Friday, 21 April 2017

A tale of two dresses. Or three. Or four...

Grab a cuppa and a snack, this post is L O N G and full of pictures!

Since I attended the bodice-drafting class at Makeplace in Norwich I have been doing a LOT of thinking and planning.  And worrying.  And buying books.  And reading blog posts.  And looking at my lovely fitted block!

And then I drafted a sort of sleeveless top for myself - a bit like a Colette Sorbetto but without the having to add a bust adjustment.  Well, that was a disaster!  Armholes down to the waist, hello bra straps, neckline wider than Gaping Gill...all mostly because I have NO IDEA how to add design ease! Let's just chuck the fabric into the scrap bag and call it a learning experience!  It scared me off for a while.

Then I started thinking about what a waste of a class it would be to not do anything else so I looked at the Winifred Aldrich book Metric Pattern Cutting For Women again and started to understand how to actually use it with my block.

I decided to make a button front dress with a swishy skirt.  I cut a half circle for the skirt using the calculator on Patti Brower's website - which is absolutely the best calculator there is!

Then it was time for pattern drafting.  First of all I rotated the dart to the armscye and added a button stand/placket to the centre front.  Those are two things I've never done before - but then I've never really designed something from scratch before anyway so...

I made a toile and the front was really nice - plenty of space, but the waist and bust dart points were ascloseasthis, so I decided to turn them into a princess seam. Oh yes, I know NOW that I need to shorten the dart points for actual wear!

Now, I've never even sewn a princess seam, let alone drafted one of my own, but I like a challenge.  Brave or foolhardy, you decide...

Well, I made a princess seam from the armscye and it worked pretty well.  I liked the look so I dug out a piece of weird vintage fabric I bought a couple of months ago at the Maker's Month thing.  I have NO idea what it is - some kind of nylon stuff - it's a pretty floral, 2.75m for £3.  Even if it went wrong it wouldn't be a massive waste of money.

Oh so slippery though.  It slid all over the table.  I managed to get it cut, but it was a challenge.  And then there wasn't enough for sleeves too, but there was enough to make some bias binding so that's what I've used to edge the arm-holes.

The button placket is quite narrow but I managed to find 10 matching buttons in my tin.  By the following day I only had 9 buttons.  I have no idea where the tenth went, I think the cat flicked it on to the floor - they were enticingly skittering all over the top of my sewing table...

Anyway, I like it, it needs a bit of taking in at the waist, but I like wearing it, weird fabric and all.

After that I decided to use a piece of Liberty-ish poplin from my stash - I've had it for ages and have already used a different colourway for a Fancy Tiger Fen, so I know it cuts and sews up really nicely.  It was from my local market and is pretty pricey at £10 a metre but it looks very like a combo of Liberty prints Pelagia and Ianthe.

Alterations this time round were to add pockets, draft the princess from the shoulder and add it to the back pieces too, face the neck, put in a back zip instead of front buttons and to scoop the neck.

What went wrong?  Oh a lot!  I put the pockets in too low - it's not a great look scrabbling around the knees!  So I took them out, opened up the seam and put them back in higher up.

I drafted a facing using this tutorial and then followed the instructions in the Gretchen Hirsch's Ultimate Dress Book for construction.  And having sewn it together I couldn't turn it through the shoulders.  So I unpicked the armholes, chopped it into just a neck facing and then made bias tape for the armholes.

The zip went in PERFECTLY!  My best zip EVAH!

But somewhere along the line the princess seam has gone a tiny bit too big - it's bagging a bit at the front.  It really was perfect on my toile.  And now it isn't.  I might unpick it and recut the lines, but I probably won't.  Or at least not now anyway.

The length after hemming is exactly where I wanted.  And the fit is smooth and has just enough ease to feel fitted but comfortable.  Pattern matching is a bit hit and miss, but in a busy pattern I don't think it's such an issue.

I think this fits the criteria for a spring/summer dress and I reckon I will be wearing it a lot!  If it's windy and you see me out you might want to avert your gaze, the half circle skirt is quite fluffy and prone to knicker-flashing in a stiff breeze!

I love the final look, and I think I shall be tinkering with this over the next couple of months, getting the seams right, maybe narrowing the skirt a little - that would make it less of a fabric-eater for sure and I have some lovely narrow vintage crepe that is just LONGING to be a pretty dress...

Note: I do have two legs in the usual run of things, one is propped on the wall.  It's a pose that doesn't really work in a dress does it!

Shoe(s) - Asda
Shoelaces - you can't see them, they have cherries on them
Necklace - pretty but weirdly scratchy
Hair - the less said the better TBH.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Making time for making things

It's taken a few weeks to get the trousers finished, I cut them out about 10 days ago and did the main seams, then earlier in the week I pinned and tacked in the zip and then I had NO time to finish them.  Until today!

Mr Wonderful took The Girl swimming so I had the house all to myself and have been able to get them finished.

I did a side zip on this pair - not sure why I opted for that but it seems to give a nice smooth line.  And I made a facing for the top instead of a waistband which is also nice and smooth.

