Thursday, 31 May 2012

Mock wrap knock off - part 1

I really love three things. Well, many things actually, but here the relevant things are crazy and cool Japanese style draping and shaping, wrap jersey dresses, and drafting patterns. This little project combined all three.

First of all, I need to get my guilt out the way - this is effectively a knock-off of a McCall's pattern. Fashion pretty much works by "inspiration", although it's a moot point where the line between copying and inspiration might lie (maybe around here?). Copying RTW, however, is something that many home-sewists do regularly (Pattern Review even has an annual competition for knock-off RTW), so I'm not doing anything out the ordinary, and my drafting skills are unlikely to match proper pattern cutters and designers. I'm not passing this off as another designer's work, I'm acknowledging my inspiration/source, and I'm not making any profit... Hmm, I'll quit defending myself now and get on with showing what I've been up to.

So I came across this McCall's pattern via Trena's blog. She'd seen Debbie's make and review of this pattern (first part and second part). Debbie wasn't impressed with the pattern, so Trena's version is self-drafted and I thought I would do the same.

Trena actually bought the McCall's pattern to inspect the shape of the pieces. In keeping with my guilt trip, I decided not to buy the pattern, but instead had a look on the website, which shows the back of the envelope and the instructions sheet for most of the patterns they sell, and here the instructions includes a picture of the outline of the pattern pieces (as well as construction details obviously).

So I had a good look, and a long think, and compared Trena's draft with the original pattern shapes, and also the information that Debbie gave in her reviews. The back pieces were straightforward and the ties were easy, but the front piece was the interesting one. The key points I noted were:

  • The left side seam is straight in the original pattern piece
  • The shape of the neckline is narrower in the pattern piece than in the finished garment
  • The armscyes are different shapes on the left and right, with the left one having a sharper curve

I knew to get the extra "growth" (as Trena wonderfully puts it!) I would need to slash and spread the right side of my pattern, and all of these observations were clues that the extra material was coming from just the bodice of the pattern. The drawings of the dress show a fair bit of fullness in the front of the skirt just below the growth too and I liked this, so I decided I would also add some here to accentuate it. The original pattern piece doesn't have an awful lot of width added after the pieces are spread, but I didn't quite trust this, so still added this extra width in my first iteration. I made five slashes, all to the same point just above the right hand waist (as per Trena's finding, to allow for the weight of the fabric to pull it down to waist level): one each from the centre neckline, the left armscye, the opposite point on the left waist, and two points on the left hip. I sort of eyeballed how much I spread it to give roughly the same change in "direction" of the top part as in the original pattern.

As you can see the pattern piece I ended up with a pattern piece that looked somewhere in between Trena's and the original McCall's one:

I made this up, and the result looked like this:

You can't really see it in the picture, but the extra fabric added below the waist line falls and sort of pooches around the lower belly. Might be useful whilst pregnant, but not entirely flattering if one is not... The extra width I added on the growth also meant there was way too much fabric when the ties are tied, so it sort of bunches there too.

To understand what I mean by this, a quick note about how it is made up and worn (I will show some detailed pictures in the second part of this post). The point of the growth is hemmed to give an opening for the tie. The edges of the growth are then stitched together between the opening and the points where the added fabric joins the original side seam. Keeping the growth out the way, you then make up the dress as usual.

The ties are both sewn onto the left side (the same side the dress is fastened, the opposite side to where the growth was added. One is caught in the side seam and hangs outside the dress, the other is sewn to the seam allowance at the same place inside the dress. You then pass the inside tie through the opening in the growth and pull it over to the left to tie with the outside tie, so you end up with the growth seam visible at the waistline (although it's sort of hidden in the draping). Because the first growth was too wide, when it was pulled across it was rather bunchy at the waist.

To save this from getting too long, I'll show you the adjustments I made and the second version of the dress in another post...

Edit: the second part of this post is here.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Me-Made-May '12 round up: days 11-17 (ugly places)

Day 11

Skirt: me-made | Necklace: me-made | Top: H&M (I think) | Sandals: Hush Puppies

Worn: on a train to Milan to meet with friends for the weekend. It was a pretty warm day, but fortunately the train was air conditioned (and we booked first class :). This top is one of my favourites, but I've realised it's on its last legs - I need to clone it!

