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Thursday, 23 May 2019

Linen Legs

And a third Me Made May post! I made these trousers in the summer to be a lightweight pair to wear to work on hot days. But they are still getting wears little more than a week before winter because the temperature hasn't cooled down yet. They're soft and light and very easy to wear, work appropriate but not overly formal. The top was also made a few months ago, mostly to wear to work but also as a step above casual.

I'm pretty sure the fabric for the trousers is a linen/cotton blend. I bought it as a remnant from an op shop for $2 and there was no tag or detail, but it feels and looks like linen but without so much creasing. I did a burn test and it turned to grey ash, so it is either cotton or linen or a combination. Luckily because it isn't pure linen they don't crush too much, but they do show some creases by the end of the day.

The pattern is Simplicity 8243, a 1940s blouse and trouser pattern described as 'sportswear'. While this is my first time making the trousers I have used the pattern before, making the blouse as my Liberty Blouse. They are a vintage pattern but they don't look costumey. The line drawings on the pattern envelope make the trousers look very loose and wide-legged, but they are actually fairly fitted from the waist to the hips. I noticed the same thing when I made the blouse, the 1940s illustrations are more exaggerated than the final product. 

These are very simple trousers, wide, straight legged, with small pleats at the front. The pockets are stitched closely in to the side which holds them a bit too tight, unfortunately as with so many women's patterns they are also on the small side. The trousers have a centre back invisible zipper and a hook and bar at the waistband. The zipper is an invisible zipper, but I didn't have an invisible zipper foot so it isn't the best insertion, but at least being charcoal in colour it doesn't stand out too badly. Because the fabric is a linen blend all the seams are overlocked to prevent fraying.

The top is the Tonic Tee from SBCC Patterns, made in a floral lycra jersey I got last year from a Spoolettes fabric swap. I'ts a very soft yellow-cream with a touch of pink, with small floral and leaf print. I made the extra small, which was the second smallest size. I chose that size as it's just a little looser which works well for a top that can be worn for work. Because it's slightly looser it looks better when tucked into something with a fitted waist.

 I've been wearing this top and trousers since I made them but only photographed them this morning. Me Made May has been good for getting me to get around to post my backlog of makes, as I document what I'm wearing each day. Whether I keep this pace up after the end of the month is a different question!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Embroidery Skirt

This is my second Me Made May post, but this skirt is not a new one. This was made last year in October. I even took photos of it, but didn't check any of them until after finishing when I discovered none of them were full sized or properly framed. For some reason it has taken me until now to get around to photographing it again even though I've worn it frequently.

The fabric is from The Fabric Store and is a gorgeous embroidered linen cotton. It was such an eyecatching fabric that I picked it up. I knew the fabric needed the be a skirt to take advantage of the print without the garment being overwhelming, and I didn't want to make anything complicated to take attention away from the embroidery. I thought a simple skirt, that was gathered or pleated in some way, would be the right way to use the fabric.

I bought a one metre piece, and the fabric was about 1.5 metres wide. Because my idea for the skirt was something fairly simple, the only decision I needed to make was which way to cut it. The embroidery is in staggered rows down the length of the bolt. My original thought was to cut lengthwise in between the rows because I was nervous about cutting through the flowers, but when I held the fabric against me to check how it looked it just didn't seem quite right.  When I turned it the other way, it looked great.

I had been very nervous that cutting through the embroidery would cause it to fray and fall apart. But using my overlocker to finish the edges of the fabric on all sides helped to stabilise the print. I decided to pleat rather than gather to minimise the bulk around the waist, and to allow the embroidery to feature as clearly as possible.

I inserted the zipper first and then used pins and my dressmaker dummy to pleat until the skirt fit. The skirt has a circumference of almost 2 metres but my waist is only 60cm, so there was a lot of pleating to do. The pleats had to be overlaid on each other to get it down to the right size. There was a fair bit of trial and error in the size of the pleats and how far to overlap them until I got it right. To hold it all in place I hand basted, machine stitched two rows of stitching, and then covered the waist with blanket-width bias binding.

