Monday, November 11, 2013

Washing Machine & Dryer Sheet Bag

This month's TMS challenge was Something From a Sewing Book, and I have collected a fair few of them over the past two years. I thought I'd have this one aced, no problem. I forgot, again, the paralysis of choice; so I was quite lost until I found a book with instructions on how to make your own dress form! I've been wanting a dress form for a while, so this was great.

Quality Control Inspector approves.

Unfortunately, however, I could not figure out how to do this singlehandedly as, while Himself is fully prepared to put two minutes into helping me with my blog, 2+ hours takes up some serious killing time, and them zombies were calling! Fair enough - I have my interests and he has his - but it did put me in a bit of bind when none of my other friends could be available either. They had reasonable excuses, like being out of the country, for instance. Hard to argue with.

But then I stumbled across this microsuede beauty

From the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

Sadly it is not beginner level, it has two buttons on the difficulty rating (out of three) but I thought I would give it a go. The Bratness has been searching for a handbag, so I figured I'd make it for her.

Trix was not interested in doing any QC.
Not bad, not bad at all. The pattern is simple and the instructions in the book are clear and illustrated. It was pretty much a cinch to put together.

Nor is Gemma. Sigh.. No QC on this project.

As I am leaving tomorrow for Canberra, I really did not have much time to work on this. Last Sunday I carefully traced and cut out the pattern, ransacked my fabric searching for the perfect piece, and found a blue and yellow delight that just popped! I was in love!

Blue and yellow? Not.

Only I felt that the cotton fabric was way too soft for a handbag. It should be something sturdy and hardwearing! Then this weekend I found some blue and white home decor fabric that I bought to fit into my bedroom color scheme but gave me a headache looking at it in large sizes. Perfect! It's supposed to be dry clean only, but it got wet in the mail, so I washed it and it survived. Terrific - it would now be a handbag you could just throw in the washing machine, and cute to boot!

Next up - lining... rummage rummage rummage and this delightful poinsettia polyester rayon leapt up shouting "pick me, pick me!" A Christmas lining for a Christmas gift, perhaps? And a bright pop of color to lift the prison-mattress-ticking blue and white. I lined all the pockets and created the edging on the outside pocket

And the inside of the bag was done entirely in the rayon - except that I goofed the bottom so it's the same home decor fabric.

Actually, when I sewed the outside of the bag, I felt the bottom was just too flimsy, so I figured it was a "good goof" and decided to quilt the inner "bottom" before I put it into the bag. I used the fun Hawaiian print I lined my cape with and then, because I don't have any batting, I created several layers of used Bounce dryer sheets. The bag smells divine! :) I ran lines of blue stitching down the center of the blue lines of the decor fabric, then serged all the layers together to create a quilted bottom.

The handbag feels a lot sturdier now and has "presence". The bottom holds its shape really well. If I was to do this again, I'd quilt the bottom bottom piece and then just have a standard lining bottom. I think it would be easier.

When I'd finished the outer bag, I thought it looked very plain and boring so I added this front pocket thingy. It was a terrible idea; I couldn't get the sides to bind over properly the way I'd envisioned, and the stress of sewing the pocket to an almost completed bag made me take up some rather rude cuss words (I've learned a few in French now!) but the end result is very fetching, so perhaps it was worth the fuss. ;o)

I couldn't find a button I liked, so I used a plastic one and bound it with the lining fabric. Blue ribbon became the loop to close it.

There were a couple of other errors, but not enough for me to stress over. I managed to hide or fix most of them, so I'm very pleased. I even hid two so well that Himself couldn't find them until he searched very hard! \o/ \o/

Now the only puzzle I have left is whether or not do something about the top. The Bratness has mentioned that she prefers a handbag that has a zipper closure, but if I add a zipper, it will destroy the elasticated effect at the top - as well any other type of entire closure that I've considered. I've thought of non-entire closures such as two button-and-loops such as the one on the pocket, giving a total of three in an upside-down triangle format, or a couple of magnets. They just don't seem right though.

Any ideas for me?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Action Auction Photo

Nothing like standing on a box for four hours yelling out numbers to really make you appreciate a long, cold, drink of water! 

This is me, the Auctioneer, standing on a box so I can actually see the bidder numbers. Sorry for quality, it was a phone pic by a bored colleague, Aibia Mamae, who snapped a couple at the end of the day. By this time, most of the bidders were bored too and made themselves comfortable on the auction merchandise. :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!


