Tuesday, December 31, 2013

13 in 13

At the start of last year I made a commitment to knit from stash as much as possible.  To complete 13 knits from stash in 2013.  I am happy to report that I did in fact finish 13 knits, in fact I finished 16!  

My yarn stash was not huge to start with, but I did have a couple of jumper lots which helped immensely when planning outfits.  My yarn purchases this year were also modest, but they are already fitting into my knitting plans for 2014!  As my life will include a train commute four days a week for the next couple of years I'd like to take advantage of that prime knitting time and get stuck into some big projects.  So I'm looking at 14 in 14!

Have a safe and happy new year my friends.  Thank you for your company on my journey in making stuff this year, I look forward to sharing more plans and adventures with you through 2014!

Jen xx

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 5 Inspirations of 2013

Next in line for the Top 5 extravaganza is my inspirations!  These are the big ones from this year, the people and things that got my brain ticking and my creativity running.

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series

1.  My own stash of old patterns.  It seems like I bring home piles of old patterns whenever I go out.  I have patterns from the 1950s through to the 1990s.  There have been many occasions this year when I've pulled out these patterns and flicked through them for inspiration.  The 1970s skirts, the 80s tops, early 1960s frocks, rompers and blazers and pantsuits oh my!  Entire outfits, garments or just an interesting feature, there are ideas in abundance in these little packages.

A sample of the collection!  I really need to get onto a proper filing system for these.

2.  The excellent menswear pattern company Thread Theory.  When I started looking for patterns for Darron their Parklands collection of patterns covered so many of my needs.  Their great patterns are a wonderful starting point for making mens clothing, great versatile customisable basic pieces.  Their blog is an excellent source of inspiration as they gather together projects made using their patterns.  The Jedediah sew along helped me so much in building my trouser confidence.  I can't wait for their pea coat pattern to be released, it's already got me inspired!

3.  Twitter.  I have so many great friends on the tweeter, some I know in the real world, some live on the other side of the world.  All the talented fibre artists, the knitters, spinners, weavers, the quilters, embroiderers, sewcialists, the shoppers, stylists and writers.  I love the little insights into your projects and lives.  I love the inspiring conversations and the answers to my dilemmas.

4.  Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow, the wonderful mind behind these Top 5 lists, has been a big inspiration to me this year.  I first 'met' Gillian through Me Made May this year, her warm personality shines through her online presence.  Her blog and her colour palette theory has helped me so much in figuring out the colours I love to wear and use for my 12 outfits and my summer capsule wardrobe.  Thanks Gillian!  I hug you through the internet!

5.  My very best friend, the lovely Emma Louise Wilson.

Emma is a very talented stunt person and actress.  I am so proud of what she has achieved this year.  She is following her bliss and doing what she always wanted to do.  She has committed to her dreams and works hard to make them happen.  This has been a huge inspiration to me.  Seeing someone close to me making their passions work made me realise that with commitment and work I can do exactly what I want too.  On top of being part of my family and a great support to me this year, Emma has been one of my biggest inspirations.

Special mention: It goes without saying that my family inspire me, but I'll take this opportunity to mention them anyway!  My parents are creative supportive people who understand the importance of doing something you love.  The believe in me and that I can accomplish and that inspires me.
My Husband is amazing!  Really I wouldn't make an entire 12 outfits for someone who wasn't!  He inspires and encourages me daily.
My kids inspire me every minute of every day.  Their outlook on life, their enthusiasm and imagination are infectious and wonderful.  They inspire me to do what brings me joy, because as a whole and happy person I can be the mother they need and deserve.

Well, that went down a more emotional route than anticipated!  ~sniff~  I am really lucky to be surrounded by inspirations!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 5 Misses and Top 5 Reflections of 2013

I feel like these two go well together.  So many of the reflections and learning experiences are related to the misses so I'm doing both lists in one post.

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series

We'll start with the misses:

1. It's interesting that some of these misses are from the same outfit as a member of the hits list.  First miss is the top from my March outfit.

