Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fearless February Finale

Fearless February is soon over - I don't suppose it matters if one or two challenges are left for the rest of the year.  Many thanks to Victoria of  I did manage to make two garments up. The first was a pair of pants that were supposed to be smart casual - unfortunately the pattern I chose was not flattering, so I made a different pair of more relaxed pants - not quite what I originally had in mind.  Ironically though, they have already turned out to be very useful as utilitarian pants - and we need those sorts of garments too!  I have already worn them quite a bit as "house pants" - comfortable and relaxed, good for ironing, gardening and so on.  My other pledge was that every garment made had to go with 2 or 3 others.  These pants certainly do - a relaxed pink polo and a pale blue dobby tunic blouse.  Now I have a casual outfit for the housework.
My failure pants that became a great success!

I also found a garment in the UFO pile - a polka dot skirt, made out of a basic cotton fabric,  cut out a few years ago.  Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the pattern, because I have some tracings just marked "straight skirt", with the rest of the pattern long since discarded (sometimes you only make one garment from separates patterns).  So I decided to face the fear I have of finishing things off if I am not sure about them - the pants exercise certainly taught me the value of that lesson!
Front of skirt with false front opening and kick pleat.

The skirt has a vent opening at the front, not the back, which is a neat twist.  As I have slim legs and okay knees this works for me.
The front vent.
I also had to put elastic in the waist at the back - I was a couple of kilo's heavier a few years ago, and really should put this back on again - so I decided not to fiddle too much, and use elastic - that's what it is for.  Gives me lots of bending and movement room - not so bad on a firm weave and I am an active sort of person. 
Rear Zip and Waist Band

And does this go with 2 or 3 other garments - yes!  All criteria met!

On to March challenges...

Sarah Liz :)

Sew your own wardrobe for a year challenge :  A new challenge starts this year on April 1st.  Join Vita and Natalea and all the new members who have committed to the attempt to sew all their wardrobe needs for a whole year.  You are welcome to join too.

  A fun challenge and should motivate us all to move towards our sewing machines to make unique garments and away from mass produced RTW in the stores.  This challenge should be great fun and a lovely way to meet fellow sewists. 

Sarah Liz

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guidelines for Style, Form and Colour in 1928. (4)...

For those of you new to this blog:

I found an old book a few years ago "THE CUTTER'S GUIDE" A MANUAL OF DRESSCUTTING AND LADIES' TAILORING, by M.E. Roberts, published in Sydney in 1928.  At the back of the book, I found guidelines for form (what we now call style) and colour, and I'm sharing these with you over the next few weeks.

This guide was written specifically for women's styling. The language used is so different from our very direct way of speaking ninety years later, but the principles outlined  are as sound now as they were then.   Please enjoy them :)

(Image from
This section is on FORM - and covers the basics of design elements.

12.  There cannot be rules framed to suit every contingency and every freak of fashion, but some forms of expression and their effects should always be noted in making a costume, no matter what the prevailing fashion.

13.  Horizontal lines or trimming decrease the height and increase the breadth; vertical lines add to the height and decrease the breadth.  Therefore a short, stout lady should never wear a dress with the trimming running round the figure.  He chief study should be to avoid all horizontal lines.  She must obscure her waist line as much as possible and not wear a belt.  Putting the waist line up higher adds to length of limb, but what is apparently added below is decidedly  taken off from above, so that a stout lady must be careful about wearing short waisted gowns.  Someone has called the waist line the "danger line," and it is certain that in drafting the pattern, putting the garment together, or arranging the style it is possible to make apparently small mistakes that are more disastrous in effect than mistakes made in almost any other part of the garment.

14.  Horizontal lines crossing the figure should be used for the garments of a tall woman, and long lines from shoulder to the foot should be avoided.  A woman with a slender figure should have capes or lines of some sort, conforming to modes of the day, to break the straight up and down effect.

15.  V-shaped effects, so disastrous to the appearance of a very thin woman, are worn with good effect by stout people.  The same may be said of the long pointed bodice.  By V-shaped effects must be understood not only a bodice cut V-shaped at the throat or the V-shaped yoke let into the bodice, but all Vandykes or pointed trimmings.  Every "pointed" effect and all sharp lines on a garment make a woman look more wrinkled, careworn, and angular than she really is.  So also do narrow, dark, straight lines on a light background.

