Sharing Endeavours

Hey!  I’ve been a bit quiet the past couple of weeks, working and turning 30 and keeping a close eye on our tester’s group.  I’ll keep working on balancing my online/offline time so I can blog more regularly… It’s a little harder than I thought it might be…!  Our testing group on FB has been really busy, with new Pipi shells cropping up all over, I’m so pleased with how she’s testing so far.

And now it’s time to test the Endeavour Trousers!

You saw the Endeavour Trousers and Shorts when I asked for Pipi Testers earlier this month, I was being sneaky…

replica HMS Endeavour in Sydney, click for source

replica HMS Endeavour in Sydney

Endeavour is named after the ship James Cook sailed when he discovered strings of islands in the South Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia.  He named much of the coastline in my part of the world, and they say he “left nothing unattempted.”  I like that.  Endeavour seemed a fitting name for a sailor-y pants pattern, especially since for many sewists, pants sewing and fitting feels like a daunting undertaking.

I want to change that.  Months ago, a client emailed me about my old pants block service… I stopped doing the blocks once Cake took over my life, but her email set me obsessing over making a pants pattern.  Of course they’d be “K.Hep” style trousers!

I spent a few weeks going through the stacks of custom blocks I made over the years and digging around in my waist-hip ratio numbers.  I still get emails regularly from that survey and have thousands of data points.  I went back over my Hummingbird Skirt notes-to-self on ways to improve the Cup Sizes for Your Derriere, then I drafted a pair of wide-leg trousers in my nearest base size to test out the design in my head.

They were just the thing- the drape, the angle of the pocket, the yoke.  The first few Sailor fronts were various shades of dreadful, but I got where I wanted eventually… Then I drafted the rest of the bases.

Picture 23

The pattern is finished now, time to test her!  Endeavour comes with two views- Sailor and Darling.  Darling is named in honor of Grace Darling, the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter who fired the imaginations of Victorian-era England with a daring rescue at sea.  She really deserves her own post.

Darling view has a side zipper and button loop waistband closure. Her flat front slips smoothly below other tops, but the seaming keeps it interesting if you wear a shorter top or tuck in a blouse.  It’s also ripe for piping or topstitching. I made this version in a handkerchief-weight linen-cotton chambray, as a counterpoint to the very heavy red denim Sailor Endeavours.  Her hem is intentionally short here, because I often find myself walking on wet ground and this pair is for me to wear into rags.

Both Darling and Sailor views are intended to sit at the natural waist, with a relatively straight silhouette from the front.  The fullness is thrown toward the cf and cb of the leg rather than the side seam, which is my favorite shape for this type of trouser.  I didn’t custom draft these, I used my size/shape as written in the pattern and altered according to the instructions.  My hip measurement is 37″-falling between Endy sizes.  I used a 40 hip base and fit intuitively at the side seams, giving me this smooth, smooth fit.

Endeavour sizing is similar to the Hummingbird Skirt.  Each base size is a hip measurement- 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 inches.  I added in the 30 base, as I’ve had many requests for smaller sizing.  I think it would also likely work well for teens/girls.  Each waist is tied to four different waist measurements.  This provides pattern pieces cut in 24 different shapes, with an alteration step in the pattern to fine tune the fit.  Each base was drafted and proportioned individually, not graded out from a single sample size.

I want to test all 24 shapes, as well as testing the pattern on some body shapes that don’t fall neatly into the Endy sizing.  I had a great response from our current group of Cake testers, but I would like to add another dozen or so volunteers to lend a hand and round out the sizes/shapes.  I have room in every size, and especially hope to hear from those in the 30″ hip range.

If you’d like to lend a hand, you’ll need to have a Facebook account.  I hate to have that as a requirement, but testing together as a private group has been really good.  I want to test all of the shapes/sizes while preserving your privacy, so let me know your waist and hip and facebook email address in the form below to volunteer as a tester (no need to post measurements in comments):

It’s alright if you haven’t sewn trousers before, but it’s a good idea if you know your way around the sewing machine at least a bit.  I’ll send out invites in the next day or two, you can join the group and have a look around.  Then you will receive a paper copy of the Endeavour Trousers & Shorts pattern by post next week, and we’ll try to get the testing sewn up before the holiday season is upon us!

What do you think?  What patterns are your TNT trousers?  What do you look for in a good pair of pants? (I hear you giggling, England!)

Testing Pipi & The Shells

Last week, I requested help testing the fun-but-odd Sea Star Tunic, part of the upcoming Tidepool Collection.  Thanks so much for your response!  Our testing in the FB group sort of broke out into a Sewalong this week, and it’s been really good to explore the design with everyone! It’s still in progress and I’m still on the fence about whether she’s a good addition to the Cake catalog, but it’s been really lovely to share the sewing through the group. More on that later!

