Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'm moving... to www.bimbleandpimble.com

After two years of kicking it here in blogger I'm making the switch to a new look site at www.bimbleandpimble.com

It may be a new site but you'll find the same crazy antics!

I'll see you all over there with a fierce summer frock this weekend!

Stay awesome and here's to a fabulous 2014!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Amanda vs Gingham Taffeta Awesomeness

Three words, people.


After an almost five month sabbatical from the craziness of me noggin I’m coming back to you with a hot mess of crazy/awesome. Because while I have a rather mature Liberty frock, flirty gingham sundress and super cute boat tee and shorts combo ready to share this seemed the most obvious way to ease on back into things as lady like as ever…

Some things never change…

But what has changed is the fact I have silk taffeta in my life… This is the stuff 80s prom dresses and dreams are made of! Last September I was down in Melbourne for the epic Frocktails event and had a bit of a fabric binge with a number of the other fine ladies in attendance. We meandered into The Fabric Store and lo and behold I came across the majesty of this gingham and it was love at first sight. The freaky thing was this was one of only a handful of times I have known exactly what I wanted to make out of a fabric when I bought it. Puffy pleated skirt here I come! A little bit taffeta prom queen and a little bit 50s gingham. This is sheer perfection in Amanda-land!

So pattern wise I free styled this bad boy like a boss. I measured my waist and then added an inch to the ends to get the waistband length. I then cut along the fabric so the band would be three checks high. Booyah. For the skirt itself I used the width of the piece and played around with the pleats using the checks as a guide until I got the desired puffiness. Because if you are going silk taffeta it is an insult to the fabric to not have as much volume as humanly possible!

Okay, let’s talk some real talk. This was a super quick sewing project. As in, six days after I bought the fabric I had sewn it up in 15 minute chunks in the evening. And I wore it to a work function (and looked fierce). Heck, I even took photos to share it with y’all. That was until I looked at the photos and realised that it was too long- it looked saggy and not puffy and was relegated to lose three inches off the hem. Which really is no bigs, right? Unless you are a crazy perfectionist who wants to catch stitch this bad boy like a boss and it takes you a few hours to get this done. So poor little puffy skirt got put into the mending pile and as my sewing course folios were due it got ignored. And then Christmas projects began and the gingham marvel was left to be stylish in the corner of the room…

Cue a crazy post sewing-room makeover and I dug our little friend out, serged the excess off, popped on some Sherlock and invisibly hemmed it like a boss (side note: if you need to debrief after this season let me know- all of the amazings!) The hem stitches are placed so carefully that it is invisible to the naked eye unless you are being a super creeper and getting all up in my skirt’s grill. Not cool.

See what I mean?

And can we take a moment to pay a big snaps to my shirt? It’s an origami panda. And it totally feels like it was designed with this taffeta in mind. Crazy panda + silk taffeta = my happy place.

And let’s be honest, where would I be without some crazy posing? A lady has to flaunt her mad raptor skills!

What I liked about this project:
  • Invisible hemming like a boss!
  • The fact I totes made this up as I went- I get this is a basic skill but it was so freeing after finishing my Tiki dress of five billion steps
  • How well the checks matched! I unpicked the zipper twice to get the perfect match.

What I would change next time:
  • Gather rather than pleat- I feel there may be more taffeta oomph from gathering… Though I may be wrong…
  • Keep the length shorter. While I love tea length stuff on other women it makes me look like an angry dwarf (sans beard). And while I am all about heading to Isengard to smack down Saruman with my elf bro, brooding ranger and epic wizard friends in tow I don’t want to look like I have stumpy dude calves. 
  • Hem the dang thing in a time period that isn’t five freaking months. You know, just to mix it up.

Pattern: Me noggin… Does the gin I consumed while I sorted out the pleats count towards the cost? I’m going to say no…
Fabric: 1 metre of gingham silk taffeta (feel the 80s, people) from The Fabric Store, $28 I think?
Notions: YKK zipper $3.50, thread in stash
Cost: $31.50

See also: PoppykettleTilly and the ButtonsCation Designs 

And if you have made it this far thank you so much hanging round while I was having my little sabbatical. 2013 was, in all honesty, a bit of a jerk to me and I’m rather glad to see it gone. Here’s to an epic 2014 – I have a new sewing room, many projects and a fancied up blog to show off...

