Thursday, 18 August 2016

Flora and ice creams

Some fabrics just demand to be bought, don't they? This fabric did that to me! It's I scream, you scream from the Boardwalk Delight collection, and I picked it up from The Village Haberdashery. Clearly I needed an ice cream dress. Because an ice cream dress is a complete necessity, and not at all frivolous in any way. Obviously. The only question then was what particular dress it should become.

With a fun print like this an Emery dress is usually my default choice but, as it's also a really summery print, I wanted something sleeveless. I've made a sleeveless Emery before, but ultimately I fancied trying something new. I've seen many versions of the By Hand London Flora dress that I liked, particularly the tank version, so I decided to give it a go.

Or at least give the bodice a go anyway! While I love the delightfully full skirt that Flora is intended to have, this fabric just wasn't wide enough, so I reverted to type used the gathered skirt and pockets from the Emery.

I made a toile of the bodice in a size 12, adding my standard inch to the length, and the general shape was really good, but the fit from the bust down was just slightly too tight for my liking. To some extent, fit is a matter of personal preference, and my preference is definitely to have a nicely fitted bodice but still to have room to breath and enjoy the odd slice of cake. I'm sure I'm not the only one!

As I only needed a tiny bit of extra ease, I decided not to mess with the pattern pieces and instead to sew the side seams with a slightly smaller seam allowance. We're talking 1.3 cm instead of 1.5, but even that little adjustment made all the difference.

I really enjoyed sewing this dress. The instructions are nice and clear so the whole process was a breeze, and it all seemed to go pretty quickly. I know some people wouldn't enjoy the hand sewing of the lining down the zip and around the waistline, but thankfully for me I enjoy hand sewing so it's all good!

The only problem that I had was with the pockets, and that was all to do with the fabric. I originally used the outer fabric for them, but realised pretty soon after sewing them that you could see the ice creams on the pockets through the background colour on the skirt. So the pockets were promptly unpicked, and replaced with pockets cut from the same white cotton lawn as I used for the bodice lining. Problem solved!

One thing I'm particularly pleased about with this dress is the fact that I realised that if I cut things right then I'd be able to get an ice cream on each shoulder strap (the photo above is from mid-construction, so excuse the unfinished centre back seam and any stray threads). Small things like that amuse me. It's not very noticeable when I'm wearing the dress, but I know they're there.

All in all, I'm really happy with how this dress turned out! I know it won't be one of my most worn dresses, purely because I think the print requires really warm weather to be appreciated, but that doesn't mean that I like it any less. And it'll be one of my top wardrobe choices for sunny days. There are still a couple of other summery projects on my sewing list, so I'd better hurry up and get sewing so I can actually wear them! I'm not the only one still sewing for summer am I?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Winslow culottes

Where do you stand on the culottes trend? I'll be honest, it didn't really appeal to me at first. My main experience of wearing culottes was as part of Brownie/Guide uniforms back in the early 90s. Probably not the sartorial highlight of my life. But then photos of the Winslow culottes from Helen's Closet starting popping up on Instagram. They looked great on everyone I saw wearing them, so I decided to bend my usual "dresses and skirts only" policy and give culottes a chance.

The Winslow culottes are wide-legged, with the volume provided by four inverted box pleats (two each on the front and back), and are designed to be worn at any length from shorts to palazzo pants. The knee length version appealed to me most, probably because it's closest to the full skits and dresses that I'm used to wearing so gave me the chance to try out culottes whilst not really leaving my comfort zone.

The pattern was very straightforward, with thorough instructions and lots of clear illustrations to follow. All the notches and everything lined up perfectly, and the culottes came together really easily.

In terms of sizing, I made a straight size 14 based on my waist measurement. My hips should technically fall into the next size up, but as the instructions state, the wide legs mean there's plenty of room in the hips so there was no need for me to grade up.

I always intended to make a knee length version, but I actually cut out the midi length (view C) because I thought that I'd probably want my version a bit longer than view B, but I wasn't quite sure how much longer. This was both because I'm a couple of inches taller than the 5'6" that the pattern is designed for, and because I wanted knee length rather than above the knee. I made up the culottes, tried them on and then pinned them up to work out the length I wanted. In the end, my version is about 3.5" longer than view B from the pattern.

I chose to use a lovely viscose from Sewn because it drapes beautifully, and I thought that would work well for the culottes. Turns out I was right! It's really great fabric, especially for the price of £5 per metre. I was so impressed with it in the shop that I may have also bought some of the powder blue colourway to use for a top.

Talking of tops, the one I'm wearing here is another scoop-neck hack of the Sew Over It Susie blouse. I made this in exactly the same way as my first version - I'm really happy with how that one turned out and it gets lots of compliments (although I think that's mainly due to the fabric), so there was no need to mess with it.

This one uses some pretty Atelier Brunette fabric that I bought in the Black Friday sales last year and hid away to await the arrival of warmer weather. I'm happy it's now been used, because it's lovely to wear.

