Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Greensleeves dress

Just like my last post, this dress has been a long time coming! You see around 2012 I was working out my style and getting into a lot of fashion and craft blogs. Since I was also getting into sewing at the time I naturally started to try and recreate the sorts of things I was seeing, either direct copycats or just the general vibe, and at some point I guess I found my personal style. Woop woop, high fives all round!

Along the way I discovered Free People, and fell head over heels with their whole aesthetic. Now as a whole their style is a lot more bohemian than my own, but there are certain pieces that I needed in my life. Pieces like this dress (and this shirt...) I've loved this dress ever since I first saw it a couple years ago and have never given up the idea of one day recreating it!

Free People Brunch Date Dress (Now out of stock)
I mean that cut-out Peter Pan collar is hard to resist...

*Wipes drool off keyboard* Right, on to the pattern hack. After years of anticipation I grabbed my trusty Plantain pattern and set to work.

(Sidenote: the Plantain is drafted with a bunch of ease around the waist/hips, which is not what we want for a fitted skaterdress... Luckily, I've made enough Plantains/Plantain hacks that I have a slimmed down version of the pattern that gets used at times like this. I still ended up taking another inch or so out of the waist midway through construction, since a fitted t-shirt still has more ease than a dress bodice.)

For the hack itself everything was relatively simple...

*Cue low-tech illustration*

Pattern alterations: Red= New Neckline, Green= Original pattern

First I cut off the T-shirt pattern at the waist. Then, using the Plantain neckline as a guide, I redrew a new front neckline emulating a Peter Pan collar. I added 1" height to the CF, then scooped down (1/2" away from the CF) to get the Peter Pan look, rejoining the original neckline at the shoulder.

Then I drafted self-fabric bindings for the cutouts and the full neckline, making them each 85% as long as the openings themselves. (Mainly because I once read on Closet Case Files that the best ratio for drafting neckbands and bindings. I've applied it to every band I've made since and never had a gaping neckline.) I also added a half circle skirt for swooshiness. Swooshiness is a high priority in my life!

Much swoosh
After that it was just a case of constructing the dress as you would a normal skaterdress. Then, for the neckline, binding the two peterpan scoops before binding the full neckline. That makes it sound easy, but I actually had some major issues due to the bulkiness of my knit. It did not play nicely with the topstitching and there was a lot of frustrated unpicking... which then resulted in a hole right at the CF of the neckline *Face palm* Only I could make an undarnable hole in the most obvious place possible. So yeah, the topstitching is meh and there's a hole but I'm pretty sure the general coolness of the neckline detracts from this... hopefully...

Neckline hole + too low waist seam
The whole dress was sewn with a stretch stitch (sometimes called lightning bolt stitch), seams finished with a zig-zag and hems a 3-step zig-zag (My favourite hemming technique for knits!). I stabilised the shoulders with clear elastic and would've stabilised the waist too... but the weight of the skirt dragged down the waistline and I'm undecided about whether I'm going to chop it off and raise it at some point.

While we're on the subject of things that could be improved next time, there's definitely something funky happening with the fit of the bodice. There are a lot of drag-lines around the armscye and under the bust which other versions I've made don't have. I'm not sure if it's the neckline alterations or because this knit has much less stretch than others I've used in the past, and no recovery . Either way it's something to think about.

Moving on to my favourite topic, fabric!! Obviously my fabric choice takes this away from being a direct copycat of Free People, but personally I prefer my knit. It's a super gorgeous shade somewhere in between teal and kelly green. I don't know what you'd call it but while I was cutting it my friend it was "Cam in a colour" so I'm going with it. It's 100% cotton, hence the lack of stretch and recovery, but it is SO SOFT, almost like it's brushed. So essentially, this dress is the most comfortable thing ever!! Far nicer to touch than the 100% Polyester Free People was using...

There wasn't much left on the bolt so I bought everything they had (roughly 1.7m with a jagged bit cut-off) and set to work. The jagged fabric scuppered my plans for long sleeves and I ended up with these weird slightly-longer-than-3/4-length-sleeves. They're a little annoying but still pretty warm, so I'm happy.

Awkward sleeve length
All together it was a really quick pattern hack... minus the 3 years delay from inspiration to realisation...oops!! This dress has definitely filled a gap in my wardrobe of  comfy dresses that don't look like you've given up on life (aka things to wear when you want to be in bed but have to adult instead) It gets reached for way more often than I expected and I'm thinking I'll definitely make another... although probably not too many more since the neckline is pretty distinctive. On a similar note, this dress has also made me reconsider the Peter Pan collar. I always thought they were too cutesy, even for me, but this slightly edgier take on it has me reconsidering...

Friday, 8 April 2016

Stop dreaming of the quiet life 'cos it's the one we'll never know

I'm a big fan of circularity. You know, giving and receiving, what goes around comes around, universal symmetry, the whole shebang. So it shouldn't be surprising that this entire outfit is a kind of giant circular nod to my new town.

It seems only right that on the train home at the end of T2 I stitched the buttons onto my brand new plaid flannel shirt... plaid flannel which was the last thing I bought before heading off, fresh-faced and dewy-eyed, to university roughly 6 months earlier. (6 month fabric turn around, not too shabby...) Oh and the skirt, you ask? Well, its hem was handsewn in a hotel room, last March-ish, the night before offer-holder's open day at the uni I now call home.  How's that for circularity!

