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?!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Pauline Alice Seda Dress

I've been interested in sewing the Pauline Alice Seda dress pretty much since it was released, but for some reason other patterns kept beating it to the top of my sewing queue. The sleeveless version of Seda was one of my options for a dress to wear to my brother's wedding last year, but it got pipped to the post by Simplicity 1418 instead. The Seda kept hovering in the background of my sewing plans though, so I decided to include it in my 2017 Make Nine list.

It's not really surprising that I was attracted to the Seda pattern; it's my favoured fit and flare silhouette, with the added interest of off-the-shoulder short sleeves, a hip yoke and gathered skirt in view A, and a contrast bodice yoke, elbow length sleeves and a simple gathered skirt in view B. You've probably already guessed from those descriptions and the photos that I chose to make view B.

At this point I should say that this isn't entirely a Seda dress - I actually ended up using the skirt pieces from the Emery dress. I did that because the Seda skirt pieces are wider and I was ever-so-slightly short of my main fabric and couldn't quite fit everything in with those wider pieces. Rather than mess about with the Seda pattern pieces, I decided to use the Emery skirt pattern - it's just that bit slimmer that it made it possible for me to get everything out of the fabric that I had. The final look of the two skirts is very similar though, so this isn't too far from a true Seda.

Another change I made was to extend the centre back zip up into the yoke section, whereas the pattern intends for the zip to finish at the top of the main bodice section and for the centre back of the yoke to be open, closing with a small button and loop/hook and eye set at the neckline. That's just a personal preference, mainly because I find neckline buttons/hooks & eyes slightly fiddly to do up.

In terms of sizing, I used a size 44 at the bust, grading out to a 46 at the waist (with my standard addition of 1 inch to the bodice length). In each case, that's a size up from the sizes that my measurements put me in, but when I made up a toile in my actual size it came out just-about-fitting but a bit too tight to be comfortable. In hindsight, this may or may not have been due to the fact that I made the toile on Easter Monday and it had been a bit of an indulgent weekend! As it turns out, the final dress is a little looser than most of my woven dresses, but I quite like the slightly relaxed fit so it's all good.

The main fabric is a very cute origami boat print chambray that I got from Guthrie & Ghani on a recent trip to Birmingham with some lovely fellow Bristol sewists. It's out of stock now (I got the last of it - hence having slightly less than I really needed!), but they have some other lovely chambrays. The yoke section is some white Swiss dot cotton left over from making my Granville shirt, and I underlined it with some plain white cotton lawn to reduce the sheerness. I really love the combination of the two fabrics together.

The pattern was fun to sew - the instructions are clear and easy to follow, and I'm pleased with the end result, so I'm glad that I finally got around to making the Seda dress. The fact that the print is slightly more muted than some of my other dresses also gives me a nice opportunity to wear my lovely Isa Duval brooch. I treated myself to it a couple of weeks ago and I love how it brightens up plainer outfits.

I'm also happy to be able to tick another item off my Make Nine list - I'm now 3 down (my Aldaia and needlecord dresses are the other two), with another 2 well underway. Have you got a Make Nine list? If you have, how's your progress going?