Nyssa Jayne Makes It! on shoesandblues.com

Farewell Tilly

Long cat is long.

Today Neil and I said goodbye to our favourite, furry family member.  Tilly’s health has been declining for a couple of months now, but he had crashed very rapidly this week.  It was a difficult decision to let him go.

Tilly, or Tilly Dylan Tyers-McGwyre, Cat of Brunswick (his full name, as depicted on his PBS radio membership) has been a fixture in our lives for the past 9 years, when I adopted him from a shelter in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.  He was estimated to be about 7 years old when he came to live with me.  I chose to adopt a “senior” cat because I wasn’t sure how long I could dedicate to looking after a cat, given that I was pretty young and stupid.  Senior cats don’t get adopted as readily as younger cats, so I felt like we were helping each other.  Neil gave him his name — the shelter told us he was a girl, his actual gender was uncovered about a year later when he fell ill.  I’ll never forget the look on the vet’s face when he told me that.  We let Tilly keep his name, it’s not like he knew it was a “girls” name or anything.

Tilly's homecoming

This is about an hour after Tilly escaped the shelter.  Much smug.

Tilly was a chatty and personable cat, who was able to adapt to just about any situation, provided you let him sit on you and you would talk to him.  He was not aloof or nervous when it came to new things.  When it came time to decide whether to move to New York or not, we knew that so long as he was fit to fly, he was fit to settle into a new life.  His vet and his travel agency gave him the a-ok and so we arranged for him to join us.  He flourished in NYC — a thyroid condition we had struggled to keep a lid on became much more manageable with different medication not available in Australia.

Tilly takes Manhattan

Tilly takes Manhattan.

Who knew a cat that’s apparently from Mornington, Australia, who might have been 16 or 19 years old, and who wore a Peter Alexander rhinestone bow-tie would make it this far?  I’m going to miss him a lot, and I know Neil will too.  Farewell, my furry little intern.

The last family photo

The last family photo.

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments
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The Pussyhat Project

On the 21st of March, the day after the inauguration, The Women’s March on Washington is happening!  The march isn’t just about women, but about all the voices who were demonised and shunned during the toxic American election.  For me, protesting isn’t whining, it’s about speaking up as a group so that a message is heard, plus when the message is clear, real change can happen.

Pussyhat Power!

I can’t make it to the march, but a yarn store I’ve been visiting, Knitty City, brought The Pussyhat Project to my attention.  The Pussyhat Project aims to provide a pink “pussyhat” for those attending the march, all 1.17million anticipated attendees!  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to participate this way initially, because sometimes I feel that efforts like this can be tokenistic.  Then I approached it from a marketing perspective, the sight of a million pink hats would be very impressive and, more importantly, memorable.  The Pussyhat Project website does a fantastic job too of talking about the power of knitting circles and the handmade in feminism, which is what ultimately tipped me over into making some hats.

My first hat I didn’t photograph, but I did go to the knitting meetup at Knitty City to make it.  I spoke to some women who had been to Washington to march before, including some women who had protested the Vietnam War.  It was great to speak to these women about their experience in activism.  I feel that there is a perception of activists as hyper-partisan, perhaps even crazy, but that has rarely been my experience.  These women marched because it was the right thing to do, and these days, they march for their kids and their future.  There was a sense of, “gosh, do we still have to do this?” but they’re doing it because their kids deserve it.  It was enlightening to hear.

from the top

Check out my ears, meow.

The hat itself is easy to make.  The instructions have you knit it flat then seam the edges, but I knitted both of mine in the round, then kitchener stitched the top shut.  My first hat was made out of Lamb’s Pride Worsted, and then my second hat, the one I’ve photographed, was made from the remenants of the Lamb’s Pride.  I added in some cream and pink stripes using some leftover Cascade 220.

I hope someone at the march receives my hats and knows that they have an ally in New York, hearing what they have to say.  Things are scary right now, no doubt, but I feel that in these uncertain times there are voices getting lost and that they need to be heard — and acted upon.

January 12th, 2017 | No Comments
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Adventures in Coatmaking

So I’ve lived in Australia almost my entire life, except for the 8 months I spent living in Sweden when I was 18 or so.  Living in Melbourne means mild weather — during the summer, it can get hot, up to 40C, but only for a couple of days at a time.  During the winter it never goes below freezing.  I have an unlined wool coat that used to belong to my Dad that I wear during July and August, but that’s about the warmest thing I own.  Most of the time I got away with a leather jacket if I need an extra layer.  I wasn’t in Sweden for a lot of the winter admittedly, but those couple of weeks with below zero temperatures (-22C was my personal record) I didn’t really spend a lot of time outside.  No-one did, it was cold and dark!  I don’t remember if the coat I had was entirely appropriate, but I obviously lived to tell the tale.

