Summer Sewing Gets Going

Let’s just pretend that it hasn’t been ages since my last actual sewing post and get straight into what I’ve actually made in 2017. Although not much has been blogged, I have been busy travelling to Australia for classes with Susan Khalje (a reflective post is in the pipeline), working on some serious up skilling and making undies. Oh, and I did move countries. But for now, let’s focus on two recent makes, both patterns from Ann Normandy: the Slip Dress and the Shift Dress.

The Slip Dress

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Described as ‘couture quality, A-Line dress cut just above the knee’ this dress appears simple. Although there is nothing technically challenging about this garment (no welt pockets made from the finest mohair collected by elves at midnight from the underbellies of baby Angora goats on the steppes of Siberia), finishing techniques ensure a very polished garment both inside and out. All seams are flat felled so you could wear this inside out and not have people stare at you awkwardly, thinking you’d gotten dressed in the dark. Or dressed by your small child. Always a bonus.

As my linen was on the finer side I decided to underline with a cotton batiste, slip stitching the hem onto the underlining for a truly invisible finish. And, because I think I know better that the person who designed the pattern, I chose to only turn the neckline and armscye seam allowance twice instead of the recommended three times. I should have listened as it would have given just that little more room to pull it over my head (why do I go off like that?) Next time I will try it turned three times.

As I like my dresses to hit at a certain part of my leg, I also lengthened the pattern by a few inches (I am only 164 cm) so it may be worth checking the length before you cut out your fabric.

Another nice feature of these patterns is that they can be cut against the grain, using the selvedge as the hem. As this went right against what I had been taught by my great sewing teacher (Mum), I wrestled with this decision and ultimately  cut on the grain as I wasn’t up to experimenting as Ann suggested.

The fabric is from Linen Club, a store I originally discovered in Oman, purchased at a random store in Malaysia with my two new sewing friends Gerda and Betty. This was my first time shopping with my new colour palette and both fabric enablers thought the colour was nice on so I purchased it.

Overall, a lovely, slim fitting summer dress that is perfectly suited to the tropics . I can see myself wearing this all the time over the summer and hope to make at least one more before I head to Croatia again in June. And, because I believe in offering public service announcements… this dress allowed me to defend myself from a random spot of street boxing and still look totally collected. Awkward but totally collected 🙂

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Now, on to The Shift Dress

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Here getting it’s first outing two hours after completion, this is my second make from Ann. Featuring a great neckline and beautiful square armscyes, this version is also made from Linen Club linen, purchased in Muscat, Oman over a year ago. This linen is a little heavier than my Slip Dress version above so I did not underline it but I did cut it against the grain, running the hem along the selvedge. I also chose to topstitch in a contrasting thread to highlight the details. Sometimes I think I’m really clever and then I see the work on those Russian bloggers and want to go hide in a dark hole forever, not touching my machines again!

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Once again, flat felled seams were used throughout garment construction. For some reason I found the instructions really difficult to follow. The accompanying black and white images were not helpful as the lack of colour made distinguishing details difficult. At one point I put the instructions aside and ‘thought like Ann’ to complete the garment. I think I did her justice 🙂

So, some action shots.

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I love the neckline and other square details but think it’s a little big overall. As I made up the smallest size I have no option but to consider taking in the side seams a smidge next time.

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Now that I have made up two of Ann’s patterns, I would definitely recommend them to you and plan to make another version of each one very soon. Until then…

Chat quietly amongst yourselves.

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Colour & Style

So, the last time I wrote was many months ago. I have thought about this blog from time to time, as one remembers a teenager love…with fondness, with regret, with wondering. However, unlike these relationships of old, I am reviving this blog and moving forward!

The past seven months have been months of indecision and stress. Back in June 2016 we left Doha. Our personal belongings headed south east to Melbourne while we headed north west to Croatia where another long, hot summer on Hvar beckoned us. While there, my husband was offered work in Kiev which he eagerly wanted to accept. My dad was all keen for us to go as he always wanted to visit Ukraine and he could definitely see me wearing a winter cubura on my head. Mum, on the other hand, began to have sleepless nights about us all developing cancer and was busy researching the long term negative effects of life near the Chernobyl exclusion zone. We didn’t end up going. Long story short with some details missing but you get the point.

