Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Bonanza of Buttons

Well I didn't only give sewing-related presents this year - I got some as well! My dear Mum gave me a lovely gift card to my fave EmmaOneSock, my brother got me a gift card to Mood,  and then I came home to Boston to one final pressie... a massive box of buttons!

These came to me from none other than the Negroni-clad Anthony! There's a fantastic back story: he met up with a 97 year old woman in San Francisco, whose husband was a button salesman in the 1950s. They looked through my blog together and chose buttons they thought I'd like! And wow there are some beauties. One thing to note is that none of them are plastic - they're all bakelite, wood, clay and more. 

I can't wait to use the two on the left below - they reflect the light beautifully. Then bottom right is an amazing enamelled peacock button, a beautiful metal one, and a very cool fringed button which I can see on my next coat. 

Then we have some crystal hand-carved cats from the Czech Republic, and a 97 year old abalone specimen!

I love these white and blue ringed lovelies, and then there's some very unusual smooshed clay numbers.

A bevvy of wooden buttons, and some cool carved bakelite numbers.

I don't usually sew much in a vintage style, but I just adore so many of these buttons, and I'm quite overwhelmed both with the thoughtfulness and generosity of Anthony, and the many possibilities for using them all! Do you know any cool patterns that could show off some cute buttons? I'm thinking maybe a button back top... 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Best sewing for others of 2014

While most of my sewing is for myself, I do enjoy occasionally branching out and sewing for others (the golden rule: don't ask/badger me to do it!). Here are some of my faves - excluding Christmas makes which get their own showcase.

First up, two garments for my little brother Tom: Thread Theory's Strathcona Henley and Jebediah Shorts. I love Thread Theory: their patterns are modern, well fitting and appropriately masculine. I made the henley from Robert Kaufmann laguna jersey which was gorgeous to work with, and the shorts from cotton twill. Boys clothes are so fun to make - no pesky curves to deal with! 

Thread Theory Strathcona Henley
Thread Theory Jebediah shorts
For my summer-housemate Andrea, the freebie StyleArc Rosie top to add to her black ponte peplum wardrobe (trust me, she's got a lot). I keep on meaning to make one for myself but haven't quite got around to it yet... hopefully soon.

StyleArc Rosie top
This summer, I whipped up a quick Moneta maxi for my pregnant friend Anna as the perfect casual everyday just-throw-it-on dress and it got lots of wear, including at her baby shower.

Maternity Moneta Maxi
And finally, my canine friends! Emily's dogs got a new tweed dog bed courtesy of Zimman's fabrics and a night on my serger.

Do you sew for friends and family, or do you have a strict no-sewing-for-others policy? I love doing the occasional project, especially if it becomes a loved garment, but too much definitely wears you out. Keep a watchout for more updates on this year's Christmas presents though! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Colette Negroni for a West Coast Lumberjack

Happy Boxing Day readers! I hope you had a great Christmas or other holiday of your choice. And now the Christmas gift posts can commence. 

You know, the only thing better than making garments for other people that they love? Seeing awesome photos of those garments!

Let me present to you my good friend Anthony, in his new Colette Negroni

Colette Negroni shirt

If you follow my antics on Instagram you might recognize Anthony as my pal who I gallivant around the world with. Most recently, I was visiting him in Berkeley and we popped into Stonemountain and Daughter for a wee peruse of their lovely fabrics. Now Anthony is a wise, wise man who knows me well. And therefore he knows better than to actually ask me to sew him something. However, his understated strategy paid off: accompany me to countless fabric shops over the years, show lots of interest in Cashmerette, have a particular fashion style... and voila! I found this cotton flannel at S&D which suited him perfectly and volunteered to make him a shirt. 

Colette Negroni shirt

I knew the Negroni would be a great pattern to use as Anthony prefers slim fit shirts - I made the S, slightly tapering out through the body. I pattern matched like a boss through the front, and then took the easy way out with bias pockets, cuffs, yoke and collar. This is my third time making this pattern and it's nice to see how it gets a little easier, and a little more professional looking each time. 

