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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Vintage Vogue for Frocktails

So the Sydney Spoolettes finally got around to holding a frocktails event last Saturday. Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra sewists have been much better organised than us Sydney sewists and have each held a few big events before, but it had only been talked about in Sydney. But thanks to the excellent organisational skills of Caz from Useful Box, Sydney has joined the party.

Frocktails is where you wear something you've made, book out a nice venue and get together with a bunch of other sewists to have some drinks, chat, and feel each others' fabric. It's a lot of fun, as you get to see all the different styles people wear, see patterns you've heard about made up into a finished product and talk about fabrics and sewing techniques without boring people out of their minds.

It's also a good excuse to make a pattern that isn't an every day style. Or, in my case, finally finish one off. This dress is by far the longest make from when I bought the pattern and fabric to when I tied off the last thread. In fact, I'd be surprised if there were many people who had a finished make that had taken as long as this one did!

This pattern is the out-of-print Vintage Vogue V2787, originally from 1948. It's an absolutely stunning pattern, with curved and gathered bodice seams, gathered shoulders and a curved and half gathered front skirt piece. I bought the pattern and fabric from Tessuti back in 2005 when they still had a store on York St in Sydney. The fabric is a silk twill called falling leaves or falling ivy (it's been over a decade, I'm not certain of its name) and is wonderfully soft with a great hand. I got the pattern home, pinned it and cut it out, and then realised I'd had a bit of a delusion of talent and definitely didn't have the sewing experience to make something as complex as this. So I put it back in its Tessuti bag and put it away for a decade.

I pulled it back out two years ago during the sewphotohop daily photo challenge on Instagram. One of the prompts was 'secret corner of shame', and an unfinished ten year old pattern was an obvious choice. I got a few comments telling me to have a go at sewing it up, so I took it out of its bag. I hand gathered along the seams, hand basting before stitching it together. The fabric has about 4% elastane giving it a slight stretch, but it sews together completely smoothly.

The dress has a side zip and button back. The button I used is from a box of vintage buttons I inherited from my grandma. I did all the seams by machine, but decided that the zipper, hem and sleeve caps needed to be sewn by hand. However I didn't finish the dress off then, I pinned the zipper in and moved on to other projects that were quicker and that I had a reason to sew.

Fast forward another year and a half to the start of this year, and I was starting to think about what I should wear to frocktails. I looked through what other fabrics and patterns I had but nothing grabbed me, so I thought I might pull this one out again and finally finish it off. But there were a few other things I wanted to do first (see my last few posts) so I didn't actually sit down to start finishing it off until about a week before the event. And not only did I have a long week at work, I was close to out of the bone coloured thread I was using. Nothing like a deadline.

The hand sewing was straightforward, just tedious. I decided to hand sew the last elements so that the hem, side and sleeve caps would look smooth with no stitch lines. That meant it took time and close attention to make the stitches as invisible as possible. I finally tied off the ends of the hem threat at 6:05pm on Saturday, barely half an hour before leaving to head into the city for frocktails. I gave the dress a quick press - missing a crease on the front of the skirt - got ready, and headed off to see all the Sydney Spoolettes.

Sadly I didn't get many photos at frocktails as I only had my phone and the venue was relatively dim, but it was a fantastic night. There were 70 women all in amazing outfits they'd made, great drinks and lots of food. It's taken a long time, but it was great to finally get so much of Sydney's sewing community together into the one room. Here's hoping we'll have more frocktails events in the future!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Friday's Frock

Just to be different from my last few posts that have gone on about how hot Sydney has been and how I've had to make something new that's cool enought to wear this summer, so this time...
I have a dress I made because it was so hot and I needed something new that was still appropriate to wear to work.

This dress is a vintage McCall's pattern from 1968, number 9438. I picked it up at a Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap in November (thanks whoever's pattern it was!). It's a very simple dress, with a semi fitted bodice and lightly gathered skirt to just above the knee. The style is classic and unfussy and the pattern was my size, so I brought it home with me.

The fabric is a Japanese cotton from Tessuti in Surry Hills. It has a texture that's a bit like linen, and is beautifully soft. It's a denim blue with a slight grey tone and a linear geometric pattern in black that looks a bit like stars, a bit like flowers, and a bit like tiles. It's neither casual nor formal, so is very versatile to wear, and the print has hints of a late 60s feel without being costumey. I cut the skirt on the warp and the bodice on the weft, just them look a bit different to each other.

