Thursday, August 28, 2014

Liberty Island Sorbetto

Attempting to make woven tops fit my chest is no small feat. Is it any wonder then that I adjusted one to fit and have never even tried another? Oh, adjusted Sorbetto, how I love you, even though you look like a mutant compared to the original version (note for curvy ladies: it's a good pattern to practice FBA-ing!).

So when I snagged some gorgeous Liberty tana lawn from EmmaOneSock earlier this year, what could it be but yet another Sorbetto? 

Check out the design below: have you ever seen anything so summery? Yachts! Dinghies! Huts! Rowboats! Buckets and spades!

I used Grainline's fab "how to get a flat bias neckline" tutorial. Even though I've done bias edging a thousand times, her little tips made a big difference. My favourite one is to understitch the bias first before doing the final stitching... genius! I also do the version where you fold all the bias to the inside rather than having it show on the outside - it's much easier to get a neat finish and I think it looks more RTW.

A simple top, and it's getting tons of use! In the meantime, do you want to see more photos of the wonderland that is Nantucket? I know you do. 

Me showing off my new pad (if only), in a Boden maxidress:

And cycling out to the lighthouse in Katy & Laney tap shorts!

What are your woven top TNTs, readers? Should I go to the considerable effort of adjusting another one, or just make the Sorbetto forever?

Monday, August 25, 2014

The last skirts of summer

Summer seems to have already started winding down in Boston, and while I'm looking forward to the renewed appearance of tights in my wardrobe (I LOVE TIGHTS), I have been feeling a touch sad. So when it suddenly brightened up this weekend, Nina and I got out of town pronto. 

And of course I had to have a new outfit for the occasion. 

Enter: another McCalls M6931 and a trusty Renfrew!

McCalls M6931 and Sewaholic Renfrew

The fabulous skirt fabric is Marc Jacobs silk twill which I snapped up from my virtual sewing buddy Charlotte's stash when she started selling it off on Instagram. I have been visiting it at night and cooing gently to it, but decided it was time for it to finally make it onto my body. Other ladies with extremely good taste have also indulged, so I feel in esteemed company. 

Have I said how much I love silk twill? I really do. I always thought silk was flimsy and hard to sew and clingy on the body, but silk twill and faille give you all the wonders of silk with none of the flimsy hard-to-weared-ness. Delicious.

Also: silk elasticated waist skirts. This is the third I've made one in as many weeks, and it is, dear friends, the way forward. The insides were french seamed, and the hem blind stitched by hand (which I can report takes exactly one episode of Project Runway, during which the contestants make a full length ballgown).

The top is super simple - just a Renfrew with the neckline more scooped out (quelle surprise), and three quarter length sleeves with cuff bands. For the neckline I stuck wonder tape to the wrong side, folded over, and coverstitched. Easy peasy. I used Robert Kaufmann Laguna Jersey which is a total dream to sew with and wear... expect to see more of that around these parts. 

For our little expedition, Nina and I headed out to the World's End park in Hingham, which is about 15 miles south of Boston. It's a really magical place: it was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (also see: Central Park), and has winding tree-lined carriageways looping over hobbit-like little islands jutting out into Boston harbour. I definitely have to have a birthday picnic there one year...

From the top of the hill you can see Boston on the horizon!

I'm super pleased with another colourful, comfortable and unusual little ensemble, and expect to make more separates with this silhouette in the future. Only thing is, I may become actually allergic to waistbands, and then there'll be no helping me. But fear not, dear readers, I shall take the risk just for you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Want even more Cashmerette in your life?

Then you're in luck! I'm in other places around the interwebs, and you can keep up to date with all my everyday prattling.

My all new Facebook page is here, where you can keep track of new posts and hear other news

I'm at @cashmerette on Instagram where you can see my never-ending Works in Progress and other random everyday musings.

And you can email me at!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tips for blog photography!

Hello chickens! About 6 months ago I decided to try to improve the photography on Cashmerette. Put on makeup and brush my hair and whatnot. But I ended up learning quite a bit more than "lipstick makes me look like I have a mouth"and having a lot of fun with it, so I thought I'd share with you in case you're interested! Of course no blog *needs* photoshoot-y photos, but if you're so inclined, these tips might help.

