Clarissa dress

Hello lovelies! I’ve missed you! I have miraculously managed to sew something in the last month, and I’m so keen to share it with you.

This is Vogue 8811, in the rayon I bought in Bali.

Description: Pullover dress has shoulder pads, semi-fitted bodice, French darts, bias, flared skirt, back keyhole closure with button/thread loop, side snap/extension or zipper closing, cap sleeves, and belt. A: Purchased trim. B: Bust pocket. Circa 1940

Recommended fabrics: Linen, Crepe de Chine, Lightweight Broadcloth

 

This one was a bit of a journey. I thought up this pattern and fabric combo while lying in bed desperately trying to stop thinking about work long enough that I could go to sleep (it’s been a BUSY month. I don’t usually think about work outside of work hours – one of the perks of my job is it stays at work). It was prompted by how much I love my Dorothy Lara dresses. I needed another dress that was weather appropriate for the late summer, and given how busy and stressful things have been I needed it to be easy to wear. I love those 50s and 60s silhouettes but it’s hard to beat the comfortable, functional ease of a ’40s dress. When I know I’ve got a rough day ahead and I want to feel and look good without having to put any thought into what I’m wearing throughout the day, I reach for my two DLs every time. I wanted more of that in my wardrobe!

I also wanted to use this fabric soon. It’s very on-trend, and I love it, but I was worried that if I left it in the stash too long it would look and feel dated and I wouldn’t want to sew it any more. So I wanted to figure out what to do with it soon.

I’ve had this pattern in my stash for some time, but I’d bought the wrong size. I had the size 4-12 size nest not the 12-18. Going by my measurements I would normally sew the size 14 , grading to a size 12 at the shoulders, with a 2″ FBA. I didn’t realise my size snafu until I was partway through cutting out the tissue pattern pieces. I figured it was a pretty simple shape, given that I would normally cut size 12 shoulders anyway perhaps I could just add on some width to the sides and do that FBA and call it good.

Pardon my mystery bruise. Looking pretty impressive though!

This sort of worked. The trouble is it has this cool waist dart – it’s angled and one side is curved and you ease it together to create extra shape. It’s REALLY interesting, and makes the bodice sit really nicely, and it’s also quite hard to do an FBA on! I’m not at all sure I did it right and I probably should have sewn it up without the FBA first so I knew what it was meant to be like. However, after the FBA and cheaters grading up, I had a muslined bodice that looked pretty good and sat right, so I cut out the fashion fabric.

The ‘grading’ involved adding 1″ to the front and 3/4″ to the back of both bodice and skirt. I also lowered the front neckline by 1″ at the neck tapering to nothing at the shoulder seam.

By the way, my lovely blue wall now has a bed in front of it so I’m auditioning new photo locations. The best options were this boring grey-blue wall in my craft room with one million powerpoints on it, or outside. Outside worked well but I think it would have been better if I’d waited an hour because I had trouble finding a good spot in regards to the sun and so I only got a few good photos. I’ll work on it.

Anyhow. The dress. So I sewed it all up and tried it on and it was HORRID.

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Noooooo I was not trying to sew a caftan! Or a mumu

The FBA had added length in a weird way, and the rayon was quite droopy and the waist was totally uneven and also way lower than it should be and dipped drastically at the front. Ack! I unpicked it and laid out the bodice and just hacked it off even at the bottom. I’d say there was about 4″ extra at the centre front! Then there was some back and forth of basting and unpicking of seams in a totally unscientific way that will come back to bite me if I ever make it again because I didn’t really write down what I was doing because I did it in bits and pieces over a couple of weeks in a period where I was very stressed and frazzled.

What I ended up with was a dress where (after said hacking off evenly) I took about 1″ off the waist seam – I just sewed that seam at a larger width so it ended up taking the skirt up too. I also took almost all of the width I’d added in at the side seams back out again although I did keep most of it in the seam allowances so that I can let it out if the rayon shrinks up. I think in a firmer fabric I might still need the width, but in the rayon and with such a busy print, it just looked frumpy and saggy. The pattern had instructions for either a hand picked zipper or an extension with snaps, but I found that I could just pull it over my head quite comfortably so I just sewed up the sides. Again, probably wouldn’t be possible in a firmer fabric but works really well for this.

I was going to add pockets in but with all the adjusting I ended up serging one of the skirt side seams shut and I couldn’t be bothered unpicking it. I really would like pockets because the neck is so high I can’t access my alterna-pocket (aka my bra). But then pockets in rayon are a bit less functional anyway, so dunno.

The waist seam is still a bit wonky, and I’m not sure if it’s my terrible hacking of the pattern, or just the way the rayon is hanging. The bra I’m wearing also really changes how this hangs – I guess because it’s such full coverage, the position of my bust point totally changes the drape of the bodice. Yet another lesson in wearing my good bras to sew in.

