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Saturday, 25 March 2017

SEWN: Flying squirrel dress! V1482

I love this dress. I really do. Gabrielle's antipodean flying squirrel dress, the aquatic sugar glider is one of my most loved inspirations. Everything about it, the amazing abstract seaside creature fabric and it's sheer statementness is perfect. I have an equally loved piece of silk, with an abstract leopard image from Prada's 2009 resort collection, that's been waiting patiently for it's time to shine.

I asked Gabrielle for her thoughts as we browsed The Fabric Store in Sydney, which is where I bought it several years ago. It's a weighty silk, not as compact and drapey as the recommended crepe de chine or silk jersey, but I do like a structured drape... Might V1482 be the pattern for it?
I decided to test V1482 with some rather lovely weight tencel from Darn Cheap Fabrics. I'm rather glad the staff warned me that it would bleed a lot for it's first wash, it did, but has been very well behaved since. I'm still a tad scarred by the dark denim I used for my Genoa tote - it's still bleeding onto pale shorts (and this is after synthrapol, and in desperation, boiling it with vinegar and salt), it's one of those things... ;(

I did my research and as well as Gabrielle's, I took particular note of Lara's version. I fit a size M (14) by the envelope measurement, and didn't hesitate to sew the S (8-10). I do wish I'd paid extra attention to her GOMI source who outlined some excellent steps, that I incorporated after the fact.
Ok, since I made this straight from the envelope (without the sleeve bands), let's outline my thoughts:

#1 I adore the length. I was tempted to shorten it, but when pinned up, I lost the pegging that makes it work.

#2 Size - I chose well - Thank you my fellow seamstresses who made this before me and blogged about it. The hip is perfectly snug when getting in and out of it, I couldn't have gone any narrower on the hem. The neck opening was wide enough, that cutting the back with a CB seam was never an option.
#3 I hate the neck. There, I've said it. I do like a straight boat neck, and I do like a scooped V or U neck, but this is not quite one or the other and it simply doesn't work for me in this solid colour. I trialled every chunky necklace and silk scarf in my wardrobe, they all look better than the naked neckline.
I adapted the neckline by unpicking the facings (yes, I used ordinary facings in self fabric). I then resewed the neckline while taking an inch out of the shoulder seam at the neck, tapering to nothing on each side over 3 inches. It would have been much neater if I'd made the adjustment (as suggested on GOMI), at the time of cutting out.
#4. The denim tencel - it was absolutely gorgeous to sew. I was worried that I'd be a bit too shiny (cue an earworm from Jemaine the scary Moana crab...) but that aspect is ok - well, apart from the moire effect in untouched photographs (sorry DH). I adore the colour and the drape - not quite silk crepe de chine or rayon, it's a substantial fabric after all - but the solid colour is a bit too solid for me and sometimes I feel the dress wears me.
It's also rather warm. I find silk warm, and polyester sweaty, so that shouldn't be a surprise, but it was. On the plus side, I can see myself popping it on with bare legs through autumn and spring, and it should work well with boots for winter.

#5. I omitted the sleeve bands. If anything, I could have made the sleeves themselves more narrow/shorter, but I do like them at the end of the dolman extensions.

#6. I didn't french seam - quelle horreur!! I did french seam the pocket - and what a perfect sized pocket it is!, but there is extra bulk that isn't necessary with this heavier fabric. Being a solid and shiny fabric, every imperfection in my stitching feels accentuated and I wanted the seams to lie as flat as possible.
#7. I enjoyed using a gorgeous pale green as my top stitching thread - it matches my favourite Wonders heels and Elk bag.

Overall, DH isn't a fan, but I like it. It's big and loose and super comfy while being vaguely polished, especially with heels.
and it has a proper sized pocket - and that's always a win.
I had the very best lunch and photo shoot with DH and Helen - the graffiti was brilliant and Helen's got some amazing examples over on her Funkbunny blog!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Made: SHOES - Leather sandals for summer

I made shoes! Ok, Sandals! I made Sandals!!
And best of all, they weren't difficult ;)
I love leather shoes and sandals, I really do. Jenny is my main enabler, she does have excellent taste. Sometimes though, I can't buy all the shoes, or they've got straps that don't fit in the right spot, or the leather is pleather, or simply not comfortable.