How to improve your blog photos

1. Get outside! And preferably the hour before sundown.

This is probably the single biggest piece of advice I can give you. Being outside makes all the difference to the light in your photos, and hence their quality. If you can shoot in the "golden hour" before the sun goes down, you'll get even more fantastic pics... It's not always possible, but it's worth trying. 

Here are some photos I took inside: 

And here are some outside at sundown in comparison.

If you do shoot at sundown, it's best to orient your body and face *towards* the sun - that way you get some cool shadows, but your garment is shown off to its best. One fun thing is to look up to the sun if you have sunglasses on - it gives a really nice effect. If you can't shoot when the sun is low in the sky, then it's best to get out of direct light - go to somewhere where there's diffused light or stand in the shade.

2. Take lots and lots and lots of pictures

Occasionally a friend will say to me "oh I'm so jealous you always look nice in your photos!" Actually, no, I look nice in 1 out of the 150 photos I took! On average, myself and my blogger friends take anywhere between 100 - 250 photos for a post... Crazy, right? But it actually doesn't take very long (maybe 10 - 20 minutes), and if you keep on moving a little bit for each one, you'll find some gems in among them. This is definitely tricky if you have an impatient person/child/spouse taking the photos, but if you have a little more breathing space, just tell them to continuously shoot. Alternatively, try using a tripod and put your camera on timer or use a remote - I've managed to get some great shots using that approach, although you still need to take a lot!

When it comes to editing your mountain of shots,  if you use a Mac, you can go into iPhoto and "flag" (top left hand corner) the ones you like, then go to the Flagged folder and you can make your choices from the best ones - this speeds things up considerably!

3. Move about!

I always used to stand stock still, one hand on hip, and while that hand hasn't really moved, I do a lot more now! Spin about, laugh, chat to someone off camera, dance, and keep taking photos - so often it's the ones where you move that end up looking the most natural, relaxed, dynamic and fun. Photos with a light breeze are also fantastic - you get wonderful movement in your clothes, and it can make your hair look gorgeous. There's a reason why Beyonce walks around with a wind machine the entire time. 

4. Consider your backdrop

It's pretty obvious that shooting in a Provencal lavender field is going to be cool, but what do you do when you're not in the south of France? Surprisingly, gritty urban backgrounds often look fantastic - something textured, warm coloured, and fairly plain can be awesome. You don't need fancy backgrounds - in fact, often me and my bloggy friends wander past gorgeous places in our neighbourhood but end up shooting in front of a wall where there's good light. 

5. It's all about the angles, baby!

Angles look fantastic. Often you have to stand or position yourself in a way that feels entirely unnatural and perhaps even looks bizarre in reality. But these poses typically look great in photos. Angle one of your legs, put your hand on your head, lean on a fence... Even if you want to do a "stand upright, face the front" pose, it's great to put all your weight into one leg and tilt one hip up as much as you can.

It's a matter of personal preference, but looking away from the camera can also make your photos look more professional. On the flip side, it's less personal, so each to their own!

6. Editing

I don't do very much editing, but when I do I use iPhoto - their retouching tool is great for getting rid of pimples or weird creases - or, which allows you to put filters on your photos (a little like Instagram), or put labels and text over them.

Original photo - Photo with "Urbane" filter on PicMonkey - Photo with "Intrepid" filter on PicMonkey

7. Equipment

You can take great photos on an iPhone or basic camera equipment. However, I can't deny that when I upgraded my camera kit a few months ago, the quality of my photos suddenly jumped. I'm far from a professional photographer, but if there's one thing I know, it's to spend your money on a great quality lens and use a basic camera body. I have a Canon EOS Rebel (fairly basic amateur model), but invested in a 50mm 1.4 fixed lens (which means you can't zoom) which consistently gives incredible quality images. One major ability of this lens is to make the background go very blurry (known formally as "bokeh"), which makes the subject in focus stand out, and generally makes the photo look ace - I also ramp this up on my camera by using the "CA" setting, which allows me to choose to have maximum blur in the background, which you can see this clearly in my recent swimsuit photos. These lenses are pricey and you definitely don't *need* them, but they do make a difference if you're willing to spend.

I hope that those are helpful, but I'm far from an expert! What do you recommend for great blog photos? Do you have any tips? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Workroom Social Pants Party! Featuring: J-shaped crotches

Hello poppets! Isn't it funny that sewing and blogging are theoretically such solitary activities, but that in fact they're supremely sociable? I just got back from an amazing weekend in NYC with a bunch of lovely lovely ladies, who I already "knew" but had never met. Plus extra bonus: lots of crotch time (more on that later).

