Hello my pretties! I am without camera lens / back up photographer this week so alas I cannot share a finished sewn piece with you. Instead I thought it might be a nice opportunity to give back in the very best way I know how…by handing over the keys to my favourite (inc. some previously top secret) online sources for jaw-dropping, traffic stopping printed fabrics. Through these shops I have lovingly ferreted (with minimal self-invested interest) to put together a selection of prints which are, in my opinion, top shelf, next level uh-mazing! Prints that are out there, for sale, right now. Just a click away. I should probably state that this is not a sponsored post. I am however, a professional enabler by trade.
Sometimes I get asked how and where I find amazing printed fabrics? It is true, I have developed a finely tuned print seeking radar. But believe me, it’s not a special skill. ANYONE can hone it! Since I started buying fabric online, I’ve built up a mental treasure trove of pretty print hot spots. It’s a pretty random list of sources but it’s always fruitful. Most of these shops (listed below) have a high turnover so I like to ‘check in’ once a week. No need to obsess. The prints are out there. And they will come.
Etsy is my not-really-secret source of amazing prints! I would guess that the craft supplies section on Etsy is as huge as the hand-made section. To get to the fabrics, you type in what you’re searching for ie ‘printed silk’ and you will be able to select from a list of categories, one of which is ‘Craft Supplies and Tools’, then narrow your search further by selecting ‘Fabrics’. Sometimes you do have to wade through quite a bit of meh fabric to find some print gems, but it makes them all the more sweeter!
What if what you want to sew and what you want to wear are not the same thing? From time to time you may have heard me wine about the un-wearability of my hand-made wardrobe in it’s current state. While simultaneously working on a two-piece-set made from fabric printed with eyes. Maybe it’s the change in season, maybe it’s sheer coincidence that I started reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up right at the start of Me Made May. But something has shifted, deep in my waters. If I look back over my sewing journey of the past few years and summarise my general approach it would be: AUTOPILOT. I sew what I want, when I want. I’ve happily been a slave to every creative vision and whim that’s popped into my head! That’s half the fun, right? Bringing forth an idea from your imagination for a piece or an outfit in a combination of fabrics that has never existed before you. Exercising that creative muscle (which only gets stronger ) while visualising the outfit-to-be right down to the details and the finishes…and then transforming a piece of fabric into that vision…pure magic, voodoo, witch craft right there!
…LIKE THE DIET OF A TEENAGER WHO’S PARENTS HAVE GONE AWAY FOR A NAUGHTY WEEKEND…
So perhaps my style has had some growing up to do. Or maybe it’s coming into winter and suddenly being aware of the serious lack of comfy, cosy, basics in my closet. Either way, there’s a change in the air. I’m always admiring fellow sewists (Katie, Beth, Elena to name a few) and bloggers who’s hand-made wardrobes just work together as a whole. I imagine them opening up their closet every morning and being greeted by a whole bunch of old friends, clothes you know you love to WEAR, clothes you’ve made, specifically for the purpose of WEARING. From patterns you’ve gone back to one, two and three times because they just work for you, for your shape, for your lifestyle. My wardrobe on the otherhand, is like the diet of a teenager who’s parents have gone away for a naughty weekend. Here’s an admission: there are hand-made clothes hanging in my closet, that I know I don’t wear but I keep there because they look nice hanging next to the piece beside it…endlessly curating. I blame Pinterest.And where does Japanese de-cluttering expert, Marie Kondo and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up fit into all this. Well, it’s just a book and it’s not just a book. The whole premise is to go through your entire house and possessions with the view to clearing up your physical space which in turn filters down clears ‘space’ in all other realms of your life, emotional and physical. It really is magic! You go through specific categories of possessions one at a time, starting with clothes, holding each piece in your hand and asking: ‘does this spark JOY’? Sounds ludicrously simple! Except as expected I came to a my own personal crux… the beloved hand-made clothes. What do you do with hand-made items that don’t spark joy? Can you / should you part with them / donate them? I think I know Miss Kondo’s answer. Previously I’ve been stowing my loved-slightly-less hand-made clothes in a pile in another cupboard for um…prosterity? A record of where I’ve come from on the sewing journey? To show my grand-children?
