Monday, March 31, 2014

..and then this book arrived....

There have been many different things going on here lately, all of which I've failed to adequately photograph or document for blogging purposes.  Amidst it all, I took this photo (below) the day the advance copy of my new book arrived, for Facebooking purposes. (I'm afraid the ease of speedy updates means that I spend more time there, these days). 
If you follow me on Facebook, you've probably already seen these sneaky-peeks into the bag designs that are in THE BETTER BAG-MAKER, but here are a few more words to accompany the images. 
The book is all about sewing bags with finesse, no matter if you're a beginner or a confident, experienced sewing whizz. 
The first part of the book is filled with information, tips and techniques that apply across the board with bag-making - interfacings, reducing bulk, neat topstitching and methods of constructing basic straps, pockets and bases. I also show you how to change the proportions of the one basic pattern to make bags of different shape, size and purpose.
Then there is a basic bag, to walk you through the processes of making the basic shape ...and you make a rather nice shopping tote (below, in fabric by Ink&Spindle). 

Then, using the same pattern, I start introducing new techniques for details on bags, beginning with simple drawstrings and bag rings... (like this happy little number in Curlypops fabric, below).
Then the details get a little more detailed as the skill-level increases.  This is designed to walk you through at a pace where you can gain confidence and expand your repertoire, but it also means that confident bag-makers can jump in anywhere and have a crack at learning something new, like fancy (and very well-finished) gusseted patch pockets.....

These are just some of the photos I snapped before the bags were sent to the publishers.  You can see a few of the real pics from the book (and more of the bag designs) on their Flickr page here.
You can see more of my photos and some of my pattern-tester's photos on a group I've started on Flickr here.  Feel free to join the group if you are interested.  You'll be able to share your own photos of bags made from the book, if you so desire.

I hope that some of my pattern-testers are more on the blogging ball than I am, lately, because they are now allowed to share the details of what they made while sifting through unedited piles of notes and separate files of images.  The all deserve medals for working with that unwieldy format. 
There were 6 projects cut from the book in the first edit (it was a page-count issue), and I'd like to thank the fabulous pattern testers who put in so much effort on these ones, but don't get to show them off.  Believe me, I know how you feel.  I'm trying to work around ways of using these designs and all this work in another format.
Stay tuned over the next few months.  I'm sure there will be more sneak-peeks, reviews and giveaways in the blogosphere, and I'll keep you posted on that.
In the meantime, I'm teaching a lot, around the traps, and must get back to organising a few things.  If you're interested in coming to a class, keep your eye on this page, (as well as on Facebook...).


Friday, March 14, 2014

News from the classroom (at Grampians Texture... ahem.. a couple of weeks ago)

Lately, there has been much to show and tell, and my inner-blogger is always taking photos and mental notes.  My outer-blogger appears to be otherwise occupied, and things like my fabulous week at Grampians Texture nearly slipped through the net of bloggy documentation.... I'm remedying that NOW!

What a fabulous week it was... spent in beautiful Hall's Gap with hundreds of textiles-loving people, and 2-day and 4-day workshops in all manner of textile-related skills and projects.
My 4-day Pattern-Free Garment workshop was a hoot.  With 4 days, and 11 bodies of varying size, shape, age and personality, we were able to explore the concept and come up with lots of great garments and ideas.
These are just a few of the photos of garments that were made. It's a very image-heavy post, so I'll lighten the load on the wordy bit and let the pictures do the talking.





There were many more... and lots of giggles, collaboration and creativity.  It must have looked like fun, from the outside looking in.... this fella really wanted to join us!

My 2-day workshop was a bells-and-whistles Travel Bag, with loads of different zips and pocket construction methods.  We had a few finishes and lots of nearly-finished bags by the end of the 2 days, but absolutely no photos of the actual class.  We were too busy!
These are a few of the bags on "show and tell" display at the end of Sunday, when all the workshop participants and tutors gather to see the results of all of the different workshops.
Grampians Texture was so much more than the snippet I've shown here.  I have more photos, more stories and more thoughts to share.  I may or may not get back to doing that.... there are other very exciting things to tell.  I'll be back soon... or when I can! 
If you're interested in learning some zipper pocket and zipper closure methods, there's a class coming up in a few weeks in Melbourne, and there are a couple of places left in it.  You can book here.
If you'd like to do a 1-day Pattern-Free class, I have one coming up (and booking up!) in May - book here (quickly).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Headless in a Pattern-Free World

