Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The shadows you were casting nearly swallowed the night

Hey guys! Ready for another round of "Cam obscures interesting seamlines with a ditsy floral print"? Yup, me too! This weeks contestant is Vogue 1353!

Oops I did it again... We should probably just let the Britney Spears' lyric shame spiraling commence... You see I managed to take the pattern known for it's sharp, sculptural neckline pleats and hide it in a small-scale pink floral print making it utterly unrecognisable from a distance. *Facepalm* Luckily for me the pleats' architectural, 3-D nature makes them noticeable from the side and up-close (Or atleast that's what I tell myself ...). Also what the cotton voile lacks in pattern-highlighting-plainness it makes up for in a beautiful soft hand that makes gorgeously soft pleats. I think something with more body would probably work better for the skirt pleats but for the neckline I prefer softer, more subtle fabrics.

(Sidenote: If it looks like all the pictures for this post have really weird angles/poses it's because they were the only ones you could see the pleats in... Essentially, this dress is a nightmare to photograph!)
Hey look!! Neck pleats!!!
Magically, this pattern actually fit really well straight out of the package. I made a straight size 12 and the only fitting change I made was to pinch out 1 1/4" at the CB neckline tapering to 5/8" at the CB waistline. I'm pretty sure this is because of my rounded back or some-such but I have to make the same alteration for pretty much every pattern I make. Damn you laptop/sewing machine/scoliosis/generic teenager posture!!

Like I said I didn't make many fitting changes but I did make a lot of aesthetic tweaks- not enough to alter the essence of the pattern, just enough to make it fit my proportions more.

  • Lengthened the bodice 1 5/8" at the lengthen/shorten lines. The bodice is drafted to sit 1" above the natural waist- or so that handy notch told me. On my toile it just looked super weird, like I had a tiny torso, so I compared it to some other dresses and lengthened it so it so the waist sits at a more natural spot.
  • Shaved 5/8" off the armscye at the shoulder, tapering to nothing at the underarm seam. The bodice is also drafted to have really wide shoulders. You can't really see it on the pattern photos but it's more obvious in real life. Combined with the short waist it was not a good look (Think baby goblin trying on her mother's dresses!)
  • Hacked 2" off the hem and abandoned the hem facing for a 1 1/2" hand hem. Yup, that's right, my brief flirtation with longer hemlines is over. No shame.
  • Added pockets. Pockets make everything better. Fact.
  • Didn't stitch down the skirt pleats. Not much to say about that, I just like more swishiness.
  • Inverted the neckline pleats. I'm adding this to the alterations list to make you think it was intentional, but the truth is I totally sewed the neckline pleats backwards and I didn't even notice until I was taking the photos *Face palm* The good thing is that the pleats still look really nice regardless of the direction they're facing, and if there are any pleat purists in the vicinity then hopefully the floral print will throw them off the scent... Hopefully...
Oooh inverted neck pleats- How scandalous!

I have to warn you that I really like this pattern! (Read: I REALLY LIKE THIS PATTERN!!!) It's a classic silhouette but it has a bunch of interesting details which elevate it into a whole new sewing experience. I haven't worked with a lot of "Big 4" patterns before so I was really interested to see what it would be like, especially since V1353 is a designer pattern. I have to say Ms Unger did not disappoint. There were a ton of notches, everything fit together beautifully and there were even separate pattern pieces of for the neckline interfacing and hem facing (which you don't always get with indie patterns) and a thoughtful/economical cutting layout.

Can I also give a shout out to the big-ass knife pleats in the skirt?! I was pretty convinced that the huge pleats would look weird or I'd mess up the pleating in some way, but they look great and they add SO MUCH VOLUME!! I'm a total convert (Also Big-ass knife pleats would be the name of my rap album, just sayin')

Hems plus Big Ass Knife Pleats :P

An interesting thing about the bodice is that  it has those weird princess seams, where the seam doesn't cross the bust apex and there's a tiny mini-dart at the apex on the middle section (There's probably a technical name for that but I have no clue what it is...). Then the lining had the same princess seam, but there was a waist dart as well... Gasp!!

The princess seams with the bust darts aren't uncommon in patterns but I've never seen a princess seam with a bust AND waist dart before. I'm now really curious why you would chose to do both... Does it provide better shaping? Surely it can't be easier to draft...? But, I can't deny that the pattern does fit really nicely, so who am I to question Kay Unger's pattern making authority? (Although I will day that with the two sets of princess seams, two sets of darts and all the pleating it's A LOT of work- It pretty much felt like I was making two dresses, but it was totally worth it sooo...)

