Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Wedding attendant dresses

This project harks back to 2015 when I was asked by a teacher at the dance studio if I would be able to make her dress for a wedding that she was Best Woman at. Yes, that's right best woman to the groom  😁  I agreed . . .   and then, as happens sometimes, one dress became four dresses! How so? Well, the three bridesmaids were having trouble finding anyone to make their dresses. There was one thing to consider in that only the best woman lived in Wellington. Where were the bridesmaids living? One in Auckland, one in Christchurch and, wait for it, . . . one in London, England!

Hmmmm. This needed a little thought! Since I had been asked well ahead of time once I got my head around a few logistics I felt it would be o.k. to go ahead. The best woman and two of the bridesmaids were apparently similar sizes which would make things easier. Also the dress pattern was the same for the four of them.

Here is the pattern below, View C with a sash tied at the back. A link to the updated version is here

I checked on Pattern Review to see if this pattern had been reviewed and it had. Reading the reviews was helpful as there were a few things I could watch out for when fitting the toile.

First up I measured the best woman. I then tinkered with my measurement chart in Excel to highlight the measurements that were needed and put an X in the boxes that weren't necessary. I developed my chart from a combination of a couple of charts, one being a standard measurement chart the other a specific tutu measurement chart. Since I make all sorts of things it is handy to have all the different measurement possibilities on my chart.

Once the tinkering was done I sent the chart by email to the Christchurch and London girls along with a set of instructions in how to measure, with some diagrams as well for good measure. The Auckland girl was down for a weekend so I was able to measure her in person. When a couple of weeks had gone by and I hadn't received a return email from London I emailed again, this time remembering to mark it high priority. Just as well as my first email had gone into cyberspace!

While the emails were winging their way about I got on with the toile of the dress for Miss A, Best Woman. Here it is below, and the fit was pretty good! From that I was able to make the necessary adjustments for the other three girls, once I had all the measurements in hand.

Then came one of the fun parts. The toile for London was sent by "tracked and signed for" courier, as was the Christchurch one. The cost of these was covered by the bride. Miss A was traveling to Auckland so was able to take that one up and bring it back with her. Again I sent instructions, and asked the girls to take photos for me when they fit the dresses. I was glad I had as it made a big difference being able to see the dresses on their bodies.

Close-up of neckline

The two that had been sent by courier were returned pretty promptly and in the case of the London one within about three weeks. The fit of them all was pretty good, a bit on the large size so needed taking in, but better than the girls needing to figure out how much to add in!

All that done it was time to move on with the actual dresses. These were of . . . chiffon! and lined of course. I do not know what it is about chiffon and I, it seems to have a dangerous attraction to me!

The best woman's dress was grey with a lavender sash, the bridesmaids were lavender with a grey sash. One thing I hadn't made before was a lined sleeveless dress with an invisible zip. I did have a lesson with Andy G to go over it as I learn best by watching and doing. For good measure I found this video online which I found really helpful as I was able to watch it several times and pause it when needed while I was actually sewing the first one. I also did a test run with some of the scraps . . . better to stuff that up than mangle the dresses!

I took a lot of photos whilst making these dresses, and they are some of the "lost lot"  😒  I had posted some on Instagram and found them on my phone so have a few. Below is Miss As' dress on Hetty before the final fitting for the hem.

I was able to get Miss A's dress sorted and finished without too much stress. I had been given to understand the bridesmaids would all be in Wellington around a week before the wedding, which was on 28 December. In actual fact the earliest they were all able to be available was 26th December! So that afternoon I did the first actual dress fitting. Below is the photo of the girls after I've done a bit of pinning. They still needed a fair bit of work! The little white tags have their initials on to make it easier to tell the dresses apart, especially Misses V & R.

L > R: Miss V, Miss R, Mrs M

The next day, around 9;00 pm or so in the evening, I was able to do the 2nd and final fitting for the hems! There had been a pre-wedding rehearsal and dinner, plus I hadn't got as much as I wanted to done - I needed to grab a few hours sleep after all!

