Tuesday 15 November 2016

Sweet 2016, Part 10: Gingerbread House or Plum Pudding

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and this month, it's time to decide between two quintessential Christmas favorites - a gingerbread house or a plum pudding. You can only make one for the wall hanging and I'm curious to know which will be more popular? For me, it's gingerbread houses all the way - Christmas simply isn't complete without at least one adorning the table. Although now my children are all grown up, the houses have become much more sophisticated affairs than in years past. But fun? There's always room for an extra helping of that! And this month, I've loved deciding my house fabric and embellishments.
I've opted for an iced pink house - because I have some pink fabric I just knew would fit the bill. My DD once made a pink gingerbread house and it was gorgeous, perfectly iced in a crisp pale pink. Of course classic cinnamon and chocolate houses look wonderful too, so whether you want to opt for a snowed down house with lots of white beads and ribbons, or stick with classic warm hues, your house awaits you!
To complete some candy for my house, I made swirly lollies from stripe fabric and trapunto yarn. here's how I made it:
Here's the stripe fabric. This is a fat quarter. The bottom length of this triangle is 16.5 inches and I've done this so that I can cut 3 x strips, 1 inch wide, on the bias.
 Then I folded each one lengthwise and stitched down the side
 The I pulled the fabric through to the right side. I used a rouleau loop for this, which is a sewing tool. You could also use a very long needle.
 Then, once my bias strip was turned out the right way, I threaded a length of trapunto yarn through the middle, using a bodkin to help me do so. Again, you could also use a long needle.
Once 'stuffed' with the yarn (and you could also use a thick knitting yarn if you don't have trapunto), I then turned the striped tube of fabric into a swirl, creating a lolly pop. As below.
Just 2  more blocks to go!

'Sweet 2016' is my current Mystery Applique BOM
It's just $3.95 per month
Delivered digitally, to your email inbox each month

Understanding the pattern release schedule: anyone can join Sweet 2016 at any time and when they do, they will receive a new block each month from that point onward. The day they receive each new block will depend on the date they signed up and made their first payment. Everyone who starts Sweet 2016, starts at the beginning, Part 1. Specific blocks cannot be purchased out of turn. 

Whenever you choose to start this BOM, be sure to keep us updated on your progress by sharing your work over in our Sweet 2016 BOM Facebook Group, see you there!

Monday 14 November 2016

A Beautiful Bodice..Or Bust! Part 2: Meeting Marfy 2630

After desperately searching Google all day looking for suitable patterns, I came across a pattern made by the Italian pattern house 'Marfy' in the 2630 bustier. It looks like this:
After some picture stalking, I found out that this image belonged to a blog called PoppyKettle and the blogger, Melanie, was an avid seamstress who also (coincidentally) made her own beautiful wedding gown. Was finding what I had imaged in my mind's eye a sign of encouragement? I thought so. It was a big sigh of relief to finally have some kind of visual map in mind. Before I go on any further, I encourage you to check out Melanie's blog here: https://poppykettle.com/
another failed bodice in the making..
Anyhow, Melanie talked about this bodice on her blog and I was convinced it was just what I needed. The only problem was, I'd never heard of Marfy and there was no way of getting the pattern in time. It happened that Melanie had the pattern in storage and could possibly dig it out which was incredibly generous of her - but I was already out of time. I had to simply draft it by scratch. So, based on this image, I made a start.
I already had the spiral metal boning and coutil I had ordered in round one of my bodice attempts, so material wise, I was confident. I'd never drafted a bodice with built in bra and corsetry elements before, but was also confident I could. Since the wedding, people who know about the drama I had have asked me how I could be so confident to take on making, what I now know is such a difficult item? Well, my answer is simple - I didn't know it would be such an epic garment when I started out.
and yet another which didn't make the grade
Luckily for me, I was trained the old fashioned and severe way when I trained in fashion over 40 years ago. It was very difficult to learn, but that system left me with abilities and an attitude which I haven't forgotten. That said, I did not know at this drafting stage that creating a bodice with a built in bra and boning is the hardest garment to sew in all of garment making. I'm actually glad I wasn't aware of that fact. Or that people specialize in this area exclusively, based on it's difficulty. I would find this out later, on a professional costuming forum. It would bring me a lot of relief to find this out. Because, honestly, I couldn't work out why I was struggling so much. It was really difficult. And as someone who can create a pattern from scratch with ease, the feeling of failure and endless repetition (I made 11 failed bodices in total) really got me down. I simply couldn't understand how the failures kept on happening! These images you see of me sewing bodices in the images are all failures. The worst thing of all is how much precious time they took me. Days!

