Friday, January 30, 2015

A long awaited Gingham Top...

 I've hankered after a black and white gingham check top for years now.  Finally I have made one.  I used Simplicity 1316:

This top looks quite different from my rayon one which drapes softly.  The rayon top and pattern details including my alterations can be found here:A summery drapey top- Simplicity 1316.

This top is made from a lightweight cotton gingham, so of course it is a little more structured than the rayon top.  I will love it though for summer days when I want a casual top that also looks smart.

(Gingham purchased from Spotlight).

The top was super simple to make.  Princess seams which I overlocked together, except for the centre back seam, a simple facing and a thread loop for the button:

The hems for sleeve and bodice were  turned over twice and hemmed:

And I even found a perfect little black and white button in my stash  for the back opening:

Now for the quick views of the front, sides and back:

You can see from these pictures that I have a tiny back - for this sort of top it doesn't matter.  That is also sometimes why I choose to make semi-fitted clothes - as a practical matter, I can run these up quite quickly and get the job of dressing the body done!

I see many more of these tops in my future - I think they could be made in many fabrics for all sorts of different occasions - work, casual and evening out.

Do you have a favourite top pattern you turn to again and again?

Sarah Liz :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Big Thank You to Two Ladies - BeaJay and Elizabeth.

I have had two delightful surprises recently.  The first came from BeaJay, who was celebrating her third blogoversary by giving away a gift to the person who had commented most on her blog this year.

I was thrilled and surprised to find it was me, and BeaJay gave me a $35.00 voucher for whatever I liked (sewing related) where I like.  BeaJay's post is here :

After some humming and haaa-ing (not sure how to spell that) I thought I would get something really special that I would not buy for myself.  I settled on some silk satin to line the Chanel jacket I am going to make one day.  Only when it arrived, I also thought it would make a stunning blouse. 

It's actually a silk seersucker, which, for the Chanel jacket option would be fantastic, because you have to quilt the jacket - and the seersucker lines would make that job much easier.  And look good too.

Here's a snapshot of the fabric:

The colour does not replicate well in a photo - in proper light this is a deep fuschia - absolutely luscious.  As I have a choice of black, grey, and navy fabrics which are contenders for the jacket, this would go with any of them.

I've put this away carefully, and made a little stash card:

And labelled it "BeaJay"so that when this does get used (which may take a few years) I can remember to tell her :).


The second lovely surprise was the receipt of an email from Elizabeth, who wanted to know if I would like a pattern making book called Principles of Garment Cutting (pattern making)  by E.L.G. Gough.

This book was a textbook in the N.S.W. technical sewing colleges and was written in 1951.  Interestingly I already owned it's forerunner, published in 1928.  It's always interesting to see the changes over a few decades.  The biggest changes were in lingerie, and this book has some lovely brassiere and petticoat patterns - I'm sure Gaultier would be impressed :).  I'd like to try these one day.

Elizabeth also had a 1989 Burda (Italian version) that she did not need.  I loved this magazine - in 1989 I was not able to sew much, and stopped buying Burda, so this was a lovely trip down the memory lane of lost sewing possibilities.

Just look at the quality of the garments - Burda has certainly changed over the last few years.  I especially liked this wonderful gored skirt, which is on my to make one day list:

The straight skirt is lovely too.

So a big thanks to both of you - I was quite overwhelmed by these thoughts.

Sarah Liz

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Chat - a little talk about Rayon.

Hello everyone,

Thank you all for your lovely comments on yesterday's post A summery drapey top - Simplicity 1316.

Some of you raised some queries about rayon.

Rayon and viscose are the same types of fibres.  Rayon is a cellulose based fibre, made from wood pulp or cotton fibres.  It was developed after World War 2. 

In different countries different names are used for rayon - so you may find it called rayon, or it may be called viscose. Sometimes I have seen the hybrid name viscose-rayon.  Whatever name you find this fabric under, it is chemically reconstituted cellulose fibre. 

Rayon has been called artificial silk because of it's draping qualities, but it is nothing like silk in the way the fibres work.  Rayon fibres are quite weak, unlike silk, which is a much stronger fibre.  Rayon fibres are especially weak when wet.  The fibres absorb a lot of moisture when wet and this affects the fibre to weaken it. 

Of course, this is the reason that rayon is cool to wear in summer - it's ability to absorb moisture from the body, thus cooling the body when evaporation takes place.

Because rayon is a weak fibre, it is also easy to damage - the fibres abrade very easily.  This is what happened with my top, and why I said it is best to have simple designs for rayon (something I had forgotten as it is years since I have worked with rayon).

This is because the less work you do, the less likely you are to abrade the fibres!

This is also what I meant when I said I don't like to work with rayon - it is slippery, but not overly so - more it drapes and flops all the time, and because I do not work with it all the time, I forget what to do.

