Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cocktail Shorts (Vogue 9008)

You: Ooh, what's that?

Front, cocktail shorts (Vogue 9008)

Back, cocktail shorts (Vogue 9008)

Me: They're cocktail shorts!! Wanna see them on?

You: Sure, knock yourself out, take them for a spin, do a little dance...

Vogue 9008 cocktail shorts - perfect for dancing

You: Woah there Nelly, enough with the dancing - I was KIDDING! Let's get those lights back on pronto. OK, have you calmed down? Deep breaths, think of something sad...

Right, now let's have a proper look at the side and front views. Sensibly though. And I think we'll leave the back view for now - I know what you're like when you're in a silly mood!

Me: It's OK, I'm not going to do any more dancing!  Side then front, yes?

Side view, Vogue 9008 shorts
Front view, Vogue 9008 shorts

You: You know, they do actually look like cocktail shorts - not that I even knew there was such a thing, but I guess shiny silver would be about right. What's the fabric?

Me: Who knows, who cares! These are just for fun; they're the practice shorts! It's not like I actually GO to cocktail parties these days, is it.  I was actually going to make cushion covers with the fabric* but I just couldn't be...

*: Fabric source: Home Dec department in Lincraft. 

You: So they're just a muslin?  I was wondering if you'd really wear silver shiny shorts out - you had me going there for a bit!!!  Let me have another look at them... turn around slowly would you, I want to check something...

Side and back, Vogue 9008 shorts

Front, Vogue 9008 shorts
You: So have you made the real shorts yet? If not - don't take this the wrong way, and the cocktail shorts ARE great - well, they're just a smidge on the snug side, aren't they!  You'll make them a bit bigger in the final version, won't you?

Me: Yeah, I know... I haven't even shown you the waistband yet, have I:

Too tight, Vogue 9008 shorts

Me: So I do know they're too tight, but I kind of got carried away and cut out the next ones before I'd checked the fit of these properly...

You: Sigh... then maybe you just need to cut down on the chips or something...

You: Look, why don't you just tell me about the sewing pattern or something?


You're invited to cocktails at 7 o'clock. Dress: shorts.


Once upon a time there was a pair of shorts.

No, make that a couple of pairs of shorts; these shorts. But they were the ONLY ONES left on the Sass & Bide sale rack that day... 

Up close they looked beautifully made.  No internal debates - I tried on the largest size - oh, please, gorgeousness! But alas, it was not to be. Although they fastened, the shorts were just too small. And yet somehow they still looked flattering on... 


I headed back to the ranch as quickly as the corporate workday and commuter train would take me, and soon enough found myself flicking through patterns - which would it be, which could it be?

Bingo! Vogue 9008, view B would be my starting point:

And then I promptly fell off piste.

Here are the (easy!) modifications I made to the straight size 14, view B version of V9008:
  • removed the fly from centre front
  • added an invisible zip in centre back
  • removed the waistband from front pieces
  • added waistband length to front leg pieces
  • continued angle / wrapover of back leg pieces all the way up to waist
Although the shorts photo above shows there's a pleat front on my inspiration shorts, my memory didn't even register the pleats, and swapped the front waist band to a back yoke. View E would have been a better match, but once view B has been modified to fit (ha! that's going to have to be for shorts number 4) I assume its crotch curve and other basic measurements will be consistent to view E.

And for the sewing? I probably could have found some stripes in my stash, but I wanted to test my modifications first. So I dug out this unloved home dec fabric, and end even though I was thinking these would just be test shorts I found I couldn't help myself - I pattern-matched on CF and CB, and I tried to place the florals and swirls at an attractive height and location. My pattern placement isn't spot on - I think the back florals should really be at the same height as the front ones, and the "moustaches" on the front waistline look silly - but these shorts look much better than I expected, and I can imagine wearing them out for drinks if I had that kind of a lifestyle :).

Fit wise, as you can tell from the photos above, there are some big problems. I probably need to start by going up a size, and then by drawing a longer waistband piece. I should use a fabric that has a bit more give than this shiny stuff, And I also need to compare this pattern to some pants that fit and work out where the crotch curves are different... 

Straight after finishing these I cut out another pair from a small piece (0.55 metres!) of blue and white striped cotton ticking, and then another pair from an old favourite skirt that hasn't fitted me in a very long time. I didn't alter the size for the striped pair as I wanted to see how much difference the fabric would make, but with the brown pair I used narrower seam allowances and also lengthened the back darts. Both pairs are nearly done but I've now misplaced the facings. When I finish these I'll share them with you, and THEN for shorts #4 I'll try to get a bit closer to that inspiration pair at the top of this post - and yes, there will be a 4th pair!

See you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The "Graphic Alert Dress

For ages now, I've been trying to avoid popping into fabric stores, because once in, my self-control disappears, despite the fact of my very plentiful stash.

This dress is not going to help the cause...

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the scenario: mid-project, you've run out of an essential sewing ingredient (white thread, or a black zip, for example), so you decide to pop into a fabric shop to get that boring little necessity. While you're there it seems it wouldn't hurt to look over the remnants table, and then peruse the latest offerings...

Ooh, now THAT is pretty (and isn't it similar to the fabric that {insert name of fellow sewist} used in that {insert garment} she wore/posted recently?).  I wonder how much is left? It's probably going to sell really fast now - if I wanted some I'd have to get it now... Hmm, well I'll just grab this bolt and think about it while I look around the shop a bit more. 

Oh, and that one's on sale! I'll bet that would be a perfect match with the {insert fabric type} I've got at home. The price isn't bad either, really... I'll just hold onto this one too while I look around. 

