Sunday, August 29, 2010

~a gown for christine~

Here is another favourite wedding gown from the archives:

This gown evolved from another design with similar asymmetric lines, but the bride suggested draping the bodice area instead.  We certainly had a lot of fun figuring out the positioning of the draping on her toile - but it really was worth it, as it showed her model figure off beautifully. 

This was the first portrait neckline dress I had ever made, and I was very impressed at how it makes the waist appear extra small!  It is also a great look for those with narrow shoulders, as it gives the illusion of extra width.  The skirt was cut as a subtle mermaid silhouette.

For the fabric we used a silver silk duchess satin.  It is a gorgeous colour that I rarely use because it doesn't really suit many people, however it suited this bride perfectly and she loved it! 

And doesn't she look amazing!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

~thanks Karin!~

Surprise! Karin from the lovely sewing blog Ancien-Nouveau has awarded me a Beautiful Blogger award! 

Thanks so much Karin - I really enjoy reading your blog too!  And readers, if you haven't come across Ancien-Nouveau in blogland yet, you really must check it out - Karin makes lots of lovely and inspirational things! 

Now there are a couple of things I have to do to earn this award -  I have to volunteer 10 things about me that you'd never guess, and nominate 5 other bloggers to do the same.  So here goes:

1. I live in a city with 20 volcanoes!
That's right - dotted all around Auckland are the volcanic cones and craters of several volcanoes - luckily most of them are dormant or extinct.  The last one erupted 600 years ago and apparently it is safe to live here, I certainly hope so....

One Tree Hill, Auckland, NZ

2. I used to collect stamps!
Who didn't as a kid - come on, own up!  When we inherited my Granny's collection, I spent ages sorting them all out - I just love arranging things and putting them in order!  When I discovered a stamp dealer upstairs near my shop, I started buying beautiful old pictorial stamps - New Zealand was the first country in the world to issue pictorials in 1898 - finally stamps that weren't of kings and queens heads!

3. Spiders scare me...
I blame the story of Little Miss Muffet - not great bedtime reading for children, in my opinion!

4. I love Nestle Highlander Sweetened Condensed Milk...
Never mind about baking cookies with it - I eat it directly from the tin!

5. I prefer mountains to the sea...
I read somewhere that people tend to prefer one to the other, and I am definitely a mountains girl.  I love travelling down to Mt Ruapehu (another volcano - complete with skifield) for the weekend, or going to Mt Cook Village and breathing in that delicious glacial air.

6. I was raised on a sheep farm...
next to Fiordland National Park - one of the most beautiful regions of the world, with snow-capped mountains covered in native rainforest, and deep valleys and fiords carved by ice-age glaciers.  Do try and make it there at least once in your lifetime.

7. I once had open heart surgery which inspired a whole collection!
Amazing what lying in a hospital bed bored and on morphine does...

8. When I was eight I sewed a pair of jeans for my Daisy doll,
complete with double topstitching, which was like -- 2 stitches this way -- 2 stitches that way --

9. Even though I've been sewing since I was eight,
half the clothes in my wardrobe need mending or altering.  Making something new is far more exciting!

10. I sometimes crave sweet things,
So I whip up some melt-in-your-mouth-fudge - it's ready to eat in 10 minutes.
Now you can too because here is the dangerously-easy-recipe:
1 Cup white sugar
1/3 Cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon butter
Melt all together over low heat, then gently boil about 5 mins to soft ball stage, add flavouring and beat with wooden spoon until just before it starts to set in the pot, and quickly pour it into a greased dish. 
Some flavourings I like to use are: vanilla, coffee and walnut, ginger, coconut, cherry and coconut, mint, rum and raisin, pistachio, and I have even tried Milo when my pantry was a bit desperate!

I made some coconut fudge this morning especially so I could indulge photograph it for you:

And yes, it is already gone...