…too silky… too good…can’t move my arms…ugh, too printy…
And what if your non-joy-sparking pieces amass a good portion of your hand-makes? The pile is pretty big. I haven’t yet gone through the ones hanging up, but I know there will be more to add. And it’s got me thinking…why so many? What is happening during the creative process that there is this big gap between clothes that I just love to sew (and look at) and clothes I actually want to wear. Just know, this is not a wardrobe bashing, nor a print funeral. I LOVE looking at my hand-made closet, I love the colours and the prints, really I do! And sewing your own clothes IS the perfect opportunity to experiment with personal style, which means you’re not going to hit the mark every time. But what I would like is to close this gap, piece by piece so that I get to enjoy more of my hand-makes ON my body, rather than just as an exquisite piece of wardrobe installation art.I’ve concluded there’s a battle going on here. And possibly between the left and right hemispheres, perhaps? Righty spends her days bobbing up and down on her back in a sea of the most beautiful, delicious, printed fabrics. She’s not particularly concerned by the practicalities of daily life. I suspect she also exclusively wears two-piece sets. Her motto, tattooed in hand lettering, on her forearm: Sew for the Life you want to LIVE. Lefty, opens the door to a closet FULL of clothes every morning with: ‘where did all these fucking prints come from?!’. Lefty is very much aware of the practicalities of day to day living, in fact, right now she’s running late and just got out of the shower to discover that her only ONLY current pair of workable bottoms, her black skinny jeans, are in the wash. She grabs them out of the basket anyway and starts flicking through her wardrobe for a top… ‘too silky… too good…can’t move my arms…ugh, too printy…not suitable for vacumming’. And on it goes. She needs her clothes to just do their thing so she can get on with her thing. Her catchphrase: ‘I just wanna be comfy…is that too much to ask? Is it?!’. She will not be getting this tattooed on her forearm any time soon.Where to from here? There’s nothing like the annual sewing event of Me Made May to bring to the forefront what is and isn’t working about your hand-made closet. It’s also a tricky time of year here in Brisbane because it’s all summer, summer, summer, still summer, BANG! Winter. And that’s May. Last year I got caught out and had to sew a hundred Nettie Bodysuits (three). Since then I have only topped them up with one store bought navy tee and one grey thrifted singlet. That is the sum total of my ‘basics’, no lies! On the bottom half, I have my black skinny jeans. Period. This is all actually quite perfect timing because I am REALLY super duper excited to make another attempt at a Capsule Closet for Winter. I feel like I’m ready. Ready to make more conscious choices with my hand-made wardrobe. Ready to take the time to sew the PERFECT fitting jeans. I’ve created a Winter Sews moodboard, started collecting fabric samples and acquiring fabrics one by one. I’ve been giving a LOT of thought to what I would like to wear, what fabrics I want next to my skin, what colours are going to make me feel / look alive. How I can build on what’s already there, so that gradually, piece by piece my closet starts to resemble a thoughtfully created and workable collection of pieces I LOVE TO WEAR and love to sew.
So I just popped off to Bali for the weekend, to shoot my latest hand-make because that’s the kind of life I lead didn’t you know? Ugh…I wish! I guess one of the ‘perks’ of being physically grounded, at least for now, is I have to live out my travel dreams through my hand-made wardrobe. Which means getting creative with photography locations. So, no, I am not in the steamy jungles of Bali, or Ecuador, or Madagascar but I did have to brave a whole host of wildlife, including Khaki-Breasted Groundsmen (they were on the lookout for the ‘Boobie’ Warbler, I believe), at this very public city garden / pool scape. It looks like I’m having a great time, doesn’t it? Hanging out, here, in nature, with the frogs croaking and the mosquitoes singing. I love nature, really I do…DA FUQ just touched my FOOT?!!! The things I do for you, honestly.As anyone who’s DIY inclined would know, the day before New Year’s Eve really is the perfect time to think about sewing a bad-ass printed jumpsuit for the occasion. Until you realise that actually, as your first NYE in 5 years (longer?) sans kiddies, you over-looked the whole NYE plans part. And then you’re horribly depressed and the only thing that would possibly make up for a fizzled NYE would be to welcome New Years Day via stand-up paddle board, in some killer hand-made bikini, whilst you sail past the hung-over souls, wiping sand from their eyeballs; a picture of vitality and hand-made awesomeness. The. Only. Way. So, I abandoned the jumpsuit, got cracking on this bikini and along with another NYE plan-less friend, rose early and had a perfectly serendipitous day of paddle-boarding, beautiful weather, delicious food and substantial feelings of smugness!That was January and I’ve been dying to share this bikini with you ever since! Though, a warning, this post should probably be treated as inspiration only. On every other level it’s uh, not very helpful. Really, you’ll see. I’ve been pining hard for a high waisted bikini since forever ever (see evidence here). Are high waists flattering? I think so. Apparently not, according to one male source, unusually passionate on the subject of high waist bikinis now I think about it. Short of starting a movement to have them banned on all major beaches in three states, he was not a fan. Personally, I do like the shape and after having kids, I feel more comfortable and secure when I’ve got from belly-button below covered but I know not everyone loves them. What are your feels?There are a few options out there for bikini sewing patterns, but not too many. I think swimwear patterns are still a relatively un-tapped niche, heads up pattern designers. There’s the much loved Bombshell swimsuit by Closet Case Files which has a high waisted bikini bottom option. Named patterns have just released the Beverly bikini, which is really cute though I’ll probably be raising the waist. There’s the Soma swimsuit by Papercut with a variety of one piece and bikini options. A