But finally, I had found found the light at the end of the seamstresses tunnel. With the Marfy visual, I set about drafting the pattern. First, I thought I would simply sew in an existing well fitted bra into a bodice base. This sounds lazy, but you need to remember that I now had just days to finish a wedding dress and I hadn't even started on the final skirts yet. It didn't work. So I decided to make the bra cups myself from the coutil.
And that didn't work either
and again
and again
and yet again
until finally
I turned the corner

Luckily, during these frantic sewing marathons, my DD was at work. Being a teacher, she was far too committed to her job to take time off before the wedding for dress fittings. She had taken my word for it when I assured her that a few evening fittings were all it would take. And they would have been, if it wasn't for the bodice challenge taking place. I sewed furiously during the day to have something for her to try on in the evenings when she stopped by. I didn't want to panic her. The truth was, I was panicked enough for the both of us! How this bodice continued to elude me was...a mystery. Not only was I confused and distressed, I was plain old fashioned mad about it too!

During more extensive Google searching late at night, I found a costuming forum where seamstresses back in 2008 had been discussing the trauma of altering period costume bodices for actresses. One user had commented that she had been told by an elderly European alterations pro to 'draft a bra into diamonds' to reconstruct it. She couldn't understand what this could have possibly meant, but for me, it was a lightening bolt of clarity. Suddenly I knew exactly how to get this built in bra bodice with corsetry elements made!

And in the next post I'll show you how I did it.

In September 2016 I made my DD's wedding dress using the Butterick Pattern B5731 as a starting point. I then created my own variation of a semi corset with a built in bra as a replacement to the pattern bodice. I took the Craftsy online class 'Sewing Corsets' with Alison Smith which I can recommend as essential viewing for anyone interested in sewing corsets or formal wear bodices with corset elements. In fact I even received personal advice from Alison and am happy to recommend this class to anyone who's interested.
 Sewing Corsets with Alison Smith

Wednesday 9 November 2016

WOW: Picking Borders

 WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Last week I went to a quilt exhibit, mostly so that I could set my eyes on my favourite quilt in real life. It's so iconic that I'm sure it needs no introduction to you. The lighting inside was very dim to protect the quilts, but photography was allowed so I increased the light exposure on my camera and asked my DD to photograph me in front of this beauty. I look windswept because it was one of those crazy weather days. The thing that surprised me the most, seeing it in real life, was that the centre was much smaller than my brain had interpreted through pictures in books. Because of the increased light exposure, it looks too light here, but it's was quite soft in real life too. What happened when I saw this quilt, was that I remembered I had made those same style Greek borders 10 years ago. And for the rest of the day, I couldn't get it out of my head. Where was that quilt? Did I still have it?

Of course, I don't need another project, but I have to accept at my age that I am simply the kind of person who dabbles in hundreds of projects at any given time. It's just who I am. Annoying as it is, there's no point fighting it. So you know what I've done, don't you?
I spent a day in the garage digging out old boxes and I found that old quilt and today I am unpicking the beautiful exquisite border from my forgotten quilt because I am in love with the border all over again. And of course I will use it in a new project - as yet undetermined.

Thank you so much to everyone who wished me a happy birthday here and on facebook. I'm so touched that you took a moment to wish me well. I had a beautiful and quiet day at home with my family. It's been a hard year for me, with my mother dying in April and my DD getting married (of course that was a happy occasion) but the whole year has been swept into the sadness of my mother's passing and I wasn't feeling as cheerful as I should have on such a significant birthday. Oh well, that's life as they say. Today, I am getting on with some suddenly important unpicking..

What's Your WOW?