Inspired by the gorgeous work of Handmade by Carolyn and Jodie of Scared Stitchless, I've been watching with great interest, this shoe making caper. Then Jillian introduced me to Atelier Louise, an Adelaide based designer who has kindly released some sandal patterns, aimed at the complete beginner. I wasn't interested in the Silver Sands as I've worn the style in India and they're not my cup of tea, however when she released the Brighton Sandal, it was love at first sight!
The pattern by Atelier Louise is a downloaded .pdf, filled with images, tips and tricks, and there are even more fabulous tutorials and musings on her blog - it was a one-stop resource for this novice!

I picked up most of my supplies at my local leather shop - Lefflers in Melbourne. They allocated me a lovely young cobbler to point me in the right direction, he was invaluable in navigating the different glues, soleings and leathers available.
My most loved leather sandals, I rasped off the old textured sole,  now ready for the new one
I practised with the glue and soleing, I resoled my most loved sandals, boots and some kids shoes - yes, it works well! The tutorials suggest cutting the solving larger than the sole and trimming it to size after it's adhered - this worked for me as when I tried applying a 'same size' sole, it didn't go well.

My glue is the highly toxic contact cement version; apply to both surfaces, let it dry and then apply heat, put them together and hammer them - now that was fun! I used both a diabolical little heat gun that threatened to bubble and melt everything it came in contact with, and a trusty old hairdryer. They both worked, so I think I'll stick to the hairdryer as it's not used on my hair. (it tends to be used to dry prints these days)
Next I made cardboard mockups of my sandals. I started with the size 10 and adjusted the slots and strap lengths until I found an arrangement that suits my feet. I do really like the way my heels are hugged by the straps, and the front straps don't rub on my joints.
The blue leather came from a rather fabulous shopping day with Gabrielle and Rosie at The Fabric Store Sydney, a remnant packet contained the perfect amount. Jenny very kindly let me raid her stash for the super soft purple inner leather.
sneaky Maci shot, the leathers, and the rather lovely woodworking chisel used to pierce the leather sole for the straps
They are machine stitched together and as my vintage Necchi was having a hissy fit, I used my everyday Singer. I can see where the stitch length varies and it's not perfect, but the machine did handle the 2 layers of soft leather without too much difficulty. I tried both teflon and walking feet.
Trimming the excess sole and soleing could be done by paring them with a Stanley knife, if you are my DH. For me, I choose a safety parer, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief ;)
Lots of beeswax and elbow grease to burnish the edges, I could do more, but I can't see the edges while I'm wearing them ;)
left has been burnished, right is waiting it's turn
I've actually had these finished since early December! They are designed to have a cute button stud, but mine were a tad heavy for the leather. I wore them with D rings as closures, until I decided to trim off the messy strap ends, which made them too thick to pass through easily - cue headdesk.
The bridle buckle currently securing them is also from Lefflers, I think I'll add another hole for tightness and a keeper strap to tidy the strap end.
I've been wearing them everywhere, just not photographing them!
Next time I'd like to try a single layer of a thicker leather, a lot like my fave RTW pair. And a metallic leather, surely I need a shiny pair!
And Maci was an excellent assistant ;)


Friday, 3 February 2017

Machine Knit: new discoveries: meeting and rejuvenating mechanical machines: Singer Silver Reed 321 360

Oh how I do love learning new things!
One of the factors inherent in a craft that requires machines made around 40 years ago, is that they will require maintenance.
I adore my Singer 321, the model came out in 1972 and I believe they are so numerous in Australia as they were sold with Singer sewing machines. My mum remembers her very talented crafting aunt creating many garments on her knitting machine back in their heyday.

I have made many a swatch on my trusty Singer 321, it's a lot like hand knitting for me, I simply enjoy the process of making. A finished object is nice, however it's the formation of stitches, discovering what can be done and discovering new techniques, that give me great enjoyment.

My next search was for a ribber, to double the size of my 200 metal stitch bed and allow me to venture into the world of circular knitting and ribbing. Did anyone say "SOCKS" ;)
Of course, it never rains, but it pours, and after a few months of keeping my ear out, I spotted not one, but two machines with ribbers for the right prices. Of course I investigated them both ....
One was another Singer 321, this one a smidge younger than mine and with a rather fetching red highlights.
The other was my 'dare to hope for' machine, a Singer 360.
She's plainer than her older cousin, having been released as the last fully mechanical model in 1980 before electronic machines came out around 1982.
Both machines had spent quite a number of years sitting in garages, so they were in falling apart cardboard boxes, grimy, stiff and not looking their best.
My 360 even had the main carriage stuck to the main bed with a deteriorated piece of plastic and none of it's cams' rotated.