Now onto fabric. This is is the exact same cotton voile as my gathered S1873 just a different pattern/colourway. I really love cotton voile (hence buying more of it) It's super light and airy but handles easily and holds a press unlike some fibres *cough-rayon-cough* I bought the main fabric in half-price sale, then when I went back to buy black cotton lawn to line the bodice I found one last remnant of it, the exact amount that I needed. Clearly it was fate. For the skirt lining I cut up an old black rayon dress that didn't fit anymore. I have to say I now a full convert to the church of fully lined dresses. It' just soooo swishy!!! Aaaahhhhh swishy skirts feel soooo goooood!!

Also how have I never self-lined a bodice before?? When I made the S1873 dress I used an old pillowcase as the bodice lining (Don't judge :P) so the lining had a slightly heavier/crisper hand than the voile,  and it sometimes feels like the lining/voile are competing (Does that make sense?) Whereas, with self-lining the bodice and lining have the exact same hand so they complement each other nicely. And lets not forget how divine it feels to wear voile. Essentially, what I'm saying, is this might be the comfiest dress I own! Yup, I went there!

Dress lining
With the full lining and the french seams on the skirt and pockets (VIVA LA FRENCH SEAMS!!!) this is probably also one of the best finished dresses I've made. Good finishing on dresses makes me happy in a way that's both hard to describe and replicate. There is no type of joy comparable to seeing a perfect french seam or an invisibly catch-stitched hem and knowing that your time and effort have elevated the garment to a whole new dimension. I'm going to level with you now, at this very moment I'm at my desk and this dress is hanging up next to me, inside out so I can see the pretty lining- That's how good it makes me feel!

Sidenote; This dress is 100% dog approved

I sometimes think sewing blogging is one of the life's weirdest/hardest occupations. We're trying to use pictures and words to explain intangible/unquantifiable emotions, as well as tactile/physical practicallities. I sort of feel like to accurately explain to anyone reading exactly how I feel about this dress I would need them to come here and dance around in it for a day. But maybe they still wouldn't have the same emotional reaction to it, because they didn't make it- it's not a realisation of their vision, and extension of their style, a display of their skills or a facet of their growth as a sewist/artist/person. Maybe this dress is uniquely mine and my attachment to it will never be accurately explained by pictures or words or even touch. So instead let me just tell you in the simplest terms how this dress makes me feel. Happy. This dress makes me happy. And you can't really do much better than that.

Also I want about a dozen more versions. Specifically, I want a large-scale cornflower blue/white print cotton voile version... And a dark blue silk one, and a plain one to show off the pleats... And maybe one made out of rayon, to see how that affects the pleats... Basically I want a lot of dresses, but lets face it, that's not exactly new information.

Sidenote: This dress is also 100% dog photo-bomb approved

Ps. On the off-chance that you're looking at this and wondering how the backdrop to my pictures is the same even though I just moved cross-country, then you should know that I made the dress in August and took the pictures at home before I moved. I then took the hanging shots in my new room were the lighting is shit. Continuity be damned!!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Every time you go somewhere you leave somewhere behind

I'm never sure whether I'm one of those people who's naturally adverse to change, or whether I just subconsciously put myself in that box just in case I might be. You know, so if I band myself in with the people who live with their parents their whole lives and something changes and I hate it then it's natural, and if I like it then it's better than expected. You know, setting the bar low to avoid disappointing expectations. Yup, my subconscious is pretty crafty that way! All that's to say that I'm probably better with change than I give myself credit for.Sure, I've never been one of those kids that moved 300 times so their childhood home was a suitcase, but I've experienced my fair share of earth-shattering change, and for the most part I'm pretty adaptable. Not great with change, but not awful. I think it harks back to the fact that whilst your city, home, friends, career etc. might change the day to day busyness of living stays the same. There are still meals to be eaten (and made!!) sleep to be slept and people to get to know. Everything changes but everything stays pretty much the same regardless of your situation (Much to the chagrin of people who take drastic measures only to find themselves in the same situation on the opposite side of the world. This whole musing reminds me a lot of a taster lecture I had at the Birmingham University earlier in the year. We were discussing the poem Musée des Beaux Arts by W H Auden and the lecturer's interpretation really struck me. I liked how he showed the reassurance within the poem (I mean it was written in 1938...). Life altering change (and a story has been continually re-told since Ancient Greece) could be reduced to something inconsequential, at the periphery of everyone else's life. I found it then, and still find it now, incredibly reassuring to put my own struggles into the context of the world at large, and occasionally get so swept up in the mundane acts of living that distract us from getting too caught up in our own heads.