Tuesday 8 November 2016

A Beautiful Bodice..Or Bust! Part 1

With the toile mocked up and looking better than expected, I was super relaxed about the dress progress. The only thing I had to 'fix' was the bodice. It was soon clear that the one used in the pattern wouldn't do. Personally, I thought it looked fine - especially given that it would be overlaid with lace. But DD was having none of it. She disliked the way the bodice was sitting 'too far' from her body which she thought looked frumpy. I'd played around with a few options for alternative bodices, but she was in love with the vision of lace sleeves, so we quickly abandoned any idea changes (as above).

These days it's the norm for wedding dresses to be sleeveless, but my DD was adamant she wanted sleeves from the get-go. Firstly, she felt the look wouldn't be as formal if she was sleeveless, and the climate of her wedding day meant that she would have looked semi naked without them. So sleeves were a must. Now it was time to get the bodice right. Little did I know that making up the bodice would take me longer than making up the entire wedding dress.

In regards to the bodice included in the pattern, for anyone up to a C cup size, it will work perfectly fine. And if that had been the case for us, the dress really would have been a simple affair to sew up and finish. But as I think you already know, there is always a spanner waiting to be thrown into the works. And the bodice was my spanner.

How ugly this looks! It was such a shock to see this toile with the lace made up according to the pattern. The dress went from having plenty of potential to being so hideously frumpy. Actually a lot of garments have an 'ugly' stage, it's one of those secrets of sewing. You've got to see it through to the end. But for my DD, it was time to start expressing concern. At this stage, the wedding was 10 days away, and I had just 5 days to get my act together. It couldn't stay like this.
My DD is top heavy: much more so than she looks. And no matter the lingerie beneath, the bodice front was simply too much bosom visually and tipped the balance of the overall look. From the front it was almost passable, but from the side it wasn't flattering. Now, like I said before, I thought that with the lace, it wouldn't be such an issue but my DD couldn't get past it. The first thing we changed was the lace overlay itself. The pattern calls for a V front which is very flattering for women with a smaller bust. I insisted on trying it out just to see what it looked like. Made up (from lace curtains) it was unflattering. To create visual harmony, she would either have to have full lace up to the neck or no lace and no sleeves. The sleeves weren't going anywhere, and the original design inspiration had scalloped lace across the front up to the collar bone, so we went back to this original idea.
It was clear that I would have to deviate from the pattern entirely for the top half of the dress. At this stage I thought I would simply re-draft the bodice with more support to create a firmer shape. I set about creating a new pattern, using rigilene for support. 
It was woefully lackluster. At this stage I actually believe that I could contour the bodice to her body shape which I thought would result in a better fit - and that this would be the solution. 
Actually the curved bodice I created was impressive in regards to it's shape and form. But it was useless. On the body it simply did what the first bodice had done - nothing. It was a flop!
But I was undeterred. I simply re-drafted and went again:
 and ended up with this bodice 
The fit around the body was fine but looked terrible in the bust. I couldn't work out how to get around curving a pattern for a fitted bust that was also supportive. It was so discouraging, but I was determined. I am after all, a qualified designer and pattern maker. I knew I could do it. So I persisted.  And created yet another terrible bodice.
With time quickly getting away from me, I realized I was in trouble. As I had never designed bodices for ample busts before, I decided to get some professional help. I went onto Craftsy and found Allison Smith's class on corsetry. It's an amazing class and I realized two important things: that I wasn't creating a corset at all, but that I was creating a bodice with corsetry elements. I contacted Allison directly through the Craftsy area where you can ask tutors for help. I sent in a photo of my DD's bust issue and Allison put me on track. I immediately got online and purchased Coutil fabric and metal boning. 

It was clear I'd need plenty more boning and a 'semi corset' pattern..but from where? The Craftsy class and pattern advice was for a corset class and this wasn't suitable for joining up with the skirt. I needed a soft corset pattern which I could modify. All the patterns I had ever drafted never exceeded a B cup. Going online, it was clear that all 'bodices' out there were the same. I was feeling the pressure and took another Craftsy class in bra making, thinking it would help me get my head around the sewing techniques. It did do that, but it was a distraction from the wedding dress. The fact was, all the bra, strapless bra and bodice patterns out there were designed with stretch fabric in mind and didn't translate to the inflexibility of coutil - and it had to be coutil for the fit and support. Oh boy, was I in a dilemma!

