F3453: Back to Basics Dress

I had forgotten how quickly a simple 5 pattern piece garment can come together…. and is there anything more frivolously fun than sewing a dress for a special occasion? I savoured making this dress, as this wedding I wore it too is probably the last I’ll get to attend for a very long time.

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Marfy 2354 9

The dress is Marfy 3453 – a fairly simple fit and flare sleeveless dress. The bodice has two darts, a v-neckline at the rear, centreback zip and evenly spaced pleats in the skirt. I think what I love most about simple patterns is that they really allow your fabric to shine.

I had wholly intended on sewing this dress ‘as it is’, but I quickly discovered that a 2 dart bodice on me just looks not-nice. Perhaps its the ratio between my bust and my waist? So I converted it to a four dart bodice. This was the only fit adjustment I made.

Also, I had wanted to use the lace border detail on my fabric around the hem, which meant I replaced the pleated A-line skirt with a simple dirndl. I was a little sad about this as the A-line looked great in my muslin, if a little long. I don’t have the amazonian length pins Marfy designs for!

Although… I’m very close to a tipping point for preferring a pencil skirt over a voluminous skirt. I’m not there yet, but can see it looming on the horizon. I can see myself wearing this particular dress in my later years as a fitted sheath style, which would be quite easy to achieve.

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I decided to prewash the fabric, so I could launder the dress myself instead of having it dry cleaned. As soon as I dipped it in water – it STANK. Thanks to an instagram conversation, I was informed that sometimes silk does stink, and it has to do with a gum residue the silk worms leave behind called ‘sericin’. The less processed the silk is, the more likely it to smell, apparently. I was then informed by a google search that you can just keep washing it until it comes out, which it did. Thank goodness.

The fabric is an incredibly pale pink, very slubby raw silk – not a fabric type I’ve worked with before. It also had floral embroidered circular cutouts as a border detail in a 1.1m long repeat. The fibres that came off the cut edges of the fabric are wonderfully fuzzy, thick and incredibly soft:

raw silk fibres

The dress is underlined (organza) to give the fabric some more body, and lined at the bodice in a matching but slightly darker silk charmuese that was also used as the contrast trim around the neckline and waist. This was a stash fabric that just happened to look rather lovely against the raw silk.

Whilst sewing I kept the seam allowances large – I want it to be a wearable option for many years to come, so I look at those seam allowances like an insurance policy. You don’t intend on using it of course, but it’s there just in case it’s needed.

I wanted to try and work in a bit of the embroidery into the bodice, so I appliqued a small lace circle in. Cutting into the bodice fabric to do this was a moment of terror; not having appliqued before! I treated it a bit like a welt pocket – sewing a scrap of organza onto the front with my machine’s smallest stitch, cutting into the circle then turning the organza to the wrong side and ironing flat. Getting the circle to be the right size was the hardest part – it took me two goes. After that I hand sewed the lace circle in with a fell stitch and pressed again. Pretty happy with how it looks!

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Marfy 2354 4

The skirt is one single piece of fabric, gathered. I was basing the length of the skirt off one of my most favourite dresses – and realised that the height of the cutouts would potentially make my underwear visible… so I added in an additional layer of organza. If you looked really close and really hard, and if I had fluoro underwear on, you’d probably be able to see it. Eh.

I had a first attempt at lace matching down the back centre seam, and am very happy with the results. The main challenge was that the circles were not perfectly circular.

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For the hem, I folded it over, sewed it down to itself, then catch stitched that to the underlining. The result is a soft hem that has a tendency to crease in on itself, but I don’t mind the effect so much. Even with the underlining, the raw silk isn’t really interested in being pressed – it will hold the shape, but it won’t be crisp.

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Due to wanting this dress to be easily adjustable, I machine sewed the lining to the neckline, but hand sewed the arms, down the sides and around the waist. I like hand sewing, and it’ll be really easy to unpick. I also just love the loft of silk charmeuse, and hand sewn seams seem to bring that out.

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Look at that loft...

Look at that loft… The most accurate representation of the two colours together. And you get a really good eye of the texture of the raw silk! Delicious stuff.

I included a hook and eye at the top of the centre back seam, to get a nice closure. At the wedding I wore this dress to, I counted 6 women wearing dresses that the centre back zip was coming down on because there was no hardware to help provide that stability at the back. Funnily enough, they all were on either rounded or V-shaped dress backs. I pointed out so many to my beau that even he started to point them out and was tut-tutting along with me.

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Basically a happily ever after.

