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?!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

My Me Made May

This year I decided to take part in Me Made May for the first time. My pledge was to wear at least one me-made item per day, which I thought would be fairly do-able, and I was right. So much so that I actually decided to up the challenge part way through the month to see if I could manage without repeating whole outfits - and (thanks in part to warm weather making occasional appearances, allowing more summery dresses to come out of hibernation) I did!

(If you want any pattern details, they're all on my Instagram feed)

I'm in two minds about whether I should be proud about that or not - in some ways I definitely am because it shows that I've made a lot of things that I actually wear, but in other ways maybe it shows that I have more clothes than I really need.

I am conscious of constant fabric shopping and excessive dress making not being much better on a general sustainability level than high street fast fashion, but I also know that sewing, and creating pretty dresses in particular, makes me happy and keeps me sane. I also love my wardrobe now more than I ever have done in the past, and I feel so much more confident (something that I often struggle with) when I'm wearing something that I've made. So while I probably don't technically need to sew anything new for a while, I think it's safe to say that won't stop me from cutting out a another dress later this week.

So, what have I learnt from this Me Made May?
- The pattern I wore the most was the Emery dress - not a surprise! It's my favourite and most-used pattern
- Emery was closely followed in the popularity stakes by the Veronika skirt. My denim one in particular is a staple in my wardrobe
- While I wear a lot of blue. Also not a surprise. And not a bad thing - blue suits me and I like it!
- While that's true, I do like adding more colours into the mix - particularly when the sun's shining

- There are some me-mades (mostly fairly early creations) languishing in the back of my wardrobe that I didn't want to wear this month. I should probably think about passing them on to a charity shop. I'm a hoarder by nature so that might be hard though!
- If there's a gap in my handmade wardrobe, then it's probably knit dresses. I'm generally comfy in my woven dresses/skirts, but there are some days that need secret pyjamas! Something to work on...
- My flat is a very boring background for photos. I'm looking forward to the day (which may not be too far off - fingers crossed!) when I don't have to live in a rented magnolia paradise.

My main conclusion is that I actually wear me-made most of the time anyway so this didn't feel like too much of a challenge, and I'm pleased with that. I still enjoyed celebrating my creations and seeing what everyone else was wearing though - I'll definitely join in again next year. Did you take part? How did you find it?