An Afternoon at Specialty Pleaters

On the 24th of November, myself and a dozen others  spent the afternoon with Simon Zdraveski, his interns and 90 years worth of pleating history in a small factory in the industrial inland of Williamstown, Melbourne. It was both magical and a bit sad…

Some of you might be familiar with this article about Specialty Pleaters from Broadsheet – and if not, it’s worth the read. There are approximately 12 pleating businesses left in the world – Australia has two of them – and they’re all struggling to stay alive as industry moves away from labour-intensive processing, moves what little specialty work there is left offshore, or just don’t know of it’s existence.  

Simon Zradevski, in the Specialty Pleaters workshop

Even one of the last volume customers of the pleating world – school uniforms – is moving away from this trade as our kids’ school clothing policy becomes increasingly casualised – track pants and polo shirts, compared to the button up shirts, ties and pleated kilts that I grew up wearing on the daily. 

The factory space itself is filled with pleating mold forms going back goodness how long knows – none of it has ever been catalogued – autoclaves and custom-built steam ovens, and four or five pleating machines – all of which bar one have been decommissioned. A treasure trove of possibility that will soon be lost – Simon currently operates Specialty Pleaters to cover overheads, no wages (not even his), and that even is a challenge. 

Hokum Australia recently did an indiegogo campaign to help raise funds to continue to keep Specialty Pleaters alive – with the option to donate or buy a pleated silk twill print scarf – which I believe were partly inspired by Hermès scarves, but with printed designs more in line with Hokum’s distinctive style. They’re stunning – and I’m really quite sad I didn’t know about it before it ended! Simon mentioned that Hokum will potentially sell the scarves online (albiet at full retail price) in the near future… I was lucky enough to see the first pleated scarves come off the machine for those of your who were lucky enough to secure one – they’re stunning!

TECHNICAL LOWDOWN – Machine Pleating
Machine pleating is obviously used for bulk pleating work – producing far greater volumes with less human contribution. Interestingly, it relies on a combination of heat and pressure and produces pleating instantly, unlike pleating by hand which is a 24 hour process using heat and steam. 

But as with hand-pleating, the fabric is still sandwiched in between two layers of paper for machine pleating – protecting it from direct contact with the machinery.  

The heat and pressure create a totally different result – with machine pleated fabric having much stronger profile, compared to the softer outcome of the hand pleated method. It also appears to impact the hand of the fabric. Below shows the exact same fabric that has been pleated with both techniques as a comparison – machine pleated on the left, hand pleated on the right:

But pleating is one of those things that really cannot be well communicated in a 2D medium – I’ve saved a lot of my short-length videos on Instagram stories – I’ve also spent more time than I care to admit figuring out how to insert videos into this medium, so I hope you enjoy them!

TECHNICAL LOWDOWN – Hand Pleating
These days – pleating is more of an artform than a business – relying on custom skilled hand work to keep it visible – which means these businesses need to be creative to be commercially viable.

Hand pleating is a gentler technique that gives a softer look, using heat and steam to create this. You can pre-hem your fabric before pleating by hand – however this is best for hems on the straight grain. For hems on a curve – like the circle skirt of a sunray pleat – it’s best to hem post pleating, once it’s been hung to let the bias fabric sections ‘drop’. Ideally though this would potentially be left unhemmed, or run through with a baby-lock stitch (which does detract slightly from the sharp end finish, creating a soft wave to the end pleats).

You may recall that back in my very early sewing days – I had a skirt pleated, and by Specialty Pleaters too. But knowing what I now know – I’m embarassed by how little I was charged for the work… and then I went on to talk negatively about the outcome without understanding the reasons why what had occurred, happened. I’m hoping I can somehow atone for it through this write up. I’ll get to that shortly!

Hand Pleating is a 24 hour process, requiring more than one person when the panels being pleated are large. The fabric is placed between two paper forms, then folded up, secured, then placed inside a steam oven (time and temperature dependant on fabric). Once it comes out of the oven, the wrapped up form must then cool overnight to ensure all the moisture has been removed from the paper. These ovens are custom built – costing anywhere between AUD$50k-110k. 

