Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Savvy Seamstress - What's it All About?

I'm reposting from the C&T Publishing blog (with their permission), an excerpt from my book,  The Savvy Seamstress: An Illustrated Guide to Customizing Your Favorite Patterns. I've included some of the photos and added some annotations to to help explain a little more about how it all works.

“I’ve always been a garment maker. I was a child who made doll clothes, a teenager who was obsessed with sewing my own clothes, a fashion student, a designer pattern maker, and then a pattern designer and teacher. I still make most of my own wardrobe, often using the same small selection of basic patterns that I adapt with different fabrics and design details. I’m lucky to have a strong background in pattern making and sewing, but, as a teacher, I know that even relative beginners can learn to make the most of their pattern stash this way.

When I began teaching at a fashion college, most of the pattern-making and industrial sewing resources I found were pitched at a higher skill level than my students had. I had to break down the processes into small, achievable steps so my students could make the garments they designed. It occurred to me that the average home dressmaker could benefit from the same information.

By learning how to make a few key design alterations, you can keep transforming your favorite patterns— adding or removing collars and pockets, changing neckline shapes, and swapping a zippered back for a button front, a waistband for a facing, or vice versa. The variations are endless. I hope that this book gives you the inspiration and the confidence to try some of these changes, and that you are amazed by what you can achieve.”

The skirt started out in life with a waistband, and now it has a lowered waist with a facing. The same could be done to the pants in the photo at the top. Zippers can be swapped from back to front to side, and invisible zippers and lapped zippers can be used interchangeably. The pants could have a fly front.

These little blouses (above and below) are made from the same pattern. Apart from being on different sized kids, they look different because the design features have been changed. The one above has short sleeves, a lowered neckline and a rounded Peter Pan collar, and the one below has a higher neckline with a pointed collar, and long sleeves, gathered into a cuff. There was also a collarless version.

By adding a skirt, the little blouse could become a dress... and the front buttons could be swapped for a zipped back... 

...which is what happened with a heap of tween/teen dresses. Necklines were changed. Collars and pockets were added and removed. Zippered backs became buttoned fronts, and vice-versa. The one dress became many.

Mens' and boys' shirts were also tweaked with different collars, cuffs, pockets and sleeve lengths.

Classic styling can become casual, and even pajama styling... all from the one pattern.

The book itself does not contain the patterns, because it's about learning basic techniques to tweak the patterns that you love and want to expand upon. 

I had great plans to get the patterns for these garments all finished and ready to accompany the book, when it is released in November, but (insert one-woman-show-work-life-balance-(with-curveballs) story here..), that development has been slow. 

I'm currently working on instructions for the pants, which are graded from size 6-20. If you'd like to test the instructions and fit for me, I'll have them (to use for free) at my next class at Cutting Cloth, on the 18th Sept.

I also have skinny pants in size 8, a large men's shirt, a size 10 girl's dress and size 5 in the blouse and classic (boys') shirt. These have not been graded, but if you would like to make them IN THESE SIZES and with my guidance rather than written instructions, you can do so at my classes at Cutting Cloth over the next few months.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Better Bag Club, and other stories (..and classes)

We had our first Better Bag Club workshop a couple of weeks ago, at GJ's in Fairfield.

This is once-a-month workshop that you can drop in and out of, working on whatever YOU SEW GIRL pattern, or project from The Better Bag Maker or You SEW Girl that you like. I'm there to troubleshoot and show tips and tricks and techniques. My maximum class size is 8 participants, so that's a lot of one-on-one attention.  Everyone works on their own project, but the group also allows for soaking in the learning experiences of a wide range of projects, if that's what you'd like to do.

The room is big and light and airy, and lunch is provided, and we had a lovely time last month. A couple of the gals are off to far-flung and exotic places this month, so there are places open for 26th August, if you'd like to come along.

And GJ's have new stock of The Better Bag Maker, in case you're looking for it.

For the last 10 weeks, I've (unexpectedly) been teaching almost every weekday in the city. It cuts into my pattern-development and general life-organisation time, but at least I get to watch the changing landscape of the guerrilla crafting on these (anti-car-on-footpath) cement blocks outside Southern Cross Station.

I've started teaching a new subject in my college job. For me, this is always an exciting thing to do - if a tad time-consuming - as I madly gather new ideas and develop resources for students. It's a fundamental design subject about ideas generation and exploring a wide range of materials, so my brain has been POPPING with ideas about thinking outside the square, how to look sideways and all those other cliched phrases about originality in design.

Quiet moments in the staffroom have been spent crocheting bread bags. At home, I've been exploring all manner of paper folds and tessellations. I've been folding, weaving and melting plastic milk bottles and spiralising water bottles to make string. My Pinterest boards have filled with architecture, interior design, industrial design and origami-inspired ideas. It's stimulating and exciting to use other parts of my brain, and to look further afield for inspiration.

As we near the end of this term, and I prepare for the next deluge of marking, my mind is turning back to the garment patterns that are in development. I'll be ploughing back into those over the next couple of months and calling out for pattern testers (and there will be free versions of patterns to try in my classes at Cutting Cloth, for anyone who wants to test them there). Watch Facebook, Twitter and Insta for more immediate updates on those patterns.