Meanwhile, I have another pattern ready to test!  This is the Pipi Shell- the first of a series of Shell patterns.  While Sea Star is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it design, the Shells are more like ordinary clothes.  I like that, making clothes.  I learned to sew to make costumes, pretty dresses, weird stuff I couldn’t find anywhere outside my imagination.  Somewhere along the line, I accidentally fell into sewing knits and realized how satisfying it is to stitch up little tops and things I could wear over and over and over again.
It can be really challenging to create clothing that doesn’t scream “home made” to non-sewists.  I find the simpler the garment, the harder this can be.  Part of this is due to the industrial machines/practices used to make mass-produced clothing, and part of this is the techniques and fabrics used by the sewist/pattern.  Earlier this year, I started obsessing over creating the perfect knit sleeveless top.  I spent weeks playing with different arm shapes and techniques, working to make a tank top in my sewing room that looked like clothes- but better.

Ready-To-Wear (RTW) tank tops can be problematic.  In my experience, they’re often too long or too short, the material is too thin, or the top leaves me feeling exposed.  That’s not to mention the fact that most “fast fashion” of the tank-top variety is made under questionable ethics and labor practices.  Where I live, the temperature doesn’t dip below freezing, and most of the year is pretty balmy (or gasping hot).  I researched RTW tanks for a while in scores of local shops, at all price points.  There’s no shortage of tanks around here!  I took note of necklines, arms, finishes and problem spots.  I realized that the vast majority across the brands were made from a handful of boring bases, with the variety in design coming from fabric choice and embellishments rather than interesting cuts.

Slowly, I developed the Shell concept, a set of design specs for some knit tank top patterns:

    • No bra showing- I don’t have words to express how much I hate it when my bra shows.  That means bra straps, underarm bra, any of it.  I also wanted to work on covering underarm squidge, which so often overflows RTW tanks.
    • Breezy- Like I said, it’s usually hot here, so I wanted the Shells to balance “no bra” with as much breeziness as possible.  That means low-ish backs, open necklines, and sometimes a shorter length.
    • Option for Coverage- I thought the Shells should have a plain back option, if not also a plain boat front.
    • Back Detail- I’ve always, always been a fan of nifty back details! I wanted details that were both eye-catching and integral to maintaining the structure of a low-back.
    • All the Neckline Shapes- Pipi is a curved-front v-neck, the back is steeper. Other Shells have Queen Anne, Square, Scoop and other shapes, neatly bound with self-fabric.
    • Length Options- Shells are built on Cake’s Grid Guide concept, which allows for very easy customization of length and width.
  • Easy Fitting- There’s an intuitive, particular way to adjust the base Shell to mold the armscye nicely around the arm, and it’s laid out clearly in the pattern.  I wanted this to work really well for all sizes, so Susan and I spent a few weeks batting arm-shapes back and forth.
  • Standalone/Layering- I thought the shapes should be tested and work on a variety of fabrics, from sweater knits for layering vests to cotton-spandex casual tops, to lightweight base layers.
  • Excellent Finishing- The arm holes use a very neat, easy to apply interior binding that leaves no seam bits exposed.
  • Hack Friendly- I made the Shells so it’s easy to lay one down on top of The Tee pattern to make a Tee with all the necklines!
Pipi Test10

No Bra! No Side boob!

Tall order, right?  Yes!  It was like a puzzle I couldn’t put down.   Pipi and her sisters are part of the reason I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been working to fit all those things into a little sleeveless top pattern!   I’m really delighted that Pipi (and others) are nearly complete now as patterns, and it’s time to test her on a wider variety of bodyshapes.  She’s been pre-tested quite a bit (we really obsessed over the arm shape and pulled in others to play!), but I want another solid round of testing before we release this new shape.

If you’re interested in testing Pipi with me and Susan, leave a comment on our FB page and/or message me with your FB-connected email address.  I’d like to have a dozen or so testers to work out any last kinks.  We’ll ship you a paper Pipi next week, and I’ll add you to the private Cake Testing Group where we can chat, discuss the sewing, and see what everyone is working on.

What criteria would you add to the list for your perfect sleeveless top?  What is the thing you look for and never find, your sleeveless “holy grail”?

Quest for the Unfinished Medallion

Woohoo, thanks for the great response to the Sea Star on Friday!  I really appreciate everyone who offered to explore the tunic; I have another little pattern ready for us to test quite soon!

Blazing Down a Snail Trail

In the meantime, today is the day for quilt-chatter… Remember this from, like, three years ago?

After I finished the fussiest blocks for this block-of-the-month (those melons!), I laid it out and utterly loathed what I saw.  I couldn’t figure out why I disliked it, I’d seen many versions of this design as my quilty friends stitched it and liked most of them. But no matter how many times I looked at mine, I hated it.  That killed the project for me.  I put the blocks and fabric away in a drawer, shaking my head over the “waste” of time and fabric, not sure what to do with them.  Oh, the guilt!

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I found them when we moved, and decided it was time to make these blocks into a pretty quilt for my new bedroom.  I removed the big center block (I decided the orange wasn’t working for me…) and pondered what could fill that space.  I always liked Compass blocks and thought one might make a great feature.  I used the Surveyors Compass from here, sized up to a 12″ square.

