Wednesday, 21 November 2012

London twice in a fortnight

Well, it's that pre-Christmas rush of seeing family (and some friends too), so last week was spent in London, and I will be back again this weekend. Sadly no time last week for fabric or notions shopping (although I did buy some bayonet lightbulbs for the anglepoise in my sewing room...), maybe this time?

Incidentally, does anyone have any news on Goldhawk Road/Shepherd's Bush Market? I'm hoping to have a moment or two to pop into Classic Textiles and buy some coating.

I have actually been doing a fair amount of sewing between travelling, some things more successful than others. I'm currently working on (yet another!) Sorbetto in silk crêpe de chine - here's the fabric I am using:

I've got a little more finishing to do, but this will be worn this weekend in London - and I will be showing you something other than Sorbettos soon!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

V&A Sorbetto

So this top is something I've had in mind for a while, but have only just got around to making it. I'm semi-pleased with it - I made some stupid mistakes so it's not quite perfect, but I still quite like it. I've yet to get any photos of it on me, (although I have worn it).

Pattern description

A variation of the Sorbetto top: contrast yoke with V-neckline, cap sleeves, and side hem slits. (See my previous versions here and here.)

Fabric used

The printed cotton is a Liberty print that I bought at the V&A quilts exhibition a couple of years ago (the fabrics from the exhibition are still available to buy in the V&A shop, but are only available in fat quarters, half metres or one metre lengths - I bought a 1m length, and used about half of this here). It's a quilting cotton, but it's much softer and has a better drape than most quilting cottons normally are. The yoke is plain black cotton - I think this was described as broadcloth when I bought it, but it's more like a heavyweight lawn.

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

Erm, sort of. Due to some sewing errors, the armscyes are a little too wide, causing some problems with the sleeves, and the V neck cut-out isn't quite right. However, the general impression is just what I intended.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made/Drafting details

I decided the line of the yoke by marking it with pins whilst wearing my leopard print Sorbetto and then transferring it to the paper copy. I moved the shoulder seam forward 5mm at the neckline and 10mm at the shoulder point and scooped out the front armscye 5mm to allow for my forward shoulders, and lengthened the top by 10cm. Something I had noticed on the previous versions was that they flared out way too much at the hips, which wasn't very flattering, so in this version I reduced the flare at the hip by about 7cm (distributed between the side and CB seams). I raised the back neckline by 8cm and cut the back yoke on the fold. I raised the front neckline by 3.5cm and marked a V-shape opening that would be 4cm wide at the neckline, with the bottom of the V where the yoke joins the lower piece. The sleeves are effectively ovals, but drafted using the article in Threads Magazine issue 164. I drafted these to come past the start of the underarm curve as I wanted that bit covered (see below for details of the issues with the sleeves...), and they are cut on the bias.

Construction details

The yoke and sleeves are lined. The neckline, front V and armscyes are stabilised with fusible interfacing. I fused this to the facing pieces rather than the top of the yoke as I was concerned about bubbling/show-through as the fabric is slightly sheer (and I remembered to use my press cloth so no gluey iron!). After construction the facing actually looks much better with the support of the interfacing, but I think part of that was the, ahem, issues I had with seam allowances. In hindsight I should have also staystitched the neckline and armscyes on the top facing as well.

I used a slightly modified version of Trena's very helpful tutorial for lining a sleeveless bodice with no centre back seam to minimise the handsewing I needed to do.

Construction order was:

  • Sew and finish CB seam in lower bodice.
  • Sew top yoke to lower bodice. At the centre front V I applied a small piece of fusible interfacing to the centre of the lower bodice to provide some extra support where the yoke joins it. The two halves of the yoke were then sewn to the bodice, lining up the centre fronts and stopping stitching at the seam line of the V, leaving the seam allowance free to fold back.

  • Sew the bust darts.
  • Sew and finish the side seams of the yoke facing/lining and the outer bodice. On the outer bodice side seams I stopped 10cm before the bottom to allow for the side slits. The seam allowance past this point was pressed back along the continuation of the seam line.
  • Trim a couple of millimetres from the armscye and neckline edges of the yoke facing (so that the seam would roll to the inside). Then, right sides together, sew yoke facing to yoke at neckline (stopping a few cm short of shoulders) and at armscyes (I stopped at the mark where the sleeves join, but I would recommend not sewing right up to the point where the sleeve starts to allow some room for manoeuvre). This is where things started to go wrong... I'd drafted the yoke with 1cm seam allowances on the neckline and armscyes (rather than the 1.5cm everywhere else) as I figured this would make them easier to manipulate and less to trim around the curves. However, when I sewed these seams, I forgot about the smaller SA. Not too bad just yet, but I was at this point wondering why the point of the V didn't meet in the middle.