I’ve had two summers this year and the weather has finally broken, which means I had to start thinking about a coat.  My Dad’s coat, while warm, wasn’t going to cut it for those exceptionally cold days over the holidays.  I could buy a coat, however deep down, I knew I wanted to make a coat.  Along with bras and jeans, a coat is like a rite of passage for a home sewer.

I made a coat!

I don’t know what is with these pictures, hopefully you can see my work.

I chose McCall’s 7442 as my coat pattern.  The envelope image is admittedly a bit goofy, but the technical drawing is really lovely.  I made a toile in size 14, grading down to a 12 in the shoulders, plus I made all the petite adjustments in the bodice and sleeves, which… seemed to have worked!  My curves aren’t as pronounced once I’m bundled up in thermals and sweaters.

from the back

After much research, I decided on a wool and Kasha/Sunback lining combination, plus any underlining required to stabilise the fashion fabric.  I don’t anticipate spending a lot of time outside when the weather is rubbish, I basically just need something to get me from home, to the subway, to wherever I’m going.

I bought my fashion fabric from Paron’s during their closing down sale.  It was bittersweet visiting Paron’s — the staff were still upbeat and the bargains were fantastic (my fabric was $9 per yard), but there was very much a sense there was some livelihoods taking a hit because the store was closing.  I also bought some silk organza from Chic Fabrics to underline the fabric.  The weave is fairly solid, but I just wanted to make sure.

The lining came from B&J Fabrics, as my researched indicated they were the only ones who stocked this kind of lining in the city.  That was another new-to-me store, and I must say, it was very exciting to touch $240 per yard fabric (should I admit I did that)?  They had a small collection of Sunback, but it did include the polka dot fabric I fell in love with!

The buttons were close out buttons from M&J Trimmings.  Gosh, they were hard to find, I just wasn’t happy with anything.  These aren’t really a perfect match, but I really liked them, so I figured I would just go for it.  The faux fur trim is from Mood, it’s an Alexander Wang piece.  I was worried that it would be a lot of look, but once I refrained from attaching the fur to the cuffs as well, it evened out (note, I still might do that).

up close!

I do worry that I haven’t packed enough layers into my coat.  I have been reading about Tasha’s coat, where she intends to use Thinsulate in her jacket, plus I considered lambswool like Gertie did all those years ago.  I’m kind of banking on the expertise I read on this Artisan’s Square thread to come through though and while I wouldn’t describe my combination as toasty, it’s warmer than what I had.

from the side

Once I had collected everything for the coat, I stalled a lot, nervous about cutting into fabric I couldn’t replace and just generally being a wimp, but once I got started, there was no stopping me!  I did make a couple of adjustments on the fly.  I added a pleat to the lining, which isn’t in the original pattern, plus I ran the lining all the way down the skirt of the coat.  My tailoring textbook was such a valuable resource on this project and I would recommend getting it into your library if you don’t already.



The Good

All the hand stitching required left me very zen.  Each seam is cross-stitched down to help it lay flat — I don’t have a clapper and didn’t want the wool to lose its bounce because I steamed the heck out of it.  There’s feather stitching on the lining to keep the pleats closed, and the faux-fur collar is actually basted to the coat, so that it can be removed when the coat requires cleaning.  Inserting the sleeves was kind of amazing too, I used a technique from the aforementioned tailoring text that is also detailed here on the Lolita Patterns website.  It’s magic, it made setting the sleeves so easy and it makes them look great.

The Bad

So I finished this coat back at the start of December, which means I’ve had a chance to wear it quite a bit.  The wool I chose isn’t holding up like I hoped it would.  You may be able to see from the photos where it’s starting to wear.  It will be fine for this season, and perhaps even next season, but I do want to chose something a lot sturdier next time.  I would also try to include something warmer as well, I feel like I could beef this up a little bit.

I also want to practice hemming and using horsehair braid a little more.  The hem is fine, but when you see it from my angle, you can pick out some slight puckering, as the lining might be a smidge shorter than the shell.

The Learned

So much!!  It has been a confidence boost, that’s for sure.  I am actually making another coat in a couple of weeks with Jennifer at Workroom Social, so I’m looking forward to what tips and tricks she has up her sleeve (hint, it’s many).

January 10th, 2017 | No Comments
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Christmas Knitting

I have been making quite a few things over the last couple of months, but I haven’t taken as many chances to photograph and blog them as soon as I finish them.  Christmas was surprisingly busy, plus my dear kitty Tilly, seen here asking for dinner, has been sick, which has been a little rough.  He’s okay for now, his main ailment is that he is old — he is anywhere between sixteen and nineteen years old, depending on which certificate you look at — which really can’t be helped.  Knowing what a stubborn little furbag he is, he’s probably making me worry prematurely (“I’m pretty sure [the mean ones] stay alive out of spite,” one of his vets suggested after Tilly tried to take her eye out), but I can’t help it, it’s my job as his cat companion and food dispenser.

Another reason why I haven’t blogged the things I made is because they were gifts!

