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Sewing covers

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Having completed the February stashbusting challenge, my thoughts turned to some non-clothing related sewing.

I have been wanting to make a cushion for this very ugly box which we are going to use to store towels and blankets on our weekend block. I found some block foam and cut it to size.

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We wouldn’t normally need such a large box for towels and blankets, but I wanted to store some “staple” items for any unexpected visitors to use.

My sister bought a whole roll of this fabric from an op shop and proceeded to hide it in my house. I found it last week and, whilst I don’t care for it at all, it is coated cotton, so is perfect for this, and I don’t mind if it gets dirty or damaged.

It’s been many years since I made a box cushion and I consulted my Vogue home furnishing book. This made it really simple. I inserted a couple of zips so that I can take the cover off for laundering. The zips came from my mother’s stash, they are recycled and don’t match in colour or length, but do the job brilliantly.

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With the scraps I made a couple of covers for my sewing machine and overlocker. Both of these machines had covers with handle holes in the top. This is useless as the dust just goes through the holes. I have examined machine covers on pinterest, but I didn’t want a straight fabric cover as this just absorbs the dust. I wanted a coated fabric and had considered vinyl until I found this fabric.

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I used more of the builders string and stashbusted some bias binding to pipe the edges of my sewing machine cover.

For some reason I decided to bind the outside edges of the overlocker cover. I have to say that corded piping would have been easier.

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I got rid of more unattractive fabric, but I note that I can finally close the lid on the box that holds my bias binding.

So, I had a very productive day’s sewing and it’s nice that I don’t have to find room in my wardrobe for this little lot :)

1960s fabric using 1960s pattern

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This dress is made from the oldest piece of fabric in my stash. February has been a month of challenges – all from the Stashbusting Sewalong group, with the aim of ridding our stashes of red fabric, most disliked fabric, longest piece of fabric, and now, the oldest piece of fabric.

I left this particular piece of sewing until last for very good reason. This is a piece of cotton crepe that has been maturing in my stash for ever and is left over from the flower power era of the late 1960s. I used to get it out of the cupboard, stroke it lovingly and gently place it back on the shelf. When I have considered making it up, I would find that I either have too much fabric, and would therefore waste it, or too little fabric. Well the time had come to move it out of the sweatshop and into the wardrobe.

I wanted a 1960s pattern to go with the fabric and found this Lutterloh shirtdress.

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I tested the pattern on some lovely cotton lawn and it came together brilliantly except for a couple of minor issues, namely a front shoulder seam longer than the back shoulder seam, and I needed to sort out those very high bust darts. I fixed the pattern and laid my fabric and pattern on the cutting board, being very aware of the pattern matching. This went on for two days whilst I tweaked and fussed and fretted.

Finally I went for it. I took a deep breath. Then another. And another. Then I was hyperventilating! Seriously; a friend rang and asked if I had been running, and I had to explain that no, I was just cutting out fabric!  I don’t know when I have last been this anxious. I figured that I would be a tad short of fabric, so thought I would give the sleeves a border in some blue linen which I used for my blocked dress. I had a little bit left over and it seemed like a pretty good match. All was going well.

Then I managed to cut the whole dress out of the original fabric so I thought I would put a flat piping round the collar and sleeves to break up that very bright pattern. I have new respect for people who do flat binding round curves. I would get it almost perfect and then find that it was out a millimetre, but obvious to the naked eye. I had the collar apart more times than I would care to count. In the end I decided that cord piping was the way to go as the cord gave me something to sew against. I had a rummage in the stash and found some builder’s string that my mother had been hoarding. Hmm, seemed about the right dimensions and is clearly vintage.

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Worked like a charm. I had already put the flat piping round the sleeves, so unpicked all of that and replaced it with the cord piping.

Seam finishes were another area of concern. I didn’t want to overlock and I thought the fabric might be a bit stiff for French seaming so I did the plain seam with the clean edge finish – simply turned the raw edges under and sewed. This was fine until I got to the sleeves. I had pretty bulky edges because I had piping and a false hem on the sleeves to accommodate the piping, so I used the Hong Kong binding seam finish. I was even able to use the scraps of bias that I had cut for the piping. I will mention that the pattern on the collar does align perfectly with the pattern on the back, I’m not sure what’s happened here.

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Trying to escape the hose in the background, so I am staring at a blank wall!

I had been trying the dress on periodically and was becoming more and more concerned – dinner lady anyone? Truly, did this look like some sort of gaudy overall? I was so disappointed that I nearly threw it put it neatly in a corner and moved on, but the challenge finishes on 28 February (today!) and I wanted to finish it. So, pushing on regardless of the unattractive look, I tackled my next problem. Buttons! I had two issues here. I had so carefully cut the fabric out but was about 2cms off with the pattern matching down the front. I could move the fronts out, but then the buttons would not have been on a spot and might have looked silly, or if they had been on a spot they would not have been down the centre. I also didn’t have a massive amount of folded back fabric due to aforementioned lack of fabric and I was running out of room to sew on the buttons. After much consideration I decided to forego fabulous pattern matching and just get the buttons placed correctly. I am deeply disappointed about this, as my other pattern matching is pretty good. The buttons themselves caused me anxiety as well. I had nothing in my stash, except 3 yellow buttons and 4 blue buttons that might do it. I considered covering buttons, but decided to go shopping. I couldn’t find anything that reminded me of the ’60s and which would suit this dress, so went with the original 3 yellow and 4 blue. I am ok with this and I can’t even see the blue buttons on the blue dots.

