Couture Sewing School – Day 1 & 2: Fitting and Fabric

I ended up going in on the first day with two muslins – one made up of Burda 6689, and another that was a pattern mut of the Style Arc Darcy Pants (Legs of Darcy, Style Arc Flat Bottom Flo crotch curve, Colette Patterns’ waistband from their Clover pants, which I’ve previously made).

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I wore the Burda pants for fitting first – but whilst they are famed for their pants crotch curve, it’s not one to fit a lady with a pancake butt situation out the back. If you’ve got curves then definitely yes! It’s a much roomier crotch curve. Susan had a quick look at these before I threw on my pattern mutt pair – which she deemed a better starting position.

She raised the waistband slightly at the front, agreed that my ‘flat bottom flo’ crotch curve was pretty great, then had me rip the seams apart at the legs right up to an inch or so below the crotch.

I have really prominent calves – and getting the legs of any pants pattern to fit (meaning in this case – that the grainline hangs perpendicular to the floor) and not get stuck and end up twisted below my knee has been impossible for me to achieve so far. Susan repinned this from scratch, marking out two dead darts first which realigned the grainline, then pinning the side seams back together to leave me with delightfully straight  leg pair of pants!

Wish I had taken a shot before I got fitted!

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Front dead dart realigning the grainline below my legs. I believe this type of adjustment typically responds to a ‘knock knee’.

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Front and back dead darts, with new side and inner seams as a result. Previously the legs from the Style Arc Darcy pants clung to my calves and twisted around slightly.

 

Thank goodness for large seam allowances - look at all the extra space I need!

Thank goodness for large seam allowances – look at all the extra space I need!

Still carrying about an extra 10cm around my waist following my pregnancy - so a change in the waistband was required to accomodate the pooch.

Still carrying about an extra 10cm around my waist following my pregnancy – so a change in the waistband was required to accomodate the pooch.  Also a perfect profile of said pancake butt.

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You can see the new seam lines marked in red in comparison to the blue seam lines of the Style Arc Darcy.

I took the time to make a second muslin, which took up the morning of Day 2, so I could add in the details I wanted from the Burda pattern – slit pockets at the side, double welt pockets at the back. It was a winner. So by lunchtime I was aligning my pattern pieces and cutting out my fashion fabric ready to baste.

Speaking of fabric…

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I’m working with a Super 130s wool yardage I bought whilst in Quito, Ecuador – nearly 5 years ago! I’ve been wanting to work with this fabric for aaaaaaages and it’s just beautiful to handle. The lining will be an olive green silk charmeuse I bought locally.

And here I am… basting.

By the time the day was finished, I’d completed basting my fabrics and had already completed a practise double welt pocket – and was congratulating myself on picking a pattern with so few pieces :P

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The technique for completing this welt is slightly different to how I have previously been doing it, and dare I say it, easier to do and far easier to save if you don’t get your stitching quite right first go around on the welt lips. I’m pretty stoked with the result.

Here are some pictures of my fellow sewists, and a peek into what everyone else is sewing!

Margie, from Adelaide and with whom I did the French Jacket Class in Baltimore – is sewing Marfy 3022 (a jacket I’m part way finished and absolutely adore – I need to wait until I finish losing the last of the baby weight before I see if I need to adjust the fit!) in a really gorgeous floral print cotton matelasse:

Margie and Susan contemplate pattern placement

Margie and Susan contemplate pattern placement

Three ladies are all sewing Vogue 8333 – such a gorgeous and classic blazer. Sarah is sewing her’s in a wool/silk blend tweed in purple and red tones, Fiona is working in a steel grey wool crepe, and Sandra has a grey and green flecked tweed.

Interestingly, all three ladies had to add more height to the sleeve cap on this pattern – and comparing the way in with the Vogue 8333 I made drapes from the cap, I really needed to do this as well. The way the sleeves fit me on this make have been a niggle point for practically forever… I’ve even considered taking the existing sleeves off and redoing them. I’ll probably never do it though. It gets a lot of wear, regardless!

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Fiona and Sarah

Belle is sewing pants as well – Burda 6689 (I’ll be honest I stole that pattern suggestion from her!).

