G31002: 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

S1302: Mix’n’Match Tofino’s

Time for something easy to sew, thank you very much – there was a time not so very long ago I thought that if I even sewed a cushion cover in the next year, that would be too much, too soon. Couture techniques and hand sewing have been (temporarily) banished from the realm… and lets not even talk about this new law being 1 garment too late!

These are the Sewaholic Tofino pj pants, and there were gasps of shock at Social Sewing when I asked to use one of several overlockers hauled to GJs for sewing with on the day…. I’d honestly forgotten such a machine even exists!

Sewaholic Tofino 6

Sewaholic Tofino 7

Sewaholic Tofino 8

Sewaholic Tofino 9

I’ve got a fair bit of Liberty in my stash, but criminally – I’ve yet to sew with hardly any of it. I got these gorgeous prints from Mill Rose in Ballan – they have easily the biggest range of Liberty I’ve EVER seen in person. They have virtually every print, in every colour way, on the shelf and readily available for petting. It’s worthy of a bit of hyperventilation. The front tie and the piping are from silk satin from the stash – there was the perfect amount of silk leftover from the cuffs on my silk robe, which matched wonderfully.

Crazy how here the silk looks like a dirty yellow... but more lime green on my robe!

I absolutely adore this print/colour combo. Crazy how here the silk looks like a dirty yellow… but more lime green on my robe!

Were it not for the fact that Sewaholic patterns are designed for a body shape that I’m very definitely not, that would probably be the end of this post. However, there was two full sizes between my hip and waist measurements. Really, I should have just bought a Vogue/McCalls pj pattern, but hey – I got caught up in the hype back when this was released and bought this against my better judgment. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have ever done that…

So because old habits die really, really hard (or in my case, not at all) – I wearable muslined them in a super cute cherry blossom print flannelette, with pink piping. Here they are, in a straight size 8 which according to the Sewaholic Size Table, I match from the hips down (I measured a 12 at the waist):

Sewaholic Tofino 4  Sewaholic Tofino 5

Desperate need for a Flat Butt Adjustment going on there. I think that photo just put to bed my life long dream of being a professional pyjama-bottom modeller!!! hehe.

Ahem. For my liking there is way too much baggy space at the back, and the wide-leg just a tad too wide for my shape.

So a few adjustments were in order.
– I shortened the leg length by a ridiculous number of inches (I did that before I cut the flannelette ones)
– I removed the widening taper of the side panel, so they are straight up and down (rather than getting slightly larger towards the ankle)
– I reduced leg width by taking out fabric from the seam between the side panel and the pants back… around about 4 inches all up. Probably about an inch too much, really. This simultaneously made the leg a little slimmer and fixed my need for a Flat Butt Adjustment.

Sewaholic Tofino 12 Sewaholic Tofino 13 Sewaholic Tofino 14

Confession time – so I may have lied a little about the overlocker thing. I overlocked the side seams of my cutesy flannelette pj pants… but I totally frenched the seams on my liberty pj pants. Guilty as charged.

I did a quick test on some scraps to make sure it would work with the piping in it – no dramas there so I moved on. It should be stated that making your own piping is boring prospect. I’d buy over DIY if you can!

Sewaholic Tofino 3

I think the amount of rise on these pants is just about perfect.

The instructions would have you tie your tie around the two non-functional button holes sewn into the waist band. I reinforced my buttonhole then ended up sewing the silk tie to that reinforced section so it can’t be lost in the wash.

Sewaholic Tofino 2

If I were to make these again, I would not sew the two tie pieces together, and instead sew them to my waistband reinforcing on the opposite side of the buttonhole… so there is zero strain on the buttonhole, like you see below. It’s a pretty long tie and has a surprising amount of weight to it.

Sewaholic Tofino 10

Otherwise, I now have three perfectly good pairs of lounge-about-the-house pants, doubling as pyjama pants when I need to stay overnight somewhere. Because I’m one of those people that would rather take the risk of getting caught out if there’s ever an emergency in the middle of the night…

Style Arc: A Zimmermann Cyd

And back to normal blog programming! My goodness, it feels like it’s been forever… not to mention I’ve had a seriously sloooow start in getting back to normal sewing. I’m enjoying taking things at a more relaxing, non pressured pace.

I’ve always browsed the Style Arc website and been pleasantly surprised at the awesome range of patterns – especially because they’re all things you’d expect to see in a clothes shop. Wonderfully everyday style stuff. But nothing had quite pushed me over the point to make a purchase… until I saw the Cyd Top.