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Bottom line? Mark absolutely loves this dress, and he managed to photo bomb me. Here he is walking past telling me how much he likes it – and you’ve gotta love a man who does the food shopping, wearing clothes that I’ve made.

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I still feel a frisson of disappointment for some reason. I think I will wear it a fair bit though, so all’s well that ends well.

In a nutshell: Pattern is 1960s Lutterloh, fabric is from the 1960s. The belt is a piece of blue elastic with a daisy buckle also from the 1960s. Shoes are XSA from Dimatina in Subiaco, and yes, I should have found some cork wedges…

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Action shot – smelling the frangipani!

1960s Lutterloh

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I have made a prototype of a 1960s Lutterloh shirt dress, testing the pattern for another make with some special fabric.

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This is clearly not 1960s fabric but some Japanese Tana lawn that I bought at Spotlight a couple of years ago, and which I used for this blouse. In the ’60s I’m sure we called these dresses “shirtwaisters”, but it’s such a dowdy term that I’m happy to update it to shirtdress. I made the one on the right.

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I made a simple leather tie belt to go with it, from pieces of leather donated to my stash by my friend Thelma. This is such an easy design that I might make more, but the leather needs to be quite thin.

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The dress itself is a gentle A-line dress, with buttons to the waist and a Peter Pan collar. I added pockets. I had a bit of a drafting malfunction and somehow the front shoulders finished up being wider than the back. Instead of redrafting the pattern, I simply added tucks to the front shoulders. I don’t think I like it and I have since retraced the pattern. I also had to do a Low Bust Adjustment on the pattern, but didn’t bother on my prototype.. What is it with these vintage patterns? Every single one has to be adjusted. I am sure that I am not particularly malformed, but truly, the darts are always at least a couple of centimetres too high and they were 5cm too high on this dress! The tucks and misplaced darts might be the reason that the front of the dress is a touch baggy.

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In a nutshell: Pattern is a Lutterloh shirt dress from the 1960s made from Japanese tana lawn from Spotlight. Buttons came from an op-shop in New Zealand. Belt is hand made by me.

Peignoir in Japanese silk

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I was given this Japanese silk blend fabric by one of my lovely work colleagues. It was a massive 16 metres long, but only 72cms (28″) wide. It was given to me to use to make bags for charity, but, given how many bags it would make, I thought I might take some for a glamorous robe, which I’ve called a peignoir as bathrobe or dressing gown doesn’t seem to do it justice.

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Doris is modelling for me as the fabric is remarkably diaphanous and I couldn’t find anything appropriate to wear under it. I think the fabric has been stored for a while as there was quite a lot of foxing. I consulted various textile museum sites to see how to address this, but in the end simply washed the fabric. I did get rid of some of it, but not all. There were also wear lines where the fabric had been folded so I cut around these.

The pattern is quite elegant. I really like the way that the ties are grafted into the back pattern pieces.

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In order to fit the wide pattern pieces on to very narrow fabric, I joined the fabric together, so every pattern piece consists of two lengths of fabric and there is a centre back seam which is not in the original pattern.

I am pleased with the final product, and suspect that it will get a lot of use. The colours are exquisite, really delicate and quite pretty.

I have begun cutting the remaining 3 metres into linings for Japanese bags, and I think there’s a nice symmetry in making Japanese bags from Japanese fabric!

In a nutshell: Pattern is Vogue 8888, made from Japanese silk blend donated to my stash. Model is Doris the dummy.

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Carolyn pyjamas

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I’ve made the Carolyn Pyjamas

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It is going to get cold here at night fairly soon and my mind has turned to pyjamas. Mark and I have been wearing those free ones you get on long haul flights and, whilst they are nice, soft cotton, they are grey and have a giant kangaroo emblazoned on the front. Glamorous? I don’t think so! So the Carolyn pyjama pattern seemed to hit my inbox just when I was about to start looking for a pattern. I promptly bought it and spent a couple of evenings cutting and sticking. Then I found some cotton flannelette in my stash and the pyjamas were on their way.

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Yes, they are a little long. I realised that I was trying them on with shoes, so will turn the hem up before I get round to wearing them.

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I am a bit wary about sizing at the moment, so decided on the size 6, but then accidentally traced the size 4 pattern and by the time I realised, I could not face the necessary retracing and, looking at the finished dimensions, I thought I might squeeze into them. I could wear these pyjamas out for lunch, they fit me so well, although the pants are a little low rise. The collar does sit flat, I just need to press it a bit better.

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The instructions are easy to follow. I like the pocket design and the faux fly. I did wonder why the top stitching around the front edge was done before the facing was sewn under and the hem was turned up. I unpicked the last couple of centimetres and then resewed it continuing round the corner to the hem. I felt that this looked neater.