My Winslow culottes had their maiden outing last weekend and they were great - all the fullness of a skirt, but with the added practicality of shorts/trousers. Particularly welcome when you're out for a walk on a windy day because it means that you're in much less danger of unintentionally revealing more than you want to! I do love my slightly impractical skirts and dresses though, and these culottes won't do anything to change that, but I'll enjoy wearing them  and I'm already thinking of making a shorter version to wear with tights in winter. If you're thinking of giving culottes a go, I'd definitely recommend the Winslow pattern. Are you tempted?

Thursday, 28 July 2016

New Look 6217 x 3

Things have been a bit quiet around my little blog recently, initially because I was busy making things for other people (which don't always make it to the blog), and then because life itself got busy. I've got a couple of projects finished and waiting to be photographed now though, so there should be some more regular updates coming up. Starting with three versions of the same pattern - New Look 6217.

I'll be the first to admit that I would have completely overlooked this pattern if it hadn't been for the version that Handmade Jane made. I've seen a few versions cropping up online since then, so I suspect I wasn't the only one who she inspired to buy this pattern.

Personally, I was only really interested in view B - a woven t-shirt/top with grown on short sleeves. It's very similar to an old RTW top of mine that I'd been debating copying, but I knew it would have taken me a while to get round to doing that so I thought I'd take the easy option and get the pattern. Especially when New Look patterns went on a 50% off sale so it was less than £3!

The first version I made was the one above, using a fun seaside print viscose from The Textile Centre on ebay - they don't seem to have it in stock any more but they have lots of other lovely viscose prints.

I made a size 14, and the only alteration I made was to cut the back on the fold instead of as 2 separate pieces. This does eliminate the keyhole opening at the back neckline but, while they look pretty, I often find them a bit annoying, so that's fine for me. I have no problems getting the top over my head without the neckline opening - and if I can do that, then I suspect most people will be able to because I have quite a big head!

The top is a quick project - particularly when you eliminate the back seam, which leaves you with just one front and one back piece. The neckline is simply finished with bias binding (for all the versions I've sewn so far, I've made my own binding from the offcuts of the fabric), and there are no darts or anything even, so it's a really simple but effective piece.

My second version was using a star print viscose from Regency Rags, which again now seems to be out of stock. I think this version is slightly less successful than my first one, and that's entirely due to the fabric. It was definitely sold as a viscose, but is much crisper and has less drape than other viscoses that I've used before. This top really benefits from a fabric with a good drape, and this second version just doesn't hang quite as nicely as the first. It's still perfectly wearable though, and indeed has already been worn a couple of times since I finished it a few weeks ago.

Having seen my versions of the top, my Mum decided that she'd like one of her own - particularly when we went to Sewn the other week and she spotted this gorgeous Cloud 9 double gauze.

(As a side note, if you're in or near Bristol, I'd definitely recommend paying Sewn a visit - they're relatively newly opened and have a growing range of beautiful dressmaking fabrics, and a good selection of indie & vintage patterns, and haberdashery. And Marie who runs it is lovely, which just makes fabric shopping even better!).

Mum tried one of my tops on, and luckily it fit her nicely so making a version for her was no trouble at all. I haven't worked with double gauze before - I think mainly because I'd never felt any in the flesh and couldn't imagine quite what it would be like from online descriptions - but this definitely won't be the last time I use it. It did fray a little, but other than that it was no problem to sew and it feels so soft. I'll admit that I was slightly reluctant to hand this over to my Mum!

So there we go - three versions so far, and I'm sure there'll be more to come in the future. I think New Look 6217 has already proved to be a worthwhile investment for me!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Scoop-neck Susie & Emery skirt

This post is all about two patterns that I've made before, but in slightly different forms to how you may be used to seeing them. The first is a relatively new kid on the block - the Sew Over It Susie blouse, while the second is my most-used pattern - the Christine Haynes Emery dress.

I really like my first Susie blouse, which I made a couple of months ago. At the time, I mentioned that there was a piece of fabric sitting in my stash that I had earmarked for another version, and here it is! I bought the fabric - a lovely hot air balloon print cotton - from Guthrie & Ghani at some point last year. I bought it with the intention of making the Colette Aster, but then changed my mind. Since then, it's almost become a number of other tops, but something always stopped me from cutting into the fabric. When my first Susie was a success, I decided the pattern was what this fabric had been waiting for, but with a couple of changes.

Firstly, I thought that with a fun print like this, it might be better to keep things simple and make a collarless version - obviously a very easy adjustment because you just don't make the collar!

After pondering things for a while though, I thought that a collarless version might look better with a scoop rather than a V neck. This was also fairly simple - I just placed the scoop neck from a tried and tested pattern (the one I used for these two dresses) over the front piece of the Susie blouse, and traced it over. I think it worked nicely!

The Susie blouse is a straightforward and relatively quick project anyway, but omitting the collar means that it becomes really speedy. Much though I like the original pattern and the first version I made, I think I like this scoop neck even more.