Because there's a lot of fabric the skirt is quite heavy to wear. But it is fitted well so doesn't slip down. The pleating also gives the skirt a slightly full shape which swishes and moves when I walk. This skirt should have made it onto the blog ages ago, and has already had many wears. Hopefully it will have wears for many years to come!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Drifting Wolf

Me Made May time! My pledge, as the last few years, is to wear me mades every day this month. And I also plan to get back on track with blogging by posting anything I wear that I haven't yet posted. To start with is my newest make, finished just yesterday.

Both the top and pants are from Papercut Patterns. I've made quite a few of their patterns and really like them. For me, I find there are very few adjustments I need to make, and the instructions tend to be fairly simple and clear.

The pants are the Peter and the Wolf pattern, which is now sadly out of print. I've had the pattern for a few years after picking it up for $10 at The Fabric Store. However, pants are daunting to make, and these pants have what looks like complicated piecing so I had put them to the side as too hard for now. But pants are the one clothing item where I still own a lot of store bought clothes, so I'm trying to make a concerted effort to replace them with my own creations.

The legs have two front and back pieces, angled pockets, front insets, back yoke, a waistband and even facings for the curved hems. This number of different parts is honestly huge for a pair of pants. I really shouldn't have been so daunted, because this pattern was amazingly straightforward.

The fabric is a lovely mid-weight mid-stretch cotton sateen with a moderate sheen from The Fabric Store. The pattern envelope version is made in a neutral grey with satin for the pockets, yoke and front insets so they stand out. As these are pants for work I didn't want to do something too out there, so opted to use the reverse side of the fabric. Rather than showing up as different colours, it just works to highlight the construction of the pants. Each seam is also topstitched, which also helps to show off the creative shape of the pattern.

These pants weren't hard to sew. I found the pattern stepped out the process for making very well, and the legs having centre and side pattern pieces suits the skinny fit. I didn't do any adjustments, but I'd think it wouldn't be too hard to make any changes needed to fix the fit. Hemming the pants was a bit harder, as the point at the front is difficult to make sharp. Because my thread was black and the fabric is black I wanted to be careful not to cut through the stitching line, so when I turned the facings inside I wasn't able to get the point as pointy they should be, but the shape is pretty close to what it's meant to be.

The top is adapted from the bodice of the Adrift Dress. I've made the dress before and found it a bit short, particularly in the bodice, so I lengthened it for this top. As I've made the dress before and it's a simple shape. The fabric is a bamboo jersey from Tessuti in a rich royal blue. It's beautifully soft, and was very easy to sew up.

I'm extremely happy with both these makes. I've already been wearing the top for a few months, and the pants are certain to be a favourite and a pattern to make again.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Pop Art Patti Dress

My blogging hasn't been happening much this year. I have quite a few things I've made over the last six months - some even photographed - that I haven't posted yet. So this dress is my first start in changing that around.

The skirt is the Patti Pocket Skirt from Amy Nicole Patterns. It has front and back pleats and large pockets - the white whale of dresses and skirts. These pockets are cut so that they're slightly wider than side skirt piece, making them pretty roomy and much more functional than pockets often are. I also like that the placement of the pockets is in the front rather than in the side seams as it makes them much more practical.

The fabric is a light cotton sateen from Pitt Trading with diagonal stretch and a good sheen. I love the print, it's a check but nothing like other checks. It's very pop art, or like almost cartoon-like with the roughly drawn think black lines and deep and vibrant greens and blues. It's lightweight but has just enough body to hold a bit of shape and keep the pleats sharp. I decided early on the skirt half I wanted for this fabric and had an image in my head for the bodice, so looked through my patterns to find what matched the picture in my head.

The bodice is from everyone's favourite pattern in 2010-11, Simplicity 2444, sadly now out of print. It has been a while since I made this pattern, so I'd forgotten that the sleeves have very little ease meaning I can't entirely raise my arms in this dress. I'm hoping that after a few washes the fabric will soften and I'll get a little more movement.

I've made both the skirt and pattern I used for the bodice before, so it was straightforward to combine the two. The only major change I made was moving the skirt zipper from the side to the back so that it matched the bodice. I don't think I added in quite as much extra fabric at the centre back for the zipper and seam as I as meant to, so the back pleats are a little close together and I had to be careful not to catch the pleat as I stitched the zipper. Other than that this was a quick and easy make.