16.  Straight lines are never as beautiful as curved lines, therefore study to avoid straight lines, and always enhance the rounded effect of a healthy woman's contour, of, if nature has not endowed her with a beautiful contour, simulate that effect by curved lines.

(Image from )

I'm sure we can all find something useful in this week's excerpt :)

More next week,

Sarah Liz.

Welcome Elise

Elise, thank you for joining and following my blog - I will be taking an interest in your sewing projects (and your cats :).  I see you also like Burda magazines - so do I, so it will be lovely watching your interpretations of these  patterns.  I'm glad you joined the Fearless February challenge - it's nice to meet so many lovely

Sarah Liz :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Welcome New Followers

I'd just like to officially welcome all my new followers to my blog - I'm probably also following you.  I'm graterful to Victoria for organising the Fearless February sewing challenge, which is how I have met most of you.  Congratulations for picking up the challenge - I know I have a few more to tackle now - this challenge showed me all the areas I have avoided like the proverbial plague for a long time.

So to all of you, a warm welcome:

I'm looking forward to watching how your sewing projects progress through the rest of 2013.

And for those of you in Fearless February who are not following me, good luck with your 2013 projects.

I've just joined .

I thought I would share this with you in case some of you also want to join the challenge which starts in April (I think - that's from memory).   I know some of you already have.  See you there in April.

Sarah Liz :)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Smart Casual Pants? Perhaps?

As those of you who have been following this blog know, I was attempting to make a pair of smart casual pants for the Fearless February challenge.

My project changed form and I ended up with a very utilitarian pair of elastic waist pants, instead of the stunning smart casual pants I wanted.  Nevertheless, they have already proved to be a useful addition to the wardrobe, perfect for cleaning up aftermaths of leaking roofs and windows. 

I did however make a pair of trousers out of an old pattern I had - I can't remember what I traced it off, and I made them in haste as well (while I was supposed to be completing my psychology degree - which I did complete, so no harm done).  I really need to find the original pattern and start again, because I think these trousers might suit me with a few modifications.  They are a waisted and classic cut of trouser - which I don't think many ladies can wear, but I think I can.  I would love your thoughts on this point...

That's the front. I'm still getting used to the self timer and am not smiling at all - I promise you I am not nearly as gruff as I look here!  Sans make up too - but I had just been clearing out the room with the flooding.  Excuse the pink t-shirt, but I was wearing it for cleaning up, and then thought its the ideal no see sort of garment - sort of flesh pink, no shape, etc.

The Back - again, a little bit of elastic as I do tend to fluctuate around the middle and it helps hold the trousers in - I have a very small back.  With a shirt or jumper over the top the waist band elastic does not show.  Once again, there is a need for dealing with some leg wrinkles - I did do the flat back alteration with these trousers  and took over an inch out down the centre of the back - including the bottom, which fits nicely.  My legs are so slim though, that there is still a lot of folding in the back leg/thigh area.   Otherwise I think I wear high rise pants very well - What do you think?

I have decided to attempt to make different sorts of pants this year and work out what works for me.  I had no idea until I started this blog that I was actually the shape I am!  Really, I hadn't - my husband often asks me if I have ever looked at myself in a mirror - well, really not much, I'm not very vain - I may have to change that.  I may even decide that these pants are not too bright for me to wear as smart casual while emerald green is in.  It's actually a nice colour - Do you think I could wear these out and about?

My first task is therefor to look at myself in the mirror and do a figure analysis.  I am a bit shy, and don't really want to publish photo's of myself on the internet that are in any way comprimising, so I have taken a photo of myself (there will be no stopping me now I have worked out how to use the self-timer) and then traced around it to make a paperdoll cut out.
As you can see - slim limbs and quite gangly - certainly not pear shaped.

Trinny and Susannah (The Body Shape Bible)  describe one shape as being a little like mine, the Cornet:
Trinny and Susannah - The Cornet Shape.
Same sort of gawky, gangly, arms, hanging at different lengths, lopsided shoulders (the cornet is not muscular - my physio says I am the build that does not build muscle), slim limbs, flat bust, no waist, slim hips, broad shoulders.  The Cornet - also known as the inverted triangle (although unfortunately, inverted triangles include busty, top heavy, muscular shapes as well - what I would classify as the Strawberry shape).