When I play with quilt blocks, I like to know what to expect in the final design. It can be really difficult if you aren’t working from a pattern. So I like to take a photo with my camera, making sure it’s straight-on and the block is square.  Then I crop it and feed the photo into a collage app, rotating the pieces so they match up correctly.  (Instacollage works fine for me.) It’s not a 100% accurate method, but it’s a lot of fun!  It’s way easier and quicker than sketching or laying out every block.

I decided to use the black and white and green blocks with the compass to make a new design, leaving aside all mention of that orange.

The Compass background fabric is the same as the other fabric, it just hasn’t been handled as much. They look the same except in photographs?

It’s amazing how rotating the blocks can give a completely different design, like a kaleidoscope.

This was my favorite, but it still didn’t delight me as a good quilt should…

I added in some small scrappy starburst squares (whole ‘nother post!). I liked this better, but Stephen suggested that part of the appeal of Susan’s design was the strict color palette. Drat, I could see his point.

I kept casting glances at those fiddly melons, and tried using the intended layout with my compass.   I do like the shape they make framing the center block, it echoes the compass points beautifully. I stepped back and thought “Hey! A little touch of orange isn’t so bad!”  I’m considering stitching the full Compass block with just a bit of orange so the design pops better than it does with the “meh” black-on-white print that makes up the compass’ circle…

I’m pretty pumped about this project now! Sometimes it can be really hard to figure out what element of a project isn’t working, and what to use instead. I find that’s what usually turns a project into a UFO for me, that creative uncertainty. I’ll make up a few more blocks over the next month or so to fill in the corners and make up the size I need- probably more styles of compasses, or maybe some sort of black and white animals…

What’s your latest UFO? What halts a project for you? How’s my orange, think I should put it into the compass block or leave it alone?

 

Would You Like to Vionnet?

Hey!  Thanks for all your lovely messages and support this past week!

seductive-elegancy-in-vionnet-resort-2014-collection-14

Madeleine Vionnet is kind of hot lately, have you noticed that?  The Vionnet label is putting out new designs, Vionnet was in the Great British Sewing Bee, and some amazing articles on her work are popping up like this one from The Culture Concept.  I think it’s about time!

click to view on the Kyoto Costume Institute digital archives- amazing resource!

As many writers have noted, Vionnet is one of the least appreciated designers of the 20th century.  She began dressmaking as an 11-year-old apprentice in Paris at the beginning of the century and was a contemporary to Chanel.  They shared a passion for designing clothes that allowed for freedom of movement and freed women from fussy, restrictive fashions.  Each forged her own route to that goal.  Much of Chanel’s work centered on uniformity (hello, inventor of the LBD), manly tailoring, and sportswear.  Her influence transformed women’s fashion and ushered in the modern age of dressing.

Vionnet handkerchief dress 1920

By contrast, Vionnet took inspiration from the flowing, sensual garments found in Classical Art.  Her gowns were soft, and her influence on modern dressing was subtler than Chanel’s but no less pervasive.  Vionnet believed that the fabric and the cut should be a beautiful enhancement of the wearer’s expression and movements:

“When a woman smiles, her dress must smile with her.”-wiki

Her designs are often described as “cut on the straight, hung on the bias.”  Vionnet achieved her vision through combining bias cut and simple geometric shapes, though she was quick to dismiss anyone who accused her of inventing the bias cut.  She was more of a doting Aunt, who also popularized the cowl neck and halter tops.  Vionnet’s dresses were also expertly finished and detailed, and she signed each dress with her own thumbprint as the label.

Months ago, I re-discovered this Threads article on Vionnet and Betty Kirke.  Betty had the chance to meet Vionnet before her death, and to rummage through her wardrobe to take patterns.  Imagine!  Betty’s book is on my reference-book-wishlist.  Reading Betty’s account of the magic of pulling on a Vionnet dress, I found myself wanting to make up a Vionnet design.  I was particularly fixated on this one:

click for source

click for source

I started out just printing the pieces from the .jpg and gluing them together- I couldn’t understand how it worked and I needed to.  The intriguing paper puzzle progressed to scale models.  I had to wonder if the twisting squares would translate well to a tunic length.  I really, really wanted to wear a design from Vionnet’s mind, if not from her fingertips.  A full-length dress from this would use a lot of fabric and be hard to handle, so I decided to try a tunic.

StephC Cake Sewing Room 1

Several muslins later, I’d balanced the hem points to my liking, made a multi-size pattern, and cut one from striped jersey.

Picture 3

I didn’t take it off (practically) for weeks, months.  I don’t know why I liked it. I don’t generally wear sheathy-sacks-with-fluttery-bits. But I loved it.  When the weather turned chilly, I wore it with leggings and a chunky sweater.  Now it’s warmer, I can leave those off if I stay out of a stiff breeze…
Sea Star Tunic 2

I really like the pintucked, cowl neckline at front and back.

