Upcoming and Planned Projects

Friday, 30 December 2016

Punto Drape Dress

I've finally got my sewing room set up, and two weeks off for the Christmas/New Year's break, so time to sit down at my machine and start stitching again. First up was this dress, made on Boxing Day.

The fabric is Blimm's World Punto from Tessuti Fabrics. It's one of a couple of Italian pontes that are so popular that they tend to sell out within a day or two at most, so it's lucky that I can get down to Tessuti at lunchtime. After they posted them on Instagram one morning I headed down at lunch and fortunately this one was still available.

The print is very busy (yes, that is a man falling out of a hot air balloon and a map of Asia with a black bear representing Russia), so I had to choose a pattern where the fabric didn't overwhelm but where I wouldn't lose any of the fun of it. I decided to go with the drop-waist gather dress from Drape Drape. It's a semi fitted pattern with a tulip skirt, and the fabric is cut all in one piece.

The pattern suggests putting a zipper in the back, but given it's a jersey fabric I decided that didn't seem necessary. The dress is fitted but not tight, so it is still easy to get on and off without a zip. I did the gathering for the shoulders and skirt both by hand so that they would be even and neat.

The piece of fabric was slightly shorter than the pattern needed, so the back of the skirt had to be cut differently. I couldn't curve the hem down, so had to cut it more like a typical gathered skirt. It also meant that the hem was initially higher at the back, so I had to trim it shorter until it was even. I was a bit worried about that I'd lose to much length, but fortunately it's still long enough.

This was my first make from Drape Drape, a book I'd seen a lot but was always a bit daunted by. I was surprised at how quick this was to make. All up, measuring, pattern placement and sewing took me only a matter of hours. Basically it's the best sort of pattern - one that looks much harder to make than it is!

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Marchioness Rose

This dress has taken about six weeks from start to blogging. There's quite a few pieces to the pattern, I had to add a lining despite the pattern not originally being lined, and I've both been busy at work and moved house, so there was a lot to do both with the sewing and with the rest of life.

The pattern is a 1950s Australian Home Journal pattern, number 5210. It's a shirt dress with shawl collar and pockets. The envelope describes this as a house frock, which makes it sound like something Betty Draper would wear. The big bright pink roses also look very Betty, so I thought I should accessorise the photos to match the dress. And my armchair really matches the era pretty well, too!

The fabric is one I picked up at a Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap earlier in the year. The fabric is Australian, the selvedge says it is from Marchioness Fabrics. It's very thin voile, almost gauze-like. This meant there was no way I could use the fabric without lining it. But I didn't want to lose the soft drape that it has. I also didn't want to lose the colours, so I had to find something to be a lining that wouldn't show through or dilute the vibrant pinks of the roses.

I found a baby pink cotton voile at The Fabric Store that fit the bill. Of course, two layers of voile still isn't particularly thick. For the bodice it was fine, and I decided to leave the sleeves unlined, but the skirt would need more than two layers of voile. To fix this, I decided to double line the skirt. I cut one set of the baby pink voile to be the lining, and another set which I stitched straight on to the main fabric, treating it all as one single piece.

I started work on the bodice first, putting in the front and back darts. There are also front insets at the yoke. They were a little daunting to insert because of the right angle at the bottom edge, but in the end they went in fairly easily. And the print is, well, a bit overwhelming so the insets aren't really noticeable - you can just see the line of them on the above photo if you look closely. On the pattern envelope the insets are edged with lace so they stand out, but that wasn't needed with this fabric.

The skirt was trickier to do because of the third layer of fabric. Although I stitched the second layer of pink voile onto my main fabric so I could treat it as one, it was still a bit slippy. I left the bottom hem until I'd attached the bodice and skirt together, and then left it to hang for a weekend so the hem would settle. It seems to have ended up even, but I will keep an eye on it in case the lining and skirt get out of alignment.

Being a shirt dress I needed to make sure to stabilise the front. But I wanted to make sure I chose an interfacing that would work with how light the fabric is - both in terms of the weight and the gauziness of it. In the end I chose a black net-like sew-in interfacing. It did mean I had to first stitch the interfacing to the facing, but it sits and flows better than an iron on interfacing would.

The original pattern had short sleeves, but I didn't think they were quite right for this fabric. I looked through my other patterns from around the same era, and decided I'd add the sleeves from my DuBarry 5265 coat dress pattern. The sleeves are meant to have cuffs, but I tried the dress on before adding the cuffs and decided they'd be a bit too overwhelming, and the sleeves would work fine it I simply hemmed them.