Eleanor's blanket

First up is a baby blanket I made for our pals John and Maggi and their brand new human, Eleanor.  I got Maggi’s blessing to make a blanket before Eleanor was born, as I know some new parents either have family who make heirloom gifts, or don’t have a need for such a thing.  Maggi was thrilled with the idea though, so after the baby arrived (Neil and I are superstitious), I got to work.

Close up of chevron blanket

I suggested chevrons to Maggi — I wanted to riff on granny square blankets, every 30-something pal of mine has got one that was made for them as a child, but I also wanted to respect that Eleanor was a child of 2016, not 1985.  I had this idea in my head that she’d take this blanket to college, like we did with our blankets, and when asked about it, she’d roll her eyes and say, “our parents were so obsessed with chevrons when we were kids, weren’t they?”

Speaking of taking things from your childhood home, that’s my mother’s coffee table she received as a 21st birthday present back in 19-seventy-mumble.

The yarn is Knit Picks Swish worsted.  I chose this yarn because Maggi could chose the colours online and have an idea of what she might get back in return, plus it could be machine washed and tumbled dried, things I figured were important to new parents.  There are a squillion chevron baby blankets on Ravelry, I happened to chose this one, omitting the yarn-overs and incorporating left and right leaning make-ones instead.  Super quick, super easy, the only reason why it wasn’t delivered sooner is because I was waiting for some brand new blocking boards to arrive.

I had some yarn left over, so I made a bonus gift.

Matching hats!

Matching hats!  These are the Classic Cuffed Hat from Purl Soho, a very simple ribbed beanie in a couple of sizes, including adult and infant (although mind you, the infant size is by no means small).  It’s a great base pattern and I’m tempted to revisit it for myself later, perhaps with some cables or lace.  This used up pretty much every scrap of yarn I ordered for the blankets, which is the most satisfying thing ever.  Maggi has shown me a picture of Eleanor being cute in her hat and I couldn’t be more stoked.

My next gift was for my godmother-in-law, Aunty Jan.

What a shawl.

Neil and I have been talking about what makes a thoughtful gift.  Aunty Jan, who lives in England, often sends us some money on our birthdays and for Christmas, crisp notes straight from the bureau de change, and it’s enclosed in these fantastic handmade cards, which usually stay up long past whatever the occasion is.  Neil has at times expressed something akin to guilt over these gifts, mainly because he works and I am usually employed, but I suggested that Aunty Jan likes to do this, there’s something about the small sacrifice that provides meaning.  Because we work, we don’t always have time, which is the sacrifice that is present in a handmade gift.  One day, the dynamics will be different, and we’ll be sending money to the young whippersnappers instead.

zoom in on shawl.

The pattern is Sweet Shoppe Shawlette, a top-down shawl pattern basically designed for the kind of pretty yarn you buy as a souvenir when on holidays.  The yarn is Bertha by DirtyWater Dye Works, and I bought it at Gather Here when on a small trip to Boston last year.  I already had the idea that I wanted to make Aunty Jan a shawl, so when we visited Gather Here, I narrowed down some appropriate yarns and Neil picked a colourway he thought she’d like, so it was a joint effort.

The pattern was quite simple and if you’re in the market for your first shawl, this one is a bit of a winner.  I found that I couldn’t memorise that honeycomb stitch, which was a little annoying, I’m usually quite good at that, but other than that, there was no issues with it.  I did do a few more repeats of the honeycomb stitch to use up as much yarn as possible, so it’s slightly larger than pattern suggests.

I’m looking forward to showing you some of the other things I’ve made recently too — there’s some trousers, some shorts, two skirts, another shirt for Neil, and legit winter coat to come!

January 4th, 2017 | No Comments
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I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered The Replacements

OK, the title of this post is a lie, I haven’t just discovered The Replacements, it actually turns out that I’ve just gotten into replacing things.  (And I like to periodically rediscover Art Brut.)

New cardigan!

One of my favourite cardigans was a green and blue fair isle number from Valley Girl (it’s like an Australian Forever 21) that I bought about 10 years ago.  It dutifully saw me through numerous winters, which is unusual for a cheap garment, but finally I noticed some holes developing, plus it had stretched out a little, so I decided to retire it.  I knew I would miss it though, so before I donated it, I vowed to replicate it.

I originally intended to use a vintage pattern, but my patterns were on the boat, so I didn’t see them for a couple of months.  I searched Ravelry for a good base cardigan instead and settled on Walnuss.  It’s a slightly different style to the original cardigan, but I’ve never made a contiguous cardigan with saddle shoulders before.  There are pleats on the front that run down the side as well, which I figured would help with the fit — I can do an FBA on a sewn garment no worries, but I’ve never made a similar adjustment while knitting.

Closer up.

The yarn I used is Wool of the Andes by Knit Picks in a sport weight.  Upon reflection, I think that this weight may have been a bit thick considering all of the fair isle, but it has made the cardigan super-warm, which definitely saved me when I was wandering around Central Park the other day.  I matched the colours as closely as I could to my original cardigan, and I think I did an okay job.  I have done a double take when looking at it in my wardrobe, which I think counts as a win.