Those issues are lost in the busy print though so I’m not too fussed. Also I’ll probably always wear this with a belt anyway which covers some sins, although it would benefit from some belt carries to keep it in place. The pattern has pattern pieces for a belt and I was going to make a black one but I don’t have an appropriate buckle so for now it’s this white one or nothing. I like the way the white lightens it up though.

The sleeves have facings and I HATE them. Hate. They’re flippy and chunky and terrible. I also think I need to take 1cm off the top of the sleeves and that would reduce the amount they stick up. If/when I make this again I’ll either line it like Tanya did, or bias bind them. The pattern includes pieces for shoulderpads, so perhaps that would change the angle of the sleeves? I chose not to make them although I would like to have a go some time just to see how it’s done.

Hateful

This pattern has a bunch of nice vintage touches that I really appreciated – it’s one of the reasons that I rarely buy newly drafted patterns. I have or can hack most things from my existing pattern stash, but I always learn a lot about technique or elegant drafting from vintage (repro) patterns. That said, the instructions did have you press down the seam allowance on the waist and then top stitch it to the bodice from the right side, which I tried but found totally bizarre and almost impossible to keep straight. Is there a reason for doing it this way? When I was making my adjustments I unpicked it and did it the regular way.

The neck facing I like though. It’s really neat and well drafted, even if I did also have to hand tack it down.

If I make this again I’ll take an extra 1/2″ off the neck all the way round (but not at the back neck). I like how it sits at the back of my neck but it’s sitting too high up otherwise, and in a stiffer fabric would be uncomfortable. It’s ok in this but it does bunch a little and in wearing it sits away from my collarbone a little bit.

I also sewed the side seam/armholes up higher, because they were pretty gapey under my arms. I probably should adjust the pattern to take them up even higher next time, I think. I liked that the pattern had quite an angular curve for the sleeve – a mod I usually have to make myself for cut on sleeves. The sides do pull a little but that’s the tradeoff you make for a cut on sleeve.

The sides pulling make the back hem look like it’s hanging too low in a lot of these photos. It’s even on the hanger – I hung it for a week and the hem didn’t seem to grow but then once I hemmed it it was way lower front and back. I liked the length though so I went back and hemmed the sides shorter so it is now even. However when i move around it pulls up an inch or so on the sides, making the back in particular look low.

I think I’ll give it some time to see if it grows any more and then take it up again at the back. Even if it is technically even when I’m standing totally still, the reality is that it will always hike up, so I may as well account for that from the get go.

The back neckline has a button and loop. I did a thread loop using this method, although it’s a little thin and hard to loop behind my head, next time I would use a double thickness. The button is from my stash and you can sort of almost kind of see it below. I do forget to unhook the button before trying to take it off 100% of the time. Because I am a fast learner…

I am so totally thrilled with this dress. I debuted it at work on Monday and it was so comfortable all day, and I felt so elegant and put together. I had several compliments and one person asked if I had ‘had it made’ and was blown away when I said I’d made it myself! (Side note, I am starting to feel more comfortable telling people I make all my own clothes. It feels nice, and I’ve never had anything but a positive reaction, and very little of the sort of bewildered or condescending praise I have been used to. Just people genuinely interested and impressed. It’s so lovely.)

I will definitely be making this pattern again. I’d love to find a good plaid to play with the grainlines – and the skirt is cut on the cross grain which means that even though it’s quite full you can cut it out of a narrow piece of fabric.

TL;DR What I made:

  • Vogue 8811 in size 12
  • 2″ FBA
  • went back and chopped the bodice to be even (ish)
  • Added 1″ to side seams of front bodice and skirt, 3/4″ to side seams of back bodice and skirt (most of which was taken out again but which I would keep for a firmer fabric)
  • Took up waist about 1″, losing a total of 2″ length from both the bodice and skirt
  • Lowered neckline 1″ at front neck tapering to nothing at front shoulders

What I would do next time:

  • Line the bodice to eliminate sleeve facings
  • drop neckline a further 1/2″ all round tapering to nothing at the back neck
  • POCKETS!
  • Would probably be worthwhile muslining the bodice with no mods so I could see how the waist seam is supposed to look and what the curve should be so I can adjust my pattern and not have to keep fiddling with it to get it right.
I especially like these photos with the soft light that looks like a film photo on a cheap family camera. It reminds me of so many family photos taken in the garden.

I also thought a lot about the ‘dress like your grandma‘ challenge while sewing this. I won’t claim this for the challenge because this dress wasn’t inspired by the challenge so that would feel like cheating. But I couldn’t help thinking that probably the reason I like the fabric so much is that it’s very similar to the curtains in the ‘back room’ at my grandma’s house – the room which was a playroom and where we all slept when we slept over there. Lots of fond memories of that room, although I can’t seem to find a photo of the curtains.