I really like this top.  It's cute, fits well and I never, ever wear it.  It doesn't even cross my mind when I'm trying to come up with something to wear.  I'm not ready to get rid of it just yet though.  I'm dragging it to the front of the wardrobe to see if it grabs me in the next couple of months.  If not, it will be going.

2. The trousers from April's outfit.  I was (and still am) pretty inexperienced in the mystical art of fitting pants.  These were unsuccessful at first, improved with alteration, but still not to a standard that I'm happy with.

3. May's shirt.  I knew that I would be making several sleeveless shirts this year.  This was the first and by far the least successful.  The armhole facings flip out constantly, I prefer bias binding facings for casual shirts now.  The collar band hasn't caught the facing so that bunches and flips out at the neck too.  These are things that are relatively easy to fix, but the fact that I haven't bothered tells me that I'm not in love with it.

4. The jeans I made for July.  Learned some big lessons on these ones.  Denim too stretchy, pattern a bit dodgy, finishing a bit rushed.  The fit is a little off, but nothing too bad, until they've been worn half a day and they sag like crazy.  I also botched the trimming of the zipper and live in fear that I'll zip up too enthusiastically and it will come away.

5. The most recent fail is due once again to the wrong fabric.  The fabric I used for the coral bodysuit in the summer wardrobe is not stretchy enough so it sits all wrong in many places.  I am hopeful of salvaging this one, it has potential to work as a tee so I could still turn this miss into a hit.

On to the reflective portion of the post.  I've learned so much this year about myself and my skills, and I have spent a long time considering how I can best use my skills and my passions to shape my future.  It's been a reflective year.

1. On the sewing front, I learned so much about fabric choice.  All those things that people tell you and information you read gets thrown out the wind in a rush of enthusiasm to start a new garment.  These wrong fabric choices are the only way I learn really.  I'm like a teenager, I have to make my own mistakes to learn.  To much stretch, not enough stretch, too much slink, not enough drape, I've had them all, and have only made the same mistake several times with each type of fabric before it's sunk in!

2.  SLOW DOWN!  I've been talking about this all year.  It was one of my goals for the year but it still took a long time to walk the talk.  When I slow down and focus on each process the end result is better finished quality garments.  Included in this is to do the same for myself as I do for others.   I take so much care and time making garments for other people because I want that garment to be lasting quality piece that they can be proud of.  It has taken nearly the whole 12 outfits to be doing the same for myself because really, I deserve well made clothes too!

3.  On a personal front, managing my mental health became an important part of my year.  I suppose the most important part of that for me is talking about it.  The more people I talk to about my struggles this year, the more support I have, and the more I learn about how other people are coping with their challenges.  The black dog won't beat us if we stick together and take care of ourselves and each other.

4.  One of my big goals for the year was to sew.  All the time.  I wanted to get some decent sewing miles in my hands.  I wanted to make a variety of garments, try new things and devote the majority of my down time to being productive.  I wanted to sew like it was my job.  This is exactly what I did!  The time I spent at the machine has paid off nicely.  The simple act of doing some sewing every day has done wonders for my work.  Like any pursuit really, the more you do the better you get, the easier it becomes, and the more you can do!

5.  Linked in to that last point is the biggest realisation for the year for me.  Through all the sewing, the challenge of 12 outfits for me and then for Darron as well, from sewing through the good times and the challenging times, there has not been a moment when it felt like a chore.  Every stitch, even the frustrating, disappointing mistakes have been filled with joy as well.  I love this.  This is what I need to be doing.  I always knew that I loved to make things, it just took me until this year to understand that I can actually make a career from this.  This has lead me to apply to return to school to expand my skills and learn a whole bunch of new ones so that making beautiful things can be a productive and viable career for me.   I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up!   I can't wait for the day when my business cards read Designer and Custom Dressmaker.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Outfit Eleven: December

Wow!  I can't believe I only have one outfit left to make and I will have finished 12 outfits in 12 months!

