Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Coral Linen Eva Dress

One final post before the year ends - Happy New Year everyone!

Before we went on our big European holiday a couple of months ago, I got it into my head that I needed a new summery dress to wear in the hopefully sunny places we'd be visiting.

So as you already know from the blog title, the pattern I used was the Eva dress (here's a link to the Tessuti pattern), and yes, you probably already read this in the title too: like just about everyone else, I made it in linen.  I do already have a dress in the same lovely coral shade of linen (blogged back here), but that dress has become a bit shorter in the wash, so here I've made something that can shrink lengthwise to its heart's content.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure this long sack style of dress would suit me...  I do generally like sack dresses, and I know this dress looks terrific on other people, but I was worried it was going to be very dowdy on me, and even when I tried the dress on after finishing it I wasn't sure I liked the length.

Anyway, I took the dress with me to Europe - and how wrong I was!

I wore this dress all through my Europe trip, and - let me keep being completely honest with you - it looked better than all the other clothes I'd brought along (oh and I might do an extra post about that - I love looking at other people's travel wardrobes!). Most of the time in Europe I felt a bit scruffy, but in this dress I felt less of a tourist :).

In an out-of-town bakery in the South of France, in this dress and heels the baker seemed to take me for a French maman bringing her kids home, and threw in extra pastries pour les enfants - et bon weekend, madame!

On a dry, hot day exploring Les Baux the dress was amazingly comfortable, and the length was easily tucked up into my undies for climbing ancient worn down steps.

And in Rome it was the one outfit that felt elegant enough for "la passeggiatta" (I believe that's strolling and sampling gelatos) among the locals :).

My little 7 year old daughter took all these photos, and I am quite astonished at her skills with my camera! I haven't had to do ANY cropping or straightening the way I do with my own photos... 

The official photographer


Sleeveless variant of the Eva dress from Tessuti patterns, made in a size S.  The pattern cost me $28 in hard copy form.

3 metres of linen from Lincraft, and I think it was about $14 / metre which would total $42.  I had about a half a metre left at the end of some sneaky cutting - Rachel had let me know she'd only needed about 2.5 metres but obviously how much you'd need depends on the size sewn, fabric width, and repeats in the fabric design.

I already had thread from my making last coral linen dress, and I didn't need any other notions, so the fabric plus pattern costs add up to $70. That sounds a lot, but with the amount of wear I've given this dress it feels worth it.

Tessuti patterns' Eva dress in coral linen
  • Lengthened the bodice by 2cm to try to give the illusion of a longer body
  • Changed the order of assembly of front and back panels to give myself a better shot at lining up the seams (they're still not perfect though - I was in too much of a hurry)
  • Used a regular hem rather than binding the hem, just because I'd skipped the last part of the instructions and assumed the dress was going  to have a regular hem
  • Omitted top stitching

I love the neck and sleeve binding, I love that the instructions include steps for finishing your seams, and I love the pocket instructions - they're the real deal, and give you a properly finished pocket that sits facing to the front of the dress as it should. I remember proper pocket instructions like these in my old 80s / 90s designer Vogue patterns, but I haven't seen them in ages. And the pockets themselves are excellent, nice and roomy and positioned at a very comfortable place.

I've heard a few negative mutterings around the place about hand drawn patterns vs those drafted in CAD or whatever other software gets used, and I have to say, I absolutely don't mind if a pattern is hand drawn - what I care about is whether it's a well-drafted pattern.  Not all hand drafted patterns are good, but it seems to me that Tessuti patterns know what they're doing, even if their patterns do look 'old school"...

I can't think of any cons!  When I initially tried this dress on and reviewed it in the bathroom mirror, I thought it would look better at just below knee length. I was wrong; the lantern shape of the skirt would be lost on a shorter dress. The bathroom mirror didn't give me enough perspective to be able to judge length, so the con is on me.

See you soon!

- Gabrielle x

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Undercover, No Hood

I suppose my earlier blog post about the Undercover Hood pattern sounded a bit negative - but I liked it enough to whip up a second Undercover top straight after the first!

Please excuse these pathetic photos; I had a very hard time photographing this top, but since I made it several months ago I decided I really should blog it anyway rather than waiting for my photographic skills to improve. 