In fact I don’t have a lot of photos of my grandma. There’s a family album somewhere but it never seems to be brought out even when I ask. In the last decade my grandma has lost her husband, two children and all her siblings so I get the impression she’s not keen to reminisce, so I haven’t pushed it. But all the photos I have of her she is wearing a dress in a similar cut to this – cut on sleeves, high neck, circle skirt, some kind of botanical print, and which she would have made herself.

Here she is with all her kids (if you include the youngest who she was pregnant with at the time so does that count?). She would have made her own dress and almost certainly all the clothes in this photo. My dad is the one in the front in the overalls with the excellent pout. He and his sister next to him on Grandma’s lap are both dead now. Judging by the ages this would be late ’60s.

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And here is my grandma with my cousin (the daughter of my aunt to the left of my Gma in the above pic) and I in about 1984.

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I’m the one awkwardly sliding off my cousin’s lap… I just realised that less time passed between those two photos than between the latest one and now. Wild!

As she and I get older I’m starting to have a deeper but also more complicated relationship with my grandma – I’m realising the ways in which she and I are very different, have different values and priorities. Not in a bad way, but in a way that complicates what has always been a relatively simple relationship for me. I get the impression she never really ‘got’ either my father or myself. But she didn’t have to to love us, and love us she did. I dunno, I’ve typed out and erased various comments several times, I don’t know that I can articulate what my grandma means to me as a person and as a relation. I do know it’s important.

I think a lot of (although not all) that draws me to vintage shapes and patterns is my association of them with her, with her elegance and class and sewing skills and love. Sometimes it feels very retrograde to like these clothes, and I worry about it and what it says about me, and what the world sees when they see me in these outfits which happen to be what I feel emotionally comfortable in. Especially in the recent political climate. And why IS it that I happen to be comfortable in them? I fluctuate between feeling tired of my own navel gazing and feeling it’s important to interrogate these things even if there’s never a final conclusion because it’s complex.

“All this could be perceived as nostalgia for an age of innocent exuberance. Indeed, this may be part of the story, but there is also the natural process of reappraising past etas, searching for inspiration, tracing social patterns and making sense of our origins” – Peter Cuffley ‘Australian Houses of the Forties & Fifties’

Morgan dress

Hello folks! I’m working away at some of that blog backlog, so I’m starting with the last thing I had intended to blog. To be honest, I think this one might be responsible for my general feelings of malaise re: blogging. Quite unfairly, I now think.

Here’s another version of the Dorothy Lara dress by Decades of Style.

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Construction-wise, there’s not much to say about this one. I made it almost exactly the same as my last version. It’s a size 44″ bust with a 3″ wedge taken out of the top neckline to reduce the blousing. I switched the zipper to the right hand side and left off the pockets. Simple. I did think about changing where the skirt gathers and making it across the whole dress or maybe even only at the sides. but because of how the dress is assembled, that would be a bit fiddly, or I’d had to have changed the construction order. So I left it as is. I did gather both the front and back bodice evenly across the middle, rather than at two points as directed by the pattern. I also left those un top-stitched. I did top-stitch the skirt and the neckline in black thread.

However. because of the fabrics, this one feels and acts really different to my last.

This one is in a rayon from Spotlight – it’s printed with little zebras:

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It was originally just a black and white print but I dyed it at the same time as I did the material for the sav-anna dress. I was always intending this to be a dress in this general silhouette but after sewing the green fabric up and realising that I just don’t really like wearing prints that much, I didn’t feel very motivated to sew it up. It’s also a little bit splotchy – I really should have gotten a bigger pot to dye in, so it’s slightly uneven. I avoided the worst bits when cutting but I ended up with a darker patch at the top of the skirt, and a lighter patch in the middle of the torso. I don’t think  it’s super noticeable – I see it because I’m looking – but I do worry they might look like weird shadows. If i decide it bothers me I can always overdye it another shade darker, to even it out.

He cried until I picked him up and then he wouldn’t let me put him down for the rest of the shoot.

After my first DL dress, I decided that I might like this print in this dress. I can’t figure out exactly my beef with prints but it’s specifically on my torso, and somehow the folds and gathers on the DL mitigated whatever it is that I’m not so keen on about prints. Honestly, I just can’t work out what my problem is with them, just that I feel not like myself if I wear prints near my face – the same way I do if I’m wearing autumn colours or super short skirts. Just not me.

Look at this ridiculous animal and his ridiculous feets.

I also knew I wanted to sew a rayon version of the DL dress to wear in Bali – last time I went I wore my Japanese flowers dress all the time and it was perfect – light and breezy, shoulders covered, easy to wear. I knew the DL would be even better and a rayon DL would just be perfect. So I cut this out and sewed it up and was very pleased with it. And then I tried it on and took photos and when I looked at the photos I just felt bleh about it.