The paper (285gsm, with a wax protective coating which is no longer available in Australia) form molds themselves are a precision work of origami art, with even a simple box pleat pattern taking days to complete.  Simon has a few forms by a colleague in Egypt – Shady Mohammed from Global Pleating – created these two below, and many more – his Instagram page is a delightful trip down the rabbit hole for anyone who loves a bit of mind-boggling 3D origami geometry!

I’m grateful that some of the artisans in this space are willing to share their art form – as I doubt you’d ever be able to go behind the doors of the better known European pleaters like Maison Lognon – which Chanel have just bought out. Regardless, Shady’s pleating form creation is just incredible! Whilst there is definite benefits to keeping IP close to your heart in new and emerging industries, when the art form is losing traction and dying – I do believe the opposite is true – to attract people back and invigorate interest to keep it alive. 

One of the more bonkers mold forms is the ‘Artichoke’ Pleat, which we were able to see. I took the videos in a series of successive bursts (so I could put them on Instagram) – but I’ve also uploaded the videos here if you’ve like to see them. I can easily believe that it would take half a day to get the fabric and second form all into place before popping it in the oven!

This would make an amazing flutter sleeve on a blouse!

ATONEMENT FOR MY PREVIOUS COMMENTS ON PLEATING
Simon, to his credit, has stopped the business from charging rates that are unsustainable, in an effort to operate on commercial terms. Now I am better informed, I am quite ashamed of how much I was charged by the previous owner of the business for my two sunray pleats – something like $40 for the pair. $20 for a single long sunray pleat – when you consider the labour and production time involved – is just wrong. 30 minutes of labour to get the fabric in the form, then the costs of heating up the auto-clave, then time spent packaging it back up to send back to me – is not $40 worth of product. 

Plus, I sent in my fabric in a satchel bag – so the fabric would have been crushed and creased – and needing pressing before putting it in the form – which I also wasn’t charged for.

Simon now requests that fabric sent in is rolled up with tissue paper and put in a mailing tube, which he can then send it back in – pleated fabric can’t just go back in a satchel bag! 

I was also utterly unfair about the un-evenness of the hem – at the time I was green enough about sewing to have no understanding of the impact of bias cut fabric, so I’ve since updated that post to reflect this better. 

My Anniversaire Amour dress (from back in 2012!!!), featuring a sunray pleated circle skirt.

FABRIC
It appears to be common knowledge that you can’t pleat natural fibres – which is incorrect. You can pleat any fabric – including tulle (but excluding net. As soon as you get more ‘gaps’ than fibre, it’s not an option). 

Mariano Fortuny was a pioneer early last century with pleating silk – the highly secretive patented mushroom pleat – allowing a radical amount of movement for those wearing his rather simple but form fitting garments. His techniques were all done by hand (synthetics and pleating machines were not invented until mid-last century) with incredibly accuracy and consistency. International Pleating (New York) have a wonderful article on Fortuny Pleating. What is incredible is that this silk hand pleated fabric still holds its shape today, with several museums around the world showcasing Fortuny’s infamous Delphos gown

Image of Fortuny Pleating via Susanna Galanis

I think what has been lost in translation is that pleated synthetic fibres are far more durable – and can withstand today’s methods of ‘dry’ cleaning. There are no chemicals used in the pleating process – just heat and steam (and pressure if you’re going the mechanical route) – so for natural fibres, applying heat and steam overwrites the previous fibre memory of being pleated. Synthetic pleated fabric can be cold hand washed and drip dried in the shade – making them far more practicable for todays use. Silk fabrics can be beautifully pleated – one of Simon’s intern’s showed us a a few samples – the drape is incredible!

Typically lighter weight fabrics are used – like in the above left image (showing off the pleating technique that took Issey Mikaye to fame). Thicker/heavier weight the fabric can also be used – like in the above right image, however there is a need to use proportionally larger pleat patterns, meaning the fabric is unlikely to ‘snap back’ into shape like the smaller pleating. You can see how the pleats gently fold out in the teal crepe fabric. The video of pink fabric below is quite similar to the hand of Issey Miyake pleating:

With hand pleating, the smallest you can really go is Australia is 1cm pleats. Perhaps you could go smaller, but the mold forms don’t exist… With machine pleating – you can get down to 3mm – which turns any fabric into an incredibly structured form, like below (which can only be really seen in motion). 

