Sunday, 31 July 2011

Not quite a wadder, but not wearable (yet)

As I've made so many jersey dresses over the last few months, I wanted to make something out of a woven, and a sundress seemed a good idea - something quick and pretty and useful.

Yeah, it didn't quite turn out that way...

I picked a pattern from my stash (a random 80s-ish pattern that I think I was given by my mother-in-law), and a lovely African wax print lightweight cotton. Then the problems started...

(BTW, in case this is a bit longwinded, the TL;DR is that there are some useful tutorials at the end of this entry!)

According to the measurements on the pattern envelope, I should have been able to make the 16 with a little extra at the waist and hip, and an FBA. However, when I flat-measured the pattern, there seemed to be no ease at all, and I would have to add so much and still fiddle around with the fit, I thought - hey, why not just draft it! It seemed like a simple enough shape: reshape the neckline and armscyces, rotate the bust dart into the shoulder area and gather with the strap, and then add a 4-gore skirt (I also decided to add in-seam side pockets. In hindsight (ah, isn't it always 20-20!) I should have just made up a muslin of the bodice and had a look what was going on, then modified it as necessary...

So, I fiddled around with my blocks and fairly quickly drafted something similar (although for some reason I decided to keep a bust dart as well as the waist dart and gathers at the shoulders). Then I leapt straight into cutting it out of my beautiful fabric. Without a muslin or anything, because it's drafted from my personal blocks, so must fit, right? So halfway through carefully cutting it out (in a super wasteful manner as I both needed to match patterns, and cut it across the width of the fabric to get the patterns running the right way), I apparently sobered up came to my senses, and suddenly thought, "What if this doesn't fit? Maybe I should make a sample first..."

So back to my fabric stash, and I picked out a grey chambray, as I knew it would hopefully fit well enough that I could just adjust it, but without having to worry about matching patterns, and then would end up with a wearable sample garment, as opposed to a muslin (also I don't have any muslin at the moment).

Well, an initial fitting of the bodice straight off showed I needed to increase and contour the waist darts, and move the dart points further back from the bust point. Other than that, it seemed to fit well enough, so I went ahead with sewing the rest of it together, except the bodice lining - i.e. including in-seam side pockets and an invisible zip. I then put it on and realised (a) it was big around the bust and huge around the waist and (b) the pockets were too small and awkward to actually use. Bother.

Since I was very proud of my zip, I didn't want to rip that out, so all the adjustments were made in the side seams and darts, which meant removing my in-seam pockets. I tried it on again and had to rip out the seams I'd just sewed and let out the back only at the side seam, gah! Tried it on a third time, and it was snug, but ok (and I couldn't face resewing it a third time), so I skipped merrily on to applying the lining. Tried it on again, and had obviously forgotten that this would add just that little extra bulk, so it's still too small!!!! GAH!

At this point, I flung it in the corner of my sewing room and went and had a rum and lemonade. I will revisit this at some point soon, but I'd reached the end of my tether as far as ripping and resewing went, so it had to wait...

The main useful point here was that I learnt a better way to apply an invisible zip (after sewing the seam) and how to apply a facing completely by machine. These were courtesy of Els tutorial on Sewing Divas, and a guest tutorial over on Fashion Incubator. Els's English isn't super great, but it's pretty straightforward to figure it out - the only notes I would add are 1. make sure you stop the first side of stitching and start the second no further than the end of the opening for the zip and 2. open the zip and push the pull through to the wrong side before sewing the second side. I find this method much easier and it seems to eliminate the bumpiness at the bottom, as well as helping ensure both sides are matched up properly. (Incidentally, after I sewed this, I got my latest issue of Threads, no 156, and this has an article describing a very similar method of inserting invisible zips and facings!)

So here's the finished item on Wilma - I should point out that she is considerably smaller than me in the chest department (even wearing a bra), so that area is a bit less weird looking when it's filled out... It also doesn't pull as much at the back waistline when I'm in it - I also have a larger derrière than Wilma.

I'm going to let the side seams out again a bit more at the back at some point, but I'm also considering converting the shoulder ties to something else, as the chambray is probably a little stiff for them to drape nicely (they're also not tied properly in the photos, contributing to the wonkiness). If all else fails, I will convert it into a skirt!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Another fashion week!

So, I'm on the bus from Heathrow airport again... Off to see my nephew for a couple of days (no I still haven't finished the quilt), and then into London for another short course at the London College of Fashion! Woo!

This one is called "evening and party wear", and is mainly teaching about boned bodices, with some more exciting drafts/drapes thrown in too, so it's looking pretty fun. It's also at the same campus as last time, so one street away from the brilliant fabric shops of Goldhawk Road... Because it's a construction course though, I will probably need to do some sewing outside of the class. Not normally a problem, but of course my sewing machines are in a different country - so of course the solution is to buy another one! I did contemplate getting a "travel" sewing machine, but I'm not convinced they're sturdy enough to do any proper sewing on, so I plan to buy another basic but decent one similar to my current Brother machine, but keep that in London. We have a storage unit where it can live between visits (until we get our own place here).