I actually had all the sewing done more than a week before I moved, as I needed to be able to pack up my machine and fabric. All that was left to do was rip open the buttonholes, add the buttons, and hid all the loose threads. Still, I had to get set up before I could even start on those last elements, and there are sixteen buttons on this shirt dress. The interfacing is also relatively solid but the fabric is light, so I wanted to be very careful when ripping the buttonholes open.

The buttons were probably the hardest choice in making this dress, because I didn't know what would suit this fabric. It obviously needed a large number of buttons (sixteen in the end!), but what would complement the flowers? I have a large collection of buttons, but I didn't have anything that worked, or that had enough buttons. I wasn't going to find something that faded in to the background on this fabric, so I chose the gold as I thought they would stand out but not clash.

I'm really proud of this dress. To be honest it feels a little fancier than I normally am, like it needs a very put-together person. Not simply something that is pulled out of the wardrobe on a whim. But the fabric is just so stunning, and so perfectly suited to the pattern, so I'm sure I will find reasons to wear it. Although probably without the heels.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A Trio of Travelling Trousers

I had planned to post these three two months ago. I made them all to take on a trip to Western Australia and was going to take pictures of me wearing them on beaches and bushwalks, but didn't end up getting usable action shots. So instead they went into the wardrobe until I pulled them out today.

First is a pair of very bright summer shorts. The fabric is from Spotlight, and I'm really not sure what it is or what it's meant to be for. It's fairly loosely woven and frays like crazy. Because of that I decided my normal thing of doing French seams wouldn't be enough. So instead I covered over each seam with bias binding, stitched in at the seamline, then folded over and stitched down at the edge of the seam allowance. I still don't think they'll last very long, though, because the fabric doesn't really stand up to much.

Both these shorts and the next ones were made using Burda young 7050. The pattern seems to now be out of print, but it's a pants pattern that's fitted to just below the knees and then flares out. Obviously I altered the pattern for the shorts. For these bright yellow ones I traced the top of the pattern to mid-thigh on newspaper, then slashed and spread to make them looser. These shorts were for lazing on the beach in Broome, although it ended up raining despite it being the dry season, so no beach photos for these shorts.

The second pair of shorts are just practical, dark khaki/green bushwalking shorts. On my holiday I did a tour from Broome to Perth, with lots of time spent in national parks, particularly Karijini in the Pilbara. It's a beautiful area, but hot even when it's technically only just spring. So shorts are best for walking there, especially when you get to gorges where you need to wade through knee-deep water!

I again used the Burda young 7050 pattern, and also widened it slightly from the original so they'd be more practical to wear. As you can see these are also longer, again for practicality's sake. They aren't the most exciting thing I've ever made, but they fit the bill for what I needed.

Thirdly, I made these slim fitting cargo pants. The pattern is Simplicity 2261, which is also out of print. I made the in a solid cotton drill in a stone colour. I picked this fabric up in Cabramatta when some of the Sydney Spoolettes had a shopping day. The pants are still relatively slim fitting, but are loose enough to climb on rocks and along steep tracks, so they are fit for purpose.

 This pattern is relatively straightforward, as far as pants go. I needed to read the instructions of how to insert a fly about three times before I knew what to do, but I got there in the end. I'm mostly happy with how they turned out, apart from the press studs for the pockets. I thought they'd be a more practical choice of closure for pants to wear while bushwalking, but one of them pulled off the fabric when I tried to unsnap it. I think I'll practice on some scrap fabric before I use press studs again!

 Lastly, although this is a sewing blog I had to include just a couple of photos to start and end this post with some of the amazing scenery in WA. The top photo is Joffre Gorge in Karijini National Park. That's at the top of a track that goes almost vertically down those cliffs, not a walk for the faint hearted (or the sore jointed!). Below is sunset at Pardoo Station. Both places are a long way from civilisation, and both are simply breathtaking. If you ever get the opportunity to see that part of the world, take it!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Leopard Bow Blouse

And another blouse.

The pattern is from the Japanese pattern book Les Couleurs Francaises. I'd post a link, but can't find anything other than a handful of blog posts. Which is unfortunate, because it's quite a nice pattern book. It's mother-daughter patterns, with lots of matching or similar styles. They're all fairly safely classic and feminine, so they're unlikely to become too obviously dated. It's worth picking up if you ever see it.

