Thursday, 22 February 2018

Colette Dahlia in Green Linen

The good thing about writing about sewing some months after you've made something is that you can reveal the wearing qualities of a garment. Note to self- dark colours are prone to fading!
Despite this, when getting dressed for work, I am more likely to pull a deep or dark coloured dress from the wardrobe than something in a pale colour. Maybe it feels more professional?
Here is my second (wearable) version of Colette Dahlia. This one is in a medium-heavy weight linen, and I have worn it frequently despite having future fitting adjustments in my sewing plans. Mostly I wear it to work, but it has also had an occasional airing for social activites. It's a very practical shape.
2017-08-19 08.21.19

I further adjusted the neck fitting by adding a small dart to each shoulder line at the neck, but still found that there was bra strap exposing slippage, so again added lingerie keepers at the shoulder.

Just for fun, I embelished the raglan seams and vertical skirt seams with running stitch in 3 strands of DMC embroidery cotton. I like the subtle shaping effect that this gives to the skirt.

Dahlia neckline

In another version I may shorten the bodice slightly, and if it was a winter version, I might interface the waistline with a commercial product, rather than the self fabric interfacing I have used in this version, which has the advantage of being relatively cool to wear.
The main area of wear in this garment has been the neckline. I have had to mend the front binding where it attaches to the gathered front section, so would double stitch this seam in a future garment.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Colette Dahlia, a plaid dress, not entirely a success/ I learn something every day

I adore living in a sub-tropical climate, but every summer, when the weather is hot and humid, I wish that I had more lovely cool dresses - usually because the lovely cool dresses that I made the previous year have been worn threadbare. This little problem is even more of an issue when I am vainly looking in my wardrobe for a work appropriate dress. In our humid summers, I want an unlined dress that doesn't need a petticoat, and I do not even consider knit fabric nor wovens with polyester or lycra.

Last summer ( I am just a little behind with my blogging), the problem arose again, and I was ready. I had bought the pattern from Colette patterns thinking " Easy, Quick, Has Sleeves!". I was right about these elements, but there was no immediate success in my annual quest for a tried and true summer-dress-for-work pattern.
I first whipped it up in a drapy rayon from Lincraft, and was not a fan. Admittedly, I had lengthened the skirt in an attempt to make it Sri Lanka appropriate, but the main contributribiting factor to an appearance of severe dowdiness was the wide and droopy neckline. This is a common finding in reviews of this pattern.
I chopped off the bottom half of the dress and made a practical maxi skirt by adding a waistband (before taking photos- I wasn't in blogging mode at the time) so the original project was not a complete disaster. It did however, leave me with an unpleasant feeling of unmet challenge, so I decided to try the pattern again, with neckline modifications and a less drapey fabric.

In the next attempt I used a non-even plaid linen from Michael's Fabrics. I bought it in a linen bundle a few years ago, when the Australian dollar was more robust, and I am very pleased with the autumnal colours, a rare find in a plaid locally.

In order to keep this a relatively quick project, I cut the sleeves, waistband and centre panels of the skirt, on the bias to minimize the need to match the checks, and used Sheryl's marvellous tip for sewing matching plaids for the side seams. Thanks Sheryl!

Originally, I was quite pleased with the dress, and did not, in this fabric, find the neckline at all problematic during construction. The gathering and folding adjustments I added to the neckline all had to be undone again, to give the neckline the original dimensions, which were not a bad on me. Clearly the neckline  width is fine (for me) in a stable fabric.

The photos of this dress show it in it's second season of wear, and I find it entirely practical, reasonably comfortable, and I am happy that it projects a sufficiently professional appearance for me to sit in a back office and do piles of dastardly paperwork.
However, in sewing perfectionist mode, I have never been entirely happy with the fit at the shoulders nor the neckline.  The dress pulls and rides up slightly, although not in a manner that cannot be controlled with a handy lingerie guard. You can also see that the bias waistband  has become somewhat bulgy if I don't stand straight.