I've cut the pictures down - strangely, both pictures are at the same sort of angles - quite coincidental, I can assure you.

Trinny and Susannah - The Cornet.
 Great shape for cleaning up flooded rooms, but not such a great shape for girly clothes that need curves.  I'm also a petite (height 5'4" and under - I'm 5'4").  I think I am going to have to rethink what pants will work for me - certainly tailored and slim.  And long rise.  I tried low rise stretch on last year - I even bought a pair - but all they did was make me look as though I had bean sprouts for legs.  They went to a charity shop, unworn.  I learnt my lesson there!  Too tight does not flatter.

It's time for dinner here - which I need to make, so that's all for now.  I'll let you know what sort of pants I am going to tackle in another blog post. 

Sarah Liz :)

Fearless February - Pants for Paddling

Fearless February has certainly provided me with an opportunity to challenge myself in that area that challenges most sewists - the dreaded pants!  I had two aborted pre-tests of two different jeans patterns (see earlier posts if you are interested in the whole saga) and then settled on doing something quick and easy.  Sometimes quick and easy is not the best way to go, but I did want something to wear fairly quickly. The original plan was that the pants would be smart casual for going to the supermarket and similar activities.  I wanted to make them out of 100% cotton drill because it is hardwearing and is cool to wear - we have very warm and very humid weather, and I find elastane mixes just too hot to wear  when it is warm.

This was the pattern I chose:

Kwiksew 3340

As I was getting quite frustrated with the Fearless February project (two pre-tests rejected), I very quickly made a pre-test out of a soft poly cotton that I didn't like and was not going to use in a garment (virtuous stash busting!).  I cut XS hips and enlarge to go around my middle - I'm sort of 6-8 hips, 10-12 waist and tummy.

Being reasonably satisfied, I proceeded to cut out the cotton drill.  I wasn't really hopeful that things would work, but I figured the only way to know was to find out.   I don't normally go for elastic waist garments because they tend to add bulk around my middle, but time was starting to be of the essence.  I also wanted to find out how to add an elastic back and how to do a fly shield, and these pants had instructions for both.  I often want to put a small amount of elastic at the back of a fitted pant, as I can go in and out around the middle - an annoying habit of my tummy!

I hit a few snags with inserting the zip and shield the KwikSew way - so I gave up and reverted to my way, and added the fly shield - pretty simple if you use your head and work out how to put it in. 

I was happy with the zip and proceeded post haste to complete the rest of the pants.  Pockets went in well, but I did think the rear looked quite large - I suppose I'm used to darts and fitted shapes.  The hips I already knew would not be too bad - I measured the  pattern and cut extra small for my size 8 hips.  It was harder to tell how the top would work out.  I thought the elastic would pull it all in - and it did.

These are the finished pants - I hem them quite short because we have very wet weather here in summer and if pants are too long they end up getting wet around the bottom.  As you can see, a bit baggy at the top - the waist had no darts and pockets well out to the sides - but the blouse covers a lot of sins.

And this is the rear view.  Again a bit saggy and baggy around the bottom, but these are elastic waist trousers. Again, a baggy blouse covers a multitude of sins. (And just look at the folds in the back of this purchased blouse - I have a small back, also a real problem to fit).

This is the front view - the trousers tend to pouch out at the side - partly because of the unshaped back and partly because the pants are in a non draping fabric, and partly because the pants are not a fitted tailored shape.
This is the back view - not a good look and seriously needs the shirt over it.  Having said that, it does show that I need to do the full range of small flat bottom type alterations.

This is the side - once again demonstrating that I need to do some serious flat bottom alterations.

So, I went to bed last  night pondering the pants problems, listening to pelting rain (I live in NSW, which is getting a lot of heavy rain troughs and strong winds) and looked forward to cleaning up the aftermath the next morning).

