My Assembly Line finally gets moving…

The sun is out!

Winter has well & truly arrived. Yes I did have to scrape ice off the windscreen the other morning. Mr PK & I have already had our annual “how to operate the heat pump” argument. I favor leaving it on all the time at a lower temp (also recommended by the installer), he is all about turning it off & on as required. So basically it will be operated with passive aggressive turning off and on in an extremely inefficient manner until September. Happy days!

So why am I wearing a relatively summery style dress then?

I cut this Assembly Line Box Please dress out about 10 Degrees ago, but never got around to making it up. My sewjo has been somewhat lacking recently, the pieces sat in my To Be Done basket making me feel bad before we had a really wet weekend & I finally got around to some sewing. It is quite a quick sew, even for me.

This dress is a winner. I choose a rayon from Spotlight , it has the prefect drape for this style. The shape is simple, but as with other Assembly Line patterns, it’s all about the details. I love the box pleat feature, which gives the dress wonderful movement, and the split hem. Pockets of course, and the sleeves are a really nice shape, loose enough I can layer with a merino top underneath. Boots & tights make this perfect for work, but when the weather warms up it will work equally well with sandals or sneakers, and a denim jacket .

I made a size XL with no alterations, next time I would do a small forward shoulder adjustment, but other than that I’m happy, another winner from The Assembly Line. The patterns are not cheap, but the aesthetic is definitely me,  I got this one & The Oversized Shirt from Miss Maude  which I’m really keen to make next (yay for sewjo!) 

I’ve gone a bit mad planting onions apparently…

So what else has been occurring at Plum Towers?

Wife of the Year Award…

I FINALLY made up the Pajamas I promised Mr PK approx. four years ago. These are the Eastwood Pajamas by Thread Theory in beautiful soft Double Gauze also from Miss Maude. They are a huge hit, so much so I have now been asked to make a linen pair for Summer. He’s given me months of warning, wise man.

I saw this book Modern Quilting on the Merchant & Mills social media feed , they have provided offcuts of linen for the author Julius Arthur to use in his quilts for the book. I love the style & colours, I’ve never tried quilting before, quilting cotton always seemed a bit “in your face” for me, but these quilts are much more subdued. I enjoy listening to the Haptic & Hue podcast on my commute, this episode, talking about the Gee’s Bend quilters in Alabama was particularly interesting. 

Don’t laugh, its my first attempt!

My first attempt is a quilt for my cat to sit on, I figure start small while I figure out the techniques! Yes, I have much to learn. Tuppence is trying to be encouraging but not sure she is fully convinced her new rug will be a match for the hideous fleece number currently on the end of the spare bed.

Tuppence not sure about my quilting abilities.

We had a lovely time a few weeks back celebrating my Mother in Laws 80th birthday with a family lunch followed by tea & cake. No pressure making the cake then. I was really pleased with how it came out, a vanilla cake sandwiched with fresh passionfruit curd & passionfruit buttercream, yum. Our passionfruit vine was prolific over summer so I had the pulp in my freezer, I know, very Martha Stewart of me.

I spent a whole weekend sorting & moving my cookbooks onto one big bookcase (which I had to paint first). It was hard yakka but deeply satisfying, I love my little reading nook, and the book covers won’t fade in the corner of the lounge. Such a treat being able to find a recipe book without searching three different bookcases in different parts of the house. And yes, I may well have a few too many cookbooks.

I’m especially pleased as this is a very personal little spot. The couch & chairs came from my husbands parents Bach, I had them recovered . The lamp was also from the Bach, I’m still deciding on a cover for the shade. My sister gave me the wonderful French print on the wall, and made the applique cushion on the couch. I made the cushion on the chair from a tea towel Glenn’s Grandmother brought for Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953 . The crochet blanket is from a charity shop. Nothing matched or particularly expensive but it’s comfortable & I love it.

I hope you are staying warm (or cool!) wherever you are, in the meantime I’d like to give a special shout out to the genius that invented heated seats in cars.

Sir or Madam, I salute you!

Kristina xxx

Lets streamline this shall we…?

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There is a lot I like about this top. It has drape, interest around the neckline and cuffs, is comfortable…but we are not there yet!

I first came across the dress version of Scroop patterns Henrietta Maria on Pinterest, and was immediately intrigued . Those lovely tucks, generous raglan sleeves, this could be a summer go to. It still could to be fair, but a few adjustments are required.

The sleeves, oh dear reader those sleeves. Now I have spent a great deal of my adult life having sleeve “issues”. Even back in my racing snake days, my upper arms,like those of the woman in my family going back to my grandmother at least (Mum’s blaming her anyway) are substantial. Which is most handy for bread making (and I make fabulous bread!) but a bit of a drag for finding comfortable RTW tops . It’s become my mission in sewing to make great comfortable well fitting sleeves .

