Monday, December 30, 2013

Summer Sewing (with due apology to those freezing their buns off in the NH)

Finally- after a year of selfless sewing bar one Pavlova Cardi, I am getting stuck into some wardrobe building. It is so hot here, my only comfortable wears are lightweight, natural fibre maxi dresses. I have three live ones. Or had. One was sacrificed on the altar of being made into a pattern, so new ones could be born.
The aforementioned dress I bought at the now defunct (SOB!!!) Anne Harvey in Oxford St, London. I have loved me this dress so much - it is the perfect proportions for me, which has NEVER happened on any RTW maxi I've tried on. But it is very worn out, faded and generally ready to retire, and I was convinced to suck it up and unpick it for the pattern. So I have.
Of course I failed to get a photo of it before the dismantling process, but it features an interesting twist in the centre of the bodice, making it pretty darned tricky to copy without unpicking.
Here are all my beautiful pattern pieces. May I say how much I love this pattern fabric? It is so soft, so easy to fold up into an envelope. Its only flaw is being quite hard to write on in ball point pen. The writing shows up just fine when it is laid flat but hard to read when holding the piece in mid air, as you do.
And here is my chosen fabric - all cut out and ready to sew, hopefully today. I was so tempted to cut out another one, but I want to test my pattern first. I've cut it out of a fabric I just bought, so if I muck something up I can go get more. All the other bits are from stash so I can't be at home to Mr Cockup with them.
Top fabric - a fine textured and overprinted cotton. those boteh are the size of my hand. I LOVE IT. The others are a stretch lace and a silk cotton for lining.
Bonus pic - the stretch lace before and after dyeing it with iDye Crimson for natural fibres. The content is nylon and viscose - excellent news for wearing as I assumed it was polyester! Still my beating red and black obsessed heart!
So, peoples, I am off to sew. Expect to be overshared with in the extreme about my Summer Sewing in the next couple of weeks!!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Secret Santa has landed!

In spite of being super busy, I decided to join in KraftyKat's annual secret Santa swap again, as it is always fun putting together a parcel for someone else who doesn't know you are doing it, and receiving that absolute surprise in the post!  My last year's gift was lovely. I never found out what the recipient of my parcel thought of it as she hasn't posted on her blog for over a year, but I hope she enjoyed it!
My Secret Santa present arrived on Christmas Eve. From Australia! Finally I've got the space to take some photos so I can share the delight with you.
Santa obviously hung out on my blog a bit because she totally nailed my tastes. Red tissue even!! Tied with green grosgrain! Ok, this is all traditional Christmas stuff but really, Christmas has my back.

I got two fat quarters of lovely cream and red starry fabric (CREAM AND RED!!!), some gorgeous thread including the most heavenly variegated thread, and a gorgeous pattern. It's even a decent size! Like moi! ;-)
I love this pattern, I love side draping patterns in general because they look so eternally chic.
Thank you Santa from Australia, I feel very 'got' by your choices. It's always a lovely feeling when you feel like someone out there actually has tuned into your vibe. :)
Thank you Santa, and thank you Kat for coordinating this international swapfest xo

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to you all xo

Her Supreme Royal Highness the Mermaid of the Tree, MrC and myself all hope that you had a lovely Christmas day, as did we.
A recently created tradition (three consecutive years and it's official) is breakfast at The Duke and Duchess of Texas' house, wherein I received a copy of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and am so enthralled by this book I could have stayed at home the rest of the day reading!  Bacon, eggs, crepes, strawberries, cream biscuits, jam, it was such a delicious feast and in such wonderful company too.
The turkey was already in the oven at this point as it is a 6-7 hour cooking event (the way I do it) so apart from reading, not much to do between home and family dinner in the evening. I popped out to visit my darling adopted daughter Shell and hubby Rich who were hanging in there for a big Skype link in with her real family in Missouri.
Then home to a flurry of activity - packing up food and swimsuits and gifts, and everything we could think we might need at my sister's house. It was such a boiler of a day here in Wellington, although apparently it rained pretty much everywhere else in NZ and I was pretty cross - given the insanely upside down nature of Christmas Dinner down under, roasting and boiling for 12 on a hot day is not as much fun as doing it on a cool day! But as it turns out we never had a swim in their lovely pool, as by the time the food was all done (my sister and I work really well together in the kitchen, it's a miracle of nature) the people fed, the dishes done, the tables folded away and the cook curled up on a sofa happily sipping elderflower cordial and soda water, it was cool and dark anyway.
So it was a great birthday bash for Jesus, who I am sure is very understanding about it being on the wrong date. Pretty much all of the gifts were hand made, and very much appreciated all round.
And now down under it is Boxing Day morning-nearly-noon, we had a huge sleep in for the first time in forever,  much needed, and I am going to get my nose back into that book.
Peace and good will to you all, dear readers, I appreciate your visits to my little corner of the blogosphere. xo