I’m glad I waited to blog this – I did start before I left for Bali and the tone of that post was ‘I feel frumpy in this dress, I kind of hate it’. Now I’m back and looking at the photos again I don’t even know what my problem was! It’s fine! It looks good! I think it was a combo of being very very tired and also it didn’t look quite how I was expecting. Compared to the cotton version, the waistband is considerably looser even with interfacing, and also the rayon is heavy and drapey, so the torso area is much more droopy. For comparison, here’s me wearing both dresses in Bali, on the balcony of our villa.

 

S took these photos and insisted I posed

 

You can see the rayon version is much more sack-like and has less shape in the body. This was absolutely a plus side in humid Bali, but it left me feeling a bit glum. Like Leah said, I still do wince a tiny bit when I see myself in this dress, especially that photo where it’s loosened up a bit with wear. It’s not the silhouette I was expecting, quite, and my personal style is really sensitive about that sort of shape. It’s so interesting to me how such a tiny difference takes me from thrilled to disappointed in a make. I think this is why I tend towards overfitting for things that need ease in the mid torso, like shirtdresses. I have a fine line there between what I feel good in vs what feels ill fitting. I think I need to work on this because it’s objectively not accurate and, frankly, it’s not practical because a gals’ gotta have sitting room in her dresses!

Feets

I did in fact wear it almost constantly in Bali. Honestly, I should have sewn one more DL dress and then taken only these dresses and maybe one pair of shorts. That was all I wore. It was as perfect for the climate as I had predicted.

In-action shot making peanut sauce at the cooking class we took

The waistbands are noticeably different – I notice in the cotton one that it sits right on my body whereas the rayon one sort of hangs out from it. So I suppose I could always take it in a bit. But I don’t think I will bother. Body image issues aside. I do wish that I had remembered that I was intending to take some length out of the centre back to account for my swayback. It droops quite a bit there and I can feel it dragging a bit as I walk. I also need to increase those neck darts to reduce how it sits up at the back of my neck.

I also can see that I could have taken some length out of the front in this version – the waistband sits a little bit below my actual waist and there’s folds and gaps there in certain photos. So if I were to make this again in rayon, I think I would take maybe an inch or even just half an inch out, to find a bit more of a compromise between fitted and loose and comfy. I am also hanging this draped over the hanger rather than with the hanger in the shoulders (does that even make sense??) to reduce the amount of dragging that the bodice is subjected to. Rayon is heavy!

That said, it’s possible that the rayon will firm up more in multiple washes, in which case it will be perfectly fit in about six months. Even if it doesn’t, I am still (now) very happy with this dress. It’s not how I was picturing it but it’s definitely fine, and it will be a perfect summer dress. It will probably be a weekend dress rather than weekday because I don’t feel quite neat enough in it to wear it to work but honestly I need those in my wardrobe just as much – and my office is too cold to ever wear rayon dresses in, anyway.

So there we have it. I’m very glad I waited to blog this and I think I might finally be getting the lesson to not judge my makes by how I feel the second I put them on, because that moment is often overshadowed by too high expectations and weird body image feelings.

I reckon I could manage at least one more Dorothy Lara in my wardrobe, too… what a great little pattern this is!

The Sav-Anna dress

Hot off the back of the struggles with my last BHL Anna dress, I thought I’d launch into this one, to try out the adjustments I’d made last time.

Insides. I love the contrasting zip – you can’t see it at all from the outside. I managed french seams throughout this time, neck and shoulders just serged and turned again.

The fabric is a zebra print rayon from Spotlight – it comes as a black and white print, and I dyed it green using Dylon dye. I initially did it in the washing machine and it came out a pale pale mint colour, so I re-did it in a pot on the stove. The pot wasn’t really big enough so there were a few areas with less dye uptake, but with the pattern you can’t really see them. I cut around the biggest areas. The dye colour is imaginatively called ‘green’.

I cut everything on the cross grain to have the pattern going the way I wanted, and I got this out of 3m of fabric, since the fabric was quite wide. I cut the skirt 4″ shorter than the pattern, knowing it would be still too long, which it was. But when I trimmed the hem after trying on somehow it came out all wonky and one side was already a bit shorter than I wanted it – I guess I wasn’t paying much attention by that point. So I evened it out and serged it and left it at that. Luckily I had bought thread that exactly matches the colour.

I cut the bodice with adjustments made last time – an extra inch on each bodice seam tapering to nothing at the underarm. But it came out too big! I think this is because it’s a loose, drapey fabric, AND it’s on the cross grain, so it doesn’t really need as much wriggle room as my last version, in a much firmer fabric, did. I unpicked and sewed in smaller, so there’s still probably an extra 1/2″ at the side seams. I’m not sure I like it, it makes it just loose enough that it feels a bit frumpy.