This time around I used the precious pink ponte from Tessuti Fabrics that I'd intended for a StyleArc Philippa top (see this post), and sewed up the top without the hood, without the pockets (again) and with cropped sleeves. My plan was to pair this top with my pale pink midi skirt - the colours match perfectly and I assumed the skirt and top would look as good on me as they did in my imagination :). Unfortunately the shapes look pretty unflattering together, so instead I'm showing you the top how I'll actually wear it to work, with a fitted floral RTW skirt.

Leaving the hood and pockets off, the Undercover pattern becomes very similar to the Grainline Linden pattern. I suspect one difference would be in the lengths of the two tops, as Jen of Grainline Studio seems to draft for shorter than average women and Katie of Papercut Patterns seems to draft to fit taller women. The Linden does also look to have shaping at the waist and bigger neckline, and there may be subtle differences in the raglan seam placement and sleeve width. but these would be simple adjustments to make to whichever pattern you started with. I don't see anything wrong with two pattern companies issuing similar patterns, but if you already have one of these two patterns I really don't think you'd get much out of buying the other!

I prefer this version of the top to my first one - this time around I used the right seam allowance (1cm, not 1.5cm as I sewed first time around), so the top feels much looser. I also like the deep hems and 3/4 sleeves very much; I think these make the top look quite smart for something that feels so comfortable.

I don't have too much more to say about the pattern that I haven't said before...

One thing that did strike me this time around, with a more structured fabric, is that the raglan seam is sitting quite high. My sizing in tops is usually pretty standard, but I feel like this top is too short in the section from bust (the bottom of the raglan seam) to shoulder. If this part of the top were longer, with the end of the seam moved down closer to the bust, the sleeves could be wider and more "slouchy" (well that's what the pattern description says about the top), and perhaps bust darts could have been rotated into the raglan seam to reduce some of the folds around the underarm and bust area. Maybe I've got this completely wrong - I'm no fit expert - but it's something I might experiment with if I get sick of my current sewing projects...  

These next couple of (darkened) photos show you where the raglan seam sits on my body, and how its placement above the bust results in excess fabric above the bust and some awkward folds:

In this next photo you can see the general shape of the top as compared to a truly slouchy top (I haven't blogged the white top yet, but it was made using the same pattern as used for my garish hibiscus top):

And in these next two close ups you can see the texture of the fabric and the true colour of the top - it's a pale pink, pretty much the same colour as my pale pink midi skirt:

The top is by no means a great fit, but this is one of those rare cases where the top looks better in real life than it does in photos, and I know I'll be wearing it heaps when the weather cools down after summer. 

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

The Christmas Dress

Where do I start with this one?

Well, do you remember I mentioned I was going to sew up this pattern using the middle one of these fabrics from Paris for a Christmas dress for my daughter this year?

She disagreed. Very politely.

So we went on a trip to The Fabric Store. She chose sequins, and then back home she designed a new dress shape for me. I made it. She loved it.

The End.

Of course the full story was a bit more involved than that.

Let's rewind, shall we?

We walked into The Fabric Store looking for a pale pink cotton; something suitable for a dress with pintucks and pleats, buttons and a bow - we had a well-defined goal. But there was so much my daughter liked there, most of it slippery (eg silk chiffon) and non-pink... I was starting to worry - who wants to sew silk chiffon for a last minute Christmas dress? And then at the back of the shop, she found iris flavoured sequins. I wholeheartedly approved. We found a matching lining fabric and bought a metre of each, celebrated with lemonade and coffee, and rushed home.

With the new fabric, the dress design had to change significantly. Miss 7 now envisaged a simple short sleeved, mid-calf length, flowing dress with a slightly flared skirt, and I was sure we must have a pattern for something like it. We browsed a huge pile of old Burda Style magazines and didn't find anything exactly right, but we found a pattern (issue 11/1012, pattern #151, which is a simple pattern for a child's sequinned tunic) we thought might do. And then I got caught up in all the Christmas planning for a couple of days, and suddenly it was Christmas Eve, and my daughter was asking how her Christmas dress was looking...