If it wasn't already clear, I've moved halfway across the country. Yup, that's pretty damn far. At first I hated it. I hated introducing myself to a million people everyday and having to constantly summarise my life story. Small things like not seeing my mum's face everyday suddenly became heart-wrenchingly painful. And whilst I felt completely fine whilst talking to people there was a constant feeling at the back of my head like everything was irreparably wrong and nothing would ever be the same again. Not so great. Then, suddenly a flip switched. All at once, I had things to do, and knew people who I could do them with. I realised that studying a niche subject combination means there's a small tight-knit group of you all with astonishingly similar interests, because, well, duh! It's also amazing how quickly a place can begin to feel like home if you have to do the washing up there everyday. And long you can stretch out the preparation for one meal if you try hard enough. Or how easy it is for six people to bond over watching one guy fail to cook a frozen fish fillet (First in an un-pre-heated oven, then the microwave, then a frying pan, all in the space of 10 minutes!)

And all that was to say that it wasn't the going somewhere that was horrible, it was the leaving somewhere behind. But that it's amazing, maybe even scary, how quickly things settled back down. And, hey, I think I might be okay now! :)

Needless to say there has been zero sewing action going on here (Although, by some divine intervention we did manage to transport the sewing machine, all the pattern books and notions and half the stash across the country- Can I get a high five?) I do, however, now have evidence of why it is always important to have a full and varied fabric stash on hand at all times. Say for example you are invited last-minute to a toga party and want to fit in with all the cool classicists  it really helps to have a random 1m length of white viscose jersey hanging around with which to swathe oneself. definitely not the most historically accurate toga of the night, but lets be honest that viscose draped a lot better than the crunchy Primark bedsheets everyone else was using! Sidenote: On the off-chance that you need an impromptu toga you should know that A) it's impossible to tie a toga the same way twice and B) UNDERGARMENTS ARE A MUST!
Blurry toga mirror shot

Musée des Beaux Arts- W H Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Nobody really cares if you don't go to the party

*Disclaimer: Still sponsored by jump shots. You're still welcome.*

So, I was cutting this dress out on my kitchen table at the end of July listening to the radio and I heard this song by Courtney Barnett for the first time. It was like magic; one moment I was carefully cutting out, next thing I know I'm jumping around the room waving my shears around yelling "IIIIIIII WANNA GO OUT BUT I WANNA STAY HOME!!!!!". I think it's fair to say that the song spoke to me. It's not just that it's a really great song, or that it sounds like what would happen if Mal Blum and The Clash had a baby (Which would be my DREAM, just FYI) but because I think those exact words pretty much every time I get invited to something. It's not that I don't want to go, or that I don't like my friends it's just that I sometimes I need to psych myself up to do new things or just socialise with people (even people I know well  and sometimes it's just less exhausting to bow out and stay home.

That being said, lately I've been trying to be more present. It's my natural instinct to cut myself off from people when things get tough (or even when things are normal) so saying "Yes" to a night out or following through with a plan instead of making last minute excuses has turned out to be (un)surprisingly fulfilling. It means I've had more crap nights out and acted like more of an idiot than usual, but I've also had loads of great times and gotten to know everyone I love a little better. Because every time I have a go out/stay in dilemma and I choose to go out, I never regret it once I've arrived and I'm with my friends.  Because sure the quality of your friends' times might not be affected if you don't show up (although I wouldn't go as far as to say nobody cares) but the quality of yours probably will be if you don't input any effort into your relationships/interaction with the outside world. Sometimes it's great to spend your Friday evening cutting out a dress on the kitchen table rocking out to Radio 2, sometimes it's not. Whatever dude, It's your call. Or mine. Or whatever. Never mind.

... And there ends the rambled musings of a girls gets way too introspective about songs... Surely I can't be the only one who speaks in song lyrics and book quotes...? Right?  I mean it's just like what Mal Blum said "I usually only speak in song"... wait, was I doing it again...? Oh well, back to the dress.

The dress in question is another Simplicity 1803, this time in view B. I actually cut and sewed this in at the same time the first S1803 because the process and fitting was pretty much identical. I've been sewing "Production line style" (I don't know what else to call it :/) a lot lately, if I'm making the same pattern twice or if I'm using the same fabric on two different garments. It's partly because I hate changing the settings on my machine so if i'm going to make two knit tees or two chiffon skirts I might as well make them at the same time. It's also because doing the same process twice doesn't feel like that much extra effort than once, so I can trick myself into thinking I'm only making one garment, but then I get a "surprise" extra bonus garment at the end. Two for the price of one! Winning.

Anyways this whole tandem construction thing means that all the fitting details are exactly the same as my first S1803, in this post. Which leaves us to talk about the important stuff: Fabric!!

You see I Luuurrrrvvvveeeeee this fabric. Like A LOT!! Like I bought it last May and hoarded it for a year, petting it like Gollum and his precious, because I was too afraid to cut into it and ruin it. Yup, it's that kind of fabric. The type of fabric that gets songs written about it. The type of fabric that gets coveted by other sewists and makes the rest of the stash jealous, wishing that their owner showed them half as much affection. It's the type of fabric that gives you major crippling cutting anxiety for years, but as soon as you've sewn it up you kick yourself for not doing it sooner, because it's now the most perfect, beautiful dress of all time and you love it and will never take it off. Thanks. The End. Bye.