However, it maybe doesn’t matter because this dress is probably doomed. Even as making it I was worried it would be too much. In theory, I really like it. But I think it’s not ME enough to feel ok wearing something so loud. I am debating whether to give it some time and a few wearings, or whether to just take it apart now and make it into a skirt and a top. I would probably wear it a lot as a skirt and a top, separately! Trouble being, I’m in dire need of some plain black skirts and without that I’m not sure what I’d pair it with. I have a real hard time finding decent quality bottom-weight fabric, here. And maybe the dress will grow on me? Objectively I think it probably actually looks better on me than the last, teal version. But I just don’t feel as at home in it.

I was going to say that at least I made it for Jungle January. But zebras don’t live in the jungle, they live in the Savannah. So, this is my Sav-anna dress! I did try a little tiger claw action but they were so ridiculous I’ll only show you my reaction to them:

 

 

Anna, thy charms my bosom flatten

How’s that for a more interesting title? Thanks, Robbie Burns.

Here is my second version of the By Hand London Anna dress.

My photoshoot yielded some blown out results and then I got lazy and used a preset to adjust them. They look overprocessed now, so I apologise. The colours are pretty accurate, though.

The fabric is rayon from DK fabrics – it was labelled ‘lycocell’ but that’s rayon, pretty much. I bought it at the same time as I got the black rayon I used for my first Anna. This one feels thicker and denser – once I washed it on warm (to avoid distressing shrinkage later) it thickened up even more and now it hefts almost like a heavy silk. As you can see it’s pretty wrinkly too but as I’ve said time and again, that’s natural fabrics for you! It’s less obvious irl and I don’t mind it. This is straight off the line, no ironing, mind you. I took it out of the washer as soon as it was done and the wrinkles just fell out, so that’s a plus! But a few hours of wearing it means it wrinkled again. That’s life.

I cut the same size as last time – size 18 bodice, no adjustments. I was going on auto though and cut the skirt out at a 20 without thinking. That proved providential, in the end ~~foreshadowing~~. When I first sewed it up I did NOT get a good fit – I had a boob squish situation:

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It’s hard to take a photo of it, but trust me it was VERY obvious in 3D. You can kind of see in the above photo that my boob is kind of square. It was like someone had wrapped a rubber band around my bust. This is how I felt about it:

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Not good. Not good. The back was also too tight. Like, sausage casing tight. I spent a while mucking around and unpicking seams and resewing them. I tried sewing the side seams at 5cm instead of 1.5. That reduced but didn’t fix the issue. So I took out the zip and sewed that with a smaller seam. But then I sewed it in so one side was back to front, and had a mini hissy fit when I realised. I put it to one side, making a mini WIP pile with my B6055 and refused to sew anything for a week or so, because sewing is stupid.

After photographing and blogging B6055, I started to feel better about it – and thank you everyone for you nice comments about it! It helped a lot. I think high expectations were the cause of a lot of my disappointment, although I still shake my head at the hem and zip. But I no longer felt like sewing was stupid and awful, so I picked up Anna again. I re-set the zip and tried it on and my boobs were still squished. So going off of what I’d seen in the difference between the bodice shaped in B6055 and Anna, I decided to insert a 2″ panel in the side seam. With seam allowances this meant I added approximately 1.5″. This solved the problem entirely, although I did end up taking a dart out of the top because it was making the sleeves gape at the underarm.

Can you see the panel? It’s just visible.

I then took the front pleats in a bit because it was a bit roomy there. I had originally sewn them a bit smaller so I probably just put them back to as-drafted. I could maybe have taken the back darts a bit smaller, too, I am getting a bit of gaping there, but I do also use that room when moving in other ways, so that’s fine. My black version sometimes feels a bit tight across the mid-back when I’m sitting at my desk, and I didn’t want to replicate that.

I sewed one of the pleats a bit too high up but I’m not going back to fix it.

I also took a wedge out of the back neck, as that gapes on my black version and I find it really annoying.

My black version does have the boob squish issue but not as drastically – I suspect this fabric has less give and so there was no wriggle room at all.

I cut the skirt at the ‘midi’ line. But it looked like it was going to be really short, to me, so I cut it with 2″ extra length, figuring I could always cut it off later. Turns out it was basically the perfect length, I just turned up a 1cm hem. If I made this length again I think I would cut it 3″ longer and do a 1″ hem.

I had originally sewn the skirt together with 1.5cm french seams. Then when I realised the skirt was a size bigger than the bodice I just sewed them so the seam allowance was 2cm, but I only went a little way down, figuring I’d finish them off once the bodice was fitted. This was convenient, as I simply unpicked that, left the seams at 1.5cm, and it fit the bodice nicely! I compared the sizes and I still think the 18, adjusted, is better for me than the 20, because of the shape of where I need the extra room.

