Friday, August 22, 2014

Denim slides!

I've made some shoes!!!  This is my first foray into "proper" footwear.  Yeah, I made slippers recently, but I'm not counting those.  And technically these are slides, which are pretty basic things on the shoe scale, really.
But still.  They are real shoes!  Wooooooooooooooo!
ok, I'm sorry, calming down now.  I'm just a bit excited about them  :)
So, for ages I've dreamt longingly about having a go at making my own shoes.  However cool stuff like shoe-making courses are just not on offer here in Perth.  Well that's just that and it can't be helped, but life is too short to not do stuff that you really want to do, right? so I just decided to GO FOR IT!  havva go, just DO it, whatever, even without a teacher or the tools or even the faintest idea of what I was doing.
The choice of denim; well every time, and I mean every time my friend J and I go out on girly shopping trips, as we head into our favourite shoe stores I say for the eleventy-billionth time; "ooh, I really would like a pair of denim- or denim-coloured shoes."  I've often though they would be sooooo useful and would go with a lot of my wardrobe.  I mean, we all know denim jeans go with everything, right?  So, it stands to reason, denim shoes should go with everything too.  And; quick aside; honestly, why has that thought not occurred to shoe-makers yet?  Because so far my search for denim-y shoes has been one big, long, mournful FAIL.  It's sad, but they are a non-existent beast.  Or should that be a pair of non-existent beasts, maybe?  I still wanted them though.  
And now I have some!
Now; before I introduce my procedure for making these, obviously I am no expert and I have no idea what I'm doing.  I'm making it up as I go along with educated guesses, and I don't have the proper equipment, like lasts or an industrial sewing machine.  I'm sure shoe-making experts would look at my efforts here and roll about, laughing helplessly at how awful they are.  It's true, they are far from perfect.  Hopefully I can improve!
For the bases I used two balsa wood blocks from Bunnings; chosen mainly because I spotted them and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I drew a template of each of my feet, overlaid/combined them to draw a single "master" template.  I used a coping saw to cut out the main chunks and get the right shape; and then three sheets of sandpaper to smooth and contour, ranging from super rough to light.  I used the roughest sandpaper to do most of the contouring for my foot pads and heel pads to sit in the base nice and snug and comfortable.
Shaping/contouring the wooden bases to be equal-sized and -shaped mirror images to each other and to fit my feet was the MOST time consuming part of the whole thing.  Really, ten progress photos slotted in here would be a fair and accurate representation of this step rather than just one; but that would be extremely boring, so...
I used an pair of old jeans for the denim.
I cut long strips for the side coverings, and topstitched the ends down using orange thread, to match the orange thread usually used in jeans topstitching.  Glued it in place using PVA exterior wood glue.  I chose this glue because it was not too quick-drying therefore easy to work with, and yet is still super hardwearing and durable and dries to a hard, water-resistant finish.  Not waterproof, mind you.  NOT that I'm planning to wear my shoes to slosh about in puddles or anything like that, aiyiyi perish the thought!
Clipped the curves etc, to minimise overlapping, so the edges would lie as flat as possible; and glued them down, upper and under.
Made a template for the top bits via the auditioning of a thousand "muslins"; well, not really, but it felt like it.  The winning design was cut so as to make a feature of the existing jeans' side seam with the allowances double top-stitched down in that distinctive shade of Levi's orange.  The tops are double layered; lined with plain denim, sewn right sides together then turned out and under-stitched.  The excess at the sides was trimmed to wrap right around underneath my foot then glued in place.
I made a padded insert by trimming a purchased foam shoe insert from Coles to fit, then stitching to a piece of denim around the edge using orange thread.  The ends were clipped, turned under and everything glued in place. 
I covered the curved part of the sole with denim...
Finally, I cut thick rubber floor matting (Bunnings) to fit the soles using a stanley knife, and glued this in place.  This will be quite hard-wearing and will stand up to a lot of knocks, hopefully.
Making these was an interesting experiment, and a learning exercise in how not to do a few things.  Yes, a second pair of shoes is in the pipeline already.  My second pair will definitely be better, I think.  My first mistake; balsa wood does not hold nails, thus the need for lots of glue.  I'm definitely going for harder wood and nails in the future.
The big question for me is: am I going to dare to actually wear my shoes? outdoors? like, for a full day?  well today I almost did since I was meeting my same friend J for lunch, and I thought they went really nicely with my outfit... but then I chickened out!  Too many puddles around from the recent rain :S  
Maybe I'll just keep them exclusively for me-made May, haha!  ;)   
No, of course I'll wear them, but it's going to be hard to avoid babying them.  I'm ridiculously pleased with them.  Well so far, until I can make something better anyway!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dusting slippers