... Can you tell that I'm excited...?

In this picture I'd say more bemused than excited :/
To go into details it's super light weight and but surprisingly warm to wear, with a slight brushed/fuzzy texture. It's super soft, drapes gorgeously and doesn't wrinkle. I don't know the fibre (All the label said was "Linen-look"- Thanks a bunch John Lewis, Soooooo helpful of you to tell me what it isn't!!!) but I assume cotton. It's hard to tell from the pictures but it's a navy blue background with print of white leaves/flowery things with green centres. Now ya'll know I love everything navy blue, but you might not know favourite colour is green... or that the green leaves are the EXACT SAME SHADE OF GREEN AS MY GREEN DOCS, thus making this the most perfect fabric for co-ordinating with my entire wardrobe!!!



There are only two slight issues with the fabric:

1) It has a super open weave meaning A) I was super worried about the neckline stretching out and had to do loads of careful staystitching (although it did make it super easy to manipulate when easing in princess seams) and B) The dress needed a full lining (More on that later)

2) I only had 1 meter.. Dun Dun Duuunnnnn!!! Yup. Past Cam in her state of miserliness Spartan frugality, and would only buy 1m of fabric if she didn't have a  specific plan for it, and when Present Cam finally made a specific plan it was for a sleeveless dress with a full skirt... *Facepalm* Luckily this fabric was 60" wide and didn't have a directional print, so with some pattern tetris I was able to make it work, but the whole thing was touch and go for a while. (And it's safe to say the old yardage policy has since been amended)

Like I said before the construction process was almost exactly the same as the first S1803, the only difference is that I fully lined this version. The bodice was lined with the same navy cotton lawn as the first version, but I couldn't use that for the skirt because cotton lining+tights=static station. Not pretty.

Instead I used a navy blue poly lining handed down from my grandmother's stash. (See?! This is why I have a massive stash, so I can hand it down to my granddaughter one day!! #Lifegoals) Anyways this lining was bought many many moons ago, (Think before I was born...) then slowly forgotten and abandoned when my Nani stopped making clothes. Some may say that it was simply chance that left this fabric to languish alone and unsewn at the back of a cupboard for so many years, but I think there was another reason it was rejected: Because it is devil fabric. Yup. That's right, you heard me, DEVIL FABRIC! *Cue dramatic thunder sound effect*

To cut a long story short, this fabric is the ungodly combination of lightweight/slippery, staticky, and too tightly woven. My needle could barely pierce it. It couldn't even skip stitches because there weren't any stitches being made with which to skip!! I changed the needle, thread, bobbin, and ALL the tension settings with zero improvement. I finally decided that it needed some sort of reinforcement  to stabilise it and hopefully decrease the tension. (Funnily enough, after deciding this, I told my engineery step-dad about the issue and without even telling him my plan he made the exact same suggestion. Great minds,eh?) So when sewing the skirt lining (poly) to the bodice lining (cotton lawn) at the waist I added a strip of cotton lawn to the seam to stabilise it (sandwiching the poly between the cotton) Miraculously, this actually solved the problem of the skipped stitched for the waist.

Bias bound skirt seams and hem

Unfortunately I still had to sew the skirt lining side seams and hem. I realised that just wasn't going to work and by that point I wanted as little interaction with the lining as possible. So I decided to sew and finish the side seams in one step by sandwiching the seams and hem in double-fold bias binding. This meant I only had to sew the seam once, and enclosing the lining in the cotton bias binding stabilised it enough to sew easily. Hurrah for the easy way out!! Also, bonus, the pretty floral bias tape hem flashes when I twirl :)
Bias binding peeking out the bottom

Sidenote: I didn't want to add too much bulk to the waistline by using the S1803 skirt pattern for the lining as well as the actual skirt. So, I used the skirt lining from Vogue 1353. It's just a simple A-line, with two pleats in the front and back. Zero bulk at the waist, but a lot of fullness at the hem, which makes it super fun and swishy to wear. Despite the trials of the skirt lining I'm 100% glad I did it. It adds some much needed opacity as well as supporting the actual skirt and making it hang better. A classic example of ends justifying means...
Don't ask.

This dress you guys... sigh... it's a total keeper! It's already worked its way to the top of my weekly rotation, I feel like it's going to become the dress I reach for when I need to look good, no questions asked. Instant self-confidence in dress form! You can't beat that!