So yes... Busy times....Life is a constant juggling act.... Inspiration is everywhere.... And please excuse my lack of online activity lately. I'm still here, and all is well.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Gathering Steam

It's been four years since I put out a new YOU SEW GIRL pattern or wrote more than the odd blog post, and I feel like I've woken from a forty year sleep. It's a whole new landscape, but I'm venturing back out into it.

Nicole MallalieuLately, I've been sewing and making patterns again, and thinking about how best to write instructions. 

I've been wearing lots of wearable toiles (muslins) and trying to remember how to ponce in front of the camera to record and share what I'm working on. Camera-shyness seems to have crept in during the last few years and I'm trying to desensitise by taking and sharing photos of myself. (Although by the looks of it, I still feel most comfortable looking away from the camera or chopping off my head.) 

Nicole Mallalieu

For the last few weeks I've been posting to my new You Sew Girl Instagram account. It's in its baby stage, but if you're interested in following the sewing journey, please follow me here.

Nicole Mallalieu

I've been working away at lots of other things (and teaching a lot) over these last few years, but the drive, inspiration and ... well... time... to put into new You Sew Girl patterns has simply not been there. When I wrote this blog post, I had no idea how long it would take to gather strength and find enough balance in life to get back to the business I worked so hard - for so long - to build. 

It's nice to feel that energy returning and gathering strength.
Nicole Mallalieu

I've been experimenting with a few new garment basics (and some fun sculptural clothing shapes just for the fun of it).

Nicole Mallalieu

I've also scheduled new classes (including some at the new Queen of Fabric in Brighton). There's a Purse Frame Class there next weekend, if you fancy a fun day, with other workshops to follow over the rest of the year.

There's still dressmaking workshops at Cutting Cloth on the 3rd Sunday of every month. And The Better Bag Club at GJ's  is a work-at-your-own-pace monthly You Sew Girl sew-fest, with me there to answer all your questions and show you lots of tricks.

The Better Bag Club Sewing Classes

And in November, there will be this

The Savvy Seamstress by Nicole Mallalieu

So I guess you can say that steam is indeed gathering. 

I'm older, wiser (..ahem.. and greyer..) and I'm looking up now.

Nicole Mallalieu

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Seasonal Change

Well, now that I've knitted myself a new scarf - from hand-spun, hand-dyed silk-alpaca, bought-at-a-local-craft-market yarn - I'm ready for winter. (I improvised a bias-knit in alternating rows of garter and stockinette stitch, and it's super-snuggly.)

There has been so much colour from my garden, I feel ready for grey skies and warm clothes and time spent indoors. To everything, there is a season, and all that.

And I'm just back from the awe-inspiring colour-fest that is Grampians Texture, where I was lucky enough to be a tutor for a week.

Bryant Holsenbeck's workshops produced the most delightful critters made of recycled textiles.

Jan Clark's group made all manner of colourful marks on textiles...

Nicola Henley had them all printing up a riot of colour and texture. 

...and I had my group making patterns and toiles (muslins) in very boring colours, indeed... but they learned a lot about garment construction and alterations to patterns... 

If they wanted colour, they only needed to step into the Market Hall.

Or step outside the classroom. 
These fellas knew what time lunch was served. 

This was the foggy morning scene that greeted me before class one morning. It felt autumnal. (And full of kangaroos.)

And so, the seasons roll on, and I seem to have been busier than ever lately.... although there is little to show for it. But I feel that a cog has shifted, and it's time to move forward again....assess where I've been and where I'm going.

I've been working on uploading my paper pattern range as pdf downloads on my website lately. There's a way to go with the back catalogue, but I've started with the garment patterns. It's a long and tedious process, but I think it's worth doing.

I've been working on edits for the new book, which is due out at the end of this year. It was written throughout a difficult, grief-filled 2016, and I hope that finishing it will feel like the closing of some sort of door, and maybe even feel like some sort of triumph. It's also a shift in direction for me, and I hope that it will hit the mark with the sewing community. This is the anxious too-late-to-turn-back-now stage of book-writing, that always fills me with self-doubt. But yeah... the book is on the way.

I've developed new teaching resources that are all about garments and have been thinking about new workshops.

I've opened a new Instagram account, which is more about sewing and textiles (and less about my home and garden, as my personal account is), which will be a new focus.

And I've started planning some new patterns... For the first time in too many years. I think it's time.

May the turn of the seasons bring wonderful things your way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gearing up

Ahhh... A lovely clean studio and a picturesque display of the beginnings of a leisurely craft project...

Yes, well, that didn't last long. 

That photo was from the week after Christmas, when my studio was still empty, having been cleared for our family Christmas lunch, and I was embarking on my holiday quilting project.

For the last month or so, it's been looking pretty much like this...

I've been making garments and step by-step-samples of garment techniques, in preparation for my classes at Grampians Texture this year.

This year, my 2-day and 4-day classes are both about garment sewing. 