I've made something useful; slippers, that clean!
I pinned these mopping slippers a while ago, and have now got around to making my own.  See, we have no carpets in our house and lots of animals; meaning furry dust-bunnies appear on a daily basis to scurry and swirl across the floor like mini tumbleweeds across the desert.  Meaning I'm forever getting out my big floor dusting mop thing out from where it lives in the cupboard under the stairs and doing the sweep of the house.  Which is a chore.  Well, now I can do the same job just by performing graceful balletic sweeps with my dainty pointed toes into the corners of the room, as I glide about the house, doing whatever I'm already doing, without having to go and fetch the duster.  Hands-free.
Which is not a chore, but fun!
Well, that's the theory, anyhow  :) 
Making them is a very simple procedure...
I bought a couple of  dusting pad refills; and also used some extra odds and sods from around the place; a thick cleaning sponge for padding so they are comfortable to walk around in on our hard floors, and an old towel for the straps and lining.  I also used a bit of an old bedsheet to "interface", if you will; effectively it's there to stabilise and hold all the lining and padding bits together.   The sponge I used for padding is actually a bit smaller than my feet but it still does provide a nice soft comfy padding when I'm walking around on them.  I already had these in my cleaning cupboard, which was lucky!  The sponge is very thick, so I cut it into three layers like you would a sponge cake. 
I drew a template of my foot and cut out two generously sized versions out of the towelling and bedsheet lining, sandwiched a piece of the sponge between them and sewed the three layers together around the edge of the sponge.  
Then cut the foot straps from the edges of the towelling, making use of the existing selvedge on one side and hemming the other edge.  Fitted it to my foot dimensions, making them nice and snug so they stay on my feet ok; but not so tight that I can't slip my foot in easily in one go.
Finally cut the micro fibre dusting pad with a big fold over allowance all around the edges, and simply folded the edges over as I went along, top-stitching it down around the edge.
Dust bunnies; begone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

an Icelandic hoodie for Tim

*another week of furious knitting later*  and I've made an Icelandic hoodie for Tim, my birthday present to him.   He chose the Grein design on p108 of Knitting with Icelandic Wool, the knitting book I bought while in Iceland, but wanted it to be a zip-up hoodie.  
I guess I should have seen that coming;  a hoodie is far more his thing, and since obviously you want them to want to wear it, I complied.  It's not hard to convert the jumper to a hoodie, but it's a little bit more work and takes about one extra ball.  The hoodie is still knitted in one piece like Sam's jumper with two short grafted seams underneath each armhole.  However, instead of knitting in the round I just split the front in two, continued knitting on for the hood, and afterwards neatened up the opening front edges with one row of single crochet. Finally I sewed in an open ended zip (Spotlight) by machine.  Which means yes, unlike Sam's jumper which was mostly a blissfully heavenly affair of mindless non-stop knitting, in this case I had to turn around and do purl rows as well.  Not quite as quick and mindless as knitting in the round, something I find to be an enjoyably zen-like meditative exercise.  I had to actually think about it, harrumph...
The book doesn't have any adult sized hoodies that I could use the pattern for - and can I just say, what were they thinking?! - so in consultation with Craig's Icelandic hoodie that we bought over there I knitted Tim's the following way:

After finishing the yoke pattern and before knitting the neck hole ribbing, you have 72 st on the needle and wrong side facing...
change to 4.5mm needle, P one row, inc 1 st in centre of row (73 st)
(K1 P1) repeat until last st, K1
(P1 K1) repeat until last st, P1
rep last 2 rows once (4 rows of ribbing)
change to 6mm needle;
(P1 K1) twice, P1, K to last 5 st, (P1 K1) twice, P1
(P1 K1) twice, P1, P to last 5 st, (P1 K1) twice, P1
rep last 2 rows until work measures 35cm from last rib row
divide row in half, fold halves wrong sides together, and graft stitches together.
This gives you a plain stocking stitch hood with a wide moss stitch border.
I used Alafoss Lopi, in the colours, from left:
indigo (9959), light indigo (9958), light denim heather (0008), ecru heather (9972) and black heather (0005).   
Actually, using that ecru heather, a leftover from Sam's jumper, was a punt.  The white-ish parts of this jumper were supposed to be ash heather, a pale grey,  however I ended up having to use most of the that ball for Sam's jumper.  And since I ended up with more of the ecru heather leftover than I did of the ash heather, I used that, hoping that there might be enough to do the pattern in this jumper.  The gods were smiling upon me, because there was, just enough!
Funny barely amusing story; the night I was getting close to the end of the ecru heather strip I stayed up til, like 12.30 or 1am or something crazy like that, knitting like a mad thing, because I just could not stand the suspense; would I have enough of the ecru heather, or would I not??  I HAD to know!!
The relief when I did was, er, palpable.
Yeah, my life is filled with gripping moments like that  ;)
And now, well!    I only finished the hoodie today and I'm actually dying to leap straight into a new knitting project, like, right now! start a rather special new design that I came across recently.
But my wrists are aching.   :(
Maybe a little break is in order .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