I've been whipping up a pattern-free garment storm, in preparation for my 4-day workshop at Grampians Texture in a few weeks.
I've also been Photoshopping my head out of a bazillion photos for student notes, which is strangely liberating ("Tired, middle-aged face, begone!!"). 
My week has been a world of ideas and experiments ..and of making myself a few new outfits.
I've also been working through ideas for shapes other than my own.  The whole notion of Pattern-Free is that you work around your own particular shape, and the more you do it, the better you get at judging what will and won't work (and you start to be able to eye-ball measurements on fabric that will fit your body's proportions).
The difference in proportion between this top (below) and the first photo in this post, is the difference between it flattering my shape and being a bit ordinary. 
The longer, tummy-covering drape would look a treat on some figures. Perhaps it's the posture here (it sort of freaks me out when I see family resemblance in a headless photo), but I can see this one on my eldest sister. She has about 7'' more height and a bust.
And I think that a bust wouldn't go astray in this twisted tube dress, too. Perhaps some hips... and maybe even a waist as well.
I've come to the conclusion that I'm a straight-tube sort of gal.  Minimalist....
...with a bit of a twist.
There are some shapes that would look fabulously fluid and flattering on anyone except people under 5'2'' with swimmer's shoulders and no bust. 
But Pattern-Free, being all about adapting shapes to suit the body, offers solutions...
Yup.  Minimalist and much better.
This week, I may  have also made my new favourite top.

..and dress. (Once again, the shirring elastic came out.)

Here I am, practising for when I wear it to art exhibitions....(art here by Manus Walsh and Ilse Theilan).

 ..and there'll I'll be, in Halls Gap in a few weeks time, throwing lots of fabric about the place with a bunch of great gals who love sewing as much as I do. I can't wait!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Back to work

Well, I suppose holidays are not meant to last, or they wouldn't be holidays, would they? 
I've been back at work for the last couple of weeks, and so busy that until now, I haven't had time to blog the final wrap-up of the holiday projects...
It's made from scraps of my favourite fabrics by Australian designers.  I'm lucky to know and love a lot of these gals in real life, so it's an extra buzz when I use their fabrics.  If you look closely, you'll see treasures by Pippijoe, Kristen Doran, Curlypops, Ink&Spindle, Veritas, Surface Art, Saffron Craig, Yardage, Auntie Cookie et al.
It's a snuggle quilt for the couch - not a single-sided bed quilt - so I tried to make the back a bit interesting as well.... without putting too much work into it.  This took a few hours, in stark contrast to the months spent working on the front.
I finished it on New Year's eve .... and celebrated with fireworks over the city of Melbourne. 
(Ok, so maybe someone else put on the fireworks.  I drank fancy champagne with friends on a hill just outside the city, watching fireworks and cheering in the new year.)
The ongoing saga of the couch overhaul has become.... well... an ongoing saga.  In all my re-upholstery projects, I have never seen so many staples (somebody had an awful lot of fun with a staple gun!).  The cushion covering bit was a breeze and the removal of the old coverings has become a zen practice, that I come back to from time to time. 
 ...and in the meantime, the lounge room looks like an upholstery workshop.  I don't have much time for The Zen of Staple Removal during the average working week.  It's slow-going.

We have been harvesting a lot of home-grown vegetables and herbs over the last few weeks, and looking forward to a lot more.
The satisfaction of sitting down to a home-grown meal never seems to wear off, and it's even nicer when it's a picnic. We plan to make time for more picnics during the working week... we picnic close to the back door.
I'm  not complaining about being back at work.  Last week, despite whining incessantly about the ridiculously long heatwave we had in Melbourne (temps in the low-to-mid 40's - that's hovering around 110 for you Americans - and me without air conditioning), I really enjoyed a 3-day bag-making masterclass at Kimono House.
You can read Kylie's post about her experience here.  And if you think you'd like to do a 2-day workshop, you can book in here.

