Upcoming and Planned Projects

Saturday, 30 April 2016

In Season Silk Comp: Boulanger Tea Dress

Another Tessuti competition, another entry. This time their In Season Silk Competition. Where the last competition was to make a version of their Kate Top, this time it was a make anything at all using one of two beautiful silk crepe de chines. Lucky for me (maybe not so much for my wallet) I work less than 10 minutes walk from Tessuti's Surry Hills store, so the day after the competition was announced on Instagram I walked over in my lunch hour to get my fabric. There were two fabric choices, I decided on 'Autumn Cluster', In Season Two. I chose it because I thought the floral print had more versatility on what to do.

It took me a long time to chose exactly what I wanted to make. Being a crepe de chine the fabric is soft and floaty, so a soft and floaty dress was what I needed. The colours are very autumnal, and also very 1930s, so I thought the 30s would be a good inspiration. I love Art Deco styles, so this fabric seemed perfect for something with that inspiration. But even with a chosen garment and time period it still took forever to choose exactly what to make. Pinterest was both a help and hindrance in deciding what to make. I have a Pinterest board of Art Deco gowns and they were all very inspiring, but a little too much - every time I had a look I wanted to choose a different dress as inspiration. But details like fairly open backs with some detail at the top and relatively simple skirts kept standing out.

This dress is my version of my favourite pattern, McCall 9043. It dates from 1936 and is designed by Louise Boulanger, a less well-known name but one of the most creative designers of the Art Deco period. As with a lot of spectacular 1930s dresses and patterns the back and shoulders are the focus. The open back was easy enough, just requiring the back pieces to be cut so they finish just past the shoulder blades. With the addition of the connecting strap at the base of the neck and the curved centre pieces at the lower back I was able to replicate the pattern.

The shoulders were harder to work out. I only had the picture of the final dress to go on, no idea of what the different pattern pieces were. They're curved so obviously part of a circle, and they fold back in around the front to join at the top of the shoulders. Finally I realised - it's a quarter circle! I tested with a scrap of fabric just to see if it would work and it did, so now I had a full plan for my dress.

Once I knew that I could design the shape of the dress it wasn't too difficult to make it. I drew up each pattern piece needed and set about making it. Where the original was a floor length gown I decided to shorten it to tea length so that I'd be more likely to have times to wear it. The contrasting fabric is just a soft polyester from Lincraft, but it was the right weight and colour.

The bodice is completely self-lined, but the skirt is unlined because I didn't want anything to affect the flow of the skirt. As the fabric is a light silk it does fray, so I covered the skirt seams in bias binding. The zipper is inserted by hand, and the lower edge of the bodice lining was also done by hand stitching in to the bottom of the contrast band. The sleeves have a rolled hem so they can flow as freely as possible, and the skirt has a 1cm hem.

The construction of the dress was relatively smooth. I did have to change what needle I used, though. Initially I used a size 9 needle as it's designed for delicate fabrics, and it worked alright for the silk bodice. But when I was stitching the silk to the contrast fabric the stitches were looking uneven and the thread broke three times. I dug out my machine's manual and it suggested using a blue tipped needle for fine fabrics if a small size didn't work. Once I swapped the needle over it all went much more smoothly.

 Because it took me so long to decide exactly what to make I didn't end up leaving myself a lot of time to actually sew this dress. The competition was announced back at the start of March, I cut into the fabric last weekend. Still, deadlines are a great motivator. I was also a little worried I woudn't be able to get good photos, because I don't have time in the mornings before work and by the time I get home it's dark and morning rain was predicted for today, but luckily the rain had cleared away early.

There are a few little things that aren't quite perfect, like the invisible zipper that is slightly visible, and where the contrast band meets the back bodice corners it doesn't sit quite flat, but they are only very minor. And I even have some fabric left over, so I can maybe make a small top or a matching 1930s capelet.

 Anyway, I have to say I'm extremely happy with the finished product. I hope you all like it as much as I do!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Florana Moana

The new Papercut Patterns collection was released at the end of February. Katie's patterns are always great, so I was tempted by all of it, especially when there was a 15% discount code on the weekend of their release. I was restrained, though, only buying 3 of the 6 patterns. This one, the Moana Dress, is my first make.