The 5 bloggers that I am giving a Beautiful Blogger Award to are:
Tasia from Sewaholic
Steph from Three Hours Past the Edge of the World
Debi from My Happy Sewing Place
Tanit-Isis from Tanit Isis Sews
Ali from The Wardrobe, Reimagined
Enjoy your award folks - and thanks for all your lovely sewing blogs - keep it up!

Monday, August 16, 2010

~if you faint easily, don't read this!~

With all that hand-stitching on my Chanel-style jacket, I guess this was going to be inevitable:

Now I don't usually like to share images of blood with my readers, but there is a related story and handy-dandy hint that I would like to share! 

Once upon a time there was a young girl straight out of tech in her first job in the rag trade - me!  I had landed a role as a design room assistant - that is not a design assistant, it is a design room assistant, which means you are the design room's general dogsbody.  Anyway I slaved away thinking how lucky I was - sewing on buttons, pressing, fusing, making tea, doing buttonholes, etc.  And later on if you were very lucky you'd be entrusted with grading and making patterns! 

While we worked we'd chat, and Pat would chat the most.  I liked Pat - even though I was the junior she cared enough to call me Head Finisher!  45 years my senior, she shared with us stories about everything - history things like going to the dances at Orange Hall and flirting with the American soldiers based here during the war, fashion things like the fabulous Gown of the Year shows in the 1960's, and mediocre things like how to get blood out of your fabric.

Now I never had much use for getting blood out of my fabric because I used to machine sew everything - in the garment industry you never handsew anything if it can be done by machine!  But that was before I started to make wedding dresses, where handsewing became quite necessary and commonplace with all that lacework, ruching, catchstitching interlinings, and beadwork and stuff.

But one day I had my Sleeping Beauty moment - the wicked fairy waited until I was attaching the final few crystals to a gown, when I pricked my finger and got a teeny tiny drop of bright red blood on the centre front bodice of the very white dress when the client was due for her final fitting within the hour.  At that moment I kind of wished I was Sleeping Beauty and would just die or go to sleep for 100 years.

But instead I did what Pat had told me to do - I spat on it!  Well actually, Pat's more elegant method was to moisten a small piece of cotton with your saliva and gently dab the bloodspot, but I had no time for that!  Desparately I put the silk straight into my mouth and soaked it with spit - and miraculously it faded.  I repeated this and soon it totally disappeared - no ring marks, nothing, just like magic!  I breathed a massive sigh of relief, secretly thanked Pat-my-new-fairy-godmother, and the bride never suspected a thing. 

Admittedly using spit to remove blood sounds a bit gross and rather like an old wives tale, but there is a scientific basis - the enzymes in your saliva break down the blood proteins to remove the stain.  Apparently your own saliva works best on your own blood - I haven't tried anybody else's and I certainly don't intend to either!  And of course the sooner you can remove it the better.

So hopefully you'll never need it, but Pat's handy hint is here in case you do, and it definitely works.  Maybe it could save your day one day, just like it did mine!

PS: When the bride did arrive and try on her dress, my heart skipped another beat as I noticed another mark on the back of the dress - upon closer inspection it was a spider caught between the layers of chiffon!!  If I was the bride I would have screamed, but her mother was actually pleased with the presence of a spider, claiming it was a sign of good luck and that her daughter would have a happy married life.  Now I had never ever seen a spider in my workroom before, and never have since, so I thought maybe a little bit of spider luck was on my side that day too - don't you?

~chanel jacket slow progress~

All those rows of quilting has caused progress to be quite slow on my Chanel-style jacket - the thread ends need to be unpicked and restitched back into place after the shell seam has been sewn - and there is a lot of thread ends!  Next time I will definitely take a more minimal approach to my quilting!

Here's what I did:

Unpicked the quilting threads, cut the panel seams (being careful not to cut the threads), and sewed the seam by machine:

Pressed under the seam allowance on the centre back panel, and lapped it over the seam allowance of the side back panel:

Handsewed the lining seam using a fell stitch with 3mm spacing:

This is how I sewed fell stitch:

Proof that I completed a whole seam in fell stitch!   Now all those threads need to be stitched back into place:

I backstitched the ends in place, following the needle holes from the previous stitching, and it looks a little bit hand done, but close enough to the machine stitching for me:

Of course, on the right side there is an equal number of thread ends to be handsewn back into place too.....