All the pretty fair isle

So!  The fair isle!  I can be a bit cocky about mashing up patterns and techniques so I didn’t see a problem with just adding fair isle in.  I didn’t chart the pattern, I just copied it from the original cardigan, fudging it where I needed to and ripping back if necessary.  But you know what else I didn’t do?  I did do a swatch, but I didn’t do a swatch in fair isle.  The first iteration of the cardigan, before I picked up stitches to commence the sleeves, was way too tight, because the fair isle isn’t as flexible as plain stockinette.  Whoops.  I don’t mind ripping projects back — I took this one back to the shoulders — but it does upset Neil (“All that work!”).  I redid the body with some extra stitches around the bust and it has improved greatly.

Inside the cardigan.

A view from the inside.

I finished the button band with some grosgrain ribbon, using Lladybird’s tutorial.  I did adjust my technique slightly though and instead of folding the ribbon underneath itself at the top and the bottom of the band to prevent fraying, I melted the edge using a lighter instead (that’s a link to the first tutorial I found on Google, I actually learned about it when making Lolita-inspired clothes).  This prevents fraying and is less bulky, but only works if you’re using nylon or polyester ribbon.  I splurged on the buttons, I picked them up from M&J Trimmings.

Heat sealed ribbon.

A close-up of how neat the ribbon looks after heat sealing.

I’m pretty happy with the finished result.  The contiguous method is definitely fun, but as Kay The Sewing (and Knitting) Lawyer explains, the garment lacks the structure to hold itself up in places.  I’ve opted not to do anything about it straight away — I did try the crochet chain idea, but didn’t quite get the tension right, so I might mull it over a little more first.  I figured there’s no rush.  I also think if I were to make this pattern again, and I think I would, I would make it without the pleats and do shortrows for a bust adjustment instead.  I like the uneven hem of this cardigan, but I don’t think I would need two.

Looking down.


November 29th, 2016 | No Comments
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Birthday Negroni

Neil’s birthday was in August and I was a bit stuck on what to get him.  What do you get the man who had everything, got rid of heaps of it, and now has exactly what he needs?

He had noticed that his new workplace had a slightly different culture fashion-wise to his previous Australian workplace, although I’d argue New York and Melbourne are very different in regards to style.  In Neil’s particular case, it meant less t-shirts and more button up shirts.

Sweet looking shirt.

With all that considered, I decided to make him a button-up shirt.  I went straight to Colette’s Negroni for a pattern.  It’s relatively well-documented, bloggers like Lladybird and Peter have made it without complaint, plus the instructions were apparently legendary, so I bit the bullet and ordered the printed version.  Admittedly, this was before all the Rue-ha-ha kicked off, but this pattern came through for me.

Neil is historically a straight Medium, all day every day.  But while the man is a sample size in everything, I wasn’t quite confident enough to pick the fabric and features I thought he might like on my own, plus why not let him customise his own shirt?  So the gift I gave him on his actual birthday was a toile.  I sewed one long sleeve and one short sleeve onto the shirt, which got the laugh I wanted, and I explained he could customise the pockets, chose fabric and buttons, and determine the sleeve length himself.  He chose the long sleeves and we shortened them slightly, which was the only adjustment we made to the pattern.

All smiles.

The fabric came from Mood.  Neil had a Friday off so I suggested we visit the Garment District to visit some characters and get some supplies.  I’d actually seen something at Metro Textiles that I thought he’d like, plus the whole store-on-the-9th-floor thing is still really interesting to us, but we didn’t make it that far from the subway.  I suggested we quickly check Mood because they’d have everything, where we ended up buying the whole lot!

Neil picked a top-weight denim with tiny little palm trees on it (it’s this fabric, but a different colourway that doesn’t appear to be online).  We found matching buttons and thread, and Neil got to pat Swatch the dog, who he said, “Is probably the most famous dog I’ve ever patted.”

From the back.

The Good

Sewing the Negroni shirt was a lot of fun.  In fact, if I ever needed some palette-cleansing sewing sorbet in the future, I would consider making another one of these for Neil.  In Neil’s case, there’s no major fitting concerns, it’s all straight lines, no set-in sleeves and everything lines up just right.  The fabric Neil chose was great to work with as well — it loved my iron, the interfacing, shears, everything felt like a breeze.

The Bad

This is some seriously minor stuff, but I don’t think I matched the colour of the thread to the fabric very well.  It’s slightly too grey and not quite blue enough for me.  I don’t think the topstitching is perfect either, but topstitching is kind of like that, one stitch out and it’s looks wonky.  I have to decide whether I want to buy another foot for my machine or place the topstitching a little further away from the edge of the garment.  And while I prefer this method of sewing sleeves to set-in sleeves, I’m still figuring out how to make the seams under the arms line up exactly.

