#100buttonholeschallenge

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! I’m going to spend it eating pavlova (because that’s what Australians do) and hopefully sneaking in a bit of sewing. I might even get started on a little challenge that I’ve set for myself.

I’m putting it out there right now, mostly to say it out loud, and partly, to see if there are any other crazies out there who would like to embark on this skill-up journey with me. If you’ve read the title of this blog, it sounds rather ominous, but actually, I think it will be quite achievable. I just need to commit.

To give you a little background to this challenge, I’ve been in the process of making myself a winter coat. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen my progess. I’m using a gorgeous tufty wool coating and traditional tailoring methods which is a learning experience in itself. I’ve made a few coats before (here, here, and here). I’ve always been delighted with the way they turned out and each was an improvement on the next, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I feel like I’m finally starting to get my head around the construction and reasoning behind the inner structure with this coat, but there’s one area of coatmaking that has always been a stumbling block for me. Buttonholes!

Now, bound buttonholes are delightful, and not actually that difficult to do. But not every fabric is suitable for bound buttonholes (I found that out with my last coat). Machine buttonholes are not the end of the world, but I’m not overly excited with the keyhole option on my machine. I’ve considered hand-worked buttonholes on more than one occasion, however my efforts have been so disappointing that the option was quickly ruled out. I really hate the feeling of being restricted in my choice of design because of a skill I’m lacking, particularly something that simply requires practice.

I want to equip myself with the ability to produce a beautiful buttonhole when and if I want. Can you imagine the sewing possibilities… blazers, pants, and coats of course. The key to this magic skill is of course practice. I’ve heard it said that it takes 100 buttonholes until you become proficient at a technique. This may be a bit extreme, but it is exactly what I intend to do.

I’m giving myself a year and a month. That gives me a week to organise the correct supplies for hand-worked buttonholes, and a starting date in December. At the moment, I spend a quite a few hours each week “watching” kids at various sports. If I put away my phone and practiced buttonholes instead, it would be a much better use of my hands and time. If I only get two done a week, I’ll be on track to completing this project.

For the most part, I’ll be documenting my buttonholes on Instagram ( #100buttonholeschallenge ). You might also see an update or two on this blog, and possibly a tutorial or sewing tips in the future. I’m certainly hoping I can do better than this blurry 2012 attempt.

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So if you want to join me on this finger numbing journey, to share your triumphs, disasters, fabric experiences, tricks and tips, please remember to use the hashtag:  #100buttonholeschallenge

Kate top in silk stripes

This is a new pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, called the Kate top. It might look like a simple boxy top pattern, but it actually has a few unexpected, yet elegant design details. And then, of course, I went and added a few more of my own.

The pattern includes a back placket, hem, and side slits and instructions on how to make the inside of the top as beautiful as the outside. It’s these extra details that make Tessuti patterns great. It’s quite obvious that they are written by those with decades of experience in sewing and patternmaking.

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Since this was a competition, I felt it was important for me to complicate this simple top as much as possible. I used a remnant of silk (perhaps CDC) that I scored off the Tessuti remnant table about two years ago. Silk is a perfect choice for this top, but given the fact that I added a few complicated seams and stripes, it turned out to be a challenging choice.

I added two curved panels in the top section of the front, a waist panel, as well as a creatively shaped panel above the hem. With the bottom panel, I tried to follow the shape of the hem, including the way it sharply turns at the side splits. My intention was to flick the fabric grain on it’s side in order to use the direction of the stripes as a contrast feature in the panels.

I’m not entirely happy with the fit of this top on me, but it is pretty good for a first go, and certainly very wearable. I didn’t muslin it (pure laziness on my behalf) and just guessed at the adjustments I’d need. I started with a size S, widened the back a smidgen, and tapered the sides in towards the hem by about an 1.5inches. I also lengthened the body by an inch. These are all standard modifications I make to any pattern.

I should have reduced the bust dart before I started. The dart seems small enough but I forgot to consider the fact that this top is boxy by design, and probably contains enough ease without the dart for an A/B cup. See how beautifully it fits Lara of Thornberry with her more ample bust. I compensated mid-construction by arcing the side seam in at bust level. This worked quite well at correcting the fit on the fly. Next time, I’ll do a poper SBA, widen the back more, and drop the armscye a smidgen.

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And if you are wondering why I look so miserable in these photos. The frosts have arrived. My garage was the warmest photo option at about 2 degrees Celsius. I’m really surprised you can’t see my goosebumps!

 

 

A few thoughts on RTW and a vintage faux-fur score

I don’t buy a lot of RTW. Most of my wardrobe is handmade, as is a large percentage of my daughters’. However, I’ve drawn a few lines in the sand as to what I see value in making and what I don’t.