I made this dress to be able to wear to work or casually, and to wear all year round - with tights in winter and bare-legged in summer. It's a versatile dress and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Geometry Dress

Last night was Sydney Frocktails 2019, where the sewing ladies of Sydney (and beyond) get together in our fancy handmade makes to have some drinks, some fun and feel each others' clothes without it being weird. This dress, the Geometry Dress - named for both the construction and the print - was started last weekend and finished at 4pm yesterday. In total there's probably around 20 hours of work in this dress.

The fabric is one I bought from Tessuti somewhere around 5 years ago, I think. It's a cotton sateen with a very high sheen. In fact, quite a few people at frocktails were surprised when I told them it was a cotton, thinking it was a satin or even an African wax print. It's surprisingly lightweight despite the look, and is wonderfully soft and smooth with a small amount of stretch.

I decided I wanted to use a fabric I already had for my frocktails dress, given I have a very large stash. I've had this fabric for a while and always thought it would make a great cocktail dress of some sort. Having two panels of the print, I figured I'd use one for the skirt and one for the bodice, but didn't have any ideas of how I'd actually do it. I looked through all the patterns I own but nothing grabbed me, so went to Spotlight to look through the pattern books. I still had no idea at all of what shape or style I wanted so came away empty handed. Then I saw a sundress pattern that was too casual but had a nice minimal bodice which inspired me to find something with some form of cut outs. So I went to Lincraft in my lunch hour a week and a half ago with a half-formed thought, searching for the pattern to complete the thought.

The pattern is a Vogue designer pattern by Rebecca Vallance, number V1545. I changed the pattern to a plain pleated skirt to show off the fabric print. I really should not have chosen to make something so difficult a week out from the event, but I never pay attention to the difficulty rating on patterns. My thoughts were simply the pieced bodice could work with the almost patchwork nature of the print, but without really considering how exactly that would work out.

Working out the pattern placement took about four hours to get right. The print is a panel, and I had two panels so figured I'd use one for the skirt and one for the bodice, using the different designs in the panel for the different pieces of the bodice. The print on the fabric isn't actually symmetrical, so I couldn't just fold it in half and cut the pieces together. Instead, I cut one of each bodice piece out with the fabric print side up, then laid it print side down on the fabric matching the lines as well as possible and cut out the opposite side. It was a laborious process, but the final result made it worthwhile.

The pattern is relatively difficult, but the biggest issue was how time-consuming it was. Obviously the four hours of pattern placement was the biggest single amount of time. The blue and red triangles and stripe on the edge of the panels were an obvious choice for the front overlay and the waistband. Then I kept changing my mind about whether to have the geometric shapes for the front or the back. In the end the back and side back pieces fitted better on the floral, and the finished diamond shape on the back is better than I could have planned. I also tried to get the skirt to pattern match, which worked pretty well at the top with the invisible zipper, but got slightly out of alignment near the hem. But the teal stripes match up, so the bit of unevenness in between doesn't really matter.

The bodice is fully lined and all seams bar the armscyes are understitched. I do love how understitching keeps the lining from peeking out, but it does significantly increase the amount of time it takes to sew. The lining, which is just a heavy cotton, gives the bodice much more structure than the cotton sateen alone, but the different weights of the fabric definitely benefited from the understitching.

All the finishings are done by hand, apart from the hem. But hand stitching a neckline, waist, and 15 inch metal zipper takes a long time. And zipper tape for a heavy metal zipper is not good on needles or fingers - my left pointer finger has a callus and also a bit of a hole where the needle pushed back into the skin when it didn't want to go through the tape and fabric. The waistband, in comparison, was a very easy sew. Although the hem ended up being sewn by machine, I luckily had a forest green that perfectly matched the narrow stripe between the teal and mint stripes so the stitch line is only visible when looked at closely.

As well as changing the skirt from the original pattern I reduced the front opening of the dress. In the original pattern the front is open all the way down to the waistband, but that's really not practical to wear, so I hand stitched in the back to keep them together. I also added a quick stitch where the overlay crossed the front bodice pieces to keep them from gaping apart. These were quick minor edits, but meant I could be comfortable and confident wearing the dress knowing it was going to stay where it was meant to.

One of the best things about frocktails is seeing the great variety of styles people wear. Getting to make something that's just fun to dress up, rather than making practical clothes for work or everyday wear. Seeing women in velvet, sequins, brocades, circle skirts with petticoats and all sorts of colours and prints was great, and a great reminder that sewing is not only a practical skill, it can reflect each person's individuality. And it's a wonderful community to be part of. Ready to do it all again in September!

