Monday, 28 July 2014

Silver Twist, B5650

Wahoo, don't you just love a swishy midi skirt? I've been wanting to make just this shape for such a long time!

Swishy midi skirt B5650
This skirt!  The flare feels just right, and the below the knee length hits a vintage-referencing sweet spot. Can't you imagine cutting a rug in this skirt?

Say what? Cutting a rug means dancing vigorously and extremely well. I've read that the term originated in the 1930s; when couples danced the jitterbug on carpet it looked like they were cutting it up with their feet.  Minnie who's a hep cat now did cut a rug, and it sounds like such a fun thing to do... I want to see that movie now!

I want to learn the jitterbug! B5650
A simple chambray skirt, yes, but there's a twist. A silver stripe. Chambray plus silver - utility meets disco!

Originally the skirt was going to be a pale pink stretch cotton, and the next one may be just that - but there's been so much chambray in the sewing blogosphere, so chambray jumped to the top of my queue. And then I saw a photo of a silver midi skirt in a fashion mag - too easily influenced - so the silver melded with the chambray, via a sporty stripe. 

Utility meets disco, chambray + silver B5650
This pattern, Butterick 5650, landed in my lap via the second hand shop. Fifty cents? Sold! The pattern illustrations really didn't grab me, but the line drawings had potential...  The pattern includes this skirt (view A), a gathered, looser version (view B), and a pair of gathered waist tapered pants (view C).

Imperfect hemline - B5650
My skirt isn't perfect, far from it. I was in such a rush to turn my idea into something tangible that I took a few shortcuts:

  • I didn't check the finished measurements for the skirt - should have, and it's a bit tight.
  • I hemmed the skirt according to the cutting out line - should have hung it overnight and adjusted it, as I can see in these photos that it's not straight.  
  • I cut out my double layer silver rectangle, checking grainlines just once - should have double checked as the silver fabrics are very slightly off grain.  
  • I ignored grainline recommendations for the chambray, instead placing grainline on centre back and parallel to the silver panel in the front. This made my zipper insertion and silver panel insertion easier but may have messed with the hang of the skirt. 

It's what I imagined - B5650
Checking out a fence - B5650
But despite the imperfections, I have to say the skirt pretty much looks as I imagined it.

It's a little tight across my winter layer (waist and hips), but it should fit nicely when the warm weather melts the winter layer away.

Sewing for summer - B5650

I mentioned some "shouldn't have"s above, but there were a few other changes I made to the straight size 14 pattern that I'm absolutely delighted I made:
  • I swapped out the regular zip for a dark blue invisible zip - and yes, it's invisible :).
  • I left out the pockets. Side pockets on a hip skimming skirt just add bulk! 
  • I added a little length, 'cos I'm a little taller than average. 
  • And not least of all, I added a silver panel down the centre front. Party time! 

No side pockets - B5650

This skirt has worked out well enough, but I've learnt a lesson along the way.

Just because a pattern terms itself "Fast & Easy" doesn't mean you can skip the basics. Like following grainline recommendations, for example. Like checking finished measurements, for another. Version 2 is going to be by the book, I tell you!

See you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Blue Danni

I made another Danni!

June was the second annual Indie Pattern Month over at The Monthly Stitch, and the inaugural Indie Pattern Month (announced here, and blogged all over the place). While I'd disagree strongly with the sentiment that the only good pattern is an indie one (of course no one said that, it's just the impression I got from some very passionate pro-indie blog posts), there is undoubtedly much to love about indie pattern companies. Personally I love how they engage with, encourage and promote the people who sew their patterns, and I appreciate the different aesthetics and body types (I'm paraphrasing Mari here) they cater for.

Most of the bigger name indie pattern companies aren't really for me though. I'm waaay too old for cute or mini, I'm not short or particularly curvy, I don't exercise, I'm not a hipster and I'm not a beginner sewist.  I have a huge pattern stash ranging over many decades, so I've probably already got something similar to any straightforward pattern that gets released. Oh, and the Big 4 patterns already fit me pretty well when approached with a standardised set of adjustments.

