Pretty ballet skirts.

15 Mar

I made a few ballet skirts last year as part of my sewing for dance teaching. Behold this oh so pretty satin charmeuse ballet wrap skirt.

I bought the leotard online, such a pretty leotard! And, wised up by the too-small black one, I made sure the one I bought actually fitted me. But the colour is a bit unusual and I didn’t have much that ‘worked’ with it. Again I went to Spotlight and auditioned many fabrics. This charmeuse won hands down. So pretty!  When you’re the ballet student in a traditional ballet school like where I do class, (not teach) skirts are supposed to be a bit translucent, like a georgette or a heavy chiffon, but since this was for teaching in my own school with my own rules, a solid fabric was fine ;-P

I had this idea I wanted to do some ballet photography. Couldn’t find a ballet dancer who wanted to be the subject so I used myself. I only have my phone camera which has this stupidly crazily frustratingly long focus time before it takes the photo. This is me discovering how hard it is to hold a perfectly still fifth position releve en pointe. It actually requires tiny little adjustments to not fall over, which blur the photo, or end up with you looking like you have lousy technique. Eh. Wotevs. I had fun trying!

I have also become the proud owner of my very own orange ballet skirt, sadly un-photographed. The photo below is of me wearing one of my school (Where I go for lessons, not teaching!) skirts. That’s the black leotard before I refashioned it. Nice, but too tight lengthways. Makes port de bra (ie waving the arms round prettily) difficult. I forgot to take my own chiffon skirt to class on day. The teacher found this skirt for me in the props cupboard. What a glorious orange! So I went to Spotlight and found (almost) the same colour and made a nice little orange wrap skirt of my own. Nice!

Behold how shiny and un-used my pointe shoes are? They’re much scruffier now after some good few hours on the floor working in them!

The wrap skirt pattern is a rub-off of a black chiffon wrap skirt I bought years ago through my teacher. I had asked her if I could borrow one of the skirts she had for students, to get the pattern from to make myself one. My teacher explained that one of the Ballet Mums made them and sold them for a few extra $$$. Ok, I got the point. I totally understood the value of the handmade skirts and mums needing a bit of extra $$$ for the family budget. I paid my $15 and bought one. However that was over a decade ago. I suspect Ballet Mum’s dancers might be grown-ups now! So I figured she wouldn’t object to me taking a pattern from her skirt and also her neat, quick construction methods to churn out my own. It very neatly cuts out of 1m x 1.12m of fabric. Though it too, is designed for small people. I’m sure mine was the largest size available. I want to grade it to a bigger skirt for people who aren’t shaped the way dance-clothes designers assume they must be.

I have heaps of dance gear I’m planning on sewing this year. Got all the fabrics, just need a big cutting-out session. Dancewear is generally quite quick to whip up, which is nice! High satisfaction return for input. A few dresses to put over my good leotards, a few more dance shorts, and some swishy knit tops for doing pilates in. Try  my hand at leotards. I made one when I first started ballet, like 25 yrs ago when I was 15. But none since! Should be fun. Right? Right!

Sewing for dance part 2

13 Feb

First a non-sewing dance project: A hair bun cover. It actually helped to keep my crazy hair secure in a bun but the shape was weird. Ballerina buns are rounder and flatter than this. Again I had played it safe and followed some (retro) crochet pattern. Next time I’ll keep reworking it till it’s how I want it. It’s made out of ribbon from some awe-inspiringly awesome yarn/embroidery/handicrafty shop in central Sydney years ago. Plenty more for another try, or 20!

Next, a real win created from a fail. I bought a black short-sleeved leotard online, which, in spite of the product description’s measurements, was too short in the body. Or it was assume the dancer’s body would be 1/4 the circumference of mine? (This is very common in rtw ballet gear. Normal-sized, let alone plus-sized people aren’t supposed to dance, apparently *rolls eyes*). I decided I’d lengthen it and transform it into a leotard-dress.

I auditioned many fabric in Spotlight for the part and chose on this gorgeous turquoise and black ‘dry knit’. I took the sleeves off the leotard and replaced them with dry knit triangle cap sleeves. I cut and sewed the sleeve material into a band. Then I took a very deep breath, reminded myself if I didn’t do this I wouldn’t wear the leotard anyway so had nothing to lose, and cut it across under the bust. Next I sewed the band between the bottom and top bits, extending the body by 5cm. I sandwiched the dry knit (1/2 circle) skirt  into the top seam top bit. This neatly hid the rather messy band, too. Like this!

er … Oops!

I found my unpicker and redid it. The below pictures shows the lovely swishy drape of the dry knit skirt.