Colette Negroni shirt

Colette Negroni shirt

Anthony found this shirt useful not only for being a lumberjack (a lumbersexual p'rhaps?) but also having snowball fights: 

Colette Negroni shirt

and thinking deep thoughts of Thoreau in the woods near Spooner Lake, CA:

Colette Negroni shirt

I don't want to cause a public disturbance, so that's the end of your eye candy quotient for today. Big thanks to Anthony for the Christmas day posing and Jonas for the awesome photos. 

Colette Negroni shirt

 Did you make any man-gifts this year, dear readers? I feel like shirts always go down well as people think you're magic to be able to make them! And I'll keep up the idea that I'm magic whenever I can.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The *deep sighs* of 2014

Well they can't all be successes! Trying new things and taking risks is the only way to improve, but it also inevitably means some garments don't come out quite as planned... Here are the three big projects I did this year that were challenging.

Let's start with my (infamous) green simplicity coat.. Ah, where to start? I learned not to automatically block fuse coating (and maybe never to do it for cashmere), to always muslin if you're making even small changes to a design, and that it's pretty darned difficult to make a bright, bold, smooth fabric look perfect.

All that said: I have a recovery plan! I have a lovely fur collar, so what I need to do now is remove the standing collar, nip it in more at the waist and hip, and then figure out a way to attach the collar. I'm pretty confident the coat will look good then... Cross your fingers for me.

Next up, a "blah" knit dress: the StyleArc Jessica. It's not awful, but it's also not great - I had to adjust the pattern a lot to stop it looking totally terrible, and the instructions were very odd and partial. This has ended up being a wadder, as I'm not going to wear something I don't like when I have so many other better options!

And finally, my Closet Case Files Bombshell. Oh, how I loved this swimsuit! It's super flattering (after I graded it up - tutorial here), and the fabric was super cute. Alas, the fabric was also shoddy - the dye started running even before I wore it. And then as soon as it was on me, I had blue dye smearing across my legs. Girl Charlee eventually gave me a refund after I agreed to send the suit back to them, but it was really sad to not be able to wear it for the summer. Next year I'll be making one with better quality fabric!

So there we have it: a year with a couple of "learning experiences" shall we say. However, the general ratio of good to bad was pretty good, so I'm not complaining. Did you have any wadders in 2014? Will you be attempting to recover them, or are you once and done?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A very jolly Christmas crafternoon!

It's the most wonderful time of the crafting year! Crafternoons have been on a hiatus for a while between work travel and sewing-sewing, so it was well overdue for a reunion. 

And that's how I came to have all these lovely ladies in my house with snacks, fabric, glue, snacks and more snacks!

We made ornaments and trees using a papier-mache technique but with fabric instead (tissu-mache?!). Here's my dotty number: 


Katy displayed her superior skills with a perfectly crafted diamond pendant

While Anna made a Christmas tree which bore an uncanny resemblance to Will Ferrell's hat in Elf


Emily put together a rather fancy Christmas tree, and here's Nina showing off her seasonal bike sign ornament, a reminder of our awesome Asia bike trip


Hurray for crafty ladies! It was a delight as always, and here's to more in 2015. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pickup sticks wrap dress

Brrrrr it's cold here! I think these are probably the last outdoor shots you'll be seeing at Cashmerette for quite some time. Now if only I had a blank wall in my apartment...  In the meantime I braved frostbite to take some photos of my latest make in the lovely Boston Public Library courtyard.

The fun here is all about the fabric (yep the pattern is the Christine Jonson wrap again): it's a Theory knit that I got a few months ago from EmmaOneSock, and it appears to be a photographic print of bits of black gaffer tape.. very unusual! Linda had nearly run out of it, so she shared the last 4 panels with me, which, as luck would have it, was just enough for a border-print wrap dress and one sleeve. It was printed rather off grain - so much so in fact (maybe 20% off?), that I think it may have been intentional - but I didn't have much option but to follow the pattern. As a result, it sits just slightly oddly.. not terrible, but I can see that it doesn't drape as nicely as my usual wrap dresses.

What do we think of the one sleeve asymmetric look? It's about as edgy as I go.. and I'll admit that I had a back-up sleeve in white all prepared as backup! 

