Thursday, 10 August 2017

Sew Over It Doris Dress

Do you have any garments in your wardrobe that get a bit overlooked? Until recently, the Sew Over It Doris dress that I sewed up last year had sadly slipped into that category. I wore it a fair amount just after I made it, but somehow since then I'd forgotten how lovely it is and the dress had stayed neglected on the hanger. Once I put that right, I enjoyed wearing it so much that I quickly decided that I needed to make a second Doris dress.

I wonder whether one of the reasons that I hadn't been wearing my first Doris dress so much is that the ties get a bit in the way of cardigans (because you often need a cardigan still in the British summer!), so this time I decided to use the fixed back belt instead. That also creates a bit more of a difference between my two versions than just using different fabric, which is never a bad thing.

Other than switching the ties for the belt, I did everything else just the same as I did for my first version. I blended between a 12 at the bust and 14 at the waist/hip, with 1.5 inches added to the bodice length. Also, the buttons down the front of the bodice are there for decoration only - there's no need for them to function because of the side zip so I just sewed them through both front bodice pieces.

The Liberty tana lawn that I used for my first version worked so nicely - it's the perfect mix of fabric that's easy to handle but has just enough drape for the Doris dress - that I decided to use a prized length of Liberty fabric from my stash for this second version. The print is called Suzy Elizabeth, and is my favourite Liberty print that I've used so far. I made a dress using the navy colourway of the same print a couple of years ago, and I've got another length of the navy in my stash which I'm intending will become a shirt this autumn. How many times do you have to use the same print before it becomes an obsession?! What can I say? I just love all that tiny crockery!

I should mention that my fabric buying budget isn't generous enough to just be buying Liberty fabric at RRP as often as my last few projects would suggest! A lot of the tana lawn that I've used has come from Kat's Fabrics on ebay which sells factory seconds, making them much more reasonable prices. I've bought fabric from them quite a few times now, and I've only found a small fault on one piece - the rest of them have all seemed perfect to me.

While we're on the subject of fabric, I think the fabric requirements stated on the pattern envelope for the Doris dress are really generous. I made a 12/14 (with length added to the bodice), and the fabric requirements state 3.2m for 12 and 3.7m for 14, but I used well under 3m - I'd say 2.8m at the very most, and this is a directional print. That's OK (it just means I have bonus fabric left over for another project!), but it's something I'd bear in mind if I were buying fabric for another Doris.

All in all, I'm really happy that I rediscovered my original Doris dress and gave myself the motivation to make this second one. It's a lovely floaty dress to wear and, as I've already detailed at length, I love tana lawn for summer weather. Let's just hope that we get a bit more of that soon so that I can wear it some more!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Vogue 9239 dress

As many of us are aware, with commercial sewing patterns it's often a good idea to look past the photos on the pattern envelope and pay closer attention to the line drawings, and that's definitely true for Vogue 9239 as far as I'm concerned. While some people would love the oversized and frilled sleeves that are a key feature of most of the views of the dress, they're not really my thing (if nothing else, because I couldn't be trusted not to get them caught on everything or covered in food when cooking or something!). The simplicity of view D, on the other hand, really appealed to me.

Alongside the host of dramatic sleeve options, Vogue 9239 features a fitted, princess seam bodice and a choice of a slim or full panelled skirt. Views A and D omit the sleeves altogether and instead have wide yoke pieces which almost feel slightly like cap sleeves. The shape reminded me a bit of a more everyday version of Simplicity 1418, which I made last year - while I love that dress, the off-the-shoulder look isn't the kind of thing I wear on a daily basis.

I debated a bit about what size to sew given that commercial patterns are notoriously generous in their sizing. Looking at the finished garment measurements, I was pretty sure that the size based on my measurements would be a bit roomy, but the size down might be a bit tight. I decided to toile my actual size (with my standard addition of 1 inch to the bodice length), going with the theory that it's easier to make things smaller than it is to add extra material to make things bigger.

As expected, the toile did turn out to be a little on the spacious side. I took a wedge out of the side seams measuring 2cm at the underarms, tapering in to 1cm at the waist and that greatly improved things. I've decided that I like to have slightly more ease in the waist of dresses when it's warm so I haven't made it overly snug still - it's fitted enough to give shape without making it too clingy in the heat.

I also decided to raise the side seams by 1.5cm at the underarms. As you can see in the photo above, I think if I hadn't done that then the underarms would have been a bit low and there would have been a risk of exposing underwear. Similarly, I brought the neckline in by 1.5cm at the shoulders just to make sure that bra straps wouldn't be too much on show. My final adjustment was to add 5cm to the skirt, which is just a height/length preference thing.

