Upcoming and Planned Projects

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Side Drape Merino Dress

Only 18 months ago I'd barely used merino and was daunted by the prospect; now I've sewn it a bunch of times and it's my favourite stretch fabric to use. It's soft and moves smoothly through the machine, and I've never had problems with it getting caught or skipping stitches. This dress and top are both in lovely merino from The Fabric Store.

The dress pattern is the one-piece side drape tank from Drape Drape 2. The pattern, as with many in the Drape Drape books, is a strange shape. This one is also very wide, and even though my piece of fabric was the size it called for it wasn't quite wide enough, so I had to fold it in slightly. This means the side drape is about an inch less than it should be, luckily not enough to make a noticeable difference to how the dress drapes.

Sewing the dress probably took less time than tracing and cutting out the pattern. The dress itself is all one piece, plus three strips to finish the neckline and armholes. It's sewn up very quickly, one shoulder seam, one full side seam, one half side seam, a hem and the finishings. The ease of sewing it matches its ease in wearing. The dress isn't fancy by any means, but it looks a step above casual. It sits in that secret pyjamas spot of being very easy and comfy but looking like you've put in more effort.

The skivvy was made back in February to take on holiday and was definitely useful in southern Patagonia. I didn'tuse a pattern for it,just traced out from some previous long sleeved tops I'd made. I thought about buying one because there are a few nice indie ones, especially from Papercut and Named Patterns, but I was making this fairly last minute and didn't feel I had the time to get either a paper pattern or print out and put together a PDF. It largely worked without a pattern, although the neck band is slightly tighter than ideal, but I can still get it over my head which is the main thing.

 The skivvyis actually black and charcoal stripe, but they're narrow stripes so it doesn't really show up in the photos. Both the dress and skivvy are very comfortable and versatile to wear, together or separately. The dress can probably get worn through most of the year given that it's sleeveless. The merino is warm when worn with a long sleeve top and tights, but it's also breathable so could be worn on its own.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Happy When It Rains Dress

This is the Happy When It Rains dress, inspired by Shirley Manson of Garbage. It also started raining here in Sydney after a dry spell as I was finishing making this, so the name seemed to fit. It even rained as I walked home this evening.

The fabric is a piece of Viyella a found at a local op shop for $2. Viyella a blend of merino wool and cotton that is soft, light and still fairly warm. It's no longer made so can only be found second hand. This means it's also often hard to find and not cheap, so finding some for so little I had to snap it up.

The piece was quite small - 1.3m by about 90cm - so I was limited in what I could make. I looked through my patterns and found this one. I've made this before and love the shift dress shape with the added detail of the bodice seam lines. It's a vintage pattern, which also seemed appropriate for the fabric. My copy is the original 1960s pattern, but it's been rereleased as Simplicity 3833.

The seam lines on the empire line bodice are definitely the highlight of the dress, but also require patience to do. Connecting the bodice to the skirt can't be done all in one go - it requires at least three steps. I sewed each side seam and bust dart, then sewed the curved front from seam line to seam line. It was a bit difficult to sew without it catching, and easier to start from the side and then sew to the centre, so that seam was also sewn in two stages.

The rest of the dress was very straightforward to put together, but I did get to use my new overlocker to finish off the seams. A few weeks ago Aldi had craft and sewing supplies as their special buys, including a Janome overlocker for $199. I've been daunted by overlockers, but it was actualy very easy to use. It did help that the machine was already threaded with small spools so I haven't had to work that out yet, but the actual sewing went pretty well.

The hem and facings are all finished by hand. Because the fabric is mottled rather than a flat colour, trying to match thread was going to be tricky. But by finishing by hand I didn't have to worry about that and was able to give the dress a clean finish.

I really like the shape of this dress. The empire line bodice is closely fitted, but the rest of the dress skims out from there making it very easy to wear.  There's also a long sleeved version which I would have made if there was enough fabric, so I guess that will have to be what I do next time.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Tigermilk Dress

It's been a while since I last posted a new make. This was made mostly at the beginning of March, just before I went on holiday. I had thought I'd take it with my on my tip, but the ten buttons and buttonholes took a bit longer to finish than I'd expected.