Due to the sheer nature of the knit, I followed the original instructions and made a self-lined bodice for extra opacity - the only downside is that it has a little bit of gape compared to my normal neckline-band finish. I wore a slip to make sure it was also opaque in the skirt. 

So another wrap dress for my stable: I breed them like racehorses. This one's definitely a bit more at the edge of my style, but I think it's going to grow on me over time. 

And thanks as ever to my photography and styling crew... this pic can also help you appreciate how cold it actually was! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My top 5 most-worn patterns of 2014

One rather unusual thing about writing a sewing blog is that it's an online visual diary of your wardrobe, which makes it fun and easy to look back over your makes. 2014 was the year that my sewing got a lot better - no doubt I have a long, long way to go, but at the same time, I know that my techniques and accuracy improved over the past year, and there were a lot of firsts. Coats! Swimsuits! Final getting the wrap dress down pat! 

So first up, my top patterns of 2014, as measured by how often I wore them during the year. I'm a TNT girl as will become rapidly evident, but it's also clear to me that they're TNT for a reason: because I wear them all the time. 

First up, the Colette Moneta. I still wear my first one, made of doubleknit from EmmaOneSock, all the time - it's such a fantastic comfortable everyday dress, which looks great with gold accessories and a bright yellow cardi. I recently made another stripy version but this time with contrast sleeves and raised stripes - and this one doesn't even need ironing! Double bonus. A quick hack later and I had a Moneta maxi pattern, and I lived in my black and white one all summer. Sadly the fabric from Girl Charlee was poor quality and was bobbling and tearing within a few washes... I"ll just have to make a new version for next year. And then I also made another maxi with short sleeves which I took on my Cambodian trip, and was the perfect post-bike-ride coverup. 

Clockwise from top left: the original stripy; the arty stripy;
maxi in Cambodia; maxi on the roof

Then, what else but my Christine Jonson adjusted wrap dress pattern? I put together a wrap dress assembly line which was very productive: 4 dresses in a week! And I made another 2 which I didn't even get to putting on the blog. Wrap dresses are my ultimate go-to for work - smart, a bit fun with the right fabric, and they always fit you regardless of weight fluctuations. I wear them with camisoles because I like the deeper v-neck silhouette it gives, and it makes me feel a little more covered up for work.

Clockwise from top left: Oonapalooza; day at the museum;
  black and white; St John knit
Next up, the M6931 skirt. I never would have guessed how much I  would like this pattern when I saw it on Instagram and made an impulse buy - but the combination of pleats and a wide elasticated waist (that isn't too obviously elasticated) makes it smart and fun which being incredibly comfortable (spot a theme?!). It's awesome for all types of floaty fabric - so far I've made it in cotton voile, poly crepe de chine and silk twill. 

Clockwise from top left: Flamingos!; last skirt of summer;
cloudy skirt

On the smarter side, my black ponte and pique Burda dress has been a total hit. I don't think I've ever had an item of clothing so simultaneously elegant and comfortable (yeah, that again...). It suits me really well, and has kept looking good through washings. I wore this to present at a bunch of different conferences this year as it's the perfect neutral option, but I also glammed it up with some polka dot tights and loud jewelry for my office Christmas party. 

Burda Jersey dress

And finally the piece de resistance of 2014: my Simplicity coat! I was so proud of this when I made it at the beginning of the year, and to my delight it still looks great and got tons of use. I'm still slightly amazed that I made it, and a lot is due to the lovely Marc Jacobs boucle and me taking it very slowly. I'm hoping it lasts me a few more years. 

Simplicity 1759 coat
So those are the garments that got the most wear from me in 2014, which is my standard of success! What were your 2014 highlights, readers? Do you gravitate to TNTs or are your faves the one-offs? 

And the winner of Burda book giveaway...

is Rachel Booth. Congrats, Rachel!  I'll be in touch

I'd love to win! I have the Burda vintage book and just love the versatility if their patterns! I'm hoping to sew more work clothing!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Feature on Kollabora

In case you're interested in reading more of my weak jokes and random tidbits about my life outside this blog, check out my interview over on Kollabora.com!

