Sunday, 17 June 2018

A ball dress Gertie's Butterick 5882

I have often felt that the fairy godmother is a very appealing character in any traditional story. What could be better than appearing in a puff of smoke and granting someone's dearest wish of the moment with a wave of one's wand? Sounds like winning the lottery.... Well frankly, I have often wondered why fairy godmothers don't appear earlier in the story and provide a sound education or an introduction to an excellent work opportunity so the principal character does not fall into quite such dire straits in the first place, but granting an importunate wish makes a better story :) So, when my younger daughter was home for a weekend not so very long ago, and telling me how she was planning to buy a formal dress on the internet to wear to a University ball, I dropped a few pointed hints about the poor quality and ill fitting nature of such dresses and my kind daughter acted like a fairy godmother and allowed me to make her a ball dress, which was my dearest wish of the moment. We spent a delightful weekend looking through patterns, and my fabric collection, and came up with a plan involving a visit to a fabric shop and at least two weekends of intense sewing. What could be more fun? 

I was under a fair bit of time pressure, as the fitting of the dress had to be completed in competition with two short visits before the ball.

Naturally, no pattern perfectly fit the inner vision of the dress, but we decided on a modification of a Gertie pattern B5882

We did hit a snag here. Neither of us had realised from the pattern envelope that the bust detail on this pattern is a peculiarly placed shelf that starts at the bust line, rather than supporting the entire bust. On reading Gertie's blog in retrospect, this is apparently a deliberate design detail to minimize the appearance of a large bust, (which is not an issue for my daughter) whilst simultaneously focussing the entire attention of the dress at the bust line by not only framing the bust but having this section of the dress in a contrast fabric. Hmmm.
Our thinking was that it would be much more practical and visually appealing to have this section act as a built in bra, and orginally, we thought this section would look best in the same fabric as the remainder of the dress.
I am very grateful to Tantis-Isis for posting about her alteration of this region when she wrote about her lovely version of this pattern, and essentially followed the same technique, but increasing the cut out section of the front bodice further to fall just outside the bust and enlarging slightly the inner overlap to fit., then hand basting the inner sections to the main bodice. The bust construction is the feature of the dress, and I am quite happy with how it turned out, but it did require some fiddling. I have lightenend this photo so that hopefully you can see the details on the black insert sections.
In these photographs the understrap is flipped down so that you can see the inner details. In wear we preferred to flip this section upwards so that the inner cups are peeking out rather than prominent. The twist in the strap was then held in place with a little handstitching.

I did make a toile of the bodice, which my daughter rather fancied as a summer top, but unfortunately I forgot to photograph it. I found it very useful to practice the construction of the overlapping front bodice pieces, (ie, I did this 3 times for practice) and adapted these slightly in the actual dress by adding a layer of  bamboo quilt wadding as slight padding and to increase the shell effect of the topstitching. This is very pretty, and again I used handstitching to hold the little curl of the topmost section in place where the inner cups are folded to give a soft edge at the centre front cross over.
 I reinforced the seam at the insert with woven selvage, and like some other reviewers at pattern review, cut the integrated strap/bust undersupport on the cross grain, rather than on the bias, to improve the structural support of the dress. This was particularly necessary as my daughter wanted a long dress to wear to the ball, and the skirt length is increased to just above the ankle. I also increased the boning in the bodice, and used a grosgrain waist stay to provide additional support.

I was also wrestling with my fabric limitations. When we visited Lincraft, where I never expect to find anything even remotely appealing, there were actually some lovely cotton sateens. Not having considered anything less than silk due to my fabric snob notions, the fabric that my daughter fancied was a great find, especially as she insisted on paying for the fabric and she is a University student with a part time job. Unfortunately we had calculated that we needed about 5 metres of fabric for her full length dress and there were just over 3 metres left on the bolt, so she bought plain black poly satin for the bodice and strap and trusted in my fabric wrestling skills for the other adaptations that might be necessary. I was very nervous.

To cut a long story short, to fit the dress to the fabric, I narrowed the skirt, reduced the seam allowances, pieced two sections near the hemline and shortened the dress to just above the ankle. Somehow, I managed to squeeze in the integrated bust support and strap from the main fabric. My brief was to make the skirt as full as possible.
 Here is the photo I sent to my daughter to demonstrate my obedience to the brief. She was very happy with me :)

I made the skinniest hem that you can imagine, using bias binding, and supported the hem with horsehair braid for true dancing swishiness.
Obligiatory back view

Here are some official ball photos.
I haven't yet explained to her boyfriend that he is fair game for my blog, so he is anonymous here at the moment.
My daughter was very happy with her dress and reported many compliments on her attire.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Long cardigan Ottobre and Vogue knit tunic top

I have a long nylon/merino hoodie that I wear frequently around the house,during cooler weather, so when I was working on the winter travel wardrobe, I thought a smarter version of this would be a good idea for layering.

