“It’s fucked”

“It’s fucked” was the only response I could give my 15yo daughter who is currently attempting making herself a lovely pair of sailor shorts for summer.   The damage was irredeemable and the only destination was the bin.     It was her first disaster and the look on her face – despair at all the work gone to waste was something I think most of we crafters and sewers can relate to very well.     The only positive I could give her was that the ruined version could be reused as a mock-up for her next attempt.

Ruined projects are a fact of life for those of us who want to continue improving our skills and learning new things.   All the stretch lace I bought recently to make underwear from?  It’s awful and scratchy on my skin.   Not to mention that for some reason, the elastic wouldn’t shrink back down the right size.  Stretched out elastic is an eternal problem I have when sewing and none of my sewing friends have yet to be able to come up with an answer.   Yes, I use zig-zag stitch and yes, I stretch it all gently as I sew.  I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong.  So for now, I have metres of lace which is sitting in my ‘current projects’ tub and mocking me.

Also in my current projects box is a rather elaborate two layer, floor length fishtail skirt which I’m making for a dress-up event next weekend.   It’s so close to finished, but I dare not buy more decorative lace to finish it (though I have managed to recycle some of the aforementioned black lace into it) until I know that the lacing of the back is going to work.    The plan is to put a long row of corset grommets down the centre back seam and add lacing instead of a zip.   But will it work?   Will it sit nicely or will it bunch up and ruin the whole skirt?   I’ve spent so many hours on it so far and am so nervous about the next step being potentially ruinous.   Oh, and I should probably mention that this is the second lot of fabric I bought for the fishtail – the first lot of fabric being totally unsuitable for the job.   At least that fabric can be recycled into a mid thigh length skirt: chop the tail off, hem it and it’s good to go.

At least my current projects have not been expensive.   Unlike the ruined dress a few years ago which cost me around $100 in fabric.    Nor have they been unpleasant – thinking of the room I spent all day painting and then stood back and hated the colour.   I cried with exhaustion over that one.      And certainly not boring – thinking of a few other UFOs which I’ve simply run out of steam on and not finished.

So back to my daughter today.   I think she’s at the stage where she can’t even bring herself to look at the shorts.  Indeed, the table is still messy and she can’t even look at cleaning up the scraps and empty cotton reels.  But I will encourage her to finish the mock up and at least figure out if she want to have another attempt.   After all, she does want a career in the textiles industry and perhaps this will be just the first of many failures which lead to success.

Soy candle making for beginners

I got into soy candle making  in the same way that I get into most of my craft things: It was a case of wanting something but not being prepared to pay for it.    Once you get the hang of it, making candles is a relaxing pastime – and after the initial purchase of products – not an expensive hobby.   I mostly buy my products from Natural Candle Supply in Sydney, Australia.

The candle I made today is Orange Blossom and Jasmine, made at a ratio of approx 1/3 Jasmine and 2/3 Orange Blossom.   I really like the way the citrus of the orange blossom balances out the jasmine.

You need:  soy wax (  I use the Ecosoya EB Advanced Soy), pre-tabbed wick (I used CDN 18), glass jar (I used large Danube), scent, colour (optional), popsicle stick with a hole drilled in the centre, a clothes peg, a ‘wick stickum’ or double sided tape, cooking thermometer, cooking pot, stirring stick and newspaper to cover your work surface.

I could write a whole page just about choosing the right wick, but will give the brief version.  Basically, you need to figure out a wick size based on the diameter of jar you’re using, and then adapt up or down depending on how your scent and wax of choice burns.  A lower number wick has a smaller flame – so a smaller jar will need a lower number wick and large jar will need a larger wick.  Your candle supplier should be able to advise you an approximate wick size for your jar diameter, but it really does all go back to trial and error.  When testing, if you find that you have a large flame and a candle which melts quickly, try a smaller wick.   Or, if you find the candle won’t melt out to the sides of the jar, use a larger wick.

To set up, attach the wick stickum or double sided tape to the wick tab and adhere to the bottom of the jar.  I’ve printed and laminated a target to help me centre the wick, but you can do this by eye.    Thread the top of the wick through the popsicle stick, pull firmly and secure with the clothes peg.

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1. Measure the quantity of wax required.    Soy wax weighs similar to water, so I’ve found it best to weigh the volume of water the jar holds and then use that figure for the quantity of wax.

2. Measure scent required.  I use a full fragrance load – which is 10% of the wax total.   For example, if you measure 250g of wax, you’ll need 25ml of fragrance.

3. Select colour if required.   One diamond shape dye chip will colour 250g of wax.

4. Dump your wax in a cooking pot and heat slowly, stirring, to 75’C.   I’ve seen recommendations for using a double boiler, but I’ve always managed fine with an old milk pan on a gas cooktop.     Don’t get distracted by the kids or internet at this stage – your wax can burn if you forget about it.   Trust me, I know.

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5. When your wax reaches 75’C, remove from heat.  Add colour if desired and stir until disolved.

6. When wax cools to around 70’C, add fragrance and stir in

7. When the wax reaches 65’C, you’re ready to pour

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8. Now be patient while the wax sets.   Don’t light the candle for at least 24hrs – this will give the scent time to develop.

Enjoy your candle

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Alterations

You know you’re getting old when you not only need multi-focal glasses for everyday living, but you also need a pair of super magnifiers to thread the overlocker needles.   That’s where I was today when taking in a few pairs of trousers.