I think from when I did the first fitting to dress handover was about 46hrs and we were down to the wire!  😅  The finishing takes time, under-stitching facings, hand stitching the shoulder seams of the linings closed, and the lining to the zip, handmade eyes for the hook on the back of the dress. But they did get done! Below is one of the finished bridesmaid dresses complete with sash.

I hope to receive some photos from the wedding at some stage. For now these will need to suffice. I learned so much from this project, not just sewing technicalities either!

One thing I know for sure - if ever asked to do anything like these again I would ask more questions and only agree if the wedding attendants were all in the city and available for fittings at least a week before the wedding! One lives and one learns  😎

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Ham and Sausage!

"Exactly what does that have to do with sewing?" I hear you ask. Well . . . if you sew you may well have guessed.

For quite some time I had wanted a tailor's ham - which you use for pressing. And I must admit the "sausage" is really a seam roll, again used for pressing.

I'd looked at various tailor's hams for sale over the years but really wanted to make one. I had a look at various patterns online - it's a simple shape but I wanted to get the proportions o.k. I found this video which has you make your own pattern for the tailor's ham. Right up my alley 😁  The seam roll I just decided 'this wide by this long'.

I had some woollen blankets at home so first off I chopped some out of one, boiled it, as you do, to shrink it and cut it out. They were old blankets i.e. 50 years or older as they were my Mum's. Anyway, they were a bit hairy . . . meaning they kind of shed every time I touched or moved them. Perhaps the fibres were a bit tired. Hmmm I thought maybe not such a good idea. So, Plan B.

I went down to The Fabric Warehouse and had a rummage through their bargain box. I found a fabric that felt like wool and when I checked, and I think a burn test was done, it was a wool/viscose mix from memory. So not a pure wool, but a good price of only $5 so I snapped it up! Part of the appeal of making a tailor's ham and seam roll myself was keeping the cost down.

So fabric purchased, some calico I had at home and pattern made I was ready to start. One thing I liked about the one made in the video was that it was two layers of fabric on each side which I felt would make the ham and seam roll stronger. The main change I made from the video was that I stuffed them both with sawdust. Not just any sawdust but cedar! Boar works for a place that does wooden double glazed windows and the frames are cedar in the main. So I asked him to bring me some home! He kindly obliged 💖

Two other things I did differently were I decided to stitch it with upholstery thread for strength, and also I used an invisible or slip stitch to close the opening cos . . . tidier! This is where my perfectionism rears it's head. Whip stitch would annoy me every time I looked at it. 😜

Not sure what invisible stitch is? Here is a video showing how it is done. I remember the first time I used this stitch was when I made a stuffed pink elephant for my eldest daughter whilst being in hospital before she was born. Funny thing was in those days you didn't find out the baby's sex! Showing my age there I reckon!

I had some photos of the making but . . . lost. Anyway here are a few of the completed items.

Woollen side

Calico side

Just cos I know you sooo wanted to see the two sides at once!

I've used them so much since I made them. I very quickly decided I need another seam roll that is at least a metre long and double the depth! It will be especially useful for long skirt seams. Project for this year I think. I'll keep my peepers open for a piece of reasonably priced wool.

One of the nicest things when I'm using these items is that I get a lovely whiff of cedar as I'm pressing things. It doesn't linger in the fabric of whatever I am making though which is great.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Barefoot costume

This is another make from 2015 but one I still want to post about.  It turns out that this was the last costume I would make for Locket for competitions. So a bit of nostalgia.

I don't have any photos of the making as they are in "the lost lot"  - again I was able to salvage some from Facebook.

Miss Lisa was quite specific as to the colour for this costume - blood red! Luckily she showed me an example of what she meant - a crimson - maroon shade of red. Miss Lisa was also specific as to the design. The music for this dance was Pie Jesu sung by The Ten Tenors.

The basic idea for the costume was a leotard with a boyleg legline with an attached overdress that split at the sides. That wasn't so much of a challenge.