The class schedule is booking up.  I have dates booked for Canberra, Healesville, CAE (Melb city), and of course, Kimono House.  I'm also running my own Zippers For Bags class in Brunswick, which you can book into here.  There is also Grampians Texture, which I'm super-excited about.... can you imagine a whole week of textile indulgence?  Heaven!  I'm teaching a 2-day Bag-Making workshop and a 4-day Pattern-Free Garment workshop. 

The next few weeks will see me writing lots of class plans and doing lots of sewing of step-by-step examples of technical processes.  I will also be throwing great swathes of fabric about the place and whipping up a new pattern-free wardrobe for myself and a few friends. ... and occasionally removing a few more inches of staples from the couch.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Summer A-Line Skirts for a Bestie.

Recently, when I was trying to think of a way to return a favour to my friend Lisa, it occurred to me that she is my size, wears skirts and she doesn't sew.  I had the perfect gift idea....
Even for me, my A-Line Skirt pattern is the pattern that keeps on giving. I've lost count of how many skirts I've made with it, and it's my all-time best-selling product.
It took about an hour to whip up a new work skirt (for her fab new job) in linen with a Japanese print.  Lisa is a Melbourne gal, so a trans-seasonal black skirt with a flash of red will never go unworn.  We like our clothes like that, it seems.
Besides being a high-achieving powerhouse in her working life, at home, Lisa is the queen of casual gourmet lunches and barbeques, a passionate urban farmer, mother and dog-owner (..and an expert pourer of wine on the back decking).   Casual summer skirts are the go here (knee-length, methinks).

Oh how our lives have changed over the 30-odd years that Lisa and I have been friends!  From high school, through crazy university days, travel, baby-raising and school-kid wrangling....  Nightclubs and loud bands have made way for weekends of coffee dates, kids' activities and craft/farmers-market browsing (...ahem... and laundry and supermarket shopping). 
Our grunge fashion made way for stylish-urban-chick, and now our weekend wear is all about flattering styles and comfort, with a nod in the direction of individuality.  We like a well-cut garment and a good fabric (and the blue in this print, I thought, popped like the brilliant blue of Lisa's eyes).

It was awfully handy to be able to try things on to see how the length would look on someone Lisa's size.  (And it's a shame I wore that scrappy slobbing-about-the-house singlet top when I took the photos....).

If you're looking for a copy of my skirt pattern, you can find your nearest (or favourite online) YOU SEW GIRL stockist here.  If you're in or around the USA, you can buy the pattern through Pink Chalk Fabrics

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

To One and All

 Every Christmas, since my wee girl was very wee indeed, we have made a cardboard tree. 
This year, as we were about join the two tree pieces in the traditional cross-intersection to make it a stand-up 3D tree-like shape, the girleen came up with a brilliant new structural idea.
The stash of glitter and glue - hidden away since the great "Oooooh....It looks like MAGIC...!" glitter-throwing disaster of 2009 - was brought out and used with great control and design sensibility.
..and even so, two weeks later, I'm still finding glitter all over the backyard and house.
And so, let me present This Year's Tree! 
The space between the two sides of the tree was the "perfect" place to stash our hand-made, Lindt-Ball-filled crackers. 
We also finally made the "Gorgeous Gingerbread" recipe from the Mary Poppins book that the girleen read (and copied the recipe from) mid-year. 

I'm thinking it was more miraculous than gorgeous... We had named it "Gingerslop" as it went into the oven.  The mixture was so runny that we didn't believe that it would ever bake into anything other than thick custard.  But it was ok!

The first few days of school holidays passed with preparations for my family Christmas lunch, which we celebrated at my house on Saturday.  And since then, the girleen and I have been on a go-slow.  We have goofed about the house, baking and sewing and doing nothing in particular.
We decided to play with the paper dollies she was given as a birthday present a few weeks ago.  She wasn't interested in the outfits that the dolls came with - she wanted to design her own (*proud mama's heart skips a beat*).  
She then suggested that we make a real doll's dress, based on the paper design.  (*cue simplified, Barbie-doll-size design analysis and patternmaking lesson*)

It was a collaborative effort, involving both Elna-Mini and Fancy-Schmantzy-Bernina, the box in the fabric stash labelled "Shiny, Drapey & Sparkly", and a paring-back of design details (by the youngest collaborator...when it was all taking too long). 
Barbie will indeed go to the ball!

Wishing all a very safe and happy Christmas and New Year, and happy holidays with the people you love.