Here’s to staying sassy! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Amanda vs the Mandy Boat Tee

Some people say necessity is the mother of all invention. I say being cash poor is the mother of stash busting, sourcing free rad patterns and looking fierce. And the evidence, your honour, is here to see with my summer rad Mandy Boat Tee. Beach side booyah!

This top came together in a jiffy. It has four pieces (front, back, sleeves) and if I hadn't decided to stripe match it seriously would have been done in under two hours. I discovered Tessuti had a print at the copy shop option- 10 minutes and $3.79 later and I had my pattern ready to cut out. Holy monkey hats people- PDF print at homes are now my nemesis compared to this option. What a time saver! Because I think we all know I am on the lookout for a bargain... *cue cheesy seafaring pose*

You know I had to go there. I mean hullo, stunning beach + cheesy poses + opportunity for bad pun = Amanda happy place. Thought in all seriousness, how beautiful is this? The New South Wales south coast is spectacular!

The proudest part of making this shirt for me was french seaming all of the seams. All of them. We're talking armholes, side seams, sleeve seams. The lot. Things got crazy neat in there.  Anyone who has ever lived/worked/met me is well aware that I am a wee bit neat freaky and french seams are the sewing epitome of that. I mean, check this business out...

See what I mean? Delightful!

The problem came when I tried this bad boy on. The drape of the linen jersey is amazing but was a great big epic fail with this pattern. Instead of a lovely drapey side seam the jersey just hung there like a saggy lasagne sheet. No worries though- all I needed was two minutes in front of a mirror to pin the excess out and ten minutes to overlock the beautifully french seamed excess away. Oh, and the 20 minutes I spent mournfully staring at my seams telling them it wasn't them, it was me and my poor fabric and pattern matches. I'm not sure they forgave me as they lay in the bottom of my sewing bin... But the removal of that excess fabric sassed this up mightily.

My only regret was that I was in such a hurry to get this done (I may or may not have been sewing in the lounge room the night before I left with my dear friend Jess sitting next to me) that I didn't ensure the stripes stayed matched on the side seams. Oh well. Sometimes you have to live on the edge. I call it a design feature!

What I loved about this pattern:
  • Four pattern pieces. Honestly, until muumuus become become the trend du jour I'm not sure sewing can get much easier. Mmmm... muumuus.
  • Fancy finishes. Because every lady needs a top fully finished in french seams. Let's ignore the fact I serged a bunch of them off though, shall we?
  • The relaxed fit- I have a feeling this matched with shorts or skinny jeans will be a bit of a signature summer look this year for me.

What I will change for next time:
  • Knit fabric time! I bought some ridiculously epic grey with lime green stripes knit from Tessuti that needs to be made up STAT!
  • Print a second copy of the pattern so stripe matching is easier. I may have an addiction to copy shop printing now. It's a downward spiral, people!
  • Use the full pattern width for the front and side pieces. I'm ready to head into drape-town!

  • Pattern: free to download from Tessuti Fabrics, $3.79 to print
  • Fabric: 1 metre of linen jersey in the stash from The Fabric Store last year, $26 I think?
  • Notions: thread already in stash
  • Cost: $29.79
See also: Funkbunny; La Satora; and my freaky fabric twin Quilt Sew Sew Sue.

But shirt making has not been the only thing happening in Chez Amanda this fortnight. There has been a birthday, the start of my next rehab phase from my foot injury 8 months ago (finally!) and most importantly puppy haircuts. Bimble couldn't have cared less. Pimble sat in the backyard for an hour post-haircut in protest to me having messed with her wookiee-esque pelt...