burnt brown bootlegs

I've made some jeans/pants/jeggings type of things... hmmm, I'm still not sure what to call these!  
My oldest jeans, my olive/greys, are holding up so well, the best out of all my jeans! and I think it's due to the fabric.  They are made of a very stretchy and thin synthetic bengaline stuff from Fabulous Fabrics, and I've been keeping a look out for fabric like this in colours that would fit in with my wardrobe.  Last week at Spotlight I got lucky at last.  It's not identical to the olive/grey fabric, but pretty darn close; and the colour!  Dark mustard, burnt toffee, desert, tobacco, dirt, tawny brown, however you'd describe it; it's perfect for me.  I also bought some of the same fabric in a very pale coffee colour, so if I get enthusiastic I'll make that up soon too.
I used my old favourite Burda 7863.  This is my eighth? version of this pattern I think... man I'm so boring.   Oh well, at least I know it works!
Pattern alterations; a sway back adjustment, rtw jeans order of construction and a zip placket, all these modifications described here.  and a couple of decorative part-circles top-stitched onto each pocket,using a dinner plate and tailor's chalk to mark.  The designs are mirror image of each other on the two butt pockets.
This fabric has the stretch going parallel to the selvedge; so you have to remember to lay your pieces crosswise to the grain.  And note to self, lay the waistband with the length crosswise too! otherwise you will have to rip it off and cut a new one.  And replace it.  Grrr.

Details:
Jeans; Burda 7863, burnt brown bengaline, my review of this pattern here
Blouse; Burdastyle magazine 10-2010/102, ivory brushed cotton, details and my review of this pattern here
Socks; knitted by me, here
Shoes, Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Thursday, August 7, 2014

an Icelandic jumper for Sam

This is my first project from Knitting with Icelandic Wool, a knitting book I bought as a souvenir from Iceland on our recent trip away.  The jumper is my birthday present to Sam  and it's um, only two months late... yikes! but here's the thing... while we were travelling in Iceland and I was admiring all the gorgeous Icelandic jumpers on everyone there, I hit upon the bright idea of knitting one for each of my boys for their birthdays.  And so it seemed only fair to let them choose the style and the colours that they wanted.  And I thought at first that I would use Australian merino.  I'm very loyal to Australian wool, you see  :) so I took quite a bit of time searching for something of a suitable gauge here but sadly I actually couldn't find anything.  So decided I would go completely authentically Icelandic and use Alafoss Lopi.  And so of course I had to order the wool from Iceland, and then wait for it to arrive and then knit the thing... so two months late is not too bad all these things considered!  I've been knitting like an absolute maniac since the wool arrived! I started it last Wednesday, and finished it exactly a week later, which is not too bad if I say so myself!  and fortunately Sam doesn't mind that it's a bit late.  We still have a few months of cold weather ahead so he can wear it for a bit longer this year.  And there's next year too.  I'm hoping it will be lifelong classic for him :)
 Sam chose the Alafoss jumper on p38 of the book, incidentally also featured at top left on the cover of the book, above.  According to the blurb the colour pattern on the yoke is the first ever pattern published by the Alafoss wool factory in the 1960's.  
The colours I used are, from left:  ash heather (0054), ecru heather (9972), grey heather (0057), dark grey heather (0058) and black heather (0005).  I changed the design just a little bit on the strip second from the top but otherwise stuck exactly to the pattern.  The design is knitted in the fair isle style, and completely in the round with no joining seams, aside from two short grafting rows under the arms.  Grafted seams really do look so much nicer than sewn seams imo, so I think that's a nice feature.  
I do have one, well I have to say it's a fairly major gripe wrt the pattern; for Sam's size S the pattern stipulated 5 balls of the main colour.  Well, it's extremely fortunate that I had bought another, 6th ball of this colour for Tim's jumper, since you actually need well into that ball to make this size. And it's not even a close call, I used about half of that sixth ball.  Now I'm sweating a bit, planning the re-jig of the colours in Tim's design so I can actually finish his jumper with the remaining wool that I have.  I'll have to incorporate some of the leftovers from Sam's jumper otherwise I simply will not have enough!   Not happy, Jan... 
As a last resort, yes, I could order more wool, but the postage from Iceland was so astronomical I'm really hoping I can successfully work something out with what I've got.
Anyhow, that's the fault of the pattern; I am glad I did use the Alafoss Lopi!  Icelandic wool is renowned for being thick and lofty and at the same time very lightweight.  This jumper looks as thick as and it is amazingly warm, but surprisingly it is as light as a cloud! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