1cm hand plated panel

A WORD ABOUT DRY CLEANING
It’s not really ‘dry’. Perhaps more accurately – no water is used. Instead, solvents are used to draw out dirt and impurities, then garments are heated and dried to remove the solvents (which have a far lower evaporation point than water). Which is fine for synthetics, but not pleated natural fibres. One of the things I’ve been trying to find in Melbourne – a really really good dry cleaner. Somewhere to take my French Jacket, for example. 

Thanks to Simon – I now know where I’ll be going, as there are apparently two in Melbourne who still follow original methods:
 – Syndle Dry Cleaners (various locations) who only do bridalwear, and
 – Domain Dry Cleaners (in South Yarra).

Melbournians, you can thank me later ;)

INSPIRATION
One of the ladies I met during the course of the afternoon – Gail – is an incredibly talented sewist who has already worked with Simon twice for two dresses she’s sewn – both of which have been worn at Fashions on the Field for the Melbourne Cup. I’ll see if I can get some pictures of her frocks to share with you! 

I left some green fabric with Simon at the end of the afternoon to have a specialty pleat made up for a skirt, and also discussed with him a more ambitious pleating option that I’m currently sourcing the right fabric for… I predict there is going to be quite a few pleated skirts in my future!

I’m feeling my sewjo coming back – thinking about how fun it will be to wear the above this summer! I’m thinking a midi-skirt for this one – and I look forward to sharing it with you soon!

And I’ll leave you with a few images I’ve pulled from Pinterest… and the knowledge that Tatyana will be hosting a pleated garment sewalong for ASG members in December, details to be announced soon!

Image via ThePhilophiles – which references this as a Celine shirt? Stunning!
I’d like one of these, please. 
Fun with sleeves! Image via Pinterest. “Coperni Femme | Fraise shirt with detachable, modular ruffles in crisply crimped cotton poplin”
I’m so into the white shirt and pleated skirt feels. Victoria Beckham, image via The Daily Mail
Source unknown. This garment is particularly reminiscent of The Makers Aterlier Asymmetric Gather Dress, as worn by Anna! This is a new-to-me pattern company – and I love their stuff.
Source: Unknown. Status: Stunning.
Burberry Prorsum Pleated Silk Dress, via Clothes-Fashion.com (more pictures of this beauty in the link!)

And lastly (but not leastly) this fabulous wrap-skirt creation, designed and made by one of Simon’s interns, who is a student at RMIT. I love how she has adjusted the alignment of the front wrap to get the pleats on an angle, but at the back they are straight up and down!

Note: I paid for the privilege of attending this session with Specialty Pleaters. If you don’t live nearby and are keen to have something pleated – get in touch with Simon – as postage is totally an option (just rolled up in a tube to prevent creasing!)
Also – there is another wonderful blog post about pleating
here, if this interests you! Thank you to Mrs Mole for bringing it to my attention.

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Style Arc Joni Knit Pant

2018 is going down as the year I lost my sew-jo. Perhaps mostly because it got relegated to the back of the queue with everything else that’s been going on this year! We’ve moved out whilst our house gets done over, I started a job mobilising a large operations project, and well – all the usual family stuff like balancing the needs of a rambunctious 2yo, working full time and somehow also managing to talk to my hubby everynow and again.

But, I’ve had a few opportunities to sew uninterrupted lately, resulting in 2 finished things (both knits) and a silk blouse WIP… 

FABRIC
This is the Style Arc Joni Knit Track Pant pattern, made up in some See You At Six Dust Blue French Terry. There is two types here – a solid blue and one with a bizarre white screen print on it, plus matching ribbing. The matching ribbing is like catnip to my matchy matchy heart! All bought from Seamstress Fabrics

I used the screen print fabric for the front panel, and the plan for the back. The pattern has a long section of ribbing at the cuff, which shows off that matching ribbing delightfully. 