See, it all comes around in a beautiful harmonious circle of destiny... or so I like to tell myself.
Anyway, onto the sewing...

The shirt, as may be obvious from the blatant shirt monogamy in my archives, is another Grainline Archer in whatever size I always make. I mean why mess with a good thing?? It's true love I tells ya. This shirt has been on  my to do list pretty much since I got the pattern maaaaany years ago (read: three) but I was waiting for the perfect red plaid flannel to fall into my lap. (Sidenote: Wouldn't it be great if fabric just fell from the sky??.. Nope, just me? Moving on....) The urgency of the mission got kicked up a gear as I started prepping for uni. A plaid flannel shirt would obviously be what all the cool kids were wearing.... I mean it's the perfect thing to swaddle yourself in as you sat on the grass thinking deep thoughts about Foucault and what to make for dinner. It was clear I needed a shirt stat!

Serendipidously, John Lewis had just got in an order of John Louden plaid flannels and I snatched up 1.5m of this red colourway the day before I left. Stopping only for a brief  prewash in my parents' washing machine  (to delay the time when I would have to PAY FOR LAUNDRY *gasp*) I whisked down south and promptly forgot about my shirt plans, busying myself instead with wild student activities (read: Knitting and card making)

Showing off tower plackets

It wasn't until mid-February, when winter finally poked its nose out (gotta love the south!) that I finally picked up the idea again. From then on it was smooth sailing. Cutting out occurred on the kitchen floor on a Wednesday in mid-March and by the Friday the shirt was pretty much complete.

Construction-wise I kept things classy: french seams for the armscyes and side seams (Woop woop, french seams), the burrito method for the yokes (My first time, I'm now IN LOVE) and a bias facing for the hem to preserve a little length (I LOVE the slight pop of interest it adds to the inside. My trusty self-drafted tower placket saw some light and the back yoke, button band and cuffs were cut on the bias. Good stuff all round.

: Bias hem facing

Obviously I couldn't get this far plain sailing, something was bound to go wrong. Oh pattern matching, must you be the bane of my life...? *sigh* So it turns out that in a fit of baffling ineptitude I managed to match everything except one side seam. I'd somehow managed to cut one half of the back off-grain meaning one side seam was off by EXACTLY one square. It's actually so perfectly mismatched it's hilarious.
The offending seam

So, in true Cam fashion I stared at in blankly in the fetal position for a while (immensely freaking out the engineer) before deciding to get on with it, pattern matching be damned!.. Except in my madness (read: plaidness) I was completely distracted and ended sewing my french seam WRONG SIDES TOGETHER.., aka THE WRONG WAY ROUND. Cue more fetal position and engineer hugs.

Luckily I caught it after I'd sewn the first set of seams, but it did the require the painstaking unpicking of 1/4" seams on an incredibly fraying fabric... then the tedious re-pinning to match up the plaids.... Then resewing the french seams. Not. Best. Pleased.

The good seam... maybe seams are like twins: One's always evil!

After that ordeal I wasn't really feeling button holes and wore the shirt open and buttonless for a week before I tackled them. Smooth sailing... see it's all about the cosmic harmony! Also the engineer let me use his scalpel to cut open the buttonholes and let me tell you that is some next level precision!

Design feature... shhhhh
The only other minor... major hiccup was the colouring. See I'd been working on the assumption that the plaid was red/black, using black topstitching thread throughout. However, when it came to picking buttons the truth could not be ignored: it's red/navy. So,whilst this opens up my skirt matching possibilities it does mean my black thread and  navy buttons are at war. I'm also not sure about the button size. I went with 1/2" buttons, as stated in the pattern and thought there was something iffy. Cue the engineer pointing out that they're far larger than the buttons on men's shirts. I think the recommended size works a lot better for larger scale prints (see this version) but with the smaller check a smaller button would balance better. But there's no way I'm unpicking them soooo we'll just have to call it a design feature...

All drama aside, I love this shirt! It's exactly what I thought it would be, a comfy, warm wardrobe staple. I've worn it almost everyday this week, no shame. It goes with leggings, skirts, dungarees, even the Ginger jeans I'm making... and it's red so it matches all my shoes!! Total winner, plus I get a pat on the back from past Cam for finally executing her plan... You're welcome, past Cam, glad I could help.

One final mention for the skirt: I live in it! It's a half circle skirt with four 2" inverted box pleats (2 at the front, 2 at the back). It's a black rayon/spandex twill so it's comfy, drapes well and has A LOT of body in the pleats. Total wardrobe dynamite!Plus pockets, bias-bound seams, invisible zip and and hand-stitched bias-faced hem. I've worn it every week for a year without fail and show no signs of stopping.

So lets hear it for the staples! Sometimes plans just work out and I can tell you nothing fells as good as me-mades becoming the steadfasts you reach for day-in day-out... even if I you feel the irrational need to tell random strangers about your botched pattern-matching... Oh well, you can't win them all...

I'll leave you with the self-satisfied grin of a girl whose lipstick and shoes match her shirt perfectly!
Oh and a sidenote: I cannot get used to looking at my face without my glasses, it just looks weird...