Mid-mod mash-up

And another nice cool linen top.

It’s my good friend Butterick B6056, but with a twist. The linen is a lightweight version, printed with this lovely mid-century modern tropical print which reminds me strongly of curtains my parents had in one of my childhood homes (in a quieter colour scheme!). Even as a small child, I’d lie in bed looking at the print and wondering why they hadn’t coloured in properly between the strong black lines and why the leaves were that strange colour. I must have been a very tidy-minded 5 year old…

However, it was an end-of-bolt remnant, and only 90cm/35 inches long, not enough for any pattern I had. Undaunted, I set about thinking sideways once again. I could get a sleeveless top out of it if I put a seam down the centre front instead of a fold, and if I added a sort of peplum doodah at the bottom to supplement the meagre 25 inch length from shoulder to hem. I was prepared to use a matching dark blue for the peplum, but in the end, careful measuring showed I could probably get enough extra out to make it from the main fabric.

So I cut the front and back and then pieced together a long 4 inch deep peplum out of all the scraps. I made bias binding from a blending pink fat quarter for the neck and armholes. Halfway through the assembly, I had to spend a tedious hour with the overlocker, rethreading it at least 4 times because thread 4 would not stay threaded. Still, I didn’t let it defeat me, and in the end, I was victorious. I debated whether to gather or put pleats in the peplum, and in the end went with pleats as I didn’t feel there was enough fabric to make gathers look good (nothing worse than stingy gathers). Also, my rear end is quite wide enough without a sticky-out frill thing; the pleats do at least lie flat. It’s a little shorter than I usually like, but worth it, I feel. And of course it’ll improve with washing, like all linen – at present it’s a bit stiff.

So there we are. Iteration No. 4 of this trusty pattern. Very happy with it, and the fabric cost me $6…

Scrappiness is…. the DaleLee Cuppa

I couldn’t wait till the 15th of February and ScrapHappy Day.

I offered to make Dale something pretty from scraps after she admired my recent scrappy sunglasses case. She requested a teapot picture, to go with the teapot heat pad and cup-and-saucer mug rugs I made for her as a housewarming gift. I had just the thing…

The teapot is made from a chintz-design voile fabric from which I made myself a cool summer top a while ago. I picked out the best floral bits from the scraps I had left over. The background is a sort of olive-gold colour, covered in big blowsy roses, lilies, leaves and rosehips, but illustrated in quite a minimal, free fashion. I love it, and I think it makes a very pretty vintage teapot.  The square behind the pot is a cream-on-cream filler print of tiny spots. The paper-pieced pattern is based very approximately on a 1999 design by Susan Druding, which I have extensively redrawn to make it simpler, less blocky and more central in the square. It finishes at 8 inches square.

And now I feel the need to go and sew myself a plate of chocolate biscuits. It’s about as close as I’m allowed to get to the real thing, these days!

Finish 3 of 2020

Not crochet, you may be glad to know…

A while back, I wrote about making a porch swing from an old seat. At the time, I had every intention of getting straight on with re-covering the cushions and making everything lovely out there. But like so many good intentions, it failed to materialise. The porch was cluttered with my huge table, leaving not much space. I was de-motivated…

Then, yesterday, we moved the big table back inside, to the sewing room, where it is now extremely handy. Out went the small table I’d been (not) using as a desk. It’s just large enough for 6 people to eat around, which is the usual number of small family gatherings. I rearranged furniture. It looked nice, but the cushions on the swing were decidedly tatty. Enter my budget makeover. Towards the end of last year, I’d gone shopping in BigW (think Target, if you’re in the US) and spotted this:

I loved the dark green and white tropical print, but not for my bed. For the porch swing! The quilt cover and two pillowcases cost the astronomical sum of $9.

I chopped the end off the two pillowcases to make squares, serged the seams and behold! Two cushion covers. I chopped either side and the top off the duvet cover (saving the press studs along the bottom edge), serged the seams and voilà! Seat cover! I had enough fabric over (and more) to make a tablecloth. I think this must be the best, cheapest (and perhaps quickest) budget makeover I’ve ever done. I’m still wondering what to make with the quite generous pieces I have left…

And it’s (start and) Finish No. 3.