Sea Star Tunic 7

It’s much prettier than the diagram, the pintucks are my own little flourish.  On the pattern, I also added in a hidden pocket.  I want to make another one just a touch smaller through the body, I think it’s just a little too wide through the front shoulders.

Sea Star Tunic 1

The pattern has sat on my computer since then, gathering digital dust.  It’s a large pattern, with two big pieces cut twice.  The cutting and the instructions are very particular, but not difficult.


They are unconventional insructions, very strange.  I told myself the pattern was too large, too weird to pursue as a pattern for release, and got to work on some other things.

Yet I found myself reaching for this tunic so often, I had to admit it had become cake to me.

I’d love to release this tunic as a pattern, but I wonder if you would like that?  I wonder if the construction is too other-worldy.  I wonder if I should make six sizes or three… I wonder if you’d feel what I do when I wear it?  I want to make another one or two for summer, and I thought it’d be a good time to try some pattern testing on the Sea Star Tunic.

Sea Star Tunic 11

If you like her or she piques your fashion-historian curiosity, if you have the time to sew her, and you’re not afraid of something a bit weird (but delicious!), let me know!  I created a secret group testing pool for the upcoming Cake Tidepool Collection, and I’d like to try this one out first. I can add you to the group via the Cake Facebook Page.

We’ll send you either a printed or .pdf printshop copy, the instructions, and I’ll be posting the construction of my next Sea Star Tunic next week for your reference.  You’ll need 1.5-2.2 m of a soft, drapey woven or knit fabric.  I made sizes 35, 45, and 55.  In theory, the bias should expand and drape to suit sizes between, but I haven’t tested this.  Would you like to help?

I was leaping around to get away from a stinging fly, and husband caught this photo, shows the motion well... and heheh!

I was leaping around to get away from a stinging fly, and husband caught this photo, shows the motion well… and heheh!

ETA: Thank you so much for the massive response for testers! We have a good solid group of varying body types and experience levels, and based on the response already I think this will definitely be a future release!  I have several other patterns that are in need of wider testing, keep an eye out here for the next few…!

If you’d like to see some other blogger riffs on Vionnet, check out Leimomi’s Chiton Dress (I soooo want one!) and Cathy’s excellent exploration of the Handkerchief Dress.  Have look at Lizzy’s charming Saiph Dress too if you haven’t already- reading her post encouraged me to go ahead and embrace my fluttery sack tunic.

eta: Fehrtrade quickly tweeted me that I’d left out her VNA top- a really wearable take on Vionnet’s cutting style!

Do you ever play with Vionnet?  Leave me a link if you’ve blogged it or want to share a particular Vionnet dress you love!

What do you think?  Want to play?

 

 

 

Monday Quilting: Felix The Fox Den Pillow

When we moved, I culled my sewing room. I could have brought 7 years’ worth of sewing flotsam and jetsam into our new home, but I welcomed the opportunity to purge. Oddly, I found it most difficult to part with my quilt scrap stash. I decided to keep my “blue & white” stash, my “rainbow” stash, and Lila’s baby/toddler clothes for quilting.  I also allowed myself to keep the several dozen finished blocks I discovered while culling.  Everything else was binned or re-homed.

In the process of clearing out the dross, I got excited about rendering these shards of pretty fabrics into Beautiful Things we could enjoy around the house.  I thought I’d share a bit of my weekender quilting every Monday around here, how’s that?

image

He keeps his skull collection on the mantel, picked up in the field and kept after cataloging and cleaning.

This is our family room/Stephen’s work-den. He works from home, too.  In our old place we shared a much smaller room for work/sewing/stashing his camping, fishing, field and painting gear. I like this room; it’s as cozy, comfy and interesting as he is. I thought it would be nice to start here with a few pillows and eventually a throw to enhance (but not change) the den-feel of his space.  Then I can move on to other rooms…

Picture 5

I found Felix the Fox on Shape Moth while looking for 6″ animal blocks.  He’s 10″ and detailed, but I still wanted to call him into being. Stephen liked him, too, so I whipped up Felix over the weekend.

As a little girl, I was a keen pillow quilter. I liked the symmetry and order of quilt blocks, and the magic of making lovely things from tiny scraps of fabric. I did not, however, have the attention span to make more than one or two of the same square, so I made pillows. My seams were variable at best, and I stuffed them without much thought for durability. Those pillows had a tendency to leak fluff through split pieced seams if I used them as pillows, very disappointing.

Now that I’m a grown up pro crafty lady, I know how to make much nicer finished pillows that I can use. With Felix, I used batting, backing, and a side zip. Like a boss:

Once I finished paper-piecing the square, I layered fusible Pellon behind Felix. It is nice and secure once fused. Pillows are a great way to use ordinary quilt batting scraps, too, though it needs to be pinned or basted. I added an extra layer of Pellon to make the center square more prominent, and added a backing fabric.