The Learned

While the fit is pretty spot-on, after wearing it for a day, Neil did mention he’d like it a little slimmer at the hips next time, which is something I can definitely fix.  It was also another case of matching the correct pattern to the correct fabric.  While the denim is a top-weight denim, it’s still kind of thick, which meant Neil couldn’t really wear the shirt until the weather cooled down.  A lovely winter shirt is a good thing, but it’s hard to be patient sometimes!

In Beacon.

A catalogue pose if I ever saw one.

This is Neil wearing his new shirt on our trip to Beacon a couple of months ago.  Note that the collar here is pressed slightly differently, more in line with the pattern description.  Neil ironed a crease into it, which gives it a slightly different look and a little more like the other shirts he has in his wardrobe.  I’ve read a little bit about how the collar isn’t to everyone’s taste, so if you’re in that boat, consider a crease that almost mimics a collar stand!

November 16th, 2016 | No Comments
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Invited to a Better Party

So, as mentioned, I made an after-party skirt for my wedding!  I wore a RTW spring racing dress (so knee length and off the shoulder) from Hugo Boss for the ceremony, which I admittedly bought when Neil and I were first engaged.  Not kidding, that was 4 or 5 years before we were actually married.  I was very scared to try the dress on when we started actual wedding planning.  I had learned so much about fit, I was worried about what past-Nyssa had done.  Other than eat a few more muffins and pizzas than I should have, it was an amazing fit and nothing that some trips to the gym in the months leading up to the wedding couldn’t fix.  Nice one!  It was perfect on the day and Neil and I looked like a bloody catalogue because he bought his suit from the same store.

Front view of skirt.

Up on the roof! The sun was facing the wrong way for me to show you Brooklyn, though.

My Mum calls my after-party skirt a “going-away” skirt, and it’s apparently a fairly normal tradition where I’m from in Australia.  I just wanted something different for the evening portion of our day — we actually went dancing at Brooklyn Bowl and a white dress wasn’t quite the look I was going for.  (I love telling people that ?uestlove DJ’d my wedding reception despite the number of groans I get in response).  I actually kind-of planned this skirt and knew exactly what I wanted when I saw this skirt by Martin Grant.

Martin Grant navy blue taffeta skirt.

Someone else pinned this with the caption “fancy schmancy”.

I made my version out of a DKNY taffeta purchased from The Fabric Store in Fitzroy (much thanks to the A-Team, Michelle and David, for the gift voucher).  It’s very simple — I used a curved waistband and then just gathered a rectangle of fabric, finishing the whole thing off with a handstitched hem and invisible zip.  I also included pockets, because they were definitely quite hidden within all that fabric.  I attempted to attach a lining, but didn’t have anything in the correct weight, so I omitted it in the end.  I stood on the kitchen table at my mum and dad’s house where my Mum helped me get the hem just right.

Looking at my toes.

I learned a lot with this simple garment and it really helped me maintain some sewing mojo going forward, especially during the move when I got rid of a lot of handmade clothes and my stash.  Ditching the lining was a great move, as it ended up being 30-something degrees on our wedding day and I did not need that much fabric in my life in that kind of heat.  I always have my high-school sewing teacher telling me to line all the things in my head, and I’m trying to shake her out of there because how can I trust someone who didn’t teach us to press seams (no kidding, I seriously learned this much later on)?  Another thing I learned to do was relax a little bit.  I’ve been known to overfit garments and get hung up on making them perfect, even though the imperfections bothering me are ones I tolerate in RTW.  A simple project, with no fitting challenges, was what I needed to remind me of what I like about sewing.  And you know what, there are imperfections in the skirt — the tension on my machine kicked up a fuss and sometimes I wonder about those gathers and my pre-washing methods, but then I put this skirt on and feel like a queen.  And nobody has ever said, hey, why are the stitches so tiny in that part of the seam?  (You know why they don’t say that?  They can’t see them!  Nobody can!)

Side view.

I sought a bit of help for this skirt too, which I don’t normally do.  Alongside my Mum’s hemming, I asked my friend Nico for advice on pleats vs. gathers and he kindly took the time to explain what impact each would have on the garment.  He also helped explain what kind of fabric I would need to get that drama happening.  As a result of his expertise, I have a skirt that really comes close to resembling the original image.

View from the back.

So on the night I wore it with a white shirt from Uniqlo and sparkly pink ballet flats (which I am wearing in the pictures!), but these days, I team it with band t-shirts and just go to the pub.  I mean, I didn’t put all this work in to not wear it!

Close up.

You coming to the pub or what?

October 14th, 2016 | No Comments
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Serious, with a side of Twee

I bought this pink dotted swiss cotton from Mood when I was looking to replace a circle skirt that was faded beyond recognition and needed some serious retirement.  It was the wrong fabric for the job, but I faithfully wore the skirt, because I didn’t have a lot of clothes to chose from after a serious cull prior to moving.  When the skirt was involved with a cleaning accident and bleach spots appeared, I was annoyed because I had spent time on the skirt, but not that upset because it wasn’t really doing its job of replacing my original skirt.  That skirt was retired without being blogged about.