  • Sew and finish shoulder seams on yoke (not facing).
  • Right sides together, sew sleeves to yoke, matching shoulder and end points. This was rather fiddly, and my mistake with the seam allowances earlier caused the biggest problems here. The larger SA on the armscye meant that the seam line was longer than it should have been. However, I drafted the sleeve with a 1.5cm SA, so this seam line was the correct length, so when they were matched up together I ended up having to ease the yoke into the sleeve a bit, thinking all the time, "what the hell is going on here?" This has meant the yoke doesn't lie entirely smooth, unfortunately especially on the top layer as this isn't directly supported by the interfacing. Why didn't I correct this? Because I'd already sewn everything except the last couple of steps below (and trimmed and clipped various seam allowances), and I really didn't fancy unpicking and redoing all of this.

  • Sew and finish the shoulder seam on yoke facing.
  • Trim/clip and turn under the unsewn yoke facing edges at the neck and armscyes and sew closed by hand.

  • Finish the bottom edge of the yoke facing, turn up, and stich down. Well, that's what I intended to do anyway. Because of the SA issues, the V in the centre didn't quite come together, so I had to sort of fudge it a bit in the centre front (I didn't want to clip the bottom bodice piece in case I get round to replacing the top section at a later point), and decided to just finish the yoke facing bottom edge with the serger and topstitch it down.

  • Finish the bottom edge of the top, turn up the hem and topstitch (I didn't bother with mitering the corners at the bottom of the side slits).
  • Topstitch around the side slits.

Would you sew it again?

I really like the fit of this version of the Sorbetto so I will definitely use this shape again, although I need to fix the issues with the sleeves and yoke first.


Hmm. I'm really rather annoyed at the silly mistakes I made with this, as they've slightly spoilt this otherwise very pleasing top. Having worn this, I think it is worth redoing the yoke and sleeves as they make it slightly annoying to wear, but as they require pretty much complete recutting this will have to wait until I've completed a couple of other things I have in the pipeline. I'm not entirely happy with how the sleeves turned out - they are a little, um, space age... When I redo this (or if I make another version) I will reduce the outer length of the sleeves a little (by overlapping the slashes more). I'm slightly concerned that this is more of a summer top too. The sleeves are moderately cardie-friendly (fine under a large cardie, but annoying under a more fitted one - and for now it will be worn under a cardie). I might try it with a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Hmm, I haven't posted for a while now, time just got away from me, and I never really regained my sewing mojo after the bout of sinusitis in the summer. However, it's slowly returning (helped by sorting out and tidying my sewing room), so I'm catching up on posts from over the summer that have been sitting in my drafts folder. By the time I've done that, there will hopefully be a few new things to show you too!

I went to London for a long weekend in June. I'd planned to do some fabric and notions shopping, but I caught a cold and didn't feel in the mood (this was what turned into the sinusitis after my flight back). I'd also planned to do some shoe shopping, but everywhere had sales and pretty much no summer stock left. Seriously, why put all your winter stock out when it's only halfway through June?! (I'd hoped to buy some Chie Mihara shoes at Selfridge's, but have since discovered I can buy them online - hooray! But dangerous for my bank balance...)

Anyway, enough whinging, whilst I was there, I did go and see the ballgown exhibition at the V&A. Have any of you guys been to see this? What did you think?

I have to say, I was a little confused by the exhibition. Whilst it was lovely seeing so many beautiful dresses (and a couple not so beautiful) all in one place, that seemed like all it really was. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but for the amount of money for a ticket, I would expect a bit more than that (although, having said that, I'm a V&A member so I got in with a guest for "free").

The dresses were divided between two floors, with modern dresses upstairs (post late-1990s), and earlier ones downstairs behind glass (early-1950s to mid-1990s). Apart from that, there was not really any theme in how they were arranged. I loved being able to see the dresses upstairs so close up, but it also surprised me how "unprofessional" some of them looked close up. Hems were just cut, feathers looked shabbily applied etc. I found this rather interesting, and wondered if these were the actual runway pieces, which I guess would need to look good from a distance but the details weren't so important (and may have had to be quickly adjusted or mended backstage). It was a shame the older dresses were behind glass as it would have been fascinating to be able to inspect these some more.

The most striking contrast between the newer and older dresses was the structure apparent in the older dresses, which seemed to have disappeared in most of the newer dresses. Some of the newer dresses just simply wouldn't be able to be worn by anyone without a model perfect body.

There aren't many pictures on the website for the exhibition (and you aren't allowed to take pictures in the exhibition), but fortunately they include two of my favourites from the newer section: the gorgeous yellow and purple Erdem Rumina gown, and the amazing Atsuko Kudo latex gown with trompe l'oeil lace print (both pictured above).

The exhibition is on until 6 January 2013, and despite my quibbles, I would still recommend it to anyone who likes looking at beautiful dresses.