 Normally, with a regular set in sleeve, I make a square shoulder adjustment of about 1cm, front and back, but I have never bothered doing this in a raglan sleeve garment before, as this cut seems much more forgiving to my figure variation.
On reflection, it occurred to me that most of the raglan sleeved garments I have made previously are knits, so require less fitting, or have quite a gathered neckline, such as a bishop/peasant style blouse. So, in spite of sewing for, ulp, over 30 years now, I am still learning things about fitting, and fabric choice. I must be a slow learner. Sewing is a fabulous hobby for lifetime skill development, plus you get nice new clothes whilst entertaining yourself and exercising your brain :)
So, I altered the sleeve for my next version.
 McCall's post on altering raglan sleeves
This pattern is still in the un-met challenge category.
Fortunately, I can disguise the neckline very well with a scarf. DSC08169

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Poinsietta frock from a sari. Vogue 1152

I had a lovely time making this frock. As the gardeners amongst you can tell from the photographs, I made this a little while ago - for a New Year's Eve party in fact. (My neighbours' Poinsietta was especially beautiful this summer)

For me, it hits all the buttons for sewing satisfaction.

1. I adore the fabric.
This fabric is another souvenir from my trip to Sri Lanka. The fabric was woven on a hand loom from fine cotton, and is very slightly translucent. It's a weight somewhere between a lawn and a shirting cotton. Originally it was 6 or so metres of a bright sari, it was essentially colourblocked, in shot orange/red with a purple border, but also had a lime/dark blue-green shot "blouse" section and a blue/yellow/green striped "scarf" section.  The shot orange section came to about 4 metres length of 85cm width, which was ample for my sundress version.
2. I had a tried and true, previously fitted pattern to use
Vogue 1152
Vogue 1152. I've made this twice before. (You can read about my construction changes in the earlier post if you are interested). I wear both the earlier versions frequently, more so the pure cotton version than the silk/cotton batiste, as the lawn is so cool to wear.
I love a shiny new pattern, and trying new patterns is a great joy to me, but there is a great benefit in getting straight to cutting out without all that pesky fitting and the absence of any concern that the finished garment just won't suit me
3. There was ample opportunity for my own twist to the pattern
These are simple changes, but I feel that this dress is unique, and personalised. I've piped the neckline, in addition to the piping of the front waist sections called for by the pattern. I also gave a nod to the original use of this fabric by including the sari's purple border. I applied a modified neckline facing (I drafted the back facing and reshaped the front neckline) to the outside of the garment, which did require some piecing of the border.
4. I took my time and the inside of the dress looks very tidy.
I realise that this is a reflection of my own slightly pathological tendency to obsess over details, but I find it very pleasurable to observe wearer-only elements such as tiny, tidy french seams whilst I'm getting dressed.  This is a very afordable luxury!
The finishing instructions provided in the pattern are unusually good, and I enjoyed watching a movie with my son whilst I did the hand sewing for this project.
5. The dress is a hard working addition to my wardrobe
 The finished garment is comfortable to wear, I feel good in it, and I've already worn it frequently.
Next up, a new-to-me pattern that reminds me that sewing is a constant learning experience.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Colette Floral parfait and Blueberry parfait

When Colette's Parfait pattern was first released, I made 3 versions in quick sucession, all of which worked very hard in my wardrobe for several summers and became threadbare.


I was then incredibly foolish, and made 2 versions for my then 17 year old daughter. This was a serious miscalculation, as naturally, having a perfect 17 year old figure, she looked so beautiful in this dress that no sensible middle aged mother could possibly wear a dress made from the same distinctive pattern  whilst in her vicinity.
Fortunately for my vanity, this daughter now lives several hundred kilometres away, so this summer, I've made myself some new Parfaits, which I must remember to leave at home when I visit my daughter.
Parfait 6, in a floral cotton print. This fabric is quilting cotton, which is actually a very good weight for this sundress. You can see that as usual for me, I've adapted the straps to remove the button fastenings, and substituted a 4 gore skirt for added swishiness and coolness-to-wear.

Parfait 7, in a very interesting souvenir fabric from Sri Lanka. This finely striped cotton, woven on a hand loom, is a little heavier than a quilting cotton, and started its life as a masculine sarong, as worn by Tamil men in Batticaloa. These are sewn into a simple tube, which is no problem to a fabricoholic with a quick unpick.There is just enough fabric in one of these sarongs for a sundress, and there are two sarongs left in my holiday fabric stash. I adore souvenir fabric.
Gratuitous photograph of looms in Sri Lanka.
2016-12-09 10.09.51

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Some of the Best of 2016, well, actually the ones with photographic evidence

I've been writing imaginary posts this year, but have now realised that I will never catch up with the past few months of sewing, with actual posts on the blog, so here are some snippets from last year before I run out of January, in the hopes that I will write more detailed posts about other projects and take photos with my camera, rather than my phone.



