Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Seamwork Astoria Sweater

My sewing machine has been quieter than usual recently because I've been engrossed in my current knitting and crochet projects, but I did also find time to sew this quick little project last week. It's the Astoria sweater, which is one of the patterns included in this month's issue of Seamwork from Colette Patterns.

I subscribed to Seamwork from the first issue, so have a little collection of patterns building up ready to sew now, but the Astoria is the first one that I've actually made. The cropped style instantly appealed to me because it's a great length for wearing with my many fit and flare dresses (yes, I'm looking like a bit of a Colette fan girl in these photos and wearing it with my Moneta), and a little sweater is a very welcome addition to a pretty dress on spring days like the one in these photos which look lovely and sunny but still aren't exactly warm.

The other thing that drew me to the pattern was that the blue sample in the pattern photos reminded me of the warm jersey I used for my latest Bronte top, and I remembered that I still had a fairly sizeable chunk of it left. Thankfully for me, there was just enough there to make the shorter sleeved version of Astoria - yay for "free" fabric!

I made a medium at the bust, grading out to a large at the waist. I compared the length with the pattern pieces I altered from my second Enid sweater, and on the basis of that I also added an inch to the length for the Astoria. The length is now just right for me, and I'm pleased with the fit in general.

The Seamwork patterns are all designed to be fairly quick projects to create staple wardrobe pieces, and the Astoria definitely fits into that category for me. I think I might need a whole rainbow of them to go with various dresses and skirts.

The pattern is rated as taking one hour and, if you exclude the time taping together the PDF and cutting the fabric, that was fairly accurate I think. Everything goes together nicely and the instructions are thorough and clear so there's nothing to cause any problems here. Another reason to make more of them!

Have you sewn any Seamwork patterns? I'm definitely keen to make a Bristol skirt - it looks so comfy and, as an added bonus, it's named after my home town so it must be good!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

New Look 6262 - The Balloons Dress

How do you plan your sewing projects? Do you pick the pattern first and then find the perfect fabric, or do you get seduced by pretty fabric and then choose the best pattern to show it off? I'm usually in the pattern-then-fabric camp, but every now and then a fabric comes along which just demands to be bought and the pattern picking is left for later. That's just what happened for this dress!

The fabric looks good from a distance doesn't it? It's a lovely purpley blue background with a pretty collection of multi-coloured "polka dots". But look a bit closer, and you realise that those "polka dots" are actually...

BALLOONS! How fun! Although I feel like I haven't taken full advantage of the fun potential because I didn't follow Sue's lead of doing a balloon-filled photo shoot for this dress.

The fabric is part of the Lewis and Irene April Showers collection. I actually first saw it in a magazine advert for New Forest Fabrics, and liked the mix of colours in the print so went to look it up online. As soon as I realised that it was actually balloons not polka dots, I knew I definitely had to have some.

Then it was time to decide on a pattern. I was very close to making another Emery dress, but then I remembered that I had New Look 6262 sitting in my stash so I decided to give that one a go instead. I bought the pattern last year when it was on sale (which it seems to be now too - treat yourself!), because it's the fit-and-flare style that I love, with a couple of neckline/sleeve length options which make it a bit different from other patterns I've used. I particularly like the V-neck sleeveless option, so that's what I went with for this first version.

Based on my measurements, I made a toile of the size 18 bodice, but that was a bit too big all over so I went down to a size 16 and made another toile. That generally fit much better, but it was still too big around the underarms. I think if I'd been making one of the sleeved bodices a bit of extra ease might have been fine, but with the sleeveless version it was gaping a bit too much. I fixed that by taking in 1.5 cm at the side seam at the underarm, tapering out to meet the original seam line at the top of the bust dart. I also made my standard adjustment of adding an inch to the bodice length.

In real life, I'm happy with how the dress fits - but I'm not so in love with it when I look at these photos. I think it's a combination of the sunlight highlighting all the little wrinkles in the fabric, and the fact that this is most definitely quilting cotton and so its lack of drape means that it has a tendency to wrinkle as soon as I move. At the end of the day, how it feels in real life is more important than how it looks in photos so I'm happy with the fit overall, I'll just maybe use this as a reminder of why I've been avoiding quilting cotton for clothes. Where do you stand on that debate?