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The pattern is Ottobre 05-2011-06, previously made here, but as you can see, this time I made it without a hood, for fabric saving and luggage saving reasons, and self bound and overlapped the neckline, wth an attempt to make the cardigan a little less sporty. The fabric is a wool ribbing, from, purchased quite some time ago, and is quite stretchy. I added about 5cm to each centre front with the idea of an overlap fastening, and due to the stretch this overlap is considerable. 
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I prefered to fasten it only at the top (inside and out), and am pleased with the brooch effect of the inner button when the cardigan is worn open (silver button) or closed (bronze fastening)

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I particularly like the opportunites for fitting given by using a centre back seam in this type of pattern.

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Although I was reasonably pleased with the effect of turning in the centre front edges to finish them, this finish is quite bulky. Much against my sewing instincts, I chose to leave the hem and sleeve hem edges raw. They have held up surprisingly well and do not appear to ravel at all.

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Underneath is a lengthened version of one of my favourite cowl neck t shirts, Vogue 8634. 
The fabric is a truly gorgeous heavy weight rayon knit from Knitwit, and I was extremely happy with this tunic - until a very kind person did some washing for me and managed to shrink it considerably. My older daughter was a grateful recipient of this worn-once tunic , and fortunately I was able to purchase more of the fabric, but alas, it is still in the flat fold stage. As you might have noticed, I used remanants from the original piece of this fabric for the insert in the Wren dress I posted about yesterday, and I am being very careful not to leave the dress anwhere where someone else is likely to put it in the washing machine for me!

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Colette Wren knit dress, version 1 and 2

  A little while ago, in planning a travel wardrobe, and having about 1.5 metres of a very pleasing waffle merino,  I was in search of a knit dress pattern with sleeves which required not-too-much-fabric. I was completely astounded that searching through my enormous collection of envelope patterns and Burda magazines failed to give me any results other than the pure pleasure of fantasizing about completely different garments and using up a lot of post-it labels. How is it possible to own huncreds of patterns and not find something that exists perfectly in the mind's eye?

With some internal muttering at the thought of having to tape sheets of A4 together, I spent the rest of the morning pattern browsing on the internet and eventually decided to try the Colette pattern Wren. I've made a few Colette patterns previously, with mixed results, but this is the first time I have used one  by downloading patterns from the Seamwork site using credits from my magazine subscription.

I loathe fitting garments with knit or stretch fabrics, as the degree of stretch between fabrics can be so different. However, for this pattern, there are a lot of seams in the panel skirt version, allowing post cutting changes, and having a wrap top, again it is possible to tweak the positioning of the wrap in addition to taking in or letting out seams.
The front bodice construction is very clever, with an inset panel on each side of the neckline that can be tweaked to give a close fit at the centre front and to provide more or less cleavage cover as desired.

Naturally, having planned carefully to allow pattern changes, I found that I didn't need to fit very much at all, which was very pleasing.

Version 1 is made of a cotton-lycra medium weight knit (Stretchtex, but no longer produced, unfortunately).
Fitting involved a square shoulder adjustment,  a little taking in at the waist and letting out at the back skirt princess seams after making a size larger in the skirt than in the bodice. I usually have to enlarge the sleeves, but did not need to for this pattern. I chose to cut the front centre panels a little shorter than the pattern lay out, and to stretch them slightly as I sewed them, so that there is no neckline gapping in any position, and the neckline is relatively high.
There is a little pulling at the empire waist, due to increasing the wrap over (which I adjusted in later versions)., but the dress is quite wearable, albeit with a petticoat to prevent unsightly clinging.I hemmed the skirt and sleeves using a coverstitch and the rest of the garment was sewn on my conventional machine using a 3 step fine zig-zag. I reinforced the shoulder seams with woven selvage, and the waist seam and neck edges with lingerie elastic on both versions.
 DSC08775 (2)
 The photos were takens when I went out for breakfast on the Redcliffe Peninsula with my mother and my younger daughter, and I felt very suitably dressed for this activity.

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Version 2 is from the relatively heavy merino waffle knit from the Fabric store in Brisbane. I bought this fabric about 2 years ago and have not seen fabric of this weight very often. I will snap it up if I see it again, as this is a very pleasing weight for a dress, not too thick, nor too thin and clingy.
I did not have quite enough fabric for the dress, but fortuiously, I found some co-ordinating scraps of a rayon knit from Knitwit of about the same weight which I thought looked quite good as a contrast insert. I also lengthened the sleeves.

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.
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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.
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