handful of basic swimsuit patterns by commercial companies. And that’s it really. I would really like to see a pattern released for a long-line bikini top with proper cups, moulding and underwire, something like this or this.For me, and I’m pretty sure most women, regardless of cup size, support is paramount in a bikini top. I decided to experiment by taking one of my old RTW bikini tops which I know has an exceptional fit and gutting it. I pulled the entire thing apart, including the foam moulding in the cups,subbed in a new fabric, this dreamy swimwear lycra by Zimmerman from Tessuti, where there used to be black, keeping the white for the cups and straps. Then I stitched it all back together and voila, new bikini. I’m sure if ever decide to study pattern making then dismantling clothing would be a good way to learn. It’s like a puzzle, seeing how everything goes together and in what order and which techniques are being used in the fashion industry, compared to home-sewing.For the bottoms, I went the same route, cut up a RTW piece, traced the pieces, extended the waist to be a high waist, added a lining, added elastic for the legs and waist and cover-stitched it all in place. See…unhelpful! But okay, should you want to make something similar, there are options. Again, there’s the Bombshell high waist bottoms, the Soma bikini bottoms or just go the route of extending a regular pair of undies or bikini bottoms to be high waisted. At least then you know the fit is good and snug. You especially want your leg elastic to be snug if you plan on taking your bikini away from the poolside into the surf or you will spend half your time un-plucking wedgies and the other half pretending French knickers was exactly what you were going for, thank you.
I made a bra, I made a bra, I made a bra today hey HEY! This is sewing thrills right here. I think I mentioned in a post a while back that for me, lingerie, jeans and swimwear are those final frontier sewing items. The ones you put up high on a the maybe-one-day shelf. Then even when you are ready, there’s the whole issue of finding patterns for the above items that well, you actually want to make. No pattern snobbery here (if you would kindly put down that rotary cutter) but let’s be honest, Indie pattern designers are making it verrrry easy to start checking off those big ticket items by bringing out all these damn good looking patterns. Like this one, the Watson bra by Cloth Habit (I’m also looking at you Ginger Jeans).
Pre-Watson, my biggest fear about sewing a bra was running into fit issues. What if I just kept trying endless combinations of bra-band and cup sizes, never quite getting a good fit? And then not knowing how to tweak it or make the necessary adjustments (because bra construction is a whole separate game to garment sewing). My sew-jo crushed, I would fall into a Watson-induced stupor, never to return. A logical chain reaction surely? But it didn’t go down like that at all…To find the bra-band size I measured my rib cage as a 34. Then I read somewhere that you should exhale and measure and this will give you a better fitting bra (you want the bra band to be firm to provide stability in place of under-wire). Which was more a 32. To establish your cup size you measure your full bust, then you measure your high bust and by a clever little calculation, the difference will allocate you a cup size. This system works perfectly well as long as you don’t have highly advanced pectorial muscles from ex-crossfitting, child-slinging, shoulder-hunching days. In other words, above my bust I am broad and so there was hardly any differenc, approx 1″, between my high bust measurement and my bust measurement, which put me at an A cup. In standard bra sizing, I am generally a 32 C ish. So I went with that. And it fits. A little snug in both the cup and the band, so I’m going to experiment with a 34 C next, but still very wearable.
I LOVE the style of the Watson! It’s new for me. And I was dubious about the support and the sexy factor. Like almost every other woman, I am used to bras that hoist you up, pull you in and mould you into a universally ‘aesthetically pleasing’ shape. Soft cup bras with no under-wire and no moulding….I wasn’t sure. But they’re feminine and totally sexy in a more loving, let’s celebrate YOU, kind of way. Prior to the Watson, I didn’t know this long-line bra was actually a thing. Now I’m seeing them everywhere, see Fortnight Lingerie and Nanhina Shop. The support is pretty impressive, I was truly expecting some wayward side boob action but the Watson is so ingeniously designed that the firm bra band actually does a great job of holding things in place. Sewing the matching bikini briefs was a no-brainer and took half the time the bra took and the bra only took one evening so yup…the perfect quickie project!Do you ever get amusing reactions when people find out that you sew? Typically I find it has three stages: 1. Surprise and Confusion (Really? You actually sew? Like, sewing sewing?). Followed closely by 2. Justification (Ohhh, you must save lots of money making your own clothes). And it inevitably ends with 3. Lessons in History (but I thought sewing, you know, died out…). And then you’re either cool or weird or…wait, that’s 4. Compartmentalising. But then you go on-line and there’s this whole other universe where sewing is not dying but alive and thriving and having a re-birth! This is really a special time to be sewing / learning to sew. We have so much choice now when it comes to good looking, ‘relevant’ patterns, thanks to all the Indie companies. And if that weren’t enough reason to love them, you get the feeling the designers behind them actually care about whether you to make it to the final step or not. Where all this is going is, between Amy’s instructions included with the pattern and her Sew-a-long online, I felt held and cradled (not unlike my tutties) sewing my first bra, not scared at all!For my first attempt at DIY lingerie I decided to bi-pass the hard work of sourcing all the hardware and ordered a ready-to-go Watson Bra Making Kit in the purple / peach colourway. This really is the way to go, especially if you don’t have access to reliable haberdashery, which I don’t. I love the mesh look so much, I went looking for more colours and have since ordered samples of mesh from here in ALL the colours to make ALL the Watsons. I’m totally hooked!