This is on high rotation as teaching wear. I feel comfortable, my students can see the bits of my body I need them to see and it’s very easy to chuck on over a pair of tights. The fabric was so wide I was able to get a pair of knee-length harem pants of the same style as the blue above, too. I wear them on high rotation too, as they’re practical and comfortable for pilates as well.

Enter a caption

Enjoying myself with dance clothes sewing

10 Jan

I taught ballet to adults in 2016. Of course, one must have the Perfect Work Wardrobe, so I sewed quite a few dance clothes. Of course.

It started well. In March I headed down to Brisbane for training to instruct Barre Attack (A combination of ballet, pilates and fitness). I also checked out a few fabric stores. Of course. I found some great quality lycras – two blues and a grey (not pictured), and some red floral lightweight polyester.

 

I went for some chiffons, too.

The darker blue lycra promptly got sewn up into a pair of shorty-harem pants I wear for pilates and teaching ballet. I used my trusty stretch-knit yoga pants pattern, which is figure-hugging. I just widened the shorts-bit, gathered it onto the pattern’s normal waistband, and gathered the legs onto a leg-band I created.

I made up the red floral and purple floral, and some black chiffon in my stash, into babuchas similar to these below. (No photo of mine, found on pinterest).

Sadly though, they were terrible for teaching (or dancing) ballet in. I was landing from a pirouette while wearing a pair and my toe got caught in the gathered fabric where it joins the band. eeek. Almost fell 😦 So I stuffed all three of them into the back of the wardrobe where all my tango gear hides. Maybe one day I’ll have the health to get back into tango, but for the moment I really just have to focus on ballet.

Argentine Tango Babucha Pants with side slits - "Flowers":

My next project was to use that gorgeous purple chiffon to make something like shown below. For teaching, you understand. For teaching!

The Look: pointe:

Sadly, see the result, below. (sans straps, I didn’t bother with them, they weren’t going to save the dress.

 

Don’t they all look so lovely here?

What went wrong? the pattern was shite. I played it safe by using a commercial simplicity pattern of adult tutus. A sheath with elastic above and below the bust, with gathered elastic shoulder straps in a revoltingly unflattering way. What was I thinking??? Oh yeah that’s right. For teaching. The chiffon is too see-through as well. Or I needed ten layers of it, as it looks to be in the Inspiration Dress.

I still want to have a dress like this, but I’ll design it myself using my peasant top/dress pattern.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my sewing adventures!

 

I accidentally made some Edwardian Drawers.

18 Nov

Yanno, as you do!

Inspiration: I was perusing Wearing History’s patterns when I came across this one

 

I thought to myself ‘Oh I think that’s a circular trouser draft, like the Sunkissed Sweethearts pattern‘ (which also happens to be a Wearing History pattern). Then I thought to myself ‘Oh, but wait! I have a LOT of white broadcloth and voile, I could make one of these using the Sunkissed Sweethearts pattern!’ Then I thought ‘And I could use up all that white lace I keep collecting from op shops. Stashbusting!’

Next thing I knew I’d whipped out the Sunkissed Sweethearts pattern and my copious amounts of white fabric, and had cut out my own rendition of the Edwardian Drawers.

How?

I removed the gathers on the Sweetheart shorts draft (very easy to do) and cut them out in the broadcloth with the curve to the side and extra fabric in the back so I didn’t need closures. The lower part I simply used the curve of the hem on the top part, and cut-and-spread to create a circular ruffle to fit on it.

It was a tiny step from it being cut to having it sewing up. They’re basically elastic-waisted shorts with a fancy ruffle. Too easy! Sewing on the lace took twice as long as it took to make the drawers up. Oh, and unlike in the original pattern description, which has the drawers open in the crotch, I sewed mine together because, like, modern living, like. And I wanted to wear it as outerwear, not underwear!

I put elastic in the front to get it to hug my figure, and a draw-string white ribbon in the back, which ties at the side coz I was silly and put the openings for the drawstring accidentally on the side. Oops!

Around the curve of the upper leg.

Around the lower hem. I need to cut out the fabric from behind the lace. Taking the photo on a darker background might have made it clearer…

I then wore them styled with a white top and a pretty blue sash. The only real FAIL was getting a photo without a silly expression!

You can have me squinting against the glare…

Or me laughing with my eyes closed!

Or a nice expression except my face is turned away from the camera to show off the back.

Back home again, this is to show what it looks like without the top over it. I think they really do look like vintage drawers! *smug*

I love this view. They really do look like so many pictures of Edwardian ladies in their drawers I’ve seen on pinterest. No butt-hugging happening here!