Style Arc Cyd 1

Style Arc Cyd 15

Style Arc Cyd 2

Style Arc Cyd 7 Style Arc Cyd 6

The (woven!!) style lines are utterly fabulous, and it was kinda awesome to buy a pattern online that was both in Aussie dollars AND sizing.

Another love of mine is an Aussie clothing company called Zimmermann – I’ve watched their collections evolve over the years since they came about as a swimwear brand and I’ve always seen many things I’ve loved.

Also, I would probably be willing to commit acts of physical violence to get my hands on their fabrics. (Not really).

I was in one of their shops late last year because that collection was the first that they’ve expanded their swimwear to fit C/D cup sizes (took them bloody long enough). I of course bought some new bathers because we were about to head to the Philippines for a week of beach R&R with friends on Boracay Island (which was amazing).

Also, whilst in there I noticed they had their scarves on sale, so I bought three with the idea of including the fabric in a top of some kind.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this pattern – it’s a totally new to me company. The pattern was well marked up, with both the seam lines AND the seam allowance lines marked, and match points that made perfect sense in their placement. No bust point or waist/hip point marker though.

I’m a sucker for ‘interesting design lines’, so when I saw those exact words printed on the line drawing, I laughed out loud!

CYD-TOP

Style Arc’s are single size patterns – I bought the size that corresponds to the largest part of my body – the shoulders. That was a size 12. It was true to size, and accordingly I did end up taking it in at the waist as from that point downwards I match the size 10 measurements there.

I glanced over the instructions and they certainly meet their reputation of being pretty lousy, but I never intended to use them anyway. They did have a handy picture of what the inside seams of the top front looks like, which does help with construction. If you’ve made a princess seam top with facings before and you lay the pattern pieces flat in order, it’s quite simple to see what the construction process should be otherwise.

Even once I’d unpicked the seams of my scarves, I didn’t quite have quite enough length to get the full thing cut from the floral fabric. So after I’d muslined it, I played around with some curvy lines to make it a bit more interesting and simultaneously take care of the fabric shortage.

Style Arc Cyd 4

Style Arc Cyd 5

Thank you, harsh overcast winter lighting, for making the smallest of creases incredibly obvious.

You’ll note not a single piece is in that scarf fabric from top to bottom! This required a bit more work in ‘walking the seam lines’, prep and sewing to make sure everything would match up, but it was totally worth it. Of course, I had zero space to play with pattern matching, so getting the same print on two of the back pieces kinda sucked.

Style Arc Cyd 9

A very good friend of my gifted me some 30 year old cream crepe de chine, which was intended for lining my Wedding Dress. For various reasons I didn’t end up lining that, so this is it both providing the lining, the contrast and the underlining for this top – the scarf fabric is quite sheer.

And that’s where it got a little tricky. That crepe is utterly see through, so I decided to line just the white parts. Lining the entire top would have been possible but tricky due to the shapes of the pleats and flounces at the front, but what I should have done is a full lining a the back and a top-half lining at the front. I’d already cutout the pieces when I realized this, so the inside of the top is over-engineered in the extreme.

It looks pretty, though. And I did enjoy all the fell stitching.

Style Arc Cyd 11

Style Arc Cyd 12

Style Arc Cyd 10

Were it not for the sheer crepe, I would have just stuck with the facings (or better yet, drafted an all in one facing). I used bias to finish the section of the armscye that didn’t have the cap sleeve sewn to it.

During muslin stage I moved the centre back zip to be a side zip, mostly because it’s just easier to get dressed that way. That doesn’t work well at all because of the fabric volume at the hem, so it was back in the centre back seam for the final version! This is quite possibly the best invisible zip I’ve ever done.

Style Arc Cyd 8

I do really love this top, and how flouncy it is depends on the fabric you sew it with. Sewing with a cotton twill like Novita did – you get wonderful body. My fabrics are softer, so the flounce is less pronounced. I did also take them in a little, mainly to account for the fact that I’m a 10 at the hips and a 12 up top. Proportion and all that jazz.

The only thing I think one should be aware of is that the little cap sleeve style doesn’t provide much in the way of forward arm movement. I’ll be putting on shoes and socks before zipping this top up. Just a side effect of the style!