I quickly traced out the BurdaStyle pattern and compared it to a kids t-shirt pattern I've used before - uh oh, far too boxy and shapeless. So working from the t-shirt pattern, I redrew our dress pattern with a more fitted bodice and shoulders, a rounded neckline, short sleeves, and a flared skirt. I cut out the lining and sewed up shoulder and side seams, and we checked the fit - apparently just right!

Cutting the sequins was not pleasant - the fabric didn't want to lie smoothly on the fold, and my pins had to work around rather than through the sequins, but soon chopped up sequins were flying everywhere.

I didn't want scratchy sequins on the neckline so I decided to use a satin bias binding to join the outer sequinned fabric to the inner lining, and this had the advantage of only minimally changing the size of the "just right" neck opening. To get a decent finish on the neckline I attached the binding on the inside of the dress, then rolled it over and topstitched it from the outside of the dress - I read this tip on Lara's blog when she was sewing up the Ruby top from Tessuti Fabrics, and she explains it a lot more clearly over there!

I did the same on the sleeve openings, but as you can see, my sequinned sleeves were longer than my lining sleeves, so there's a puff in the sleeve that shouldn't be there. It doesn't seem to bother my daughter so I'm not worrying about it either. 

A last big lot of satin bias binding was sewn to the sequinned fabric hem (the lining is hemmed separately, about 2 inches shorter), and the relative stiffness of the binding helps the skirt flare outwards rather than just flowing downwards.

Fabric: 1 metre of sequins ($18) + 1 metre of lining ($12) - $20 Christmas discount = $10
Notions: a couple of metres of dark blue satin bias binding from my stash = ??? + a reel of thread = between $5 and $15 I guess?
Pattern: Re-use of a previously used Burda pattern combined with basic sketching = $0

Total: $15 - $25 ??

Sewing this dress was surprisingly easy. I'd read a lot of articles and blog posts about sewing sequins (removing sequins from the SA, tying off the sequin threads, wearing protective glasses to shield eyes from flying sequins and broken needles, reattaching sequins after sewing seams - OMG, too much!) BUT I have sewn with sequinned fabric before (silk chiffon trimmed with decorative mini sequins, for a dress for my daughter earlier this year) and I knew my machine could sew right through small sequins. On the recommendation of staff at The Fabric Store I used a new size 75 stretch needle and a regular foot, and my machine sewed right through the bigger sequins without fuss.  The fabric did move about a lot as I sewed, but this was controllable with lots of pins and a slow stitch speed. I'm not sure if this helped, but I also kept my sequins either face to face with another lot of sequins (eg sewing front to back) or facing down into the sewing machine plate with lining fabric upppermost.  I trimmed the underarm seams where the layers of sequins felt too bulky through the lining fabric, but that's all the finishing I did as the sequins are attached to a mesh fabric that I don't expect to unravel at all, and the threads holding the sequins on the outside of the dress should be effectively tied off by the machine stitched seams and bias binding.

I'm now taking orders for sequinned dresses from relatives and friends for next Christmas :).

If you celebrated Christmas, I hope your day was enjoyable and relaxing, and that any gifts you made were well received...

See you soon

Gabrielle x

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Cosy Undercover Hoodie

About two months ago when we got back home from our lovely European holiday I went on such a sewing binge. I think I sewed about 5 garments in 2 weeks, and that included a couple of Papercut Undercover Hood tops. Back then Sydney was cool and rainy, and I thought summer would never arrive; cosy sweatshirts seemed really sensible...

Papercut rate this a "rookie" level pattern and describe it as follows:

"Versatile slouchy fit sweater, make as a hoody or as a sweater with neck binding.  With the option of full or cropped length, you can take it from casual hoody to cute cropped sweater worn with high-waisted jeans or skirts. It is raglan style with long wide sleeve and hem cuffs. It has a lined hood, and a centre front pocket. A great basic for any wardrobe, good for layering or on its own."

I made the hooded, full length version in the size M, which was the best match to my measurements. However, I think I may have turned this into a size S by using a 1.5cm instead of the designated 1cm seam allowance, which could explain why my hoodie is not at all slouchy. The information about the seam allowance to use in this pattern was on the top LHS of the very initial page of instructions, but I'd ignored this page because I thought it was just talking about the cutting layout, which I like to optimise for myself. So - if you're new to Papercut patterns, learn from my mistake - read that first page as carefully as you do the sewing instructions! 