Day 12

Dress: me-made | Scarf: Accessorise | Necklace: Alexander McQueen | Sandals: Red or Dead

Worn: in Milano! The dress is self drafted, and is the refined version of the dress I wore on the first day (I will do a blog post about it shortly - I have it written but need to take some photos of the dress!).

Day 13

Top: me-made | Skirt: me-made | Cardie: H&M | Necklace: Alexander McQueen | Shoes: M&S | Bag: Fossil

Worn: around Milano and to travel back in. This photo was taken in the Triennale di Milano (and yes, that is the man I married on the right there...) I also wore my me-made pyjama shorts whilst I was in Milan. Oh, and i would highly recommend the website airbnb - we booked our apartment through there, and it was a great experience all round (no, I'm not on commission, just very impressed!)

Day 14

Top: me-made | Belt: H&M | Jeans: Uniqlo

Worn: around the house. This is definitely being retired to the "round the house" rota as it constantly annoys me. The clear elastic in the neckline feels horrid and I obviously didn't cut it out quite on grain as it's twisting at the bottom. I might try and salvage the fabric and remake it into something else, as I love this colour. Oh, and this ugly place is my hallway, which needs an awful lot of tidying, and a bit of DIY.

Day 15

Skirt: me-made (BurdaStyle magazine) | T-shirt: Laura Ashley for Uniqlo | Cardie: Uniqlo | Necklace: Alexander McQueen | Tights: Tabio | Shoes: M&S

Worn: to do shopping, and then out for dinner with my husband to celebrating him passing his driving theory test. I finally got round to putting belt loops on this skirt, so I wear it much more now. It could probably do with being pegged a bit more, but I can't be bothered unpicking the hem (it doesn't look so bad in this photo, but it looks a bit odd from the side).

Day 16

Skirt: me-made (but not yet blogged) | Top: Uniqlo | Cardie: Umm, either H&M or Primark | Knitting: making myself a lightweight cardie/coverup for the summer

Worn: around the house. The skirt is green crinkle gauze, two pieces of the full width gathered into a wide elastic waistband. It didn't turn out quite as intended - I wanted to wear tops tucked in, but the gathers make my bum look enormous - but discovered it looks ok with the top untucked. I do need to shorten the hem by about a inch because I keep tripping over it.

Day 17

Cardie: me-made | Top and jeans: Uniqlo | Bag: Primark | Necklace: Alexander McQueen | Shoes: Payless

Worn: to go swimming, coffee out, then lounging around the house. It was a bank holiday here, and actually quite a nice day! Pictured here after swimming, this is one of the ice hockey rinks at the sports centre, now closed for summer.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Me-Made-May '12 round up: days 1-10 (food and drink)

Day 1a

Top and shorts: me-made

Worn: to sleep in. I wanted to wake up in the proper me-made spirit!

Day 1b

Dress: me-made | Leggings: gift from my mother-in-law

Worn: around the house. This was a trial for a dress I was drafting. I'm not entirely happy with how it turned out (the actual version has been modified and will be coming up soon) as it's a bit poochy over the stomach, but I still finished it up, and it's very comfortable to wear.

Day 2

Blouse: me-made | Jeans and tank top: Uniqlo | Shoes: Office | Belt: H&M I think

Worn: to the garden centre to get more soil and plants for my balconies. I never feel entirely comfortable in this blouse, I made a FBA, rotating the extra dart into the shoulder and side gathers. I think I should have rotated more of it into the side, as it does weird poofy things around my shoulders. It is still useful to wear though, as it's nice and cool.

Day 3

Apron: me-made | Top: H&M

Worn: to plant up my balconies. I like this apron, it makes me smile, but if I make another one I would widen it slightly as I'm slightly larger than the 1950s ladies it was intended for!

Day 4

Dress: me-made | Necklace: Alexander McQueen | Sunglasses: prescription - best investment I ever made | Drinking: Campari-orange |Also worn with black leggings and (whilst I was out) a black cardie

Worn: for lunch with a friend then more gardening. This was for the Flickr group weekly photo challenge: food and drink. I've grown to like this dress and have worn it a lot, although it's looking a little tired now. I plan to make another version, and also plan to whip up a quick top in this fabric as it is quite fun.