All trips to NYC of course must start with maxing out the credit cards at the Garment District. I found some $155/yard organza at B&J which I admired from a distance...

but ended up actually picking up my goodies from Metro Textiles and that consummate salesman himself, Kashi. From top to bottom: geometric crepe de chine; square silk; laser perforated neoprene (available at Gorgeous Fabrics, albeit for twice the cost of Metro); red wool, and blue wool. I found some black wool knit for a new Burda project, and the most intensely amazing emerald green cashmere for this year's coat from Mood.

On to the main event! I was in town to attend Workroom Social's Pants-making Intensive. The perky proprietress Jennifer met us in her beautiful studio, and proceeded to ply us with tacos, brownies, pizza, tacos and strawberry margaritas. Oh, and sewing.

Needless to say, I was awed in her presence: 

And then I got to meet Wanett of Nettie fame!  WHAT A GAL.

And then, the crowning glory ..... IT"S PURPLE HAIRED LLADYBIRD LAUREN HER VERY SELF! 

After I had a stiff drink to calm down about being in the presence of such sewing celebrity, we were able to hunker down to the task in hand: making pants. This is something I've never tackled for myself before - I made my brother some Thread Theory Jebediahs, but let's face it, boys are all straight lines and smooth planes. I on the other hand am short waisted with a nice little tummy, slim hips and a flat and low bum. 

Hence, garments straight out of a pattern look like this. Oh dear. 

 Luckily, Lauren and Jennifer were on hand to guide us through the entire process from beginning to end.

Lauren was most certainly very excitable on the subject of crotch curves, and can you really blame her? 

 I made up my pair in Robert Kaufmann denim, with wee little peeks of quilting cotton in the pockets, fly and my bonus welt pockets

The pattern we used probably wasn't the best choice for my shape - in contrast, it looked stonking on the more pear shaped ladies in the class. However, I just ordered Simplicity Amazing Fit 1696, and I'm hoping this could be the lower-waisted, slim fitting pattern of my dreams... I'm also going to try the StyleArc Barb pants, as I've heard they draft more for my shape. 

All in all, I had a smashing time. This class from Workroom Social was probably most suitable for advanced beginners, but as an intermediate-level sewist I came away with tons of fitting advice, a new method for fly fronts and welt pockets, and a sore tummy from laughing so much. Thanks to Jennifer for setting up such a fantastic event, and to Lauren for bringing some Tennessee flavour to Brooklyn! 

We'll be J crotch-buddies for life, darling. Don't tell your Mum.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another week, another wrap dress

Here's the final product of my Wrap Dress Assembly Line, and, dare I say it, the crowning glory. I made the dress using Milly London jersey from EmmaOneSock which I scored ages ago, and then sat on in terror of ruining it. I would occasionally visit it in the dead of night, and whisper "my preciousssssss" but then my temporary-sewing-room-housemate got annoyed, so I had to stop. My new attitude: if I'm pawing over it in my stash, far better to actually wear it and enjoy it.

So, another wrap dress it was, this time with full length sleeves, giving me the option to wear it all year round. If you're wondering about those adorable shops behind me: they're around the corner from my apartment, and sell $18,000 necklaces (srlsy) and $500 lobster tufted pillows. Much better to just photograph in front of them for free!

I ran out of fabric to do my usual self neckline binding, so instead I used leftovers of the StyleArc Rosie ponte to make a contrast trim as a "design feature", and I actually really like the effect. Perhaps I should accidentally not buy enough fabric again in the future. Please forgive the apparently uneven hem in these photos... I swear it's OK when I'm standing up straight! Either that, or I should only walk on slanted sidewalks from now on.

So there we have it. Another wrap dress which I will undoubtedly wear into the ground, and one step closer to wrap dress perfection. I'm not quite sure where Peak Wrap Dress lies, but I'm willing to bravely soldier on on behalf of the International Sewing Community to find out. You're welcome. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mini tutorial: Putting a swim bra into a swimsuit

Hey ladies! Want to sew your own swimsuit but need a bit more support than a layer of spandex? Then never fear, because it's super easy to put a swim bra into your hand-made suit.