The bigger challenge I thought would be to find blood red fabric. I went down to The Fabric Warehouse (TFW) to have a look at what they might have. Lycra was needed so I checked out that section. Pulled out a bolt of what I thought was a blood red and checked with a staff member. Yes! There were a few other shades close so I got samples of them as well. Miss Lisa's idea was for both the leotard and overdress to be of the same lycra. My eyes were roving over the shelves when I spotted a lace - a stretch lace! - in almost the exact shade as the lycra. Immediately I could "see" the costume in my mind's eye. I thought the lace would really lift the whole costume, give it a bit of class, richness, elegance . . . just lift it. So I grabbed a sample of that too. Since I was pretty confident what I liked would be approved I didn't look in any other shops. I did what I usually do which is to show the card with the samples to Miss Lisa, with no comment, to see which ones she would choose.

As I thought Miss Lisa pointed to the two I liked when she saw the fabrics 😉 So back to TFW I went to get the fabric. I think I used one of my lining patterns from the Jalie pattern I have but I'm not 100% certain . . . and too lazy at the moment to go upstairs and find the pattern! Anyway it was just the base pattern as I created a new legline, and then draughted the overdress pattern. A bit of guess work involved there but I got there in the end. Then it was on to construction.

Here are a few photos of the finished product. 

I think this one was from the first time Locket danced in the costume in 2015.

Similar photo, slightly different angle, which shows the boyleg legline a bit better. The only place the overdress is attached is around the neck and arm lines. This also shows the lace a bit better, though Locket was not impressed with the shadows.

This is just to show the back of the costume.

Photo credit Ross McMillan
One last photo which especially shows one of the reasons for the design of the overdress. This is Locket performing at the studio recital. It was her last time performing this dance as she decided not to continue with competitions.

As Locket performed her solo there was utter silence from the audience. Always a compliment in this kind of show. It's quite something to watch the transition of a child from a shy preschool dancer to a teenage student who is a confident performer. It was a beautiful performance. Am I biased? Of course I am! This is my baby girl 😍

Locket is still dancing but not nearly as much as she was. Different phases of life.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Autumnal Creativity

A few months have passed since I last posted . . . busyness in my personal life meaning although the will to create blog posts was there the time and energy wasn't! That's life 😔

This post is about an Autumn Swap I was part of with other WSBN sewing folk. The idea was to make a gift for another member who was participating. Similar to a Secret Santa so until we received our gift we didn't know who had made it. Also the person you made for was different from the one you received a gift from. We were given a few clues to help us out. It was set up via Elfster and was quite a while ago . . . 2 years to be honest!  😲 Kinda embarrassing but better late than not at all I reckon. I lost the photos last year when my computer died . . . but with the internet I was able to recover a couple 😀

I was to make something for Laulipopnz who blogs here. The theme was autumn so those colours etc. I knew that Laulipop liked embroidery so I decided to make something incorporating embroidery.

Around the time I was thinking about colours etc we headed north to Paeroa as my Dad was attending his primary school 125th reunion. He was staying with his sister, Aunty J, who I posted about here a while ago. I mentioned that I was making something and asked if there was still an embroidery supply shop in Waihi as I was going to be staying at Waihi Beach with Dad's other sister, Aunty E.

Aunty J never really replied to that question! Instead she asked what I wanted to make and delved into her pattern stash! "Here you are, look through these." And then provided me with a pattern as she had duplicates. Aunty J couldn't remember when or where she got it from.

Next she asked about colours and passed over a box containing a whole heap of threads . . . most of which were already wound onto floss bobbins. Aunty J told me to choose as many as I wanted. When I said I was happy to buy some I was told very firmly there was no point when she had so many to spare and wanted to give them to me. I chose the number of colours needed and she would have had me take more! Below are the ones I chose. Hmmm pic quality is a bit fuzzy!

Once I'd completed the embroidery I stitched up a small pouch and added a snap as a closure. I gave it a working name of Autumn Rose Anything Pouch! Below is the completed pouch. Since I found I'd lost all pictures of it I contacted Laulipop and she kindly sent me a photo earlier this year. 😍

Photo by Laulipop 2017

When it was all complete I packaged it up and popped a packet of tissues in it to give it some oomph. In the end I delivered it to Laulipop's place of work as I wasn't able to make the actual swap meet. Laulipop really liked it and thought it would make a good pouch for her sunnies.