And on that note, I will be leaving a radio silence until we have moved and made our new home slightly more liveable than what it currently is. My sewing stuff is already packed away in boxes, and I’m feeling quite sad knowing it will be a while before it sees daylight again. I will be looking forward to finishing and then sharing with you all the two jackets I have in mid-progress from winter last year!

F3093: Safari Blouse

Merry Christmas Eve, all!

May I present to you, another green Marfy blouse.

This may not seem like much to some, but this is the first thing I’ve ever sewn that I didn’t initially muslin to test for fit. It was a little exhilarating, not knowing whether or not I would like it! I need to get out more.

I think I do now understand a little better why some sewists are dead set against muslining. I’ve been super time poor these last few months, but still wanted to have a wearable outcome from my sewing efforts. I compared the pattern pieces for this against my last Marfy blouse at the shoulder and bust, and my Blue Blotch Blouse (a McCalls pattern) through my mid-section. It was pretty much on par, I ranked it low risk, and so away I went.

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F3093 Blouse 2

Yeah, there are probably a few things I would alter had this been my actual muslin. You can see from the Marfy sketch below that the shoulder seams are not quite dropped – but still gently off the shoulder. I brought them back in by 0.5cm (because I was so thrilled with the shoulder seam location of my last Marfy blouse, which I used to copy the alignment of) but actually I regret this now and would stick to the original design if I were to make it again.

Marfy 3093 S-S 13-14 (blouse)

In fact, I would say the sleeves of this blouse are my favourites, ever. No ease – it fit into the armscye perfectly, slim-fitting but still with enough space for movement, and I love the button down tabs to roll up the cuff. They aren’t full length when unrolled – more midi.

There are no darts for shaping in the bodice here, unless you count the centreback seam. Not normally one for loose fitting clothing around the mid-section, I figured the CDC would billow enough to compensate for any sack-style leanings.

I like the front side pleats more than I would have thought, and the only thing I didn’t think about until I put it on for the first time (at the 80% completed mark) – is that it’s awfully low cut. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable without a singlet for weekend wear, let me put it that way.

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F3093 Blouse 6

On the inside, this blouse is not my best work. I french seamed where possible, overlocked the armscye seam (thanks to Helen bringing along her machine to social sewing!), and top stitched over folded seam allowances everywhere else. I tossed up whether to interface the collar and facing, but ditched it in favour of keeping with the drapey look of the blouse. I did use a few scraps of organza to help stabilise the four pivot corners (front and back) of the collar, which worked like a charm.

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The fabric? Silk CDC, from Mood. If you recognise it, it’s one of the two fabrics I used to sew my bridesmaid’s dresses. I had enough left over to squeeze this out of. Actually, I was really surprised I had so much left over – especially as I had nothing left from the other dress. Turns out I had extra because there was a fault – which of course I didn’t realise until I’d cut everything out, with nothing to spare.

Thankfully the flaw was half covered by one of the front pockets – and due to sewing ‘couture’ (marking the seam lines and having large seam allowances) I was able to shift the entire pattern piece across by the 1.5cm required to get that flaw entirely hidden by the pocket. Not too shabby an effort, if I do say so!

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I’ll admit this blouse was partially inspired by both Reana and Sallie. CDC is just a wonderful mix of opaque and floaty, and feels just lovely and cool on the skin to boot.

It is incredibly low cut – and I’ll probably be wearing it as a beach cover up when I’m chilling out in Byron Bay this summer, or unbuttoned with a singlet underneath.

F3093 Blouse 1

IMPENDING DOMESTIC BLISS
If I thought my sewing time couldn’t get any less right now, I thought wrong. We bought a house! We’ve got a week holiday booked in at the end of January, and we move in after that. At which point we will be waging a war of attrition on asbestos, sinking foundations, decrepit shag-pile carpet, shiny olive-green drapes, and original 1960’s textured wallpaper. The first major aim will be to get a toilet actually plumbed on the inside of the house so we don’t have to spend next winter going outside to go to the loo. No joke. At least I’m having fun putting together the epic spreadsheet that we’ll use to project manage the whole thing! It’s going to be such a long and ongoing project that I’m actually fighting the urge to start a renovating diary blog. So far my sensibilities are winning on that front!!

So from February onwards I’ll still be squeezing some sewing in where ever I can of course – but there will be a bit of radio silence for the first few months whilst we tackle a few bigger projects. I’ve got an exciting project to work on prior to then though – a wedding guest dress!

Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday period everyone – and a safe and happy new year!!

Much Love to you all xx

F3449: Stitches to Style Blouse

What to do when you adore the picture/line drawing of a pattern, only to sew up a muslin and find you look utterly ridiculous?