For me this is the perfect marriage of fabric and pattern. It's my favourite colours, a silhouette that I love and a print that's interesting but unobtrusive (Aka my favourite kind of print) I'm also really glad I plumped for view B. I feel like it's a lot less gimmicky than views A and C and much more wearable- like I could probably fill and entire wardrobe with s1803 view Bs no questions asked. Hell, I still might! I also really like the way that the V-neckline is like a square/sweetheart neckline hybrid, more utilitarian, less saccharine. Basically It's just awesome. 100% awesome, which is incidentally how it makes me feel. Yay! 10 points to Dumbledore!

Anyways, I've started talking in circles and making AVPM references which means it's probably time to sign off...

...Now I know what you're thinking "Phew! The end at last! At least she didn't bombard us with any more jump shots..."


This is officially my favourite photo of myself ever.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Hemline ratbag

*Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by jumping shots. You have been warned*

Sometimes things come into our lives just when we need them. I'm pretty sure it's the universe throwing us a bone, saying "Sure, everything else is going shittily, but here, take this one good thing to make life easier! You're welcome." For me Simplicity 1803 was one such karmic free pass. You see around eater time I was knee deep in a fitting funk. I'd been muslining S1873, the Sew Over It 1940s Tea dress and the 03/14 Burdastyle Skinny jeans patterns for months and was no closer to making them fit. With each alteration a new fitting issue was brought to light, and I couldn't move forward until I'd perfected the fit. I was literally living in a muslin graveyard (The Tuileries garden if you will - hehehe geddit??)

Enter Simplicity 1803. I muslined View C in size 10, with lackluster aspirations of adding it to my fitting to-do list. Then lighting struck. The muslin fit perfectly!! ...Well almost perfectly... practically perfect in every way! With a couple of minor tweaks it was perfect.

Tweak list (Hehe sounds dirty):
-1/4 sloping shoulder adjustment
-Took in the CB 1/2"
-5/8" Swayback adjustment
-Since I made it sleeveless there was a little gaping in the front armscye which I rotated out into the princess seam

On the fly adjustments:
(The final fabric that I used was a lot drapier than the curtain I used for muslining, so during the construction I made a few more tweaks)
-Take in the princess seams 3/8" at the waist grading to nothing under the bust
-I also didn't realise until after I'd sewn/lined the shoulders that they could do with being taking up 3/8". It was too late for this dress, made I've made that alteration for a subsequent version and it  makes the shoulders/neckline sit flatter.

The great fit of the muslin left me so suprised I legitimately left the pattern alone for months, scared that I'd stumbled onto some sort of sewing black magic... well that and I fell into a revision induced timewarp... Also I wasn't sure exactly what fabric to use for the dress. Then one day, during a routine stroke search of the fabric stash (think strip search but for fabric...) I came across this gorgeous floral remnant I bought in Shaukat last October.

I won't lie, I went to Shaukat to buy Liberty fabric, but was so intimidated by the sheer volume and price of the fabric (plus the slightly brusque attitude of the owners) that I only ended up leaving with remnants and no Liberty. Whilst this isn't actual Liberty it has the same look/hand as the Liberty wool/cotton Varuna I fondled whilst there. It's thick and warm but it still has a gorgeous drape, plus I love the contrast between the deep unctuous teal background and the more muted flowers. The floral clusters sort of remind me of my grandmother's sofa, but I think I'm into it.

The remnant I had was 1.2 metres long (1.5m wide) but it was a little jagged. Plus the fabric has a fairly obvious twill weave so I could only really cut it one directionally. So I made a couple of changes to get the pattern to fit. First I cut 5/8" off the skirt length (On top of the 2" I'd already hacked off the skirt pattern) I also eliminated the front and side front panels of the skirt, instead cutting another back panel on the fold. Finally I omitted the centre front seam of the bodice (folding off the seam allowances and cutting it on the fold) This was a bit of a risky move, since I assume part of the reason for the seam is to make it easier to sew the inset V, but a heady mix of arrogance and sewist's intuition told me it would work out fine.(And it did!)

The other major alteration I made was to fully line the bodice, as the pattern itself only contains neckline facings and instructs you to bias face the armscyes. I like a lightweight unlined bodice as much as the next girl, but I like my garments to have longevity and, since I don't have a serger, a  lining is the easiest way to ensure that. I just used some navy cotton lawn from John Lewis and cut the bodice pieces again. I also interfaced the lining neckline to add structure/rigidity to the inset V. I also handstitched the bodice lining to the waist for the first time.
Bias bound skirt/pocket seams

Since I'd eliminated the skirt's side-front seams, where the pockets are supposed to go, I moved the pockets to the side seams. I also bound the skirt seam allowances together with bias binding. Both the pockets and bias binding were made from an old floral sheet, that my grandparents' friend's sister brought back from America in ???? . So yup, I destroyed a piece of family history... but on the brightside I just love the clash of bright happy florals on the inside of the dress!
Inset V closeup

This is Ruby. Ruby would like you to know that she does not approve of my attempts to take artsy close-ups on the floor. She thinks they're poxy and pretentious, and the only thing I'll achieve is getting dust on the dress. Ruby also thinks I need to get more adventurous with my poses; "That hand on hips smiling thing is sooo passe don't you know..."