First start – and finish – of 2020

It has become traditional for crafty bloggers to review their output at the end of the year.

I’ve decided to change things up a bit. No ‘here’s what I made’, because you’ve all seen it anyway, yes?

I have, however, chosen a word for the year ahead to inspire me, and my word is going to be FINISH. It’s a habit  I’ve got out of in recent years, and I’d like to change that. Finishes are good. Finishes make me happy, and they empty the cupboard (ready for more stuff, naturally…). And in that spirit, I began my first project of the year on 1st January, and today, 3rd January, it’s already finished!  Good start, eh?

Regular readers will recognise the fabric, particularly as I only finished the top I used it for a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t work to a pattern. I had only the amount of fabric you see, plus the odd small scrap. So I had to wing it. There was enough to make a nice bucket tote.

In the midst of nutting the process out and trying to avoid more unpicking than was strictly necessary, I have discovered an interesting fact. There is no way (short of a computer program and an A3 printer) to reliably produce an ellipse with a given circumference. There’s a formula for determining the circumference of an oval if you know the a and b values*, so in theory you could work back from a known circumference to get the a and b, but it’s many years since I did that much algebra. There’s a way to draw an oval with a pair of compasses, but it’s not the right shape for a bag base, too round. I needed an ellipse. So I winged it, as with so many other things.

The bag lining was two fat quarters from my stash and a spotted scrap for the base. The outer base is leftover fabric from another top, overlaid with a clear vinyl layer repurposed from the packaging from a set of bedding. It’ll keep the base clean and dry. The loop and clip are leftover commercial bias binding and the carabiner was liberated from the Husband’s basket of Useful Tiny Things. The bias binding around the top edge is home made bias binding, left over from yet another dressmaking project. Only the green leather handles are new and bought especially. It almost qualifies as scrappy, doesn’t it?

It’s going to be a gift for my friend Chippy, and she will have to wait until I see her in 57 days for our joint holiday down south. 


*In case any of you are in desperate need of this information, it’s C = 2 x π x √((a2 + b2) ÷ 2), where a is the major axis and b is the minor axis. No, I didn’t think so…. But isn’t it a pretty formula?


Topping it off

I’m saying farewell to the sewing machine for the remainder of 2019.

After a protracted period of enforced abstinence, I wanted to finish off this nice orange top. Over the last few days, my eye has got back to normal working order, so I wanted to get the job done before the festivities began. (Apart from the soluble stitches, I no longer look like a movie extra [either Pirates of the Caribbean or some police drama], so no longer feel obliged to inflict pirate jokes on you.) Sadly, the Husband is on night shift and I have no-one to take photos of me wearing it, so Rosita has had to stand in, and very fetching she looks too.

The pattern isn’t one I want to repeat; it was a bit more complicated than I felt it needed to be to achieve the final result, but having said that, it does look pretty and feel comfortable; those big sleeves are especially cool in hot weather. The back looks much the same as the front, but the neckline is higher and there’s no opening slit.

Most of the garments I’ve made recently have been quick, easy and fun, but this one, not so much. Here’s why:

Pattern comments:
McCall’s M7325. I made view D but with shorter sleeves, ending at bracelet length instead of wrist length. The yoke is fully faced, but then, weirdly, they don’t enclose the inside edges of it neatly with the facing, so that apart from the neck and opening, you have to overlock all the other seams. There was a great deal of gathering to be done, and if I’d made View B I’d have lost the will to live long before adding the hem and sleeve ruffles. I didn’t think there was enough fulness in the sleeve head to warrant the length of the gathered area; I would have placed the pattern markings closer together. I also found the way the top was constructed and the sleeves/yoke were added to the bottom half was strange; the same result could have been achieved more easily without Y seams under the arms. The sizing was also a little on the small side for the dress sizes suggested; I had to make my seam allowances smaller here and there. I would not have called this pattern Very Easy, but Intermediate, and I am a competent dressmaker. The steps are few, but some of the processes are unduly complicated. Having said all that, I’ll happily wear the top.