This outfit was a bit of a trouble maker!  I had decided on a particular skirt in a particular fabric right at the very beginning of this adventure, only to have it turn out unwearable because the stripes strobe and give me a blaring headache.  As luck would have it, the search for a replacement skirt that would also fit into my summer capsule wardrobe brought me to a pattern I had traced last year and forgotten about.  So here it is:

The skirt is stretch drill I bought several years ago.  I had about a million metres of it and recently used some for a little 'off plan' sewing so it was sitting out and I noticed that it was the right colour for my summer wardrobe.  It was that fabric decision that brought me to the pattern, Burda 05/2012 118.  

I didn't make the skirt quite as short as the pattern, and I left off the back welt pockets.

I love the a-line shape from the back and pleated fullness at the front.  Since making Darron's trousers  I've become far more comfortable sewing a zip fly.  It's lovely to be able to ignore the exceptionally vague Burda instructions and just do it.  The pattern has buttons on the inside of the wide waistband, but I prefer the buttons on the outside, so I used a pair of jeans buttons instead.

The plain white tee is the Elise Tee from Fine Motor Skills.  A great freebie pattern with relaxed versatile style.

With a wide scoop neckline and capped shoulders it sits just right for me, it shows enough skin without having to be hauled back onto my shoulders every five minutes.

I like how it works tucked or untucked.  The scooped he line is a great finishing touch and one of my favourite design features for tops at the moment.  I think I'll make a few more of these in different colours.  I'd love one in a stretchy sequinned fabric too, because sparkles!

So that's my December!  The skirt has become my Green December project too.  I had planned to make a green swimsuit but my injury set all my December projects back a couple of weeks so there will be a couple of swimmers coming up in January!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Top 5 Hits of 2013

It turns out that these Top 5 lists are about as productive as I'm going to be this week.  As clumsy as I am, it's surprising things like this don't happen more often.

My kitchen knives are sharp, I should pay attention when using them lest my finger get sliced along with tandoori lamb.  The brilliant nurses at our local hospital (extremely local, just around the corner) stuck me back together, bandaged me up and sent me home all in just over half an hour.  Sewing will have to wait until everything I touch stops causing immense pain, it's going to be a close call as to whether or not I can get the Christmas baking done in time. One thing I can manage one handed is typing, so lists are well timed!

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series

Here are my top five hits from the last year:

1. My black floral skirt from my March outfit.

This skirt gets worn a lot.  Dressed up, dressed down, with layers, with heels, flats, boots and tights.  No matter how I wear it, I always feel good when I do.

2. The critter blazer from April's outfit.

This is another one that has seen a lot of action.  It's great over plain tees and jeans and I love wearing it with my grey jersey mini dress.  It attracts a lot of attention too.  This is probably the garment that gets the most admiration from strangers.

3. Trackies!  The track pants I made for the June outfit.

These probably get the most wear of all.  They're so comfy, I love them deeply.

4. I am rather pleased with the sleeveless chambray shirt I made as part of my summer capsule wardrobe.  There will be photos coming as soon as I finish the final couple of garments.  The shirt has great details, fits beautifully and has quickly become a wardrobe staple.

There's a glimpse of it there on the left.

5. The final and most recent hit of the year is Darron's November outfit.

I love this outfit.  Darron loves this outfit.  It was fun to make, the colours and prints are fun and summery, and it makes me grin like an idiot whenever he wears it and tells everyone with great pride that his wife made the whole lot!

So those are the top 5 hits!  Coming up will be the misses, and there have been plenty, let me tell you!  I also managed to get my December outfit finished and photographed before my unfortunate injury, so that is coming up soon too.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Top 5 of 2013

Thanks to Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow, it's time to take a look back at a year's worth of making stuff and decide on some Top Fives.

