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#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

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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Gratuitous Halloween cuteness

OK, I really couldn’t wait to share this. And to be perfectly honest, this costume is not worth it’s own blog post, but oh… the cuteness.

There was only one thing Miss Three wanted to be for Halloween: A pumpkin.

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So: I cut a very large rectangle in some very cheap orange felt fabric, roughly appliqued on a face, gathered both ends with elastic, and finally, freestyled a collar that I handstitched to the pumpkin body like a bodice. That’s all.

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Cropped black trousers

I’m sure there is a pattern out there for pants like these somewhere, but I couldn’t find one for the life of me. There were a few criteria I wanted to meet: hipster rise, side pockets, big front pleats, real fly front, semi-fitted and tapered legs, and back welt pockets. I skipped the back welt pockets on mine because this was just a test run. I also planned to crop them to the length  you see in the photos, but I cut them too long and I quite liked the rolled up look instead.

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These pants are a very wearable muslin in inexpensive cotton sateen. I just wanted a pair of pants that would fit me so I used my trusty TNT crotch curve and drafted around that. The fit is quite good, but there’s something a little funny going on in the front. I suspect it’s because I spent so long stuffing around with the front fly and my zipper extends too low into the crotch curve. It could also be something to do with the pleats. Shortening the zipper should at least partially solve this for next time.

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I also need to widen the pocket bags and shorten the pockets quite a bit. They are impractically narrow and too deep at the sides. I really like the rise though, and the waistband width. With hipster pants, you need a curved waistband rather than a straight one. I’ve always had the problem of significant back gaping in the waistband of RTW hipster pants/jeans and I think this comes from the waistband being straight, or too straight for my figure. It was a nice feeling to get a good fit in this spot.

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A Grainline Archer and refashioned RTW trousers

This is my second Archer. My first Archer fit reasonably well, but this one fits a lot better. I made a few extra changes to better accommodate my broad shoulders. This consisted of lengthening the shoulder seams by 1/2 inch and spreading the back by 5/8 inch (without changing the neck width). However, next time I think I’ll shorten the shoulder seams back again by about 3-5mm on each side. The armscye sits a little wide in this version.

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I might consider adding fish-eye darts to the back if I decide I want to change it to a more streamlined fit. Right now I’m happy with the relaxed look. This is probably how I’ll wear the shirt in Fall.

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I most likely won’t be wearing it with the collar stand buttoned, but the fact that I can (and still move my arms) is nothing short of a miracle. Well, it would be if we were talking about RTW. Another great thing about sewing for yourself is the fact that you can position the buttons pretty much anywhere you want. I have no idea what the actual pattern recommends. I focus on the third button down and position that in relation to my body. The rest of the buttonholes are measured equally apart from there with this neat tool. The third button down is generally the top button I keep buttoned so I want it to be at a modest height but not too high either.

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My favourite thing about the Archer is the collar. It has such a lovely shape. My least favourite thing about the design is the sleeve placket. A sleeve placket is very easy to change though. I used a very standard sleeve placket pattern piece, pilfered from my husband’s TNT shirt pattern, Simplicity 6138. I used white cotton as a contrast for the sleeve plackets, inside collar stand and yoke facing.

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The grey wool trousers belong to a Herringbone Sydney suit that I’ve owned for ten years. The original shape was a long, boot cut. However, they’ve never quite been long enough on me and the boot cut style is now quite outdated.

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Oh dear, look at the not-so-blind stitching on the left hem. I machine blind-stitched the hems and will have to re-do the left leg. I knew I’d left the tension too high on that leg but was hoping those puckers would iron out.

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The following diagram helps to describe my modifications. I narrowed the side seams and re-hemmed the legs. I tried to keep a deep hem in case I want to lengthen them again in the future. The picture below shows the shape of my modified seamline (red).

pantsMy main concern with these pants was in getting the leg length and width correct, particularly towards the calf and ankle. I wanted them to be narrow and tapered but not too tight around my calf. I’m quite happy with the shape I achieved.