I will absolutely be making another of these – I’m currently on the hunt for the right kind of organza so I can recreate this seriously gorgeous Lela Rose dress (2013 Fall Collection) in top form…

Lela Rose

Perfect pattern match to designer knock-off, yes?

Until soon!

V1030: A tale of two dresses

I’m not quite sure that sewing dresses for your bridesmaids counts as selfless sewing (as really, it’s technically for me), but I’m so totally claiming it.

If I was humbled that both women were willing to wear something I made, then their trust in me throughout the muslin phase bowled me over even more. It’s hard enough for a non-sewing enthusiast to understand just how much sewing means to me, let alone be forced into wearing one of my creations. I remember doing one of the fitting sessions in front of a group of friends – one of the on-lookers genuinely thought I was going to make them wear a dress made of muslin. …..”Oh, I didn’t realise you were going for such a rustic theme”….

Ha!

My third bridesmaid, technically a bridesman – escaped the whole process. Although the poor man often got confused as my betrothed when accompanying me on official bridesmaid duties such as visiting florists and trying on dresses. It was funny! I did briefly consider attempting to make a tie for him, but lumped that idea pretty quick when time got tight! So I’d like to introduce you all to Nikoo, Andrea and Lev-Ari:

w140412_101

 

w140412_066

w140412_103

w140412_265

w140412_335

w140412_332

we were, of course - the Perfect Match! ;)

we were, of course – the Perfect Match! ;)

I had picked out Vogue 1030 as pattern I rather liked, and both girls were kind enough to deem it acceptable… once I’d explained that I would be able to alter the design to provide some additional coverage  – this pattern in it’s original form has one helluva plunging neckline.

This pattern certainly had its moments. I think the most difficult part was that it calls for silk chiffon or silk double georgette that is 60″ wide. Those fabrics in that width? Difficult to find generally, and nigh on impossible to find in a colour of your choosing! The skirt has both fabric and lining pattern pieces – the lining (silk crepe de chine or georgette are recommended) is effectively an exaggerated A-line skirt, whilst the overskirt (chiffon or double georgette recommended) has a train and angular side seam, which is the reason the super wide fabric is required. Upon realising this I decided it would be practical both from a wearing and fabric width point of view to keep the hem at floor length – removing the need for super-wide width and giving me far more flexibility in fabric choice.

Once we’d all agreed on on two potential colour palettes I started the fabric recon, and was disappointed at every turn. As you can see from the photos, both Andy and Nikoo have distinctly different skin tones – and I felt they’d look their best in different hues of the same colour – and I simply could not find two double georgettes in the right shades! I pinned all my hopes on my fabric shopping expedition in New York, and even there I struggled to get a match.

I did eventually spot silks in the colours I was after in Mood – what a crazy place. I know a lot of people rave about Mood, but it just didn’t do it for me – I’m so much more a B&J girl! I deliberated on the silks for a day as one was a crepe de chin, the other tagged as a charmuese (we’ll get to that in a moment) – really rather different from georgette. Oh, and the darker silk was on hold – someone was planning to buy the whole bolt. But the colours were so perfect for both the girls and my personal taste, and when I went back in just before closing and the bolt was still there, it was a done deal! Whilst my yardage was being cut, the girl told me both were Ralph Lauren silks – it made sense both were from the same place given how well the hues matched. I recall a fleeting concerned thought at how the lightweight ‘charmuese’ would work, but in the excitement of finding the right colours that thought got pushed from view. Jetlag probably had something to do with that too – it’s like a wierd mix of feeling both drunk and hungover at the same time – I think I may have lost my balance whilst standing upright when perusing fabric because of this, but noone saw so it never happened, right?

w140412_184

w140412_182a

w140412_431

w140412_588

w140412_684

I made a muslin for both girls and was really, really challenged at having to fit them both. Even though they both had virtually identical B-W-H measurements, their proportions are vastly different. The skirt was always going to be easy as it’s so free-flowing – but the pattern bodice has a lining, and underbodice piece and an overbodice piece which incorporates the gathering around the edge of the neckline – and for the life of me I just couldn’t figure out how to adjust the pattern to get a good bodice fit without impacting the gathered portion. I had limited time to spend fitting both girls as they don’t live close by, so I ended up scratching the overbodice pattern piece (and thus, the gathering around the neckline) and not taking the risk that it might not work.