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series

Here are the categories I'll be looking at over the next couple of weeks as the year winds to close:

  • Top 5 Hits: Favourite Creations, most worn or most loved
  • Top 5 Misses: Sewing Fails, UFOs, worn once, or complete disasters
  • Top 5 Reflections: What did you learn about yourself or sewing this year? 
  • Top 5 Inspirations: What books, people, blogs, trends etc motivated you this year?
  • Top 5 Goals for the New Year
This year had been huge.  I've sewn more this year than any before, I committed to big long term projects and followed them through, I hit my lowest point in a long time, learned once again to manage my mental health, I've cared for and been cared for by my husband and children as we've battled illness left right and centre, I've made big decisions about my future and actually took the first steps to make that future happen. These five lists will be an interesting reflection on a crazy big year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Outfit Ten: November

The first week of summer has been very Melbourne.  Hot sunny days, balmy nights, pouring rain and bitter cold!  Obviously I got out on a gorgeous sunny day earlier in the week!  

This is November, or the outfit formerly known as December.  This is one of a couple of outfits doing double duty as a member of the twelve as well as the summer capsule. 

I hadn't chosen a pattern for the top half of this outfit.  The decision was made easy when visiting my awesome friend Tara recently.  She sent me away with a big stack of old patterns, including this 1986 gem, Butterick 3903.  The elastic waisted bottoms and power shoulder jacket were not exactly appealing but a button front tank with a scoop neck and round hem?  Yes please!

I used the leftover navy jersey from Darron's first outfit.  I wanted something a bit fancier than plain navy buttons, and these have been sitting in my stash for several years.  I added a good eight centimetres in length.  The pattern wasn't actually a cropped tank, just a little short for a long torso.

This patterned stretch denim was yet another thrift score, patterned denim is fantastic, and this one is awesome!  The shorts are from BurdaStyle 6/2011 Pattern 111, I love their vintage style.

I had already used the pattern to make another pair of plain navy shorts and I didn't want to make them too similar so instead of an invisible zip I put in a metal one.  Metal zippers and denim belong together.

From the previous pair I also knew I wanted the back pockets lower for this pair.  I added the turned up cuff and bound the seam allowances so the cuffs are nice and neat.  Did I mention that these are stretchy?  Having already made a pair, I made adjustments to account for the stretch, I may have underestimated just how much these want to stretch.  I'll see how they wear and I may run them in a little more.

It's been a long time since I was comfortable wearing shorts this short.  I'm happier with my body now than I was, even when my legs were in considerably better teenaged shape.  So while I look at them critically, more than any other body part, I'm kinder to myself about showing so much of them.  These are running legs, kicking legs, they're my greatest physical strength and if it's hot, I'll be wearing shorts!

Once again looking to the left.  There's always something interesting to gaze at to the left I'm sure.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Menswear Outfit Three: November

It's the first of December!  The first day of summer, and a very important day at our house!  With Bing, Dean and Frank crooning Christmas songs in the background, our tree goes up and gets sparkly.    We thought we'd use the opportunity to grab some pics of Darron's third outfit.

This sailboat shirt is from the same Style pattern as last month's shirt, 3789.  This one just has a single pocket.  I love the little sailboat print so much.  So much that I very carefully cut this shirt so there would be enough left for another for me!

The sleeves are full length, so he has the option to dress it up or down.  Darron prefers a rolled up cuff to short sleeves as a general rule.  A shirt has to be a very particular style for him to like short sleeves.  I am trying to find the right style and fabric to meet with his approval for a short sleeved shirt.

Once again I used the Thread Theory Jedediah pants pattern.  This time it's shorts in a mango coloured canvas I picked up from Ikea a couple of years ago.  

The pockets are light grey poly-cotton and the seam allowances are bound with grey bias binding.  After three pairs of Jeds, I'm getting a bit more proficient at their construction.  It's still one of my very favourite patterns.

We went with the cuffed hems for a casual style.  I like the way it shows off the neatly bound seam allowances.  It's fantastic to be able to give Darron shorts that sit at the exact length he likes.  It can be a struggle to get the length right in RTW shorts when you're a tall dude.