Nora Meets the Maker: Cashmerette

The definition of cake: black knit Winter Dress

I'm as tempted as the next sewist to make party dresses and bright green coats (OK, maybe that's just me), but when I took a break from Christmas present sewing, I thought that a nice piece of dress-cake* would be just the thing. 

And so: a black wool knit Winter Dress. What could be more useful than a knit, scoop neck, black dress? I cannot think of a thing (admittedly that probably just shows my lack of imagination). 

I've never sewn with wool jersey before, but this was just a dream to work with - and it's the same fabric from Mood that Lauren Lladybird made her wrap dress with (yes, I was the person nibbling at her heels to get the end of the roll....). 

The Winter Dress was designed by Deepika over at PatternReview, and it's a simple knit bodice with long sleeves (there's an optional flounce sleeve version but I'm not that flouncey myself), and inverted box pleats at the front and back. 

I made a few adjustments to the pattern. First up, my measurements put my upper half solidly into a 3X, but when I compared it against my well-fitting Moneta bodice it was way, way, bigger. So I cut a 2X, and then once I put it together I shaved another 4 inches off the waistline to get the fit that I wanted (I also sewed this in the flat, doing the sleeve and side seams last which made it easy to keep whittling it down). 

Instead of using clear elastic (which I have yet to learn to do accurately), I zigzagged regular elastic to the waistline seam allowance, although I stopped it just short of the side seams, to prevent it causing a bump. 

I scooped out the neckline by another 1.5 inches - no high necklines around chez Cashmerette. Then to finish the neckline I did my trusty standby neckline technique: put Wonder Tape on the wrong side, fold over, and coverstitch. It works well on stretchy fabrics, and has even worked for me with silks in the past (because it's such a narrow hem). 

I really like the result - it's super comfortable and a great basic dress for accessorizing. The sleeves are a smidgen too long, but I actually like being able to curl up in them on cold days, so I think I'll leave them as is. 

So if you're looking for a basic knit dress pattern, this one is definitely worth a try. The bodice is similar to the Moneta, but the ever-so-slightly A-line skirt and box pleats give a different look to the gathered skirt, and it's a bit easier to sew if you're a total newbie. I whipped this up in about 90 minutes!

Can you bring yourself to sew super basic garments occasionally? I'm trying to do it more and more because nothing makes me happier than wearing homemade every day, and to do that, I probably need to not look like I'm going to a disco (though I know Oona would disagree). 

* In case you haven't heard of this before: the sewing blogging community commonly talks about "cake" projects and "frosting" projects - the first set being "boring" basics you need and wear all the time, and the second set being fun, sparkly but more special occasion garments

Disclosure: I received this pattern free from Deepika. Thanks, Deepika!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Giveaway: BurdaStyle Wardrobe Essentials

As part of being awarded one of BurdaStyle's Top 50 bloggers, I'm now getting occasional goodies. Fun!

The latest that turned up out of the blue was a copy of BurdaStyle's Wardrobe Essentials book.

 It's a hardback, spiral-bound book with 21 patterns included (they are still nested, like regular Burda patterns, but fewer are nested on one page than usual so it's a little easier to see what's going on). There are an array of skirts, dresses, blazers and tops, many of which are really lovely.

This tweed cowl-neck dress got my attention when it was in the magazine: so chic!

I love the lapels on this blazer..

And the curved side seam panel and hidden pockets on this coat are really cool.

Particularly notable in this book are the step-by-step illustrated instructions which are much (much!) more detailed than what you usually get from Burda. They include techniques like installing welt pockets and some tailoring methods. 

However, cue sadface: none of them are in plus sizes. They only go up to a 44, which is a 39.5 bust, 32.5 waist and 41.75 hip (and some go to a 42). My curves scoff at your 44. But, what's bad for me is good for you dear readers, because it means one thing: giveaway time!

So, if you're smaller than a 44 and fancy winning a copy of this book, leave a comment below on why you'd like to win, together with your email address (if you don't leave your email address you won't be eligible for the draw). If you're bigger than a size 44, leave a comment on why you think Burda should publish patterns that go into plus sizes in their books and I'll... pass it on.

Due to shipping costs for this rather weighty book, this is open to US residents only (sorry!). Entries close on Dec 10 at 11.59pm EST. Good luck!
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