Did I mention my love for learning new things? I also adore cleaning - not tidying!, but removing grot and getting stuck things spinning again.

Armed with the internet, paper towel, cloths, a stiff paintbrush (or two), a bottle of methylated spirits and white spirit, some 3 in 1 oil, a set of screwdrivers and a healthy dose of enthusiasm,
I set to work.

SPOILER ALERT - Yes, they both are restored and knit, tuck and slip beautifully. The 360 looks like living up to it's name to knit through 360 degrees, as it's ribbing is perfect.
The 321 is now named Susie and has found a very happy home with Sew Jillian
Photo heavy details now follow.
Doesn't look too bad - but those cams didn't budge!
The flat sponge bar and the edge pieces that were sticking the carriage to the main bed
First thing that everyone will mention is the sponge bar.
These long metal strips are meant to have a strip of foam on them that will press the needles down into the bed and allow them to hold their position. Without a sponge bar, they flop around and when in D position, they can dislodge and fall out. Sponge bars deteriorate over time, more rapidly when they've been in storage (or so I've heard), so in short, every machine that's not been used for a while will need a new one.
A new functional spongebar in my 321
aka what it 'should' look like
You can see the piece that looks like a long narrow strip of cardboard in the photo of my 360 above? That's a flat sponge bar. Under the fabric layer was a mess of sticky gunk that crumbled and required a screwdriver to scrape out and goof off to completely remove.
Obtaining a replacement sponge bar is, interesting. There are suppliers, however many of them would rather not ship to Australia (and postage isn't cheap for a 120cm long piece of metal). Fortunately both sponge bars had intact metal, although the 321's plastic end caps have deteriorated and will need replacing.

The most common DIY replacement available is weatherstripping. I took the advice of experienced machine knitters and purchased the Raven brand RP14B extra thick 12mmx12mm self adhesive version. One packet was enough to do both sponge bars.
The ribber has an original plastic (not sponge) bar, however the 360's is unstable in D position, so it may need one of these in the future.

There are tutorials online for inserting the weather strip sponge. I then used iron on interfacing to provide the fabric topper which protects the sponge.
I did try glue and ribbon first, but that was messy and I might still have some glue on some needles (don't ask...)
Ta da!!
pretty good for a first go. Weather strip, interfacing and tape
Reinserting the sponge bar is quite straight forward, providing you don't try to put it in upside down.... The sponge goes down and the metal goes up.
Hold the needles down on the main bed as you slide the bar back into it's hole, you can see the orange tip in the main bed as it approaches the raised needles at 6.5.
While the sponge bar was out of the machine, I removed all of the needles from the main bed and soaked them in methylated spirits. I soaked the needles from the centre separately from the two ends. this enabled me to replace the end needles in the centre and vice versa. I was fortunate in that only a few needles overall were bent and required replacing.

Needles, the bottom 2 have soaked in metho while I wrestled with the carriage
Now, armed with copies of each machine's manual, it was time to get to work on the carriages...
Manuals can be found as free downloads on this amazing site: Machine knitting etc dot com
Seriously, it's brilliant!

Both (all) Singer/Silver Reed Japanese metal bed mechanical machines are essentially the same.
Step one, remove the handle from the main carriage, it will be held on with screws in the side. Keep them together ;)
Then remove the stitch selection dial. It will have a little clip holding it in place, this is important for when you need to clip it back in at the end. I found holding it under tension with a screwdriver when I reinserted the metal selector was necessary.
321 with cover dismantled. The grey plastic also comes off
360 with handle removed
360 showing spring clip
Now you can see the cams that are vital to the machine's function. Don't attempt to remove them, and most definitely don't attempt to dismantle them.
(unless you know what you're doing, in which case, you're already familiar with this bit!)
321 ready to clean
Look at the yellow gunk, this is old oil that we're about to remove with white spirit.
If you spot any fluff or thread, remove it.
360 ready to clean
I painted everything liberally with white spirit on a stiff paintbrush.
Well, all the metal bits anyway. It took less time than I thought before the cams began to start to budge, then more working the spirit into the mechanisms and attempting to spin the cams, until they spun freely, quite quickly and without resistance, yay!!

I wiped off whatever excess I could see and did a little happy dance.
Next I re-oiled anything that moved, white spirit is amazing, but very, very drying and if they're not re-oiled, the cams will seize again.
Now its simply a matter of reversing the steps and putting all of the pairs of screws back into the holes from whence they came.