The dress was nice and easy to sew. I admit that I didn't pay too much attention to the instructions - I lined the bodice, but left out the underlining that the pattern calls for (I'm intending this to be a summer dress so I didn't want to add unnecessary layers), and I didn't line the skirt. I also used an invisible zip instead of a lapped one, which meant that I altered the order of the construction steps slightly. On the odd occasion where I did do what the pattern told me though, the instructions were clear and easy to follow.

Having said in my last post that I wanted to have a whole summer wardrobe of tana lawn dresses, this is another one to add to the collection. This time the print is called Eleonora, and it was an ebay bargain (there's currently none available from the seller I got it from). It's a really lovely print, and happily goes perfectly with the greeny bead necklace that I'm wearing here, which I've had for ages and love but have never been sure what to wear it with until now!

I really like how this dress turned out, and I'd definitely think about making another version of Vogue 9239 in the future - although I don't think it'll be happening any time soon because there are too many other plans swirling around in my mind!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A double dose of New Look 6723

It's been a little while since I last posted. There's been no shortage of sewing going on in the meantime, but the projects I've been making have either felt not worthy of their own blog post (pyjama trousers for my nephew, and a very simple t-shirt for my dad) or they have been for people who don't necessarily want to be subjected to a whole blog photo session (my mum). Thankfully the dress I made for my mum turned out so nicely that I decided to make my own version which I'm here to share with you today.

The pattern is New Look 6723. I made a couple of versions of view D of this pattern a few years ago (here and here) and I've worn both of them a lot so, given my proclivity for making certain patterns repeatedly (I'm looking at you Emery dress!), it's surprising that it's taken me this long to make another version.

I was mainly prompted into making this because, having promised to make a dress for my mum, I was having a bit of trouble getting toiles of the original pattern she picked (Simplicity 8294) to fit. I'd got a bit frustrated with the whole thing so one weekend when I was staying with my parents, I had one of my earlier 6723s with me and got her to try it on because we're a pretty similar size other than the fact that I'm a bit taller. It fit really nicely, so the original pattern was abandoned and I set about tweaking 6723 slightly to fit with my mum's requests.

Mum definitely didn't want the sweetheart neckline, so I used view B of 6723 but lowered the neckline slightly using the Simplicity pattern as a guide. Other than that, the only changes I made were the same as for my two first versions, namely using an invisible zip instead of a lapped one (which meant I slightly altered the construction order) and adding in pockets. And as soon as I'd finished my mum's dress, I cut out a second version of my very own!

I persuaded my mum that she did want to make a cameo blog appearance really, so this is the version I made for her. It's sewn using some lovely Seasalt fabric. I'm extremely happy about Seasalt selling fabric! I've been saying for ages that they should - I love a lot of their prints and in the past I'd have happily bought their dresses, but now that I sew I have to admit that, like most RTW dresses, the waistline is slightly high on me. So it's excellent that they've somehow read my mind!

The fabric is lovely quality - it's fairly light weight so I think you'd want to line bodices at least, but that's fine for me because I prefer lined bodices anyway. I've got a length of the Corde Fleur Night print sitting waiting for me to decide what to sew with it, and I'm seriously tempted to treat myself to another print as well.

Anyway, I'll stop gushing about Seasalt fabric now and gush about Liberty tana lawn instead because that's what I used for my version. This particular print is called Mushaboom, and I picked it up in the Liberty sale back in January. I love the fact that the print is a bit larger scale than most tana lawns, and also that the colours are so saturated.

It really is gorgeous, and tana lawn is great for wearing when the weather's hot. So much so that in the recent heat wave I semi-jokingly declared that I want enough Liberty dresses so that I can get through any heat waves clad exclusively in tana lawn. My fabric budget is far from limitless though, so I might have to build up that collection gradually by taking advantage of sales and/or ebay bargains!

All in all, I'm really happy with how both of these dresses turned out. It's a lovely summer dress shape - nice and breezy for when the weather's hot without being so sundress-y that it looks like it should only be worn on a beach. Don't be surprised if you see more of them round these parts in the future!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cocktail (Shirt) Dress - #sewtogetherforsummer

When I made my first Vintage Shirt Dress nearly two years ago, shortly after Sew Over It had released the pattern, I ended my blog post by asking what fabric I should use to make version number two. Well, it's taken me a while to get round to it, but now I can answer that question - better late than never hey?!

The fabric in question is a fun cotton poplin print which features multi-coloured cocktails, interspersed with little hearts and stars. It came from Backstitch, but I picked it up back in the January sales so unsurprisingly it doesn't seem to be available any more. When I bought it, I did have in the back of my mind that it might become my second Vintage Shirt Dress, but I put it away until the weather was slightly more suitable for a sleeveless dress.