I was to extend the ruffle around the neck down to give coverage, and also raise up the trapezium shaped pattern piece joining the bodice fronts to make it more of a modesty panel – onto which the ruffles would be tacked to hold them in place. It turned out that I probably only needed to extend the ruffles as they gave plenty of modesty, but hey. I kept the gathers on the centre trapezium shaped piece the same to keep with the look.

The 'extended' trapezium as viewed from the inside - the stitch line across the bodice shows where it would have originally stopped.

The ‘extended’ trapezium as viewed from the inside – the stitch line across the bodice shows where it would have originally stopped. This was after the final fitting – we decided to cut back the armscye a little on Nikoo’s dress which you can see by the pencilled in adjustment.

I extended the ruffles right down to where the original trapezium centre stopped. In the end you can't even see the modesty panel.

I extended the ruffles right down to where the original trapezium centre stopped. In the end you can’t even really see the modesty panel.

THE BODICE:
I started on the darker green ‘charmuese’ dress first. And that’s when I realised – this was no charmuese. It was the lightest, most loosely woven silk habutai I’d ever come across. It was Hell Spawn Habutai. Throw a fluffy feather and a piece of this in the air and the feather would land first with time to kill. It was so lightweight and fluttery and insanely sheer that even when 2 layers were laid out on my cutting mat with a silk organza underlining pattern piece on top – I COULD STILL CLEARLY SEE THE GRID LINES ON MY CUTTING MAT. I shit you not.

My second realisation – trying to align the grainline of this fabric was like trying to get a nappy on a wriggly toddler that just will not stand for having their nappy changed. I ended up taping down the selvedge, then finding the cross grain by using the thread-pull technique, before taping that down the cross-grain on the cutting mat too. Then pinning on my organza pattern pieces and thread-tracing blah etc blah blah. It was a nightmare.

Vogue 1030 2

Playing hide and seek with the cross grain…

Vogue 1030 4

At the end of cutting out the bodice pieces (none of which had bubbles indicating the grain had tricked me – woooo!!!!) I rewarded myself with a rather stiff G&T. Then came back the next day for more punishment to cut out the skirt pieces. I think I spent nearly 3 full days just cutting out this one dress. I used every single trick in the proverbial sewing book to keep this fabric in line – basting was my best friend. After spending a full Saturday cutting out and basting together the ruffle alone (I had a hunch that the ruffle would sit more beautifully if I underlined it with itself) I was greeted with the sight of possibly the most beauteous of ruffles that has ever existed. It draped, flopped and rolled in such a way that washed away all my despair at ever getting this dress to look like I wanted it too. I mean, just look at it in the photo here:

w140412_336

If I had one regret from these two dresses, it’s that I had already cut and gathered the ruffle in Andrea’s dress with just a single layer of fabric. And I just didn’t have the time to do it again…

I then realised it would have been amazing if I could also underline the skirt in self fabric, but I didn’t have enough and I’d already sewn the skirt together by this stage so it was never going to be. Ah well!

THE SKIRT:
With the skirt – I sewed french seams using tissue paper to hold the hellspawn habutai fabric sturdy under my presser foot, because I just couldn’t find a way to sew a seam without it looking utterly terrible. Altering thread tension minimised only slightly the chewed up look a sewn seam gave the fabric. My machine is a base computerised model (Janome DC2101) and doesn’t have the option to adjust presser foot tension – I’m not sure if this would affect it but I’d love to know!

Vogue 1030 3

One those seams were sewn, I hung the skirt up to let everything settle. I realised at this point that my adjustments to the over skirt weren’t really all that well thought out – sure, I’d removed the train by simply cutting it off, but I hadn’t factored in that the side seam of the skirt might be angled in such a way so as to support the weight of the train – meaning my french seamed skirt looked incredibly, horribly and devastatingly ugly:

IMG_7245

Yes. We all know what this looks like, but we’re too polite to say it, right?

DISASTER!

At least, I’m assuming it’s my fault. I did flatter myself for a moment with the thought that maybe I could see the hint of the same effect/drag lines in the picture on the pattern envelope, but figured people would have mentioned it in their pattern reviews if that was the case.

I let it sit like this whilst I pondered it for a few days. Really annoyed at myself for taking the shortcut of muslining the underskirt only, I figured it would have to remain as is because unpicking would ruin the skirt, and whilst I bought an extra meter of fabric as contingency, that wasn’t going to be nearly enough. Maybe somehow when Nikoo put it on, it would all be ok.

ERRRR – No.