Sue is working with a Vogue Kay Unger dress pattern in a red wool crepe minus the collar; Jennifer is sewing a Vintage Vogue A-Line dress in a floral silk crepe de chine; Helen, who has joined us all the way from Perth, is doing the iconic Vogue ripoff of Rouland Mouret’s Galaxy dress; Helene has a gorgeous black floral on grey background fabric which she is turning into a thigh length single breasted coat from a Lisette for Butterick pattern.

Judith is sewing a shift dress with a lace overlay (which she swears she’ll never wear, except maybe with white sneakers whilst she does her shop at Woolies!).

Two ladies are working with the Simplicity 2446 – Sharon in a really dramatic grey and black striped fabric, and Denise in a classic black crepe.

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Sharon aligns her black organza pattern pieces on her bold painterly striped fashion fabric.

It’s still early days but I’m feeling great about our work so far. Not to mention that with all this uninterrupted sewing I feel like a piece of myself has been rediscovered!

 

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Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

I’m back. Sort of!

Limited amounts of time have begun popping up in which I can start enjoying sewing again (limited being the key word, there is currently a tiny person bouncing up and down against my leg as I type this opening) and I’ve been sewing muslins like I’ve got Attention Deficit Disorder.

Starting with Marfy 9814. One of the very first Marfy patterns I ever bought! It’s fecking gorgeous – the standup collar is divine, and even the 3/4 length sleeves look good (and I’ve always found these to make my proportions look very out of balance. Clearly I just needed something better drafted than a RTW jacket to make it look right on me).

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Marfy 9814 – “This youthful jacket has a high neck and a tight fitting closure”. Suggested fabrics are matellas or faille.

I have no idea what catalogue/year it’s from, as I bought it from the McCalls website some 5 years ago. I had that new found hobby ‘fever’ and spent glorious hours trawling pattern websites for things I wanted to buy, when I discovered this page on the McCalls site.  This was back before Marfy had relaunched their website and ordering from them seemed too hard, so it was easy to justify paying a premium to bypass the difficulty.

Anyway – the jacket is divine. However my usual size 46 just doesn’t quite cut it at the moment (read – whilst I’m still breastfeeding). It’s a very close fit!

So it’s on temporary production hold, sad face.

I’m pretty gutted because this was my #1 choice for Susan’s couture sewing school next week…

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Secondly and completely unrelated to muslining for Susan, I’ve sewn up a muslin of the OOP Vogue 1220. Same problem. Too much boob. I never even bothered with the front closure, as clearly this is another muslin that will need to wait until bubs is completely weaned. Shame because I really wanted a shirt dress for work – this one is really fabulous. I’m going to look forward to sewing it up somepoint in the future. In fact, I love all the Donna Karen/Vogue collabs, I was rather sad to see that is no longer continuing.

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As far as muslins go, I thought perhap I’d be relegated to the bottom half of my body as an option then.

So I muslined Style Arc’s Darcy Pants. The only adjustment I made was to replace the crotch curve with that one from Style Arc’s Flat Bottom Flo pants (what a winner of a crotch curve for the pancake butted peeps like me!).

I didn’t like the elasticated waist look on me – so I pinned it out in the photo here. It’s too tight around my sizeable calves, but the crotch curve!!!!! You’ll have to believe me that it looked just as good from the back as getting a photo of that was way to difficult.

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Except my brain forgot to process that an elasticated waistband doesn’t really align with the whole couture thing?

Hmm.

So I thought perhaps I’d try and meld together the top of another pattern that has a waistband and slanted side pockets (two features I wanted this to have). Lets just say that I’m procrastinating against doing that by writing this blog post. Which is a bit of an issue because I’ve got 4 days until I need to have a finished muslin for Susan’s class, and a first birthday party to navigate in between now and then.

Oh, and I nearly forgot – one more muslin has been made. I’m also doing another French Jacket class with Susan whilst she’s in Melbourne – Vogue 7975 of course, but with the sleeves from Marfy 9814 because I love them so.

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I’m really excited about this one, and pretty confident that I won’t finish it in the week, so the plan is to leave the front princess seams ‘undone’ so I can adjust once the whole breastfeeding jag is up…

I’ve shortened this version (and not very well – the bottom hem lines don’t match up…) compared to my previous French Jacket, and in an everyday wearable fabric (which I already have and am super excited about!)

Wish me luck!

 

It’s a Girl!

