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!

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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

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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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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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!

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:

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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 :)

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