It looked even worse on and she totally freaked out. We all have our least favourite body part and hips are hers – and this f’ugly seam drew your attention right there and would not let you go. And the image stuck with you even once you’d turned your back on it.

I had no choice but to alter it. I tested my proposed changes first in some scrap poly silk, then gently and super-carefully unpicked, realigned on my pattern piece and sliced the offending angle off. You can sort of see exactly how shifty-shifty the grain is from the off-cut on the right:

photo

Then I carefully re-sewed the french seams. I can’t even begin to describe my frustration here – the only positive I can take from it was that I could at least save myself more pain by adjusting the lighter green dress skirt panels pattern before cutting that one out.

As much hurt, angst and frustration that this habutai fabric caused me – I absolutely love it. It has stunning sheen, drapes in such a lustful manner and is the most perfect shade of apple green – and suits Nikoo to an absolute tee.

You can see in this photo the offending seam ended up being quite easy on the eye!

w140412_301

The side seams, still being slightly on the bias – did drop somewhat. Obviously, the looser woven Hellspawn Habutai dropped much farther than the delightfully well-behaved crepe de chin.

IMG_1741

Hemming was a case of using my piece of altered plastic belt backing to sew a miniture hem without the seams being chewed up by my machine. It involved a lot of patience on the wearer’s behalf, standing still whilst I pinned in place the ideal hem location!

Another interesting thing from a non-sewists point of view… both girls were quite visibly shocked at how ‘different’ each dress looked on a hanger. Well yeah… that’s because they both have very different body shapes, and each dress has been altered to suit that. Andrea was longer in the body and is the classic rectangle shape, whilst Nikoo is really very petite through the torso (you can see this in the shape of the armscye on both dresses below) and pear shaped, evidenced by what appears to be the curved hem when sitting flat. And yet, they are the same height and have exactly the same B-W-H sizes. When they’re being worn, you probably wouldn’t notice any of those things. This is why we sew right?

IMG_7344

WAIST GATHERING
The panels at the waist are not structural – they are aesthetic additions onto the bodice and sit above the seam line between the bodice and the skirt. The panels are cut on the bias then machine gathered at each end and attached to the dress between the center back seam and the seam alongside the trapezium shaped piece at the centre front.

At least, that’s what the pattern instructions would have you do. I noticed on a few of the pattern reviews of this pattern that the gathering looked a little saggy – which was not something I wanted to replicate. This kind of gathering always looks better under tension!

I pinned my gathered panels in place then used some matching silk thread to ‘lock’ them in place, which was a something I noticed on a Colette Dinnigan dress I own that also has gathering like this at the waist.

The gathers pinned in place before being 'secretly' sewn down to the bodice.

The gathers pinned in place before being ‘secretly’ sewn down to the bodice.

Tadaaa! Fabric now magically appears to sit right where you want it to!

Tadaaa! Fabric now magically appears to sit right where you want it to!

IMG_7360

Having sewn this up with two different fabrics, I think it would be very difficult to get your bias cut panels cut to exactly the right length so that when worn, the gathering would sit in the right place AND look attractive. It all depends on how your fabric behaves under tension – how tightly woven it is.

It was a challenge of the fun kind to get it so the stitches held the gathers attractively whilst not showing! The light in the photo above does rather give the location of my stitches away, but it didn’t appear to be visible whilst being worn.

THE LINING & TURN OF CLOTH:
I used a white crepe de chine silk to line both the bodice and the skirt. The pattern wanted the arm holes to be finished with some self-fabric binding – that was never going to happen!

Because of the white lining, I wanted to account for turn of cloth at the armholes, and I didn’t want stitches showing on the outside (so I used this technique) – but I forgot about this when I was tracing my seamlines. To account for it, I pinned the seam line of the lining 2mm out from the outer fabric seam line and sewed along this, resulting in armholes that don’t show the lining :)

IMG_7317

IMG_7318

The silk organza underlining helped a lot here as after pressing it in place – gave me a nice crisp fold that held the turn of cloth beautifully.

I finished off the lining to enclose all of the seams by fell stitching it to the skirt’s seamline.

CLOSURES
I used invisible zips on both dresses (down the centre back seam), finishing with a hook and eye at the top, which is hidden nicely by the ruffles at the neckline.

photo 4

Because I used french seams at the skirt though – there is always that difficult point where french seam meets zip. I get around this by making a perpendicular cut into the seam, which allows the seam to lay flat.