Totally lost as to what to wear today, all my ideas having either not worked out or been trounced by Himself, I settled on being a Southern Belle. My friend at work, Elma Polum, took these photos for me with her smart phone, as Himself went diving and we didn't have time to put some together. It was also raining this morning, so that didn't help matters!

We're having a Halloween party tonight and I'll be changing my outfit for that, so I'll post more pics tomorrow after the event.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The Frocktober challenge for The Monthly Stitch (TMS) had me in a quandary. Having recently decided that I don't really want dresses in my wardrobe, to have to make one was a little bit of going in reverse. However, I love being part of TMS so I figured I'd make it work somehow.

Of course, then I had to decide what dress to make. I considered a variation of the Danielle, but didn't really want to patch together a downloadable pattern. After weeks of searching and indecision (literally, weeks - practically the entire month of September) I decided on the McCall's M6554. It looked simple and pretty and I figured I could handle it.

And then the grr.... started.

Recently I've had a run of bad luck with sizing, consistently sizing my items too big and having a completed garment that looks like I won a season of the Biggest Loser. So this time I double checked, triple checked, measured and measured some more. I measured the pattern itself to ensure I had it correct and a perfect fit, then carefully traced the entire pattern onto my newly acquired pattern tracing material. I was so itching to use this tracing material and save my patterns intact, and spent an entire day tracing and cutting out the pattern pieces in my exact size. 

When I finished cutting out the pattern pieces, I looked them over and thought "wait a minute... that looks too small!"

You experienced sewists are way ahead of me here, aren't you? Yup. Zero ease.

Unfortunately, I still hadn't worked it out, I was just aware something was Not Quite Right. So, this niggling concern made me pause and dig out some spare fabric from my stash as I did not want to use my good material for something that might not work out. I dug out some cotton batik that I bought in Central East Africa and, now that I've worked with it, wish that I had more of. Fabulous stuff!

Anyway, I then spent ages working with the fabric to get all the pieces cut out, as it wasn't exactly the right size material. In the end, I had to cut the front skirt pieces a little too small in the pleat and used a different color for the front bodice pieces.

By now, I was getting annoyed. Very annoyed.

Don't look annoyed here, do I? 
Confession time: I hate muslins. I hate toiling over a toile that is then used for scraps or rags or whatever it is you do with them. Oh, I understand the reason for it, I just can't abide the wasted time and effort to make one out of mismatched scraps that can't be used. So I ALWAYS make a wearable muslin.

Except this time.

So far I have carefully traced and cut out a pattern that I'm fairly certain is the wrong size, cut into my stash fabric to make a muslin that is no longer a wearable muslin as I had to switch fabrics. Grrrrrr...

Quality Inspector giving me the once-over
Now, I've traced the pattern and cut out the pieces, so my sheer unadulterated obstinacy kicks in and I'm determined to finish the muslin anyway. I carefully sew the dress, following the directions. Then I realize I don't have an invisible zipper. Anywhere. I have to use a lapped zipper. Directions are for an invisible zipper and a lapped zipper requires me to unpick a side seam to get the zipper in.

Did I mention that I hate unpicking almost more than a wasted muslin?


I finally get the incorrect type AND the incorrect length of zipper into the dress and move on to the bodice lining. To discover the instructions are written with Machiavellian brilliance and my dress is hopelessly destroyed! I've never in my entire life read such a discombobulated muddle of a lined bodice. I'm a BEGINNER, dammit, and I know how to do better linings than this mish-mash!

Or, at least, the way I know how gives a really good finish and I couldn't make head or tale of these directions, so I'm not sure who's really at fault here.

Either way, I'm now in meltdown mode.

Now the title of this blog is No 4 Letter Words and I have, indeed, been making an effort to stop swearing. Reasonably successfully, for the most part. However, there are times when I've been known to make sailors blush. Unfortunately, by now I am in such a tiff that several seamen take an honorable discharge and check into a nunnery.

And yet, believe it or not, my pigheadedness oinks and I persist with this blasted dress! Move aside, masochists, make way for the Queen of Disaster.

I take that dress apart (more seam ripping, more coins in the swearword jar), sew each shoulder unit into it's own complete lined piece, and then stitch the two completed sections, right-sides together, BY HAND!

Yeah, take that, yo!

If I were an accomplished sewist, I would probably have never done it. (I'm often told by experienced seamstresses that they would never have tried my latest sewing lunacy.) Now it's still not a wearable muslin and I can't lift my arms or breathe, but it's a DRESS! It's finished. It's up on my blog and I'm going to trot across to TMS and plonk it down there too. Excuse me.