Now about the fabric. I do like my kitsch animal fabrics. I'm not particularly excited by standard animal print fabrics, but fabrics with animals on them? Those are great, and I've made clothes from quite a few animal fabrics. So how could I not buy this leopard fabric?

The fabric is a poly with a nice drape. I bought it on a trip to Cabramatta with the Sydney Spoolettes. I think it cost $5 for a metre, which is actually mid-price range for Cabra. The number of fabric stores there make it well worth a visit. The quality of fabrics is variable, but given you can get things as cheap as $2 a metre that isn't surprising. And most of the fabric is pretty good quality.

 As I said the pattern is from the Japanese sewing book Les Couleurs Francaises. It's pattern W, a tunic style pussy bow blouse with elbow length sleeves and front and back yokes. It's one of the patterns that made me buy the book about five years ago, but this is the first time I've made it. In the book they've made it with a broderie-edged cotton, and I'd always thought I'd do something similar. But a fabric printed with a member of the feline family is obviously the perfect choice for a pussy bow blouse.

Being poly the fabric is easy to care for and doesn't seem to crease. However it can fray, so as usual I did French seams to give it a cleaner finish. I also stitched down the yoke seams, both to keep it neat and flat and to highlight the yoke. I didn't have much of the off-white thread I used as topstitching left so all the inside stitching was done in white At first I worried that the topstitching thread might still be a bit too white, but in the end it doesn't stand out much, just enough to accentuate the seam but not so much that you look at the line.

 The pattern was a very straightforward make. Although it has both yokes and ties, it doesn't have anything that's difficult to do. It's loose fitting, so there's no buttons or zippers to worry about. Setting sleeves always requires patience, and a bit of attention is required to get both the keyhole neckline neat - both having the yoke pieces just overlap and stitching the tie to the neckline - but it isn't hard to do. It's probably a good pattern for someone who knows all the basics and either wants to try out Japanese patterns for the first time or just wants to slightly challenge their skills.

 In the pattern book this top is worn untucked, but in most of the photos I've worn it tucked. I think it works better for this fabric, and as a blouse to wear at work I think tucked in is neater too. Although it possibly could stand to be an inch longer, or I could wear it with higher waisted trousers or skirt. But overall, I'm really happy with this blouse and think it will get lots of wear.

Friday, 14 October 2016

70s/80s blouses for the 21st Century

A couple of new blouses today, although one of them was actually made six months ago. But being a short-sleeved blouse it hasn't been warm enough to photograph. Both patterns qualify as vintage, although I'm slightly loath to call the sleeveless one 'vintage' given it's from the 1980s and actually a year younger than me.

First up is my newest finished make, a loose-fitting sleeveless blouse.  The pattern is Butterick 6583, a loose fitting girls' blouse pattern from 1984. Apparently children's size blouses work pretty well for me. It has options of dropped sleeves or sleeveless, I decided to go for the latter. It also has no darts, but instead has dropped shoulder seams with the bodice slightly gathered at the seam.

When I posted it on Instagram when I'd just finished it I wasn't 100% on it because it was looser than I expected.But that was a week ago, just before we were due to have our first hot day of the season on Monday (34°C). One comment on my Instagram pic suggested I'd be very happy with it in the heat on Monday, and Mel, you were right.

The fabric is surprisingly cool to wear. It's a fabric I got earlier in the year when the Sydney Spoolettes held a fabric swap, so I'm not sure of its origins. But it's a polyester yet has a nice drape, good softness, and more breathability than many polyesters do. So I was pleasantly surprised by that. The only thing that I needed to do at all different was to do French seams because the fabric gets that matted fraying that polyester tends to do very easily. But I do a lot of French seams anyway, so that wasn't a problem.

This second blouse is one a made way back on the Easter long weekend. The pattern is the same as my Perfect Blouse Pattern, but made with a basic short sleeve. It's made in a cotton from The Fabric Store, and is offwhite with a peach/mauve floral paisley print. The print is quite pale, but can been seen in the close up in the last picture.

I think part of the reason I hadn't posted this blouse before is because it's not exactly exciting. It's a nice pattern, and the back darts give a good shaping, but it is still just a straighforward work appropriate blouse. And honestly it's a little hard to think of anything else to say about it given I've already reviewed the pattern when I used it previously.