With this rayon there is no need to stabilise with a gelatine wash - it had enough body.  With a very fine rayon I might do this, but I have sewn wedding dresses out of silk and silk satin, and georgette - and could never stabilised any of those garments because you do not pre-wash when you make a wedding gown - it takes out the size and finish and the resulting dress would not look new and fresh.  Mind you, for my own sewing of course this is a good trick - I always pre-wash everything anyway so that I can launder myself later.

Rayon must be ironed when it is slightly damp, and not too hot an iron.  Seams will show if pressed from the right side - Clare Schaeffer says to use a press cloth if pressing on the right side of a rayon garment, but I still find that a seam imprint can show.  My imprints are minimal, but still there a bit.

Clare Schaeffer also says to open princess seams on a rayon garment to help with drape - I did not do this, but overlocked them together - as this was an unlined garment I wanted a fairly clean look inside.  This did not affect the look or hang of the garment much at all.

So don't be scared of sewing rayon, just be aware of some of it's properties and that should make the job easier.  And remember it abrades easily, so sew carefully, and   have a first aid plan ready - mine of course was the daisy solution.  And expect it to wrinkle and need a bit of care with ironing.  Still, on a hot day, I don't mind a few wrinkles if I am cool.  And if anyone has the energy to point them out to me on a 100 degree day,  I would be surprised. 

I usually wash my fragile garments in a lingerie washing  bag - I rarely handwash, as I don't have time.  This top survived a gentle machine wash in a lingerie washing bag.  I smooth wrinkles out prior to drying as well.  I don't like too many fussy garments in my wardrobe because I don't have the time to fuss over them!

At the moment in Australia, Spotlight is selling Rayon for $9.99 a metre.  They have two varieties - one on rolls and one double folded on bolts.  The rayon on the bolt is a much better quality than the one on the roll - that is softer and wrinkles a lot.  The other washes and pretty much drip drys - amazing.  I wanted the cobalt colour which was on a roll.  Since then Spotlight has bought in some cobalt colour rayon on a bolt - so I bought a piece of that as well.  So I decided to practice sewing with rayon again with the lesser quality piece - and it was a bit cheaper too, as I got it in one of Spotlight's sales.

Rayon can be found as a lining fabric, but I have not seen it - I think you would need to go to tailoring suppliers for that.  In Australia, in the domestic market, lining is very basic,  mostly acetate and polyester, and fairly lightweight.

I hope this helps some of you that had a few queries,

Sarah Liz :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Summery, Drapey Top - Simplicity 1316.

A few weeks ago we had a very hot day, unusual for the humid, semi-tropical climate that is the norm in Newcastle.  It was 39 degrees F, with a hot westerly wind blowing.  Now, this is the sort of heat I am used to, as I  have lived in Alice Springs.  You need the right sort of clothes, and I am a bit light on those sort of clothes.  So I decided to fill the wardrobe gap.

I found a rayon at Spotlight which was not the best quality but I thought  would do for this job.  It is years since I have worked with rayon and it is not a fabric I like- it frays, it wrinkles, it's a weak sort of fibre.  BUT - it is cool to wear.

I  used simplicity 1316:

 Line Drawing
I thought  size 10 would be about right, and  I chose  the square neck version.  I made muslin first to c check the look and fit. I had shortened the bodice 1 inch along the L/S line.  The pattern has variations for B,C and D cup sizes - I used B.

I used a fairly stiff piece of old sheet so it is a bit of a stiff looking top.    I think the bodice has been shortened too much giving a dumpy appearance. 

I thought the neckline was about right, but this was unfinished, so I added a 3/8 inch (1 cm)  seam allowance.  I also rounded the square neckline as this is much easier to sew than a square one.  my result looks like the picture on the envelope so I suspect that the sample maker knows this trick.  This slight change in shape  also then lends to curved edges on the outer edge of the facing, making them  much easier to overlock.  I shortened the bodice by half and inch (just over 1 cm).

It  was a straightforward sewing process -princess seams, faced neck turn under twice and sew hems.  and no sleeves to set in.

 I did have one mishap. I noticed a small flaw after I had finished the facing.  I am not sure if this was in the fabric to start with, or whether the rayon disliked the feeddog.  I suspect the latter.

Well, every sewer has to know how to get out of these sorts of troubles, so i dabbed on a bit of fray check and then appliqued a little guipure daisy over the top of it.  Then I  added one the other side and at the bottom of the opening to balance the look.

So  now i have two daisy embellished backs of tops :) . The one before this had daises too.

Here is the picture frieze, front,side and back

The drapey fabric much such a difference to the look of this top, doesn't it.   I'm going  to stash some more rayon, as this was easier to sew than I remember.  I do think it needs a very simple pattern with very few seam lines, as rayon is awful to iron and shows every seam, even when you do all the things you are supposed to do to avoid seam show through.