I made a few minor adjustments to the pattern. The bodice originally had two sets of bust darts, both side and waist seam. I don't need both sets of darts, and also tend to find my ribcage is narrower than many bodices, so I folded the side dart in, which straightened the sides and brought the bodice in. The second change was one I made fairly late - lowering the neckline. The round neckline was originally very high, which was both a little tight and too warm for hot weather. I lowered it by half a centimetre all the way around. It's still high enough to keep with the original style of the pattern, but not so high that it feels uncomfortable.

I've worn this dress a few times, but took the photos last Friday, when it was almost 40 degrees. Normally we have casual Fridays, But last Friday there was a workshop I was involved with so I had to be dressed appropriately for a meeting with  external people, but that would be comfortable in the heat and running back and forth to make the workshop happen. This dress fit the bill perfectly.

Just a quick mention of my shoes too. They're Rollies, a Melbourne brand that I've seen around every now and then for a few years. A new shop just opened up around the corner from me and stocks them, so I finally decided I  could afford them. This pair are side-cut derby punch in rose gold, and they are wonderfully light and comfortable, even in very hot weather.  

The one drawback of this dress is that the fabric does fray a lot. So I'm going to have to do a bit of fixing to cover the seams, and especially along the zipper. But apart from that, this dress is great. And sure to get lots more wear.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Summer Sleepwear

It is hot.
This summer in Sydney (and a lot of Australia) has been ridiculous. We've had a record-equalling nine days over 35C - that's 95F for Americans - so far this summer and there's still almost a month left to go. It's too hot to do much sewing, or to wear too much. So light sleepwear is a must.

These two items are some of the few things I've made over the summer. Most of my old sleepwear is very much old and starting to fall apart. I also didn't have a summer robe for lazing at home during the holidays or on weekends when I don't feel like getting dressed just yet. So here are my Asaka Kimono and loose drape tank top nightie.

First up is the Asaka Kimono from Named Clothing. Named are a Finnish indie pattern brand who I know a lot of sewists have tried, but this was my first make. I actually bought the pattern during their pre-Christmas sale in 2015 (I bought 2 other patterns then too) but I only recently got around to making it.

The pattern is pretty straightforward without too many pieces. It does require a lot of fabric - and it isn't one where you can just lay the pieces like a jigsaw to save room. But none of the pieces are strange shapes, nor are there any awkward joins that need to be made. This pattern would be suitable for even fairly beginner sewists.

Because the fabric frays and isn't the greatest quality (although the print was too perfect a match for the pattern not to buy) I again did French seams. Of course I couldn't do French seams for the sleeves due to the vent, so instead I sewed those with a wider seam allowance and then rolled that under and topstitched it down.

I do think the tie belt is possibly a bit too long, which is my only complaint. Mine almost reaches the floor when untied, and that's after I managed to burn holes in one end and had to cut it shorter. Turns out the cheap $2 a metre fabric I bought at Spotlight is not friends with the iron, so this gown is just going to have to remain creased.

The nightie is the No. 13 Loose Drape Tank Top from Drape Drape. This pattern I have changed when I made it. The first and obvious change is in the fabric I used. As with most in the book, the pattern is designed for a knit fabric. However I'd bought metres of this black and white Deco-esque rose satin a few years back planning to make sleepwear. Seeing as I already had the fabric, I decided I might as well use it as I'd planned to.

The second change I made was to the pattern itself. The original in the book is much more draped at the side, down to the waist in the pictures in the book. I didn't want it to be that deep, so when I traced the pattern out I overlapped the two pattern pieces to narrow and raise it. The sides are still deep, but not so much that the nightie is about to fall off.

I didn't make any other modifications to this pattern, and like my Punto Drape Dress the pattern was incredibly easy to follow. It is made all in one piece, cut out on the fold and sewn up at the back, so it is very quick. It definitely taes twice as long to trace and cut the pattern out as it does to make it. It's a great pattern, and works in a woven just as well as it would in a knt. Again, recommended for sewists of all skill levels.

We've had a bit of a cool change come through this evening and tomorrow is going to be wet and a cool(!) 25 degrees, but the weekend is hotting up again, possibly to 40 (104F) on Sunday. So these lightweight sleepwear and lounging gown are going to come in handy for a few more weeks yet.