Upcoming and Planned Projects

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Bali Batik Picnic Dress

I love summer dresses. They're light and fun, and the warm weather is a great excuse to use lots of colour and print (although I'll happily use lots of colour and print in winter, too). Summer dresses are also often quite simple in their styling and quick to make, which is great when you want something new for a heatwave. Sydney's already had a number of very hot days and it's still technically spring, so I can see a few more hot weather dresses in my near future.

My brother and sister-in-law bought me a couple of pieces of batik fabric when they went to
Indonesia earlier this year. This is the first one I've used. I decided that given it's a fabric from a hot weather country, it had to be made into a hot weather dress. I love the rich blue colour, but I'm not really sure what the print is meant to be. There's floral vines and then three other prints that look like a beer stein, a quiver of arrows, and some sort of griffin, but I could be wrong.

The fabric has finished selvedges on all four edges, so I made as much use of that as I could. Those selvedges have been used for the hem, the top of the bodice, and even the zipper and centre back seam. I even used the finished side edge that makes the centre back seam/zipper for the back join of the straps. It's not noticeable unless you look closely - you can just see it in the left of this photo - but I thought it would be a nice touch.

The pattern is Queen of Darts' Picnic Dress, which is a fairly simple, very timeless cut. It looks like it could be from any decade since the 1940s. It's a seven piece princess seamed bodice - front piece, and two each of side front, side back, and back - and then straps and dirndl-style skirt. The instructions are pretty minimal so it's not for a complete beginner, but as long as you know fairly basic sewing techniques it's easy to do.

The pattern is free, but it's only in the one size. Lucky for me, I'm pretty much the same size as Alice. I am a bit taller, though, so I added 1.5cm to the length of the bodice so it sits at my waist. I also made my straps a bit wider partly to show more of the print, partly because the spaghetti-thin straps are fiddly to do. Because the fabric had finished selvedges I simply used the full length of the fabric for the skirt, so no finishing was needed for the hem or centre back seam.

The one thing I didn't think of while sewing the bodice was the seams. Because I was using the selvedge, I obviously don't have any facings, so I thought the seam allowances might show. Rather than unpick and redo the bodice, I did flat felled seams. I trimmed half off one side of the seam allowance, folded the other half over it, and stitched it down, with the stitching line on the side towards the back of the dress. This keeps everything neat and out of the way. If you look closely in this photo you might be able to see the royal blue lines. In the end, it's an accident that I can pretend is a feature.

Although it's been washed a few times the fabric is still slightly starchy, but it should soften up quickly. The skirt also liked catching the wind when I was taking these photos. Because it's a batik and not produced using more industrial techniques it did have a fair bit of loose dye the first time I washed the fabric, but it's been soaked two more times and barely leaves any dye, which is great.

 I really like the shape of this dress. It's simple but not boring, feminine but not fussy. It would be nice if it had pockets, but given that the skirt is only a single piece I didn't have any side seams in which to add them. I thought briefly about adding patch pockets to the front, but decided not to because I want to keep it as clean as possible. If I reuse this pattern I will probably add side pockets, but I'm happy with this one without them.

 It was once again stupidly hot while taking these pictures, almost mid-30s with a hot wind at 9:30am, but the dress is wonderfully cool. The fabric is pretty thin, almost a lawn weight, so it's very comfortable and light to wear. It kept me nice of comfortable for the whole rest of the day in the heat.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Cooling Breezy Rayon Top

Ah, summer. Here you are. It's stupidly hot in Sydney right now, so luckily my latest make is a very soft and lightweight top.

The fabric is the first of the ones I've been planning to use this summer, one of six fabrics on my upcoming projects page. This rayon jersey was bought at Spotlight on clearance. It's beautifully soft and I love the print, but it's fairly thin and very stretchy and really doesn't like holding any shape at all.

The pattern is Simplicity 2261 which is no longer in print, but is a collection of three different jersey tops, one pair of pants, and one skirt. I've made top A, but with a little modification. The pattern is meant to be double layered, but the piece of fabric I had wasn't large enough for a top layer. And honestly, I think it would have been too heavy, anyway. I was wanting a very airy top for hot days, and extra layers of fabric would defeat the purpose. The pattern also suggests adding a trim or two on the yoke pieces, so I had a look through the bits of ribbon and rickrack I own to find anything that matched. But the print is already enough and doesn't need any additions, so I left that off.

Because the jersey is so stretchy, I had a few problems with the yoke. The yoke is two layers, but only the facing has interfacing applied. But this jersey is so soft and stretchy that it had pulled a bit out of shape just by attaching the front and back pieces to the yoke. The back was ok to stitch on, but I had to baste the front yoke and gather it slightly so that it would attach properly to the facing. And even with that, it doesn't quite sit flat, although it's not too noticeable.

The good thing is, though, the top is wonderfully cool in the heat. Because it's basically a trapeze gathered in the centre, it's loose and allows a lot of airflow. It also picks up any bit of breeze which is great when it's 38 degrees (100 Fahrenheit) with a very bright sun.

 There's probably more I could say about this top, but it's too hot right now to think of anything else. All that really matters is it's very hot here, but this top keeps me thankfully (relatively) cool. Which is very welcome.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Cropped Nani Iro Top

There are a few fabric brands that are lovely but pricier, which daunt me a little from buying them. I buy some of my fabric and quite a few patterns and zippers from op shops, so expensive fabric is a bit scary. Nani Iro is one of those brands that have daunted me, because the fabrics are so nice and I don't want to screw it up. But when Tessuti Fabrics got some new Nani Iro in earlier in the year I just could resist buying a little bit. The fabric is the blue Sazanami Pocho, Tessuti still have the pink.

I didn't have much money to spend, so I only bought half a metre. I'm quite little, and I didn't want to make anything complicated anyway, just a simple top. Originally I'd been thinking of doing something sleeveless, a shell or tank top. But I wasn't really certain what I wanted to do, and it was winter, anyway, not really the time of year to be making light and airy tops. So I put my little piece of Nani Iro away in my stash for a later date when I had a better idea of what to do, and when the weather was right to wear it.

I was still thinking every so often about exactly what to make, taking in influences from what I saw on other blogs, Instagram, and even in shop catalogues. I decided that the top would be unstructured, and that to complement that I'd make it just slightly cropped. I'd also seen a bunch of tops with pompom trims on them and really liked the idea, so went to see if I could find a trim that would match some of the spots. Spotlight had this red pompom trim that seemed a perfect match.

I thought the pompom trim would look better on sleeves than on a sleeveless tank. I still didn't want to have multiple pieces to the pattern, so I simply started cutting two matching rectangles but added an extra inch of width at the top for all-in-one sleeves. Easy and lazy. For the neckline I just did trial and error, cutting the curves of both front and back pieces down. The back was right first time, but I lowered the front neckline slightly from where I first cut it. I did think about making it a deep scoop, but in the end decided I liked how it sat just below my collar bones.

After that, it was very fast to put together. Given it's just two pieces there wasn't much sewing at all. I used red threat to match both the red spots and the pompom trim. Normally I avoid visible stitching, but I thought it would complement this fabric and this top well.

This was an extremely fast make - about an hour, compared to the huge time and effort on my last make, the DuBarry dress. The attention to detail required for a long make is really rewarding when you get it done, but short and fast makes like this top are great because you have something to show off so soon after you started.