Soon enough your arms are full, and you find yourself at the counter, buying quite a bit more than intended - OOPS!

I do try to save my fabric shop visits for those times when I *have to* go, but restraint has always been a challenge...

A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of The Fabric Store's 30-50% off sale, and perhaps encouraged by Instagram reports from a few of the Sydney Spoolettes, I decided I should quickly pop in to check whether they had a very particular blue and white fabric I had in mind for a Capital Chic Martini dress. They didn't - when can you ever find exactly the fabric you have in mind? - but I found lots of other fabrics that it seemed only "sensible" to buy while the sale was on. 

There was one - just one! - fabric I loved and left behind. This fabric was a canvas, graphic and bold, and didn't look to have been very popular, as the bolt was nearly full. Unrolling it across the other bolts I could see it would be a challenge to cut for clothing - the panels of lines that converged and fanned out ran the risk of making odd shapes on the body - but I couldn't help but see it as a wild and beautiful dress. Sigh....  I took a couple of photos with my mobile phone, rolled the fabric up again and walked away.

Even as I drove home, I was regretting it, and wishing I'd bought some. The next couple of days were busy, with no time for fabric or sewing, and then finally it was the weekend. As early as sport and family commitments would allow I raced back to The Fabric Store and found my fabric - still there, thank goodness! Now half price? I'll have two of those large panels, please!

A quick wash and air dry later, and the fabric was spread out on my living room floor along with a bunch of Vogue patterns. The main idea I had in mind was to use the movement of the lines on the fabric to make a dress with a "V" shape in the bodice, and a big, flared skirt, but after a couple of rough sketches I also worked out that I wanted strong shoulders, a high neckline, cut-on kimono sleeves, and skirt without pleats or gathers.

I found an approximation to these shapes by shifting lots of pattern pieces all over the fabric, laid out across the living room floor, for an hour or so. The combination I came up with only just fit where I wanted it - some corners were lopped (only if within seam allowances, of course!) - and because I wanted to cut the dress in a single layer so I could keep an eye on symmetries, I ended up only roughly pinning pattern pieces in place but then drawing a cutting line around them in lead pencil. 

Here's the combination of patterns I used:

For the bodice, I started with the bodice pattern pieces of Vogue 9021 (previously made here),
then pinned the bodice pattern pieces of Vogue 8811 (previously made this dress here and here) on top to set the sleeve shape, side seam placement and bodice length,
then lengthened the sleeves as much as could fit on the fabric width without hitting skirt pattern pieces.

For the skirt I started with the skirt pattern pieces of Vogue 8811 (previously made as a skirt here), cut with grainline down CF and CB,
then pinned the skirt pattern pieces of Vogue 8993 on top to determine waist width and skirt length.

And so this ends up being mostly Vogue 8811, a vintage Vogue reissue, looking very modern due to the graphic fabric print, but I think I can still call this strike one in my vintage pattern pledge.

In these next couple of photos you can see how I positioned the print on the bodice and upper skirt.

I have a "sweetheart" effect on the front bodice, strong "gridiron" shoulder markings to make my shoulders look more impressive, and a modesty "fan" in the front (just because that amuses me) along with some other lines that flare outwards to emphasise the difference between waist and hips.  I tried to get the bodice arrows pointing upwards ending right on the neckline, but I couldn't quite manage this so the topmost arrow has its point chopped off.

Dress front, in the flat
On the back bodice I have more of those "gridiron" shoulder markings, and a crossover pattern emphasises my scapula. There's a white narrow "V" down the centre back to pretend there's no fabric there, and arrows come upwards from the skirt to the waist.

Dress back bodice, in the flat

The whole dress was cut with a little extra room in the side seams as I didn't want to risk ending up with something too tight, and my experience of the vintage Vogues is that they can be quite narrow in the waist compared to modern Vogue patterns in the same size.

After sewing the shoulder seams, and bodice front to skirt front, bodice back to skirt back, I got a bit excited at how the dress was taking shape and basted BOTH side seams together to try it on. Oops, classic late night sewing, how was I going to get the dress on? I had a go at slipping it on - stubborn! - and surprisingly, it slipped on fine! I am guessing that this is one largely unheralded benefit of being a classic pear shape? Anyway, the upshot of that discovery is that this finished dress has NO FASTENINGS and yet does have a bit of a waist shape :). Admittedly this is not the most fitted of waists, but it's fitted enough for a flare of skirt at the hips and a slight increase in width at the bust, it's comfortable, and I think it's absolutely good enough.

To finish the dress I used white cotton bias binding on the neckline and sleeves. Because this dress has a high neckline that I didn't want to lower, I left the top couple of inches of the CB seam open to let my head get through the neckline. The fabric is structured enough that at this stage it doesn't seem to need a button or other fastening to stay in place, but of course I'll add something later if needs be. The skirt hem is simply serged then folded over and stitched in place - I would have preferred to use some more white bias binding but I had nearly run out of bias binding (I couldn't risk another trip to the fabric shop!) and had got to the point where I just wanted to finish. 

You can see that with a thick fabric like a canvas, the kimono sleeves get some interesting folds - I expected this, and I like the look of the folds. To some extent perhaps these folds could be removed with darts, but I think you need that extra fabric with kimono sleeves.

So this time around I am VERY happy with what I've made - playing around with several patterns to get the graphic look I wanted absolutely worked, and I think it was well worth the extra pre-sewing time it needed to get the lines and curves exactly where I wanted them.  Looking at these photos, please assume a broad grin creeping over my face, because that's how I feel - this is one dress I would have paid good money to own even if I hadn't made it!

And now someone's got to finish tidying up this lawn, don't they....

Good luck with your unplanned fabric purchases, and see you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

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