Saturday, 8 February 2020

Cool Summer Dresses Colette Georgia

On the hottest days of summer, a simple, loose dress is nearly bearable to wear. In fact, a simple loose, cool dress with some shoulder coverage to prevent sunburn is something like a holy grail for me.
Have I made this legendary garment? Not yet, but here is an attempt in 3 stages. The pattern is Colette Georgia
Best version, #3 - The Teatowel dress
I made this dress from a stained tablecloth that was left behind in my daughter's share flat. Despite the fact that I have a large cupboard full of beautiful fabric, this cotton/polyester (burn test) randomly striped fabric had an inexplicable appeal that insisted that I turn it into a dress. It took a lot of fabric wrangling including piecing.
I like it a lot and have worn it every weekend since its inception. Its resemblance to a tea towel is mysteriously appealing to me.

You may notice that this does not look a lot like the technical drawing
It wasn't my first attempt.

This orange print version was originally straight from the pattern (other than 5cm lengthening of the skirt), and has pros and cons. I like the sleeve coverage, but it's gappy at the back bodice, pulls at the front bodice.
 It was highly unflattering due to lack of waist definition until I added an internal empire waist casing and drawstring. 
 The fabric is a cotton sarong with a border print - I've used the border at the pockets and hem only as it was quite a thin border and a strong contrast.
The pockets and hem facing were  my own addition, and make it practical for an around-the-house-dress that one can also wear for semi-public events such as collecting someone from the train station. I've worn this a few times, but it is currently living at my daughter's flat as a just-in-case outfit if I choose to stay overnight unexpectedly. It's clearly not a favourite.

Version 2: Cotton handwoven Sari

I made another version, using a lighter fabric, a souvenir handwoven cotton sari from Sri Lanka.
My adjustments were:
Narrow the back bodice
Full bust adjustment using the pivot method (side bust dart and lengthening bodice)
Add back skirt darts to reduce the gathering needed at the added outer empire waist casing
Add pockets
Apply neck facings to the front and hand embroider these and the pockets with cross stitch.
 This version was better than the orange version but had a few problems.

The most troublesome was that I had not made a good match of fabric to pattern.
This is a lovely but temperamental fabric, being loose woven. Unfortunately in wear it  proved a little transluscent.Even worse, the fabric is a little rough, so it clings to any petticoat in an unsightly manner. Unfortunately I only discovered this after I'd sewn a  bias petticoat  from the same fabric, and this petticoat can not be worn under any other garment either, due to grabbiness.
All the seams are french, but this was not sufficient. On its first wear, the fabric strained at the bust - despite fairly generous ease, and I had to repair this with additional fabric under the stitching.

To relieve some of the pulling, and to turn this dress into a nightie, I removed the sleeves, and again, I've worn this garment quite frequently, but only in the house. It is not even up to collecting someone at the train station and not getting out of the car!

The teatowel dress had a few advantages, the first one being that the fabric is thicker, although equally loosely woven. Due to this, I finished the pieces on the overlocker prior to constructing the dress.
I added 1cm to the armscyes for additional coverage, and bound the armscyes, turning inward and the neckline, turning outward, with bias trim made from the widest blue  stripes of the fabric, I used the other wide blue stripe as the external casing at the empire waistline.
Unfortunately I did not have sufficient fabric for the shaped pockets I used for the previous two versions, but I managed to squeeze out patch pockets which are sufficiently practical.
Overall, I'm happy with the dresses, but am amused at myself for thinking that I could make a dress with minimal shaping that I would actually wear. Note to self- don't bother making dresses without waist definition!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Summer dress V1152

 Continuing my worn 100 times theme, I have a favourite summer dress, which is in a disgraceful do-not-wear-this-out-of-the-house state involving fading and a fraying neck edge. Naturally it is my ambition to recreate this dress, which has been worn well over a hundred times due to its coolness, comfort, opacity and the undefinable quality of making me feel well dressed when I wear it. However, I must confess that it was probably relegated to only-at-home status before 100 wears. Cotton lawn is not very robust.
Here is my new version.