The "rookie" classification is pretty spot on if you ask me. This is a very basic pattern - front and back are virtually identical, hood outer and lining are made from the same pattern piece, and cuffs are simple rectangles. No special fabrics are needed, and there are no special tricks or techniques in the instructions.

The pattern is very attractive with lovely graphics, and I know it's hard to get simple shapes just right, but I honestly feel silly for spending money on a pdf pattern for something so basic. Anyway, I've made the hoodie with a few simple modifications and I think it's a keeper - a nice wardrobe staple, and snuggly to boot.

In the original Papercut photos of the hoodie,I thought the hood might be a bit short, though it's hard to tell with that gorgeous mane of hair obscuring most of the hood. So to avoid that pulling up on the shoulders you get from a too-short hood, I added about 2" in length to the hood. Maybe I have a long head, but I like the resulting fit - my hood at least is slouchy!

As you can see I left off the centre front pocket - I did this based on difficulties I've had sewing kangaroo pockets neatly on kids' fleece hoodies, and also because I know I prefer to use side pockets at hip length.

Instead of making the cuff for the body of the sweatshirt from a single rectangle with a seam at centre back or at one side seam, I made this cuff from two rectangles; one for the front and one for the back of the sweatshirt with side seams continued from the body section. I thought this would look better, and obviously cutting two half-girth rectangles is gentler on your fabric requirements that cutting a single full-girth rectangle...

Still on the subject of cuffs, I found the instructions for sewing the cuffs unnecessarily complex so just looked at a sweatshirt of my son's to work out what needed to be done (and it was very simple). The sleeve cuffs on this pattern are quite deep, which I like - if you prefer a standard RTW cuff length they're of course very easily shortened but you may then need to add length to the sleeves.

Probably the most interesting modification I made was in sewing the hood. The same pattern piece is used for both the hood outer and the hood lining in this pattern, but I think it looks a lot neater if the lining fabric doesn't come all the way to the edge (and this applies to skirts, jackets etc too). I could have removed some width from the hood lining on the edge where the hood opens, but the quicker approach was to just sew the outer to the lining with different seam allowances. I used a 1.5 cm SA for the lining and a 1 cm SA for the outer fabric, and this gave me about 0.5cm of turned under fabric at the hood opening.  I then trimmed the outer fabric in the seam, then pressed the trimmed seams to the inside with the hood opened out flat. Finally I top stitched the opening about 2.5cm in from the edge.

In my opinion the Papercut pattern hood pattern desperately needs something between the hood and the body; something to hide the seam allowance. If you dig out a RTW hoodie or do an image search on hoodies, you may see the little trick that I would have expected to see in this pattern: the strip of self-fabric or coordinating binding that covers this join on the inside. This detail then implies top stitching around the neckline, which I guess then means top stitching lots of other areas of the top for a consistent look, but I do think it would have made for a higher level of finish.

I absolutely loathe altering completed projects, so even though this bugs me I'm not going to fix it - I'll just be crossing my fingers that an overlocked seam doesn't pop up at the neckline when I wear the top.

I think it's interesting to compare this hood design to that in an old Vogue designer hoodie pattern I picked up secondhand for a few dollars on etsy and sewed up back in 2012. The Vogue pattern was designed for woven fabrics, but included details like a deep cuff on the hood opening, flat felled seams and top stitching throughout, facings for the back neckline and an interesting sort of placket for the front neckline that neatly hid the join between hood and body. These two hoods are like chalk and cheese!

OK, onto the fabric. My outer fabric, a soft and cosy cotton knit of the kind I've seen described as French terry by American bloggers, is from my local Tessuti Fabrics shop, and was originally destined to be part of a StyleArc bomber jacket. I only used about a metre of this outer fabric (a very wide fabric though). The hood lining is a thin, t-shirt weight cotton jersey bought ages ago from The Fabric Store here in Sydney - this warm, orangey coral colour is one of my favourite colours, and there's enough left for a coordinating t-shirt if I get around to it! The lining fabric is not an ideal match to the outer because it's a lot stretchier than the outer, but I loved the look of the two colours together and couldn't find anything I preferred in my stash.