Outta here. Bye, y'all!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Say what?

Either I need new glasses, was in a crappy mood, or BurdaStyle needs to reconsider its font.

The first glance at this pic made me do a double take. I really thought the caption read "Sharp Sh*t" not Sharp Suit.

Thanks for the giggle, BurdaStyle!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and a Ghostly Romance

Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Blurb: This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

Review: Anyone who has been to Botswana or has lived in southern Africa will find this book evokes fond memories. Those who have not had the pleasure of visiting this alluring continent will discover a depth of understanding of the African people, a gentle spirit built on courtesy and simplicity.
The style itself is simple, no high speed car chases or build of tension. Yet the very simplicity and ordinariness of the tale makes it gently compelling and I felt myself drawn into the story and enjoying every little chapter. Most of the time I read with a smile playing upon my face, occasionally I laughed, overall I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended

Author: Antoinette Stockenberg
Blurb: WHEN A PARTY PLANNER MEETS A PARTY POOPER ...things will probably not turn out the way either would like. Liz Coppersmith hopes to move beyond kids' parties at Chuck E. Cheese to planning premier events among the upper crust in Newport, Rhode Island. Her first upscale client is confirmed bachelor Jack Eastman, who's struggling to keep the family empire afloat and would be just fine with Chuck E. Cheese. More problematic for Jack are an untrained puppy, two illegitimate toddlers, a runaway mother and an aging Casanova father. Liz's problems are simpler: an historic mystery, an amnesiac friend, a thief on the loose and a recurring apparition that may or may not be her imagination.

Review: A ghost, an amnesiac friend, a tiny house, a beginning business, and a handsome bachelor. Throw in some intrigue, a feisty five year old, and a weary single mother, and you get a fun romance that hits all the right keys. This is quick paced tale and it builds very well. The ghost and apparent reincarnation were fun additions to the intrigue and woven very imaginatively into the story. I’d love to meet an events coordinator like Liz, she seems to be one of those warmhearted people with a flair for the job, who really cares about the people she works with rather than the money she makes from them. While not a “fast” read, in the true sense of the phrase, it feels that way because it pulls you in and holds your interest.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Costumes: Part 2

Continued from yesterday (told you I did a lot of research!):

The Witches from the Wizard of Oz: Glinda or plus size or and wicked witch and plus size

The next two dresses use the same pattern, with slight tweaks to make it work (I love Tim Gunn!)

And the next three dresses all use the same pattern too:

And that's it for today. Quite a selection here, I think!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween Costumes: Ideas for Women in Regular and Plus Sizes

When I found out the theme for the Monthly Stitch was "Frocktober" I seriously considered making it Frightful Frocktober and sewing my Halloween costume.

I've not entirely given up the idea, but that's another story.

Anyway, having completed hours of looking at Halloween dresses and finding corresponding patterns, I thought I'd share them with you, rather than waste all that work. If you would like some inspiration, please feel free to browse.

BurdaStyle is my go-to online pattern company. I like that I can purchase a pattern and be working on the item within minutes, rather than waiting weeks for it to arrive, so I always use them as my first option when searching for a sewing pattern. You'll need an account to purchase their downloadable patterns, but the prices are very good (Only $5.40 for top of the line.)

I've looked at the style lines of the patterns to find closest fit, so you may need to imagine the product in the right color and with an extra bit of trim. I've also found both the regular size and plus size, for your convenience. For accessories, though, you're on your own!

It will be a no fuss Halloween costume year for you. Just select your pattern, purchase, print, and produce.

As I'd totally fill this page if I were to post all of the BurdaStyle dresses here, I've posted the inspiration dresses here and the links to the BS version.

1920s Flapper

1920s flapper - and in plus size For the plus size, add 3 rows of fringe to the skirt. And make it in red. ;)

1970s Gogo Girl
1970s Go Go Girl - or but the plus size is not a good fit. Did my best, though

1950s Housewife

1950s Housewife – not easy to find an equivalent on this site, but this is close and plus size is not brilliant but the best I could find

1960s Hippie
1960s Hippie - and in plus size

Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley - and and in plus size

Cavewoman -  and in plus size

Saloon Gal
Saloon Gal – how’s this for amazing? I can find dresses that would suit plus size, but I couldn’t find regular sizes. Hope you goddesses enjoy the joke here! J or


That's enough for this post. Check back again tomorrow for some more options.