Burda Style 09-2014, #115
This is the hoodie tunic  that I made after my beach dress. I did indeed wear it to a lot of Junior 3 soccer games, and found it a most versatile and practical garment. I have plans for another version next winter. This one is made from a lovely shot cotton in red/blue, and has the same phone worthy pockets as my beach dress, but this time my zippered welt pockets are much improved.

2016-09-04 02.42.42

2016-09-04 02.41.40
Burda Style 01-2016-101
In the same uber casual vibe, this hooded garment, sort of a poncho crossed with a sweatshirt, was originally intended for myself, for lounging purposes. It's made from a thin polar fleece, and I extended the cuffs, feeling that a polar fleece overgarment should have full length sleeves rather than 3/4.
 Somehow this top leapt into the bag of a certain daughter whilst she was home one weekend, and migrated to Brisbane, where it remains to this day. It aroused such covetousness in the other daughter that a wearing rota was developed. It became known as the "cuddle top" and whoever has the nastiest assignment or exam coming up is allowed to wear it whilst studying. According to the agreement, it can also be worn for other circumstances -those that also require chocolate and a long telephone conversation with one's mother. I found this develpment very pleasing, it's clearly a much worn garment, but somehow I failed to make another version for the wearing rota before winter finished. Maybe this year I'll get around to making another version or two, so that I can keep one at my house.

This last garment is of a different ilk. My elder daughter and I collaberated on it, for her 4th year ball at University, and the sewing and planning was great fun, but unfortunately, the photographs leave a lot to be desired. This may be due to most of the construction taking place in the evening over a few weekends, but may also be due to the dress not quite being finished when she left for Brisbane on the weekend before the ball.
This is a dress in 3 (or maybe 5) sections. There is a black silk shantung bodice, pleated vertically and draped to fit, a black silk shantung cummerbund, pleated horizontally, worn over 3 skirts. The overlayer is an ombre silk chiffon wrap skirt,  grey to black, with the ombre shading vertically. Under this is a wrap skirt layer of a soft silver coloured poly chiffon, with lace motifs machine appliqued to the chiffon ( I learnt that hand appliquing lace motifs to silk chiffon is an extremely time consuming and fraught project from an earlier attempt). Under this is a long 6 gore petticoat, made from cotton batiste in a pale pink.
My daughter envisioned the dress, ironed a lot of pleats and cut out a lot of motifs. She sewed the cummerbund. She and my younger daughter also hemmed the two outerlayer skirts just before the ball. 
I also sewed two mini travel wardrobes for two work trips to Melbourne (July and October), and for a trip to Sri Lanka, which may have included some fabric shopping. I have very good intentions of posting more about these later.......

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Donna Karan Vogue 1259 a really easy skirt

One of the great advantages of having daughters is that one has suitable victims whom are forced to wear ones sewing output opportunities to try out patterns that might not be quite suitable for one's own age and figure. I must admit, that when I bought this Donna Karan pattern, I was intruiged by the construction of these pieces, but could not envisage myself wearing these lovely, but body conscious pieces. However, I don't like making things that no one wears. Its a conundrum.
So last weekend, when my younger daughter was visiting, she discussed with me an upcoming job interview and  her need for a new skirt, I laid cunning plans. She had every intention of making herself a skirt.
I provided her with a few Burda magazines, and a pile of envelope patterns, and snuck Vogue 1259 into the pile.
I was quite unsurprised when this outfit took her fancy.
She, however, did some fast talking. This pattern, she pointed out, was rated Advanced, and she felt that her sewing skills were not quite up to it.
I glanced over the instructions and provided encouragement. No, she said, definitely Too Hard. So we came to an agreement. She would trace out the pattern for the skirt, and also for another skirt that she felt would be easier to sew, and I would sew up the Donna Karan skirt for her, whilst she sewed the more traditional straight skirt herself
Now dear readers, I have a confession. There is no way that this skirt is Advanced. One simply gathers two edges of the knit fabric, stabilizes one end, and sews the skirt into a tube, overlapping the unfinished, gathered edges. I used a cotton lycra medium weight knit. The only construction element with any trickiness at all is sewing the top of the tube without catching the underneath of the tube under the presser foot.
Then, you sew an elastic casing for the waist, and hem the skirt ( I used a coverstitch, which may have involved some wrestling with my machine). 30 minutes, maximum.
She is very pleased with the skirt. She didn't sew the other one for herself. Was I conned? Possibly...but it might be mutual.