Monday, 4 February 2019

Rainbow Brite Inari Dress

My second make for 2019 is the Inari Tee Dress by Named Patterns. I'm a few years late on making the Inari compared to much of the sewing community, but bought the pattern when Named had a pattern sale mid last year. It was winter here when I bought it, but now that it's summer I decided it was time to make it.

The fabric, from The Fabric Store, is a beautiful velvety plush jersey. It's a Marc Jacobs fabric, rainbow stripes on a warm grey background. There's also a very fine silver stripe on either side of the grey stripe, but it doesn't show up as clearly in pictures. The fabric reminded me of 80s kids character Rainbow Brite, hence the name of the dress.

The fabric is wonderfully soft and sewed up quite easily, apart from the huge amounts of fluff. Especially when overlocking the seams. There aren't all that many seams to this dress but I still needed to clean my overlocker twice to get rid of all the fluff around the knives and needles. Even with the fluff, the fabric did not catch or slip on either my normal machine or my overlocker.

I did my best to pattern match at the side seams, but jerseys never quite cut out perfectly evenly so the stripes are a tiny bit off under the arms. The good thing with a knit fabric is that it's easy to slightly stretch one side so that it gets back in line with the other, so I made sure the bottom of each side seam matched and adjusted up the the underarm seam, so the more visible parts of the side seam have pretty much matched stripes and the parts that aren't seen unless I raise my arms are maybe a few millimetres off.

The Inari has a bit of an unusual shape - it's quite quite fitted at the neckline, sleeves and bust, almost tent-like through the waist and more fitted again at the hips and legs. The split side seams and shorter front hemline accentuate the more fitted bottom of the dress. This gives it a feel of being casual but not lazy, effortless rather than couldn't be bothered. I wasn't completely sure of the sleeves when I first finished the dress because the underarm is longer than the outer cap, but I'm starting to like it more now.

Because the jersey is effectively a velvet it is relatively warm. Even with the loose fit of the Inari, this summer of record-breaking temperatures has often been too hot for the dress. But on days where the temperature is in the mid-20s rather than the high-30s this dress is great.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Sugar Plum Sylph Dress

I had this dress planned for more than four years before I made it. I bought the pattern in early 2014. The fabric was purchased way back in mid-2012. I decided they belonged together when I got the pattern but didn't make it until a month ago. Although I didn't have an overlocker until last year, and it was definitely very handy in sewing up this fabric.

I bought the fabric in Benalla when I was doing my PhD research. Benalla was one of my case study locations, and on the last afternoon I had finished up and was filling in time before leaving the next day. There was a small fabric store in town that was in the process of changing over to selling rugs and curtains and getting rid of all their fabric for $5 per (very generously measured) metre. So of course I bought about 7 metres of various fabrics, and this is the last piece left.

The pattern is La Sylphide from Papercut Patterns. I made a number of adjustments to the original pattern to fit the image I had for it, but nothing significant. I changed the darts from normal darts to tuck darts to give the bodice a slight blouson effect, which I felt suited the drape of the fabric better. I raised the neckline and removed the tie because I found it sat fairly low when I made the blouse version. I also shortened the sleeves to make it a summer dress and lengthened the skirt by about 2 inches because Papercut Patterns always seem to be made fairly short. Construction was still very easy, as Papercut have well-written patterns.

The fabric is a poly crepe georgette so it can get a bit sticky, but it has a great drape and flows nicely which generally means it's airy and cool most of the time. It is prone to fraying, so all seams and hems are overlocked. The colour is a beautiful rich deep purple, with delicate light and mid-purple flowers. The fabric is quite light and partially see-through so while it's not particularly obvious when looking at it, it does require a slip to be worn underneath.

The buttons are from a box of buttons inherited from my grandma. Because the fabric is a georgette that is prone to fraying I didn't want to do buttonholes as I doubt they will stand up to many washes, so the buttons are decorative and hide press studs. I was also unable to insert interfacing on this fabric as it didn't stick when I tried to iron it on, so the bottom of the placket doesn't sit completely straight.

This dress has already gotten a few wears since I finished it. It is nice enough that I can wear it to work, but also works for weekends or holidays, making it very flexible.