And, what do you know, the next day I had water to clean up - one of the rooms has a leaking roof - its going to be replaced one day, and converted to my sewing room - and, guess what, these are the most perfect, utilitarian, pants for paddling and cleaning up, and so comfortable - that I think I am now thrilled I have them!  Maybe not what I planned - but that just means another opportunity to make a pair of smart casual pants!
And here's me in my cleaning up clothes, not looking too pleased about it (no, seriously, I had just worked out how the self timer worked on the camera, and was concentrating on how to take photos - hence the serious, stern expression, quite unlike my normal self.  I also have my glasses on, which add to the scary effect - I couldnt see how to set the camera without them!  In due course it will be automatic and I will relax and smile at the camera, sans glasses or not!

So, as you can see, the pants are perfect for paddling around with puddles of water. As you can also see, I have to do sway back alterations. This camera is going to be a real boon as I will be able to photofit myself.  The pants are also no worse - in fact much better and more comfortable than store bought utilitarian pants, which always slide down.   An added plus - KwikSew's crotch seemed to be the right depth for me - so I might investigate other KwikSew pants that are more tailored and try them - even getting the crotch right is a step forward.

So, Sew Style perhaps not, Sew Useful, Yes!  And finished just when they were needed, as it so happened.

And I learnt how to put an elastic back in garments and how to do a fly shield.

I don't think I would make these again - certainly without modifications, unless they were in a soft, drapey fabric - perhaps voile for a very hot day with a soft cotton tunic/blouse.

Sarah Liz:)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pants and Posteriors

The last two days has seen me busy solving the casual/jean type pants dilemma.  After trialing two patterns that did not suit me, I decided to try a KwikSew one.  To refresh any one's memory, this is the pattern I am testing:

KwikSew 3340

I've never used a KwikSew pattern before - I am not sure why but I suspect it was because they were not available when I started using commercial patterns.  I hastily drew out my size - XS bottom for and M for waist area (I'm a straight up and down sort, so charmingly (I don't think!) called rectangle by image consultants). I even more hastily cut them out of a piece of poly cotton I had lying around - it won't be used for anything else, and used even more haste in sewing them together. A quick try on and Lo! they work. 

I'm going to make a pair in cost effective and serviceable cotton drill.  That way not much is lost if they don't work out quite as well as I want them to - but probably quite good enough for going to the supermarket and for wearing around the house - which is what I want them for.  My old ones are looking very sad and sorry now, so anything has to be better than them.

While out and about today I stopped and had a coffee at a cafe and watched the world go by for a short while - more specifically watched posteriors in pants go by.  I tried to be discrete, after all, it is rude to stare, but this was research for my pants project, so I rationalised that so long as I was subtle in my glances, no harm would be done.  I did see lots of pants with lots of posteriors that do not quite fit, and posteriors in pants of all shapes and sizes.  Some pants would  fit rather too well.  I am  not sure that tight jean cuts are altogether flattering on some people.  My earlier pre-tests were certainly  not flattering on me but I am optimistic that at least I will not be showing off parts I would rather not have the world see in this style of trouser.

Sarah Liz :)

Guidelines for Style, Form and Colour in 1928. (3)...

For those of you new to this blog:

I found an old book a few years ago "THE CUTTER'S GUIDE" A MANUAL OF DRESSCUTTING AND LADIES' TAILORING, by M.E. Roberts, published in Sydney in 1928.  At the back of the book, I found guidelines for form (what we now call style) and colour, and I'm sharing these with you over the next few weeks.

This guide was written specifically for women's styling.  The language used is so different from our very direct way of speaking 90 years later, but the principles outlined are as sound now as they were then.  Please enjoy reading them. :)

1928 Style

Image from

8.  Dress must be considered from three standpoints of its three main uses: to protect, to conceal, and to  display.

9.  The first consideration is to protect.  The dress must protect from heat or cold.  The garment worn should always be suitable to the weather - remember the weather, not the season.  There may be cold days in the spring when a fresh, dainty spring dress is quite out of place, or warm days in early winter, when heavy tweeds and furs are equally unsuitable.

10.  The second consideration is to conceal.  We do not now hide our faces under a domino, and are not usually so sensitive as the elderly lady who would not go out without a mantle, protesting that she "could not go out in her figure."  Yet dress is not only a covering for modesty's sake; it should be so arranged in all its lines and draperies as to conceal any defects and veil all weakness.  The craftswoman depends more on the form than on the colour for this, though colour, too, does something in attracting attention from defects.