Then I pinned a bit along the brown border to secure the layers. I used a regular foot to quilt Felix, starting at the border seam. This worked fine because it’s a very small bit of quilting, fused together. I echoed the square in a sort of spiral-with-corners, using the edge of my foot to space the lines evenly. Then I traced the edges of Felix’s body and his different colors with a line of stitches. Originally, I thought I’d heavily quilt the background, but I stopped here because he seemed quite charming enough. Then I squared off the edges of the block/batting/backing sandwich.

After that, I inserted an invisible zipper along one side of the block, joining it to the pillow back. Again, I didn’t use anything special, just my regular invisible zipper foot. Then I stitched the rest of the pillow front to the back, trimmed the corners, and turned.  I pressed and steamed the whole pillow before adding the pillow form. If/when I do this again, I’ll use a longer invisible zipper because it was hard to insert the form. I won eventually, though! I used a 10″ invisible zip on a 15″ square pillow, but 12″ would be easier.

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Voilà! I smile every time I see Felix, and while the second layer of batting is subtle I think it gives a nice effect, a little like embossed tin:

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Do you make quilt pillows? Any tips for including the men in your life in the quilty-sewy endeavours? Have you made Felix before, or another paper-pieced animal? What was the hardest thing to let go of last time you culled the sewing room?

My 2014: Movement and Shaking It Up

Hey!  It’s been almost a year since my last post, and even longer since I lost the habit of regular updates here.  It’s been too long!

I cut my hair, lost weight, and lately I like a pink or berry lip...

I cut my hair, lost weight, and lately I like a pink or berry lip…

I had to step away, blogging became too hard to maintain as I struggled with a physical illness and mental exhaustion.  After surgery, I found it difficult to get up and get better. I opted to take my time to let life settle before poking my head back out into the world of blogging and social media. Thanks so much for your words of support during that difficult time, your notes meant more to me than I can express.  My family and I faced a lot of changes this year, most of them very good!

The biggest change we made was a move from Brisbane to a quiet house in the country, in northern New South Wales.  We were offered a chance to rent/caretake this lovely property and jumped at the opportunity.  It’s been a fantastic move for all of us, we really needed a change.

My husband is working on landcare projects, planting gardens and writing papers.

I have a big, quiet sewing room all to myself, and my daughter loves that we’re just down the road from her beloved Nan and Grandpa.

The furriest change we made this year was adopting our first pet!  This is Arya, found at the RSPCA on Lila’s birthday.  Lila loved her at first sight. Arya turned out to be one of the sweetest kitties I’ve ever known! She creeps into the edges of my sewing pictures and videos, and I’m sure will be a regular around here.

3 Hours Past

Every day now, I wake up and look out over the trees outside my window and think to myself- Stephanie, now you really are 3 hours past the edge of the world!  Get back to blogging!  I did start an Instagram account, and it’s been a really fun way to keep in touch and share a little. I keep wanting to blog the way I used to before Cake Patterns took over my life- random thoughts, experiments, little projects, meditations in a quilt, design inspiration and art/fashion history.  But I wasn’t sure- can I do that?

Last week, I took Cake on the road and worked the Brisbane Quilt & Craft Show with Kylie from Voodoo Rabbit fabrics.  Every day, I talked to people about the sewing and taught hemming, v-neck binding, and buttonholes.  I caught up with friends in the bizz and old students, ooh’d and aaah’d over the Cake clothes proudly worn to the show.  I forgot how amazing it is to interact that way, the pure magic of putting a nifty technique into someone’s head and fingertips!  I missed that.  I missed you.

It’s time to blog again. I want to hear how you are, what you’re thinking about, and open up my creative universe like I used to.  You are all so inspiring and thought-provoking; your input always encourages me to dig deeper, try harder, and to see things from another perspective. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may find that 2014 changed me, but I hope you find it’s for the better.  I’m better.

This is my most recent project!  I brought this fabric home with me from the Show, I had to have it in my life.  I didn’t do anything special- folded the fabric in half with an invisible zip in one side, stitched the rest of it closed, and made tiny gusseted corners so it sits square.  Not too shabby for half an hours’ effort, I reckon.

Well, how are you?! What big things (or small ones) happened in your 2014? What was the last thing you stitched?

Finished Object: Hummingmisu (Giveaways, Too!)

Franken cake Hummingmisu Feature

I have another dress + 23 Skidoos outfit to show you!  This is a Hummingmisu Dress, a mashup of the Tiramisu skirt with the Hummingbird top.  I’ve been wearing this one since last July and while she’s definitely one of my favorites I haven’t had a chance to share her with you.

Hummingmisu Dress

Since yesterday was Halloween and since mixing pattern pieces to make a new design is called “Franken-Patterning,” I thought I’d dress up as Franken Cake for the holiday.  I’m also wearing a rad pair of holographic snakeskin foil print leggings.  In keeping with the holiday theme, Stephen took me to a cemetery near his office for photos.   The cemetery is a bright, cheerful place and actually very interesting- not scary at all.  In fact, with all the happy plastic flowers and the generally well-kept atmosphere it feels like a vital part of the community.