But I don't mind for my first rayon top - at least I have something to wear on a very hot day.

I do like this little pattern and see lots more tops in the future.

Sarah Liz :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Daisy Top - Burda 6914.

This little top is very twee and I don't think it is really me at all.  I was in two minds whether to even make this top, so was a bit blah about it before I started.  I'm also in the middle of a Blah spot in life, so thought maybe that was the problem and not the style itself.

I used Burda 6914.  I did like the look of the pattern, and sort of hoped it would look as sophisticated on me as it does on the photo on the pattern envelope:

Now I wonder what I saw in it - it's really just a big shapeless bag thing - I think the way the models are standing hide the fact that this dress/top bags out at the sides:

Nevertheless, I was determine to make it and make it work.  So I proceeded.

This top has a bound neckline. Never mind that I hate binding anything.  For some reason I hate doing binding - I can do it, it looks good, I hate doing it.  And I did lots of binding in this top - neck, sleeve and armhole seams.

I cut size 36 and added a bit for my prominent chest (not bust - I'm only just a B cup).  The shoulders and neck are spot on.  I also shortened the top by about 2 inches and removed the side splits- the original was more tunic length with side splits.

The fabric used was a cotton lawn, out of my stash, and originally purchased from Spotlight.

I used the selvedge as the back seam finish, and french seams for the side and sleeve seams. The sleeve was darted, but this just gave a sharp shape which I did not think worked with this lightweight lawn:

So I removed the dart and just pleated this area instead.

The pattern used a facing for the sleeve hem.  I did not think this was a good idea with lawn as all the little hand hemming stitches would pull and be quite obvious.  So I decided to use a binding instead.  I also bound the armhole seam.  Lots of tedious binding, but it looked good.

I did have a small mishap -I forgot to interface the split at the back of the garment.  They never tell you to do this in the instructions, and as I was feeling blah, I did not think of this step.  Never mind, I can always solve a problem -I stitched a button over the area.  Then it looked wrong.  So I added some little daisies as a back detail:

I also added a daisy opposite the button closure on the neck band.  Now you know why I called this The Daisy Top :).  For every problem there is a solution...

And it's absolutely years since I have done one of these thread loopy closure thingies:

Now the photos, feeling quite unlike myself in this top:

I'm glad I added the back detail - I think that the baggy back sort of needs it.

I am glad I made this top though - I would always have wondered about it.  I also think this would be a nice top for summer outings.  I did find this year that I needed a top that was a little more resort, and I did not have one. This will fill that wardrobe gap nicely, even if it does not get worn often.

It will also be lovely in hot weather - and twee and cool is better than fitted and hot and bothered.

I may even get to like it...

Sarah Liz :)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Trousers I needed yesterday :)

My first idea was that I would make black linen pants. Then I decided to refine some of my pants making techniques first before I start making pants in  more expensive materials. So I made the above pants in cotton broadcloth, originally purchased from Spotlight and virtuously shopped from my stash.

I was going to make this pattern:
 Burda Pants 6889

This is sized for Miss Petite, and I wondered if this sizing would fit me better than ordinary trousers/pants as I am an on the  cusp petite.  I made a muslin and loved the leg line, but the torso was uncomfortable in the rear crotch area.

As I needed  the pants  yesterday, so to speak,  I decided to revisit Burda 6985, and put the above pattern on the back-burner for now.  I'll revisit in a few week's time.

Burda 6985.

I managed to get these to fit me a tiny bit better than my earlier versions (which you can find  here
and here.  )  (looking at these posts again makes realise my sewing is slowly improving).

These were a standard make with the Burda stayed front.  One problem I always have with making pants is how to finish off neatly.  For ordinary wear pants I overlock (serge)  - and going around concave (hollow) curves, the overlocking sometimes does not look neat and does not hug the fabric edge - it hangs off the edge by about 1/3.  Which means it will pull and snag very easily and perhaps not do a good job of  stopping fraying.  There is no problem on the straight edges. 

I also find that getting the crotch curve neatly overlocked after sewing and trimming close to the second seam similarly challenging.  So I decided to use a thin nylon lace to bind these problem areas, and give a nice looking finish.

It's hard to show this in pictures when working with black, but here goes:

I made the pants full length and not 7/8ths length as in the pattern.  Otherwise, I think I have got these to look quite like the pattern:

Now, that is the last photo of me in a camisole top on this post - not a good look, and modesty will prevail while I show you more views :). I just wanted to give you a view of the completed garment to show you what it looks like.

Front view

Front view - pocket

Side view

Back view.