Well the Henrietta Maria has taken us from the sublime to the ridiculous. Those sleeves are HUGE. Its blowing a gale in Auckland at the moment, I’d be in danger of rouge gust catching my voluminous arms & parachuting me into a tree! *

In fact the picture above is after I have chopped about four cm (approx 2 inches) off the inside sleeve seam and sewn up, as you can see below, there was a lot of fabric involved.

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Is it a bird, is it a parachute…..no, it’s a sleeve (or somewhere to put my lunchbox?)

I used a beautiful soft Cotton Batiste from Atelier Brunette (I know, I should make a muslin, dont practice with expensive fabric etc etc…….I’m just too impatient !), which is quite delicious to wear. Taking some excess fabric from the sleeve has helped, but as I also have quite narrow shoulders, and this pattern sits quite wide I need to do a bit of adjusting in that area also.

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Zen and the art of tuck pleating…..

I do love the tucks. They are a little time consuming, but not nearly as much as they look, once you get into the rhythm you’re away. The essential tool is your trusty sewing gauge, which makes me feel terribly serious and professional, like draping my tape measure around my neck (at least until the cats attack it…)

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The pattern comes in a size range 30-50, the largest being 127-112-137.5 (50-44-54), but please do bear in mind there is a lot of ease in this pattern! I shall be going down at least one size for my next attempt, possibly two (I made up a 44).

The pattern is PDF only, but their are only four pieces, and the instructions are clear, especially regarding the tucks, I had no issues.

I do think with some adjustments for size, sewn up as a dress in a light/medium weight linen this would be really great for both weekends and the working week.

This is a perfect style for a holiday, so I shall leave you with a gratuitous shot of the lovely Mr PK and myself sinking into the sand on a beach in Fiji, bula!

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Excellent loose top for eating a delicious meal…..!

Kristina xxx

* It’s a real danger on a slow news day in Auckland I could end up in the paper….

It’s a top, no it’s a dress…..

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I actually love this dress. A Fielder pattern from UK firm Merchant & Mills, its super comfy , quick to sew, I think looks fab and the pattern also contains a sweat-shirt style sweater version, nice! So why do I look so miserable?

Yes, that face. In a moment of inspiration I thought I’d recreate the pose of the girl on the Fielder pattern envelope*. I feel like a bit of a plonker standing in my front garden while my husband takes 400 photos of his wife as quickly as possible (including on this occasion a selection with a branch in front of her face…?) complaining the whole time…..so I figure as I’m using exactly the same fabric as the version on the website I’d go full model. No, I hadn’t been drinking…

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Yes, what was I thinking??

Anyway, about the pattern. I had the grade it up, but as the fit is pretty easy I figured it only really mattered for the sleeves. Now I wont pretend I have much experience grading patterns. Actually I have none, so it was a You Tube/Bodge it special, which turned out pretty well I think?

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Scientific….not!

I have previously made a Merchant & Mills Trapeze dress, which has a good amount of ease, so I calculated my size as best I could, and hoped for the best. If you’re a sewing professional please look away now. I literally traced the largest size pattern pieces onto tracing paper, then added the additional cm’s required (divided by two) , grading as I went, and cut out.  I told you it wasn’t scientific.

For the sleeves, always my Waterloo, I turned to the Curvy Sewing Collective, and their excellent sleeve fitting tutorial. I added the extra width nessesary to my traced off sleeve piece , then actually sewed my sleeve seam together, to make sure it fitted. This is the beauty of Swedish tracing paper !

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Hack that sleeve. Literally.

There are many far more correct ways to do this, but until I learn them, I  figure I will do what seems most logical (I’m an Accountant remember) and see if it works. The sleeves on the top version of the pattern, which I made first, are to long, and the ribbing too loose. Ditto both versions around the neckline. I have not used ribbing before, and I cut it far to long. Naturally I only realized this when I had sewed it in….and serged. Sigh…

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Longer & looser sleeves than I wanted

Its still perfectly wearable, and so comfortable, made from a delicious soft double cotton, from my most favorite sewing store here in New Zealand Miss Maude There is a nifty little dart in the shoulder, which works well for rather sloping shoulders like mine, and the ribbing gives shape. I have visions of the pink Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt I had in the 80’s….ok, maybe not.

The dress version is made using a delicious Merchant & Mills laundered linen. I love linen, yes it creases, but I think  that just adds to the appeal, especially in a casual dress like this.I love the swish & feel , and the fact it just gets better with age. I hanker after gorgeous linen sheets.One day Grasshopper, one day……..

