Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Denim Cord Skirt - an exercise in fit

This is probably my zillionth version of Simplicity 9193. I should have stopped already - there are often fitting issues, and belly issues, and swayback issues and often it takes a few trips back to the sewing machine after finishing it to re-seam or take in darts, or reattach waist facings.

Simplicity 9193

Not this time. This might be the most perfect and excellent version of Simplicity 9193 EVER.

I'm not too sure what happened this time to make it fit so well. Actually, I do know. And I need to write this down so I can keep doing it. I cut it as usual, doing my usual grading of smaller waist and larger hips. But this time I took a little extra time to concentrate on my main problem area - my swayback. My swayback has gotten worse over the last few months thanks to a stubborn lower back injury, and I now have some extra spine twisting and scoliosis possibly picked up over the last 20 years of questionable posture. So it has become very apparent to me lately that working on this fit issue is vital.

Back darts adjusted

This pattern comes with four darts at the back and two at the front. When I tried it on after first sewing the side seams, I had a 3 inch gap (THREE!) between the waistband of the skirt and my back. So I took the side seams in a little more at the wait line (this is the one thing I hate doing - the difference between my waist and hip measurements is quite pronounced, but the last thing you want in a side seam is to have an almost 45 degree seam line between the two locations - it just looks jagged and ugly).

Once the side seams were fixed as smoothly as possible, I took to the back dart,  I took the line of each dart in by another 1/4 inch, angling directly to the original bottom point of the dart to allow for my wider hips. This means 1/2 inch for each dart, and 2 inches in total for the back area.

Back darts adjusted

Ohh booty shot!

I'm pretty pleased with the fit now! And it goes to show that taking a little extra time is totally worth it. My sewing friends have been proving this by example for ages now, and it's taken me this long (and 23 years) to pay attention.

Simplicity 9193

I still have issues with the front of the skirt dropping, but this is again all due to my swayback and belly. Learn to live with it, I say. Also I don't usually wear my shirt tucked in (except for work, and with a belt) and this look was just for the photos so you could see the fit. Normally I'm all casual and sloppy like this.

Simplicity 9193

A note about the pockets - this skirt pattern doesn't have them. I experimented with square tennis style pockets on my green corduroy skirt, but I forget about nap (sheesh) and also the pocket edge stretched on the bias when I was sewing it down. This time I remembered the nap (sheesh!) and also used the miracle that is WonderTape. I gently fingerpressed it down, used the WonderTape and some pins, stitched it, and voilĂ  we have ourselves a winning front pocket ready to be sewn onto the front of the skirt!



Self-drafted pockets

I pressed the front dart towards the middle of the skirt because of the pocket getting in the way, but it seems to work just fine.

Added self drafted pocket

I wore my skirt all day yesterday - it was my birthday so it was a busy day which included breakfast, morning tea with my quilting friends, a bit of a ferret around a sewing-themed garage sale, a visit to Hustle and Scout with Jen, and then dinner and a concert with my husband and another friend. At the interval I was standing talking with some people with my hands in my pockets, and I felt some stitches pop. Eek! Turns out it was only the top-stitching for the grosgrain facing I usually do, but it reminded me that pockets = extra stress on the stitching = must double top-stitch.


What's next? I'm thinking a SnapDragon skirt by Tenterhook Patterns in some gorgeous African wax print cotton I bought myself for my birthday, but I'll have to wait a few days for the fabric to arrive.

Pattern: Simplicity 9193 (out of print)
Fabric: Denim cordoruy from Remnant Warehouse in Sydney. Purchased in March 2011.
Adjustments: I sewed up the side splits, used a Mokuba grosgrain facing, and added self-drafted pockets.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Back to sewn

I have sewn my own clothes since I was 21. I've had a couple of years here and there where I haven't sewn a thing, but yeah. 23 years of sewing clothes. This makes me kind of proud that I've stuck with something so long.


And I still love it.


You'd think that in 23 years of dressmaking, I'd have learned a thing or two. But no - I still count myself as being at the beginner stage. That's not me being self-deprecating - it's actually true. I occasionally think I would like to do a course in sewing, like my friends Amanda and Jen, but then I realise I really am more than happy bumbling along with the same old skills my mum taught me, and the same old patterns I've been using for years.

(Actually 23 years ago I was sewing with knits and altering my patterns to add sleeves, but somewhere along the way I lost my confidence in that. I've only just recently starting doing the knit and altering thing again, and I love it.)


On Thursday I left work early (4.30 pm is apparently early) to come home and just sew something that wasn't a bag or a quilt. I wanted something for me. (The fact I was cleaning out the spare room the week before and noticed my sizeable stash may or may not have something to do with this drive.)


But in searching for my fool-proof skirt pattern, I noticed it was already pinned onto other fabric. So I marked the darts, unpinned it, put the pieces aside and used the pattern to cut a second skirt.  Win win.


Right now I'm at the finishing stage for both skirts. I have the hem pinned of a nifty little denim corduroy number which will be very handy for a wee holiday we are taking soon to colder climes.


And the citrus skirt is waiting for waist facing top stitching, and a little hemming. It's a gorgeous stretch cotton sateen and I have fully lined it, so it's a heavy little beast. The jury is out on whether to hand sew the hem or machine it down. Given I've done a slipshod made-up skirt lining with the overlocker, I'm thinking it's not worth going to the extra effort of hand stitching.