Verdict:

They’re cool, they’re very comfy, they’re very pretty, they’re easy to get on and off. I love them 🙂

No day without a line

9 Nov

‘Remember the painter’s advice to his pupils: Nulla dies sin linea – No day without a line. Nothing is of greater importance than practise.’

From ‘The Manual and theory of Classical Theatrical Dancing (Cecchetti Method)’ by Cyril W Beaumont and Stanislas Idzikowske.

I’m studying for my Ballet teaching qualifications in the Cecchetti school of classical ballet, hence reading ‘The Manual’ as it is affectionately known. The quote got me thinking about all the lines in my life – lines of singing; a line of violin music, the line of the strings and the lines of the bow; a line of written music. Lines of the body in dancing. Lines of dancing interwoven with lines of music. Thousands and thousands of lines of writing and reading.

Oh wait, this is a sewing blog! A line of stitching, a line of pattern, a line of cutting and of course, the inescapable – lines of unpicking ;-P

But the quote is also about practise, and practise is a habit as much as anything else. I’m so out of the habit of blogging about my sewing. I’ve been concentrating so hard on my dance teaching and study this year that the sewing blogging’s fallen by the wayside, especially with the grief of losing Hattie and the strong association she had with my sewing blogging. You know, it’s been over a year, and finally in the past month or so I’ve been able to look at a photo of her without curling up in hurt. So I’m going to celebrate this with a picture of her! Look at her dear little face! And her skull and crossbones name tag, which suited her personality so well!

 

Ok, that’s all I can tolerate for the moment. Moving on hastily … I also started a ballet blog. It was supposed to be the ‘landing page’ for my dance teaching, but in reality the facebook page does that job.

It’s a lot of work to upkeep 2 blogs and one facebook page. I’ve been contemplating closing down the sewing blog and concentrating on the ballet blog. Or vice versa? Lots of lines of thought about my different options!

But all those lines of thought brought me back to the reason I started this blog. I loved reading about other people’s experience of sewing – why they sew what they sew, what challenges they have, how they solved them. And my favourite, the piccies of the outcomes. I wanted to give something back to the online sewing community that I’d gotten so much from. I think these reasons still stand. I might, however, focus more on the whys than the whats though. Just change my focus a tad, see if that is more to my liking.

And getting back to the lines in my life, and the habit of practise, keeping a blog is as much a habit as anything else. I’m going to work to get back into the habit of posting. I’ll aim for once a fortnight. If that’s a bit much I’ll try for every 3 weeks.

As for my ballet blog, while I’m working through what to do with this blog, I also want to work out what I’m doing with my ballet blog. The next few paragraphs aren’t about sewing ok? You’ve been warned 😛 But if anyone has any input about blogs, or online business presence – or even dance writing(!) – I’d love to hear 🙂

Since the blog isn’t doing the job I started it for, do I continue with it? I don’t really know what I want to say through it. I don’t want to write ‘how to do ballet’ stuff. The internet is stuffed with social media covering that. *pfft* No need for me to re-invent the wheel.
I had intended to explore ballet photography, but it hasn’t worked. My phone camera is extremely limiting and I don’t have enough $$ to buy a decent camera. My students aren’t keen on having their pictures taken. I can take pictures of me but … There’s a limit to what I want to put online. Me in clothes I’ve sewn doesn’t seem to worry me. But the dance stuff…? There’s … well, what’s out there is so ‘perfect’, with almost no normal everyday imperfect photos Sewing blogs quite a strong culture of being straightforward and honest about your sewing experiences and your body.
With ballet, I fear that anything I post that’s not ‘perfect’ will open myself up to the vitriol that is out there on the internet, especially against women. It feels like the equivalent of putting online photos of the lingerie you’ve made yourself, ON yourself, with your face clearly showing. In spite of the culture of honesty, most sewing bloggers aren’t prepared to do that. I suspect that’s also why my students aren’t keen on having their photos taken and put on my blog. Essentially, we don’t feel safe enough to put such incredibly personal images of ourselves and our bodies online.

What use then for my ballet blog? Every so often I find something I want to explore. Like the concept of lines. And the concept of the different lines of writing-style between the authors of the different textbooks, which would be my next post if I continue the blog. Then there are just more fun things out there. The more light-hearted side of dance.

There’s also fair bit of crossover between the two blogs. I’m doing a lot of sewing of dance gear. For eg, I chopped up a too-small leotard and added a skirt and cute sleevy-things out of ‘dry knit’ from Spotlight, to create an as-yet unblogged-about ballet-teaching dress. When mum my Reluctant Photographer took photos for this blog she snapped this shot which I think of as my Degas photo. That slight rounding of the shoulders and upper back of a dancer ‘off-duty’, expressive of the fatigue from working so hard is a … well, a line (!) of body I see often in ballet classes. I love how Degas captures the realities of dance. I love how mum captured that in my own stance. Definitely a crossover of concepts between dance and sewing there!

