Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Simplicity 1418 dress

This weekend just gone my brother got married. An occasion like that demands a new dress, don't you think? And obviously I had to make that dress. I knew I wanted to stick with my favoured fit and flare silhouette, but with some sort of feature to stand out from the dresses I wear on a daily basis. I looked through my pattern stash and eventually settled on Simplicity 1418.

This is a pattern that I got free with a magazine at some point and to be honest I'd forgotten I even owned it, but it was just what I wanted for this project. Simplicity 1418 is one of the Pattern Runway series, which has various bodice options and a pleated skirt. I decided to omit the back inserts and shoulder straps, and use the off-the-shoulder sleeves.

I made a toile of the bodice using a size 16 at the bust and grading to an 18 at the waist, and making my standard adjustment of adding an inch to the length. The fit was good, apart from when it came to the sleeves - they were huge! I took a large wedge out of the middle of the sleeve piece, which greatly improved things but there was still a bit of extra room so I slimmed them down again. I think in the end I took around 3 inches out of the sleeve, and adjusted the elastic and casing that help hold the sleeve in place by the same amount.

That meant I was ready to move on to creating the actual dress. I considered a whole range of fabric options, but the winner in the end was this lovely viscose and linen mix from Sew La Di Da. It's a really gorgeous fabric, and I think the large scale print helps to make it stand out from my everyday dresses.

It is quite a thin fabric so I decided to underline everything with white cotton lawn. I'm really happy I made that choice - not only does it ensure that the fabric is opaque, it also makes the colours look more vivid.

I cut everything out in a single layer to make it easier to get the print placement right. I wanted to make sure I had one of the groups of 3 poppies in the centre of the bodice, and then carry that on down through the skirt. The front bodice also has princess seams, and I matched the pattern up as closely as possible between the centre front and side front sections. I'm glad I put in the effort to do that - I think the bodice could have ended up looking a bit of a mess with this print otherwise.


The sewing process was all straightforward and the instructions were easy to follow. I decided to line the bodice instead of using the facings. I used the facings on my toile and there's absolutely nothing wrong with them, but I just prefer the clean finish of a lined bodice, especially for a dress like this. I also added 2 inches to the length of the skirt pieces just to make sure that it would be a nice elegant length.

To top it all off, I used some of the remnants of the fabric to make the simple flowers that you can hopefully just about see in my hair in these photos. The benefit of making your own outfit is that it's easy to make sure your accessories match because you can just use the same fabric!

 I really enjoyed wearing this dress - I was slightly concerned that the off-the-shoulder sleeves would annoy me, but they didn't at all. I think having the elastic underneath the sleeves really helps them to stay in place and stops the bodice from slipping. It's not going to be one of my most worn dresses because it is a bit special, but it is definitely one of my favourites. Now I just need someone else to get married so that I can wear it again!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Megan Nielsen Reef PJs

My summer pyjama selection has started to look a bit sorry for itself. Winter sleepwear has a regular annual replenishment in the form of cosy Christmas presents, but most of my warmer-weather PJs have been worn so much that they're verging on falling apart and really need replacing. I've considered various summer PJ patterns before, but none of them ever seemed quite right - apparently I'm quite picky in my loungewear requirements. Then Megan Nielsen released the Reef camisole and shorts set, which ticked all my boxes.

The camisole is cut on the bias, has a V neckline, a cross-over back yoke and a high-low hem. The shorts come in two versions - one with pockets and a curved hem, and a second shorter version with no pocket and a straight hem. I made the first version, but omitted the pockets because I wasn't sure how they'd work with this fabric and, much though I love pockets in my daytime clothes, I didn't think I'd use them much in pyjamas.

One of the first things to point out about my version is that I did something a bit wrong when constructing the back - mine doesn't cross over as much as it should. I think I must have matched up the wrong notches or something, but everything seemed to be working out fine so I only noticed once I was a bit further down the line. Being as they're pyjamas, and so it wouldn't matter if the fit was a bit off, I decided just to plough on and not go back and unpick things. Happily, the camisole still fits nicely, although I'll make sure that I get it right next time because I do like the cross-over yoke.

I would say that this mistake is entirely down to me, and in no way a reflection of the instructions or the pattern. I'll openly admit that I was reading the instructions pretty quickly as I went along. When you're actually paying attention to them, the instructions are perfectly clear and easy to follow, with helpful added tips along the way like block fusing the interfacing instead of cutting out the interfacing and fabric pieces separately and then fusing afterwards.

In terms of sizing, for the camisole I graded between a medium at the bust and a large at the waist. Due to the loose shape, I could probably have got away with making the whole camisole in a medium, but I wanted to stay true to the breezy, flowing shape intended in the pattern. I made the shorts in a straight size large, and they fit nicely.

I'd say that both the camisole and the shorts have just the right amount of ease to make them nice and comfortable (as you want pyjamas to be), whilst not being so baggy that they become sack-like and unflattering.

The fabric I used is a pretty viscose that I picked up on a whistle stop tour through the rag market in Birmingham. My uni friends (none of whom are into sewing) and I have a habit of converging on Birmingham to meet up for the day from our various areas of the country, and I always seem to arrive before everyone else, which really just "forces" me to go and look at fabric while I'm waiting. It's a tough old life, isn't it?!

Anyway, this is lovely and drapey and was only £2 a metre. Perfect for trying this pattern out for the first time. I'm happy to make toiles for actual clothes, but it would seem a bit over-the-top for pyjamas to me, but at the same time I wouldn't want to commit expensive fabric to a pattern and end up disappointed. This way, it wouldn't be a disaster if things went a bit wrong. Thankfully that didn't happen!

I really love my Reef set. For me, they're pretty perfect as summer pyjamas - small enough to be nice and cool to wear, whilst still being covered up enough for me to be able to wander round my flat in them quite happily without having to worry about the fact that my neighbours can see right into most of my windows. The only thing I regret about this is that I didn't get round to sewing them earlier in the summer. I think I probably won't fit in sewing a second set this year, but another Reef set will definitely be high on my sewing list for next summer.