I am not sure the waist is sitting in totally the right place – I feel like it emphasises my stomach a bit. But then perhaps that’s just because I have a stomach! Whatever, I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. There is a bit of folding happening there, though, perhaps I could shorten it a half centimetre or so next time. I almost certainly can’t be bothered, however!

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Zip is from Lincraft because Spotlight didn’t have anything approaching the right colour and anyway, I think Lincraft’s haberdashery range is better in variety and quality. Don’t ask them for help though, I have asked about tailor’s hams and tracing wheels and no one there knew what I was talking about. I had to explain what carbon paper was before I could explain a tracing wheel, and I’m pretty sure the young woman serving me still didn’t know what I was talking about. Madness – but I shouldn’t trash talk them because I then sent them a mildly cranky email about it (my NY resolution a few years ago was that if I cared enough to complain about something to other people, I should let the business know as well) and got a very quick, very polite email thanking me and saying they’d do some more stock-knowledge training.

ANYWAY. The inside started out being mostly French seams but ended up with a fair bit of serging as I lost patience, and had to sew smaller seams. The waist is sewn and then serged to finish (plus a few zigzags where I ripped it whiel unpicking too aggressively. Ooops! Well within the seam allowance though so I’m not worried). The neck, arms and hem are all serged and turned over. The facing is SO annoying in my last version, and I just couldn’t be bothered. So far I think the neck finish looks just as good as the facing does, but we’ll see how I lasts – I suspect it will pucker over time.

I am really really pleased with how the zip went in the final time. The waist seam matched beautifully.

I am very glad to have this in my wardrobe! I pretty much only wear me-mades now, and since I’m not a fast sewer that means my wardrobe rotation is pretty limited. I am finding I need another dress I can wear when there’s a heatwave – the last few weeks have had temps up to 40C. This fits the bill perfectly! And I also needed one for when the weather is maybe 30C or so – and my blue linen works perfectly for that – the underlining makes it a bit too warm for heatwave wear. I showed this to S and he said ‘you’re so clever! You just whipped up two whole dresses this [long] weekend!’ I very politely did NOT laugh in his face, I just bathed in the praise instead! 😛

I have another dress cut out to sew and I am hesitating starting it because I feel like the sewing Gods have kind of turned their faces from me… tell me, how do you all get over the hump when you feel like everything you touch turns to ashes? Quick cleanser project? Just persevere? Turn to knitting? Let me know!

Two quick tees

After I made my moneta, I had a fair bit of fabric left over. Just the perfect amount, it turns out, for a Kirsten Kimono Tee.

Not much to say about this one, I mean it’s a two piece pattern in a fabric I’ve used before. Cut the same size, did the same finishes. I tried to pattern match at the side seams and was mostly successful.

Due to the fabric distorting on pre-washing, the front stripes are a bit wonky again, like my Moneta version, but only mildly. Again, it’s much less obvious in person. Again, as you can see, I cut against the stretch.

Sleeves and hem are zigzagged, and I took 1″ off the length, and a 1″ hem. It’s still pretty long – long enough to get caught up on my butt! As you can see. Neck is finished with the same binding method. I’m a bit in love with it (can you tell?). I used the walking foot for this project as well.

After I was done, I went back to sewing my dang curtains. But I kept thinking about how I knew I had offcuts from my Tennessee dress. So in between wrestling with metres and metres of fabric, I dug it out. I thought I had enough for another Moneta, and I probably would have if I’d cut carefully. But instead, after I cut out the bodice, I realised that no matter what I did I didn’t have enough length for a skirt. A too-short skirt is something I know will prevent me from wearing a make, so instead I made another tee.

Because I’d already cut into the fabric, I had to do some fast work to make it work. I needed a backseam, and I took the opportunity to take some fabric out for my swayback, although it’s less of an issue in a drapey knit.

I also had to shorten it significantly – a couple of inches at least. It’s closer to normal tee length on me now. The neckband was done with a 3″ band, and I love how chunky it is. I’m considering going back and doing the sleeves with a thick band, too. I forgot to put the walking foot back on my machine so the sleeve hems are a bit rippley but that’s ok.

Can’t beat the quick thrill of a tee! Plus, the fit is lovely and the fabric cool and soft to wear. I don’t want to take them off! I have had to, because it’s actually cold today (that is to say, the high was something like 26). I’m sure I have some more small ends of knit fabric in my stash. I really should get back to those curtains, but then again, stash busting is good, right? [adjusts halo]

A quick moneta

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your 2015 was a good one, and that 2016 is going to be even better!

I go back to work on Monday so of course the last few days have been a bit of a frenzy of getting the last few jobs I wanted done before I go back (with considerable breaks for lolling around in between). It’s also cooled down enough to get into the craft room, so I’ve been churning out some quick projects! The two main tasks left for me are sewing and lining a bunch of curtains, and putting my cutting table together properly. The first is deadly boring and tedious and annoying, and the second involves sorting through stash and finding things that are MUCH more interesting and DEFINITELY have to be sewn. Immediately.