11.  Thirdly, dress is to display - not only to reveal the beauty and symmetry of the figure, but to be an eloquent expositor of the inner self.  For this side of the work colour as much as form is considered.  With outward beauty of lines and good taste in selection of colour and material, is always associated a cultured mind.  Sometimes it is the cultured mind of the dressmaker and not that of the wearer, but a women's garments are more likely to be an eloquent expositor of her inner self if she devotes more time to the personal study of the art of dressing.

I find reading these old guidelines absolutely fascinating -but even nowadays the rules of dressing are right style, right line, right fit and right colour, with garments that are for a variety of seasons (or transeasonal).

1928 style
Image from

Next week this manual will look at the use of line and lines in design and their effects on the optical illusion of the garment.  The same principles still apply.

Sarah Liz

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spring Dreams - The Perfect Pant Quest.

For those of you following my Fearless February postings, you know I am on a quest over 2013 for the perfectly fitting pair of pants.  I am very inspired by these trousers - and, I have some perfect fabric in my stash to make them with.

So, this picture will inspire me no end - I can wear classic trousers really well because I also have no hips and thighs to speak of - like this model.  I don't think I would like them as skinny as this though.  Also, being underheight and short waisted, I don't think the tucked in top is such a good idea.  An Ashley Ishram drape top (see previous post) would look better on me and hide a multitude of sins (including the sewing ones!)

Sigh, ohh for the life of unending sewing dreams and time to actualise them!

Sarah Liz :)

Spring/Summer 2013- Florals and Vintage Style

For those of you in the northern hemisphere, spring is around the corner - I am sure you are looking forward to it.  I love to think ahead, and whatever I make during the tail end of our summer/autumn can still be worn during our next spring. Here are more trends:

Ashley Isham floral pants.

Temperley London vintage dress.
I do love the dresses - I can't wear the full skirt look which is better for pear shapes - but the one in the background has potential!  The floral pants are beautiful -we've seen this sort of trend for a while, but I am only just starting to warm to it!

So much to look forward to, so little time to sew and wear!

Sarah Liz

Fearless February Frustrations

Frustrations abound over the last week.  Having joined the Fearless February Sew Along mid way through February I have a short month in which to face my sewing fears.  My main problem (like so many of you) is getting trousers to fit.  Sometimes you read advice that suggest that finding a ready to wear pair of trousers that fit and taking the pattern of them is the way to go.  I'd agree, except I can't get ready to wear to fit either! 

My first Muslin "failure"
I found some consolation by reading pattern reviews because another person also had fitting issues with this pattern - they sit extremely high at the back.  On me, they also sit extremely low at the front.  Altogether, not a good look and extremely uncomfortable and prone to falling down.
Undaunted and reassured by Sandra Betzina that 50 % of patterns do not work, I decided to try Butterick 5682.
Butterick 5682

 I was a little worried, because, as with McCalls M6610, the pattern claims to sit at the natural waist.  Looking at the picture, they were a little lower than that.  Nevertheless, I decided to quickly cut a muslin without any expectations that they would work.  And they didn't - I had the same problem with back extremely high and front extremely low.  I think this is because I have an extremely small rear, tiny hips and a round belly.  I have also worked out that I am actually quite high in the rise.  And with small hips and bottom, clothes can have a habit of sliding down. My second muslin failure.  So, I need to find a solution to my jeans problem, which will take time.

I also checked the reviews on and this pattern worked for some people and did not work for others.  Photos showed the waist sitting below the natural waist - which I take to mean the indentation between ribs and hips - the narrowest part of the body.  However, I am noting a tendency for this below waist fit to be called "natural waist".  I am wondering if this is because the low rise look has been around for so long now that people have forgotten where a natural waist is?

As my immediate goal was to make a pair of casual jean like pants for wearing to the supermarket, around the house and so on, I have decided to change my project at this point.  I really need the trousers now - jeans are a want.  I am going to try Kwik Sew 3340,  which has excellent reviews on  I shall turn my jeans Fearless February challenge into a year long challenge by making a sloper that fits me and then drafting a pattern from that.  A lengthier process than I wanted right now.  I shall fit that in between other sewing projects.  I'm going to win this one.  Might even try a boys pattern and see if that works!
Kwik Sew 3340

I've never used a Kwik Sew pattern before so am looking forward to trying one.  This pattern doesn't look as though its going to cause too many fitting issues. It has a fly zipper, flat front waistband, and elastic at the back.  Can't go too wrong (I hope).