...Okay Rubes how about this then....

...Nope. Still don't like it... Well, there's just no pleasing some people.

The one thing I was most worried about was sewing the neckline. I was convinced that the V would end up crooked or puckery or floppy and it would look awful! So obviously I was super careful to be precise while sewing and paid a lot of attention while grading and clipping the seam allowances... You know, right up to the point when I clipped right through the centre of the V whilst trimming it down, causing it to unravel...

Yup. That happened. There was nothing I could do except resew the V 1/4" outside the original stitching line. This V is slightly bigger than the original, but you totally can't tell and I actually think it sits really nicely. So, as it turns out I didn't really have anything to worry about, in fact the inset V turned out to be the least of my problems...


The problem came with the lining. You see I've only ever fully lined a sleeveless bodice once,( for my bust-gathered S1873 hack) but I rashly assumed that in the 4 months between making that dress and this one, that I would magically have retained the order of construction. Needless to say, I was was incorrect. It turns out I'd jumped the gun on attaching the skirt and inserting the invisible zip, so when I went to pull the bodice right-sides-out all the pieces were already attached. Instead of  a beautiful lined bodice I created the fabric equivalent of a Mobius strip. *Facepalm*

The invisible zip I didn't want to unpick
Honestly, I was a little thrown. I've been on  a bit of a sewing roll lately and I was a little gobsmacked that I'd made such a giant error. I was also convinced that to fix the problem I'd have to unpick my practically perfect, lined invisible zip. I felt pretty defeated.

Luckily, defeatism isn't a good look on me (or anyone for that matter) so I blasted Tempest in a Teacup and the latest Bad Bad Hats album and perked up considerably. A little consideration also showed me that if I unpicked the shoulder seams I could turn through the bodice front and back separately, then reattach them at the shoulders. No need to unpick the zip! SCORE!! When reattaching the shoulders, I machine stitched the fashion fabric, then slipstitched the lining by hand. My hand sewing skills are pretty piss-poor, so it's not pretty,  but it works.
Dodgy shoulder solution

Once I got past the lining hiccup it was all plain sailing, and even with the hiccup the whole dress
only took a couple of days. Overall, I like this dress a lot. It's one of those dresses that grows on you the more you wear it. At first I wasn't sure whether the neckline would suit me, or whether it would look a bit gimmicky, but I've come to love it. The only thing is that this fabric is SUPER warm, so I think I'll get more wear out of the dress come autumn. Sigh. When will I ever get my seasonal sewing right? It's not like the seasons follow any rigid pattern that I could follow... Oh, wait...

I would, at this point like to make a formal statement rescinding my previous stipulation that my hemlines are getting longer. This dress is evidence that said stipulation was simply untrue. I apologise to anyone who I may have hurt or misled during this period of hemline uncertainty.

In fairness, I did try out a lower hemline, but with the bright teal, large scale floral, inset neckline AND longer length it started to look a little overwhelming.

That's about all I have to say about this dress, so I'll leave you with some more jump shots. (Can you tell how much fun it was messing around with the timing on my tripod??)

Yup, I totally stuck that landing. Totally.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Oh, for pleat's sake!

I have a confession to make... I hate pleats!

Let me clarify: I love the look of pleats, but I HATE the actual pleating process. Let's just say I had a bad pleating experience early on in my sewing career and I never really got over it.

So I'm not really sure what possessed me to attempt to to hack Simplicity 1873 (The mother of all confusing irregular pleat patterns) into a skirt.  I must have been going through a faze of either extreme cockiness or sado-masochism because I decided to unite my two nemeses: Pleats and chiffon
(... Okay technically georgette...)

The rematch was set.

The location was determined; the parking lot at midnight (...Okay, technically the sewing nook in my bedroom).

The seamstress in the blue corner.

The Poly-Poltergeist and The Com-pleater in the red corner.

The opponents circled each.


As usual the seamstress (For real though, that would totally be my wrestling name) took none of the precautions necessary when cutting chiffon/georgette (Such as using a rotary cutter, stabilising with starch/gelatin or cutting between layers of tissue paper) Instead I just sort of went at it with neon orange tailors' chalk and some very sharp shears and it worked out pretty well. It did, however, cut everything in one layer, to prevent shifting, but that's just standard practice for me to help get the best fabric yield. I had a 1.5m of fabric, but it was only 112cm/44" wide so I had to cut on the cross-grain.