The piping is my own concoction, created with some white jersey knit (from Spotlight) with a very fine cord inside. The waistband is elastic inside the matchy-matchy ribbing again, with two button holes sewn to accommodate the thicker cord tie. 

Those buttonholes are interfaced with some knit iron-on interfacing… and some silk organza scraps. You can take the girl outta couture, but you can’t take couture outta the girl. 

The cord tie has been finished off with some of the matching thread twisted round and through the end, then teased out for a bit of fun. The pattern calls for you to stitch two lines around the waistband, which I presume keeps the cord in tact. I was feeling rusty and that felt like it needed to be incredibly precise to still look good, so I skipped it. 

Sewing those slanted pockets in place with the piping down that seam was quite the challenge. The other side of the pants doesn’t look as bangin’ as this side. ah well. 

PATTERN
I made a few changes, but being short on sewing time, didn’t make a muslin. I used a favourite but nearly dead pair of trackies to adjust the pattern based on the proportions of my soon-to-be-replaced track pants. 

This meant – epic leg shortening, shortening the rise height, adjusting the crotch curve with a flat-butt adjustment, and folding out the front pleats. I also omitted the back pockets. 

Ridiculously warm and comfy, and my biggest concern hasn’t yet eventuated after a lot of wear – that the bum would sag out! This french terry is lovely stuff. 

V8827: Hydrangea Dress

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what best to sew for the momentous occasion that is both my husband’s 40th, AND the first weekend away without our daughter since she reluctantly allowed herself to be dragged into this world (at 42+1 weeks, I might add).

I definitely feel like my style has changed since then – certainly, I have changed – although I’d no better be able to describe what my style is now than before.

Lately I’ve been feeling adventurous – in my imagination at least – and there is definitely an itch building to try a new to me style, to make a new-to-me silhouette work. I suspect this has originated with the wide leg pants thing going on, this new style having long since entrenched itself in mainstream fashions (goodness knows I’m no early adopter in this space). Or perhaps it’s a newfound and not-at-all-unpleasant insouciant mindset towards my body.

The Named Pattern’s Keilo wrap dress I just made was a tentative dip in those waters, and one I’m really very pleased with. Another very recent moment was trying on Sarah’s Ogden Cami, a pattern that I had completed written off due to the expectation that those lines would just look ridiculous on me. But, I found myself REALLY liking it.

Problem is…

Back when Trent and I first started dating, we did one of those whirlwind trips away – last minute plane tickets with Tiger Air to Alice Springs, picking up two spots from cancellations in a cheep-n-cheerful backpacker-style tour that involved sleeping in swags under the stars, allowing us to take in the sights of the Red Centre (Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon) over three days, a trip which overall probably costed less than the fabric used to sew this dress. There are some pretty spectacular Aboriginal artworks up the Top End of the Northern Territory, but in the Red Centre, not so much. Our very passionate and knowledgeable tour guide (worth their weight in gold!) asked us to think about why that was so… It was a simple matter of resources. Food was plentiful and easy to come by up north so they were able to devote time to developing the creative and story-telling culture – expressed also via art. Not so much out in the desert.

Basically, I’m somewhat akin to a southern Aboriginal person in this sense – there isn’t enough resources (time, in my case) to really explore this to the extend I would like to do. And there are still so many gaps in my wardrobe that I would like to fill with me-made, before I get to the real creative freedom part.

So I’m making do with a small incremental change instead.

Enter, Vogue 8827:

I’ve always been drawn to fitted dresses, so this flowing and loose style is different but definitely low-risk. I’ll admit mostly this was inspired by the silk robe I made for our wedding – I wear this on the regular and feel amazing in it, so the thought of making something similar and outside-the-house appropriate was a very attractive concept! Not to mention it’s high credentials for being able to eat an epic banquet and still feel comfortable ;)

It is definitely in the secret pyjamas category – this dress is essentially a bathrobe with daywear appropriate sleeves.