The outer yoke is made from the same Kaffe Fassett Artisan Floral Border for Westminster Fibers as the last top I made, but this time in the orange colourway. The rest of the top is made in a pretty coral batik with a small white spiral dot.

Over the Christmas – New Year period, I hope to spend some time developing the big project I’ve mentioned before. It needs a lot of drawing, erasing, re-drawing, transferring, measuring and standing back and squinting, so it’s a perfect Christmas distraction. If I’m doing all that, I won’t be fridge-diving for mince pies, sausages, chocolate, cake, cold ham and all those other enticing snacky delights. I hope to emerge out the other side actually lighter, instead of heavier. The doctor has told me to lose weight due to some alarming blood test results, and I propose to give it my best shot, despite the season.

Happy Christmas or other festive celebration of your choice. It’s been fun having you along for the doings in Chiconia, and I’ll see you all next decade!

Hugs ❤

In fine feather

Sometimes, hoarding precious fabric isn’t sensible.

In my last BM&I post, you saw a small piece of fabric featuring all kinds of feathers in shades of grey and light brown. I’ve had that fabric for 7 years, I think. Every so often, I got it out and thought about using it for something. And then I’d put it away again. I used a really quite small piece for the Parterre block, but I still had a sizeable chunk left. Back in the cupboard it went.

The other day I read a couple of things. The first was Anne Lawson‘s comment on my BM&I post, enjoying the feather fabric and pointing out that one of the feathers was from a guinea fowl, one of the types of feathers she has illustrated so beautifully herself. The other was a theme running through a number of Anne’s own posts, expressing a lack of inspiration to continue with much of her creative work, and worrying about how to address it. I thought perhaps I could offer a little encouragement…

Anne derives a lot of benefit and inspiration from artist residencies, taking time out to single-mindedly pursue inspiration and excellence in her work. If she’s anything like me, packing up and preparing creative materials for trips away is half the trick; so often I leave at home something important. Last time, it was my camera…

So I thought I’d make her something that combined the feathers she loves so much with something practical and useful. And here it is: an artist’s tool roll.

And of course – of course – there are plenty of feathers:  a large panel of the fabric on the outside, and one of the two levels of pockets made from it too. What you can’t see very well is that the binding is silver on black, not grey. I love that tiny metallic touch amongst all the softness.

Even the tie is made from the very last scrap of the feathers. And I’m so happy that Anne is the very deserving recipient of all this airy loveliness. 

Look out for it, Anne, it’s coming your way.

Laughing up my sleeve

I’ve finally finished this one.

I’ve been working on it off and on for a few days, doing as much as I could each time before the eye gave out. I cut it all out on impulse before eye surgery, as a sort of distraction from pre-op nerves. Now, it feels almost like a secret sewing project, since I haven’t posted anything about it before, mainly because I had no idea how long it would take.

You may recognise the pattern, this time with a longer sleeve length than the Mango & Papaya top I made earlier. Speaking of sleeves, what do you think? Bright, aren’t they? I bought two half-metre pieces of Kaffe Fassett fabric from his Artisan range for Westminster Fibers. It’s gorgeous, but not cheap (AU$29/metre). One piece was this blue version, and the other is the same print, but in bright orange. In order to make something wearable from the small quantities, I also bought this blender fabric in the same blue. I didn’t have a plan or the pattern at the time, I just wanted to make something that didn’t involve totally cutting up the print.

By shortening the long sleeve from the pattern options, I was able to squeeze both sleeves out of just half the fabric, leaving me a reasonable amount to make something quilty with. I couldn’t resist the acid green binding for this top too, the remainder of what I made for M&P. It’s a great match for colour in the big print, and gives the neckline a bit of zing. The top probably wouldn’t work in northern Europe without sunglasses, but here in the very bright sunshine of a tropical summer, it’s just another colourful garment.

Now I need to get some fabric to go with the other colourway. I still have some coral pink binding from the sleeveless top variant I made from this pattern (did I show that one? I don’t think I did). I reckon coral and orange would work nicely… The question is, same top again, or something different this time? I have a pattern I haven’t tried yet which might utilise the print panel nicely.

Right, on with the next thing!

PS: the eye’s definitely mending. For those who wanted a status update, here’s the new yellow/ brown colourway!