Winter brings its own challenges to sewing.  It’s nice not to be perspiring, but unfortunately I am at that time in winter where my hands are like sandpaper.  It doesn’t help that sailing (my other “S” hobby) means salt water and blisters.  There is a risk of snagging the floats of the satin on my horrible crocodile skin.

This morning I used olive oil and sugar to abrade the worst of the loose and flaking skin.  Now I am applying hand cream every time i wash my hands.  I’ll wear gloves when I leave the building to avoid drying them out even more.

The Natio stuff i use is nice.  It’s lavender and rosemary, made in Australia, smells yum and soaks in nicely.  It also works well to smooth out the skin.  I discovered it on a trip to Mildura in 1994 so have been using it a while.  They haven’t discontinued it yet.  I will cry if they do.  It doesn’t leave your hands greasy, so there’s less worry about leaving sticky marks on the fabric.

My fingernails aren’t much better than my hands, but much easier to fix.  I have chopped them all off and filed them into submission.

Nothing worse than managing to damage the fabric just by touching it.   The side benefit is that looking after my sewing will make my hands look less scruffy.  Not that anyone ever looks at my hands.  It’s not like i’m a hand model.  Not with these stumpy fingers 🙂


I was reading a post on Fashion-Incubator about pins vs pattern weights.  The argument was illustrated, and convincingly, that using pins to hold the paper pattern onto the fabric brought physics into play in a way that could have a material outcome on the success of the garment.

I’m a pinner.  Largely because that was how I was taught, and because I haven’t had much success with pattern weights.  However my use of pins has decreased over the last few years.  I now tend to only pin the corners, the middles of curves and really long straight runs.

One of the alternatives to pins is pattern weights.  I’ve never had much success with just weighing the paper down onto the fabric.  One problem is that when you cut out a pattern on fabric with scissors, the lower blade lifts the fabric and then things tend to move around.

However with the rotary cutter (my new best friend) one does not need to lift the fabric, and therefore nothing should move.  I tested this theory tonight with the first series of Rome and a CD holder.  It was much easier to cut the silk on the bias.  I am going to do some research on pattern weights and see what people suggest.  The Rome DVDs don’t belong to me, but I do have seven series of Buffy that could substitute quite easily.

I like to learn new techniques.  I think now that I am converted to the rotary cutter, my residual issues with weights melt away.  Advantages I see are less time farting around with pins, therefore less time playing with sharp things that might make me bleed all over the expensive fabric, and a reduced chance of damage to the fabric from a pin.  Some of the disadvantages are due to the limitations of my sewing room and my sewing table – even 115cm wide fabric exceeds the width of my table and almost of the available space in my room.  Even the most delicate of maneuvering around the table may lead to a bump which makes everything leap a centimetre to the left.   Temporary work-around is large, flat (lots of friction) objects which are less likely to move.  It worked well today.

Project progress – the silk satin is completely cut out and all the marks are transferred.  I used silk thread for those and the finest needles i can thread.

Tomorrow I do construction and another fitting.  The foundation is stitched and boned, even though I had a little brain explosion and had half of it stitched inside out.  Hooray for X-Men to keep me amused for the ripping and re-stitching.

Oh and non-amusing technical discovery of the day – the tape-measure that was purchased for the measurements is missing about 3mm from under the metal end.  I thought there was something odd about it, but it wasn’t until I was marking a seamline today that I realised that it was short.  I wouldn’t mind so much except that I used it for the preliminary measurements for Gill.  grrrr.  At least 3mm isn’t so much of a shortfall as it could be – it’s proportionally more over 1.5 cm than it is over 60cm.

There’s some interesting information in Fit for Real People about what dress sizes originally represented.

I remember when we found out in the 80s that Sportsgirl (an Australian fashion brand) were generally a size larger than their label size.  This meant that people who actually care about what size they fit into would be kidded into thinking they were really a size ten when they were an 8.   I remember the days when a size 8 was the smallest you could get in a shop.

Generally dress patterns fit a size smaller than ready-to-wear, for example if you are a 10 in the shops you are an 8 in the pattern.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and in these days of vanity sizing you would think it might actually be more different than that.   I decided to play it safe with the two garments I am making first (bride and wedding guest) and use the body measurements of the intended wearers to find the appropriate size from the stated body measurements on the pattern envelope.