PATTERN
It’s an amorphous kind of style, made even more so by the slippery charmeuse I made it from. A very simple pattern to pull together – the hardest part really is wrangling those blasted giant tissue paper pieces to get the darned thing traced out. And then dealing with long pieces of slippery fabric., Vogue’s size 14 always seems to fit across my shoulders and bust decently well, so that’s the size I went with. There isn’t really much to fit, considering it is just a shapeless rectangular wrap dress with a belt tie to hold it together and give it some form.

I did make a few minor changes though….

Like turning the gathering at the centre back into an inverted box pleat. Oh, and shortening it by 13cm.

The dress itself is held together with not much more than the tie at your waist. It has an ok-enough overlap between the front two pieces, and includes in the instructions a 1/4″ ribbon tie to secure the underlapping front piece to the opposite side seam.

Instead of using the suggested ribbon treatment for ties – I made some spaghetti straps out of some bias strips from the leftovers – the same as those I made for my bias cami (any opportunity to practice a new skill!) – and added in a loop at the waist on one side (worked into the French seam on the second pass), and corresponding two ties on the other side. This is hidden when wearing it as it’s underneath the overlapping front piece.

Thinking about how to attache the ties…

… I ended up deciding on sewing a little window, and pulling the ties through it to hide the ends.

And then I’ve topstitched in place (view from the back side)

And view from the front.

And to secure the overlapping front piece – I was originally thinking to include a lightweight snap, sewn in at the very edge of the facing, but didn’t get time to source one, and in the end – I prefer letting it fall where it may. It seems to suit the dress better, rather than trying to cajole and control.

Even to the extent that the inner ties need to be tied loosely, else they distort how the dress hangs.

The hem is the usual treatment I seem to use these days – fold over, press and hand sew to the underlining. This is for both the hem of the dress, and the sleeves. The facings have also been slip stitched down to the underlining. In order to make the underlining ‘work’ – I did take the long route of taking off the patterns 1.5cm seam allowance from each piece, and taking the time to threadbaste the underlining and the main fabric together as one.

I’ve used the short sleeve option here (there is a mid and full length sleeve option also) to keep it feeling summery-, and I think it helps balances out with the length of the dress too.

FABRIC
It’s the kind of pattern that can work for day and night, depending on your fabric choice – my favourites on the interwebs are by Heather Lou and Leisa. I think especially you can see on Heather’s beautiful dress how a lighter fabric works for this (ie – wonderfully!), especially on that front flounce, which I believe benefits from a lighterweight fabric the most. I also am going to say that the slippery fabric I used does impact the ability of the tie to hold everything together – and that a grip-ier fabric like crepe de chin would be better for this.

But, I’d honestly had my eye on this fabric – a floral silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg – for nearly 6 months. I kept putting off buying it, sort of hoping that someone else would snap it up and I would be lifted of the decision burden by default. And when I realised 2 months ago that I actually had an event to sew something lovely for and checked to see if it was still there… well!

It’s a stretch silk, with 2% spandex.

I’ve underlined it with my usual white crepe de chine, which obviously does negate the stretch factor. It also adds a lovely weight to the fabric which I love the feel of when wearing.

The print colours have incredible depth on this fabric… it’s almost 3D.

I do suspect that I may have screwed up the grainlines on the back a bit (or perhaps it is just a result from two different fabrics behaving differently under their own weight?), as when it came time to hemming, I hung up the dress to double check everything and noticed that the underlining was bulging at the thread-traced hem line:

But only at the back, not on the front pieces. I un-did the thread-tracing, re-pinned and re-thread-traced, and got on my way.

Of course, the weather decided to turn to winter over night – it was 13 degrees when we took these pics – but thanks to a handy thought from my mum, I was wearing icebreakers underneath and was really surprisingly warm. Spot the wool underneath!

Named Patterns: Kielo Wrap Dress in Linen

Linen.

I’ve always admired this textile from afar, patting bolts in gorgeous natural and subdued colours in fabric shops, wistfully sighing whilst reading about other sewists’ linen creations (Ah, Morgan and Bella!). It’s a fabric that lasts (structurally sound), sustainable (the flax plant prospers in poor soil, AND pesticides are not required to separate fibres from the flax plant’s stem), is relatively inexpensive and breathable.