I know finding coordinating ribbing can be quite a challenge when you're making a sweatshirt or hoodie, but one of the pleasant surprises in this pattern was that there was no call for ribbing. The sleeve and body cuffs are simply rectangles of folded over fabric, the same fabric as used in the sleeves and body. I was a bit dubious about whether this would work, but it seems absolutely fine - I'll definitely try to keep this in mind for future sweatshirts!

I think that's all I have to say - quite a lot for a simple pattern!

Overall I like this pattern, but I don't love it. I made another Undercover top straight after this one (but one with more of a Grainline Linden flavour); I'll try to get some photos of that one soon!

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Friday, 19 December 2014

Vintage Weigel's Dress #1

Q: What do you get when you cross a sweet vintage pattern with a pretty quilting cotton?

I've had this Weigel's pattern for a few years, and I've been so looking forward to being able to make it for my daughter. A few weeks ago I got it into my head that the time was right, and then that thought morphed into ambitious thoughts of Christmas dresses.

The last time I made my daughter a vintage dress I was pleasantly surprised by the fit (I don't think I ever blogged it though, sorry, but it was a 1950s Simplicity dress in striped cotton), so this time around I didn't expect many issues.  I wanted to make the view on the right, the blue dress with the detachable bib (or whatever it's called) with that cool step shape, but then I got it into my head to use a pretty coral and cream quilting cotton in my stash. I only had a metre of the fabric, not at all enough, so I made do with approximation of the dress - with the bib omitted and the skirt volume reduced - which I thought might still be pretty. And all going well I thought I'd then be able to whip up the complete dress with bib in plenty of time for Christmas :).

A: THIS is what you get!

"Aha!", you say, "but you did NOT use that pattern!"

Yes, I did use that pattern, but I only had a metre of fabric to play with. Even without measuring anything I knew I'd need to lengthen the skirt substantially for my very tall 7 year old, and to do that I had to leave off the sweet geometric bib, massively reduce the fullness of the skirt, and leave out the sash. I had enough small fabric scraps left over to piece together some simple facings (not included in the pattern), but there's now only really enough material left for a little something for Barbie.

Now I don't know if Weigel's were known back in the day for drafting their patterns wide, but this dress - geez!!! there was so much ease in it! In these photos you can see the dress looks loose with wideset shoulders; bear in mind that I took these pictures after I'd removed 2 centimetres from each side seam, from underarm to waist - which is as much as I could take the dress in without making the bodice narrower than the shoulder straps. I'm pretty surprised that excess ease in children's patterns has been around for so long - I thought patterns were all smaller in the old days!

Next time around to improve the fit and get those shoulder straps in the right place I want to remove about an inch from CF and a couple of inches from CB. [Yes, there will be a next time though probably not in time for Christmas. I've got my fabric lined up: the Atelier Brunette "Blue Moon" fabric I bought a couple of months ago when Busy Lizzie introduced me to Lil' Weasel in Paris. And I've got 1.5 metres of it, so I think there's enough to make the bib and pouffy skirt too. YAY!]

At least the length looks good, doesn't it? Well that's not the pattern either; I added a substantial amount of length to the dress as drafted, with hopes for a lovely deep hem, and what I've ended up with is a stingy little turned-over-once-and-serged affair.  Very disappointing given the cover art - I just wish someone had posted a review on patternreview (don't worry, I'm kidding!)

The loose fit isn't really a big problem though, as my daughter loves loose dresses - they're comfortable for handstands, soocer, eating, whatever!  More embarrassing though is the distinct Becky Home Ecky feel to the dress when my delightful model turns around... Behold THE most rubbish zip I have ever inserted!

I'd like to blame the tension on my sewing machine, but since the machine was only just serviced the responsibility looks to be all mine. At least the seams are matching up nicely (phew!).

Moving swiftly along, what I do like about this pattern are the bodice pleats and the square neckline, and I'm sure I'll like the bib too. And I think the fabric colour is super pretty on my daughter :).

Let's skip the moral of the story - most importantly of all, the owner of this new dress LOVES it!

Hope you're well, and see you soon!