A lady with an adequately supported bust
A lady with an adequately supported bust
This is just the approach I took for my polka dot Bombshell - there are others, including putting elastic in to make a shelf bra (my bust LAUGHS at your shelf bra, but others may be in less need of industrial support), or actually making a swim bra out of foam and bra notions. However I took the easy way: I took a very old and worn out tankini, and seam-ripped the internal underwired bra out, and sewed it into my new suit.

1. Complete your suit to this stage: the front and back are attached, but you haven't put the straps on yet.

2. Serge (or zig zag) along the top of the suit and lining to join them into one piece.

3. Place your swim bra over the front, making sure the underwire is at least 1/2 inch below the neckline (because you're going to be folding it over with elastic to finish it). Remember to put it the correct way round, so the softer side will be against your body. I also put the sides of the cups about 1/4 inch beyond the side seam, to avoid too much bulk. Note, your bra may not perfectly match the shape of your suit: no worries!

4. Pin that baby! There was more fullness in the cups than in my suit, so I lightly tucked where necessary and pinned so that it would lie flat to the neckline

5. Stitch it down! Just stitch the neckline, and stop at the edges of the cups - the back strap will be free floating.  I used a narrow zig zag.

6. Trim off the excess if you have any (my swim bra was from a halterneck so had a lot of extra)

7. Now continue with making your swimsuit - the next step in the Bombshell is putting elastic along the neckline.

A couple of things to bear in mind: 

- You will want to raise the back of the Bombshell into a less acute curve in order to cover the back strap

- You may also want to change from halter neck to straight straps - that's super easy, just try on the suit with the bra in, measure the length that you need, make some fabric tubes, and feed bra straps or swimsuit elastic through them. You can see a technique for doing that here

- Need to grade the Bombshell suit up? You can find my tutorial here

Hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A fun Bombshell! With a sad ending :(

This year, I pledged to tackle swimsuits and trousers, and I'm halfway there!

Being the sewing sheep that I am, I decided to follow the flock and make the Closet Case Files Bombshell swimsuit, which was designed with curves in mind. I am in possession of the most curviest of curves, so clearly it was meant for me. I did have to grade up, as my bust and waist were bigger than the size 18, but it was a pretty straightforward process (tutorial here). 

And here it is, in all its glory! Do you like my natural pose? I hang out at the beach just like this, honest.

Hurray! So the eagled eyed among you will notice a few differences to the published pattern. The main one is that I changed the halterneck straps to regular over-the-shoulder straps. Why? Well, I wouldn't usually put a massive weight on a string around my neck, so why should swimsuits be any exception? Much better like this, thankyouverymuch.

Not featured: an internal swim bra, and there are also real bra straps inside the straps: tutorial here!

Look ma, nothing escapes!

Obligatory back view

I felt thoroughly pleased with myself for making this. Despite the fact many other sewists have already made it and declared it to be super easy I was rather skeptical of my own abilities. But darn it if it didn't turn out they're right! A major bonus is not having to finish seams (I used my serger), and absolutely no ironing - therefore making the perfect mid-summer sewing project. No ironing in my underwear for this make, no siree (I'm sure the neighbours are disappointed).

I wore it out at the first opportunity, which turned out to be Nantucket this weekend. It didn't actually go into the water (apart from this shot), but I swanned around feeling very glamourous.

And now we come to the sad bit. Oh dear. You may be wondering where this adorable fabric is from, and you'd be right if you guessed Girl Charlee, purveyor of cute prints. Unfortunately.... the fabric is a fail. This isn't the first time for me: my Maxi Moneta has already massively faded and pilled to the point of being unwearable, a lightweight knit I bought had holes in it, and just the other day Heather had a problem with her ponte Mabel.

The strap was losing dye just during the sewing process (before it had been worn), and I ended up with blue dye all over my hands:

After one wear, not swimming, there were streaks of blue dye coming off the suit and across my thighs:

And here you can see the dye seeping through the lining:

So it turns out that my victorious Bombshell is basically not wearable. To their credit, Girl Charlee eventually agreed to give me a refund (although their usual policy is that if you pre-wash fabric you are no longer eligible for one). I'm also sending the suit back to them so that they can investigate it with their suppliers.

In the meantime: I have a graded swimsuit pattern that fits me! I will be going to the Garment District soon! A new, top quality, swimsuit shall be mine, this time made from colourfast fabric! Anyone have any other swimsuit pattern recommendations?
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