But, I’ve always liked to present as a neat person (I’m not actually neat in real life – ask my husband!!!) so the wrinkle crinkle factor I’ve struggled to get around. Sure sure, you have to go with the patina of the fabric, they say. To try and get the best of both worlds, I’ve been searching for (and continue to search for) Moygashel Linen (thanks to my resident Moygashel doyenne, Karen), but as that loom is now out of production, I have not yet come across any vintage pieces that take my fancy.

Perhaps its the getting older/having children thing that has pushed my style/fabric preferences in a slightly different direction, but I did just recently buy a linen knit top, which I’ve been wearing heaps (and un-ironed, too)…  I figured it was time to just do it.

You know, sew with Linen.

And just in the nic of time, what, with autumn truly in swing down in Melbourne, it was only an Easter trip up north that meant I could get any mileage out of this before it gets packed away at the back of the cupboard, to wait for next summer. Chris Hemsworth obviously missed the memo that I would be in Byron for the week, as unfortunately I was unable to spot him out and about this time around…

I think this is one hellava pattern for making the short-legged (me) appear to be proportioned otherwise!

…until I stick my knee out and you see that no, in fact, that is not the case. XD

Wasp brooch I’m in love with, picked up for a song from Jimmy’s Buttons during a trip earlier during the year

PATTERN
The Named Keilo Wrap Dress is a pattern I’ve had my eye on for a long time. There was an instagramer who made a Keilo in linen that I just loved the look of (however they will remain anonymous because I can no longer find them or recall their handle) and the aesthetic of their make just really stuck with me – it did look just gorgeous.

So obviously I muslined it – a pattern designed for fabric with 20% stretch does not just translate to woven without any teething issues! Especially not when you’ve got a bust bigger than what is typically drafted for, and broad shoulders. And I do recall my inspiration version to be rather ill fitting despite its fabulousness – the armscye was too small and it was also a wee bit tight across the upper bust/chest.

Based on my measurements – the size chart says I should cut the Size 44 at the bust, and 40 at the hips. Due to working with the woven – I chose to size up, and cut the Size 46, grading down to the 42 at the hip mark. This appeared to work ridiculously well.

Positives – the pattern has markings for both hips, waist and bust. Negatives – the pattern’s largest size is a 46. I know enough about size grading to know that size ranges are typically split into two to ‘try’ to account for the proportion changes between shapes and sizes at either extreme, but I do think it a bit ridiculous that the 46 is the upper echelon in size for a pattern that is shapeless and so ridiculously simple to construct that I can sew together the muslin whilst half-cut (ok, maybe three quarters cut…) on sangria and champagne at 9pm on a Saturday night, then start cutting out and sewing together the real thing at 8am on Sunday morning with a hangover, and basically have it finished. (I spent the weekend at Sewjourn, and it was FAAAAABULOUS).

Seriously, this pattern is the most easiest of sews!

I shortened it by 13cm (which required the back split also to be raised by the same amount), and when muslined with the 1cm seam allowances, decided that this additional width at the shoulders was perfect for me, so technically I added new seam allowances to this area also.

I also removed a large wedge (about 5cm, tapering down to nothing at the side seams) from the back pattern piece, at the waist.

I was very quick and dirty with the construction of it, with nary a french seam in sight. There is probably more overlocking than regular machine stitching in this. As the dress has nada in the way of fasteners or openings, that really steps up the easy-ness factor.

I was nearly finished sewing it up when I realised a part of me inside was dying with the knowledge there is nothing inherently fabulous or covertly couture regarding this garment’s construction. So I whacked in some silk organza selvedge strips at the seam that finishes under the arm (I’d already noticed the Linen fibres at this point were pulling apart from being hoiked in opposite directions) and handstitched down the self-fabric bias binding around the neckline and armholes. There is also a wee bit of organza selvege at the back split, which I’ve done a zig-zag stitch over the top of, to help support that split.

And I immediately felt better.

Quick and dirty construction resulting in wonky tie insertion…

…offset by some lovely hand-sewn in bias binding.