The pattern is by Rachel Twomey, Vogue 1152, and I have made it, in a sleeveless version, three times before before. The first two versions are shown here, if you are interested in my fitting and design changes.
Vogue 1152

My cunning plan was to work out why only one of these previous versions became a favourite, constantly worn dress, to hopefully incorporate these features into my new dress, and to possibly reinforce the areas of the dress where wear first appeared to increase longevity of the new dress.
Why didn't it work for me in 2 of 3 earlier versions?
Version one, silk batiste:
 I wore this dress less frequently  due to a too-low-for-me neckline, fabric transparency requiring a petticoat and the unfortunate heat retaining qualities of silk batiste as compared to cotton lawn. This is not a terrible outcome, as essentially, this dress was a trial version, although I do mourn the loss of the silk batiste, I have learnt that this is a good fabric for a light, but warm to wear petticoat, but for other garments, two layers of this fabric requires a lot of volume, for it to be comfortable to wear during spring, summer or autumn in a subtropical climate. Despite appearances, this dress does not have the necessary volume. I disposed of this version of the dress after a year or so of it languishing unworn in my wardrobe.

Version three, handwoven cotton sari fabric (fine fabric, loose weave):
I adore the third one, but have not worn it very often after its first few weeks of existence as I discovered on the first wearing that it requires a petticoat of a similar shade to the burnt orange main fabric and disgracefully, I haven't yet made one.  I have therefore worn it a few times with a semi visible purple petticoat as shown in the blog post, or a cream petticoat, but decided that I don't like either look. The burnt orange petticoat has been on my to do list for oh, about 2 years. I have learnt that if a dress needs a petticoat, I must make it straight away!

The dress pictured at the top of the post is not quite right. I have used a Japanese cotton lawn from Spotlight, which has a pleasing texture, and gathers nicely, but is unfortunately more transluscent than I expected.

I added piping to the front yoke seams, the neckline and the armscyes in addition to the front waistline piping called for in the pattern. I hope that this means the neckline will be resistant to fabric wear.

I self lined the centre bodice piece for robustness and opacity, and needed an additional row of gathering thread to control puffiness, but otherwise this dress is constructed very similarly to my previous versions.
Here is the inside view.
Fortunately, I had just enough fabric to squeeze in an A line, panelled petticoat, with an elastic waist  in casing and  a button and loop with placket closure. This skirt opening allows me to have less bulk at the waist, which I find more flattering.
In an exceptionally pleasing manner, the construction of this petticoat has instantly boosted the wearability of  my orange sari dress, version 3, as the cross weave red print is not visible through the sari fabric, and the lawn is sufficiently smooth not to catch on the slightly irregular hand woven main fabric of the dress.
I have a quite reasonable dress, but what I need now, is a version that doesn't need a petticoat.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

100 wears?: work clothes

Due to a lack of blogging, a 2019 retrospective would be a bit strange, so instead I am posting about some unblogged projects that I have worn frequently. This is inspired by Carolyn's 2019 retrospective post where she beautifully documents her favourite and also most worn garments. Being limited in the time available to indulge in my favourite hobby, it pleases me greatly when someone talks about how often they wear a garment that they have sewn, as this helps me to choose my projects, but Carolyn describes a negative response to this inclusion
" inevitably someone will comment “that doesn’t sound like many wears to me!  I’ve got things I’ve worn a hundred times this year, at least!”  to which I usually think – did you actually count?"

I'm not guilty of this querulous comment made to Carolyn, but after her post I'm counting, and I will show you what happens when you wear a garment 100 times. Usually this involves a pointed comment on one's shabbiness from the family fashion panel. It also usually takes me more than a year to wear a garment 100 times.