So by the beginning of October we were back in Melbourne, living in my late mother-in-law’s home and working to clear it out for sale. My husband picked up a local Term 4 teaching contract and I enrolled the kids into school for 2017. Life was starting to develop a familiar rhythm to all but me. I was missing Doha terribly; my friends, the desert and the heavy atmosphere of an exotic locale. I really could not face the drudgery of life back home so we both continued to apply for positions elsewhere.

While attempting to stay amused and out of the doldrums, my friend Cherie came to visit from Brisbane. Looking for something interesting, I booked us into an introductory session with Kaye Ure, a colour and style consultant. Held at Helene’s Stitch56 headquarters, Cherie and I had a great evening and both determined to follow up with personal sessions with Kaye, looking at both colour and style. And follow up I did. A few weeks later I was sitting in front of a large mirror while Kaye draped numerous coloured fabrics around me in an attempt to determine which ‘season’ I was; later that same week I visited her again for an extensive style session. More on this later.

Now, back to my life working itself out. Fast forward another few weeks and we were booking tickets and watching our personal belongings being loaded up for our next adventure. Destination: Singapore! A far cry from the Middle East in numerous ways and all that I was missing but we were all looking forward to the move. Christmas came and went and a few days after New Year we flew out of Melbourne and landed in another place I had never visited before. I do like adventure!

So, how does this all link in with Kaye? Well, in the past I have twice paid for body shape consultations and one colour consultation. Although in many respects they confirmed what I already knew about my body shape, they did little to guide me further: What should I wear? How should I wear it? What combination of colours look best on me? How do I use this information to select makeup to complement my skin tone? Now that I am in my forties I really wanted to nail this thing called style and Cherie and I both left the evening feeling very positive about Kaye. So…

As I am again in the middle of a forced hiatus from my sewing machines I want to take the time to really plan where my sewing will take me in 2017. Based on my time with Kaye I want to approach sewing in a more considered way, combining what she taught me about colour and style in order to truly reflect my personality. So here goes…

Let’s start with colours I regularly dressed in pre-Kaye: lots of white, navy, dark blue, sea blue, dirty blue, vibrant blue…with some pink thrown in very recently. Although I would have said that I didn’t look shocking, I was always drawn to my dark circles and a general harshness in my face. I also found that my melasma was visible no matter how much makeup I put on, particularly above my upper lip. At one point it was SO noticeable that my husband accused me of sneaking into town and having chocolate gelati. Sigh.

As I said, nothing shocking but I never really felt I looked my best. I often felt drained and tired and couldn’t wait to take my clothes off in the evening.

Now, onto Kaye and what the scarves said! After arriving at Kaye’s, she immediately put me at ease with some healthy snacks, lemon water and a cup of herbal tea. We chatted as we settled in and then got into the draping. By the end, and with some protestations on my part, Kaye finalised her thoughts and pinned me as a Blue Autumn. This means I look best in rich, warm, earthy and vibrant colours. Something like this:

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As I said, I protested as to me Autumn colours always looked dirty and were colours worn by large, middle aged women trying to look trendy. However, I could see that some particular colours looked startlingly good on me so it was time to shut up! Kaye indicated that my best colours in each family were:

  • Browns: elephant and coffee
  • Yellows: bronze
  • Greens: grass green
  • Reds: geranium
  • Blues: heather, marine navy, peacock and kingfisher

General colour advice was to dress in several colours (3-5) at a time in either tone-on-tone combinations or in families of colour. Kaye also went through each colour and indicated whether it fell into the ‘See it and Buy It’ category or how/where it could be best worn on me. I must say, this sheet has been terribly useful but I am still learning and have a long way to go.