I had bought too much of this dotted fabric and didn’t want to make (another) replacement skirt.  I am trying to concentrate on picking the right fabric for the job and thought that it might make an appropriate blouse — I have other blouses RTW blouses made out of a similar material, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  The buttons are from Pacific Trimmings.  I picked them out because they’re a match for some buttons on a blouse that belonged to my grandma.  I intended to get some cute pearly ones, but I got a bit caught up!


I chose Vogue 8772 as my pattern.  I had toiled and made up this pattern back in Australia, but encountered difficulty bringing my arms forward, and wearing a peculiar shade of yellow so close to my face.  I finished it, donated it, and vowed to learn from it.  Of course, it would’ve been easier to learn from it if I had of kept the damn garment, but here we are.  (There’s a wrap dress in my future with the exact same story behind it).

The notes I had left myself in regards to the adjustments I made to the pattern made no bloody sense, so I went back to the start made some familiar adjustments — shortened the bodice by 5cm, a 2.5cm FBA, a 1.2cm narrow shoulder adjustment, and shortened the sleeves by 7.5cm.  (My bodice piece also says I did a swayback adjustment, but I can’t confirm or deny any evidence of that).  I made up a toile and using Sunni’s broad back adjustment, added in 2.4cm across the back and sleeves.  I also experimented with making a Peter Pan collar, but after some serious reflection, decided against it.  Yes, I’m twee.  However, I figured there would be some room for contrasts in the shirt if I made it according to the pattern, which is with a pointed collar.  It wouldn’t be too sweet, just sweet enough.

The Good

After my last shirt dress, I made sure to concentrate on cutting out more carefully, which paid off.  I also did my first continuous lap and only made one mistake (it’s inside out I think).  They’re not perfect, but better than I expected.  I prefer plackets, so I think I might do that on my next shirt.  I also don’t appear to have over-fitted it, which is good!  Small victories!  Obviously, there are adjustments to be made…

from the back.

The Bad

After making the broad back adjustment and shortening the sleeves, I didn’t true my seams on the paper pattern, and the sleeves didn’t match up at their seams.  I fudged it during construction and you can’t tell from the outside, but it will need fixing for future versions.

The Learned

Sleeves, man.  This particular pattern has a very high sleeve head, which makes setting it an absolute nightmare.  There’s still a few tiny creases in my sleeve, but I am not going to get hung up about that.  On future versions, I’m going to reduce the height of that sucker and save myself from the tedium.

I followed the instructions pretty closely, except for the fisheye darts in the bodice.  I did them last, so that I could leave them out if I desired, but that looked less twee than I wanted.  If I had’ve done the flat Peter Pan collar, then it might have been okay to leave the darts out, but as it stood, I felt I needed the darts to maintain a certain sense of girliness.  I made them exactly as the pattern pieces said I should, but when I showed Neil my finished shirt, he suggested I might want to make the shirt more fitted.  I ummed and ahhed about this, but made the decision to go fitted and take the width out of the front darts and the sides.  I often wear shirts underneath other garments and tucked in, so this move made sense.  Neil suggested if the fabric had’ve been a bit lighter, then the fit was fine.  Back in Australia he had to wear shirts all the time, so his practical experience is important to me.

Tucked in.

This is how I’l be wearing the shirt 99.9% of the time.

The darts did give me a hard time, looking pointy and bubbly, but that’s got more to do with how large they have to be (they are Big Honkin Darts, I’ll give you that).  I’ve beaten them into submission with my iron for now, I think they’ll relax a little with a wash.  I will be updating the pattern piece to make the darts look more like Megan’s curved darts, because that’s essentially what I did, only freehanded on the machine instead of planned.  There’s some drag lines on the front that suggest a forward shoulder adjustment might be in order.  I also want to revisit my FBA as there is extra fabric over my hips (you can see it flouncing with the shirt untucked).  Actually, you know what, this is making me want to do princess seams I think…

Pink shirt in Beacon

I made the skirt too!  It’s based on Tilly’s picnic blanket skirt, made with fabric bought in Singapore.

Neil and I took a trip to Beacon a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, where it was finally cool enough to wear long sleeves.  I kind of understand this obsession with autumn now — the cool change is such a relief!

October 8th, 2016 | No Comments
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Yarn Crawlin’

I love a bar crawl.  Neil and I did a fantastic one before we left Australia — every bar in Brunswick, our suburb and home for 8 years.  That’s 32 bars for those counting at home.

I’d never been on a yarn crawl before though.  I guess there just aren’t that many yarn stores in Melbourne.  I used to go to Wool Baa or Morris and Sons every now and then, but found I didn’t make the time once I went back to work.  I had a sizeable stash and no time to knit with it.  However, I got rid of all my yarn when we moved, except for a project’s worth from Knit Picks, so there was a small gap in my overall craft stash for a little bit of yarn.