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Skirting the issue

My niece Zoe was in the shop on Friday and went doolally over a fabric in my bunting stash. Because I had a decent sized piece of it, I decided to make her a skirt for Christmas. As you do.
I cut three gored panels using my pinking rotary blade, as I really like pinked edges on this kind of cotton. The idea is that the skirt has a centre back seam and two seams that land slightly forward of the sides. I know she likes a 14 inch length from what she was wearing on the day, and has a 24 inch waist. I've gone for a gore rather than a straight gathered on look as at 11, her tastes are not so much for the poofy and frilly. SO sad... ;-)
 Three panels stacked up. Next stop, a bottom flounce cut on a gentle curve. I used a big craft ring as a template.
 After joining two ends of the two flounce pieces into an infinity strip (grrr) I resewed and narrow hemmed the whole thing. I french seamed because I am mad, having been happy to pink the rest, and of course narrow hemming over a french seam is, well, mad. 12 layers of fabric? Mad.
 When I laid the flounce down against the skirt, I realised I was going to have to gather it up a lot, turning it into a frill. Bad. So, I lined it up and cut a big piece off the end. One french seam eliminated. Replaced with a pinked one.
 Finally sewn on, I rather like it. It's not quite as fluoro as in this photo. But she does love lime green so she will be happy!
 To cover up the seam joining the flounce to the skirt, I sewed a bias binding to the seam allowance, then flat to the skirt.
 Then I added a wide elastic waistband.  I decided to sew it facing upwards, then bring it down over the raw edges and sew again, like a one sided flat felled seam. A great plan except I sewed the skirt to it the wrong way first time and had to unpick it.
At last, all seams face the right way, have been sewn down and here is the inside showing a nice, neat inner.
What I learned - sewing in the shop when tired and being interrupted is not a good time to try and invent new ways of finishing garments! And making some attempt to measure things before cutting them saves time and fabric. Amazing!
But we got there in the end!
Hopefully the Zoemeister will like it and not think it too young for her.  Although she chose the fabric even if she doesn't know that I've made her something out of it. I wouldn't have picked this for her if left to my own devices, and my sister thinks she will like it so that's good :) She is in that teetering stage between childhood and teenager, which is utterly delightful. I hope she is in no huge hurry to grow up too fast.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Let them eat (Christmas) Cake!

One of my favourite parts of the run-up to Christmas is making Christmas cake. I am not the biggest fan of eating it, given it is summer and all, and it is suited far more to winter. But it does keep a good long time so it's possible to have the best of both worlds.
This year I have made two types. The Embroidenator has a real soft spot for the fig and chocolate version I do - it has only figs, prunes, ginger, apricot and dried peaches in it, and a lot of chocolate, and lots of orange zest, and the fruit is soaked in green ginger wine and cointreau. I made four of this type, two little ones and two medium ones.
The much larger batch is your standard one. This has good quality cake mixed fruit, to which I add prunes, ginger, apricots, peach, dried cranberries and dried, not glace, cherries, and dates. The fruit was soaked in black beer. Last year it was Guiness, but this year it is a combo of Tuatara Black and 8 Wired's iStout, at the advice from the very clever beer guy at Moore Wilson's liquor store. It tickles me that he really took the whole thing quite seriously instead of dissing the crazy cake lady. I may have to gift him one!
So, today was Cake Day. I left the shop just after 1pm to get home and get started. It's a big job and there's no rushing it. After all, the point is to enjoy the process.
I start by lining all the tins with brown paper and silicon paper. This is a few of them.
I set the Kenwood onto creaming all that butter, sugar, melted chocolate, marmalade, spices and extracts. Then the eggs, a little at a time.

Fig cake fruit I soaked in a 6 litre stock pot but for the big mix, I didn't have anything big enough, so I was chuffed to find this huge food safe sealable bucket at Moore Wilson's - it holds 15 litres so this year it was only half full.
The Kenwood is too small to hold the whole thing, so I tip the fruit into this big gardening tote - it is soft sided and has handles -of course I never use it for gardening or anything dirty - for the rest of the year I use it as a place to put scraps of fabric I want to save from my sewing. I think it holds 50 litres. Anyway, I tip all the flour and rising stuff in with the fruit and dredge it thoroughly, then tip the creamed mix in and blend them together. David does this if he is home as it takes more strength than I have to use a spoon, so I washed my hands and got stuck in! It worked really well, though I hate mixing with my hands.
Most of the second batch tinned up, we're just waiting for the oven to be free.
And finally at 9.30pm,the last ones come out of the oven. Here they all are. 14 cakes, ranging from 4-8 inches. I used to make bigger ones but I find a lot of smaller ones more useful and easier to distribute.
All up I used:
2 lb butter, same of sugar
1 lb chocolate
22 eggs
8oz marmalade
3.5 lb flour
13.5 lbs dried fruits
plus all the other flavours, spices etc. And the beer, cointreau and wine.