A little bar tack at the top of the split…

… reinforced with a bit of extra support at the back.

Some of my stay-stitching is kinda visible there, but mostly it’s well hidden by the weave of the linen. I’ve listened to a few of the Love-To-Sew podcasts, and was really quite taken aback about the number of people getting hung up on sewing perfection. It rather surprised me as it’s not something I’ve ever put much energy into thinking about. Nothing is more soul killing than the pursuit of perfection! Embrace those imperfections, focus your energy where it counts the most (highly visible stuff – this is the reason I always avoid topstitching, ha!) and care less about the bits that need only be functional (like overlocking the armscye seam of a set in sleeve, in an otherwise ‘couture’ top, because I really hate dealing with fancy finishing’s here!). I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I try to keep my eye on the big picture – this dress is a great example of that.

FABRIC
This linen is from the Cloth Shop. I was particularly taken with the chambray effect of the two coloured fibres that make it up, and as is always with Linen, I immediately find myself wanting to incorporate the selvedge somehow. Is that just me?

I managed a bit of this by having the ties end at the selvedge (making turning heaps easier, as it was just an open-ended tube). I realise now though that I did eff up the ties  – they were supposed to be folded over, not doubled up – so my ties are double the width. I prefer the shorter width and will probably unpick them and fix this. The extra bulk I think would be more flattering when factored out.

My instagram inspiration was in a delicious deep dusky pink, and there is a part of me that wishes I had gone that route… but the chambray blue is lovely. I keep hearing stories about linen breaking down and degrading pretty quickly (a result from using shorter than ideal fibres in the production process), so who knows, perhaps next summer I’ll need to make a pink version!

Let’s leave it there with the must-have Keilo wrap dress sugar-glider pose…

Except that I 100% forgot to take that particular photo. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Regular half-baked couture-ish programming will resume shortly ;)

V1220: June’s Meadow Shirt Dress

Continuing on from 2017 being the year of the shirt, perhaps 2018 will be the year of the shirt dress?

There’s always been a gap in my wardrobe for a work appropriate dress suitable for really hot days. This gap has now been filled, and very much in the nick of time too – as it’s been a warm summer.

PATTERN
I cut a size 14 to muslin, just over a year ago. But I couldn’t get the front button plackets to even meet across the front (let along overlap!) – quick was the realisation that I’d need to wait until I finished breastfeeding before I tackled this… Seriously, boobage volume whilst breastfeeding is insane. Sure enough when I tried my year old muslin on just before Christmas in 2017, it fit.

Well, sort of.

My muslin showed I needed to drop the waist a good 5cm and the skirt length raised about 2 cm.  It does appear to be very short-torso in the bodice. And if I was really honest – it possibly needed a full bust adjustment. Enough significant changes to warrant a second muslin, rather than just tweaking with the fit on this one.

Except when I went back to look at the pattern pieces – it actually has the waist marked 4cm below the waist seam – so this high waist was intentional, and I left that change off, just altering the hem length accordingly (although since wearing it a few times, I now wish I hadn’t messed with the hem length!).

I ended up not doing an FBA (even after partially making my way through the instructions by Cennetta from Mahogany Stylist, which are excellent – btw – especially as I find such fitting alterations to be beyond my mental capacity since becoming a parent, so having her pictures was pure gold). After spending a few hours wearing my muslin around the house, I decided it would do. It obviously doesn’t have the ease across the bust that is evident in other people’s makes, but I can live with it.

I love the hidden button placket – my buttons are from Buttonmania. Another-post-them-in-a-sample-of-fabric-to-match-buttons too job. I’m really pleased with the match, even though they’re for the main part hidden from view!

The buttons perfectly match the print’s background blue-grey, although every photo I took makes them look like a completely different shade!

That neckline is a lovely detail, with pleats emanating from the centre back seam, and sitting around the front of your neck in a similar fashion to a shawl collar. I found that the bit of fabric folded under really needed to be tacked down to the underside as far up as you can possible go, to maintain a nice shape at the front. The three pleats are tricky to seam match – I figured 2 out of 3 was perfectly reasonable!