Bring it on summer- the ladies of Chez Bimble and Pimble are styling and ready to rock! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Amanda vs the Seersucker Belladone

You know how some people embrace winter and love the chance to wear tights and pretty coats whilst they sup on their hot cocoa and head home for a lovely soup? I am not one of those people. Winter to me is all kinds of torture. There are the cold toes no matter what shoes and socks I wear, the lack of fruity cocktails (brrr... too cold!) and most importantly my inability to recall where I put my gloves/scarf/coat. So winter and I have come to an agreement that I get to escape its icy clutch once a year for some kind of vacay somewhere slightly warmer. This year my trip came a little late but that meant I could make a fun spring time frock to wear- hullo beach time Belladone!

Now, I have made a polka dot Belladone before. Let's get that out of the way. But this bad boy is different- I swear! Firstly, the fabric is seer sucker. Pink polka dot seer sucker. All the way from Japan. I am totes scared I have reached the pinnacle of Amanda fabric with this meterage. What if this is it for me? I mean the only thing that could possibly be better would be a pink polka dot silk taffeta. These are scary thoughts to contemplate...

This was my first time sewing with seer sucker and I must say it was a pleasure to work with. My fabric wasn't puckered all over- there were stripes of plain woven fabric and then stripes of puckered fabric- crazy fun times! I took some time to play around with thread tension for a ways to make sure the stitches were even over both the plain and puckered sections and then sewed everything up easily.

I also lived on the wild side and yet again ignored the instructions to make a hem facing. I know, I know- I am on the edge here. I like how casual and summery the skirt looked sans facing and chose to make tiny scarves out of the pieces for Bimble and Pimble instead...

Nawww! Bimble was super excited. Pimble on the other hand launched a fashion protest.  She thinks stripes are in this season and is walk striking until they arrive. Life is tough at Chez Bimble and Pimble.

One thing I was really happy with was the fit of the front bodice on this frock- I would like to play around with the dart placement a bit but otherwise am pretty dang happy. No gaping, nice fit and coral bias binding. YAY!

But let's cut to the chase- what I loved about this version:
  • Seersucker for the win. Honestly, where has this fabric been hiding all my life?!
  • The contrast binding. This stuff rocks my world. Though perhaps I could go all of the pieces on the back for extra sass!
  • The back panel cutaway. I feel a bit sassy showing off the ole back meat but still nanna-ish as I know my bra straps are well hidden. Double win!

What I would change for next time:
  • I'll grade the shoulders down a size or two- I don't like how far out they pop out. While it rocks to feel like some sort of wing commander with rad shoulder pieces it's not the look I'm going for.
  • Play around with the bust darts- I want to shorten them by an inch or so.
  • Provide more room in the back bodice piece. I'm happy with the front piece but a bit of extra ease there would solve the fabric wrinkles.

Yet again the Belladone wins me over. I'm thinking I may make another couple of these bad boys for summer as well as a few more Sureaus. Because, quite frankly, isn't summer all about drinking cocktails in sundresses and hanging with friends? Dang straight it is! 

A massive thanks to my dear friend Jess who not only is a
jeweller, blogger and vacation buddy but a fierce photographer!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Amanda vs The Tiki Dress

Last Christmas vacation I had this seriously lucid dream that I was in a Hawaiian movie wearing this knock out tiki dress, drinking coconut cocktails with Elvis and a t-rex. Upon waking from what I think we can all agree is possibly the best dream ever I became obsessed with making a tiki dress. After a call out for help on twitter I was set with some fabric (from Hawaii, natch!), a pattern (Gertie's bombshell course) and supplies (boning, casing and the likes sent all the way from NYC by the lovely Charlotte). It was time. But life isn't all cocktails with Elvis and dinosaurs. Things happened and tiki frock got sidelined. That is until the recent radness of Frocktails down in Melbourne. 30 rad sewists, 30 rad frocks- I needed to step it up. So please say aloha to awesomeness!

Like. A. Boss.

I am still in a little shock about the fact that I made this dress. I ended up with 16 days to get this made and most of my evenings and weekends were booked up with TAFE classes,  social events and even a derby bout. Craziness. And let me be honest- whilst Gertie's dress was my inspiration this is more a hat tip to it rather than an actual bombshell. In fact the tiki dress is an amalgamation of three commercial patterns and a self drafted section. Yup. Things got crazy to get this done.