Category 1: Work clothing
3  days a week, woven cotton shirt and tailored trousers for clinical work , 1-2 days a week, a dress or skirt/top (mostly I work 4 days a week. I am a very fortunate person.)
This is an easy category to count, as I typically have a limited work wardrobe of 3-5 shirts and 3-4 pairs of trousers. These are always handmade and are always worn once then washed. At the moment I have 1 summer only shirt, 1 winter only shirt and 2 transeasonal shirts and two pairs of trousers that fit. This wardrobe is very limited but does mean that I can wear a different shirt on every clinical day and that I can have clean trousers for every clinical day. I wear a dress or skirt on non clincal days.

Here is a work shirt and a glimpse of work trousers, both made in November 2016 and unblogged
The shirt is a modified version of Burda Style 02-2010-114 and the trousers are self drafted. I've added an inverted pleat to the back for movement ease and left the sleeves uncuffed as I plan to only wear the sleeves rolled up unless length is needed for sun protection.
 The shirt is made from a mid weight woven cotton, with a fairly loose weave,provenence forgotten, and it is trimmed with cotton lawn. All of the seams are either bound with bias binding and topstitched, or are french seams.
This shirt is from the same pattern, you can see here that I have modified the back to include a box pleat for movement ease,  and added a contrasting standard cuff and placket rather than the french cuffs and faux placket of the pattern. This fabric is a high quality cotton seersucker from A Fabric Place.
The second shirt is worn with a different pair of trousers, from the same self drafted pattern,  and the fabric is a heavier wool twill, lined with imperial batiste. I only wear these trousers in winter, which from a weather point of view, is a very short season here. During winter I wear these trousers twice a week, again washing each time. My job in health, and our subtropical climate require this level of washing.

I originally made these two shirts to take on a work and holiday trip to Sri Lanka, but rejected the seersucker shirt as I found it quite warm to wear. The orange shirt, however, is cool to wear, having only a mandarin collar, no sleeve cuffs and a looser weave.

I wore the orange shirt about 6 times in two weeks in Sri Lanka,  hand washing it after each wear.
2016-12-06 11.13.48
I then wore it at least once a week to work during 2017 and 2018 - say worn and washed  96 times over 96 weeks, so over 100 wearings after 2 years.
It was looking pretty shabby. My husband suggested that I throw it out.
I mended the back pleat a few times, then retired it, probably 6 months later than I should have done, to be a hiking shirt. I am allowed to wear old clothes when hiking :). It went on holidays again in July  2019, for a week of remote camping and walking. I nearly threw it out at the end of the trip, but it's still in my wardrobe  and has been relegated further down the wearing suitability ranking and is now a gardening/painting shirt. Such is the versatility of a long sleeved, sun protective yet cool to wear shirt. 

The seersucker shirt is not often worn in the hottest parts of summer. I wear it at least once a week to work from March to November so 43 times a year minimum, so its now up to 1at least 129 wears. No wonder that I've had to repair the hand embroidered running stitch several times! This shirt has held up a lot better as it's made of a much higher weave and probably longer strand cotton. No one has threatened it with the bin to date.
The first pair of trousers are made of tropical weight wool, lined with imperial batiste (polycotton). I wear these 3 days a fortnight, all year, washing after each wear, so they are now up to 108 wearings. There are probably two more years of wear in these trousers. The second pair of trousers, identical other than being made from a heavier wool, were worn at least 100 times over about 7 years. I threw them out this winter after the second repair of the seam at the bottom of the yoke which had become worn at the side seams.

I don't aim for 100 wears from a garment. It is not reasonable to expect this from most items of clothing. However, if you sew with good quality fabric, wash gently ( and line dry), garments can sometimes be worn 100 times or more without being completely worn out. I find that sewing work clothes is not my favourite type of sewing, but I am content to do it, with the goal of achieving well fitting, comfortable clothes that look reasonably smart and professional, and will last. I have never yet found a pair of RTW trousers that fit, and a well fitting shirt that is suitable for work is a rare find.
 This theoretically frees my sewing time for more frivolous and entertaining sewing, but having done some counting to write this post I now think that I should sew myself another work outfit or two before my family fashion panel edits my wardrobe again.


Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Pyjama Party and a fabric story

Those of us who like to collect fabric have a problem. What happens to the fabric that we don't use?
I have, through some miracle of self control previously unattainable to myself, sewn up more fabric in the past 3 years than I have purchased. I don't know how I managed this. Maybe I will sew up my entire stash! (I can see you laughing).


This week, in fact, I sewed from someone else's stash. I am so virtuous. Maybe not. This fabric has been lurking in my stash,  for about 4 years. It was masquerading as a sheet that was purchased by my husband's aunt's mother-in-law in the '50s. (How is that for a sentence?)  Hmm, that makes the fabric somewhere between 60 and 70 years old - and the 4 years in my stash makes it my aging fabric.....

I used most of the other never-used sheet/fabric from this set here. It's beautifully high quality fabric, 180 count cotton, with the sheet I already used having a pattern of full blown roses, and the more recently used sheet a pretty rosebud print, with a border effect of larger roses towards one edge. The dress I made for my daughter has held up to wash and wear very well, so I hope that the age of the fabric does not affect the usefulness of my latest project. I'm not using any of my elderly fabric for complicated projects, as I don't completely trust it, but as far as I can tell, there is no easy answer to the question regarding longevity of any particular piece of fabric.

Very serious article about fabric longevity


The sheet is now 6 sets of pyjama shorts, one set for the only great-grand-daughter of the original purchaser (my children's second cousin), and another 5 sets for my daughters and their first cousins on that side of the family. Burda Style 11-2009-132 (adult sizes) and Burda Style 11-2009-143 (children's sizes) are the patterns. I scaled up a size for the children's shorts, as the pattern is for knits.
The sizes for small children have simply elasticated waists, and the older girls have a drawstring with elastic.

I hope that my nearly-a-relative would be pleased with my use of her almost fabric. I know that I would be pleased if my sadly unused stash turned into an entertaining sewing project.

The other 4 sets of shorts are girly quilting fabric, about 10 years old, and manly red-white- and blue seersucker, about 7 years old, for respectively my sister's daughters and my son, who is rather outnumbered in the  cousin gender distribution but still needs Christmas pyjamas. His pattern is Kwik Sew 2022.  Apparently this is a vintage pattern. I got mine in an op shop rather a long time ago, and it is one of my most- used patterns.
A notch up in the pyjama production party line is a set I've made for my sister.
 The pyjamas are sketchily associated with my self drafted trouser pattern  and the top is from the same useful Burda issue 11-2009, this time pattern number 134. I've modified this pattern over the years and it now has more drawstrings and less elastic. In fact all the drawstrings in this post have approximately half of the waist measurement in elastic attached to either grograin ribbon or bias rouleaux tubes. I was quite pleased with this set until I made myself a new nightie (on your right).
This is the same fabric as the main print in my sister's set and I like the nightie better than the pyjama top, as the contrasting trim on the trousers looks good, but on the top it seems a bit much in comparison to the nightie.  I would redo it, but the darned thing is in the clutches of Australia Post already.
The other nightie in the photo started out as a petticoat for a dress that turned out a little too transparent (its a bias slip with FBA and therefore bust darts) but unfortunately the hand woven fabric is too rough for a petticoat. It catches on the overlying dress. I'll have to make another one in something more slippery.
There, done and wrapped, and posted where appropriate, and a full week before Christmas. I'm feeling smug.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

20's style dress BurdaStyle 07-2012-102

When I first saw this pattern I would never have considered making it up.
 This issue of BurdaStyle has * dresses themed "The Roaring 20's".All without waist shaping and most with skirt hems at an unflattering level for me.In fact I remember my daughters and I being highly entertained by this issue in a what-were-they-thinking-these-are-HIDEOUS sort of way. However, my daughter decided to have a 1920's theme for her 21st birthday party and all of a sudden this issue became incredibly useful. I eat my words.
 Fortunately for me, one of the dresses in this selection is really interesting to sew.
Image result for burda 2012-07-102 
BurdaStyle 07-2012-102 is reminiscent of  designs by Madeline Vionnet, cut on the bias, using side panels for shaping, a lovely cowl draping neckline and a beautifully fluttering hem. Naturally, these details are not visible in the magazine photo, and are not terribly obvious in the technical drawing.