The bodice fabric of this dress has had a few attempts before finally becoming this dress. I got the fabric from a fabric swap with the Sydney Spoolettes last year. It had already been cut into pieces for a straightforward pullover blouse, but never sewn up. It wasn't my style, but I loved the print. The pieces were for a large enough that I figured I could play around with them, and given it was a fabric swap they were free.

The pattern for the bodice is actually a blouse. The pattern is Simplicity 8009 from 1977. It had two options, sleeveless or puffy sleeves. Initially I decided to go for the sleeves.
The puffy sleeves were...not good. Although the fabric is soft, it didn't drape in the way I'd hoped, instead sticking out from my arms. So I removed the sleeves and used the fabric for sleeve facings instead. The length also didn't look quite right as a blouse, but the fabric is so nice and I liked how I'd sewn it together, so I decided to turn it into a dress.

The skirt fabric is from My Hung in Hurstville. I wasn't sure what colour would be the best choice, so I took a scrap with me and wandered around the store to see which one it matched with best. I was considering trying to match one of the colours in the bodice fabric, but in hte end decided to stick to something neutral. As it's just a simple A-line skirt I didn't bother with a pattern. I just measured the hem of the blouse and the length from my waist and cut out the fabric.

The dress title comes from Belle and Sebastian's first album, which I was listening to when I finished making it. And the retro feel of this dress suits their music. And tonight, it's getting an outing to see its namesakes perform.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Frocktails Flare Dress

Last Saturday was Sydney's Frocktails for 2018, where we sewists get together to have some fun, meet the person behind the Instagram handle, talk about fabrics, and have an excuse to make something fun and fancy to wear. This dress is the Loose Flare Drape Dress, pattern 11 in Drape Drape. Although a modern pattern, the tent dress shape gives it more of a 1960s feel.

For Frocktails this year I wasn't sure at all what I wanted to make, so I put it in the hands of the Instagram sewing community. I grabbed a pile of fabric options out of the drawers and draped them over my dressmaker's dummy, took pictures, and asked for advice. There wasn't a clear winner, and every option got at least one vote, but this fabric got the most early support. I really had no idea what to make with it and honestly didn't think I'd find anything, but thought I'd look through my patterns anyway. I saw the loose flare pattern in Drape Drape and thought it might work, so posted a picture of it. Everyone told me to go for it, and I din't have any other ideas. So basically this dress wasn't so much a planned outfit as a "well maybe this will work" creation. I think it worked.

This is a wonderful pattern, if slightly lacking in instructions. There's succinct and then there's cryptic, and the instructions for this dress slip towards the latter. There's little detail in some of the steps, and even with the pictures it wasn't always completely clear what to do - particularly with how to make sure the flare piece doesn't get caught between the lining. I also cut it out mirror imaged, because for some reason the pattern was meant to be cut out on the right side of the fabric instead of the reverse as is the norm with most patterns, but wasn't labeled. However this doesn't make any real difference to the final product.

The measurements on Japanese patterns are often a bit tricky. For this book I'm the height of the extra large, but the rest of my measurements match the small. To deal with this I used extended the small size pieces to the length of the extra large when tracing them out. Because of the large size of the pattern pieces the fabric was a tiny bit smaller than it should have been to fit all pieces on in line with the grain. Had it been 10cm wider or longer it would all have fit correctly, but as it was I had to slightly angle the front drape piece to be able to fit the back on. And in the end my pattern plancement matched the flare exactly to the front piece. Got to love those inadvertent perfect placements!

I had a few people at Frocktails ask if the fabric was a silk. In fact, the fabric is a polyester crepe bought in Cabramatta for $7 a metre. Despite being so cheap and being polyester it's actually a fantastic fabric. It has excellent drape, feels lovely and soft and the colours of the digital print are wonderfully bright. The lining was from an op shop, and cost about $1 for several metres, so this dress is very cheap but doesn't look it.

