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.