Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Handmade leather wallet, using supplies from home

This year, I have had an increasing interest in leather, mostly from going to Winterfest, and deciding I really need to make myself some historically accurate footwear for next year. I have been lucky enough to pick up some cheap pieces of leather, some $2 pieces from a stall at Winterfest, as well as some from a local antiques/curiosities shop. Coming up to Christmas, I thought it would be a great idea to use some of this leather to make some handmade leather wallets for some of the men in my life.

I trawled through pinterest for patterns and ideas, and decided on this bi-fold wallet pdf pattern and tutorial  for my first attempt.

I traced around the pattern pieces with tailors chalk on the wrong side of the leather, which wasn't great, but not much else was going to show on the black, then simply cut out the pieces with my paper scissors. I was going to use my rotary cutter, but I couldn't find it, and the scissors did a pretty decent job any way

Although I know I have sand paper, I couldn't for the life of me find it anywhere, so I did an almost embarrassingly girly thing, and used an nail file to sand the rough edges instead. As I was making a few of these, I did end up buying a 50c piece of extra fine sandpaper from Bunnings the next time I was there.

Norfolk Island Honey and Beeswax soap

I don't have the money to be going an buying the proper gum stuff to burnish the edges of the leather, but I saw in the tutorial that I linked previously, that the person doing it was using saddle soap instead. Now I don't have any saddle soap either, but I had a look in my bathroom and found some soap from Norfolk Island that contains beeswax, so I figured, close enough! If you don't have any saddle soap or soap containing beeswax, just use the most moisturising/conditioning bar soap you have (I don't think liquid soap will work) you could also try leather wax either in a colour that matches your leather, or in clear, as these do seem to be available at a few of the large supermarkets and department stores in my town, usually for less than $10

burnished piece on top versus
raw cut piece on bottom

As for the tool to rub along the edge to help shape it, I just looked around my house until I found a utensil with a grooved wooden handle to run along the leather edge. I ended up using the threading hook from my spinning wheel, but I also have a few old school bottle openers and fondue forks with similar handles. If you don't have one, check out a local op-shop, you can probably pick one up for less than $1

I also decided to just machine stitch my wallets, instead of punching holes with an awl and hanstitching. really you could do it either way, although I would only recommend using a machine that can handle leather. I used my old Janome with a walking foot. I followed the construction order from the tutorial, and was pretty happy with the end result.

Finished Wallet

Inside of my handmade leather wallet

With my first attempt finished, I am hoping to also create another one for my husband, although he likes to have a coin section in his wallets. While I didnt find a free pattern with that feature that I liked, I found it easy enough to modify the first pattern I used, by drafting my own coin pouch section, based on the one from this wallet making video.

Anyone else been sewing with leather lately?


Monday, 28 November 2016

Christmas Kitty Dress and matching Bowling shirt

As part of one of my secret Santa gifts I received last year, I was lucky enough to get some of  this adorable Christmas Kitty fabric (it's called Cats and Ornaments on the selvedge) Which I swear I had not seen for sale at Spotlight prior (and you all know I look for anything with kitties on it) but after I received my gift, I did manage to find it at my local Spotlight, so I purchased a bit more so I would have enough for a dress, Hooray! It has sat in my stash all year, but now it is almost silly season which means it's time to sew all the Christmas dresses!

Spotlight Fabric and Simplicity 1459

I decided to use Simplicity 1459 for this dress, opting for the sleeveless version. I am making some design changes to it, by extending the button front all the way down, and using bias tape instead of armhole facings (which I find annoying). I am also grading it up slightly, shortening the bodice, using a basic gathered skirt instead of the pattern pieces and of course, adding pockets!

Once I had all the bodice pieces cut out (I used a plain red for the under collar and front facing to save kitty fabric) I began the construction. It goes together quite easily, much like any other pattern. Darts first, press, overlock, shoulder and side seams, press, collar pieces together, seams clipped, turned right way out, press. I top stitched along the outer edge of the collar to give it a clean finish, then stitched the collar along the neckline.

Partially sewed bodice
I went through my button stash and found heaps of possibilities, so I posted on instagram and Facebook, to see what my friends thought. I had a lot of votes for both the green ones and the red ones, but ended up deciding on the red ones on the left hand side, as there are 12, so enough to make it button all the way down the front. If I had used the green ones, they would have only gone partway down.