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The alterations I speak of haven’t only been to my trousers, but to my lifestyle in general.   You see, at my doctor’s prompting, I’ve been getting fitter and losing weight in the process.    It’s taken ages, but the recommended weight training, cardio and smaller portion sizes are finally coming to fruition.   I’ve lost about 9kg (20 lbs) and have gone down a trouser size.    Better yet, the exercise seems to have given my post menopausal sex drive a kick up the rear end.   The sex drive kind of got lost in recent years and I had simply accepted it – but then some hilariously debauched conversations with a new-but-already-dear friend reminded me of what I was missing.    I went on a bit of a journey, changing meds…and trying new ones… but in the end, I have to concede that getting my body moving – combined with a determination to not accept the current situation – made the biggest change of all.

It hasn’t been particularly easy – due mostly to the fact that I’m lazy.  I’d much prefer to be sitting behind a sewing machine or with a pile of photos.    I can’t even use lack of time as an excuse because while my son is at school, I have all the time in the world.  Nope, it’s just sheer laziness and procrastination.    I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to the point of actually enjoying exercise, but I’m sure enjoying the benefits of getting fitter, slimmer and getting those ‘feel good’ hormones pumping again.

Fabric shopping heaven

I’m between projects at present and thought I’d use the time to go visit Metro Fabrics in Tempe, Sydney.   My friend Kayla (who makes the stunning corsets at Corsetology Corsets) told me it was a great source for corsetry fabrics and notions, but I was also intrigued by their lingerie and swimwear supplies.

My first reaction was just “WOW”.   So many fabrics to choose from and an incredible amount of elastics, clasps, bra hooks, bones….I could go on forever!     Probably wouldn’t be my first choice for dressmaking fabrics, but a great big yes for the more obscure sewing that I do.

The only down side was the service.  Or, lack there of.   I would have thought that an interest in dressmaking, textiles or even customer service would be a prerequisite for working in a fabric store, but apparently not.   My advice if coming to this store is to not to wing it as I did, but to actually do your research before leaving home.   Know exactly what you want.  Then again, doing one’s research is never a bad thing.

So, what did I buy?   A whole pile of wide stretch elastic lace for making “cheeky cut” undies.   I usually pay around $15-$20 retail for a pair of these, but with what I bought today, I will be able to make them for about $2 each.   I also bought some floral lycra and swimwear lining and will attempt to make a 1950’s style bikini.    Assuming I am successful at these endeavours, the tutorials will follow before too long.   Stay tuned…..

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A bit of upholstery

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Wow, this is some seriously fun fabric. Not a project of my choosing this time – it’s a favour for my father in law.  He needs four new chair pads for his upcoming 90th birthday bash.   And make no mistake, this is going to be some party!

If I am to be completely honest, this bit of upholstering is a reminder as to why I generally stay well clear of upholstery and curtain making. It’s about as fun as washing the dishes.   That being said, I’m very impressed as to how fabulous they are looking. My sisters in law certainly have an eye for what will look great. The cheerful and summery fabric combined with surprisingly successful sewing – not to mention knowing they will be very much appreciated – is making this a worthwhile task.

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Two down, two to go.

Robyn

A new quilt

As the daughter of a quilter, I find it ironic that I have to make my own bed quilts.   But mum’s quilts are handmade works of art, whereas I want quilts to snuggle into and keep me warm.

My latest quilt was inspired by bedroom colours which didn’t quite work well together.    It all started when I added an artwork featuring greys and warm neutrals to a room which was only warm neutrals.  When the new grey bed head failed to bring it all together, I went hunting for patchwork fabrics which incorporated all the colours in my room.

I chose the chevron pattern because of the masculine feel.  Hubby doesn’t get terribly excited about quilts (do any men?) but is OK with them if I go for something which isn’t ‘girly’.

The quilting was done by me on long arm machine at Hobbysew, Top Ryde.    To date, I’ve quilted everything on my domestic machine but a queen sized quilt was far too big for me to contemplate doing at home.     The staff at Hobbysew were excellent and provided a one day training course before I started.    Quilting this quilt took the best part of a day – quite exhausting, but very rewarding.

Now I’m looking forward to the nights warming up a bit so that we can use the quilt.   In the meantime, the feather doona will have to do.

Robyn

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Dabbling in corsetry

I think I can blame my longtime fascination with English Victoriana and the American West for my desire to make a corset.   Of course, buying a corset would be a logical approach, but why buy when I can take on such a fun project?

I started out with this corset making kit from Aussie Corset Supplies.  With hindsight, I would also have purchased a tailors awl, grommet setter and 4 x white steel bones (to support the rear lacing) at the same time.     The pattern was very easy to follow and my moderate level sewing skills were more than sufficient.

My boobs are an E cup, so I originally chose the Silverado corset with gores for a generous fit.   I cut my first toile (calico mock up) to fit an E-F cup, but found the result was HUGE on me.   Not even close!  So I picked it apart and replaced the gores with much smaller ones.   It ended up fitting at a basic level, but I just didn’t like the line it gave me

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toile #1.   Back to the drawing board.  If I’m going to put in all this work, I need a better fit on my bust.

Toile #2 was the regular corset shape which I extended a little higher to ensure that there would be no accidental nipple appearances.  After all, I do want the option of wearing this corset without something underneath.   This time, we have success.   Fits me like a glove!  I used very cheap and easy grommets for the lacing in this one.

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Happy with this toile – moving on to the real thing.

Next step is to unpick the toile and use the pieces as my new pattern.    The fabric for my proper corset is English Coutil exterior, drill and heavy interfacing to stabilise the inside and some leftover patchwork fabric for the lining.    And this would not be complete without a quick shout out to my hubby for helping me set the grommets. I have no idea how our technique differs, but his grommet holes were so much straighter than mine.   He will now be employed as “principal grommet setter” on any future corsets.

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Very happy with final result.   Now – need to find somewhere to wear it!