In September 2016 I made my DD's wedding dress using the Butterick Pattern B5731 as a starting point. I then created my own variation of a semi corset with a built in bra as a replacement to the pattern bodice. I took the Craftsy online class 'Sewing Corsets' with Alison Smith which I can recommend as essential viewing for anyone interested in sewing corsets or formal wear bodices with corset elements. In fact I even received personal advice from Alison and am happy to recommend this class to anyone who's interested.
 Sewing Corsets with Alison Smith

Friday 4 November 2016

My Birthday Bouquet!

It's my birthday today, so I thought I'd share a bouquet of roses with you!

Is there such a thing as too many roses? Decidedly no! And if you read this blog and know my style, you might have noticed that I have a soft spot for roses - the bigger the better. In fact, I have a whole sketchbook dedicated to nothing but flower designs, so I thought, why not go ahead and release one on my birthday?

I haven't actually had time to make my own Birthday Bouquet yet, but I've got my heart set on a newspaper background with startling red roses - or perhaps a bright bunch of Fassett blooms? Who knows! I selected a traditional patchwork style in this image for illustration purposes and yes, it certainly looks lovely, so I might even change my mind. I'll show you what I decide on when I get around to it. One thing's for sure, whatever fabric style you opt for, you'll enjoy this dozen all year round.

   'Birthday Bouquet'    
      a floral wall hanging, 29 x 36 inches   
In honor of my birthday, you can download this pattern 
for free all day today

BOM Group Members, you can find this file in our BOM Group over in the files area.For those of you not on Facebook, you can download the pattern by clicking the Birthday Bouquet image above.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

WOW: Washing The Wedding Quilt Fabrics

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays 
Well, you know me - always suffering from fabric indecision. I've decided that I might try my stash of hand dyes for my DD's wedding quilt. The flowers call for shades of red toned pinks and I have some beautiful tones, so I'm going to move forward with those as my flower fabrics. Being hand dyes, I'm leaving nothing to chance. Although I always go above and beyond the requirements for setting my own hand dyes, I'm not taking any chances with this quilt, so I'm giving them a wash in Synthrapol to make doubly sure. 

I had a dye bleeding disaster when I was making Lily Rose with some beautiful Batiks (I should have known better but got careless) and I don't ever want a repeat of that episode. I'm making the wedding quilt with the leftover fabric from my DD's wedding dress, so any leaking against the cream fabric will be unforgivable. 
What's Your WOW?

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Making the Wedding Dress Toile

After looking at all the dress inspirations my DD was relying on for the final dress shape, and having purchased the Butterick pattern as the basis to create it, I was confident that I could get the dress made within a week. I calculated that it would take a full day's cutting and 3 days sewing and another day on final adjustments. With my own ability to cut and handle patterns I was keen to find out exactly how much fabric I'd really need. Patterns are usually on the generous side but it's been more than 20 years since I worked with someone else's patterns, and I wanted to know exactly how much fabric I could get away with. At $99 per metre, I had hoped I could save a few metres off of the pattern allowance of 7.8 metres. Only a toile would tell:
Straight away it was clear that the Butterick pattern skirt was exactly what she wanted, so there'd only be minor fitting adjustments. The only work was going to be in re-creating the bodice to better suit her frame (which I'll cover in an upcoming post). With the skirt on and swishing beautifully, the only considerations were lining up the pleats to match the bodice. However I knew I'd be changing the bodice so this alignment wouldn't happen until later.
After making this toile, I was so confident that I breathed a great big sigh of relief. In fact, I was suprised with how easily and quickly it was all coming together. IF ONLY I'D KNOWN that frustrated disaster was waiting for me just around the corner..

In September 2016 I made my DD's wedding dress using the Butterick Pattern B5731 as a starting point. I then created my own variation of a semi corset with a built in bra as a replacement to the pattern bodice. I took the Craftsy online class 'Sewing Corsets' with Alison Smith which I can recommend as essential viewing for anyone interested in sewing corsets or formal wear bodices with corset elements. In fact I even received personal advice from Alison and am happy to recommend this class to anyone who's interested.
 Sewing Corsets with Alison Smith
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