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Feeling a mixture of intrigue and depression over the loss of my beautiful Summer shades I drove home and pulled out everything that did not fall into my new colour palette. I was surprised to see that I would now be going out exclusively in a dark brown bra and a beige half slip. YES! There was literally nothing left in my wardrobe 😦

Undeterred, I returned to Kaye two days later and worked with her on understanding my style and using that to direct future wardrobe efforts. Here are the results of my second day:

Body Structure

  • Face Shape: Heart (thank you, Eastern European blood!)
  • Body Shape: Straight Pear – Hourglass
  • Overall Proportions: Fairly evenly proportioned

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  • Neck Proportions: Neck length: long; jaw angle: medium. My best necklaces: choker or anything to the clavicle. My best necklines: scoop, narrow heart scoop, classic v, narrow deep v, and a polo neck underneath something open
  • Bust to Hip Ratio: Slightly smaller bust. This means I can either go unbelted or wear a curved belt of approximately 1.5 inches in width. Apparently the best curved belts are from Prada, MiuMiu, Armani and Ralph Lauren. Of course they are. My best waistband is a low one.

Personality  According to some testing I am more rational than I am intuitive. Some terms to describe me would be: forthright and outspoken, quick tempered, clears clutter, eats to live, tidy and organised. Fairly accurate, I’d say. Further discussions revealed that my personality profile is Gamine with a touch of Adventurer; street urchin, neat, cute, fun, boyish and snappy with a bit of relaxed outdoorsy thrown in. Think the offspring of Audrey Hepburn and Robin Hood 🙂

Gamine Fashion (with Adventurer fashion options in brackets)

  • Trousers: neat (not baggy), 3/4 length, culottes, turn-ups, neat jeans in smooth rather than textured fabric (Fluid trousers, denim, cargo pants can work)
  • Skirts: Short or long, neat pleats or panelled (wrap, suede, panelled)
  • Tops and Shirts: neat fitting (not baggy), short in length with structured and tidy necklines. Collars are good and can be worn turned up. Patterns should be small scale and either stripes, spots or geometrics.
  • Coats: Short 3/4 length with neat shoulders and witty details.
  • Shoes: Small heels or flats, fine boots (not too clumpy) either calf length or ankle. Toes should be either pointy or square.
  • Accessories: Small to medium scale fun, witty jewellery. Stud earrings are good with small dangly earrings working only for evening. Bags need to be structured and not too large (jewellery should be slightly ethnic and textured, using stones, matte metals, wood, water pearls. Scarves with texture, fringing and substance).

So, how do I feel? Like a fish out of water. I have since bought three tops that are in my new palette and although I can see that they look great on, they feel like putting on a new pairs of shoes; not necessarily comfortable yet. And given that I am surrounded by people who don’t know me and have no past as comparison, my new colours are not eliciting any excited exclamations of ‘Wow! You look so much better!’

I leave you, dear reader, with some photographs Kaye took of me at the end of our colour session and the odd change room photograph. As usual, these shots will not make the cover of Vogue anytime soon but I am writing for the sake of education, aren’t I? What say you?

I look forward to some running commentary about my endeavours and I do hope you have found this post useful. Should you ever be in Melbourne, I recommend Kaye to you. I look forward to working with her in the future and I especially look forward to seeing what she does with Cherie who is having her colour and style session this Friday. My next blog post will be about my sewing selections for 2017 so stay tuned!

Until next time, chat quietly amongst yourselves.

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Closet Case Files: Carolyn Pyjamas

Funny how the simplest of projects take the longest. These shorts were no exception. However, they are done and about to be packed into the suitcase for our summer away.

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Made from pretty Liberty fabric, they are not what Missie would naturally pick but she wasn’t with me when I shopped for fabric so this is what happens 🙂 Luckily, she likes them.

The only thing I must do next time…stop hand stitching the hems and waistband. Time to embrace stitching in the ditch.