Day 5

Skirt: me-made | Top: H&M | Leggings: Uniqlo | Hands: authentically dirty

Worn: to plant up the last of the stuff I bought. I decided I would make the photo-taking more fun for me and continue the Friday themes for the following week - this is my vegetable balcony (it's very overlooked so we never use it to sit on).

Day 6

Dress: me-made ("day 26" pictured in this blog post) | Apron: me-made (but not yet blogged) | Chili: delicious

Worn: around the house. Making a veggie chili - this is just before I realised I didn't have any passata (or any substitutes) and my husband had to run to the only shop around here that opens on a Sunday! Fortunately they had some.

Day 7

Blouse: me-made (Sorbetto) | Vest top: H&M | Trousers: Monsoon | Parachuters necklace: Modcloth

Worn: out to do some shopping. I occasionally struggle with styling this sorbetto, as it's quite short, but discovered it looked fine worn with trousers if I put a vest top underneath.

Day 8a

Top: me-made | Headband: me-made from an offcut of a skirt I made yesterday | Jeans: Uniqlo | Belt: H&M I think | Brooch: Accessorise

Worn: around the house, doing lots of sewing. I haven't worn this top for ages, as it really annoyed me the last time I wore it. However, revisiting it, it's not as bad as I remember. I might try another version in more drapey fabric again (and try not to stretch the neckline horribly this time!).

Day 8b

Scarf: me-made, but not blogged

It was cold today, so I ended up putting on this scarf to keep warm. It didn't quite turn out how I intended (it's a bit too long, and the blocking didn't work properly so it curls like mad), but I still wear it quite a lot.

Day 9

Top: me-made (sorbetto) | Jeans: Uniqlo | Necklace: Alexander McQueen | Sandals: M&S

Worn: for drinks by the river, and dinner out with my husband. It was about ten degrees warmer than the previous day, so we celebrated with drinks in the sunshine and a really really delicious dinner.

Day 10

Dress: me-made (self drafted, not yet blogged) | Parachuters necklace: Modcloth | Cardie: H&M | Hair: freshly dyed | Wine: Swiss white

Worn: for drinks by the river with friends. After the nice comments from the other Me-Made-May-ists on this dress, I took it for a whirl in the outside world. It was very warm today, so drinks and dinner by the river were in order! I forgot to get a picture taken with my dinner, so this (empty) glass of wine will have to do to conclude the food and drink week!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Lace dartless dress

Following on from my knit drafting adventures, I made this! It was supposed to be a "quick" project, but as always seems to happen, my ideas ran ahead and it ended up needing hand basting and pattern matching...

I've been wanting to make something with lace for ages (I have a number of laces in my stash), and realised this sort of design would be great as I wouldn't have to deal with too many breaks in the pattern as there are only side and CB seams and no darts.

Pattern description

Dartless sleeveless sheath dress with bateau neckline.

Fabric used

This was two fabrics, both from lime green "Sofia" doubleknit (poly/rayon) and a navy stretch poly lace. The trimming at neck and armscyes is cotton jersey from a sheet (bought in a sale to make clothes with because of the lovely colour).

Did it look like the sketch/idea when you were done?


What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

The fit is super, and (if I wasn't faffing around with lace) it's a super quick make - and will be a great starting point for many variations.

Drafting details

I used the knit block I drafted as a starting point. The neckline was raised at the front, and widened into a bateau neckline. I lengthened the block by simply squaring down from the hipline - I wasn't sure if it would need to be pegged slightly to give a good shape, but it actually worked just fine with the straight shape.

Construction details

I cut the doubleknit using my pattern pieces, then laid the lace over these, adjusted the pattern placement, pinned and hand basted round the edges, then cut the lace. I need to practice this sort of hand basting a bit, as I tend to pull it a bit tight, which can distort the lay of the fabric a bit (I had this problem previously with this dress). I cut the lace on the cross-grain as it had most stretch lengthwise, and I wanted this going around my body. I pattern-matched the lace, but didn't bother with any couture techniques of disguising the seams.