Button choices....

When it got time to cut out the skirt pieces, I measured what I had left and found that I had enough fabric to make the skirt from 3 widths of fabric (instead of my usual 2) However, as I was deliberating cutting it, my husband asks me "Can you save me some of that fabric?" I asked him what he wanted made from it, but he had no idea, and while I don't mind stashing fabric for him, I already have quite a few kitty fabrics in my wardrobe, and would rather use all the fabric in my dress than stash it away for innumerable years.

So instead, I measured my husband and ordered the Free Men's shirt pattern from Lekala. I had to make a few changes to the design, like shortening the sleeves, I also extended the back yoke, and cut the front pieces to have a yoke, as the panel of Christmas kitty fabric was only 26" long, and the shirt was 35" long. The back of the shirt, a panel of the front and the pocket have all been made with the christmas kitty fabric (and pretty much used up the whole width) with the rest being made from the same red cotton sheet I used for the facings and pockets in my dress.

I followed this blog post for instructions on how to sew the collar stand and collar, as that was the only part of the construction I didn't already know how to put together, and Lekala patterns are notorious for their crappy instructions. As I was finishing the collar, I decided to embroider a surprise message on the collar stand before I sewed it in.

After getting my husband's shirt done (all but the buttons and button holes) I turned my attention back to my own dress. I cut and overlocked all my pocket and skirt pieces, then sewed them together, gathered the top edge and sewed it to the bodice. The facings and armhole bindings were then sewn, and finally, the button holes and buttons.

After finishing the buttons, I tried the dress on to check the fit, and I loved it!

Still not hemmed though...


After it was hemmed, I paired it with a red belt and shoes and wore it out shopping with my mum. I felt pretty adorable wearing this, maybe because it was a slightly shorter skirt length than I usually wear.

And here is a shot of his shirt, with better day time lighting.

I will eventually get the buttons on my husbands shirt done, but it is still wearable (over a singlet) without them, so this actually makes it the first garment I have completed for him (not including ties) and he is looking forward to wearing matching outfits on Christmas day.

Does anyone else make matching outfits for their spouse?


Monday, 14 November 2016

40's style Swing trousers and another Kitty blouse

A few weeks ago, I found myself in need of more office appropriate clothing for a job interview. So I decided to make myself a quick pair of very wide leg, 40's style trousers. I used my graded up version of Vintage McCalls 9708, which I had previously used back in May, but which was now unfortunately too small for me, and a length of Navy Suiting fabric that I purchased from a fellow seamstress on Facebook.. I added an enormous extra 2 inches at the side of each pattern piece, flared the width of the legs as they went down, moved the center back edge upwards to allow more booty room, and increased the size of the darts. I cut the waistband to the size I needed, then gathered the top edge of the pants to ease in the extra fullness, I then used a side zip, and a button and loop on the waistband.

On my way to the job interview...... I didn't get the job

This were a very quick sew, and I had them done from initial thought, to finishing press, all in one evening. I love how they have turned out, and they are nice and loose fitting, so should still fit if I put on any more weight. I've already worn them several times to work and church. They look great with either of my pussy bow style blouses that I made from Butterick 5859, which is my favourite blouse pattern, I even went and made a 3rd version from the blue colour way of the Gertie polyester Kitty Print!

Front view

See how wide the legs are!

Back view

I have even had someone ask me at the shops, 2 days after they had seen me wearing them (people must notice me more than I realise) where I had got them from.
I still have some of this Navy Blue fabric left, so I think I might make a little cropped jacket to go with the pants, although, I don't think it will get much use until the weather cools down again next year (I really dislike summer...)

It is a little bit of a stretch, given how much I have altered the pattern, but I'm counting this towards my Vintage Pattern Pledge for 2016! Which puts me up to 7 of my 10 pledged makes. I have a few more on the go in my sewing room at the moment, so I might just make it!


Friday, 28 October 2016

October Bellabox goodies

I am very lucky to be the recipient of a 3 month gift subscription to Bellabox, and I just received my first one! October's Bellabox theme was Spring Racing Carnival. The box that came in the post was very neat, and printed with bellabox on the outside, so there's no mistaking what's inside.

The Postal Box
Once you open the outer box, you find an adorable blue and white polka dot gift box inside.

Gift box inside

Tissue paper seal

Description card
A convenient little card with product descriptions, and another with product ingredients are included.