And we’ve named her Billie Jemima – born last month, ridiculously healthy and definitely on the larger end of the scale at 4.37kg. Don’t be fooled by the photo below though – this babe does not sleep. Ever.

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We’re all doing well though… and even with the hardships that come with a newborn, it really is such a magical time.

I’ve been sewing/crafting a few things for her room – like cot and bassinet sheets, covers for the change table and a matching lamp shade (I did a course with The Handmakers Factory for the lampshade), but have on the whole been rather non-interested in sewing myself. Doesn’t stop the inspiration going through my head though… or the thought of being able to sew formal dresses for the little miss later down the line!!

I’ve also crafted a few little things… felt softie toys. More for me than her, really ;)

I’ll probably be silent on here for a little while longer… but I will be back. There are too many ideas floating around in my head for sewing projects for no come back.

Until soon!
xx

V7975: French Jacket II

My dear mum celebrated her 60th in May, and to commemorate, I dedicated many loving hours to make her a French Jacket of her own. It’s been a long journey – I bought the fabric at B&J‘s back in late 2013, worked on her muslin over several trips interstate to visit/fit her, then worried about actually being able to finish it in time for her birthday due to our renovation works… which turned out to be a very real concern. I didn’t finish it in time for May, but instead was given a new deadline of the 28th of August, prior to their departure for a holiday in Canada, America and an Alaskan cruise.

Once renovations dropped pace and I’d sewn myself a palate cleanser, I got stuck right into this. And once again – I loved every minute of it!

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Fitting was a particular fascination – probably because I very much inherited my mum’s body shape. Seeing the similarities between our fitting adjustments and seeing how my body will probably need to be fitted one day was really cool. One of the most interesting things about watching Susan Khalje fit the other sewists in the French Jacket class I took was how a more mature body differs from what I’m presently accustomed too. This is in no way a slight on anyone older than myself, but I find that the non-symmetrical form a body eases into as one grows older to be an exciting challenge to fit. Or maybe it’s just because it’s different to what I fit when I sew (myself) that recognising things like a ‘sunken chest’, or a raised shoulder, or a ribcage that is smaller on one side of the back compared to the other is almost a way of validating knowledge I don’t usually get to test. Either way, my mum’s jacket was a joy to fit and sew.

It felt a lot quicker to sew this time around. I also think her’s is more beautifully constructed because I’m far more confident in my abilities now than I was when I made mine.

I was terrified of sewing in the sleeves (firstly because Susan drapes and pins them in position for you, and secondly because I didn’t have Mum around to test it on), but I was so pleased when she did try it on how well it fitted and how nicely it looked! (By this stage I’d already ventured into creep territory and tried it on myself several times…)You really can tell the difference between a garment made specifically for your body shape and one that isn’t – even when the fitting changes are slight (like me, Mum fits the Vogue Size 14 really well). I think this was a real point of difference for my mum (I’m lucky – I’m used to it!) – she was an equally impressed at just how beautifully it fit as I was.

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Kicking myself for not picking out a trim for this fabric when I bought it and was still in the States, I attempted to make a swatch of ‘fringed’ trim (thanks to this great resource from Cloning Couture). Mum decided that she preferred it without – “the fabric is fabulous enough” she said. I was happy with that because the time it would take to make 5 yards of the stuff would have been quite substantial!

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The trim I was originally thinking of making – along with some piping from the lining down the centre (the cut strip is just for representation…)

Instead, she agreed to my suggestion of a very slight bias trim in the lining fabric at the top of the pockets and around the sleeve cuff, which I thought looked rather elegant.

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After setting in the sleeves, I had to take up the cuffs as they somehow ended up being too long! Whilst I had left a 2inch gap between the intended cuff length and the quilting, this ended up being substantially smaller than originally planned for.

But, the trim is a huge part in stabilising the seams around the neckline and jacket front – so going without meant providing this stability on the inside of the jacket. I cut some selvedge from the silk lining, and catchstitched it in place:

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Buttons were another thing I was mad at myself for not purchasing whilst I had the chance. I ended up ordering some self-fabric buttons from Buttonmania. As the ‘trim’ was an understated and subtle hint of lining fabric, I went that route for the buttons, utilising both the matt and satin side of the charmuese for contrast. It seemed an elegantly matching solution, and Mum agreed.