Yeah, right.  Lucky this was the muslin or toile stage.

One pattern is an evening/designer.  If I went for the body measurement it I should have cut a 16.  I cut a 14.  I should have cut a 12 – and the wearer is generally a size 10.

Since I did this one first, I figured for the next dress I was making I would cut it a single size smaller than the body measurements would suggest.  It’s a vintage vogue pattern.  It came out at least a size too small.  I hadn’t actually asked the wearer what her normal garment size is – I usually don’t care much about it except for selecting the correct pattern range to use as the template.

One garment is fitted, the other is cut on the bias.  That could make a difference, except the one on the bias has a fitted and boned foundation, and that’s what I fitted.  It would be interesting to try the same pattern on one person and see whether it’s the style or not.  The vintage patterns are rumoured to run small.  Unfortunately the first pattern hasn’t been reviewed at, I’m going to have to look up the second.

This just reinforces the benefit of fitting a muslin.  I could tissue-fit, but I find good results with the muslin with far less twitching of the client.  I may have to find someone compliant to practice on so I am a little faster.

I was asked a question about interfacing via the comments on the link page by Colin Heany.  He’s a glass artisan who has branched out into fabrics.  The colours and designs are jewel-like and organic.  Take a look.

I couldn’t figure out quite why there was no lining fabric in the pattern I am using for the sister of the groom.  Then I realised that it was self lined.

The lining instructions have you interface the lining sections, the bone them.  I don’t quite approve of this method, not the least as they have you apply the bones up the seams.  I am going to have a look at Susan Khalije and check what she says about bones.

Main changes so far are that I am using taffeta for the foundation, to which I will apply the bones.  This will go between the outer dress and the lining so that the bones don’t show on the outside, but are not in the lining.  The pattern directions have you interface the lining – I’m not really a fan of iron-on interfacing on silk satin.  I think that would be a) icky and b) stiff.  The taffeta has enough stiffness to substitute for interfaced silk, and I use it a lot as an underlining where more structure is required.  It doesn’t stretch, move or do anything unpredictable.

This pattern also has TWO side zippers – one for the foundation and one for the dress.  This might have something to do with the outer dress being cut on the bias.  If I attach the zipper for the foundation and lining to the dress, it might ruin the floaty effect of the outer layer on that side, effectively anchoring it to the side of the body.  I suspect I will go with the two zippers just to keep it as free as possible.

I had to buy another rotary cutter this weekend.  I haven’t been able to find mine, and I’m also missing a box of long dressmaker pins.  This lends weight to my theory that I have taken them somewhere for a project, and haven’t unpacked my bag.  I couldn’t face cutting out all the bits required without the cutter.

I found skinny pins that are a little longer at spotlight, but am going to have to make another expedition into RJ whasisname to get more pins.  What a shame.  I’m interested to see if they have silk thread in more colours – there is Gutermann silk at Clegs (in the display) but only in a limited range of colours.

Tomorrow I will work on the bride.  I need to piece the bodice parts to make a toile pattern – there’s a contrast section around the top and it needs to be grafted onto the lower section to make one piece.  The front is undergoing some reasonably heavy modifications.

I think I found her fabric – the style suits a stiffer fabric, but I am not sure about Dupion – I’m thinking something smooth and perhaps a little weightier.  I found a delustred Cathedral satin at Spotlight – not my usual source of specialty fabric but heck… It’s about the right colour and the right weight and stiffness.  And not horribly expensive.  I am not sure I will be able to find the colour we’re looking for in the right weight of silk satin, and the other option I would consider – cotton sateen – seems to come in a stretch variety but not in a regular.  It might not be quite special enough for a bride either.

Back at work.  For some reason I am much better motivated and get more done when I am at work.  Better at managing my time when I have less of it perhaps?

I have a bolt containing four metres of silk satin awaiting my tender mercies.  At some stage in the next 24 hours I will unwrap it, cut it and perhaps even start sewing it.  Lovely anticipation.  It’s gorgeous fabric.  I got some microtex needles – don’t want blunt needles making horrid pulls.

It never rains but it pours.

It started with a wedding dress request. Which resulted in a matron of honour for the same wedding.

Then another dress for a wedding in Toronto. My frocks go further than I do…

I decided to abandon the insanity of a website managed in Notepad. Yay for WordPress.