Well, hello there. Representing Australia in Green and Gold….I kid! I didn’t mean to look so, um representative. I was going for colour-block loveliness not Aussie Olympicness! Anyway, I’m pretty excited to share this make with you today. A pair of culottes is what. Confused? Has fashion regressed? Well, yes and no. Culottes are back, that’s one thing. Thankfully there’s been some advances since last time culottes were officially ‘in’ and they’re looking less like this and more like the super svelt pair you see before you. Thanks, I’ll take it.I’ve wanted in on this culotte revival since this pair, then this pair and then suddenly there were ALL the pairs so I did what any sew-obsessed woman would do and created an inspiration board (shrine) to keep track of ALL the pairs. What is so deeply appealing about this strange hybrid midi-skirt-long-shorts garment? Let me try and put it into words: a. Culottes are fun b. Culottes are practical and c. Culottes are…they are just great ok?! Work with me here.Do you find there certain elements you are drawn to planning your hand-made wardrobe? I always feel I’m drawn to interesting silhouettes. And the shape of culottes makes them super fun to play with proportions. You can pair them with a boxy crop, a slouchy sweater or a button-down shirt. I love them with a heel (or in leather), in a vibrant solid colour or a busy print! Done right, with a ‘restrained’ amount of pleating near the hips, they’re actually really flattering (you had your doubts, don’t lie) not to mention versatile. They hit that sweet spot between being under-stated feminine and utalitarian. You’re almost sold I can tell…So what are are options for DIY-ing yourself a pair of culottes. I love it when pattern companies take cues from what’s going on in the outside world because there are actually a whole bunch of good looking ready-made culotte patterns at our disposal. There’s culottes by Style Arc, Megan Nielsen, Liels and Co., Burdastyle and Vogue, to name a few. Or you can just do what I did and ‘culottify’ any shorts pattern you know and love by extending the side seams. I chose the Tap Shorts by Katy and Laney, version ‘B’ with ‘deep pleats’, an invisible side zipper and welt pockets.From what I can remember of the instructions (I made these in January) they were great, no dramas! The method of inserting welt pockets was different from what I’ve done before but they actually turned out more precise and neater than any previous welt pockets. I’ll be going back to refer to it. If you’re wondering about sizing, I went by the measurements and made a size 6. There’s some very handy ‘finished garment measurements’ to go by for the waist and hip. I wish more patterns supplied this info; it takes some of the guess work out of getting a good fit. To ‘culottify’ the Tap Shorts, you extend the inner leg seam pretty much straight down and the side seam down and out at a slight angle. Sounds obvious, right? Thanking Culotte Queen Lily Sage and Co. for this advice…extending two straight lines had fallen outside my realm of possible at the time.Being in the middle of a major colour-block appreciation moment, I spied this mango coloured ‘Gamboge-orange’ stretch cotton and knew it was destined for culotte-dom. This fabric is possibly even more yummy and yolky in the flesh and the perfect bottom weight. But, I have to say, bright orange culottes was maybe one of those ideas that seem so great the time but then afterwards you’re not so sure. A friend described the finished pair as ‘retro’ and I went all meh on them. I don’t know…they’re just so ORANGE! And I poured SO much love into them. Like an insane amount of love. I actually did proper welt pockets, not fake ones. In a fit of culotte-fever I thought it would be fun to bind, with bias binding, every single inside seam. The insides are a work of art, I tell you. I also added in-seam side pockets. And lovingly installed a freakin invisible zipper INTO one of these in-seam side pockets (don’t ask me how, it was a feat of spatial thinking and intuitive sewing). And at the end of all that to be a bit hmmm about them, was a bit of a kick to the sew-jo.Still, I’m not done with culottes yet! I’ve just started thinking about cool weather sewing and culottes are definitely going to feature. Preferably with a fluffy sweater. So, what do you think…are you #teamculottes or still sitting on the fence? Admittedly, culottes are great for sitting on fences because you can’t flash and get to look cute at the same time. Something to think about while you’re gathering culotte-spiration and checking out Kirsty’s Pineapple Culottes because…pineapple…cullottes!