I stumbled across the NYC Yarn Crawl, and at first, was a bit skeptical.  I was actually searching for knitting circles so I could meet some fellow knitters and crocheters, and figured the crawl would be fun, until I realised it was self-directed.  I thought about it for a little while, but in the end, I figured I would go to a couple of stores because I did have a small queue of projects, and it’s quite nice to go out and touch the fibre.

I headed out on Friday, the first day of the crawl.  I figured the weekends would be a bit busy, plus I had to go to the Social Security office anyway, which was very close to one of the stores, Seaport Yarns.  Seaport Yarns is on the 4th floor of a non-descript building, just like some of the stores in the Garment District.  I always feel like a bit of an insider when I get to go to stores like this.  It was a treasure trove of all kinds of yarn, much of it I hadn’t heard of before.  It was a little chaotic for me so I didn’t purchase anything this time, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

Unlike the Garment District, none of the yarn stores are that close to each other.  I made the decision to walk from the Financial District, up to SoHo, where Purl Soho is located.  I was excited about this one, mainly because I’d heard of Purl Soho before.  It was there that I realised this yarn crawl was a Big Deal.  The store was packed!  There was a twenty minute wait on yarn winding!  I bought some super-secret yarn which will be made into a gift and won a tote bag, so it was all very exhilarating.

My next stop was Downtown Yarns on Avenue A, which is the edge of the Lower East Side.  Once again, I decided to walk.  It was turning into a great way to see the city.  Downtown Yarns have the fluffiest bear dog that I’ve ever had the privilege to pat.  They also had a selection of yarns that is probably a bit more to my taste, very colourful.  I bought some blue Malabrigo for a pair of slippers here.  (I was shopping from a list, so I didn’t go too mad and buy really pretty variegated yarn that looks great in a skein and terrible otherwise).

OMG he was so fluffy!

I am all for shop dogs.

Then I had to go pick up some medicine for the cat in Midtown.  Not yarn related though.

From there, I was closest to Knitty City in the Upper West Side.  I could have walked, but it was getting late in the day, and I knew that I wanted to meet Neil for a drink later, so I decided to catch the subway up there.  I’ve not spent any time really up that way (there used to be a bar called The Ding Dong Lounge up there, but it’s closed now), so I was keen for a new neighbourhood.  I think out of the four stores I visited, Knitty City was my favourite.  It too was really busy, but the atmosphere was really lively.  There were people knitting in store, the colours of all the skeins were amazing, and everyone was super friendly.  I bought some Madelinetosh here for a new Bo-Peep Scarf (I gave my old one away).

They even put my photo on their Instagram!  (Not pictured, but should be, seeing this shirt in real life was kind of amazing).

Being able to see and touch what are really notable yarn brands for the first time was super cool and a bit of a buzz for me.  I considered dragging Neil out to some more stores on the weekend — I didn’t even hit any of the Brooklyn stores — but truth be told, I did buy most of the yarn that was on my list, and I have to be careful because I don’t have the room/will to store it anymore like I used to.  Another nice side-effect of the tour was to just walk around the city for a day, which I didn’t consider initially.  Sure my feet were sore the next day, but it was so worth it.

So this means along with my sewing projects, you’ll get to see some knitting projects in the future too!

September 27th, 2016 | No Comments
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Third Time’s a Charm

A couple of years ago, I tried to make Gertie’s Shirtwaist Dress to no avail and after some serious contemplation, I decided to purchase the shirtwaist dress pattern to end them all, McCall’s 6696.  Purchasing a well-documented pattern really saved my sanity and gave me the confidence boost I needed.  I loved it so much I made two!  And a half!

Well, actually, I’ve since made three.

Thems some huge glasses ma'am.

I knew I wanted to make one last summery version.  I was in a vintage store on Bedford Avenue a couple of weeks ago where I got to try on this lovely thing.

Expensive duds on Bedford.

I think this is from Awoke Vintage on Bedford Ave.

Neil said it looked alright, but I explained I wasn’t entirely comfortable in it.  The bust was very tight (you probably know to look for the straining against the buttons) and the waist was missing a hook and eye — I’ve tied the bow in front to cover it up, but you could totally see my belly.  The annoying thing was, when I inspected the garment, I could see signs that there used to be another closure there.  I do not pay $70 for vintage garments that aren’t perfect, so I snapped this picture and left it in the store, vowing to make my own floral version.