Because of the sharp angles at the sides of the neckline, I actually finished the neck before sewing the shoulder seams. I used a strip of cotton jersey cut cross-grain (for the most stretch) and serged this onto the neck edge with the right side of the jersey strip facing the wrong side of the dress. As I serged it I stretched the jersey strip slightly to snug up and stabilise the neckline (I probably could have pulled it a bit tighter). The binding was then flipped to the outside of the dress, the raw edge tucked under and topstitched. This matched up reasonably well at the shoulder seams (although one is better than the other!)

I was going to finish the armholes in the same way, but decided I liked them without the extra colour there, so put the binding on the inside (i.e. serged the binding on right side to right side of dress then flipped it inside) and stitched it down by hand, catching just the doubleknit layer so the stitches do not show through to the other side. The hem was finished by serging the two layers together, turning up and stitching by hand through just the doubleknit layer again (although I realised when I finished that some of the stitches caught the top layer so aren't totally invisible. I was watching snooker whilst hemming it...).

This isn't totally finished - I plan to put a (decorative) bright orange exposed zipper down the back, but decided the one I was going to use is too long. I could shorten it, but it would look a bit messy - I want it to finish a few centimetres above my waist. I know some people aren't so keen on exposed zips, but I really like the look of them, and I also wanted that detail to help keep the all-over lace pattern dress from looking too old fashioned (although I think the contrast binding and bright colours help too!)

Would you sew it again?

Not to the same design as I'm not sure I have the need for two lace dresses in my wardrobe. However, I do plan to make variations on the design - watch this space!


I'm soooooo happy with this dress, both the look and the fit. I wore it out the same day I finished it and it's super comfy to wear. I'm looking forward to sewing some variations now.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Drafting a basic knit bodice block

Making myself a knit/stretch bodice "block" has been on my to-do list for a long time, as I wear knit tops and dresses much more than wovens, and therefore would be much more likely to wear more of the things I make if more were knit.

I'd previous attempted using KwikSew 3497 as a starting point to making a fitted top to use as a block, but I eventually gave up in frustration as it was just getting worse with each iteration. I think one problem was that the drafting wasn't quite right (is it just me or do KwikSew stretch garments have huge amounts of ease?), and an even bigger problem was that I didn't know enough at that point about pattern manipulation for stretch garments or about my particular fitting alterations. I thought I'd done a blog post on this top, but I can't find it, so you can see the results from my first try below.

As you can see, I did an FBA but used a dart (always odd in knits), didn't add enough length at the front (and because of the FBA the bottom wasn't straight across grain, so it would look odd in anything with horizontal stripes), the fabric hangs out too much under the bust, and the fit at the back is decided dodgy, despite a shaped CB back seam. You can also see what I mean about the generous ease in the pattern (I cut the size recommended using my high bust measurement as the bust measurement!). I actually quite like tops that aren't skin tight, but this was just silly.

So, a year or so passes, and after getting more used to sewing with knits (with garments drafted from woven blocks), I thought I would have a go drafting a proper knit block to my own measurements and using that as a starting point. I used the method given in my Aldrich book (I have the 4th edition), as I've used this before, including in the custom pattern cutting course that I did a few years' back at LCF, drafting the close fitting body block with the ease for the "less flexible jersey" as I didn't want it super tight.

(Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of my muslining adventures, so I've made some diagrams - note that these are not to scale, and adjustments are slightly exaggerated. I really must remember to take more pictures whilst working)

I drafted the block using a "standard" bust measurement (close to my high bust measurement) rather than my actual bust measurement, and did the FBA as below to add the extra to the front pattern piece. This was the method I learnt in the pattern cutting class and means that a large relative bust measurement doesn't distort the shape of the block. The main difference in my drafting was to use my actual hip measurement rather than squaring down from the underarm point, as I knew otherwise the garment would get caught up in that area. I also made a small square shoulder adjustment by raising the shoulder point. I then did the following steps (for ease of explanation, I've included the adjustments I made after making a first muslin):

1. Traced off front and back to a separate pattern, adding balance points/notches at waist and on the side seam between waist and underarm, below the level of the bust point (you'll see why I needed this a bit later).

