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Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Bishop Sleeve Dress

It's really too cold right now for this dress. Made a few weeks back, even though it has long sleeves it isn't meant for winter days, so it's unlikely to get a proper wear for another few months.

The fabric is a rayon from Tessuti Fabrics that I've looked at a lot of times I've been in there but finally bought earlier this year. It has a nice wavey/shell print in pinks and greys and purples, but is still fairly muted. Initially I'd thought it would make a good maxi skirt, as it's very soft and drapey and has the right sort of breeziness. But I'm not really a maxi skirt wearer. So I found a dress pattern instead.

The pattern is another vintage re-release, a 1969 Simplicity Jiffy pattern this time. Being a Jiffy pattern, it was incredibly easy - they really are great patterns, especially for beginners. There are few patter pieces and none are complicated shapes, unlike my last make. The Jiffy patterns all seem to date from around the 1960s, and are all variations on classic shift dress shapes. In addition to the bishop sleeve this pattern's variation is deep shoulder pleats which gather it in at the top and open to fullness at the bust. Overall, the pattern has a last few seasons of Mad Men vibe.

I made three small changes to the pattern. First, I shortened the length by about 2 inches. Second, I didn't use a cuff band for the sleeves. Instead, I just folded over the end of the sleeve to make a channel, leaving a small opening to insert elastic. Once I'd done that I stitched the channel shut. In the end this has the exact same look as on the pattern sleeve, but with less effort. Finally, the original neckline was quite a bit more plunging, which combined with the loose shape wasn't exactly practical. So I pulled the neckline up and in about an inch each so that it sits flat and fitted.

The dress is quite loose, with a tie belt. I did take a photo or two without the tie belt which you can see below, but don't think I'll wear it that way normally - it's a little too sack-like for me. But for others who do like the loose shape it would make a good sack dress.

Although it isn't the right time of year to wear this dress right now I do like it. It's probably going to be a good trans-seasonal piece, the sleeves give a bit of extra cover but the rayon is lightweight and still fairly cool. And it was a very easy make, which I definitely recommend for less experienced sewists.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Phryne's Winter Blouse

After summer extended well into autumn, winter has decided to make up for it and arrive promptly here in Sydney. Last weekend was torrential rain, storms, and flooding, which stopped me being able to photograph another project I've finished. Instead, I spent the weekend (and the evenings of this week) on a new winter blouse that Phryne Fisher would love to wear.

The pattern is McCall's M7053. It's from their Archive Collection, originally printed in 1933. The lines and styling are very much Art Deco, but not overwhelmingly costumey. It means it's noticeably not you're average store-bought blouse, but doesn't slip over into playing dress-ups territory.

The main shape of the blouse is just a simple loose top with minimal shaping, with all the interest in the asymmetric cowl. It's a very weirdly shaped pattern piece. It curves around the back at the width of a slightly wider than normal collar and then at the front is basically a large distorted trapezium. Because the shape is very strange and it's not immediately obvious how it inserts into the blouse I wouldn't recommend this pattern for a new, inexperienced or unconfident sewist.

The fabric is a remnant piece of wool I bought at Pitt Trading. It's very soft and lightweight, but also surprisingly warm. I normally feel the cold and the air conditioning system at my work tends to mean I'm always wearing a cardigan or jumper but I didn't need anything over the blouse. It was warm enough by itself. Which is great, because it's such an interesting shape that you really don't want it covered up.

Being wool it was great to work with. It pressed very easily, which was useful for some of the facings and the cowl section. The cowl section is self faced and requires the seam allowance on the facing piece to be pressed down so that it's already folded in when it is attached to the main part of the blouse. First the outer layer of the cowl is stitched to the blouse, and then the facing piece is stitched over, hiding all the seams within. This wool was so good to press that it took all of about 20 seconds to get the seam allowances sharply pressed. The only issue was that, given it's a woven wool, it frayed like crazy. So every seam is bound with bias binding. This did add quite a few hours to the time taken to make the blouse. but it gives the seams necessary security and a neatness of finish.

One important thing to note about this pattern though is that the fabric requirement is pretty absolute. I often manage to use quite a bit less fabric than the pattern asks for. In fact, for this pattern the piece of fabric I had really wasn't big enough. In the end I had to shorten the length of the blouse. I like the length it ended up at, but if you do want it to be hip length like it's supposed to be then ou must buy the required yardage. I also used press studs under the buttons rather than buttonholes. That way I get the look that the buttons give it but don't have to worry about the fabric fraying.

I've named it Phryne's Winter Blouse because it really is something that Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (great show, and wonderful late-1920s costumes to look at if you're a fan of vintage fashion) would wear. The buttons on the blouse are in fact from the Miss Fisher Collection, which I picked up when I saw the costume exhibition recently. It's still on in Parramatta for another week or so, so Sydneysiders get down there quickly if you haven't yet. Looking in the gift shop I saw the buttons and thought not only were they beautiful, they'd also match really well with the fabric. This blouse was at the time my next-up make, so was already in my mind. I knew I needed buttons for it, so decided to buy these ones.

Overall this was a very involved make. The instructions weren't always completely clear, and they actually miss out telling you when to sew up the side seams, something you have to work out based on when the sleeves need to be insterted. But I'm extremely happy with the result. A fabric that suited the blouse so well was a great bonus.