The pattern matching is a bit shonky, but the fit...OH the fit!  They're not too loose or too tight.  They fit my bum AND my legs AND my waist!  I can sit in them comfortably and cross my legs but they don't fall down or need a belt...they really are the holy grail of trousers and I foresee a few more in my future wardrobe.

By the time I finished twin-needle stitching the hems I had this much thread left.

Fabric was from Anglian Fashion Fabrics, not the sale rail for a change!  Actual metreage, measured out!.  It is faintly itchy so must have a touch of wool in there somewhere but it's bearable.

After that I put some fisheye darts in a couple of silk tops I had made a few years ago in India.  They are gorgeous material but very boxy and shapeless so I never wore them.  Two darts later they are shaped and  wearable...I'm wearing one in these pictures, the other is a lovely amethyst colour.

And then I made some new handles for a cheapo bag I bought YEARS ago - the vinyl was rubbing off so I cut off the old straps and replaced them.

All in all a good sewing day!

Top - modified green silk from Mysore
Trousers - drafted and made by me!
Shoes - none
Hair - flyaway

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Blocks and what I did next...

It's been a few weeks.  There has been sewing, natch, because I am obsessed.

But mostly I've been learning and planning and thinking.

Learning - well, at Christmas I was given two sewing classes, one each from the husband and the mothership.  They are at Makeplace which is a lovely place - nice airy room, lots of space, lovely Juki machines, really good teachers.

I chose the ones I wanted, which were how to draft a bodice block and a trousers block.  I had to wait to go on each one - and as an impatient Mr Toad I-WANT-IT-NOW kind of person that was quite hard.  But each day finally came and I am now the proud owner of two pattern blocks that fit my exact measurements, and a whole heap of extra knowledge and information and a couple of new books.

The class is run over a day and has 4 people so you get really good 1:1 time with the tutor and plenty of time to ask questions and chat, as well as space to manipulate large sheets of card to make the block.

Each class used the steps and principles of Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting book,
What was interesting for me is that it really reinforced that there is no such thing as a 'normal' shape - even the slenderest of people have fitting issues!  And as I have my own ample bum to think about and fit, I had never really experienced that a flat bum is just as much of a fitting issue.  But it is!

The bodice is a close-fitted style, I should be able to go pretty much anywhere into fitted blouse or dress bodice with it, and I am planning a simple dress with a half circle skirt for summer.  But the trousers...oh my!  My trousers block, in particular, is simply amazing.

The style is for nice 'normal' trousers - the kind one might wear for work.  Not too fancy, not jeans, not skinny, but properly fitted.  I spent about 3 hours drafting the block and then the afternoon cutting fabric and sewing up a toile/muslin to tweak the fit.  Mine didn't need tweaking at all, my partner was a very good measurer!  And when I tried them on the fit is dreamy!  Perfect on the waist, perfect over the bum, perfect across the pulls, no wrinkles, no need for a belt.  And because they fit they also look nice on, they're flattering - and yes, in this context, by 'flattering' I do mean that they make me look a bit thinner.  I know, I know...

Anyway,I went straight to the fabric shop and hit the sale rail as per and bought enough for a first pair, it said dry clean but has come out of the washing machine unscathed.  And yesterday I went to the market and bought a piece of wool/poly which is definitely washable and that's drying too.

I really can't wait to get them made up...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My husband is rather wonderful

Who lives in here?

It's my birthday in a few weeks.  Today we went out shopping and happened to visit John Lewis haberdashery, where they had a special offer on a sewing machine - one I had been looking at and longing for.  It's very beautiful.  I stroked it.  We came home.

An hour later he went out to buy it for my birthday.

OMG, it's AWESOME!  It's got masses of features and is so quiet.

Lookit all these stitches!
 I've knocked up a quick cover for it and it is so smooth and so quiet, it's just wonderful!

Lucky lucky me...

Thursday, 5 January 2017

A Chocolate Chip for the new year

A couple of years ago the lovely Jenny of Cashmerette blogged about a skirt she made and I LOVED it.  I WANTED it.  But as a total novice I had no idea how to do the hack or anything.

And then a couple of months after that one of the mags had a pattern for an asymmetric wrap and I had the perfect bit of sale-rail bargain to make it.  And this was the result.  It's a fine cord and I really love it.

I'd been planning to make another for over a year now, I've had some gorgeous stretch grey flannel and was planning to face it with some lovely petersham.  BUT, my original one rises really badly at the back and the fit is a bit shonky.  I thought about doing a bum adjustment (and how WEIRD does that sound?!) - I spent a few days earlier this week researching and looking for tutes and how-tos.  And it all sounded a bit of a faff really.

But then I thought why not go straight to my TNT-everything-is-awesome-new-favourite, The Chocolate Chip Skirt?

I had a bit of a moment, the wrap has been in my head for so long that I was reluctant to abandon it, but I KNEW I would wear the other one A LOT.  Plus, POCKETS!

In the end I had another JFDI moment!