Sarah Liz.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fearless February - Trials and Tribulations

My fearless February challenge is proving to be just that - a challenge.  I decided I needed a new pair of casual cotton jean like trousers and chose McCall's 6610.

The back of the pattern claims that the waistband sits on the natural waist.  From looking at the picture on the front,  the centre front seems to sit at around the belly button level.  As I find my figure a little difficult to fit - waist about 27 inches (68-69 cm's)  hips 34 inches (87 cm's)  and high hips about 31 inches (79 cm's) I do not really fit into the standard size category.  I am fairly short (5' 4"/163 cm) with a short waist, rounded tummy, no hip bones to speak off, and I think fairly long from waist to crotch.  I thought it prudent to do a toile first.  I used size 10 as a starting point and made these up. The trousers were a little tight around the tum/waist area (as expected) and the legs were reduced to size 8 (as expected). The waistband was not contoured but a straight rectangle.  I attached this and the trousers dipped very low at the front and were high at the back.  I lifted the band at the front but it did not really help the appearance at all.  Additionally there was excess fabric at the back - a rectangle set at an angle on a convex tummy curve and a concave back curve is not going to fit well.  It didn't.  Here are some pictures (taken by my husband who has done a very good job of taking them).

This first image shows the natural sit of the trouser.  With my small hips and round tummy things tend to fall down.  I realise I could make the band smaller - but this is easier said than done and opens another set of problems

When I tighten the band at the back (so that the jeans fit better)  my cute curved tummy is even more pronounced in this cut.  I do not like this sort of look at all. 

Even pinched in at the back, there is still slack at the front.  I don't like this low front look, it really doesn't sit well on my angular frame.  It is claimed that these jeans sit at the natural waist which is not below the belly button, but at the natural indentation somewhere between your hips and ribs.  My waist is much higher than this.

And the rear curves up very high well above the natural waist. Even the jean yoke is quite high - in fact the yoke ends at about the place a waistband should sit.  And I am short and did not shorten this pattern for Miss Petite.  Even placing a seam at the back will not eliminate all the problems I am having with this pattern.

I have therefor come to the Conclusion:

This pattern does not work for me!

Sandra Betzina writes that you should "Unless the shape and style thrill you, don't waste time on this pattern...never feel guilty about tossing a pattern.  Only 50 percent or so are worth making.  A pattern that doesn't progress past a pretest doesn't count as a failure" (p.19., Power Sewing:Step-by-Step, Taunton Press, 2002, ISBN978-1-56158-572-4).

My recently completed studies in Psychology would also suggest not beating up on yourself - how often do we blame ourselves or our shape, as if we had a problem, instead of just admitting that this style, this shape, does not suit me and I shall move on to find something that does.  Before I do, though, I went through the pattern and did find good instructions for a fly front facing - I have never made one before, so I thought to salvage those.
I keep handy little bits and pieces like this in a little box of useful things that might come in handy.

I have chosen another pattern to trial.  I shall not give up on the quest for a nicely fitting pair of jean pants that suit my shape ( I didn't realise I was so athletic and boyish  looking - I need a few more kilo's I think).
Butterick 5682
These jeans sit just under the natural waistline which I think will be a little low for me.  The style is quite simple and I think it will be an easy matter to lengthen the body of the jean if need be.  It does have a contoured band - I am not sure how these sit on me - I tend to like something firm to hold garments up on - garments have a tendency to slide down my small hips.  If the jean is less up at the back and down at the front, a straight waistband might work.  Must go and find out now - have traced off size 8 legs, 10 hips and 12 waist - and cut out a toile.  I'll post progress when I have some to report.

This quest for the perfectly fitting pant may take some weeks I suspect.  It is one of my procrastination areas though - a  fear of a pants fizzle - so this is my Fearless February challenge (organised by

Sarah Liz

P.S.  I also found a review of this pattern on sewing pattern review and the reviewer also had trouble with the sit of the band especially.  This reassured me in my decision not to attempt this garment after the pretest did not work for me. Of course, this pattern may work for other people - I hope it does, because it does look nice.