Once I was all finished with the gift I had made I arranged to pick up the one that had been made for me. It had been made by acharmofmagpies who blogs here. It was quite a big parcel and beautifully wrapped. I did have photos . . . but gone they are! I love it, and it's bright colours add warmth to any room. Right now it is hanging on our lounge room door . . . I wouldn't want to put it outside unless it was a still, dry day. The dry bit might be o.k. but there are not that many still days where we live! Here is a photo of the lovely autumn wreath. Isn't it gorgeous?  💓  I found the photo on Facebook and since I took it and posted it I reclaimed it!

It was fun being part of this Autumn Swap. I find it stretches my creativity as I figure out what to make and how to make it, as well as the actual making. Which is always good. Got to keep those brain cells active!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Concert Sewing 2016: Part Two

There were not too many other costumes I needed to make for this concert as many were able to be re-used from previous years.

I did need to make some Chinese type costumes but the fabric chosen by Miss Lisa had more of a space look so that's what they became! Space dancers!

Once again I delved into my stash of patterns. A crossover type top was needed, and loose fitting pants. These two dancers were also part of Goldilocks and the Three Elves.

I used the pattern for the purple crossover top as a base, then lengthened it, changed the angle a bit and generally figured out what I needed to do.

For the pants I used View B, they needed to be loose but not have too much flare!

The two dancers are different sizes so I needed to grade up from the largest size I had. This was mainly because I had cut the pattern years ago. Also it was for knit fabric and the fabric chosen was non-stretch.

Lengthened and widened.

There's a bit of a glare there! The outer fabric was a metallic nylon taffeta and the easiest way I found to mark it was with a fabric marker pen. Since the fabric is pretty see through I lined it with some silver satiny fabric that had been gifted to Miss Lisa. Together the two layers were stronger and the taffeta didn't shred.

The edges of the jackets, sleeve hems and pant hems had a trim of the fabric left after cutting out Mama Elf's skirt.

Not the best picture but these are the finished Space suits. The three black dresses at the left of the photo are part of a set of 6 I made for last years concert - minus the red ruffle. That was added to give the dresses a Spanish look for this ballet!

There was a wee tutu required for a Sugar Plum. Small, pink and made of Lycra.


Once again I used this Jalie pattern that I've used many times before. The young dancer I was making the tutu for has the measurements of a size 4/girth 5 . . . although her actual age is quite a few years older! The great thing is that back in 2011 I made a whole lot in different sizes and kept all the patterns. They are of a heavyweight paper so I just needed to trace round the pattern pieces and add the right amount to get the right length.

This is just to show how I keep the lines for the net layers from going wonky straight  😛 The panty is two layers to give it strength. The two different coloured zig zag stitched lines help prevent the panty overstretching and I can follow them more easily.

Photo credit Carol Baker

There are only 5 layers of net on this tutu, just a simple wee tutu with a little bit of trim. I was really pleased when I fitted this tutu on Miss S to find that it was a perfect fit  😁

Photo credit Jordan Rivers

Miss S in flight 😊

The only other costume I made was for Brains . . . last of all as usual! He was dancing a solo from Le Corsaireonly about a minute long but pretty fast paced! The costume was intriguing.

Photo credit Jordan Rivers

This was Brains last show with the dance studio. He auditioned and was accepted into the Contemporary dance programme at Unitec so has now moved on in his dance training 😍

Photo credit Jordan Rivers

I mentioned costumes being re-used. These yellow ducklings were also made in 2011 so it is quite neat to see them being used again.

Concert Sewing 2016: Part One

Last year one of the items for the dance concert was Goldilocks and the Three Elves. Some of the Elf costumes were able to be re-used from a previous concert but a few pieces needed to be made.

Most of the costume for Mama Elf was needed. A blouse, skirt and overshoes. I had a few patterns in mind so delved into my pattern stash. I have a few photos, but as usual I tend to be pressed for time and not many photos get taken.  😲

I based the blouse on the loose fitting B style as although it was to be tucked into the skirt Miss Lisa wanted it loose and over the hips under the skirt so it wouldn't ride up out of the skirt partway through the dance!