I was given the incentive that I needed to dig the fabric out of the stash and get sewing by the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge that's being hosted by Sarah, Monika, and Suzy on Instagram. It's a very simple challenge - just sew any shirt dress that takes your fancy and post a photo on Instagram before 21 June to be in with a chance of winning some lovely prizes! And if you're pondering sewing a shirt dress but aren't sure of what pattern to use, browsing through the beautiful dresses already posted using the challenge hashtag will give you lots of inspiration.

I was really happy with how my first Vintage Shirt Dress turned out, so I kept things pretty much the same for this version, cutting a size 14, but with 2 inches added to both the bodice and the skirt. Like last time, I again had to take a bit of width out of the side seams at the underarms - I really should make that adjustment on the pattern pieces.

The only thing I did slightly differently was to use a couple of extra buttons. If I had any complaints about my apple print version, it would be that the neckline sometimes gapes open a bit more than is ideal. It's not so bad that I've felt the need to go back and alter it, and I still happily wear it, but it's noticeable enough that I made a mental note to add another button higher up when I sewed the pattern again. It's only slightly visible in most of these photos, but my top button is right at the bottom of the lapel - when I'm wearing it, it's actually mostly hidden by the lapel.

The buttons I used are some fairly basic plain bluey green ones that are a perfect match for one of the colours in the print. I had an ambitious idea that I'd somehow manage to find a range of plain buttons which were available in all the four main colours of the cocktails on the fabric, but sadly that wasn't to be. The shop where I bought these bluey green ones also had some perfect red ones in the same range, but just the green and red together had a slightly Christmassy appearance which wasn't really what I was after. So I let go of the multi-coloured buttons vision, but I'm not at all disappointed - the greeny buttons look great!

I'm very glad that I finally got around to making a second Vintage Shirt Dress, and I think I might possibly like this one even more than my first one. This summer could become my own little season of shirt dresses because I have ideas for a couple of others that I've been mulling over - Vogue 8577 or another Pauline Alice Cami dress are currently top of the list. Have you got any other favourite shirt dress patterns to recommend to me? Are you joining in with #sewtogetherforsummer?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sew Over It Ella Blouse

The Sew Over It Ella blouse instantly appealed to me when it was released because, as a waist-length top, it's perfect for combining with the waisted dreses and skirts that make up the majority of my wardrobe. So I didn't waste too much time in buying it and sewing it up.

The Ella blouse is a wrap top with 3/4 kimono sleeves, and it's secured with long waist ties. The side seams pleat into the tie at the waist, which I think is a really pretty detail.

I treated this version as a wearable toile; while I usually make actual toiles, I think this top really needs a drapey fabric and my normal toile fabric is cotton with little drape, which I thought wouldn't really produce a good representation of what this pattern should look like. Instead, for this first version I used a viscose print that I bought on a recent Bristol sewists trip to the rag market in Birmingham. It's just the right weight for the Ella blouse and, while I really like the print, I wasn't too attached to it so I was happy to use it for a new pattern that wasn't guaranteed to be a success.

I went ahead and cut a straight size 14 with no alterations. I was tempted to lengthen the blouse because, as regular readers may know, that's an adjustment that I almost always make, but the finished garment measurements looked like it might turn out just about OK so I decided to risk it. As it turns out, it is definitely wearable but I would lengthen it by an inch or two for the next version. Other than that, the fit is fairly good as it is.

Sewing the blouse was a fairly stress free process. The instructions are detailed and clear, and they produce a nicely finished garment. I particularly like the way the facings are sewn because, in my version at least, it makes them keep to the inside of the blouse really well. I think that's particularly crucial for this pattern, because the long cross-over front edges could be susceptible to facings popping out, but thankfully that doesn't seem to be a problem.

The Ella pattern claims to be perfect for beginner, intermediate or advanced dressmakers, but I'm not sure I'd have wanted to make it when I was a true beginner. Or if I had made it as a beginner, I think I'd have used a cotton lawn instead of viscose. There's nothing particularly complicated about the pattern itself, but I think you'd want to have used a drapey fabric for a slightly more simple top before trying this. Unless you're feeling adventurous of course!

I'm wearing the blouse here with a little vest top underneath because I wasn't sure whether it would gape a bit while I was wearing it, but that wasn't much of a problem apart from when bending down.

You can probably see that it comes up a little bit short for wearing with a skirt (it sits just above the waistband of my skirt), but it is definitely wearable, and would be OK with a dress I think.

All in all, I really like the Ella blouse and can definitely see myself sewing more versions in the future. I think a plain one would make a nice cover-up over dresses as an alternative to cardigans. I'm not sure when I'm ever going to get time to make any though because my sewing list is already massive. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that problem, am I?!