Other than the slight fitting adjustments, I also decided to line the bodice instead of using the facings provided with the pattern. That's just a personal preference because I always find that facings annoy me. Plus lining the bodice is always a good chance to use a nice contrasting fabric! This one is the same blue (poly?)cotton that I used to line my first Lilou dress - it worked well then, and it's done a good job here too!

Lining the bodice meant that I altered the construction order slightly for the bodice (I used the method I know from the Lilou dress), but other than that I stuck to the pattern. You may have noticed that I'm fairly familiar with sewing dresses with darted bodies and gathered skirts, but I read through the instructions anyway and they were all clear and easy to follow.

So there we go, another pretty new dress to add to my collection! For a future version (there's already one being planned), I'd probably add pockets (because who doesn't love pockets?!), but I think that's the only change I'd make. Have I tempted you to try this pattern?

Monday, 6 April 2015

Colette Moneta Dress

I don't know about you, but personally I think that weekends like Easter, which generally revolve around large amounts of not-especially-healthy food, are best enjoyed wearing clothes of the secret pyjama variety. Luckily for me, I finished this dress, my first Colette Moneta, just in time for this year's chocolate feast!

I've been meaning to make a Moneta since the pattern was first released, and I'm really glad that I finally got around to it. It was a great, and fairly speedy, project to make and the finished dress is so lovely and comfy to wear. 

As many people have said before me, the pattern is really well drafted and the instructions are excellent. When I first started sewing with knits, I thought I'd play it safe and stick to t-shirts before I branched out into dresses, but I think that I should have given Moneta a go before. The instructions are so detailed that I think it'd be totally achievable for a knit newbie - and a dress does seem more impressive than a t-shirt doesn't it?

I sewed the dress up exactly according to the instructions and everything worked nicely. I've read some people saying that they don't like the fact that the neckline is just turned under and stitched, but I think it's fine and I always think that anything stitched with a twin needle looks quite professional anyway. I might try following one of the methods in the recent Colette tutorial on binding knit edges for a future Moneta (you know there'll be more of them!) though, just for a bit of variation if nothing else.

The only part of the sewing process that I had any trouble with was gathering the skirt, and that was just because it was physically difficult to get my clear elastic to stretch far enough rather than being anything to do with the actual sewing. I did manage it though, and it got easier as I went round the skirt, so it wouldn't be anything to put me off making another Moneta. 

In terms of size, I used a medium at the bust and graded out to a large at the waist and hips. I also added 1.5 inches to the bodice length (a standard adjustment for me), and another 1.5 inches to the skirt - which has left it just slightly above knee length on me (I'm about 5 ft 9"). 

I'm pretty happy with the fit. It did initially gape slightly at the front neckline, but I think I might have just stretched it slightly when I was top-stitching the neckline down because a good steam seems to have made a big difference. Steaming also made a massive improvement to the hem - it was really wavy when I'd just sewn it, but it's nice and neat now.

I should probably have apologised before now for the fabric and the fact that all the tiny dots may be doing weird things to your eyes. Everything looks fine on my computer screen at the moment, but if the photos are slightly smaller the pattern does stop looking like dots and starts just looking like one big distorted mess. So sorry if that's what you're seeing!

The fabric is a cotton and spandex jersey from my fabrics. I got it when it was half price and they don't seem to have any now, but they do have lots of other pretty spotty jerseys. As I'd got the jersey for a good price, I was happy to use this as a test version because I knew I wouldn't be heartbroken if it didn't work out quite right. Luckily for me, that's not a problem I have to worry about, and I'm really happy with my Moneta.

I'll leave you with this picture of me trying, and failing, to look all nonchalant and model-like whilst sitting on a gate. In reality, I was really just desperately trying not to fall off backwards. One of these days I'll get better at posing for photos....

I'm now off to enjoy the tail end of my long weekend with chocolate and plotting of future Monetas. I hope you've had a Happy Easter!