It's also going to be a pretty fun week outside the course - I'm going to have a whole week in London, I'm meetin a friend to discuss doing some dressmaking for her, and I'm going to a wedding on Saturday and then a Brian Setzer/Jim Jones Review gig on Sunday. I should have internet, so I'll try and post some pics for you from the course.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Me-Made-June '11: Conclusions

Yes, it's already more than a week into July, but I needed a break from MMJ after thinking about it daily! But I just wanted to record a few observations and lessons for my future sewing and any future challenges.

1. I need to make more things! I'm sure that will always be the case, but specifically I need to make more wardrobe building items: separates and cardies/jackets that I can mix and match to avoid repeats so much. While these aren't necessarily the most exciting to sew, I really need these in order to get by day to day and still wear my me-made items. I definitely prefer to wear dresses, but separates would give me more variety. I read a good sewing plan somewhere a while back (I can't remember where unfortunately - it might have been talking about buying clothes, but it still applies): each piece you sew should go with at least one other item in your wardrobe.

2. Sort of linked to the above, I need more solid coloured items that can be worn with lots of items. I love patterns, but I don't quite have the élan of Vivienne Westwood, D&G, Prada or Mundo to mix them all the time! I noticed some others discussing the same revelation in the Flickr discussion group.

3. Several items have gone into the refashion pile... It's not worth wearing something that doesn't make you feel happy, even if it is something you have put time and effort into making yourself, it just makes you feel enormously frustrated. I still can't quite bring myself to give away these items though...

4. Most of all, it's such fun joining in with a group of like-minded and talented people to do a me-made-month! I don't know many people IRL who are obsessed with sewing like me (or are even interested in sewing), so it's great being able to show what you've made, be inspired by others, and talk about sewing stuff. (I'm thinking of setting up a sewing group so I can do this in real life, but more about that in a later post.)

I'm looking forward to joining the next me-made month!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Me-Made round-up: Days 25-30

This is going to be a bit of a mammoth post, but I want to get all the Me-Made June stuff wrapped up. There'll just be one more post after this with some conclusions from the month...

Day 25: We had friends visiting at the weekend, and had a really lovely time (and they helped remind me that Geneva isn't so bad after all). This day we went down to the market in Carouge, then in the evening to a random street festival that was happening just by our flat. I also made a quiche for a brunch by the lake we were going to with friends the next day. Whilst I like the print on this dress, and (I think) I like the pattern, I'm still not totally loving the dress. I think the problem might be the fabric, it just feels a bit weird. I might try another version in a nicer fabric at some point.

Dress: Me-Made / Necklace: Random shop in Hammersmith, London / Flowers in hair: Accessorise / Oven gloves: IKEA

Day 26: An insanely hot day! I knew I wanted to make at least one more thing before the month was up (I was getting very bored by this point!), so whipped up yet another self-drafted jersey dress - don't worry, my next project is with a woven! This was a modified version of the previous jersey cowl neck dress, but with a deeper cowl, a closer fitting bodice, and a more flared skirt. As I was trying to make it super quickly before our friends arrived, I sort of fudged the extra drape in the cowl, which gave me a slightly odd pouchy bit at the front waist. I'll explain more when I do a post on the dress, as I think I know why it's there. I wasn't too fussed though as the dress was exactly what I wanted and needed for the day - which was spent brunching by the lake, having a paddle, then going up the Salève (our local mini-mountain).

Dress: Me-Made, but not yet blogged / Hat: Manor / Bag: John Lewis / Flip flops: Accessorise

Day 27: Not much to say here, apart from that it was super hot, and I spent the day wearing as little as possible and trying to keep from melting in the flat... I really want to sew myself some short that are just a leeeeetle longer than these, but sewing trousers scares me a bit.

Necklace: Me-Made / Vest tops: Primark (or maybe H&M) / Shorts: Oasis

Day 28: Another insanely hot day, and a bit of a cheat day too - I tacked up the turn-ups on the shorts as they kept folding down at the back, which just looked weird. Not sure that entirely counts as a refashion, but I'm going to go with it... We went down to river to cool off in the evening, and had a beer at the bar there as the sun went down. Nice.

Shorts: Sort-of-Me-Refashioned... / Top: H&M / Bikini top: La Senza

Day 29: Another outing for my new dress - it went shopping with me. I tried on some new bikinis, but it was a rather depressing trip - has anyone made their own swimwear? It would solve a lot of problems for me. It's a pretty appalling photo (although it does make me look rather tan...) - this was the handiwork of my husband. I need to instruct him on taking better photos - rather sweetly he thinks I always look lovely so can't see why I find some photos of me more attractive than others!

Dress: Me-Made but not yet blogged / Necklace: Alexander McQueen / Shoes: M&S

Day 30: The last day! The month has gone by so quickly... It's been such fun joining in with other sewing fanatics around the world and very inspiring seeing what other people have been making. I've also found a lot of new blogs to read, so will somehow have to find time for that too! Many many thanks must go to Zoe for starting these cool little challenges. I ended the challenge in what has become one of my favourite dresses...

Dress: Me-Made / Necklace: Alexander McQueen / Belt: Primark / Bag: Ted Baker / Shoes: M&S / Sunnies: My first ever pair of prescription sunglasses, which have changed my life!