The Ballet Rehearsal on Stage - Edgar Degas - www.edgar-degas.org

 

So maybe I do have things to say on a ballet blog. Just not a huge amount. With my sewing blog there has been plenty of times where I’ve averaged one post a month. I figure that would be just fine for my ballet blog too. Having a goal is always helpful.

We’ll see, I guess.

My new sewing companion

1 Oct

Almost a year ago I lost my sewing companion and bestest friend of 15 1/2 yrs.

It killed my blogging mojo, not least because so many of my sewing photos starred Madame Hat. Or simply just reminded me of her. It’s been a painful year where my heart is concerned. I’ve missed her terribly. I will for a long long time to come. Her pawprint on my heart and my life was huge.

Within a few weeks of losing Hattie another feline took over my life. The vet said this was normal – people who lose a loved pet usually get another one within 3 weeks. Seriously? Yes, apparently.

‘Im takin over ur chairz and ur hartz!’

I went to the RSPCA animal shelter about 2 weeks after Hattie died, to simply pat the cats there, to remind myself there were other cats in the world even if my heart was far too sore to contemplate a new feline companion.

But you see, we have a rowdy dog who believed cats are Things To Chase (Hattie loved this. An excuse to bash up something!) Any cat that can handle such a dog has to have a certain aplomb … And at the shelter a tiny grey and apricot kitten unceremoniously pushed her bigger brothers away from the food bowl and devoured it all herself. Then she then curled up on my foot and fell asleep.

Of course I had to take her home!

I picked her up off my foot, snuggled her close and asked if she’d like to come home with me and be my new Sewing Companion. She purred.

Was this a yes or no?

The shelter worker assured me the kitten’s ambivalence was simply because she didn’t know what a Sewing Companion was, but was confident she’d soon figure it out.

I named my new little overlord Ma’at, in the family tradition of giving cats Egyptian names.

Ma’at’s baby photo (Don’t mind the butterfly decal on the mirror!)

Her first forays into sewing companionedness was batting bobbins around. Then thread reels. Then unpickers. Then more thread.

Then it evolved into playing with all my sewing things – after tossing them all onto the floor.

She soon discovered the joy of pulling the pins out of my pin-cushion with her teeth and tossing them on the floor too. So the pins now live safely locked away in a tin container…

Eventually she got the right idea. Here she is practising being a pattern weight on the thick paper I draft patterns on. She has since successfully graduated to  ripping weighing down delicate pattern tissue paper over 40 yrs old.

Here she has mastered the art of adorning fabric to enhance it’s beauty.

Here her head has fallen off the board while she’s fast asleep, bringing a new twist to the Essential Sewing Companion Skill of sleeping on the ironing board.

And the most important sewing companion duty of all, photo-bombing my sewing pictures. Most photos show her blurred because unless fast asleep she’s perpetually in motion – invariably up to some mischief. (Another nightie, from Micheal Miller flower fairies, using Simplicity 1898)

Miss Ma’at’s chosen chair is the sewing chair. When I want to use it she refuses to relinquish it.

She’s also become a rather good ballet dancer, having been taking lessons with me for almost a year now.

After Madame Hat’s iron paw,  you might think life with such a little cutie is easier. No. She’s a real handful. As my mum put it ‘A little cat with a huge personality’. (She’s never grown very big). She’s a larrikin – a HUGE larrikin in an itty bitty cat-shaped body. She’s so inquisitive and interactive that, combined with the larrikin attitude, she’s always in some misadventure or other. She’s almost a year and a half old now, yet the misadventures still come as thick and fast as they did the day I brought her 3 month old self home.

So much so I’ve come to realise that Ma’at is not named after the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth and justice. It is, in fact a contraction of the name ‘Mad Cat’ 😀

Sunkissed sweethearts shorts

2 Aug

My first make from Wearing History patterns and definitely not my last! I’m going to use the questions used for the Vintage Pattern Pledge as a template for the post, coz I liked them 🙂

Pattern details

Wearing History 1940’s Sunkissed Sweetheart separates

A top, sarong-skirt and shorts. Here’s what the website says about them:

This pattern is for playful 1940s tropical separates including tie top, shorts, and a sarong skirt.  This pattern was inspired by an original 1940s pattern and has been built on a vintage block but has been updated for an improved fit, easy to read pattern pieces, and brand new step-by-step illustrated instructions.