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However… when I actually put them on the jacket pockets… they just didn’t look right. I recall several times people saying whilst I was doing The French Jacket course in Baltimore, that quite often, you just can’t pick trim or buttons until the jacket is mostly constructed – it somehow changes things. That matched my experience with picking trim for the jacket I made myself (I pared the trim I bought right back to one strand from three), and again with this jacket. So I probably shouldn’t have been kicking myself too hard about not visiting M&J Trimming with this fabric…

I ordered hooks and eyes and chain from Susan’s website, and after a final fitting with Mum in early July to determine pocket size and location, I finished the jacket and sent it off – it arrived about 3 or 4 days before my parents left on their holiday – perfect timing? I also sent her the remaining silk charmuese lining, as there would be enough to squeeze a sleeveless blouse from if she wanted.

Give me another year, and I’ll be ready to start the third French jacket, which has already been promised to another special someone. I should probably let them know it will take at least another 2 years after that, if this project has been anything to go by!

And because a garment is never as fabulous as when it’s on the intended wearer – a photo of my Mum in her belated birthday present!

In the meanwhile, if you couldn’t half tell from my lack of posting on here – I have completely lost my sewing and blogging mojo. And seeing as we’ve gone straight from the depths of winter right into summer… the ‘transitional’ garments I had planned for myself as maternity wear are already obsolete! How fortuitous for me, haha :) Shame, because I have this beautiful Marfy jacket about 2 hours away from being completely finished… and it’s been like this for nearly two months now. And it will probably stay this way for many more months as water retention owns me right now!

Marfy 3022 in the making...

Marfy 3022 in the making…

MN1006: ‘Cara’ – Ruched Maternity Tee Mk I, II & III

After the great success that was the Ruched Maternity Skirt, I figured I’d leveled up and so started on the Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Tee. Reviews abound on PR with many gorgeous versions of this top, and many people singing its praises – so I was really motivated to get stuck into it!

But I’ve come to a rather big realisation – I don’t like sewing with knits. Not one bit. Give me the sheerest and most wayward lightweight silk to work with over a lightweight knit, ANYDAY.

Having spent the last few weeks procrastinating, avoiding and then forcing myself to take photos of the outcome from this pattern – I think I’ll tick this off as having been ‘done’ and get straight back to wovens (I’ve already finished my maternity pants for work).

Here is the final outcome – my third version of this top:

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Anyway back to the start of the story – my pre-pregbot measurements exactly fit in the range for a Size L across the bust, then back to a Size M at my (now non-existant) waist and hips. As I so successfully sewed the Size M Ruched Maternity Skirt, I traced off the top pattern, grading between the Size L & M from the underarms down.

I worked with a stretch cotton mystery fabric (found at Rathdown Remnants for $2 a meter – easily the least expensive fabric I’ve ever bought) in a minty green marle that I’m a huge fan of. The recovery of it is lousy, but given that this was going to technically be a wearable muslin, I wasn’t too worried.

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You’re seeing an adjusted version here – I took in the underarm seams considerably (about 2-3cm in, going from bust to the sleeve hem). Before having done this, I had a considerable amount of excess fabric around my armpits and bust – which had the rather unfortunate effect of making me look rather, well – saggy. It wasn’t a good look.

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Afterwards, I made a crop top test version to make a change to the armscye seam across the shoulder – taking it in by 2.5cm (a full inch). This looks a million times better. (I also scooped out some of the neckline to make it more rounded). Basically, it suggests to me that I should have made the size S across the shoulders, not the L.

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The ruching is done on the front pattern piece only, ruched to fit up against the back pattern piece. The front hem is curved. Next time I might try straightening that hem, but ruching the back as well to get a closer fit under bump.

I’ve also seen on a lot of RTW maternity tops that the front is self-lined – presumably to assist in containing leakage? I tried this on my second version of this top, which I never actually got around to ruching. It’s in a watermelon polyester – gorgeous colour, horrible fabric. Looks pretty fluoro orange in my photos though!

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Unlike my experience with the Ruched Maternity Skirt, the outcome of this top leaves me feeling… keen to put the experience behind me. I think that’s a mix of trying to get used to my new shape (gigantor boobs, puffy everything, additional body fat percentage… far out!!) plus the annoyance of working with flimsy knits.

Next project please!