I generally won’t make knit tops and leggings for my girls, unless of course I already have the fabric in my stash (most likely a remnant from something else I’ve made – nothing goes to waste here). These items are just so easy to buy for next to nothing (ethics aside) and they get trashed by my kids anyway. I’d much rather spend my time sewing more interesting garments.

For me, the same applies to jeans and faux fur. I view jeans as a technical make, but not due to the sewing (I agree with all the pattern makers out there – don’t be scared of sewing jeans if you are so inclined). It’s the hardware and denim fabric that I don’t have the time or inclination to hunt down myself. And the same goes for faux fur. The location I reside prohibits me from visiting a well-stocked bricks and mortar store where I can pat and caress all the fabrics. It gets wearisome and costly relying on swatches for everything, and this definitely impacts my choice of textiles.

But back to the outfit of the day. I present you with one of the very few complete RTW outfits in my closet. The jeans are DL1961 and I love them for a few reasons. The colour is great and the fit is superb. I love the leg length (I’m 5″10 so the legs are long). The denim is pretty amazing too. It’s lusciously soft and stretchy. The composition is 64% tencil/modal, 34% polyester, and 2% lycra. Nope, not cotton, but they do look like it! Now perhaps if I could get my hands on some of this fabric for a decent price, I’d reconsider my stance on sewing jeans.

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The vintage coat is mouton fur, which is sheepskin that has been processed to resemble smooth, glossy beaver fur. This is an old coat (circa 1950?) with a gorgeous cropped style. I love the shape of it and the fit is perfection. The front fastens with a hook and eye. I need to re-stitch the eye in place, but otherwise the coat is in excellent condition.

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I’m not going to delve too deeply into the ethics of purchasing or wearing fur. There are justifiably strong feelings on the matter. I love the look and feel of real fur but it doesn’t sit easy with me. Lamb/sheep/goat/cow products are a different matter. I don’t eat a lot of meat (for health and sustainability reasons) but I’m still partial to the occasional steak or lamb chop and I definitely won’t turn my nose up at slow roast goat or a platter of cheese. Therefore, it would be quite hypocritical of me to shun the hides of these animals. With that in mind, I can assure you that I will be giving this old coat the love and care that it deserves.

 

 

 

Review // Blue Suede Shoes

Note: I received these shoes for free from Rhea Footwear in exchange for a review on my blog. I selected the shoes myself, and of course, the opinions here are all my own.

When Rhea Footwear contacted me to review their shoes, I’ll confess that I had no idea who they were. I definitely had to do a bit of research before I agreed to the collaboration. First and foremost, I wanted to make sure that their products were relevant to me (and therefore this blog). I’d consider shoes to be a very valid consideration when styling an outfit.

I selected the Classic Flats in sapphire blue and had a lot of fun pairing them with a few of my handmade outfits. I think they go very well with my husband’s ratty old Thread Theory Henley and my favourite leather blocked leggings (which I recently pegged and cropped for a more skinny pant look). They’d also look fabulous with skinny jeans or a midi skirt.

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There were also some cute booties, flip flops, and men’s shoes on the Rhea Footwear website, but these blue suede shoes were the ones that caught my eye. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I like them. They’re a little bit dressier than my go-to gold Vans, but equally as comfy. I’ve taken them on a test run to do the school pick up, and by school pick up, I mean a 3mile fast-walk/half-jog alongside a kid on a scooter and another on a bike. The soles feel quite cushioned and the leather wasn’t uncomfortably stiff (as new shoes can be). They feel a little narrower than the sneaker slip-ons I’m used to wearing but not in a bad way. I’m sure the suede will continue to mould to my feet as I keep wearing them.

So what makes Rhea Footwear different? All their shoes are designed to be stylish and functional at the same time. They use a signature anti-slip tread to prevent slipping and sliding when walking on ice and other wet surfaces. I probably wouldn’t have cared much in Sydney, but in Kansas, I LOVE the idea of a non-slip sole, particularly since I’m pretty much like Bambi as soon as the ground freezes. The suede is also treated to be water resistant and remain spot free, which makes sense if you plan to wear them in damp conditions.

It’s been a little dry here lately so I haven’t had a chance to test out the slip factor, but I’m sure I will over the next few months. It will be nice to have a slip on alternative to snow boots when I’m dashing out for a quick errand in Winter.

Meanwhile, here is the last look I put together. I’m wearing a white ponte knit playsuit that I made eons ago, paired with a vintage throw I picked up at an estate sale over Summer. I saw blankets and ponchos being worn a lot in the Southern Hemisphere over Winter so I thought I might give it a try too. What can I say…I’m wearing blue suede shoes and a granny throw. If that isn’t a bit of fun fashion, then what is!

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