And voila! All it needs is the regular maintenance steps as outlined in the manual. Vacuum or squirt air +/- a brush along the main bed to remove any dust and fluff, oil the main bed and set up to knit some test swatches!
Job done!

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Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016: Exhibitions: WARM and The Royal Melbourne Show

Some of these landscape squares were knit by me! 1000 pieces, 250 Victorian hand knitters
SEAM's WARM community knitting project
Hasn't time flown!
I've got a few things I'll share here so I remember what I did for next time, and some lovely things I've been part of that deserve to be remembered in this space.

I've continued to dabble in machine knitting, and emboldened by my Dairing 2/3/Four, I made the matching Two/3/4 top, a sideways knitted tank in the same thin cotton/stainless steel/silk mix, with neck, arm and hem edges left to roll. 

I took my time joining the side seams by hand, and thoroughly enjoyed the process. I had difficulties with keeping my cast on edges loose, so I joined them to each other and the result is a modern asymmetrical top that I adore. I entered it into my local show, The Royal Melbourne and was rather chuffed to receive a third place against some rather talented, and very experienced competition - definite beginners luck!


No luck was involved in Mr MaciNic's results, he's a very talented artist over several mediums and was placed for some lovely woodworking and took the blue ribbon in the rather obscure printing technique, Intalagio.

The Blyde River Butts image was taken by the equally talented Jenny Rennous_oh_Glennus in Africa and then printed:

Intaglio is a rather time-consuming technique using an etching press and plates.

In detail, it involves converting an image to digital and then using photopolymer plates. These have the image inkjet printed directly onto the plate and exposed to uv light. The plates are then washed with water to remove unhardened polymer, Inked and wiped, same as traditional Intaglio, and passed through an A3 sized benchtop press onto dampened cotton rag paper. 

In September he wanted to try copper drypoint next, and he has. I have some rather fetching octopi etchings, hand coloured with watercolours, and a study of our somnolent dachshund.

I was also fabulously fortunate to stumble across the WARM project, a community knitting project where Victorian hand knitters were asked to knit from designs, specific to the project, designed in Victoria by Georgie of Tikki. I contributed several pieces. A large scale image of a rejuvenated open cut mine was then created to open conversation on renewable energy and the environment. Why? Because we've forgotten how to warm ourselves with wool.
It was rather lovely to see the installation at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and to be able to take my grandma. She's an amazing crafter who is still knitting and crocheting for charity, at 93.

It's currently touring, and I believe it has just left the Ararat Art Gallery after spending time at the Geelong Wool Museum. Details can be found on the SEAM page.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Couturier sewing class: Velvet Top

My newest sewing book acquisition is the Japanese language Couturier Sewing Class, one of the Heart Warming Life Series publications. It was released in October 2015 and I've had it in an eBay cart ever since.
I love the green wide legged pants, the gorgeous mustard raglan dress as made in black by Justine (on Bombazine) recently, the draped cardigan and the sweet white top/green ruffled dress. My absolute favourite however, is the top on the cover, especially it's image in wool inside.
There's a thorough review on the Japan Sewing Books blog - it's what swayed my decision that I simply must have the book!
So that's what I made first ;)
it has a faced neckline and partially interfaced waist
I was shopping with Helen and bought 2m of a stable black velvet for this very top, before the book arrived. I am very pleased to report that this top is exactly as I envisioned, was a pleasure to sew and has had lots of wear already - don't you love it when that happens!!
Black Velvet: so lovely to wear, so hard to photograph
This is the LL, largest, size made without alteration.
For body measurements: height 160-165cm, bust 94, waist 74, hips 98cm. The L would have been fine.

The round neckline is the front, it's shown reversible above, however when I wear the V to the front, it sits a little awkwardly.
and besides, the V at the back is cute and shows the back of the neck ;)
It is a fabric hog. I bought my very first piece of nani-iro double gauze from Miss Matatabi with this book and regrettably, it won't fit on the 1.5m (x106cm) piece without changes.
I will be making a summery version, it's too lovely a pattern not to!
I've been wearing it a lot, on date days with my beau, out to see Curtains at the Art Centre and again to the NGV International for the unpacking of their new acquisitions, all fabulous and fun times!
And my emerald accessory - it's a hand knitted clutch in super bulky acrylic - very hard on the wrists, but it's all worth it for fashion? no? ;)
Knitted on 8mm needles, black 4mm for comparison




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