DRESS SHIELDS:
Perhaps a little on the unusual side – but I think we’ve all worn a silk top at some point and had perspiration make our fabric wet under the arms. And that damp silk really stands out because it appears dark!

I saw ready-made dress shields for sale when I was in New York, but it’s not something I’ve yet to come across here in Melbourne. There was an old thread on Artisan Square from 2006 about dress shields – but also mostly about using bought versions. Both versions of the book Couture Sewing Techniques (Claire Shaeffer) discusses them briefly, shows a picture and discusses how they were traditionally sewn.

IMG_7247

IMG_7255

For Nikoo’s dress (Andy is one of those people that doesn’t seem to sweat!) I incorporated built in dress shields, which I made from a layer of cotton calico covered in the white crepe de chin lining, tacked in place with catch stitch before sewing up the side seams. You can’t see them when she’s wearing the dress – and I checked in with her at the end of the night as to how well they worked – not a single sweat mark! Although… we were both rather inebriated at that point…

THE END RESULT:
Super floaty and elegant – nothing looks or feels more luxurious than a flowing floor length silk skirt! They all looked pretty good I thought :)

w140412_205

All professional photos in this post were by the amazing Todd and Alyda from Todd Hunter McGaw :)

Project WD: Marfy 2630 Bustier

Even though this wasn’t seen by anyone at the wedding, this is the garment I’m both the most proud of and got the most satisfaction from sewing out of this whole wedding dress business. Pretty underthings have always been a weakness of mine – even when I was a cash-strapped University student pulling a wardrobe together from eBay purchases and second hand shops, I always found the money for lovely (and well fitting) lingerie. Corsetry has also been a fascination of mine, but one I’ve only vaguely flitted around the edges of.

This pattern – Marfy 2630 – blends the best of both of those worlds. Leisa blew me away with the muslin pattern pieces for this at Camp Couture last year. Marfy styled it as outerwear – which I think would be incredibly lush made up in a winter coating material like boiled wool or cashmere, or more dramatic in a brocade. I’m already day dreaming about another version of this in colour blocked heavyweight silk satin – either way it’s an absolute winner of a pattern.

Marfy 2630

Marfy bustier F2630

The Muslin(s)… and the back story:
I sewed my first muslin of this pattern after getting back from Baltimore, adding in spiral steel boning and underwires at the cups before trying it on properly for the first time. I think I may have cried at this point (101% likely due to bad timing with hormones more than anything) because there was just so much that needed to be tweaked and it seemed like too much at the time. I gave up and threw it onto my sewing cabinet, where it fell down behind to be temporarily forgotten.

Figuring I’d take a short cut I went out and bought a RTW strapless long-line bra. It fit ok and I could easily have left it at that, but after wearing it for a day here and a day there as a trial, it became uncomfortable, the plastic boning bubbled out in some places and dug into me in others – and I was sure I could do so much better. Like 99.99% of us, I don’t fit RTW well, and having being spoilt by the fruits of my sewing labour these last few years, putting up with something sartorially substandard just niggled away at the back of my mind.

So I reached down behind the horn and pulled it out, ready for the first round of fitting changes. The only structurally significant change was to move the position of the waist down 3.2cm (1 and 1/4 inches) – I’m just long in the body. The other changes were minor but numerous – tweaking the various seams by taking them in here or there and reducing the height of the back down by an inch (so it wouldn’t show under the deep V neck of the bodice’s back) – and I figured once I’d got the bodice part of this sorted, I could focus on fitting the cups.

photo 1

F2630 muslin #2 – Dec 2013

That’s my second muslin above. At this point I’d made most of the major bodice fitting adjustments, including moving the position of the waist down 1 and 1/4 inches and grading the seams. I already knew I’d be removing the front panel angular detail, so I’d stopped adjusting the seams at that point.

The cups are obviously the most challenging point – and I’ve got one original cup and another traced from a favourite moulded strapless bra on in the photos above. Even though the difference between the two was slight, a bit of additional fullness in some parts and less in others (and I’m talking in mm here) seemed to make a rather large difference.