The Moana Dress is a relatively simple shape, slightly trapeze-shaped, with curved peplum ruffle and fuller skirt. It's less fitted than I normally wear, especially on the top, widening from narrow shoulders out to the hips. The peplum acts as a bit of shaping for the waist, in look rather than fitting. It also has an exposed zipper at the top.

While I like papercut patterns a lot, I have found they tend to be a bit loose under the arms. This is a fairly common problem for me because my ribcage is narrow, but the trapeze shape of the dress makes that looseness more obvious. So when I first made the dress up and tried it on it was gaping. Luckily I tried it on before I'd finished stitching the facing down, so I was able to resew the seam in by a couple of centimetres. That allowed the dress to still be loose, but not hanging off.

The fabric is a cotton sateen from Spotlight. I bought it last year, and I'd gotten it out a few times as a possible for a number of projects but it was never quite the right choice. But this year I'm trying to mostly use fabric from my stash rather than buying, so for this dress I decided to shop my stash. I got out a couple of fabrics, this and a black and white check, and got Instagram to help me choose. Although this fabric still needs to soften up a little more - the ruffle especially sticks out a bit more than it should - I think the bright floral was the right choice. Because the dress is relatively simple, the flowers everwhere print doesn't overwhelm it.

So there was one new technique on this dress: an exposed zipper. I've sewn zippers that were exposed before, but not done a proper exposed zipper. My ones, it was just because I decided to do that, but this pattern has proper instructions. Which is helpful! It wasn't particularly hard, but knowing how to trim the edges back at the bottom so the stitching is squared off around the zip gives a much nicer look than just guessing how to do it.

 So I'm quite happy with this dress. I'm also hoping that it will be versatile, something I can wear in summer and also in cooler weather with tights an a cardigan like I did today. It's also a dress that can be casual but the print and shape are nice enough to wear to work. So thanks once again papercut for another great pattern!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Perfect Blouse Pattern

I found my perfect blouse pattern.

It's from 1974 (so is 2 of 8 for my Vintage Pledge for the year), the pattern is Style 4478, and I bought it for agrand total of 50 cents at a Salvos. It's also sized for pre-teen girls, but the measurements on the envelope were just right for me.

I'd been looking for a nice blouse pattern for a while, but none of the ones in the big four's catalogues really grabbed me. This pattern was cheap, and was much more what I was looking for. I did lengthen the hem by an inch, and could lengthen it further if I want to make a blouse that will tuck in to a skirt or pants. I also changed the bust darts to be straight rather than angled up so they'd sit at the right spot. But apart from those two minor modifications, the pattern was pretty much perfect.

The fabric is a rayon from Spotlight, bought last year. It's beautifully soft, and I love the vibrant colours in the print. Because it's an all over print I decided it had to be a long sleeve blouse - need to show off as much of it as possible! It frays a fair bit so I did French seams once again. Honestly I rarely do anything but French seams lately, they give such a nice clean finish.

I'm also really happy with how the sleeves look. I was worried that the gathered cuff would look too puffy and costumey, but it didn't end up as full as I thought it would. Instead, it's just got a nice bit of flow that really complements the drape of the rayon without the worry of getting in the way or dragging inadvertently in food.

Mostly it sewed up really well, apart from the hem. You can see in the photos that the centre fronts are slightly uneven. They were cut the same length, but when I folded the fabric under and stitched the hem the end got slightly stretched out of shape. I tried to redo it, but wasn't able to get it to fix properly. It might have worked better if I'd left the interfacing off the front, but it was necessary given the weight of the fabric.

Because the print is so nice I wanted to avoid visible stitching apart from the hem. So all of the front facing and collar are hand finished. I also used press studs instead of buttonholes, because as beautiful as this fabric is, it does love to fray, and I really didn't want to deal with buttonholes falling apart after the second wash. The buttons I used on top are maple leaves in a dark green-grey. They're cheap craft buttons, but I think they match the colour and print perfectly.

 So now I have a colourful and elegant blouse to add to my winter work wardrobe. And I've already made a second blouse from this pattern, a short sleeved version. I'll definitely be making more in the future.