And that is just one side back seam!  I have completed the other side back seam, and will start work on the side seams shortly.  See you next month.....

A couple of things I learnt through trial and error:
  • Leave long thread tails when machine quilting.
  • Overlock panel seams once cut, to prevent fraying.  (although backstitching the quilting threads does help to stabilise it quite a bit)
  • When machining the seam, make sure that not only the checks/plaid matches, but the quilting lines match too - I was half a quilting row out when I sewed my second seam.....

Friday, August 6, 2010

~tangerine nightmare skirt~

I finished the refashioning (can your refashion something when it is only 2 days old?) of my tangerine dream skirt last weekend, but it has been raining all week so haven't had the chance to photograph it. Today however it was fine enough to venture outdoors:

Now that I've let it out at the waist it looks like it needs hitching up a bit - I can't win with this skirt!  I am certainly not undoing all that topstitching again.  But the pulling and pocket gaping and drag lines are gone now, and it is now knee length, which I feel much more comfortable in.

And, very importantly, Tiggi showed her approval:

Or was she snowblinded by my winter white legs?!

Whatever - I'm filing this one in the wardrobe for now, and getting to work on my Chanel style jacket. 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Mt Ngauruhoe from Whakapapa Village, Central North Island, New Zealand

Thursday, August 5, 2010

~the chanel jacket begins~

I began working on my Chanel-style jacket yesterday, here is the illustration and shell fabric:

As you can see it is a fairly standard shape, so I simply started from my existing jacket block with a princess line, which is a standard NZ size 10, and I graded it up to my measurements, which are a mish-mash of sizes between 10-14!  I made a quick calico toile, and it fitted perfectly - I just need to rotate the sleeve forward slightly.  Because  I am after a cropped fitted look, I will shorten the body to high hip level and the sleeve to 3/4 length.

Luckily I happen to have perfectly matching silk/cotton in my stash, and I will use this for the lining.  I have 5m of this silk/cotton, so might even make a matching blouse just like Chanel used to do. Hopefully I can think of something that is not too naff!   A simple sleeveless shell might be nice, but I could have enough for something else - suggestions welcome!.
I will have enough main fabric leftover to make a skirt, so will put pink lining in that as well, but doubt I will wear it as a suit - that could be a bit too granny-like for me in this fabric!  But maybe with black.....

I played around for ages experimenting with trims - I unravelled threads from the cloth and plaited them, crocheted them, and mixed them with existing trims I own. But have finally settled on simply using the selvedge like in the above photo.  The fabric reverse has a lot of black threads so it provides a bit of contrast, and the selvedge is pretty cute.  The left and right selvedge is slightly different though, so I won't be able to use them together.

And I couldn't help myself, I had to immediately cut out the back blocks and start quilting to see how it would look!:

I machine quilted in the lines of every second check repeat, which amounts to quite a lot of quilting!  But I quite like the effect - just like a Chanel handbag ;)

So - first a quick trip into the library to return my overdue-and-rapidly-accumulating-fines Burda mags, and I hope to get more done today!

?Eh - what trenchcoat?? 

Monday, August 2, 2010

~a gown for jennifer~

I designed and made wedding dresses for several years, and thought I'd share some favourites! 

Jennifer's gown was made from blush coloured silk duchess satin and the bodice was overlaid in a delicate antique lace that her mother sourced from an antique store:

Although the front skirt was quite plain, the back was formed into 2 deep pleats either side:

The sash widened towards the floor, and looked equally beautiful bustled:

The back bodice buttons were covered in duchess satin overlaid with the lace net.  You can see how delicate the vintage lace is in the close up shot:

Her veil included a little piece of the lace at the crown:

And on the day...