The fabric itself is a lovely black crepe georgette. I actually got it free when one of my mum's work friends was off-loading some of her stash! Score! The grabby texture of the crepe made it MUCH easier to work with than the crinkle chiffon I used for this skirt, and it made the sewing process borderline pleasant.

The whole premise of the skirt occurred when I made a  wearable muslin of the full Simplicity 1873 dress.I really liked the skirt on the dress, but the curtain fabric I'd used was way too heavy-weight and the skirt belled-out awkwardly (Plus it weighed an absolute tonne!) Also I wasn't a fan on the center front box-pleat-it pretty much made me look pregnant :/ I immediately started dreaming of hacking the dress into a skirt and using a drapier fabric. So I did.

Other than folding out the center front pleat the only alteration I made was to fiddle with the side seam pleats a little to get the skirt pieces to match up with my personal skirt waistband. I sort of expected to need to chop off some length, but in the end I liked the length it was, so I kept it as is.

Lining rolled hem

I used french seams throughout, for the georgette and lining, and rolled hems for both. I really love rolled hems, but I think I need to invest in a rolled hem foot, because the georgette didn't respond very well to the man-handling that was me manually rolling the hem with three lines of stitching.

For the lining I used a grey lining fabric of indiscriminate fibre I got for £1.95 at a charity shop. I NEVER remember to buy lining fabric when I'm at an actual fabric shop (Too busy being distracted by all the pretties) So when I see it in charity shops I always scoop it up for the stash. To reduce bulk at the waistline I cut the lining as a simple 1/2 circle skirt.

Zip in georgette (Free hanging overlay)

I really want to talk to you about my lining/zip method because I am beyond thrilled with the results!

If you remember, when I made this skirt I tried using Grainline Studio's method for a free-hanging overlay over a zip. There's nothing wrong with the method, but it just couldn't get it to work for me, so I was pretty reticent to try again.
Lining with underlap

Instead I came up with my own method, which is sort of  the opposite of the Grainline Studio method. Instead of inserting the zip into the lining I inserted the zip into the georgette. (Sounds more traumatising than it was, promise!) Then for the lining I  sewed up the CB seam from the bottom until about 15cm from the top. Then on one side I folded and topstitched the 5/8" Seam allowances. On the other side I sewed on a rectangular flap  from the top of the french seam to the waist. (The flap then attaches to the waistband underlap at the waist, and is pressed across and topstitched to the other side of the CB at the top of the french seam.)

That was a terrible explanation, but if you've ever sewn a skirt vent, think of that but turned upside down, so that the hem attaches to the waist band. Essentially it means that the lining opens(so you can get the skirt on) but the under-lap of the flap/vent stops any chance of your pants being on show. Plus, because of the free hanging overlay you can twirl un-impeded.
This photo is probably the best expalantion
I've now used this method 3 times with great results on sheer fabrics. At some point I might make a step-by-step tutorial because (as far as I know) there isn't a method like it on the internet.

Sidenote: This was actually the first time I've sewn a skirt waist band with an underlap (Rather than continuing the zip all the way up the waistband. I actually really enjoyed it, but I think I need to add another snap to the waistband, because you can sort of see the waistband facing peeking out the top.

In other news the t-shirt is another of the H&M V-neck rub-offs that I mentioned in this post. The fabric is a lovely maroon cotton knit remnant I bought at The Cloth House on my birthday last August. It's a lot more stable and less stretchy than the knits I usually use, so the fit is a lot tighter, which is a shame, but not uncomfortable. Also the fabric was super wider, so although I only had 1m I was able to squeeze out this t-shirt and a matching So'Zo Vest top.

I also made the necklace. I went through a faze last summer of being obsessed with leather necklaces. (This faze co-coincided with the realisation that my local leathersmith sells his leather scraps for £5/kg.) So basically I went a bit nuts making tonnes of leather bows and turning them into necklaces, hairbands and hairclips, and all my friends got necklaces for their birthdays.(Tehehe). I don't wear jewellery very often anymore, but when I do this necklace is definitely a fun statement piece. Plus, with all the brown leather and maroon in this outfit, I totally feel like I'm channeling my inner Gryffindor.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Red light indicates doors are secure

Ummm... so my skirt is a big, red homing beacon.

For real, though, it glows... And I kind of love that about it! What? Is high visibility not a priority in your wardrobe? Clearly you don't cycle enough.
Twirling twirling

Let's face it, the stand out part of this outfit is the skirt fabric, because, believe me, it's a knock-out! It's a gorgeous rayon challis I bought in Misan Textiles (whilst in Berwick Street this June to buy fabric for my Leavers' dress- More on that later) Really, though, it's all about that colour! Depending on the light it can vary anywhere between rasperry to bright scarlett, stopping along at garnet and cherry tomato along the way. Whatever shade it is, it's gooorgeous, even if it would give Rudolph's nose a run for its money!
Sneaky t-shirt switch
So this doesn't devolve into an open love letter to rayon challis I've put a moratorium on the following words/phrases generally associated with the fabric:
-Soft like a baby's bottom

In fairness this is probably the best quality rayon I've ever worked with! It's a little weightier and more matte than most rayons , but that lends it really well to making skirts because it feels more secure. (AKA less likely to have a Marilyn moment)

 ... Also it's like walking in clouds!!  Big (red) soft fluffy clouds. (Hah! See I didn't say cloud-like!) So, basically it feels divine and it's lovely and cool for a hot summer day!