Details of the products

What I got:
LAQA & CO Cheeky Lip - One of those 2 in 1 products that you can use for lip colour or blush. I tried it on my lips, and liked the rosy pink colour of it on me. I have not yet tried it as blush, but it is a nice rosy hue, so it should suit my skin tone

LAQA & CO Cheeky Lip crayon

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Golden Shimmer - At first I thought this was a nail polish, as that's what the bottle looks like. It wasn't until I opened it I realised that it wasn't. It smells pretty, but I'm not sure how much use I will get from glitter oil.

Batiste Dry Shampoo - Not a product I regularly use, but something I always want to like more. I know a lot of girls use dry shampoo to help with root volume when styling their hair, and that is something I'm not great at, so maybe I will give this product a go, hopefully it will be better than ones I've used in the past.

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew Tone-correcting Shampoo - I am not actually a huge fan of toners, as I like a bit of golden hue to my blonde, and the last toning shampoo I used turned my hair blue. This one doesn't seem to have anywhere near as much pigment in it as the last one I used, so I will happily give it a go. I am due to fix up my roots any day now, so I will test it with a fresh colour.

Cetaphil Daily Advance Ultra Hydrating Lotion - I don't own a lot of moisturisers, as my skin is fairly oily, but I use the occasional one for my hands after cleaning, and this one does a pretty good job, plus it doesn't irritate my sensitive skin, so that's a bonus!

Dermal Therapy Heel Balm -  I used to keep my feet fairly pampered, but they have been a bit neglected lately. This will help me get them back to the baby softness they used to be.

Bellabox Goodies!
All in all I am pretty happy with the contents I received. Normally priced, bellabox costs $15 plus $2.95 shipping, and I would be happy paying that for what I got. Most of the things included I will get use out of. While the contents are supposed to be tailored to your needs and likes, I did receive golden shimmer body oil, which enhances tanned skin, and I definitely don't have tanned skin, so I'm sort of questioning just how customised they really are. But I did get blonde shampoo, so they got that right at least.

I am already looking forward to receiving November's box, and I am hoping it will be Christmas themed!


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Art Gallery of NSW

Last weekend, some friends and I went to the Art Gallery to see the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition. It washout of a last minute plan, so I didn't have time to sew up a new outfit, but I managed to put together something I think was a reasonable effort, I just put together a quick floral hair comb. I couldn't find my glue gun, so I had to use a very sharp needle to piece through the plastic flower stalks. I stitched them to a piece of felt, which I folded over with a small length of boning inside, then attached to a hair comb.

While at the Art Gallery, using their free WiFi, I discovered the sad news that Jessica from Chronically Vintage, had lost her home, possessions and heartbreakingly, her kitty, to an arson attack. For anyone wishing to help Jessica and her Husband at this difficult time, there has been a Facebook page set up, with details. I myself am hoping to sew up a few things to send to her.

I love going to the Art Gallery, but I don't get there as often as I would like. I didn't take many photos of the exhibition, although I could have. There weren't quite as many paintings as I would have liked to have seen, about half of the display comprised of photos set out in chronological order, detailing both of the artist's lives

The paintings that were there were exquisite, and had so much more texture and life than what is portrayed through the numerous photos and copies of them. It was also very interesting comparing their work side by side, and although I know Rivera was a much more accomplished artist at the time, I find Frida Kahlo's work to have much more detail and technical skill. I realise Rivera was mostly a mural painter, but I find his style kind of flat and almost childlike.

I did get a quick snap in front of a big blown up photo of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, so you can see my hastily put together outfit. I did have a fantastic beaded orange shawl that I was going to wear with it, but it ended up being a bit warm, so I left that in my bag.

My Frida Inspired outfit
On our way from St James train station, we came accross these endangered animal parade floats, which we discovered were for a celebration of the 100 year birthday of Toronga Zoo! I had no idea it was that old!

I really liked the Tiger one

Anyone else been to the Art Gallery recently? (or seen giant endangered animals in the park?)


Friday, 14 October 2016

Navy Floral Cotton Voile Dress

Coming up in January, I will be attending my little brother's wedding, so naturally I had to sew a new dress to wear for the occasion! The dress code is formal wear, but it is going to be outside, in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of an Australian Summer, so I had a hard time deciding what to make that would be appropriate but still comfortable. I pulled out a bunch of possible sewing patterns, and also had a good look through my fabric stash.