 This was also my Make a Garment a Month chosen garment.  Our theme was new - new pattern, new technique, a new sewing beginning,  or just try something new.  As my new pattern choice was not going to work, I tried a new technique with the lace binding.  And of course, I have a new pair of pants that I really needed for summer wear.

If you want to join the Make a Garment a Month Group on Facebook, email

That's my first garment for 2015 complete.  The Trousers I needed Yesterday can be worn Tomorrow :) .

Next week I think I will tackle a top - one technique I avoid is using bias binding as a neck edging or anywhere else for that matter.

Wishing you all, wherever you are, a happy and healthy week,

Sarah Liz.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Annual Ritual of Sewing Resolutions.

It's that time of year, isn't it, where we all madly make plans and goals for the sewing year.

Writing these sorts of things down is not my favourite activity, but it does get the buzz of ideas out of my head and onto paper.  Which quietens the head down quite a bit :)


My current sewing plans are fairly simple. I really do have to make a two pairs of pants I really need that are a little smarter than the casual pants I have been making.

I've been avoiding making these for two years now.  I don't know why,  especially as I am fed up with what I do end up wearing.  RTW trousers in poor style and fit, with no pockets.

So I am going to make a cotton pair for summer - they were going to be linen, but the pattern I thought would work, didn't, so I am reverting to a pattern that does work in order to quickly get this unwanted sewing job off the list:

The pattern I thought would work was a Burda pattern, Miss Petite.  I'm on the cusp of petite, and thought they may fit better.  I've made the muslin, and it just did not feel right.  The leg line is lovely (View B, straight leg) but the torso was no better than the regular sizing.

This morning I had a thought - maybe there was little difference between the regular pattern and Miss Petite sizing.  Guess what??? 

So that was why I decided to use the pattern that already works well enough.  Trouser perfection can wait for now.  And, when I tried my sample pair on, they were so comfortable that the decision was instantly made :). I've put the pattern aside because it will work, but not in linen, and not for the plan I had in mind.

My first  goal therefore,   is to decide what to do with patterns that aren't quite right, after I have completed the muslin.  Some sewers resolutely plough on with a bad pattern trying to make it work.  I have decided that if I do not like the pattern, and the muslin is disappointing, then the pattern will go.

The second goal is to try and use as much stash as possible.  I'm not yet sure about making a stash busting pledge this year, but no doubt I will be silly enough to think I will stop buying stash if I pledge to do so.  I haven't done this so far, and past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour. I mean, what do you do when you find this sort of temptation:

Well, I bought it!  On sale, $8.00 per metre, reduced from $19.99 per metre.  I have always wanted a little red dress for bright, cheery, summer wear when you want the dress to do the work for you :)
What about you - can you stop buying stash easily or do you tend to add to it quite regularly?

The fourth goal is to stop buying quite so many patterns.  I am not sure how many I have, about 400 I think. I've noticed I buy more of the same style quite often - usually because they are on sale.  Spotlight has a sale at the moment - Kwik Sew 3 for $10.  I often fall for these sales, and buy one pattern I like and two iffy ones, because this is still the cheapest way to buy one pattern.  Today I nearly did the same thing as I liked Kwik Sew 4071:
I already have a pattern that is similar to this, Simplicity 4032:


Which looks like this made up:

I mean, this jacket is so similar - both sized for knits, you can close with one button like the Kwik Sew pattern, and it already fits me.

So I decided not to buy the pattern, especially as they didn't have any of the other patterns that I like in stock.

(Mind you, I'm quite likely to buy this pattern when the time is right and there is a better selection to choose from in these bargain buy situations.  I mean, buying one pattern for $10 and having two you don't like is hardly a bargain is it?)

I'm also going to resist Burdastyle magazines unless there is a pattern I really think I might use.

What about you, do you tend to buy much the same style and pattern over and over again?

The fifth goal is to try and keep track of what each garment costs me - I have tried to do this before, but keep forgetting to do this.

The sixth goal is to expand my sewing horizons and start making garments that are more challenging or a little different from the casual basics I have been making over the last two years.

The seventh goal is to style some of my clothes and post them - I have decided that Me Made May is just too much to do on a daily basis - but I think I could do this in a different way.

I also want to improve my blog photos - but I don't really see this happening - it's not a big priority yet, and I don't really have time to fiddle and learn some of the things required.  I'd prefer to catch up on the Craftsy course I purchased over twelve months ago and haven't yet watched.

That should keep me out of mischief this year.  How much of this actually happens, only time will tell.  I'll revisit and let you know at the end of this year.

Oh, and a cognitive goal - have more fun and less perfection - perfection does not exist. Steady improvement and mastery are achievable.  And, I should worry less about what my me-mades look like -  I'm sure they are no worse to  look at than RTW on me.   

Have a great (full)  first week of the year, wherever you are,

Sarah Liz :)