FABRIC
I had originally intended on sewing this up with a Liberty cotton tana lawn in the yellow floral Claire-Aude ‘D’ print. Coming from a revolving wardrobe palette of blues and greys, this felt risky, and not in a good way. I justified the risk by wanting to use up a stash fabric and this was the only thing both suitable and lengthy enough for this pattern. Which takes up some 3 meters of fabric!

I rather wish I had had the ‘C’ variation of this in my stash instead – this is far more in my comfort zone than the yellow. I reckon I pull off the yellow ok-ish, but it’s not amazing. And certainly when it comes to getting photos – the light has to be perfect to actually convey that. Otherwise it does have the tendancy to wash me out a wee bit.

But just before cutting, nerves got the better of me, and I ditched the yellow, and bought a different Liberty – June’s Meadow, in the grey colourway. Which was frustrating because it meant having to wait for it to arrive in the post! I at least managed to start on a muslin for my next project…. This fabric is far more in the comfort zone, and highly unlikely to make me look washed out.

Funny thing with this fabric – IRL I don’t see the pattern repeat of it, but every time I see it in a photo, the repeat really jumps out at me! Funny how photos can change what our eyes are immediately drawn to.

The tana lawn has been underlined with organza, because I think this is a pattern that really benefits from a fabric with body to really highlight the shaping – hence why I suppose the recommended fabrics are broadcloth and linen. Organza underlining obviously delivers that in spades.

Interestingly, Susan mentioned to me during January’s-just-past-class that Australian organza is really smooth – too smooth – which isn’t ideal for underlining as it’s not ‘grippy’ enough. Since then I’ve worked with both types and I’d agreed – but it sure does work well for underlining if you’re not planning to line your garment – and no way was I intending to bother with that for this. I’d also just gone halvies in a bolt of organza with Sarah, so I’ll be using it up regardless!

The pattern lists only 150cm wide fabric as the option (requiring a 2.7m length), presumably so you can cut the belt in a continuous piece. Liberty is around the 136cm mark, and I managed this pattern with bang on 3m. My belt is cut in 3 pieces – intentionally, so that the two seams in the belt line up with the side seams of the dress, keeping the illusion of a continuous length. Probably not something that really matters in a busy print such as this, but in my mind’s eye whilst I was dreaming it up, it mattered. It’s a huuuuuge belt though… and in my mind definitely requires’ wrapping it around 1.5 times (which is how you see it on me in this post) – the mid-point of the tie is lined up with my centre front.

The belt is 2.4m long – so thank goodness it’s wide enough to fit your hand in to turn it around!

The location of the pockets in this dress are just fabulous – bang on – but the pocket bag definitely needed additional room so I could have my whole hand in there. Even after adding additional length, I wish I had also added additional width. But, I do love that they just melt into the shape of the dress without detracting from the silhouette. And their angling makes it super easy to get your hands in.

Which is the main reason I’ve had this pattern floating around the top of my to-sew list for several years now – it achieves great shape, without being form fitting. There’s plenty of room to move, but it’s not a sack dress.

I also just LOVE the hem facing. Such a lovely way to finish things off. And that the hem is ever-so slightly curved into a hi-lo, but not that you’d notice when it’s on.

Two problems with the design though – it 100% needs to be worn with a skirt slip. I wear it with the last two buttons undone (because I like to stride – and quickly! – and this means it doesn’t strain much when I’m sitting, as the skirt is pegged) – but it means everyone is going to get a significant view of your underwear when you sit. So after wearing it once, I also made a slip skirt (that sounds a little more modern and less fuddy-duddy than a petticoat, doesn’t it?) in a pale grey silk. One Problem solved.

The other problem – I suspect I ballsed the instructions for the sleeve – the way I read them, it had you fold the sleeve cuffs over, meaning the wrong side of your fabric is on display…. no thanks! But no other review mentions this so perhaps I just messed up interpreting the instructions. So I sort of did a wierd origami thing to make that not the case. If I had my time over again, I’d sew separate cuffs I think.

Otherwise, I’m well pleased with it :) And even better, I wore it first to a 2nd round job interview on a scorching hot day – and I totally got the new job :D