Oh, the fabric is from my favourite Doha fabric store, Ilham Textiles in Asiri Market where Naomi and I go to buy Liberty. We are always welcomed with a massive smile and hot glasses of tea. I must get a photo next time…

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Victory Patterns: Hannah

Rarely does a pattern appear that stylistically sums me up and rarer still does a pattern appear that I can sew without grading between sizes. A massive thank you to Kristiann for drafting a spectacular garment that apparently makes me “look ten years younger,” according to my dear friend Naomi who just happened to have stuck her head out the door in the shot below.

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I would love to offer glamour shots but the truth is, I can’t. This is me in real life. The Middle East is gritty, in all senses of the word, and that is part of its charm. Things get dusty about three seconds after cleaning and the shamal at this time of year can be relentless. You wouldn’t think there was much to blow around in the desert but I can vouch that there are tonnes of sand not anchored down by anything bar the odd camel.

On top of the gritty factor, I myself am not that refined. I don’t have a hair or makeup stylist, I don’t have straight teeth, I wear glasses, I’m not all toned and tanned, and I apparently have a big nose (according to a Lebanese hairdresser I went to for the first time shortly after moving here). And because I know you are wanting to ask, no, I didn’t ask her whether she had looked in the mirror lately nor did I come out with a pithy saying such as it takes one to know one. I am, in fact, a working mum to two teenagers who gets up at 5am every day in order to be teaching other teenagers at 7am. I drag myself home at 4pm and try to muster up the strength to prepare a half decent meal but usually end up serving cereal. Actually, I lie; I make them serve themselves 🙂

This, my friends, is me. Nose and all. In my new dress.

Made from a thick, shockingly hot pink linen from The Fabric Store in Melbourne, this fabric was destined to be a Vogue pattern Ivona, my sewing bestie, selected for our Rome meet up this July. As this is not a colour I usually subscribe to, it was put to the side as I concentrated on other things. I even forewarned Ivona that I probably wouldn’t get time to sew it up before the trip. But next thing I knew, there was Hannah and there she was in my inbox. Just like that.

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In review: the instructions are impeccable and result in a well constructed garment. The only thing I did differently was that I hand stitched down the bindings and the hem facing as I don’t like these things showing. And, I’m yet to add buttons as I can’t find any here.

Next time? Yes, the fabric is ready to be cut out but first of all I must lengthen the dress a smidge as I like a bit more coverage for times when bending is required. I also like to consider the needs to the viewing public as I came close to scarring my son for life with images of his mum’s home made knickers starring at him from across the room as I bent to tie up my shoes. Oh, the shame of it all 🙂

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So, highly recommended for the pear shaped beauties out there, plus anyone else that likes structural design in clothing. I can’t wait to see what comes from the stables of Victory Patterns next.

Until next time, chat quietly about anything but the nose. Not the nose!

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Merchant & Mills: Curlew

Following my public proclamation that I would sew up nine new patterns during the course of 2016, and attempting to work my way through my stash in order to appease my husband, I whipped up a Merchant & Mills Curlew top from their Workbook in some charcoal linen. In a fit of delusion, and probably because I can usually size down in Merchant & Mills patterns, I cut out a size I have not been since I was two years old. Let me introduce you to va-va-voom ChaCha

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Ok, not too bad in this shot but did you notice how I deceptively shot this? Now for a less than stellar back shot…

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Let me introduce you to my hefty twin sister, Helga the Russian fridge thrower. She looks like she has some kobasice tucked up under there but when I man-handled her, I found that she was telling the truth; it was, indeed, just the way the linen was sitting.

From another angle, the top also makes me appear to have a very large bosom which I do not have (size 8 in Australian underwear) so I am not sure what is going on there.

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Anyway, I somehow managed it suction it off without losing a layer of skin so all was not lost. Once off, I gave it my dear friend Sal as she is a smidge *cough cough* smaller than I and also happens to love wearing black. I would actually love to try the dress version of the Curlew but that will be for another day.