I remembered that I bought orange and white polka dot buttons in Hong Kong and was rather thrilled to find that they are almost a perfect match!

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The pattern is probably designed for luxurious silk pyjamas that one might live in all day, but I am showered and dressed by 7am and walk pretty much immediately before I go to bed, so spend very little time in nightwear. I wanted something warm, comfy and practical for when I’m camping and these do hit the spot, and I was also able to stashbust fabric that has been hanging around for a goodly while. What is also nice is that I have actually come to know Carolyn as she lives in my home town and we’ve had a couple of meet ups.

I thought that Mark deserved new pyjamas too, but didn’t have a men’s pattern. I simply used my old favourite, Kwik Sew 3663 for the trousers,

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and Vogue 8800 for the top, leaving the cuffs off the sleeves.

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I stashbusted some cotton flannelette which is covered in moose and bears. I figure that he will fit right in with the Australian bush in that little lot! I didn’t ask him to model, so have artfully draped the pyjamas over my kitchen table. Note the sleeve carefully tucked into the pocket :).

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In a nutshell: My pyjamas are the  Carolyn pyjamas from Closet Case Files, made from orange and white polka dot flannelette bought at Spotlight. Buttons came from Sham Sho Pui, Hong Kong. Mark’s pyjamas are V8800 and Kwik Sew 3663, made from cotton flannelette also from Spotlight. His buttons came from an op-shop.

Kaftan copy

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I found this top at the Art and Design Market in Sydney. It is silk and rather gorgeous and cost all of $20. I am sworn off buying RTW, but I did buy this as I am going to use it as a wearable pattern.

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I make wearable muslins so I like the concept of a wearable pattern – indulge me here! You can see the shape more clearly here.

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It is such a simple design, I am not sure why I couldn’t have just drawn this freehand. Anyay, I’ve got quite a bit of silk in my stash that I want to use for this sort of style. I’ve been checking out kaftan patterns but just couldn’t bring myself to buy any of them and now I know why.

It is extremely low cut, but goes well over a tube dress.

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I used this silk and cotton blend that has been hanging around my stash for a very long time. I loved the buttons when I bought the fabric but then couldn’t imagine what I would make it into.

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What’s interesting about the design is that the neck binding is cut on the bias, but the edging around the kaftan is shaped and cut on the grain of the fabric. It took over a metre of fabric just for the edging.I didn’t realise this and used what I thought was spare fabric on my Lutterloh blouse. I then had to find fabric for the inside edge and this apricot silk dupion seemed just right. I love the pop of colour. I didn’t bother with the ruffle around the opening.

The original kaftan had an ordinary hook and eye securing the neckline, but I wanted something a little more interesting so found this Chinese frog closure in my stash, which is perfect.

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There are only two seams on this top – the shoulder seams, and I French seamed them. I’ve worn this top twice now, once with the long tube, but also teamed with shorts, and it makes the transition from formal to casual really well.

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I wanted the big buttons printed on the fabric to be in a straight line down the front, but they aren’t printed in a straight line, so I had to do the best I could. Ditto on the back, although it would help if I had in on straight!

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In a nutshell: Pattern is copied from a RTW kaftan, fabric is silk and cotton blend from Potter Textiles, lining of the border band is apricot silk dupion left over from my Bellini blouse. The shorts are a pair of cotton knit Style Arc leggings that I didn’t have quite enough fabric for, so I cut them off at the calves and can either cuff them above the knee or just scrunch them. This day I scrunched.

Be my Valentine

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One of the Stashbusting Sewalong challenges for February is “Red”. Well clearly I needed to make a Valentine’s Day dress!

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You may notice that it is very similar to this dress, and yes, indeedy, it is McCalls 5512, but this time made of fabric that is luxurious and nice to wear. Having said that, Cupid got me with his arrow a few times, and not in a good way. I was busy watching the Great British Sewing Bee as I sewed and this is not to be recommended. It did not end well for my sleeves which had to be unpicked on several occasions, including the occasion when I pierced my finger with a pin and one little drop of blood hit the fabric and turned black. I cannot suck my own blood off fabric as recommended, so I hit the laundry and took the blood and the colour out of the fabric. A new sleeve was ordered…

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My other issue was with the pressing. No matter how often I steamed that hem, I could not make it lay flat as the fabric is kind of springy. Since taking these photos of course, I have sorted it! My other worry was the collar. Would it work with softer fabric, or would it flop about? I didn’t want to use heavy interfacing, but I have to say that the collar was a bit of a success. It sits flat at the back, even in this out of focus shot – the price of walking and taking photographs!

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and quite nicely at the front.

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We walked through the city admiring the Giants, and I was so pleased we got to see them – 1.4m people joined me! Not so pleased with my photography efforts though. This is the best one I got. Little girl giant was doing her exercises when we caught up with her.

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In a nutshell: Pattern is McCalls 5512, a vintage pattern from 1970, made from red silk and cotton blend, with flower shaped buttons. The belt was given to me by my Mother-in-law.

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