Laying out the pattern.

Marking the hemline on the pattern tissue. I then carefully folded the tissue up and marked it with tailor's chalk.

I didn't want to cut the pattern tissue . . . never know when you might need it again! So I traced the armhole edge I wanted off the pattern and used this piece to mark the armhole on the fabric.

Cutting the trim for the neckline of the blouse. I cut all the angles one way then went back and cut the other side of the triangles!

Attaching the self-fabric bias binding I made, which I later inserted elastic into.

The trim for the sleeves.

The skirt was a simple one. Two rectangles gathered onto the waistband at the front and straight stitched to the back waistband which then had elastic inserted into it. Here I'm stitching the back waistband down.

Baby Elf had a top but I needed to add a ruffle to it to make it longer.

Baby Elf also needed pantaloon type pants so I used the above pattern for those. They needed to be a bit baggy, have a ruffle and be elasticated to keep them up above Baby Elf's knees.

Stitching the lace to the edge of the pants. Just above is the casing for the elastic, which will run through binding stitched on the inside of the main fabric.

Baby Elf also needed an elvish type bonnet so I had a look online and chose this pattern as it is designed for an older child who has a larger head. It was a great pattern to make up. I slightly elongated the back seam to give a longer peak.There are many patterns on the web but the majority are for toddlers or younger children.

There needed to be a trim around the outside of the bonnet. To make it sturdy enough and for depth of colour I used a double layer of the sequin fabric. I made a small template and stitched around it until I had enough pieces. The triangle is taller than its base hence my "edge ↑ " to make sure they were all the same!  I then cut them out close to the stitching.

The trim stitched to the edge before I lined the bonnet, then added binding of the same fabric as Mama Bear's skirt.

Photo credit Jordan Rivers

Above are Mama Bear's boots on Goldilocks. These were made out of a snakeskin look vinyl type fabric. Easier to sew than I thought they would be. I had fun figuring out the pattern for these. They needed to be put on quickly so the laces are actually gold elastic, hat elastic thickness, so that there is some stretch for the opening.

Photo Credit Carol Baker

Mama Bear and Baby Bear backstage with Goldilocks. I was able to find a co-ordinating red fabric for the frill on Baby Elf's top to go with the original fabric.

Photo credit Jordan Rivers

The only thing I had to make for Papa Elf were the boots! Here are Mama, Baby and Papa Elf rocking their stuff on stage. They had a lot of fun with this ballet.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Sewing for exams

October 2016

Each year the students at the studio sit Royal Academy of Dance ballet exams. Dancers come in all shapes & sizes and occasionally they are of a larger build and find it hard to fit a standard size leotard. I was asked to make a leotard for one pupil plus a chiffon skirt & character skirt for another.

I took a few photos although as it turns out my small camera was on its last legs so the photos are not great.

Cutting out the lining. I used Power mesh as the lining to give a bit more support than the usual lycra lining I use. Years ago I was given a whole lot of out-of-date survey maps on stock card paper and they have been great for patterns I use over and over again. All ready to be cut out.

The leotard from the front. Once again I used Jalie 2915 joining the pantie to the bodice part and continuing the front seams down to the leg line. These shots are a bit fuzzy 😟

Straps added to the front . . .

Pinned at the back ready for a fitting on Miss A to get the length right. 

Photo credit to Locket
Miss A ready for her exam with classmate Master B. Miss A was very happy with her bespoke leotard. It is a tad long in the body so will hopefully do her for a few years as she gains height. 

I got a couple of photos of the chiffon skirt I made for Miss R. I have a post here from a couple of years ago with more on the making of these skirts. Miss R is another lass who is fit and flexible with a more solid build.

This is what it looks like with the bias ribbon pinned . . . lots of pins!

I generally place the pins close together as it gives me better control when I am stitching the binding down.

Photo credit to Locket

Miss Z, Miss R and Miss T all ready for their exam. Miss R requested her skirt be a little longer than chiffon skirts generally are.

All of the students who sat exams passed them  😃  Thanks for reading!