The first of these is a Moneta in some more rayon knit from spotlight. I bought this after I made my Ottobre Women’s ‘Tennesse’ out of a different print in the same fabric. I expressed a lot of doubts about that make at the time but it turns out it’s perfect for summer days at home, and I wear it all the time. That said, it’s still poorly finished so I only wear it on ‘home days’. So I thought I’d have a go at a more polished dress.

I cut this dress across the stretch, because I wanted the stripes running horizontally. It has about the same amount of stretch both ways, anyway – or almost. I should have given myself maybe an extra 1/2 cm on the side seams, it’s a little snug around the stomach area, but not too much. Just enough to notice. The bodice pattern I’ve adjusted to be XL at the bust and L everywhere else, and I cut the L in the skirt. The sleeves are the L sleeve cap and the XL sleeve width.

I thought I’d give the actual skirt of the moneta a go, since I’ve made the bodice a few times but not the skirt. I found the shirring with clear elastic quite difficult – I believe this has been mentioned by others. I just couldn’t get the elastic to stretch as much as it needed to, and ended up something like 1/4 of the circumference short. If I made the skirt again I’d use an un-measured piece of elastic to gather, and then gather again onto the bodice.

The fabric is a dream to wear, but a bit of a nightmare to cut out. It’s slippery as all get out, besides having stretched out when hung on the line after pre-washing. So I tried to pattern match, or at least keep the pattern straight, and sort of didn’t quite manage. The droopy line along the front of the skirt makes me a bit nuts, but it’s not as obvious in person, I don’t think. It also depends a bit on how it’s sitting over my stomach, how obvious it is. Because of the tightness of the bodice it does tend to ride up slightly.

And the back is totally sloped but oh well. I like the print enough that I think it overcomes the annoyance of the wonky lines. The bodice was initially MUCH worse, the bottom of one side had stretched out and so it was very droopy and weird and super obvious with the stripes. I had to unpick it and fix it, which was a pain with this fabric. My machine also had a bit of trouble with this, it couldn’t keep the tension using the stretch stitches so I just used a zigzag for all the seams and hems. I did dig out my walking foot for this, I’d been putting off using it because I was scared of it but it took me all of 30 seconds to work it out. When will I learn? And it did make the sewing process much easier. The neck binding is done the same way as the Kirsten tee I made last, but with something like a 2″ binding this time, which worked much better.

So there we are! I think this took me about three hours to make, and a very satisfying make it was, too. I still can’t over how well the bodice for this dress is drafted. It’s well and truly a TNT pattern for me, these days.

By Hand London Anna dress

I have FINALLY made this dress! I have read maybe a dozen posts where people made this and said ‘I must be the last person on the internet to make this!’ Nope. And I won’t be either, but boy it did take me a while to get around to it. Although my email tells me I bought it in February 2014 – I had thought it was longer than that! I got it from sewsquirrel, who I really recommend. Great range of patterns, equivalent prices so you’re not paying the Antipodean Tax, free postage and they send them out really quick!

I first muslined this some time in 2014, at a Craft Camp. I tried the size 18 and it clearly needed an FBA – it was pulling at the side seams and the back wouldn’t meet up. So last June I took it to Craft Camp again and did the respobsible FBA adjustment and muslined it up again. It backfired – it was massive on me.

Not exactly the elegant, figure-skimming dress I was hoping for – and that the first muslin had promised. Plus weird wings of fabric at my underarms, and all kinds of fitting issues. I threw it in my WIP pile in a miff and sewed other things. I thought about it now and then and eventually I thought I’d try sewing the original bodice onto the skirt and see how that went.

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It was perfect.

Ok not perfect, still a little right in the stomach area, but… pretty perfect! I have lost a teeny bit of weight, mostly off of my boobs, so perhaps that is why? I wouldn’t have thought it would be such a drastic change but if there’s one thing I’m slowly learning after having it hammered in to me by dumb mistakes, it’s that a little difference can hve a huge effect, when it comes to fitting.

So I got to sewing, because not only had I been dreaming of this dress for a while, but I had an event in October that I wanted to wear it to.  Besides, I was reading Genevieve Valentine’s VMA recap (if you don’t read her blog you should, it’s great) where she comments on all the ‘leg pops’. So I figured that the trend will be over soon and I’d better get on it!

It even fits my swayback pretty well!

Fabric is rayon from DK fabrics bought ages ago with the Anna specifically in mind. It was pretty narrow so I bought 5 metres and I used most of that. I initially cut the skirt as the pattern specifies, because I wanted to see how the length was. In the end I took about 6″ off, though, so I could probably squeeze this out of 3 metres of wider fabric – it’s the long skirt pieces and the way they flare out at the bottom that makes this a fabric hog. That 6″ would mean I could do some tesselating and save some fabric.