Anyway, the point of this post (and there was a point, I think) was that I am sewing clothes again and I am loving it so much. I feel clever, and on top-of-the-world. Yeah, yeah. Pride comes before the fall. But I am taking my time, and crafting clothes that fit me properly, and there is no better feeling. It's all due to this amazing sewing community - both online and real life - I have become a part of. These wonderful people are the best sources of inspiration for me.

Maybe soon I will sew something that isn't Simplicity 9193 though. I'm feeling the urge.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

On being in the bag making business

I've been making project bags for a while now - since early 2008, which means I've been doing this for six years.

Buttontree Lane project sack

There have been times when I've done it to make a living. Times when I got so tired of it that I just gave it up for 18 months. Times where I just had to design new bags to stop me from getting bored at making the existing ones. I used to make needle cases too - cute ones with squirrels and birds and sheep appliqued on them. But I could never charge much for them because of what they were, and the time and materials outweighed the sale price so I stopped making them.

Buttontree Lane project sack

Back in May I did my annual pilgrimage to the Celebration of Wool Day at the Old Bus Depot Markets, sharing a stall with my friends Carrie and Leanna. As usual it was a great deal of hard work, but also fun. But as usually happens after a big market, I came home, sold the remaining bags (there were only four) and then decided to take a break from bag making for a month.

Which kind of turned into four months.

Buttontree Lane project sack

In June I injured my back and hip pretty badly, and as a result I did endless laps of physical therapy at the pool, day in and day out. Endless laps of physical therapy, where you are just concentrating on your muscles and what hurts, give you plenty of time to think about Stuff.  Like "will I ever get better?" and "should I continue painting my kitchen red?" and "dammit I'll probably never be able to paint anything every again if my back doesn't heal" and "where do I want my business to go?"

After about a week and 50 laps of water cycling, I'd decided I was going to let it all go. I'd much rather quilt and make clothes with my limited physical capacity. It made me pretty damn happy to think of letting it go, but that could have also been the muscles relaxants talking.

And yet here are some photos of bags being made. Today. These bags were being made today. And they are in my store now.  So what happened?

Well firstly I realised I had a lot of fabric in the sewing room which had been purchased specifically for making bags.  Whoops.

And secondly I realised I really missed making them. Heck - I LOVED making them. The pocket money they give me is an added bonus, but I know if I gave it up I would miss the magic that happens in the fabric store. The appeal of a certain fabric, the question as a quilter of "what would that fabric fit with in my stash" and then the risk of buying the fabric to make into a bag and the lining to match.

And then the cutting. The sewing on of the label.

And then when the edges are sewn together and I box out the bottom, and stand it up by itself and I suddenly realise that this fabric makes a bloody amazing bag.

Buttontree Lane project sack

And I want to keep them all.

But instead I will sell them because I know they make a lot of people really happy. I've sold thousands over the last six years and I will keep on selling them until people stop loving them, or I stop loving making them.

Hi. I'm Michelle. And I make bags.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Scratching the itch

Since the Canberra Quilters' Exhibition a couple of weeks ago, I haven't been that inclined to get in the sewing room. For one, it was messy and my show purchases were scattered everywhere and I just couldn't be bothered getting enthused about that.

Secondly, I lost my sewing machine glasses. Yes, I'm one of those very special people who requires three different strengths of glasses for long-sightedness - weakest for the computer screen, second weakest for the sewing machine, and strongest for hand sewing. I recently got a stronger prescription for hand sewing, which meant all the other glasses got bumped to the next category of close work. I still hadn't filled my script, but I took my strongest pair to the quilt show to do a class, and I haven't seen them since. I have called everyone. I'm convinced they are still at my house, but where they are exactly is a mystery. I have the case - but no glasses.

No doubt they will turn up the moment I bring my new $400 glasses home from the optometrist in a fortnight.

IMGTriangle series #1 - Rabbit's Folly_0209

So I've been a bit blind this week, but struggling by on my weakest set of glasses. I've done a little on my grandmother's flower garden, but tonight I just wanted to do something that didn't involve looking at anything too closely. My eyes are tired. Heck. I'm just tired.

Triangle series #1 - Rabbit's Folly

I bought the printed Japanese cotton/linens at the quilt show from Studio Mio. I was attracted to not only their prints and how cheeky they were, but also to the depth of colour, and the textures. And I was also very much inspired by the gorgeous clamshell quilt my friend Sam made for the exhibition - it is linen and double gauze and is just so lovely and textured and I fell in love with it immediately. I actually laid out the fat quarters I had bought in the days after the show, but realised I needed some solids. I remembered that Echino did a solids range in cotton/linen, and that's where Kelani came in. I bought all six colours they had and they arrived today.

Triangle series #1 - Rabbit's Folly

I've only cut three of each fabric so far to make it cot-sized, but I like where it is headed so far.

Triangle series #1 - Rabbit's Folly

(I actually have no idea where it is headed but I'm so bone tired right now it doesn't matter.)

Triangle series #1 - Rabbit's Folly

I played around a little with the stars I could see. They might not stay.

Sometimes with quilting there is an itch you just need to scratch.