So, charcoal grey stretch flannel with a contrast pocket.  A while ago I bought a scrap bag from Get Cutie, on eBay. They do lovely dresses in fabulous prints.  Sushi! Matrioska! Frida Kahlo! And every so often they sell off scrap bags of off-cuts.  I got one a while ago and it was full of fab prints.

I had some Marvel, but not quite enough, BIG sugar skulls, Day of the Dead skeletons, and some Frida Kahlo.

In the end I went for the skeletons, because I knew I had enough and I really liked the contrast.  Five hours later, with a break for supper, The Girl's bedtime and a bit of a look at Alexander Armstrong in Naples - in which he went to Herculaneum, watch it if you get a chance - I had a lovely new skirt to wear!  So this morning I wore it to work.  It's a good fit, it's the right length, I love everything about it!


Top - Uniqlo, tights - slightly holey and due for the bin, shoes - Hush Puppies
.The pockets are slightly different - the fabric had brides and grooms so I did one each side!


 The other advantage of the skeletons was that it is really colourful so I was very happy to use this lovely bright petersham ribbon for a hem facing - it's a secret flash of colour and it makes me very happy!

If you're looking for a good wearable day skirt or if you've got the pattern in your stash and haven't made it yet...go for it!

And if you're interested in sewing or blogging about sewing, come on over to the Dressmaking Blogging Network on Facebook... 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

It's not really t-shirt weather

After the darling mothership went home last week I reclaimed what other people might call 'the spare room' and I call the sewing room.

And yesterday I managed to get some time together and run up the first make of 2017, a Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono tee.  I made one just before Christmas and it is a super easy pattern, good for getting back in the habit.  I did a turn and slide FBA on the pattern which was really easy and nice for a no-dart top - Maria Denmark has a tute for this.

I used another of 'I just couldn't leave it on the sale rail' pieces from my stash, a soft blue-grey piece of modal, silk and elastane - no idea what percentage the elastane is but the stuff is really stretchy.  It's so soft and drapey and easy to wear.  Now, I know it's not perfect, but I kinda don't really want to take it off...

Friday, 30 December 2016

End of the year

Well, OBVIOUSLY I made some things for presents which I couldn't post before they were given.

There was a rather sweet little bag for my mum:

The outer is wool, and it is lined with a sea-themed cotton - because she lives by the sea!  I combined a free magazine pattern with a flap from the Amy Butler Blossom Bag, (which I have made) but I slightly lengthened it to fit.  Inside is a key strap.  I kept the buttons to one corner to stop it looking too Per Una-y.

Mum says it's the perfect size!

After that I made some pyjamas for my sister.  I got a little over-excited one evening after a couple of cocktails and ended up ordering A LOT of Liberty jersey from Shaukat.  Seven metres.  Ahem.  Ok, ok!  But it was half the Liberty cost.  And I think I should get a dress and a whole heap of other things out of it.  And it is GORGEOUS to work with - it cuts so easily and sews like a dream.

I used a free Simplicity pattern which seems to have disappeared now but was 0501, and coupled it with a long-sleeved top New Look 6230 which was free with a magazine.

The bottoms are a slouchy fit, normally with an elastic channel and a drawstring.  I added a wide and soft yoga waistband instead, and colour blocked the top to avoid full-on floral madness.

Sister says they are the perfect weight and the waistband is really comfy and they are very cheering for a dark winter's night.

I also got busy with some fur snoods lined with jersey which are really warm and cosy.

And then I made a skirt.  I had this AMAZING fabric - but only 1.4m. Isn't it lovely?  It's a really fine needle cord.  It makes me think of Eastern European folk art.

I saw it on the sample and sale rail and simply COULD NOT leave it behind.  Well, wouldyou have done?

And then I hoped it was enough for a skirt, with the right pattern.  And so I asked for ideas from my friends in a facebook group and was directed to the Cocolate Chip Skirt from Tiedyediva.  It is an AWESOME pattern!  It's quick, easy, looks gorgeous on and is really economical on fabric.  Plus, POCKETS!  I did a muslin first which was definitely necessary as I was so tight on fabric and had absolutely no hope of getting any more - it doesn't show up on any google searches.  But I got it out of my 1.4m with room to spare, and that was including lengthening it by a couple of inches too and with my hips - no mean feat!  I absolutely love it!  

The top is a Maria Denmark Kimono t-shirt - another free pattern.  It's 2 pieces plus neck and cuff bands, from cut to wear was about 90 minutes, mainly because I ballsed up the cutting and had to piece the back in the end.  And I did a simple FBA - the pivot and swivel kind - to accommodate the embonpoint.

I did redo the neck as it was flipping out, because I cut the neck band too long so it didn't stretch into place nicely, it sits more neatly now.  It's a great length, and a really nice simple tee.  I can see a few of these in the future.

Apart from there were some make-up purses, a couple of headphones pouches and I think that was it. I've got my sewing space back now the guests have gone home so I'm planning what to do next.

Two of my presents were vouchers for classes at my local sewing shop and I am really looking forward to improving my fitting, and starting on trousers.  Perfect fitting jeans, the holy grail, I really can't wait...