When we were last in London for a friend’s wedding, I told Neil I’d like to visit one of the two major fabric districts, either Goldhawke Road or Walmsthow Market.  I’m not sure why I ended up picking Goldhawke Road in the end, but as we were staying near King’s Cross, we jumped onto a tube and headed out.  I went out there with a mission, and that mission was flowers.  Tiny little Liberty flowers, big flowers, it didn’t matter.  When I saw this particular fabric, I knew that this is what I wanted to make my summer shirtwaist dress out of.  It’s a different kind of fabric to the vintage piece, but as the main inspiration was the flowers themselves, I considered it a win.  Alongside the bright flowers, there’s also a paisley print embroidered in black swirling throughout the fabric.  I found out later that it doesn’t press very well at all, which is slightly annoying, but it’s hard to know that in the middle of a fabric store.

There are other alterations I made that make this dress different to the vintage one.  I already had two shirtwaist dresses, the black one being the most similar, so I thought it would be nice to switch things up a bit.  I also knew I always wanted to return to the shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s book, in particular the shirred back.  Rather than using Gertie’s pattern, I added shirring to the McCall’s version.  Instead of the back being four back pieces — the yoke, the back, the waistband and the skirt — I made two, the yoke and the back.  I just laid out the back, the skirt and the waistband overlapped on the fabric and winged it and it worked out okayyyy… more on that later.

from the back.

I also made tulip sleeves, as inspired by the second shirtwaist dress in Gertie’s book.  They were very easy and satisfying to make up, although once I put the dress on, I realised that I would probably make them cap sleeves rather than actual sleeves.  It’s hard to tell what Gertie’s done on her dress as she has her arms down.  Anyway, I would make cap sleeves first — this is how to make that adjustment — and then make the tulip sleeve adjustment after that.  I finished them with a narrow hem, which I’ve never done before.  It came out lovely.

I also undid the sloping should adjustment from the previous version.  Much better!

The buttons are from Pacific Trimmings.  I learned from my last shirtwaist dress (the black one) the perils of choosing buttons that are Too Big, so I made a concerted effort to find some in a more appropriate size.  I love these little guys, they’ve kind of got that swirls-on-swirls look that the fabric has.  I swore I wouldn’t use shank buttons again, but I couldn’t resist them.

The Good

This dress came together much easier than the previous two.  I spent less time with the quik-unpick than normal.  At first I was skeptical.  “Wait, that just went together like that?”  Then I realised that I may have been experiencing some imposter syndrome.  I always feel like the rug is going to be pulled out from underneath me when I’m at work.  I guess the thing is that something usually does go wrong with my sewing, given the tactile nature of it (when I’m at work, I can just backspace and try different code, no harm no foul).  I think I especially felt like I was getting away with something when I realised just how terrible my cutting was.

The Bad

Oh my goodness, my cutting.  So, I have been extra careful lately.  I have been tracing pattern pieces and then cutting them with shears, and if I couldn’t trace because the fabric was too finicky, then I just used my rotary cutter (I have a huge A0 cutting mat which I love, but I don’t love my rotary cutter in the same way).  This time, because the fabric laid itself out so nicely and I couldn’t trace due to the embroidery, I figured I would just cut around the pattern pieces.  And it appears my first few pieces, like the bodice and the collar, came out just right.  My button placket was a mess, but I didn’t realise it until I was attaching the interfacing.  It’s meant to be straight, but it dipped by almost a centimetre in places!  Although this dress went together very easily, the placket was definitely problematic.  I’m not 100% convinced that it’s perfectly straight in places and there’s some sneaky handstitching on the inside to prevent any fabric edges showing up.  The waistband on the front suffered a little too.  The shirring has helped with some of these sins, along with the drape of the fabric, but still.  The lesson here is: can’t trace?  Use the damn rotary cutter.

The Learned

The other thing I learned on this project was about “winging it”.  Instead of making a new pattern piece for the back, I just laid out the back, the waistband and the skirt piece and cut around that.  I wondered about it as I was doing it — I chose the straight skirt from the pattern envelope, which has a slightly curved hem at the waistline.  This means that I couldn’t place it exactly 4cm below the back piece (the waistband is 7cm wide, minus the seam allowance of 1.5cm x2).  Plus there’s every chance these pieces moved as I was cutting because as explained, I got a bit giddy.  So when I attached the front to the back, I found I was out by around 2cm (!!) at the waist.  Given the flexible nature of shirring, I let this 2cm fall down to the hem and just cut it off there, but next time I want to make such a dramatic adjustment, I would like to do it on paper.  That way, I can walk and true any seams and basically have my shit together so I don’t lose it later.  I got away with it on this project, but I haven’t always, so it is something that I need to keep learning and remembering.

Looking at the cat.

Tilly continues to help me.

By the end of the project, I must admit, I was a little… well, bored.  It’s my third version of this pattern, plus I used a variation of it on my gingham skirt.  It’s a detailed garment to make, there are a lot of pieces, and it can be a little more time consuming than other projects.  I mean, when you’re sewing on eleven buttons (twelve if you’re like me and sew a spare onto the inside of the placket), you can be forgiven for thinking, damn, are we done yet?  There is one more version of this I’d like to make, with long sleeves for the winter, but I think I might leave it for the actual winter.

September 23rd, 2016 | No Comments
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