I also made the ridiculous decision at 3pm on the day of Frocktails to make a clutch purse. I'd been planning to take a black clutch I own, but could not find it and didn't think any of my other bags suited my dress. I knew I had some (cheap and crappy) faux leather, so I did a quick Google to look for a simple and fast bag pattern. I found this one which involves no sewing, just glue. Although I did add a line of stitching in part to ensure the fabric and faux leather didn't come apart. I also had enough scrap fabric left to use to line the bag, and added a vintage button from my collection inherited from my grandma. I don't think the glue was completely dry when I left home, but the bag turned out as well as could be for making it at such short notice.

 I'm really happy with how both the dress and bag turned out, and it's always nice to catch up with the sewing community. Sitting at a sewing machine is very solitary, so catching up with other sewists is always good. And who doesn't love a good excuse to wear something fun?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Drifting Dress

First completed make of 2018. This is the Adrift Dress from Papercut Patterns. It's very simple, and feminine but not fussy. It also feels very cool and comfortable which was great given these photos were taken on a hot and humid day.

The fabric is a rayon from My Hung. The mustard yellow is a colour I would have walked straight past a few years ago because I wouldn't have thought it suited me. But sewing has made me more adventurous in the prints and colours I'll wear. Plus, there has been a lot of mustards around in the last few years so I figured I'd at least pick it up to look at. I was looking for a rayon for this pattern because it needed something with that drape, and this was the nicest rayon on offer. I held it up against myself and it actually didn't look too bad, so I bought it.

The pattern, as with all Papercut Patterns I've made, was very straightforward and easy to follow. There aren't too many pieces to deal with, and the construction is pretty simple - the only darts are plain bust darts, the sleeves are flounces like the skirt, so there's no gathering, and the waist is elasticated. The pattern actually calls for a cord tie for the skirt, but I didn't have any so just inserted elastic.

The long curved hem on the flounce is hand stitched, which took about three hours. I decided to stitch it by hand to ensure it was neat and even as curved seams can be tricky, but did regret it a bit around half way through because of how long it took to do. But having finished it off, it is even and probably neater than it would have been if done by machine - I just might wait a while before doing another project that requires so much hand stitching. 

Papercut patterns are always written very well and easy to make, but I did have one issue with this one - the bodice is very short. I'm 5'6" and the length is alright, but anyone taller would need to make adjustments to this pattern. It wasn't until I'd finished sewing the bodice together that I realised its lack of length, which sits a little above the waist. Especially when combined with the front skirt which is relatively short where the two pieces wrap over each other. If I make this again, I'll add an inch or two to the bodice to give it a better length.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Making Summer Happen Dress

A dress in this fabric has been a long time coming for me. It's Liberty of London Madras Check Hyderabad E. I've taken the bolt out at The Fabric Store probably every time I've been in there in the last two years but always put it back because the pink is very pink and the roses are very yellow, so I worried that the fabric might be a bit overwhelming. But restrained colours and prints just aren't me. So when the Fabric Store had one of their one-day sales last month I finally bought 1.5 metres ot make a dress.

The name of the dress comes from my work. Each year at my work we have a christmas/end of year decorations competition on our floor. This year there was a theme, one person's trash is another person's treasure. Our branch made a beach-themed diorama, complete with offcuts of the roses on this fabric as garden and repurposed sign edited from making it happen to making summer happen. I wore the dress - and we won!

The pattern is Weigel's 1358. Madame Weigel was an Australian pattern maker from the late 19th Centure to the mid 20th Century, most of that time run by Madame Weigel herself. I'm not 100% sure when this pattern is from, but based on the cut of the dress and the styling of the pattern envelope I'd guess it's from the mid 1950s.

The dress was very easy to make, but the instructions are very brief, just two short columns on an A4 piece of paper and one diagram of the cutting layout. I've noticed this on some older patterns - there was a clear understanding that women learned how to sew and didn't need much in the way of specifics of how to make a dart or insert a zipper.