I knew I wanted a fitted bodice, and I got the impression from my brother's fiance that she wanted people in full length skirts. Even though the dress code is formal, I really really didn't want to be wearing satin, polyester chiffon or any other sweaty fabrics. After trawling pinterest for ideas, and seeing all the floral wedding dresses that are a current trend, I thought of some Navy background floral printed cotton Voile that I had purchased semi-recently on sale at Spotlight. I grabbed it out and checked how much I had. It was just over 4 meters, so the perfect amount for a full length dress!

Front bodice sewn together

I decided to use the bodice from Butterick B6019 as it is very structured, and wouldn't make the dress just look like a summer maxi dress, which was something I was worried about, using such a casual fabric. I have used the pattern before, almost 2 years ago for my Christmas dress, so I knew how it fit and how it went together. I used the size 20 this time around, instead of the 18, as I have put a bit of weight on since then, and while I can still wear that dress. it has gotten quite snug.

Bodice with the lining, boning, underwires and padding added

Close up of beading

The bodice is fiddly, but I got it made in just 2 afternoons. Just like last time with this pattern, I added some extra boning as well as bra underwires for extra support, based on the version Gertie herself made from this pattern. The only difference I made, apart from the size, was to round out the bust points slightly, as the pattern is quite pointy in that region. For a little extra something, I tried adding a few beads to the centres of some of the roses on the bodice to see how they looked, and I really liked the effect. I think it helped the fabric look less day wear and a bit more evening wear.

Some more beading

Once I was done adding beading to the bodice, I cut out the skirt panels. I had about 3.5 meters of fabric left, so I decided to go with an 8 gore flared and slightly gathered skirt. I trimmed the fabric to a width of 43 inches (roughly how long I needed the skirt, with seam and hem allowance) then cut the gores 7.5 inches at the top, flaring out to 25 inches at the bottom, alternating them up and down on the fabric to utilise it the best I could. I attached 4 gores together for the front, then 2 pairs of gores for the back, overlocking the seams as I went. I then sewed the side seams with inserted pockets, nice and big, to make up for those tiny little handbags us women always seem to take to formal events. I then gathered the skirt with 2 rows of long stitches, and sewed it to the bodice, matching up the side seams. The back seam was then sewn up and the zip inserted. I tried it on at this point, and it actually felt a touch looser than I was aiming for, but still fitted, thanks to those shirred back panels. Unfortunately the spare room was not tidy enough to take a full length mirror selfie, so I just took these awkward photos.

Late night selfie!

This sorta shows the fit....

Because the fit isn.t as tight as I was expecting, I may end up adding shoulder or halter straps, to keep everything up and in.

On the Mannequin

Beading and Outlander

As I had not yet decided on what shoes to wear with this dress, I left the skirt un-hemmed at this point and worked on beading the skirt panels. I didn't bother beading every rose, and I also didn't bead any of the back area that I would be sitting on, as I thought that would be uncomfortable. It still took quite a few episodes of Outlander to work on the beadwork, but I think it gives the dress a very subtle, elegant detail.

I took the dress in to work to show my boss, as I was also thinking of wearing it out to a Melbourne Cup day lunch with her. She suggested shortening it to Ballerina (ankle) length, and accessorising with nude coloured heels. I had already been toying with the idea of ballerina length for this dress, so I checked with my brother's fiance to see if she was ok with it, and she was. I'm glad my boss suggested nude heels, as I was struggling to find a pair of shoes that I already owned that looked good with it, but I hadn't tried my nude heels, and I think they finish off the modern look of this outfit.

I still need to decide on something to cover my shoulders and head from the sun during the ceremony (a wrap, hat or parasol) as well as a bag, but I've still got plenty of time. I'd love anyone's opinions on accessories, and also on whether I should go full length or ballerina (ankle) length.

***UPDATE*** 3/11/16
My Marvelous friend Beccie and I got together yesterday afternoon to take some snaps of our Melbourne cup outfits, as we both forgot to get some on the day. Thanks Beccie, perhaps we need to do this more often for blog outfit photos!

As you can see, I ended up keeping it full length, as I thought it made my legs look longer, haha. I made a removable halter strap, and unraveled and restitched a sun hat into a boater style hat, with the biggest bow I could manage from my leftover fabric.