I had been flirting with the idea of making a 20's design from this Vionnet tribute book, which has diagrams of pattern pieces drawn from garments in museums, but using a Burda pattern seemed much easier!
This pattern is marked as 3 dots, "expert". I therefore approached the construction with some trepidation.
As it turned out, this trepidation was not necessary. I found the garment required precision cutting and marking, but was relatively straightforward to sew and was quite quick to construct, having no fastenings and a very neat neckline and armscye finish.
According to my measurements, I traced out a size 38 pattern then altered the tracing to a 42 at the back hips and a 40 at the front hips. This required some wrestling with the transition of sizes at the side panels to have matching seamlines, and in the end was probably not necessary, as there is a lot of ease at the hips due to the bias cut. This very useful blog post demonstrates this issue, but as the  fabric was not the same as mine (polyester vs rayon) I felt it was better to be safe than to have a garment failure in this region.
  I did not include my usual FBA and there is no bust line pulling. (1" usual adjustment). I did not include my usual narrow back adjustment, and there is some draping at the back neckline which I minimized by using lingerie keepers at the shoulders. I squared the shoulders slightly by 1/4", usually I square by 3/8" but the shoulder seams in this dress are very short.
My other addition to the pattern was to use self fabric, cut on the cross grain, instead of interfacing the back neck and armscye facing/lining piece.


The most tricky parts to sew were the side inserts, which involve turning an acute angle where the dropped skirt section meets the side panel. I used a walking foot to help minimise grain distortion whilst constructing. Burda gives quite good instructions for sewing these seams, advising that the fabric be reinforced with interfacing prior to cutting to the marking point. I did this, and applied a second piece of interfacing after finishing the seams on the overlocker, as I was not able to overlock the seams right to the point.
The other slightly tricky part was the finishing of the armscyes. Burda instructs you to turn in the seam allowance of the armscye and lining, pin it, then pull the facing through to the wrong side.
I had difficulty doing this, as I could not see to line up the shoulder seams.
Instead I started with the majority of the garment turned to the right side, but turned the armscye front section so that I could sew the  right sides of the armscye and lining together from the wrong sides up to the shoulder, turned the garment out to the right side at that secction, and repeated for the back section of the armscye. This worked perfectly and due to the earlier precision cutting and marking there was no pulling of the lining to distort the fall of the garment. I did try to photograph this, but the photograph looks like a wrinkled pile of fabric.
An alternative finish is shown at this very nice review of the pattern.
Although Burda says to leave the hem unfinished, I cannot cope with unfinished hems and used a fine rolled hem which did not adversely affect the swing of the skirt.

Here is  my trial version. I did not make a toile as the drape and bias cut of the fabric would not be replicated by a dissimilar fabric. This is a woven rayon from Lincraft, and is now a drapey dress to be worn on very hot days.You can see it here on location last summer (Did I mention that I am not up to date with blogging?
 The party dress is from a woven rayon from StoneMountain Daughter. I love the print, which is of raindrops and gives a slight emphasis to the directional panels. This is now a slightly more smart drapey dress to be worn on very hot days. It is seen here after the party, unfortunately without the headpiece and faux pearl accessories.