The pattern is Marfy 3449, which I’ve adored since laying my eyes on it. According to the Marfy catalogue it’s “A flowing, collarless shirt with a ruffle down the centre at the front, satin trim at the side, and sleeves gathered at the wrists and slightly at the shoulders.”

Marfy 3449 from the 2014-15 Catalogue

Marfy 3449 from the 2014-15 Catalogue

My ridiculous muslin was sewn up in a specially bought hot pink polyester because it was virtually identical in weight and drape to the fabric I envisaged this being made up in. Had I been invited to a dress up party where I would have like to have gone as Joan Collins, a pirate or someone from Days of our Lives, this would have been utterly fabulous.

Alas, that was not my intention. It did however, fit me perfectly through the shoulders and the bust. What this muslin doesn’t show is the gathered cuff – I recall feeling more OTT that this WIP instagram snap would imply!

Marfy 3449 Muslin

I figured if I toned down the sleeve cap height (I’ll admit – this effect was enhanced by the body of my chosen fabric, and the fact that I’d pushed all the ease up to the top of the sleeve cap), slimmed down and removed the bell cuff on the sleeve (which once elasticated looks exactly on me as it does in the sketch) and raised the level of the front split by 5cm (warning – this one is very low cut – right down to below the root of my bust) then I could probably handle it.

Once I adjusted the fit of the bodice by my normal Marfy adjustments (taking it in below the bust to account for me being two different torso sizes) I compared it to one of my all time favourite and regularly worn make – the Blue Blotch Blouse. Many times fitting issues with woven clothing only become apparent after a bit of wear, and it was clear to me that whilst that blouse is a very comfortable garment, it did need some more width across the shoulders (I’m broad). This Marfy pattern had that, which was great.

I hesitated on my ridiculous adjusted muslin for nearly two weeks on whether or not I would proceed with the real thing, and I’m SO glad I did. I really love the end result! The flounce makes me smile every time I look down or catch it moving as I walk.

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Everytime I take a photo that has me smiling with my lips together, it just looks like I’m oddly pouting. Usually those photos get instantly deleted, but the weather/lighting was doing weird things on this particular afternoon, so the fact that it was the best colour match to the real deal won through.

Marfy 3449 Blouse 2

The fabric is one I’ve been wanting to sew with for over a year. It’s a pretty substantial silk twill fabric, chartreuse with off-white polka dots – cool to the touch and with a subtle matt texture. I scored this at one of the fabulous End-Of-Financial-Year-Sale’s at Stitches to Style a few years back.

The hem of this shirt (which you can’t see from the sketch) is straight, split at the sides and the front is slightly shorter than the back. I altered this to be curved and with more of a pronounced ‘hi-lo’ hem.

The ruffle – a challenge to finish because of the weight and thickness of my fabric – I chose to sew a hand-rolled hem on. I used this youtube video to get me started – it’s a really simple and (if you like hand sewing) enjoyable thing to do. I haven’t quite yet mastered my rolled hem foot on my machine on straight edges – so no way was I going to risk it on a shaped edge!

How well the ruffle sits depends solely on how you clip the seam allowance (Anne from Clothing Engineer has a wonderful post on how clipping can affect your flounce/ruffle here). I clipped every 7mm or so along the length of each ruffle – and it really does sit wonderfully.

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Marfy 3449 Blouse 9

The sleeves I copied from another Marfy blouse pattern instead of adjusting the sleeve cap, because they were also a lot wider than what I felt comfortable in. The original sleeves recommend finishing the cuff with elastic (to enhance the bell shaped cuff – a feature I really like in principal but not so much on me in reality), I drafted a simply slim cuff that I can pull over my hand easily.

Otherwise this blouse is finished with French seams except for the front seam – a challenge because I knew it would be visible. I’ve bound each side to enclose the heavily clipped seam allowance. A bit heavy, but effective.

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For the neckline I initially thought bias binding, but drafted a thin, curved collar so it would sit flat. I suspect that I am missing a pattern piece for the neckline, as the back bodice pattern piece has a notch around the neckline indicating that something should be matched to it – and I only had pattern pieces for the front, back, sleeve and ruffle.

Marfy 3449 Blouse 6

Probably should have steamed those pin holes out first...

Probably should have steamed those pin holes out first…

Also – the ‘satin trim’ down the side is not a pattern piece, but rather a DIY addition. I left it out.

Another work horse blouse, complete – I’ve already worn this to work a few times and I love it both tucked into skirts and untucked over pants. The silk does crush easily, so it’s not a travel-suitable blouse – but it’s so substantial that it feels like it could withstand a LOT of wear, much more so than the delicate silk/cotton voile I made the Blue Blotch Blouse in. Much to my devastation, I think that blouse will only last another year… massive sad face!

shorts

P317_7: Patrones Pink Shorts

I used my trouser block draft from my previous post to (mostly) successfully alter a Patrones pattern to fit me straight up! Cue crazy happy dance!!!