I watched all of the bombshell classes and even got the muslin of the bodice made up. But when it became apparent that the ole bosoms weren't going to fit without SIGNIFICANT adjustments I had to look elsewhere. Enter Vogue 8849. Princess seamed, custom fit cup sizes and boned? That's a tick in every box. So after ponying up $23.50 for the freaking pattern (I know, I know - it was desperate times) I slapped a toile together like a boss. And then again. And a third time. Fourth time proved to be a charm and I was ready to cut into my shell fabric. Because Gertie's teachings were still fresh in the noggin I even underlined like a boss. Brace yourself- you're about to see pieces hand basted together with silk thread. I know, right? Who would have thought I had it in me?

The skirt proved to be a bit of a hot mess trial by fire as well. I tried the Burda pattern that came with the Gertie course and it failed miserably. In the end I went with three patterns for the skirt: I used the four piece panelling in the back from the Burda pattern and shaped the panels to fit my epic Simplicity 2154 pencil skirt pattern pieces (kind of like a block, I guess?). And the third pattern? Well, that would be me slashing and spreading the bejeesus out of S2154 to turn the front panel into a sarong skirt. Yup- I drafted my own sarong skirt front using a slash and spread method suggested by a bunch of rad twitter ladies (thanks, Rach!) I also added a killer kick pleat to the back so I could ninja kick assassins if required walk like a lady.

Totes ladylike.

Now this bodice top is zero ease. Nada. And I have to admit as I made up my toiles I found the lack of ease really terrifying. What if I laughed too hard at something and my bodice tore all Incredible Hulk style (minus the purple and green)? A legitimate fear, I think we must all agree. But once the boning was added (I chickened out and went with some locally purchased plastic boning for this version) to the princess and side seams that worry went away. Those little plastic strips gave the bodice structure and even held shape when the dress wasn't being worn.

Tragedy struck two nights before I was due to fly to Melbourne. For some dense reason I added a YKK invisible zip. And it jammed. And stupidly I reset it twice before a dim lightbulb went off over my head and was all "zero ease + invisible zip = facepalm. Get thee to a dress zip STAT". Of course I had no black dress zips so a trip to the fabric store was on the cards for the next afternoon. So the night before I flew out not only was a freaking out about flying death tubes planes but I was doing my second ever lapped zipper, catch stitching the bodice close and blind hemming the skirt. Nothing like a bit of pressure to get you going! Needless to say it was 11pm by the time I was finished which made my 6am wake up not look fun. Aloha morning!

Whilst six hours of sleep may not have been the best way to start my weekend it didn't dampen the awesomeness ahead. Poor Longrain didn't know what hit them when a stitch of sewists in fabulous frocks descended on them. It was a night of amazing conversation, fabulous food and plentiful beverages. Here a few photos from the night thanks to Mel and Rachel:

The fabric triplets- KatLiz and I.
Fabric shopping with these ladies was uncanny- but bodes well for stash swapping!
A quartet of Melbourne awesomeness- BelleRachelMelKat.
Some serious style (and loveliness) happening at right here.
The always effervescent Lizzy.
I think it was easy to pick the natural posers in the group... BWAH HA HA!

What I loved about this pattern frock:
  • I freaking made it! It will take a while for this thrill to wear off, let me tell you. Bwah ha ha!
  • The special finishing- hand basted pieces, kick pleat, tidy insides. I am so proud with how well this turned out.
  • Hand picked zip. And it held. With zero ease. Consider my mind officially blown.

What I would change for next time:
  • I really want to try the bombshell bodice. I think to do this successfully I'm going to need a dress form. Pinning to a tight shirt did not work so well... Hmm... It may be time to go a shopping!
  • Do I dare go a crazier tiki fabric? I'm thinking serious tiki heads. Sure, I could go refined with a silk or somesuch but let's face it TIKI BEATS EVERYTHING!
  • Spiral steel boning- I'm ready for this!