I took in the side seams on both dresses to give some slight waistshaping which I find more flattering. As I am short waisted, the points of the hem godets are below hip level, which I think is more visually appealing than the level shown in the magazine. The dresses have a slight tendency to cling with is easily fixed with shapewear (for the party) or a petticoat for real life in a hot climate.
Overall I am very happy with these dresses. The party costume was true to the theme without looking ridiculous and I have two wearable garments after a highly entertaining sewing project.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Mock wrap top for a teenager, Simplicity 4568

One of my nieces has just turned 14, and in a moment of insanity I thought I'd make her something for her birthday.
Simplicity 4568
This is only insanity because she lives about a thousand kilometers away from me, and the size and shape of a 14 year old girl can change dramatically in a few months - I last saw my niece in August.
I'm not completely crazy, I did check her current RTW size with my sister-in-law, but I admit to some nervousness before I recieved a lovely thank you email and a photo showing that this fits very nicely, even if it will only be for a few months. (My niece is very well trained in how to keep a sewing Auntie happy)

I had a lovely time making this top for her. I used Simplicity 4568 , from which my daughters had several tops at a similar age, and for them, as for my niece, I used the current size for height, 14, and one size smaller for width.
Previous, alternative, use of this pattern is shown here and below

Simplicity 4568

This top has some lovely details for girls of this age, with small bust darts, waist shaping and a bias cut in the lower bodice, which suits an immature but not child's figure. There is a paucity of patterns for adolescent girls which have these components, and I think this pattern works just as well now as it did 10 years ago.

The fabric used is a medium weight woven rayon from StoneMountain&Daughter. As the pattern has several relatively small pieces I was able to use some oddly shaped remnants. I was very pleased to make good use of the rest of this rather indulgent purchase for myself!

I altered the pattern slightly in construction, using bias binding, hand stitched internally, to finish the neckline and armscyes, and attaching the empire waistline ties to the bottom of the crossed over upper bodice rather than the side seam to give emphasis to the mock wrap design.
I used French seams throughout, added a small front shoulder pleat to give additional bust room and correc the pattern's drafting error which mismatches the shoulder length in the larger sizes. I also added a snap fastener to the cross over section for security.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Dresses Vogue 1353, some catching up on unposted sewing

In times of sewing scarcity, I have a number of default habits, the most serious of which is "sew a dress", which is unfortunately usually in direct opposition to my most urgent wardrobe needs at any given moment. However, sewing is not merely a way of filling one's wardrobe requirements.

So, one of my favourite things to sew is a pretty dress that I already know fits. A recipe for satisfaction and success with some practical gains. So here are a couple of versions of Vogue 1353. I have previously outlined the construction of dresses from this pattern here, here and here.


I have mixed feelings about this dress. I like it very much, for itself, and the construction was very soothing to me at the time, but I sewed it whilst staying at my mother's house in the wake of a death in our family and I am reminded of this period whenever I wear it. I threw out a different hand made dress  that I wore to the funeral as it was clear to me that this was a bad association, but this particular dress reminds me of family closeness in a time of difficulty. Clearly I invest far too much emotion in my clothing!
The fabric is a quilting cotton with a dark brown background.

I added sleeves to the pattern, self drafted, and piping to the neckline as I have done in previous versions for a neat finish.


I also knit a cardigan, a variation of a Jo Sharp pattern from Knit 3, the eyelet cardigan. I altered the neckline so that it would nicely frame the neckline of my two new dresses and did some short row shaping for bust room. The yarn is 4ply Alpaca Silk Georgette, which is now discontinued, hence my 3/4 lenth sleeves :).



Oops, I almost forgot the other Vogue 1353, in white/cream seersucker.

 I don't usually wear white, as I don't feel that the colour suits me, but was invited to a White Christmas Party, where the  instructions were to wear white clothing. My initial thoughts about these instructions were not particularly gracious but I got over this sense of mild affront at being told what to wear (when I didn't already have anything in that colour) by thinking of it as a costume party, and in fact have worn the dress quite frequently since, and it looks very good with my burnt orange and my red cardigans. I was very pleased to be able to adapt the instructions to a more flattering shade by using a cream/white stripe fabric and I must admit also that the visual effect at the party was terrific. It was held at a newly decorated beach house, with blue and white furnishings and white Christmas decorations, and with all the guests in white the party scene looked like an advertising feature. Perhaps this colour themeing is a response to putting photos of social events on social media?




You can see that I find this pattern easy to sew, and the dress comfortable and easy to wear. in fact I have another version hanging in my sewing room waiting for hemming.