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I bought this Patrones magazine (issue 317 – June 2012) after seeing it on Mel’s blog (The Curious Kiwi), because I fell wildly in love with those pink shorts that are pattern #7. It’s only taken me two summers to actually get around to sewing them.

My hip and waist measurements matched the Patrones size 44. So I traced that one out and placed the pieces over my trouser block – turns out I’m a Patrones 44 at the hips, but a 48 at the location of the pattern’s waist. I then basically re-drafted the pattern pieces to match the shape of my block. The muslin I then made up of these shorts fit perfectly, first time.

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I then halved the width of the waistband – it just looked a little out of proportion on me at the height you see in the magazine pictures above.

And the fabric I’ve had kept specially for these – a hot-house pink silk twill from The Fabric Store. It’s lovely stuff – beautiful sheen and incredibly soft and smooth, yet so strong! I ended up sewing these using ‘couture’ methods, mainly because after throwing the silk twill in the washing machine, it dried incredible creased. I was kind of hoping that the silk organza underlining will mitigate a small portion of the propensity to crease to make ironing them a little bit easier! I’ve worn them a few times now and this has definitely helped.

That did cause some headaches (mostly of my own causing) because of the cuffs – which you can’t exactly fold up when you’ve got an organza underlining. Also, the twill is pale pink on the reverse side, which I didn’t really feel like having visible. Aaaand I wanted to incorporate a bit of the selvedge, because it would add the kind of subtle detail I love in a self-sewn garment. So I drafted a cuff with a facing to hide the selvedge fringe, which was sewn on then stitched in place in a dark pink thread – I’m really happy with the result.

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I tacked the cuff at both the outerseam and inner seam to keep it in place.

I tacked the cuff at both the outerseam and inner seam to keep it in place.

Otherwise this sew was pretty uneventful.

I did screw up my re-drafting when dealing with the slant pocket – thankfully the large seam allowances were able to save the day! I’ll be going back and re-walking my seam lines to figure out where I went wrong there, but you can see the original seam on the blue organza markings below. Yeah, probably should have used the yellow tracing paper instead of the dark blue…

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Completely forgot to get a  photo of these from behind whilst I was wearing them! They're elegantly simple from the back :)

Completely forgot to get a photo of these from behind whilst I was wearing them! They’re elegantly simple from the back :)

I also made my own binding – pre-wedding dress I was all about using the ‘Hug Snug’ rayon seam binding, and all my favourite dresses have their seams bound with that. It doesn’t wear as well as I would like it too though, so I’m either going to have to finally buy an overlocker, or make my own seam binding. As we’re saving like crazy so we can buy a house right at the moment, it’s the DIY option for now.

I did take complete advantage of the one benefit of having flat hips – these shorts don’t have a proper fly, they are sewn right up to the point where the waistband joins at the front. The shaping of the waistband basically is what is holding them up. I can quite easily shimmy them on without a whisper of strain on that seam!

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I’m a bit of a weight fluctuator. So in anticipation of this, I’ve sewn the waistband so it can be relatively easily altered, similar to that of men’s trousers. This way, I can unpick the waistband facing, take them in, then join the waistband back by stitching in the ditch. However, I’m going to take a guess that the likelihood of me actually bothering to do that is extremely low.

In hindsight maybe I should have left the giant waistband be and had a matching belt made up, like they do in the magazine. Next time!

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The fit of these shorts far eclipses the fit of shorts I’ve made previously, and they are both smart looking and ridiculously comfortable. So I’m really just over the moon! The style definitely suits a stiff and fairly substantial fabric though – the organza really helped there as my twill is more floppy than crisp.

One thing I did completely balls up was sewing on the hardware. OMG. First I sewed the bar on backwards – so instead of hooking and holding in place, the bar met with zero resistance. Then I turned the tack around so the bar could hook onto something. Then I realised that the bar and tack were on the wrong way around so the waistband stuck out at an odd angle. 3rd time lucky I got it right, but even with me carefully unpicking the threads there is a little damage which you can see below. It does appear to be mainly cosmetic, with the twill and the sturdy cotton facing not ‘structurally’ affected:

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I’m wondering if these would translate well as a pair of winter shorts, made up in a heavy-ish tweed and worn with tights?

But the weather has been warming up delightfully and sewing for winter is far from my thoughts. If a sew another pair of these (perhaps in a print?) and buy another singlet top or two – there’s my 2014/2015 casual summer uniform pretty much complete!