a split-backed top

Once upon a time there was a shirt, a man's shirt.  This shirt was superficially unremarkable, but was made out of a wonderful microfibre that had extraordinarily silk-like properties.  Soft, ripply, with a quietly glossy sheen, it felt wonderfully cool and smooth against the skin just like silk; but unlike silk it was as tough as guts.    It barely ever needed ironing, thus earning the everlasting approval of the laundry maid of the house. 
 After a few years of regular wear it was designated "old", signalling the end of any special care in its laundering, from then on it just got tossed in the machine with jeans, whatever, no special cycle.  It soldiered on, looking just exactly as lusciously silky as it always had.  
The Indestructible Shirt.  Winning further admiration from the laundry maid, who alone in the household truly appreciated such a magical fabric ... all the benefits of silk but without the maintenance... ! o-kaaaay!
After twenty years of use, its owner carelessly tossed it in the Salvoes bag, whereupon the laundry maid astutely retrieved it and planned a feminine new life for it, hehehehehe.

The End.
Well maybe more like a brand new beginning!

Technical bizzo...
The pattern is Vogue 8879, view B.  Funny thing; Spotlight had a $5 pattern sale last week, I bought um, 6 patterns *blush* call Patternaholics Anonymous; I need help!! anyway, I bought some of the more glamorous interesting and unusual designer Vogues that caught my eye, and then this funny unassuming little one too.  Guess which one was the one I was most excited to try out first.  Ha!
I love the split back; it's quite elegant in my opinion, and just quietly sexy without being the least bit tarty.
The old shirt was completely cut it apart to make the new one,  and I modified the existing button band and sewn-on buttons to accommodate the split back.  The old front is now the back of the new shirt, and the old back is the new front.  The sleeves! it often astounds me how difficult it can be to cut a new thing from an old thing even if you think the old thing has masses of fabric; the sleeve pattern pieces barely fitted on the old sleeves, taking up the full length of the sleeve from the cuff to the armscye!  Amaaazing!
One new buttonhole was required at the very top, and the left breast pocket was picked off and repositioned it at a funky angle on the lower front of the top.  All the seams are flat felled to honour the original beautifully flat felled seams in the original shirt: although obviously none of the original seams remain after it was hacked apart I still felt compelled to try and reproduce those immaculate finishes in its new incarnation too.
Rather than the quirky but fabric-hungry twisted sleeve bands of the pattern, I made hidden, shaped facings for the lower edge of the sleeves instead and I finished the neck edge with a narrow bias cut strip; these were cut from a scrap of deep blue real silk, the leftovers from this top, and stitched, under-stitched then top-stitched.
One thing: the pattern stipulates two way stretch fabrics only; but I found that this view B is so loose and easy fitting that my decidedly non-stretchy microfibre version is absolutely fine to slip on over my head.  Don't need to un-do even a single button.
So it's got that going for it too!

Details:
Top; Vogue 8879 view B, blue microfibre, a refashioned mens' shirt
Skirt; my own design based on Vogue 7303, white stretch lace, details here
Thongs; Havaianas

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mum's Alabama Chanin skirt

I am so glad that Mum brought around her finished Alabama Chanin skirt for me to ooh and ah over; and has allowed me to photograph her wearing it and to show it here on my blog too... thank you so much, Mum!
This is the mid-length skirt from the book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, by Natalie Chanin.  Mum used a deep blue upper layer over a black lower layer, both cotton jerseys bought in Tessuti's in Melbourne during our truly fah-bulous Mum/daughter/grand-daughter trip over there together last November.
The upper layer is stencilled with the Anna's Garden design from the same book, enlarged by 306%, then the two layers are embroidered together using Gutermann's upholstery thread in a pale grey.  The stencilled areas are then cut away in the "reverse appliqué"  method to reveal the black under-layer.  Mum used a doubled strand of upholstery thread as per the book's instructions, but found the two strands a pain in the neck to work with; they constantly got twisted up awkwardly together and were subsequently difficult to pull through.  Just for comparison sake, I used only a single strand in embroidering my own two pieces.
The surface embroidery is all done by hand of course, and Mum decided to sew the finished pieces together by machine.  The waistband is pale grey fold over elastic, also from Tessuti's.
The stencil was applied to the upper layer in watered-down acrylic house paint using a small foam roller as described here.  Since I did the stencilling for Mum I know there is one more piece in the works!  and now I'm roolly excited to see that one too!  :)