So now they just need to cool, get fed some brandy, put on cards, decorated, wrapped in cellophane and distributed.
 And I need to decide which ones to keep! :)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Straight off the back of Santa, I had to get a quilt quilted for my lovely BFF Eileen. She made the patchwork top and underside with her daughter and asked me to quilt it. It's a gift for her daughter's teacher.
I don't like pinning out quilts, so on Saturday, I got one of my staff to do it for me. Yay to delegation, and to clever staff! The big tables in our studio are great for pinning out lap and cot quilts.
So last night I took myself upstairs to my studio with the carefully selected variegated thread - purples and pinks for the underside and brights for the top side, and let rip.
I LOVE free motion quilting!!!! It is so liberating, just drawing stuff with your sewing machine.
Being TVHC, I thought I would just meander it, and chuck in a few of the edibles from the story.
 The overview. I love these fabrics - they are so incredibly vibrant! The quilt top is made up from the three panels, offset by pieced checkerboard panels. Then there are two borders from the range. The back is made up from the leftovers.
I quilted the butterfly, leaf and caterpillars around the outlines.
 An apple in the border
 A strawberry...
Apple core...
 And a teeny little "easter egg" for the mummy - a martini. It's only about an inch high.

There are also icecreams and lollipops.
And you know what? This quilt which is about 3.5 by 5 feet, took 2.5 hours to quilt. I kid you not. Once you get it pinned out, and get used to the whole method, it is sooo fast.
I confess I don't really care about stitch length and technical stuff like that, I just care about getting it done and looking good.
My tips include - always quilt from the outside to the outside each time. Starting and stopping in the middle means lots of sewing in the ends. Due to a few top thread breakages, I had to sew in about six ends. I can live with that, but many more and the potty mouth comes out to play ;-)
And that's done. My list of jobs to get done before Christmas is shrinking.
Next up, Christmas cakes. That's this afternoon's job...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa has more than sleeves!

I'm sorry I didn't get to do more progress shots - camera was in a different location to most of the final construction, with a flat battery! I finished Santa at 4.30am on Wednesday morning. It's been years since I pulled an overnighter like that, and I find it very productive. A bit tough the next day, mind you!
So, here he is, on a skinny mannequin that doesn't have the robustness of a Santa, and his belt sitting too low as a result. Makes him look a bit like a monk. I have asked for proper photos of Himself when it arrives at its destination.
 Back and Front shots. Odd closed front collar turns into a hood at the back. All designed to hide the t-shirt he will probably be wearing underneath.
 Internal view of sleeve. I bound all the seams with satin bias binding instead of lining it - the less layers the better in a kiwi summer!
 The fur hem I wanted extra wide, but I have found sewing through two layers of fur quite ...trying. So, I faced it with the brocade. I got all the fur trims out of 1m of 170cm wide fur. It seemed an enormous piece, but it doesn't look like it on the final garment does it!
 Santa wears a hoodie. He is such a dude.
 World's most fabulous belt buckle, gifted from a friend who has a WHOLE/ COLLECTION OF THEM!! He totally saved my sanity as it was the one bit I really was lost about.
Santa's head wreath, constructed by the Embroidenator, who is a florist among her other amazing abilities. How much do we love her?!?!?!
And thusly, we are done. All packed into a box with a packet of eyelets and a clothing brush. What is that for? Well...
I mislaid the balance of the overdyed brocade after cutting out the sleeves. After establishing it was neither at home, the shop nor in the car, a horrible suspicion came over me that maybe I had dropped it en route. I went outsdie to check and found this:
Exhibit one: still stuck to the side of the building, a tell tale piece of brocade. I could have wept. Luckily it was not hard to get more and dye it, but it all takes time and money we don't have. I must learn not to carry things loose in my arms when we live in such a windy city...

FUR is HORRIBLE to work with. I swear I ended up sitting there with the vacuum running in one hand and the scissors in the other, trimming out the seam allowances and sucking up the fluff. This after nearly choking on furballs so many times. And of course there are still cut bits caught in the seams still shedding themselves. It's like owning a persian cat!! I've since given all my work areas a good hoovering. Thank goodness the fur has left the building ;-)
I broke several needles in the process too, so many layers to sew through in places. It was heavy and hard to work with, and very hot on my lap as I did lots of hand sewing (all the internal binding was slip stitched down) which in early Sumer is no joke. So it was awesome working overnight when it was cooler!
But it looks just how I imagined and I think it will be well received.

So, that's Santa. Here are some pics from the shop to prove that other Christmas things are happening!
 The cabinet of fabric. It is on loan from another shop, and I LOVE it so much. And of course it is full of fabric, and bobble trim and other delicious things so, yay!
 Our Christmas window. Lot of things to use to make other things. Polystyrene shapes are v. popular!
 It's not all about Christmas, the little window celebrates our recent legalisation of gay marriage. Our two lovely brides and their rainbow cake brighten it all up. Now whenever we get a bride or groom in the store, we make no assumptions about the gender of their intended, and two women shopping for wedding stuff are not necessarily a bride and bridesmaid. I love it, it seems right. It IS right.  Oops, I just noticed you can see my reflection!
 A sample wreath. I make lots of samples to give people ideas, and I hope this year to sell a few as we are running out of storage room for holding over til next year.
Another sample, a bit blurry this time. I really like this traditional look.
My fave wreath. It is just squares of jute floral wrap stuck into a polystyrene wreath with baubles added and a bow.

I really love Christmas time at the shop - I cant find the CDs I bought to replace the CDs I lost, so we're not yet playing much christmas music, but hopefully they will surface soon and then we'll have nailed it :)
SO how go your preps?