The 4-day class - The Endless Wardrobe - is about making the most of the garment patterns by changing around or adding details like pockets, button and zipper openings, collars, cuffs, pleats and gathers. A single pattern can be used as a foundation for endless designs, if you know a few clever patternmaking and garment sewing techniques. We'll be exploring a lot of those.

There have been a couple of late cancellations in the 4-day workshop, which means that there is still room in the class for late enrollments. If you feel like spontaneously treating yourself to a textiles retreat (18th-23rd March), here's your opportunity! :)

I'm looking forward to the lovely bubble of textile goodness and gorgeous Grampians landscape that Grampians Texture is. 

I'm looking forward to friendly kangaroos on my classroom doorstep.

If you want a single day of this sort of thing, I'm teaching at Cutting Cloth in Fairfield again this year.  Apart from March (when I'll be in the Grampians), I'll be there on the 3rd Sunday of each month. You can work on your own projects, and I can help with things like fitting and tweaking and lots of tricks for a faster, easier or better finish. 

And yes - the holiday quilting project was finished.  It was a quilt for my girl's bed. No guessing what she asked the design to be.

The fabric is mostly Jodie Carleton's range "The Cat's Pajamas".  I made up the cat as I went along, and the quilt blocks in the background are from Tula Pink's Modern Quilt Blocks book.  I quilted the whole thing with cat-head shapes.

This is the back of the quilt.

In other news, I have book edits coming in soon for the new book (due out in November) and I'm back at my regular fashion school job.  

It's all go. No more tidy studio.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bag Design and Pattern-Making Work-Along

Many years ago, I used to run weekly classes in bag design and patternmaking. It was popular with the locals, but people living interstate and overseas were always asking me to put it online, so that they could attend, too. 

AT LAST - Creativebug have done just that. These classes are the first stages of learning to design and make your own bag patterns, and will set you up to make a very broad range of designs..  

Even better, Creativebug are currently running a special (until 28 Nov 2016), where you can sign up for a 3 month subscription for $1! (after that, it's $4.95 USD per month). That's just in time for some serious holiday crafting. Alternatively, you can now buy individual classes.

The first class is all about learning the basic processes and terminology for patternmaking. It's about beginning to draft simple shapes, making basic patterns, and understanding the relationship between the 3-dimensional bag and the 2-d pattern.. The same processes are used as the designs become more complicated in Parts 2 and 3.

 Part 2 is all about the KEY to patternmaking - moving seamlines. This is how you change the design lines of the bag, create colour blocking, linings, pockets and facings.

And here I am, looking like an old lady peering over her glasses. (I hadn't realised how wrong the prescription was with these glasses until I couldn't see the cameraman - over or through the frames - with my middle-aged eyes...). There is some squinting to camera, but also lots of patternmaking and construction techniques for making the bags.

Part 3 is all the bells and whistles that jazz up the bag - pleats, gathers, etc.

When I taught Patternmaking for Bags in my studio, I ran it as two sets of four sessions - Beginners and Advanced - 8 weeks in total.  There is a lot more that you can learn, but these three sessions will set you up to make all the shapes that appear in my Beginners, Basic and most of the Intermediate range of patterns, as well as those in The Better Bag Maker, and many more besides.

The Creativebug work-along includes the sewing techniques for the overall shape construction, but if you want tips and tricks for things like using interfacings and hardware, inserting zips and pockets and getting a fine finish on your bag, check out my other classes on Creativebug and/or read my book The Better Bag Maker

Who knows, maybe we might follow up with another online work-along one day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Teaching and Writing and Living and Dying

Yes - I'm still here...occasionally peeping out from behind the curtain of real life and the Facebook and Instagram rabbit hole. This year, I've been pretty well occupied and away from this slower, more considered form of communication.

When I received notification of my Weekender Bag project being a Top 10 hit over at Creativebug, it occurred to me that I hadn't actually mentioned that class in this space before.

It appears that since I was burgled recently, the new owners of my old computer now have all the images I had of this bag, so here's a screen capture of me in action... talking to a finished bag.

I use my original version of the bag for hauling student folios to and from my regular teaching job.

I do a lot of hauling of folios, and marking of folios, these days... and a lot of kid-free Friday nights look like this.

One looked like this... :(

I've also been teaching a Garment Construction class regularly at Kellie Wulfsohn's fabulous fabric shop Cutting Cloth in Fairfiled (Melbourne).

The classes are on the 3rd Sunday of every month and you can come and go month by month, doing pretty much as you please (although I start you off on an A-Line Skirt if you're a newbie) with lots of help and tips and tricks from me.

The rest of my time this year has been all about juggling the joys and sorrows (and Mum's taxi service) of family life, wholesale biz and working on a new book. Much of the last few months has looked like this...

And the crazy-wild-kid-free Friday night version looks a bit like this...

As I near the completion of the book project, there's a sort of freeing-up of mental bandwidth, and ideas are flowing again. I'm tying up loose ends, ticking off long-overdue to-do lists... and thinking about the way ahead from here.

I have plans... Stay tuned.