2. Adjusted the back by transferring half the waist shaping to the centre back seam. I didn't initially do a sway back adjustment, as I've recently realised much of my problems fitting at the back result from an incorrectly fitting front, coupled with a large back high hip and large bottom (hey hey!), and I wanted to correct for these bigger (ha) problems first.

3. After the first fitting, I still needed adjustments to the back, so did a combination of more shaping at the CB waist and neckline, and a small "quick" swayback adjustment (using inspiration from this excellent analysis) by pivoting the back neck down, using the shoulder point as the pivot (remembering to re-square the CB neckline to the CB seam). I also un-scooped out the back armscye so that it fit more to my liking.

4. Adjusted the front with a dartless FBA. Now, I spent hours and hours trawling my books and the internet to find how to do this, with not really much luck in finding actual details. So for the benefit of others, this is how I ended up doing it - it worked pretty well for me. I think it's some sort of bastardisation of a "pivot-and-slide" method, although I couldn't find a good description of the whole process of using this for an FBA.

First of all I traced around most of the pattern - the shoulder, neckline, CF, hem and side seam up to the waistline. I then pivoted the side seam at the armscye out to add width, pivoting around the shoulder point (red), then pivoted around the new underarm point to bring the waist back into the original measurements (blue). Note here that you need to do a significantly smaller width adjustment in a knit! I forgot to take into account the stretch of the knit and ended up taking it in by about half the measurement I added.

To add the length needed to fit the top over my bust I slashed and spread across (roughly...) the bust point. I found that the length I needed to add was fairly equivalent to that needed for a woven.

These adjustments meant that the distance underarm-waist was now much longer on the front - the excess here would under normal circumstances be taken out with a dart, but I didn't want to have a dart on my tops. So, I shaped the side seam where the dart would normally be, and simply stretched the back piece to match between the underarm and the first notch (I guess this would work to some extent in a non-stretch fabric by easing the front rather than stretching the back). After a little refinement of the shaping in the front side seam this worked nicely to give the space needed in the front - I would imagine though that if you were making a very large FBA (or using a non-stretch fabric) you might need a combination of this method with a small dart.

I drafted the sleeve block at the same time as the original bodice block, but haven't yet made up and fitted the sleeves - this is the next stage that I'll move onto shortly.

I'll show you the first thing that I made from this block in the next post...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Me-Made-May '12 begins...

So yesterday I made myself a pair of pyjama shorts, so I could wake up fully in the MMM'12 spirit! I have to admit I felt a bit left out of Karen's pyjama party, so thought I might be able to catch up on the fun by making the shorts hideously flowery...

This is a stretch cotton, so is super comfy to wear - and to be honest, I don't know what else I'm going to use this fabric for as it's pretty loud. I think I'll make up some full length pyjama bottoms too.

Karen's sew-a-long was handy, but to be honest I didn't really need it (ooh, get me!), the techniques are all things I've done before - although the tip of adding a hanging loop at the back was very handy. I used the same pattern as the twill shorts I made, just omitting the darts and adding a chunk at the top (roughly twice the waistband width) to allow for the elastic casing (and to give them a higher rise). I could have added a bit more at the centre back as it dips a bit there.

As these were only going to be worn in bed, I used, ahem, fast sewing techniques on them: eyeballing the grainline and length addition at the top, and not doing the whole faff of pressing the hems before each pass of sewing, just folding it over as I went.

These were worn with a me-made top too - the muslin of a knit block I have drafted (more details following). I made it in the same bright yellow interlock as the glamorous "duster" wrap, as I have no idea what else I'm going to do with this fabric. I thought I might as well finish it off and wear it as a pyjama top as it's a very snuggly fabric. I've recently been trying a range of different finishes for knits - here I finished the neckline like a t-shirt with a strip of cotton jersey folded in half and serged to the neckline from the right side. The seam is then flipped to the inside and topstitched down. The armscyes and hem are just turned in and topstitched with a twin needle.

I will try and take a photo every day for MMM'12, but I'll probably only post round-ups, unless I have something new to show. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone else's me-made outfits on the Flickr page, I've found it really inspiring during the last two challenges. Yay!

Oh, and this is what I'm wearing during the day today - a sneak peek of a trial run of a pattern I drafted (a post coming up once I've taken the photos of the finished final version).