I did initially try toget it out of some other rayon I bought at the same time, which is wider but was a bolt end so I had something like 2.4m or some odd number, and it wasn’t quite enough. Enough for a midi version though!

This rayon is quite thick and heavy. I have to hang it folded over the hanger because if I hang it normally it sags and pulls at the waistline. Plus side is, if I hang it to dry, gravity pulls all the wrinkles out!

I french seamed everything except the skirt seam where the split is, which is overlocked and then sewn as a regular seam, and the split turned twice and stitched. I could have been more precise in this – the split angles out a bit but since the split is quite far to the centre, I don’t think I would get the appropriate amount of leg flashing otherwise :P. I shortened the split considerably – by about 6″ – because I am not comfortable flashing that much leg, and also I always wear bike shorts so it would be a moot point. My longer shorts do still peek out. I’m considering doing some unpicking and shortening the split another 4″ or so.

I included this one to prove that my hands aren’t welded to my hips…

My sweetie, S, took these photos for me in the Botanic Garden, which was lovely. It was actually really fun, and people were very friendly and nice about us hogging the path. Someone even stopped and offered to take a photo of both of us, which turned out great and is nice to have because S hates having his photo taken so I don’t have many of him! I was really shy about having my photo taken in public but it was actually great! I wish I’d had the energy to try a couple of different locations, especially because the shadows make this black dress hard to see. But it was the end of the day and we were both tired.

I bought these bracelets to be part of a costume. They turned my wrists green.

I took a bit of a wedge out of the front bodice to deal with the hollow chest effect, and stay stitched the neckline pieces IMMEDIATELY after cutting, to prevent sagging out. This worked really well and the neckline sits wonderfully. Oh, except, I used a facing as per the pattern, and facings are the devil. God I hate facings. That said, once I wrangle it into submission after putting it on, it does sit nicely – a bias finish wouldn’t look as neat. Next time I would consider lining the whole bodice so I didn’t have to do a facing!

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I went and took a quick backyard selfie so that you can see how the pleats release a bit strangely. I’m not really happy with how they sit but I fiddled a bit and couldn’t seem to make them any different, so I gave in and accepted it. I was unwilling to keep fiddling if I wasn’t sure it would fix things. Maybe if I made three smaller darts?

I read Mary saying that she made the darts bigger and that fixed it but it didn’t seem to help me. I also tried tapering them in, which also appeared to do exactly nothing. In the second muslin I converted them to darts to solve this problem so I guess I could try that. I’ve already lowered them and that did help but there seems to be a sweet spot and I’m as close as I can get to it and they still do that weird hollow thing. If anyone knows how to make them sit nicer, please let me know!

After typing all that out I went and had another look at the By Hand London site and all of theirs release like that, too. So maybe I’ll just get over it 😛

This photo tells me I should maybe put in a hook and eye

I took the neckline in about an inch – just drew the shoulder line another inch out and then used my french curve to re-draw the neckline. As drafted it would have exposed my bra straps.

The only other adjustment I made was to sew the pleats and skirt seams in the stomach area a bit looser. I wasn’t very precise about this, but I added probably 3/4cm all up. I need to trace off the skirt pattern pieces so when I do that I will also retrace the bodice, and adjust all the front pattern pieces a bit more precisely. I did have to do a bit of easing to get everything to line up, and it’s still not perfect so it would be good to have it prepared for next time. Still, the black hides a multitude of sins.

In the end, this adjustment worked perfectly, it fits very comfortably, and I ADORE how I look in this dress. I feel like a goddess, and the rayon scroops as I walk.! I am going to make the midi version out of the teal rayon I have, and I am contemplating mashing this bodice together with the Japanese Flowers skirt for another version.

The event I wanted to wear this to was a Spring Picnic with a ‘things of the forest’ theme. I found some sparkly poly mesh in Spotters and decided I would make my anna and then make an overskirt for it. I made the anna skirt again, and sewed some ribbon on for the waist, and tied it around, and ta-da! Costume!

I think this would look really good for an overskirt sewn in to the waistband, too, and caught and turned with the split seam. I just tied it so that the opening of the ‘wrap’ skirt was over the split.

This face is because Steve was teasing me about something, who knows what. Good thing the wind didn’t change…

I am so glad I finally made this dress. I know there have been some comments on the internet as to the quality of the BHL drafting. I’m not sure I can speak to that – I do know I found it very hard to adjust, so I guess I’m glad I magically fit into it again! It is a lovely finished dress, though. I can’t help thinking how lovely it would be in silk, like Foxgloves and Thimble’s version. I’ve been planning this dress for a couple of summers now, I’m glad to finally have it to wear!