Brisbane is a new world city crouching on the edge of what might be called civilization.   Sydney is the nearest large city, 920km (572 miles) south.  To the west is Perth, 4300km (2700 miles).  North is Jakarta, 5415km (3365 miles).  Wellington lies 2500km (1550 miles) east.

This region has been a destination for immigrants (voluntary and involuntary) from around the world since the mid 19th century.  Even in death, it seems to me like immigrants to Queensland cling steadfastly to their home culture rather than melting together to create a new one.  Ethnic/immigrant groups here seem to form their own tight-knit enclaves (as opposed to mixing it up) and this extends into the afterlife.  I’m an immigrant but I don’t have an enclave like that. I kind of float around being weird and mostly that works for me.

Brisbane Cemetery

There’s cemetery sections in Chinese, Cyrillic, Vietnamese, and Arabic languages (and so much more).  This seems to be by custom rather than by design.   One country follows another and eerily, the cemetery’s layout roughly mimics world geography in terms of who is neighbors with whom. Dirt or asphalt pathways mark the divides between major religions and languages.  It’s peaceful but noisy, filled with the chattering voices of native parrots and other squawking birds and the strong scent of Brisbane’s early summer blossoms.  I kept forgetting I was a just a couple miles from my house.

Brisbane Cemetery...

The graves are built up from the ground kinda like New Orleans, and each section has very distinctive headstones and styles.  Some people/families have nice little brick sheds to house their remains, and there’s several massive mausoleums larger than my house.

Some headstones had little cupboards in them with whiskey and food inside, I suppose for the afterlife.  I plan to go back and spend some time exploring when I’m dressed more like a nerdy local history buff and less like a B-grade movie monster.  The cemetery was empty, except for a couple of workmen we passed on the way out.  You can see my write-up on the dress over at sewingcake.com.

Giveaways!

Merino LBD Giveaway Cake Patterns sm

I’m so excited to give away some gorgeous pieces of merino jersey fabric this week!  It’s my birthday, and I want to send out some gifts.  If you’d like a chance to win your own LBD Kit, head over to sewingcake and enter!  I’ll choose winners after the giveaway closes on the 7th, and then get the presents out the door- I hope in time for the sewalong!

EspressoGiveaway Feature small

That’s not all!  I’m also giving away three separate lengths of yummy merino blends that are perfect for Espresso Leggings.  As part of the giveaway, I ask you to leave me a link to an obnoxious leggings fabric.  It’s so fun, I made a pinboard of your picks and a special section on the page under “Source” to display them.  Go check it out and add your pick!

What do you think of my Hummingmisu?  Can I break out the Franken-wig every time I make a FrankenCake dress?  Pleeeeeeeease?  Have you ever visited your local cemetery, and if so, what’s it like?

Finished Object: Two-Tone Red 23Skidoos

23Skidoos Tiramisu

At last! At long last, I have my two-tone red 23Skidoo shoes!  I noticed these shoes in an American Duchess teaser way back in January 2012.  Last November, I pre-ordered them with birthday money and was one step closer to the jewel toned oxford t-straps of my dreams.  Nearly a year later they’re finished, I think my 23Skidoo project must be fashion set to “tortoise!”

23Skidoos blank

The shoes arrived, carefully packed and pristine white.  I wore them a few times this way but decided I really wanted deep red/ “light” red coloring.  Blithely, I assumed I could take the shoes to a cobbler and have them dyed.  Not so much, apparently leather dyeing isn’t done in the same way one might have bridesmaids slippers dyed.

23Skidoos in progress1

Instead, I needed to paint the shoes.  I was really unsure about this process so I took my time, roughly six months, getting up the nerve to paint my lovely shoes.  After reading/watching the American Duchess shoe-painting tutorial, I bought two little pots of Angus leather paints- red and black.  I asked Lauren how to best achieve the dark red/”light” red effect and her suggestion was to tint some of the red paint with a few drops of black for the toe and heel caps.

23Skidoos in progress

Stephen and I settled in one evening to paint my shoes.  We’re both handy, painty people so found the work pleasant and different from other projects.  We started out wiping the shoes with Ethyl Acetate to remove any oils or finishing and to allow the paint to stick.

23 Skidoo Shoes in progress

Stephen chose a 1/2″ wide, flat brush with fine bristles.  When I saw how much better it worked than the coarser brush I started with, I switched.

23 Skidoo Paint

The first few layers of paint went on a little unevenly despite the change of brush and I was a little worried!  But after layer 3 or 4, I could see the colors would even out nicely and I relaxed.  Over a few weeks, I left the shoes out where I could see them and occasionally evened out the paint here and there.