Lastly, in a moment of reflection, this top makes me continue to question what body shape I really am. In the past three years, I have had two body shape assessments by two professional people trained in such stuff. One claimed that I was a pear while the other said I was an hourglass. Totally confused, I went to the source of all body wisdom and asked Trinny and Susannah. They said I was a Skittle. Maybe I should just go eat some and call it a day 🙂 What do you think, loyal readership?

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PS: And when I say I ‘went to Trinny and Susannah’ I don’t mean I consulted their books. I went to Trinny and Susannah.

 

Grainline Studio: Linden

Although I should not admit this publically as a number of my friends will disown me, particularly my sister Sanja and my friend Ivona, I believe that wearing something elasticated each day (underwear aside) should be mandated by governments worldwide. I believe that if people wore comfortable clothing (unmatched and nothing a la Juicy Couture), there would be less bullying in the workplace, people would be more gracious when shopping during the Christmas sales and world leaders would start making decisions which were right for the masses and not necessarily right for themselves.

Enter my first garment of 2016; a Linden sweatshirt made on January 1 and blogged now in May as obviously I am on top of my life.

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Made from the cloth of a famous American designer whose name escapes me right now, with some spotty fanciness from Miss Matatabi, this was ‘sewing the stash’ at its finest. Although not a colour that particularly enhances my complexion, it gets a lot of wear. Once I have found some more particularly interesting stretch fabric, and once we are again living in a climate that drops below 25.C in winter, I will make a few more.

And just because you all want to see me actually wearing the garment, here it is in two different locations: on the Corniche with the Museum of Islamic Art in the background and a palm tree growing out of my head (thanks, Stewart) and at the souq in Muscat with my two babes, waiting for the gracious shopkeeper to return after scurrying off to bring cans of soft drink for the kids and cups of karak for the adults.

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PS: The fabric is a Tory Burch I purchased about two years ago from The Fabric Store in Melbourne. It has horrible recovery.

 

Merchant & Mills: Fielder

I won’t lie… I really love linen and I love the concept of the designs from Merchant and Mills. However, items that are boxy or loose do little to flatter my figure. Add to that the variation of two sizes between my top quarter and hip region and I can look anything but summer chic in baggy clothing.

Late last year I found myself, once again, perplexed by the restrictions of appropriate dress in a conservative Middle Eastern country and went on the search for something new to sew. Enter the Fielder Dress taken in the glare of 5am sunlight with poor posture and unaccessorised; Trinny and Susannah would have something to say about that!

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Made from Merchant & Mills Goodnight linen with matching Goodnight ribbing, I was reasonably surprised with the outcome of this pattern. Although still loose, it is a little more than a sack with bust darts. The sleeves sport a conceptually gorgeous dart and there is mild shaping through the torso. I wouldn’t mind a little more shaping around the waist but as I said, not too bad.

 

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Now for the review: The bust darts are fine as is, the upper sleeve feels a little firm and the shape of the dart in the raglan sleeve is totally not right for the shape of my shoulders. Although it may seem that it is merely a result of my amazing modelling skills, it is not; that seam does just not want to follow the curve of my shoulder. It probably does not help that I needed to do a forward shoulder adjustment of about 1″ but I didn’t. When will I learn! Lastly, the measurements for the ribbing resulted in sleeve bands that feel too tight but I am yet to take them off and replace them with bands the next size up. FYI, I don’t have exceptionally muscular forearms in case you were wondering 🙂

Since making this dress last November, I have made a top version out of linen and viscose which is obviously yet to be blogged. Adjustments and a modified review will follow sometime in the new year 🙂 Although there are things that I still don’t like about this dress and the modified top, I do wear it a fair bit and plan to make a lighter linen version in the next few weeks.

And lastly, because this is my blog and I can, here is another picture of my epic shoes, bought in one of my favourite cities in the world, Belgrade, Serbia. The people there make me laugh as when I am in Serbia, people think I am Serb (which I am) but when I am in Croatia, people think I am Croatian (which I also am). I try to solve the issue by buying shoes in both places, doing my part to keep their respective economies going. Let’s see what I find this summer!

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Until next time, chat quietly among yourselves or feel free to comment 🙂

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