I am very pleased that I was able to try out this pattern, and that she did all the tracing out (dull) and the cutting out (slightly less dull, but not my favourite part of sewing).
I'm impressed with the design of the piece, unlike many "designer" patterns, its not a run of the mill garment, but its unique elements are not bizzare. It looks terrific on a fit 18 year old, and is a wearable, versatile garment.
It is an interesting design, and very, very easy to sew. The top might be another story!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Burda Style 09-2014-115 or 116 Is it a hoodie, is it a dress, are you wearing a dressing gown?

I had every intention of making myself a beach dress, one of those useful garments that one can throw on over a swimming costume, for not mere modesty, but some actual sun protection. However, when I put this on to take an early morning walk with my sister in Noosa National Park this week (there were beaches and swimming costumes involved), she asked me if it were my dressing gown.
 I was staying overnight with her at the time, but still.....
She kindly took a photo of me on the beach, but the slight blurriness may have been due to some sniggering on her part.
Despite these sisterly reservations I am quite pleased with this dress. I am calling it a dress because I made it to the dress length (116) but with the hood of 115 instead of the collar of the dress length.

I've actually been considering this garment for quite some time. Burda, in its fantasy beach issues, is always talking about beach cover ups, but they tend to be glamourous sundresses with navel baring cleavage, obviously designed to reveal as much of the swimming costume and its contents as possible whilst pretending to actually be clothed. I am much more prosaic. My idea of a beach cover-up does not have any need to look good with a cocktail at the fancy beach-side bar (Where are these places in Burda? Do children go to these beaches?)
Beach cover up requirements
1.Lightweight yet non transparent woven fabric that will tolerate wash and wear, be quick to dry, and cool to wear:
Bright green linen, a tad heavier than handkerchief weight, a Michael's fabrics bundle acquisition from a few years ago (I didn't actually pick the colour, which is rather bright for me)
My choice of fabric was inspired by the ever stylish Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn. Now I know that you have never seen her looking like a blob of lime jelly, and I hope that I am not offending her greatly by mentioning any association in my mind with this possibly-a-dressing-gown dress, but Carolyn has previously used this pattern, and made it up using a  lovely crushed linen from Tessuti in a sophisticated dark brown. Now I just happened to have this exact same fabric (mine was from Sydney),which was my original pairing for this beach dress, but when Carolyn mentioned that her long version had a distinct Friar Tuck vibe, and had to be drastically shortened before she could wear it, I felt that lime green linen was a better direction for me,having a much closer figure to Friar Tuck than Carolyn does!
I also thought that I could perhaps overdye the fabric, should it prove too luminescent, and that would be another inspiration from Carolyn, but alas, I am too lazy. I can live with this colour - at the beach.

2. Long sleeves, for sun protection, that can be rolled up or otherwise shortened for coolness when it is less sunny

The pattern has long sleeves with elastic, but I left off the elastic cuffs and added a tab and button. I hemmed the sleeves and the actual hem of the dress by hand, using running stitch and embroidery thread, because I had a movie to watch with my son, and I am not sure that it is possible to watch a movie without having something constructive to do at the same time :)


3. Knee length or longer for sun protection and also for sitting on hot sand
4. A collar or other neck protection
5. Ability to cover the upper chest and shoulders.
I particularly like this front fastening. There are unusually good instructions in the magazine, this being the featured pattern for the sewing lesson, and the placket is very neat. I embellished the surroundings with machine embroidery, because it amuses me, and used snaps for fastening. There are two close together at the bust for obvious reasons, but in retrospect, I should have used bigger snaps.
The inner neck seam is covered with a strip of Liberty print bias, as are the pocket seams and armscye seams. The other seams are flat felled. I want my beach dress to last for many summers.
6. Will not look ridiculous after being scrunched up under a wet towel
(I'm not sure that we hit this one)
7. Pockets . 
I converted the side seam pockets to zipped pockets, attempting the ribbon welt pocket from Kenneth King's book,  Cool Couture, but I had forgotten that there is an error in the instructions - they are correct for a 5/8th inch ribbon but call for a 7/8th inch ribbon (leave off the 1 mm offset if using a 7/8th inch ribbon). Therefore my welts overlap, but I won't allow myself to be bothered by this. Its a design feature, right?

These pockets are perfectly sized to contain one smartphone and due to the zips, there is no risk of it falling out when you remove the beach cover up in order to go swimming. Don't ask me why this is the most important design feature of the dress.


This garment is very easy to wear. It's a style departure for me, and has not received husbandly nor sisterly approval, but I like it enough to have a go at a tunic length version. Can't you see it in shirting cotton worn over jeans whilst attending important Junior 3 Soccer games?