Now for the skirt! This isn't exactly what I was planning to sew when I ordered this fabric. It's a linen and viscose mix from Fabric Rehab, which I bought to make a summery circle skirt. Sadly, either the fabric isn't quite as wide as it says on the website, or it shrank a bit during washing. I didn't measure it before washing, but mine's now a good 5cm less than the measurement on the website, and that 5cm was the difference between just about being able to eek out a circle skirt, and not having quite enough material to make a skirt long enough for my liking.

I had a brief strop to myself about not being able to do what I wanted, then decided the fabric would be equally as nice for a gathered skirt. I used the waistband from the Veronika skirt, which I know fits nicely from the versions I've made, and instead of just gathering a rectangle of fabric, I used the skirt pieces (and pockets, obviously!) from the Emery dress. For those of you not familiar with the pattern, the Emery skirt has a slight A-line shape, which slightly reduces the bulk of the gathers at the waist and I think is more flattering on me.

I'd definitely rate the top and the skirt as individual successes, made even better by the fact that they go really nicely together.

These two pieces of fabric both obviously decided that they had different destinies from what I had originally planned for them. That's fine by me, my sewing plans are always fairly flexible anyway, and it's always worth changing things around a bit to get the right outcome - don't you think?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

(Almost) Riley dress

It's no secret by now that I'm partial to treating myself to a sewing magazine every now and then, especially if there's a pretty pattern involved. So it was no surprise that when The Craft Network Sewing magazine was released with the Riley dress pattern, a copy came home with me fairly quickly and the dress was added to my summer sewing list.

The Riley dress has a fitted, lined bodice, separate waistband and gathered skirt. It comes with 2 bodice options - view A which is cross-over and sleeveless with a side zip, and view B with short sleeves, a square neckline and centre back zip. As you can probably see from the photo above, I chose view B!

The first thing that I should say is this isn't entirely a Riley dress. What the fabric requirements on the pattern envelope don't mention is that the skirt pieces are actually too wide to fit on 115cm/45" fabric unless you cut them on the crossgrain. 

I hadn't realised this before I bought my fabric (a strawberry print poplin, with contrast red poplin for the waistband, from a fabric shop in Barnstaple that I found when visiting my sister), and the print just wouldn't have looked quite right on the crossgrain. 

So instead of using the skirt pieces from the pattern, I swapped them for the skirt from the Emery dress (and, of course, I also added the pockets from the Emery). The skirts are very similar shapes, it just means I have slightly less volume in the skirt than the pattern intends.

The next point to make is that, unless I did something particularly bizarre, this pattern contains a LOT of ease in the waist. The only finished garment measurement provided is the length, so based on my measurements, I made a toile using a medium at the bust, grading out to a large at the waist. 

The bust fit well, but the waist was HUGE. I took in 2 cm at each side seam, which effectively turned it into a medium for the whole bodice. My toile seemed OK at that point, so I got on with cutting out the dress.

Sadly, once the actual dress was finished, there was still too much ease in the waist, which was surprising being as the waist measurements for the medium are 27.5-29 inches, and my waist is 31 inches on a good day, or 32 on a day when I've been eating more cake! 

I took the zip out again and took a wedge out of the centre back seam, removing 1cm on either side of the neckline, and blending out to take out 2.5 cm on either side of the waist, and back in to meet the original seam halfway down the skirt. So that means that I took a total of about 13cm/5 inches out of the original waist size based on my measurements, and there's still plenty of wearing ease. In hindsight, I probably should have just measured the waistband pieces and worked out the finished measurements from the start.

The actual making of the dress was pretty straightforward. I found the instructions clear and easy to follow. Having said that though, if I made this pattern again I'd probably ignore the instructions and go a bit off piste because I'm not 100% sold on the finish that it gives you. 

The main bodice and bodice lining are joined together at the neckline fairly early on, and then basted together round the remaining sides and treated as one piece from that point onwards. This does the job, but it means that the top of the centre back seam allowances end up being flush with the neckline, rather than being enclosed inside the lining as it would be if the lining were added after inserting the zip (which is what every other lined bodice I've ever made has done). 

I think the instructions may have you do it this way to ensure that the gathers at the waist (which provide the bust shaping) are even on the main fabric and the lining, but I think I'd rather gather them separately and spend time making sure they're even and have a nicer finish on the centre back.

As it is, I added to or ignored the instructions a couple of times anyway - I understitched the lining at the neckline , which isn't included in the instructions, and I didn't use the recommended topstitching on the waistband. I did give the topstitching a try, but I just thought it looked better without it. 

All in all, you can probably tell already that this isn't my favourite pattern. The waist sizing is definitely a bit off, the finish that the pattern produces isn't the neatest, and I don't think the pattern envelope tells you all the information that it should. That being said, I'm reasonably happy with the finished dress. I'm not sure that the waistband is that flattering on me, but the dress is comfy and the print is pretty so it'll still be worn I'm sure. Has anyone else tried this pattern? Is it just me that's slightly disappointed by it?!