Overall, I love my tiki dress HARD. The journey of making it was awesome, the learning of new skills rocked my world and I got to kick it with some fab ladies whilst wearing it. But most importantly it passed the greatest test: ability to do the robot.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Amanda vs Victoria Blazer

The last time I started a new job I got it into my head I needed to sew myself some work dresses. Never mind the fact I hadn't sewn in years and years- who needs practise when you have a burning desire to create something and a massive G&T to help you on your way? Needless to say my attempt at the gorgeous Macaron pattern ended up a red hot mess and I put sewing aside for a ways again. So when I recently found out I had secured a super rad new job no one should be surprised that I spent my week off before starting sewing up a storm. Five days. Three dresses. One blazer. A lot of Parks & Rec. I present to y'all my Victoria Blazer!

Totes kicking it work appropriate style!

I'm more than a little happy to say this bad boy took me one evening of tracing and cutting and one day of sewing to pull together. And if I may share a dirty secret? I didn't toile this sucker at all. With it's simple silhouette and the awesome fit I had from my epic Elisalex I trusted the By Hand London ladies to not lead me astray. 

I went a grey cotton sateen for this bad boy figuring the weight would lend to some nice structure. The lining is a simple black and whit polka dot poplin that I always seem to grab a metre of if I putter past Lincraft. I was tossing up whether or not to go contrast collar, lapels and cuffs for this but in the end only went cuffs as it is for work and I wanted it to go with a bunch of different outfits. I never thought I would see the day where practical overrode prints in my world. What is happening? Someone should hand me a giant French 75 and a handful of cookies STAT!

Phew. T-rex arms make everything better in Amanda-land!

The idea of actually trying to make a jacket was completely freaking me out. I was having images of pad stitching and crazy bound button holes and all kinds of major skillz of which I am yet to master. So let me state clearly- Victoria is a blazer for jacket scaredy cats. The craziest thing about the whole business are some super clever shaping darts that end up making your collar sit like a dream. And once you have a wee gander on the ole BHL sewalong page they become a piece of cake. I mean, check this collar out. If I can do that a drunk marmoset trying to sew on a beach ball can do it.

The only thing about this pattern that I would change up front is to line the sleeves. As I hadn't jacketed before (totes made up a new word- yay!) I wanted to follow the instructions to the letter so didn't go there. But now I've made it I am ready for the glory of the lined sleeve. I am still thinking I may Hong Kong seam the armholes- they currently have a serged lining which is slip stitched onto the shell seam. Some pink binding could be a super cute feature now I come to think of it...

I had some problem easing the sleeve head in as the sateen would not stretch. I wrangled that bad boy for a good 20 minutes but in the end I eased the whole way around the armhole. As a result there isn't that fantastic shoulder silhouette but hey- it still looks rad!

And the back silhouette is pretty cool- even if it does look like I'm flashing the wall... Awkward...

But more importantly. Can we take a look at the cutest cuffs ever. Gah! These things are like little slices of polka dotted perfection!

But enough swooning over teeny tiny polka dots...

What I liked about this pattern: 
  • The clear and well illustrated instructions in the book were fabulous! In saying that, I am a lady who likes me some further deets on things so the step by step sewalong was my main resource for this make. Laziness win!
  • The fancy collar dart thang. It is super stealth yet helps give the collar great structure and polish. 
  • How simple it was. I was able to knock the sewing together on one day which was a plus :D

What I would change for next time:
  • Line the sleeves like a boss.
  • Go a contrast lapel and collar combo as well. I'm loving all the versions I've seen!
  • Ease the sleeve head in properly to get that really defined shape. If I'm rocking an 80s inspired blazer I want to be all up in it Dorothy Zbornak style. Those shoulders need to POP!

    To the left: epic sleeve head fail.
    To the right: owning the sleeves head like a boss.

Hell yeah you own that sleeve head, Dorothy! I like to think had I remained in classroom teaching I too would have developed the almighty power of the Zbornak stare. Sheer. Majesty.

But I digress. This blazer totally makes me feel like I should be on Miami Vice strutting down past the beach with it casually tossed over my shoulder. If you will excuse me there is something I must attend to...

Like. A. Boss.