- Gabrielle x

Sunday, 14 December 2014

StyleArc Philippa: Camera, I Beg to Differ

If the camera never lies then it's certainly true that mirrors lie. But maybe both do?

I've got a top to share with you today that proves that mirrors and cameras disagree - though in my opinion, cameras have happy days (everything is beautiful - that includes YOU!) and grouchy days (everything sucks, I hate you!). This particular top looked terrifyingly bad in the mirror, but looks a lot better through the camera lens.

UpSewLate: this top looks better through the lens than in the mirror! 

After a couple of StyleArc successes (mind you, just the one pattern - two Danni dresses blogged here and here) my confidence was strong. The style of the Philippa peplum top really appealed to me - slim line, attractive seam lines, understated peplum, and a sleek V-neck. Yes please!

StyleArc's Philippa Peplum Top

I had a beautiful soft pink ponte lined up, and I was on the verge of cutting it out when a nervous little voice in my head pleaded with me to make a muslin. [OK, OK, I'm sure it isn't necessary, but I'll humour you this time.]  Hence this cheap red ponte version of the top...

I sewed Philippa in the same size I'd used for those Danni dresses, and it looked small... a quick try on at the "nearly constructed" stage confirmed it - it FELT too small! I was going to scrap the top then and there, but in the interests of my own sewing education and the general documentation of sewing fails on the internet I thought I should finish the top and share it here.

So here you go.  At first glance I thought the top *looked* OK in these photos, so let me explicitly point out the fitting and sewing problems.

First of all, the whole top is too tight - I must need the next size up! The pattern is designed for ponte fabrics, but this top is so fitted on me that even a jellybean in my belly would be visible (these photos were taken many, many hours after lunch). It's fitted both above and within the peplum; clinging to rather than skimming over my hips. I envisaged this as a work top, but it's too fitted for the office - all my lumps and bumps would be on display; hello, mutton dressed as lamb! On the plus side, the shoulders feel like a good fit, so I guess they're a size smaller than the rest of me in StyleArc patterns (just like they are in Big 4 patterns).

UpSewLate: I need to go up a size or more for my waist! 
The bust darts are too high. The darts look to end a few centimetres too high on me, so either my sewing was very inaccurate or my bust is lower set than StyleArc's standard - or a combination of the two.

UpSewLate: A classic case of bust darts that are too high
The V-neck gapes. The V-neck is too deep for me. The gaping means I risk flashing my bra cups with the slightest movement, but if I pull the neckline taut the low apex of the V overlaps my bra strap - and I mean the strap that goes UNDER my bust! Given the height of the bust darts, it looks like the pattern is imtended to be very low cut - probably that looks fine if you've got some bust cleavage? but I hate the way it looks on me.

UpSewLate: Yup, that's what a gaping neckline looks like!
UpSewLate: so long as I leave a hand on my hip whenever I bend forward I'll be fine... but is that practical?
The back is too long on me - it desperately needs a big wedge removed. I guess this might be less noticeable if the top weren't so tight...

UpSewLate: A back bodice that needs a swayback adjustment
The sewing is sub-standard. My invisible zip is rubbish, with the fabric not lining up properly on either side of CB, and with the zip not really invisible. And my sewing is probably responsible for the facings popping out of the neckline - I don't think I was accurate enough in following the CF stitch line at the bottom of the facings. I have to say though that it's hard to do your best on something you already know you're getting rid of. 

UpSewLate: The blinding red hue hides the flaws! 

There are obvious solutions though, aren't there? Yes...
  • I could go up a size or more through the body - either by having a crack at grading, or by using smaller seam allowances - and that would make the top a lot less fitted.
  • I could lower the bist darts.
  • I could raise the V, pinching out a dart from each side, though I'm not confident I'd get the upper bust CF line right...
  • I could make a massive swayback adjustment.
  • I could take a bit more care with my sewing :-P.
UpSewLate: it's too late for this Philippa! 

Yes, I could do all that, but this particular top has already been donated to charity, and for now I don't think I'll have another go.  Philippa is a winter top, and it's now summer, but more importantly, my mind has already wandered off to other patterns.

I hope your sewing is going well!

See you soon
- Gabrielle x

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