23 Skidoo Finished

Then I varnished them with acrylic paint varnish and scotch-guarded for good measure.  I really love the effect of painted leather, I’ve had painted shoes before but didn’t realize it.  It looks like a picked up a tiny scuff!  I can tidy that up, I have my paints to touch it up and then I’ll re-varnish in a more aggressive manner.  I’ll gently roll the upper part of the shoe away from the base so I can paint away those flashes of white, too.  They’re not at all obvious until I wear the shoes…

23 Skidoo from above

I know American Duchess designs her shoes to be comfortable for all-day wear, and I tested it out myself.  I didn’t go to a re-enactment or a dance event (if only!), instead I wore these to work at a show on my feet almost the entire day.  They were great, really supportive and no blisters.  In fact they were great on day 3 after the other shoes I wore ate me up on day 2.  For reference, I have wider-than-average feet and a high arch.  The sides of the shoes are cleverly made so my feet don’t look like they’re overflowing, as can happen with me sometimes.

I’m really happy with the end result, though I do want to touch up a few places and varnish more heavily.  I tend to wear red as a neutral, so red shoes suit my wardrobe.  The two shades still read as a solid shoe while the tonality gives it a little more depth. I don’t think shoe-painting is on my list of “instant gratification” projects, but it is extremely satisfying to know I can paint shoes.  I’m already thinking about the next pair of painted shoes… What about delft-tulip patterned Gibons?  Like the shoes one might find on a delft-blue porcelain figurine.. ?

Here, I’m wearing the 23 Skidoos with my brand new Penelope Tiramisu dress and a Zebra Cuban heel seamed stocking.  Serious stockings, I love them and usually wear fun stockings for work.  The gallery, fabric specs and notes can be found on sewingcake.

I’d like to say many thanks to my local coffee shop Hallowed Grounds for letting us take photos!  Stephen and I had their delicious, refreshing iced cucumber-mint-apple juice that comes served with half a mint bush this time.  It smells so good!

What do you think?  Would you ever paint shoes, or have you?  How *great* is it to finish a UFO?  Who out there wears seamed stockings?

(I know I said before I’d be letting the blog go quieter as I work more on sewingcake, but I had to show you these, I’ve been harping on them for such a long time…!)

Red Velvet Shipping, Brisbane Show and Sewing Along!

No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to find the time to blog here the way I used to. I hope you don’t think I’m either lazy or uncaring, because it’s completely the opposite!  As much as I don’t want to quit writing here, it’s become much more important to work on pattern development (cake kids!  beginners!  woven RiFFs!) and to create sewing references at sewingcake.com than to post regularly here.  I need to focus my online time at sewingcake.com and on customer service for my Etsy shop.

Red Velvet Dress Hub

I’ve been building these lovely tabbed pages on sewingcake (Red Velvet Dress hub shown) to help make it easier to find inspiration, tutorials, fit help and sewcial groups related to each pattern.  I’m excited about this  because the site is finally beginning to match the sewing reference I had in my head all this time!  It’s a relief.  I’ll be working on pattern pages for the other releases, including RiFFs, over the next few weeks and soon we’ll be very organized indeed.

I also have plenty of “pre-sewalong” references to release, most of them focusing on the fabrics I used to sew my samples.  I haven’t really shown you everything that I’ve sewn from Red Velvet Collection yet, because I’m working on things like building this super-flash Red Velvet Sewalong and Sorting page:

Red Velvet Sewalong Header 3

We’ll have three Houses for this sewalong: Esme, Pearl and Penelope.  When you receive your Red Velvet Dress pattern in the mail, it will be in an oversized pink, red, or creamy envelope.  The colors are inspired by the colors of a red velvet cake!  Once you register and confirm via email, you’ll see the page for your House with the points and rules.  The prize is a $15 off prize code for everyone who is registered in the winning house.  The Red Velvet Dress, the Espresso Leggings, and the Red Velvet Clutch (mini too) will be included as acceptable “Finished Objects” with points awarded for finished objects!

I’m really passionate about getting everyone sewing and sharing the sewing experience.  That’s why I work to create a digital sewing space on Flickr during the sewalong.  Last sewalong, I added a couple of “progress” shots for extra points and I think it was a great way to show that there’s many ways to do the same thing well.  This time, I have a daily progress shot which will be worth a point each day.  I hope this takes some of the pressure off beginners to make a pile of completed garments and lets us catch a glimpse into someone else’s sewing!

Intro Prices for one last day!

The Red Velvet Dress, the Red Velvet Clutch and the Espresso Leggings are shipping to you this week!   As soon as the paper patterns ship, the prices will rise to $20, $10 and $10 respectively.  We’ll keep sending out Red Velvet Dresses in colored envelopes for the House Sorting until we run out.

I received the Australian box of patterns today and immediately processed them so I can send them off in short order.  I love the colors, it’s like I’m sending masses of valentines to you!  We’re coordinating the shipping so that the US, UK and AU orders fly away to your sewing rooms at the same time- right now it looks like Tuesday is the Drop Day!

Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair

Cake for Voodoo Rabbit at the Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair

Last Friday, I was asked to demonstrate at the Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair.  The Fair starts this Wednesday, so I had very short notice…!  It’s a five day event, a great time to network and see what’s new and have fun with other crafty and sewy people.

I’ll be demonstrating Cake with Voodoo Rabbit (that’s the place where I teach)!  This is an excellent opportunity to get out and de-mystify knits for sewy and quilty Brisbane and I’m really excited!!  Each day I’ll be demonstrating apparel sewing techniques for 5-30 minutes on the hour.   I’ll cover topics such as the basics of knit fabrics and cutting, through self-fabric binding and stabilizing to knit hems and topics relating to woven fabrics as well, like my bulletproof invisible zipper lesson and “Parts of Fabric.”  I’ll be around between demonstrations to answer questions and chat, too!

It’s very, very likely I’ll be tweeting and Facebooking to an obnoxious extent during the fair, you’ve been warned!  If you’re planning to go to the Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair, do come by and say hello!  I’ll be the American wearing Riley Blake striped Cake.

Red Velvet Fabric Choices

I’ve had some fabric questions lately about prewashing and weights that are appropriate for the RV dress/Espresso Leggings.  I’ll work through tips and tricks about particular types of fabrics and etc over the next few weeks but I wanted to address my philosophy towards pre-washing and washing in general:

If I can’t cram it into my washing machine with like colors on warm and then throw it on the washline/in the dryer, I will almost never wear the garment.  If I am not going to wear the garment, then the time I spent sewing it was wasted.  This is pretty much the bedrock of Cake’s design philosophy- making clothes to wear while living life.

If I buy a knit (say, linen) that says dry clean only, I throw it in the wash.  If it doesn’t survive, then I wouldn’t wear it anyway.  I have yet to ruin a knit fabric doing this.  If you’re very worried about shrinkage or changing the nature of the fabric, then wash a 4″ (10cm) square of the fabric and dry it to see what happens.

Please, please ask me questions here you may have about the Red Velvet Collection, it will help me prioritize the release of visual references on sewingcake.com.

Pretty Dresses Multiplying & Full Red Velvet Size Guide

MelizzaR Red Velvet Muse

I spent yesterday fine-tuning the Red Velvet Sizing & Measurement pages and sending out the Cake Vine email and didn’t post.  Today I have several lovely Red Velvet Muse makes to show you, starting with MelizzaR!  Melizza is an experienced sewist and new mother, I’m so glad she could fit in a photoshoot for her slinky polka dotted Red Velvet Dress during naptime.

Picture 68After Melizza’s Muse Post was published, I went and read her write up of the pattern on her blog Pincushion Treats.  Surprise!  This was version #1, “accidentally” made without the midriff section.  I think this works really well, now I want to try it too!  Thank you, Melizza, I’m so pleased we got to know each other during this project!

Sewhopeful Strikes Again

red-forward-shoulder-adjustment

You saw Sewhopeful’s lovely navy blue Red Velvet dress with a collar earlier this week.  She quickly followed this up with a happy red and white polka dotted version, I knew I had to share both when I saw them!  Without a collar or pocket, this is a very quick make.  I love this version, it must be SO much fun to wear and may be the first completed Red Velvet Dress that’s actually red.  Check out Sewhopeful’s polka dot dress write-up for insight into the way fabric and stretch influences fit, J is so methodical and thoughtful!

Red Velvet Sizing, Measurement & Alteration Page

Red Velvet Size Guide

click to view page

I had several emails about bust alterations, already!  I’m so impressed by how quickly you’re getting into this pattern, and I care if you sew and that your clothes fit.  I made this Red Velvet Sizing reference to help make this possible.

Red Velvet Size Guide

I’m also just really proud of this page, each measurement and bodice alteration is tidily tucked under a tab, with the relevant instructions section to the left.  This is where I’ve been wanting to take sewingcake.com for a while but I had to skill up first.  I have some super cool hub pages in the works for each new pattern, check out the Hummingbird Hub for a preview for what’s coming up!  I’m really, really excited!

Red Velvet Deep Bust Alteration

The page also shows two ways to approach the Red Velvet bodice fitting, I hope you find them useful.  Several emails I received expressed concern about having “low boobs,” so I prioritized the publication of these references.  It is pretty simple and intuitive to adjust the length on the bodice, whether for a Deep Bust Alteration (DBA) or Torso Length Adjustment.

0369 Front

I have some exciting news about the Red Velvet Dress, Espresso Leggings and Red Velvet Clutch paper patterns- they are starting the journey from printer to your sewing room tomorrow, which means we’ll be shipping paper Red Velvet Collection patterns from next week!  Once we start sending them out (in brightly colored envelopes for the sewalong!), the price of the Red Velvet Dress pattern will rise to $20, full price.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has purchased from the Red Velvet Collection!  Let’s make some awesome dresses!  Tomorrow… I have such giveaways… And some words on merino.  Did I mention I went fabric shopping for merino for giveaways earlier this week?  I totally did.