I tried a few more cup adjustments before moving onto my next muslin – a ‘dress rehearsal muslin’ – in the same fabrics I’d be sewing the end result in. I’ve got a whole new appreciation for bra’s now, that’s for sure. They really are engineering masterpieces! Recognising how a simple change in either grain direction or fullness can have a flow-on ripple effect was fascinating. I’d solve one problem and create three more because if it. Then I’d back track and try to fix what I thought was the problem rather than the resultant effect and in the process be experiencing life at a rate of several WTF’s per second. I eventually got it to a point I’m about 99% happy with – it looked fine underneath the wedding dress bodice muslin, so near enough became good enough.

Marfy 2630 muslin #3

This muslin presented some new issues. Mostly that the final fabrics I was going to use have ZERO give, whilst the calico obviously did when put under so much tension. This resulted in it being too small! I could get it done up, but the cups were now too close to the centre, with me being at risk for falling out the side. You can sort of see that in the photo above if you look hard enough at my left boob. Go on. I dare you.

Also, with this muslin I took a risk and decided to move away from soft cups. The cup here are lined with some 2mm foam instead. I’m not going to talk extensively about fitting and how I tackled changes because really I had no idea what I was doing. Basically the foam lining seemed to exaggerate the fitting issues from what looked ok as an unlined cup, and I was sort-of-sure that might be from the cups now being slightly smaller due to the layer of foam.

I managed to get a picture of my black muslin in the afternoon light – a) so you can see the seam lines and detail and b) because about the only photo manipulation skill I have is cropping. And I only just manage to achieve that half the time!

IMG_7198

My first ‘dress rehearsal muslin’

The Fabrics:
I used Sea Island Cotton, which was commended by Susan Khalje as being the ideal foundation garment fabric, because it’s smooth, very finely woven, incredibly strong and breathable. It’s pretty special fabric, actually – and I had mine sent to me from B&J’s in New York. Also, Leisa gave me some whilst at Camp Couture last year. Sewists really are the most nice people around. I used this as the outer fabric and also as the lining.

Underneath that is some white Shapewell canvas, which is basically a lightweight horsehair canvas – and definitely a contributor towards the dress rehearsal muslin having zero give! Melburnians – you can get this from Clegs.

I used those two layers to sew channels for the boning:

IMG_6771

The seam allowances also needed to be catch-stitched down to keep the bodice smooth, so having another layer in between always helps for that:

IMG_7227

That was taken during some really late night sewing!

The 2mm foam I used to line the cups with, I got from Booby Traps. Their minimum order length is a meter, which was annoying – and it also arrived with some pretty dirty marks on it. Along with some other reasons, I won’t be buying from them again. It seemed I forgot to take any photos whilst I was sewing these back in December 2013, but a few months later Amy from a Cloth Habit did a 3 post extravaganza on sewing bra cups with foam. It was so lovely to read her posts – especially because she did it in a virtually identical manner to what I did, so instead I’ll leave you with the links to her posts:

Cloth Habit – Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 1
Cloth Habit – Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 2
Cloth Habit – Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

IMG_7196

I also used some self-made bias binding to close up the hem – made up in some of my all time favourite Liberty Print (of which I’ve yet to sew anything from! Criminal!):

IMG_7232

The Hardware:
I pilfered some underwires from a favourite bra that was out of commission (sob!), but these had to be cut back because they were a wee bit too long for this pattern at the sides, especially as I’d lowered the back to fit under the deep V-neck backline of my Wedding Dress.

Thankfully, Amy had also covered this in another handy post, so I felt confident cutting into them with some wire cutters.

Marfy 2630

I was at a loss as to what to use for ‘tipping’ them though… and even though I made and finished the bustier back in mid-January this year, I of course left the underwires until 3 days before the wedding – when I really didn’t have time to go searching for such things. So I used nail polish. It took overnight to for several coats to dry properly, but it did ok. Next time I’ll get something more appropriate!

The other hardware was of course – the spiral steel boning. I bought a 10m continuous length from Aussie Corset Supplies (an online shop that I would highly recommend), plus some metal tips as well.

IMG_7199

My first attempt at cutting was disastrous and relied solely on excessive brute strength – after 2 or 3 cutting attempts I realised there’s a sweet spot in the boning’s circular repeat where the wire cutters can snip through with very little effort. That made thing so much easier!

Notions:
Instead of sewing channels for the underwires like I did with the boning, I chose to use a pre-made underwire channel as it worked with my construction method. I bought two types during muslin phase, one from Aussie Corset Supplies, the other from Booby Traps. The ACS one was a few cents more expensive, but considerably better in quality.