Anyway, so those are my two blouses to wear as the weather warms.  And hopefully I can get this blog back on to a more regular schedule too!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Tessuti Cut Out Lace LBD

First post in a month! And this dress almost didn't even make it.
This dress was made as an entry for Tessuti's cut out lace competition. Even though I'd bought the fabric a day or two after the competition was announced (perks/dangers of working a less than ten minute walk from Tessuti's Surry Hills store) there were quite a few things that almost got in the way of the dress being made.

The first thing that delayed this dress was a holiday, and some holiday sewing of shorts and cargo pants to wear while bushwalking in Western Australian national parks. Because of this, I didn't have time to start on my competition entry until I got back from holiday a week and a half into September. But the bigger problem was that I just couldn't seem to get my make to look how I wanted it to look.

I'd decided as soon as I saw the lace in store that I wanted to do as little as possible to it, and just let the fabric speak for itself. I decided to buy a single panel so I wouldn't be tempted to do anything too fussy. I also wanted to use the half flower piece at the centre top of the panel as my neckline, so I thought a simple fitted sheath dress would be the go, and started pinning and draping on my mannequin.

It didn't quite go according to plan. First, I needed to do the centre pack seam and insert the zipper. I had been going to use an open ended zip, but when I got the black open ended zipper I had out, it wasn't long enough. Given this was last weekend and entries closed yesterday, I decided I didn't have time to go searching for a long enough open ended zip and instead searched through for other options. 

Initially I went for a normal black zip about 45 centimetres long. I pinned it in, folding the fabric in further as it got down to the waist. I stitched the zipper in, and then for the lower half of the seam eased the seam back out from the waist to the hip and then straight down to the bottom. I then folded in some double pointed darts to fit the bust and waist, putting in two long darts and four short darts - two near the centre front, two close to the sides. I made sure they fit my mannequin, sewed them up, trimmed out the neckline, stitched the shoulders together, and cut out some of the lace for armholes.

Then I tried it on and it looked terrible.
The darts sat too low, leaving a weird billowy gaping at the bust, and the zipper at the back didn't sit flat either. The neckline was the only thing I was fairly happy with. Even the lace at the armholes was droopy at the back. That was going to be an easy fix, it would just need the extra pieces cut out once everything else was done, but the rest required going right back to the start. 

The first change I made was to rip the zipper out and redo it. I decided that I'd just put the zip in straight, rather than playing around trying to get it to fit in to the waist. I also decided to change over to an invisible zip, although I'm not entirely sure why as it's a shorter zipper. So I unpicked all my darts from the front, put small shoulder pleats in at the back to make sure the neckline was even, and draped it back over my mannequin.

My thought then was maybe I could make the dress so it was fitted at the front but hung loose at the back. So I did a first run of pinning the front in again, and tried it on. Unsurprisingly, it didn't really work. I had pinned the front darts in higher so it was better fitted, but there wasn't enough fabric for it to give the loose effect I wanted at the back. And honestly, I'm not sure this idea could have worked, because trying to keep one half loose while the other half is tight is just too complicated. I'd contemplated using ribbon ties from the underarm to the back, but I really don't think it would have sat evenly at all.

I hadn't sewn anything for that second arrangement, so there wasn't any more unpicking to do, but by this stage it was Thursday night and I was a bit at a loss of what to do. My next thought was to make separates, with a cropped top and high waisted skirt. The lace at the bodice would be long enough to work as a cropped top, but I decided against this idea because I really don't think I'd wear the top. And given the neckline was the first decision I'd made when I saw the fabric and was the one element I was happy with, I didn't want to lose that on a garment I wouldn't wear. So I discarded that idea.
Then I finally worked out what to do.

It's an obvious realisation, but if your mannequin doesn't have the exact same measurements as you then pinning and draping a fitted dress completely on the mannequin isn't going to end up fitting properly. The answer, of course, was to pin the dress directly onto myself. So I put it on and folded in two darts for the front and two for the back and pinned them in place. I stitched them down, leaving them open at the bottom so they have a soft pleated effect. And after all of that messing around, mid-morning yesterday I finally had the dress I'd pictured in my head.
Then it was just a case of taking some pictures and sending them in as my entry. 

And so that's the saga of my lace LBD. With persistence, sometimes you can manage to pull of the image in your head. Now I just need a reason to wear it!