The shirt is a lovely lightweight fabric, so to protect his modesty, as well as for casual open-shirt wearing I made a plain white tee.  This one is the plain tee option from the Tread Theory Strathcona pattern, in plain white cotton jersey.  Every man's wardrobe needs a plain white tee or two!

A man of many skills and talents, Darron is can juggle all kinds of things, including hand knitted Christmas characters!

I think this is my favourite of Darron's outfits so far.  It's bright and fun, and suits him perfectly.

Thanks for joining us while we put up our tree!  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Operation Summer Wardrobe: Progress Report

Seeing as Summer officially starts in a couple of days I thought I might update on the progress of my summer capsule wardrobe. I've been knocking out bits and pieces while working on 12 outfits garments, and making a muslin and fitting my niece for her dress.

Firstly, the tops are all done, including December's (which is handy as I've had to swap November and December's outfits). So that's two sleeveless shirts, two tanks, a tee and a bodysuit.  

Next up, the bottoms.  I've finished both pairs of shorts.  There was a skirt almost done, November's skirt on fact but I'm having some strobing issues with the stripes so it's been set aside, hence the November/December swap.  I have fabric and pattern prepped for one skirt, but I'm still searching for the right fabric for the second skirt.  It's out there somewhere I know it!

On the dress front, I've changed the wrap dress to maxi length, I finally found the right fabric for it and it's ready to go.  The Wiksten tank dress is cut and ready to sew.

Last of all is the swimsuit.  I have chosen the fabric, a nice jade green, I just need to actually go and buy it!  Then it will be my project for the Sewcialist Green December.

So that's where we stand.  I'd love to have it all done in the next week or so.  We're coming up to our busiest time of year and pretty soon I'm going to be running short on sewing time.  I'm happy with all of the garments so far.  They're all getting plenty of wear already now that the weather has warmed up, and that's the whole point!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Outfit Nine - October

My October!  A little later than anticipated, but as we regressed into wintery weather it took a while for my cardigan to dry.

One of the great things about this project has been that I've finally used some of my favourite fabrics.  The beautiful fabrics I have been hoarding and saving are now becoming garments that I love even more.  I bought this fabric a couple of years ago, it was love at first sight, there was only a couple of metres left on the bolt, I bought the lot.  It's a light gauzy voile, always destined to be a summery frock.

Because it is quite sheer, I chose a dress pattern with lining and lined it with ivory coloured lawn.  The pattern is from BurdaStyle 5/2013 125, it's one I'd been planning on making since it was released.  I lengthened the bodice midriff by 15mm, and made the skirt fuller by using up as much of my fabric as possible.

I love the combination of romantic feminine shape with the bright graphic print. 

October is a fickle month, weather wise, in this part of the world, so I knew I'd need a cardigan to go with my dress.

I had planned to make a Myrtle Cardigan, but the combination of all over lace cardigan and all over printed dress was far too busy.  And the yarn just did not want to be a Myrtle!  I went with my back up pattern, Soay and it is perfect.  Just right for warmer weather, it will be in high rotation.

This is a seriously great pattern.  Very cleverly constructed, no seams, and beautifully fitted, everything I was after.   It is perfect with all my dresses and looks great with jeans and a tank top as well.

This was my first foray into the wonderous world of Wollemeise.  I admit I had my doubts, the cottony stiffness had me worried, but washed and blocked it is a different creature altogether, soft and springy, and the colour is so intense!  

I plan for this outfit to get me through a few celebrations in the next month or so.  Birthdays and Christmas functions are coming up in abundance, and it's always nice to show off something special and handmade!

The dress has already had an outing.  The weather was so awful and cold on the day of my interview for school that I needed something that would work with my navy blazer.  So the outfit I had prepped to wear was out and this dress was in!

This tank is in a park fairly local to us.  The kids had a ball clambering all over it while I grabbed some quick shots.