I made a three changes to the pattern when making this, all to the skirt. The skirt is meant to be cut all in one piece with only one side seam. But the fabric is a check, and the lines would have sat at a strange angle along the centre front cut that way, so instead I cut two skirt pieces on the grain. I also raised the hem and gave it a slight high-low shape, ending just above the knee at the front and at the bottom of the knee at the back, and added pockets.

The only slight annoyance I have is that I cut the bodice slightly off centre. I was very careful when placing the skirt piece on the fabric to  make sure the centre front was in the middle of the check, but I didn't take the same care on the bodice, so the blue stripes are just a bit mismatched.

I love how this dress - or this "chic little model" as the instructions describe it - looks. The square neckline is a nice difference, and having a side zipper instead of a back zipper gives it a cleaner look. It has very simple darts in the front and back, extending up slightly over an inch from the waist. The very minimal sewing still allows the dress to fit well but also have a lot of ease of movement.

It's a very simple and versatile pattern, so I can see myself making many versions and variations on it. But for now I'll enjoy the bright pinks and yellows of this one.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Spring Garden Pants

I've been meaning to learn how to sew pants. I have tried a few times, but it's always daunting and I'm never as happy with how they turn out as with my other makes. But I wanted some new pants to wear to work, so I decided it was time for my next attempt at them. I own a few pants patterns and am planning to work my way up through them by difficulty level. Fitted side zip pants seemd like the easiest place to start.

The pattern is Vintage Vogue V9189, a high waisted pattern with two shorts lengths and two pants lengths originally from 1960. The amazing floral fabric is a cotton sateen with a bit of stretch from My Hung in Hurstville. I've seen a few floral pants around lately, and given it is almost summer here I thought bright floral would be the best choice. Plus, being a plain slim-fitting pattern these pants can handle a print better than a more traditional trouser.

One of the really good things about this pattern is that it comes with three different lengths: short, medium and long. Given one of the problems I've had making pants before was where the curve of the hip sat on the pattern compared to where it is on my body, it was good to know when I opened the pattern up that I'd be able to use the different lengths to make those adjustments before cutting out if I needed to. In the end I made the medium without any adjustments, but for others who are taller or shorter, or who have different leg and waist lengths, this pattern effectively does those adjustments for you.

These are definitely the best fitting pants I've made, but that was partly by accident. I'd almost finished sewing them up - except for the waistband and hemming - so tried them on. With other pants I've made they have often been a bit loose at the crotch and inner thighs, and these were as well. Given the slim fit of the pattern it really stood out, so I decided I would sew the seam in closer. I had intended to evenly take in 1cm and see how it looked, but when sewing the crotch curve the pants back pulled a bit and I ended up sewing it in 2cm. I noticed because the seam was not straight just after I'd sewn across the centre of the crotch so I stopped stitching.

I was going to immediately grab my seam ripper and unpick it all, but thought I'd first try them on to check if I'd at least dealt with the loose thigh issue. When I put them on not only did the leg fit better but the crotch on the side I'd taken in was also fixed, which was great. Of course, that meant I somehow had to recreate my accidental fix on the other side. Because I'd started sewing from the thigh for my accidentally correct adjustment, I decided to do the same for the other leg. I also marked where I'd become uneven between the front and back, and very carefully sewed it, using my fingers to adjust the back until I reached where I'd initially stopped. 

There are slanted side pockets which are angled very close to the side seam making them slightly hidden. The pockets are understitched to try and stop them from turning out, but for some reason the righthand pocket facing doesn't always stay down. The side zipper was nice and easy to put in, just like a skirt's. The waistband also went in well - I have had patterns in the past where the waistband piece was too short or too long, but this one was just right.

As a finishing touch, the button is from my tin of vintage buttons I inherited from my grandma. I like that it's vintage, so fits with the era and style of the pants, the colour matches perfectly, and it's nice to have that connection to my grandma, who sewed a lot herself.

 I am really proud of how these pants turned out. The fabric and the fit are just right, and they are just fun to wear. They've improved my confidence in making pants, and I plan keep working my way through the other patterns I own increasing the difficulty, including doing fly finishes. In the meantime, I'll be wearing these as much as I can.