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Portside Duffel Bag

G31009: Ink & Spindle Portside Set

I’ve loved the Australiana prints and earthy textures of Melbourne’s very own Ink & Spindle ever since ‘discovering’ them – they make eco-friendly hand printed textiles on ethically sourced fabrics. I’ve even been lucky enough to hang out in their production space a couple of times when I’ve joined the Handmaker’s Factory ladies (Jorth! and Nikkishell) for knitting lessons. It’s a wonderfully inspiring and feel-good place!

The Portside Travel Set was perfect to get my heavy-weight fabric on. It also rather stylishly fills the gap between carry-on suitcase and backpack for weekend escapes and overnight trips.

Portside Duffel Bag

I chose a Kangaroo Paw print (a pretty native plant that blooms in reds, yellows and pinks) on a 600gsm raw hemp canvas from their online shop, and paired it with some of the left over oatmeal-coloured canvas from my Baby It’s Cold Outside coat.

Yellow Kangaroo Paw

Kangaroo Paw image from The Two Minute Gardener

The yellow and oatmeal match means I now have a coat and weekender bag that unintentionally match each other. Ha! I was actually a little concerned about all the neutral tones being a bit much, but I think it worked ok.

The hemp canvas is surprisingly soft (and pliable!) given it looks rather a bit like hessian. I interfaced all the Duffel Bag pieces with iron-on interfacing, and also underlined in calico. Seeing as it matched so well and I’m reticent to buy new fabric (stashbusting is go chez poppykettle atm), I also lined this with calico.

Portside Duffel Bag

Portside Duffel Bag

I do believe I may have halved the remaining life of my sewing machine motor with all the upholstery thread and super thick fabrics… I was dealing with a lot of thread snowballs, but still managed to get the side you see looking good:

Portside Duffel Bag

Portside Duffel Bag

Portside Duffel Bag

It was a real challenge to get my stitching lines up close to the hardware, with a few feet being changed out to achieve the closeness. I was trying to minimise the chances of the D-rings swivelling around during use because they’re so curved.

As was expected, sourcing quality hardware that fitted my vision was very challenging. I wanted gold zipper teeth on cream to play along with the theme of this project, which I found on Etsy. I’ll admit I paid a ridiculous sum to get these zips. The 1.25 and 1.5 inch webbing used for the handles of the bigger bag I sourced here, and the gold hardware from here.

I did notice one inconsistency with this otherwise excellent pattern – if you’re sewing with a patterned or directional fabric like I did – pattern piece four has its grainline on the crossgrain, not the grain. Had I positioned this pattern piece as per the grainline mark on the pattern piece, I would have had this segment showing my Kangaroo Paw on the side, instead of being upright.  Thankfully I noticed it and turned it around.

The other thing I might change were I to make this again would be to include a tab either end of the zip, which would be achieved by either elongating the bag or using a 12″ zip instead of a 13″ zip. I did this on a small (unblogged) toiletries bag I made last year and I like both the look and the extra strength/stability it lends to this area.

Instead, I used a bit of the cotton webbing to beef up the seam between the zip end and the side of the bag:

Portside Duffel Bag

Otherwise, I behaved in a highly unorthodox fashion and followed the instructions for this pattern to the letter. Except for deciding to ‘line’ the side pocket (with calico) on the outside because having two layers of hemp folded over to create the pocket opening would have been too thick.

This bag has already made its maiden voyage, and I love it to bits!

I also made the Dopp Kit:

Portside Duffel Bag

Portside Duffel Bag OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had to move the handle up a little so I could get the layers of fabric through my machine. The side pocket hidden zip thing is super cute and the kind of detail I love when it comes to sewing, but I’m unlikely to use this part of it. But the size of this little bag is perfect for all my toiletries, which makes me happy. I will be lining it, however – which is not included in the pattern but pretty basic to figure out.

My only issue with the Dopp kit is the pattern piece that goes either side of the top zip. The top zip is specified to be 13″ – and the 13″ zip I bought measured exactly 13″ from the start of the teeth to the end of the teeth. By logic then, the piece either side of the zip with 0.5″ seam allowance should be 14″.

Portside Dopp Kit

Not so – the pattern piece was exactly 13″ long. I had to add an additional inch to ensure I had adequate seam allowances. My pattern piece is on the top. As this didn’t affect the rest of the pattern pieces and how the Dopp kit came together, I presume it must just be a mistake.

Otherwise, I love my new bags. Easily stored because they can just be rolled up, but both are fabulous in size and convenience for being able to be carried on as hand luggage onto a plane. Definitely a sewing win!

Portside Duffel Bag