I feel like rayon always gets a bad rap for being super shifty when cutting and sewing, but honestly it's not that bad, and it's practically docile compared to cutting polyester  chiffon *shudders* I only had a really jaggedly cut meter remnant, so I had to cut the pattern on the cross-grain, but other than that cutting left me relatively unscathed.

Onto the details. I knew I wanted to make a gathered skirt, but I wanted a little more shaping than a typical rectangle/dirndl, so I busted out the skirt pattern from Simplicity 1807 and subbed in my regular skirt waistband. Worked like a charm. I think I might make S1803 my go to gathered skirt pattern- not too bulky at the waist but lots of fullness. Although next time I might not bother with the front and side front panels. There's nothing wrong with them, but since I moved the pockets to the side seams the front seams are sorta superfluous and bug me a little bit. Either way, it's a minor gripe.

Construction wise, there's not much to say. I used all french seams through-out, including the pockets. (Did I mention how much I looooovvvveeee french seams?? Because I do... Love them... Like a lot...) I used to be super scared of inserting pockets into french seams but now it's like a second nature. Then I just added a red invisible zip and a rolled hem and done. Oh, and I also under-lined the waistband with cotton poplin, and used a lightweight fusible interfacing on the center back seam to give it more stability.

Oh, and can we talk about hems for a sec? Because as I get older my hemlines are slowly creeping... lower!! *Gasp* Is this that thing they call growing up...? Even with my new-found modesty I still shortened the pattern 2" before cutting. The final skirt is around 21-22" long, which I think works pretty well on me (For reference I'm slightly below 5'6")

Now onto the t-shirts. Yup, that's right you get two tees for the price of one. Both tees were made from the same knit from Stitch fabrics and it's seriously my dream knit fabric! Large scale navy and grey marl stripes made out of the softest, snuggliest viscose/spandex blend! Be still my beating heart. Plus, it was only £4/m and I got both tees out of 1.5m, (with stripe matching) with some left over. Score!
Here's a super awkward photo to show off my stripe matching :/

The first t-shirt (See above) is a rub-off of an old short-sleeve H&M v-neck that fell apart. It's one of those not-quite-a-real-v-necks, where the neckline is pretty much a scoop neck, but the neckband has a small dart which makes a V. (Was that confusing? I'd be happy to elaborate is need be) I actually really like this more feminine approach to a v-neck, and it was actually really fun taking the original t-shirt apart to see how it was made. I've made five of these, but this one is definitely the nicest.

The second t-shirt is my beloved Deer and Doe Plantain. At last count I've made 11 various incarnations of the pattern and show no signs of stopping. For numero 11 I chose to go back to the original. It's size 36 with a cheater knit FBA to size 40. My only slight alterations was to add 2" to the sleeve length because I have monkey arms. Oh and I also sewed the neckband with 3/8" seam allowance, because I thought a slightly wider band would mimic the wide stripes.

I don't want to speak too soon, but I think this t-shirt might be a contender for my favourite t-shirt of all time (Pushing the grey marl sweater knit plantain off its pedestal) Seriously, you don't even want to know how many times a week I reach for this t-shirt. It's just so soft and snuggly with the super long sleeves, plus it matches with pretty much every skirt I own! Also the Plantain's looseness around the waist really works well with a drapey fabric like this.

Sleeve hems

In terms of construction I've really upped my t-shirt game in the past year or so. I sewed both tees with a stretch stitch then finished the seams together with a zig-zag. It's not strictly necessary for knits, but I like the extra security it adds, plus it stops the seam allowances flip-flopping around on the inside. I hemmed them with a 3-step zig-zag, partly because I love the way the stitches sink in, partly because my double needle hates me.

Random tip: I like to stabilise my shoulder seams with clear elastic, but i'm not a fan of the look on the inside, plus I always accidentally press the seams to the wrong side and end up with scratchy elastic against my skin. To combat this I sew the shoulder seams then sandwich my clear elastic within the seam allowances before finishing them with the zig-zag. That way everything is stable but I don't have to look at or feel the elastic. Yay!
Bonus cat-pose derp. You're welcome.

So what have we learnt today? If you want to know the true meaning of the word comfort wrap yourself in as much viscose/rayon as physically possible. You're welcome.