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Much better…

The instructions are simple, and clearly written. To be honest , while I love the  industrial, utilitarian style of this brand so much, as a beginner I do prefer clearer , less “hand drawn” illustrations, but they were actually ok for a simple garment like this.

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So, while the size range isn’t as big as it could be, this is a relatively easy dress to grade , and the results, a cool casual top/dress that works for so many situations,  is worth the effort.

What do you think? What’s your go to dress?

Kristina x

 

 

A Harrison shirt to begin…

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Just proving I really can lift my arm, the sleeve fits!

Well look at me, a new shirt and a new blog, all in one week! Now I will fess up, this isn’t technically my first shirt make. I made a Colette Negroni shirt for Mr PK a few months ago (post to come). While it’s far from perfect (unless twisted plackets become a “thing”, in which case I’m ahead of the game) it has proved a hit , worn regularly through winter.

But here’s the thing, my man is basically a walking mannequin. By that I mean he is such a standard menswear shape he can wear almost any RTW item with no alteration required. Tall and  lean, I didn’t really have any fit challenges with his shirt. My shape? Now that’s a whole new ball game kids…curves, bumps, squishy bits, flatter bits, its a virtual Himalayas for what is already a complicated piece of clothing to negotiate!

Hence, I haven’t actually worn shirts for years. A combination of generous chest , narrow shoulders and shall we say “lush” biceps mean unless I’m happy to flash my bra through a gaping bust or risk my arms falling off from lack of oxygen , they are a no go.

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No gaping here thanks…

But no longer *insert wobbly but awesome arm fist-pump here,  yeow!!*. The very clever Jenny at the curvy girl nirvana that is  Cashmerette has come up with a gorgeous shirt that uses princess seams to create fit and room where its needed, without billows of fabric everywhere you dont.

I used the paper pattern (it also comes as a PDF) , which I traced off onto Swedish tracing paper. Currently I get this sent from the UK, but hopefully I can find a New Zealand supplier soon. It is so easy to use, I cut the pattern a size 18, but graded up to a size 20 for the sleeves. While its does look like a lot of pieces, it comes together quite easily, not least because of the GREAT instruction booklet.

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Clear instructions

For less experienced sewers like me, clear precise instructions, both written and pictorial are essential. I have spent many years cooking and baking, including writing a food blog and teaching cooking classes, and one thing I’ve noticed is how a newbie will almost always blame themselves if a recipe fails. Now forgetting the eggs is going to make a cake a challenge to rise (??!) but I’ve also seen some seriously crapola recipes, with missing ingredients, confused or missing instructions and incorrect proportions that would be a challenge for anyone, experienced or not, to create successfully. Something as complex as a shirt needs a darn fine recipe, and the Harrison is a cracker.

The princess seams come together without too much drama *, as does the collar and stand, even the placket instructions are simple (I’ve ditched the twisted look for Summer 17). I used a soft cotton voile, which was nice and easy to sew, overlocking (serging) my seams . Obviously I made no attempt at pattern matching , I’m more wild flower meadow kind of girl anyway ….

So, the curvy:

Harrison shirt by Cashmerette

Size: 18, but I cut out size 20 sleeves

Fabric: Cotton voile from Spotlight

Difficulty: This wasn’t actually that difficult, the instructions are good, I think its a case of taking things slowly and not rushing the process. I hardly used my quick unpick, aside from a missed bit of the cuff seam when top stitching, which is great.

Next time: I would make the sleeve approx 2 cm shorter, they feel a wee bit long, and I would tighten the cuffs up.

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Hmmm, a wee bit long, a wee bit loose

Fuel: This make was fueled by coffee (my sister left her Nespresso with us for a few weeks after Xmas!) , Xmas ham and episodes of Foyles War , those fabulous 40’s dresses…..

Will there be a sequel? Heck yes, I’m thinking rayon and linen versions….for starters…AND there is now also a shirtdress version , happy dance!

*** Open Kimono***

Ok, in the interests of full disclosure , I can confirm I made a load of absolute cock ups on this sew, all fully operator error (actually I blame my cat Tommy for distracting me constantly……)

Cutting out the wrong sized sleeve, despite having measured myself carefully

Stitching my seam on the outside of two of my front panels

Running out of fabric after above….

Ironing my interfacing on the right side of one of my collar pieces (really!!)

Cutting the bottom off my button front an inch too short

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Hmmm, sewing impediment Numero Uno

Are you a shirt maker? What works for you, I’d love to hear!

Kristina xxx