The blouse has short sleeves with gathering along a curved seam forming a faux yoke. It ties at center front right below the bust.
The shorts hit at the natural waist and have the same accent gathering along the curved seam at each hip. The extra gathered fabric creates a graceful and playful line, perfect for warm summer days!
The sarong skirt is a wrap skirt, and at the front, tying at the inside hip, then wraps and ties at the left hip. The gathers create graceful draping. This can be made in a short for daytime or long for evening.

And it’s pretty much what it says on the packet. I bought the e-version of this and printed and taped it together. I made up the shorts, but I had a good look at the sarong-skirt and top too. I plan on using the top as a base for a button-up shirt one day.

The shorts are made using a semi-circle draft, which makes them much more swishy than the piccies make them look.

The pattern was well-drafted, well thought through, with easy to follow instructions. And the design so cute!

What attracted you to this pattern?

Well funny enough it was the top, not the shorts. As mentioned before, I want to make it into a button-up top, but keeping the gathered-yoke effect on the shoulders. So pretty! But in my life, shorts tend to be in high demand. So this image from the Wearing History site ended up being the one that really caught my eye.

And then I realised I had the perfect fabric for it, someone sent it to me as a stash-buster which was so lovely of them. It is a lilacy-pink rayon/linen blend with pretty same-coloured embroidery on it, with a lovely soft drape. It was a bit pinker than I thought it was based on photos of the stashbusting offer, which kind of put me off the fabric for quite a while.

But you know how it goes, the pattern and/or fabric can sit in your stash for ages and ages and suddenly, the moment you know exactly what you want to use it for, it practically sews itself up while you’re still going ‘Heeeeyy!!! Great idea!’

And this was the case with the shorts. I don’t have just the right fabric for the top yet. I presume when I do, it will be sewn up almost before I finish thinking how great that fabric will look in the top pattern ;-P

Wearing History 1940s Sunkissed Sweetheart shorts.

 

Me stretching in the shorts. Showing the entirety of the front of the shorts. The subtle fullness created by the gathers is so pretty.

Wearing History 1940s Sunkissed Sweetheart shorts

 

As you can see, there’s a bit of pleating and excess fabric at the sides. Since it’s a circular draft, where the fullness of the circle falls is dependent on the shape of the waist seam. In other words, next time I’ll make the curve of the waistband over the front and back legs a bit deeper and the sides a bit shallower, which will help drape some of that fabric more evenly around the body. I am not sure if they’re drafted to get the excess at the sides, or in not putting on a proper waistband the waist of the shorts don’t sit on my body the way they were designed too. Don’t get me wrong though. These shorts are really lovely just as they are and on high rotation in my wardrobe. So is the (unblogged) shirt I’m wearing in these pictures actually. I’m so behind in my blogging!

Wearing History 1940s Sunkissed Sweetheart shorts

Sewing it up

I simply bound the waist in bias binding rather than do a proper waistband like the pattern has. It’s cooler that way.
Ok, so I was Nervous about the faux yoke, but it was well-drafted and the pattern instructions perfectly clear. It turned out to be ridiculously easy to sew. A note though: you can’t do much fitting of the side seams without mucking up the pretty yoke effect. Luckily the measuring I did of the flat pattern and comparing to my own measurements had worked well so I didn’t need to fit the sides seams, but I thought it would help to know that if you’re sewing the shorts yourself.

Also, see the pretty embroidery on the fabric? Nice!

Wearing History 1940s Sunkissed Sweetheart shorts

 

I used a pair of well-fitting trousers to fit the crotch seam. The original pattern’s crotch seam is low, and fairly shapeless, really, in keeping with the kind of crotch shapes used at the time. I prefer the modern sort!

I did another pair in a knit, and they just didn’t work, and weren’t going to work. I had changed the style from semi-circular to more straight-legged and that, and the combination of the fabric, made them look like dowdy little old lady shorts. *shudders*

Of course, in this photo the shorts look just fine, *rolls eyes* but I felt so dowdy in them there was no point finishing them. They’re now re-cut and half-made up into a pair of capri-length leggings!

Wearing History 1940s Sunkissed Sweetheart shorts

I have to laugh at my pose. Look at the outstretched arm. Yes, I do dance ballet!

Verdict

I love this pattern! I’m sure I’ll end up sewing all three items eventually. And probably more than one pair of shorts from it as they are, like the pattern description says, ‘perfect for warm summer days’ and thus perfect for the tropics! The yoke is very feminine while still maintaining practicality in the best of 1940s style. And I’m very impressed with Wearing History patterns. Which is good coz they have heaps I want to buy and make up one day!

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