I have another pair of trousers planned, but next time I will sew them from scratch in black cotton sateen. I’m working on the pattern right now. It’s nearly drafted, but I want to mull over the pocket design first. I like to sleep on a design before I cut into the actual fabric. More often than not, I’ll wake up with the idea I couldn’t quite grasp the night before.

 

Refashioned // leather trimmed tunic

The thing about unfitted dresses (like the ones below) is that they need to be short or they can verge on looking frumpy. In my opinion, the black tunic dress that I used for this refashion went slightly over the length threshold. It’s only a very small difference, but it has a big impact. Compare the difference in look with these two very similar dresses.

PicMonkey Collage

There were a few other things about the black dress that I didn’t like. The base ponte fabric, whilst interfaced, didn’t have the structure to give this style a nice shape. It drapes too much. I should have either made it fitting (as would suit a ponte knit) or choose a more structured, woven fabric and flared it out. Like the length, the fit is half-way there but neither fitted or boxy. The sleeves and front zipper don’t do this dress any favours either, but I remember why I made it as I did. I was using up a limited scrap supply at the time which meant I couldn’t cut the fabric as one piece and proper sleeves weren’t an option.

I did actually wear this dress a LOT during Winter. I’m not as fussy about clothes when it comes to dressing warm (hello minus 15 degrees Celsius!) and this seemed to be the fall-back dress I would pull out anytime we had a dinner or event to go to. It was comfortable, warm, and I usually wore it layered with tights and my Dior knock-off coat. However, in the light of Summer, I was able to make a more objective critique of the garment. And the critique led me to this:

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I love problem solving ways to make things work and I definitely enjoyed the process of making this jacket. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that anything about it is couture. I just bound and topstitched the leather and I have yet to hammer those seams flat. The waist tie is an unfinished strip of leather. I really wasn’t sure that this would work out at all. It still leaves a lot to be desired, but it is much better than I anticipated, and a good reference point for drafting a similar piece in the future (and one that might closer resemble my inspiration).

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The steps in this refashion were pretty simple. I started with my tunic and cut off the hem to the length of jacket I wanted. I preserved that hem (including the back embellishment) by dividing it in half and turning those halves into the sleeves.

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I then just unpicked the bound neckline to change the shape of it a little, attached the front leather panels, and bound or turned the raw edges under.

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I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this in Autumn, but most likely with jeans. I seem to be without jeans at the moment or I would have worn them in the photos. Jeans are one of my few RTW concessions. I just can’t summon the desire to make myself a pair, despite admiring the amazing handiwork of others out there.

 

 

DISCOUNT CODE // BIRTHDAY38

It’s officially my birthday week. To celebrate, there’s a 20% discount off any of my five patterns as well as clothing samples storewide. Use the discount code: BIRTHDAY38

PicMonkey Collage

Did you spot the sneaky pattern preview in the collage. You can look out for this towards the end of July.

 

The Wonderland Skirt: a new pattern

Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers and mother-figures out there. I hope your families spoil you immensely and bless you with lots of love (and sewing time!).

And what better day to announce a new sewing pattern. I’d like to introduce you to the Wonderland skirt. I feel like I’ve been working on this one for eons. I’ve certainly been testing it for that long.

This skirt has definitely become a firm favourite in my Spring wardrobe. I’ve made long versions, short versions, some with pockets, and some without. And I can’t wait to share some of the great tester versions in the future.

The Wonderland skirt works very well with another top I’m also working on right now. And I’m going to use this opportunity to call out for long sleeve testers. I’m trying to keep my tester sign up posts to my Facebook page which is why I haven’t mentioned it earlier. Currently, I have lots of sleeveless testers, but if anybody is interested in testing the long sleeve version (included in the sleeveless pattern) then please head over to my Facebook page to sign up. I’m hoping to get  this underway next week.

In the meantime, don’t forget check out my new pattern, the Wonderland Skirt. x