .

The next had a slight change. No ties at the back, and a single layer more flared sleeve.

Here's a close up of the sleeve.

There were also a couple of skirts, one from a floral fabric . . .

And one from a mainly paisley print. The floral skirt is opened to it's full width and the paisley is folded in half.

Another course I took this year was Couture Beading and Embellishment run by Charlotte Appleby. It was something I had been wanting to do for a few years and when the chance came up it was too good to miss!

These are the different techniques we learned over the weekend. It was a challenge but great fun as well.

Lastly a toadstool I made from a cold porcelain soapy clay which I left to dry and then painted.

Just over the last few weeks I've been doing a bit more mentor work with a student helping him with a project he is working on. We started with hand stitching and will try sewing with a machine soon.

As well as the dresses above there is the costume I made for a performer and wrote a post about here.

I hope you've enjoyed looking at a little of what I've done this year. If you'd like to see more there are some other images on my personal blog here.

It is so close to the end of the year that I'll wish you a very happy New Year and all the best for 2019. I plan on getting more sewing done next year so will try to post more regularly. Fare thee well  😄

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A cape and more

In March I was contacted by a performer, Awa, to see if I would be able to make a costume for a solo performance she was self-choreographing. The performance was to be at a gallery where there were works from a group of artists. I was pretty keen to take on the commission for a number of reasons. It sounded intriguing, it would challenge me and also Awa had contacted me because she had seen my card at The Fabric Warehouse. I asked if I could put one up there some time ago and am pretty pleased it was noticed!

We had an initial meeting to sort out a few details and I was able to get an idea of what was needed and the time frame. Awa is French and there was the occasional word I used that needed more explanation so it was a good lesson for me in making sure a client and I fully understand each other and are working towards the same end product! We arranged a time to meet up and look at fabrics and patterns. Awa had a clear concept of what she wanted for the costume which was great. The item needed was a cape.

The next time we met we looked at several different patterns. Unfortunately the one Awa chose wasn't at Spotlight but when I put the pattern number into google it showed it was at a place called Pattern Postie which I'd never heard of. They had it in stock and as soon as I got home I ordered the pattern. Delivery was really quick, great service! We also chose some fabric at the Fabric Warehouse that day.

Next up was a meeting to take Awa's measurements. At that meeting Awa asked if I could also make a pair of harem style pants and a unitard. I could!

One part of the brief for the cape was that it covered Awa's face for some of the performance. This got me thinking as to how best to achieve that look, and eventually I figured out I could just extend the low collar piece on the pattern. I draughted a pattern piece basing it on the measurements from the pattern.

Then I was able to go ahead with making a toile for the cape. In the photo below the pattern piece has been shortened and the white bit of paper is the front neck piece. Both back and front neck were printed on the same piece and since this was only the toile I didn't want to hack the neck out before I cut out the main fabric.

Harem pants not being something I generally wear I went looking on the internet and found quite a few helpful videos and this one is the one I liked the best. Once I'd watched it I found an old sheet and set to making a toile pair. I chose the old sheet as it was soft and I thought it would mimic the drape of lycra better than calico. In the photo below the curve is cut for the waist.

Measuring across for the leg openings.

The belt was going to be doubled over so was quite wide. I extended a belt from a dance pant pattern.

The cuff of the pants needed to be long as requested so I draughted a pattern for that. Here it is placed on the fabric that I have double folded so as to cut two at once. This is for the toile as well and I planned to re-use the cuffs for the actual pants.

The first fitting - the pants; as you can see there is only one cuff but that was enough to get the general idea that I was on the right track with Awa's ideas. They are very baggy. When I made the pants out of the grey fabric I had to reduce the length from the crotch to the bottom of the droop as they were a bit too baggy and restricted the movements Awa wanted to perform.

The toile of the cape. This is the concept Awa  described. The high collar was great and what she was wanting. I tried the cape on before the fitting and thought there was one area that may need adjusting and I was right. So I drew a curve at the back neck before I left as I thought if it was lower at the back neck it would allow more neck and head movement. Without the back neck being lowered the collar was quite close to the front of the face . . .

Here I've cut out the back neck and as I thought it allowed more head movement.

The next photo shows the adjustment to the pattern piece.

That done it was on to the actual making of the cape. I'd taken some of the depth off the hood as the original pattern had a more peaked back of the hood and Awa wanted a curved shape. After seeing the toile on I reduced the curve a bit more. The hood is still quite deep.

The neck piece all ready to attach to the main cape.

The hood all completed and ready to be attached. All the parts of the cape are lined with self-fabric. They needed to be dark so as not to be seen through. When I was deciding between lining and self-fabric I held both up to the light and self-fabric blocked more light so I went with that.

The pattern instructions were helpful in that they confirmed the order I thought I needed to construct the cape in. Quite a few of the things I make are one-off items and so I tend to wing it a fair bit and work it out as I go along. So much so that I sometimes forget when I do have pattern instructions to refer to! Here the collar and hood are attached to the cape and the collar facing is stitched down. I did this by hand as the less stitch lines showing the better I thought.

Once the cape was done it was on to the unitard. I did make a toile for that to check the fit. It was to be nude coloured and I found a good match for Awa's skin tone at Pete's Emporium. I showed her several other samples as well. I backed it with a good quality lining from Dance Fabrics Direct as the main lycra fabric is a looser one than I would usually use for dance wear.

I had just enough white bra-type elastic that I could dye to get a fairly good match. I put it in a solution of about 6 teabags - well, once the teabags were removed - and below is the result. It's a bit dark and orange since someone distracted me I forgot to set the timer and left it soaking longer than I meant to! A good rinsing took some of the dye out and then I soaked it in coffee dye which darkened it a bit and it was closer to Awa's skin tone 😃

Here are the pants before I added the waistband and leg cuffs. A very simple shape but quite a bit of fabric and the only space big enough to lay them out was outside . . . there were a few grandchildren around which = toys in the lounge! Once I'd taken the photo I noticed it looks as though multi-coloured gas is erupting from the pants . . . . It's a rainbow really 😉 😛 Note to self - pay attention to the background of the photo!

The leg openings were pretty wide and the cuffs were close fitting so I decided to pleat the fabric into the cuffs as they weren't going to stretch onto that width. It worked out well as Awa wanted the bagginess with the close-fitting long cuff.

Once we'd done the final fitting we realised some fabric needed to be taken out. Option one: Un-pick the over-locked on cuffs, reduce fabric on crotch area and stitch cuffs back on. Option two: Do a cheat by leaving the cuffs on and angling the cut from closer to the crotch to the cuffs. I went with option two as you can see. It was not noticeable and just looked like a seam if anyone looked that closely!

Here the unitard lining is laid out ready to cut. This pattern is a bit of a frankenpattern based on a barefoot costume I made for Locket. Her costume had an overdress, this one doesn't and it would have been better to put a gusset in the crotch as I usually do. The pattern worked ok and Awa was happy with it but the perfectionist in me didn't like how the seam was noticeable at the front. Always learning!

I attended Awa's last performance as I hadn't been able to go to the earlier ones due to other committments. Here is a screenshot of the Facebook event page

And here are some photos I was sent by Awa from the performances. I have a first name for some of them, and will add a last name when I receive it. Also the name for the other photographer if it is given to me.

Photo by Michael

The cape and pants from the front

Photo by Michael
From the back

Photographer not known

A view from the side with the high neckband

Photo by Michael

The pants once the cape was removed.

Photo by Michael

The unitard

I really enjoyed the performance and it was great to see the costume in action as well as to have played a small part in helping Awa's ideas come to fruition. I also enjoyed looking at the other artists' work that was in the exhibition space.