I used the underwire channel to ‘hide’ the seam allowance between the bodice and the cups, which worked a treat:

IMG_7180

Firstly I sewed the bodice layers together around the cup seam line

IMG_7181

Trim back the seam allowances

IMG_7187

Pin in the cup, using my ‘death by a thousand pin stabs’ pinning technique

IMG_7188

Use said pinning technique again to place the channeling in place… probably a good time to tell you that saliva is the best thing to get rid of blood spots. Use it immediately and it works a treat!

IMG_7189

Secure in place with more pins so you can topstitch it all in place. The inner topstitch is effectively a ‘stitch in the ditch’, the lower topstitch is of course, on the bodice.

IMG_7195

Ta-daa! It’s tougher than it looks to get your top stitching even and in the right place! Hence the excessive pins you saw previously…

A back closure was a little more tricky. A zip is completely inappropriate – they simply aren’t designed to handle that kind of tension. I know, because I used one on all my muslins to make it marginally easier to get in and out of, and yes – they kept on breaking.

I ended up going with some hook and eye tape which I bought from Susan Khalje’s online shop. It’s lightweight, supple, super strong, well spaced and ends up being quite subtle, even though it’s white and my sea island cotton is ‘ecru’.

IMG_7234

IMG_7235

Before I realise that was an option, I had also ordered some hook and eye tape from Booby Traps. I didn’t use it because it was stiff, scratchy and bulky – not the kind of thing I wanted pressed up against me. But you can’t know this from looking at it online, so that was a risk I knowingly took. What shat me off is that they thought it was appropriate to send me that minimum-order-length of a meter length in two sections – stapled together. I did email my disappointment through to them, and got a prompt and pleasant response back indicating they do this in order to keep costs down. Whilst I ended up throwing it out, if I order a length of something, I full well expect to receive that as a continuous length, unless otherwise advised of at the time of ordering. Combine that experience with the foam I ordered from them that had dirty stains on it, and I won’t be ordered from them again.

The Construction:
Obviously without instructions, you sort of have to go at it your own way. Making muslins really helps in this regard, you really get a feel for what needs to be done. The trickiest part is the cups, which you can see in the series of photos that cover the underwire channeling.

IMG_7176

Otherwise, you’re simply dealing with three layers of fabric. The canvas underlining I sewed directly to the outer layer of the cotton, which means you only have two layers to deal with instead of three. I sewed these together along the tops of the bustier, folding it over and pressing, so I could then sew around the cup seamline to sew in the cups.

After sewing in the hook and eye tape by sandwiching it between the inner and outer layers, I closed up the hem with bias tape.

The Finished Bustier
I’m ecstactically over the moon I persevered with this pattern – it’s so much more comfortable compared to the RTW version I bought. I get damn good boobage support thanks to the underwire, I can move freely and not feel restricted, and most importantly – I’ve got a totally custom-fit-to-me foundation onto which I could sew the bodice of my wedding dress.

What absolutely blew me away is how amazing it feels to not have the weight of your chest supported by your shoulders. I honestly thought bra’s were comfortable until I wore this around the house for a day! Afterwards I really noticed the pull on my shoulders – and I always get fitted when I buy bra’s so I know I’m wearing the most suitable option. I’m absolutely going to sew up another one of these and play around with making the boning channels removable (??) so I can wash it and make it everyday wearable. The spiral steel boning is technically rust proof because it’s been galvanised (which means the steel has been coated in zinc so it doesn’t react with oxygen (you know the term ‘oxidise’)) – but the moment you cut it to length there’s a break in that seal meaning rust is definitely a potential outcome from washing. I wasn’t able to acquire ‘tipping’ fluid to seal off the ends with in the time I had, so I might investigate that also. Not sure how I feel about taking a garment like this to the dry cleaners! (and yet, here I am flaunting it all over the internet….). I ended up unpicking my fell stitches along the binding and removing the channels so I could hand wash it after the wedding, which isn’t really something I want to do on a regular basis.

I was originally planning to sew the dress directly onto this undergarment, but by the end of it all, decided to keep them separate so I could get some more wear out of it. I’m still undecided as to whether this was an intelligent decision.

Marfy 2630

008

With all the craziness that is getting ready prior to the wedding, I never did actually get any photos of wearing the final iteration… but you can see it peeking through in the photo above. I probably could have given myself a little extra breathing room – it’s a tough call to make when it’s your first time sewing such a thing!

Next up… all about the construction, design and sewing challenges of my Wedding Dress skirt :)