Having said that, I'm as enamored of beautiful branding as the next sewist, and I really like the idea of supporting local companies. So this June, although you didn't see any indie blog posts from me, I was doing plenty of local indie sewing using StyleArc and Papercut patterns: Danni in stripes, my Denim Pleated Pants, and this Blue Danni:

The Danni Dolman dress is described on StyleArc's site as follows: "This Dolman sleeved dress features a slight boat neck, there are 4 tucks falling from the left side seam softly over the hip line making this dress easy to wear and such a simple dress to sew. Suitable for all seasons." 

That mural in the first photo is fun, but I know you couldn't really see the dress against the blue background. I've lightened these photos taken against a less exciting concrete backdrop to try to better show you the way the tucks look in the ponti fabric, and the way the dress flatters rather than flaunts in a ponti, but dark blue is hard to photograph.

I liked the look of my Danni in stripes, and jersey IS the recommended fabric for the pattern, but I don't feel confident wearing something that feels so clingy, so pretty much as soon as it was sewn, I started Danni #2, with a nice firm ponti di roma from the stash. I think this fabric is 2 or 3 years old, and bought at Lincraft before I knew much about the joys of fabric shopping (that's why it's such a sensible fabric). 

Switching to a ponti fabric, the dress loses the super cling factor; much more suitable for corporate life, and becomes warmer (yay! cosy!). However, when I sewed this up initially the ponti looked loose rather than drapey in the top, so I took the dress in from the waist up (side seams from the waist to the dolman sleeves around elbow level, also centre back seam from the waist up) to make the top more fitted to my curves. It clings to my tummy, but I do have a tummy! The dress was also lengthened a few centimetres (I'm about 5'8").

I think I showed you the pattern last time, but to save you flicking back here they are again:

Yes, I like this one, it's a keeper... 

Thanks for reading, and see you soon.

- Gabrielle x

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Denim Detail: Papercut Patterns Pleated Pants

After a ridiculous amount of procrastination and many substitution projects, I started making these Papercut pleated pants a couple of months ago.  I'd been delighted to win the pattern last year in a giveaway held last year by the very lovely Juliette (yes, all giveaway holders are lovely, but she seems particularly lovely) of the Crazy Gypsy Chronicles; I was mad keen on pleated pants - still am - and desperate to get the pleated look as seen on the cool pattern envelope.

It's a gorgeous package: recycled paper, cool graphics and photography, and a clearly drawn and instructed pattern. The pattern is described as "A pleated pant with a slim fit leg, wide shaped waistband, fly front opening, back darts and side pockets" and that's exactly what I wanted - I wanted pants just like the ones on the pattern envelope!

There was a problem. You know how the sizing of these pants is really huge, and everyone has to take the pants in by 2 sizes to get down to the size they intended to make? Yes? Well apparently that problem got fixed! I had no idea. Unfortunately pattern companies don't do version control, so when you buy a pattern you can't tell if you're getting the pattern that everyone reviewed last year or an improved version...

[Hmm, why don't pattern companies use version control? Wouldn't it make sense? And wouldn't it be great for the pattern buyers of the future to be able to tell whether they're getting the limited edition first print run, or the original release, or the revised and improved version?]

Anyway, suffice to say having read all the reviews I could find, and having checked out all related photos, I very deliberately cut the pants out 2 sizes smaller than my measured size. They looked small, but many had gone before me, so I was utterly confident I was on the right path.
Until I couldn't even get them on!

And so a design feature was born of necessity. 

I'd cut the pants out of my good denim (bought from Minerva fabrics last year - and boy was the delivery from the UK speedy!), and there was no back up plan (arghhh, I need to learn a few tricks from risk management). So I measured the extra width to grade UP 2 sizes at the hips, and upper inner thighs. I had enough length of fabric for 2 continuous rectangular strips for my outer leg seams (this is just the reverse side of the denim), and I pieced some smaller pieces of fabric to make continuous narrow rectangular strips for the inner leg seams (same side of the denim so as to keep this extra detail less noticeable).
I like how the contrast strips on the side seams bring the pockets in from the side; they feel like they're perfectly placed for my hands in this position.

But can you see why the design feature is also a problem of its own?

It's entirely my own fault - with that extra width, the pants have ended up too wide at the ankles. As I'm sure you know, legs are more of an upside down skittle shape than a rectangle, so if you're adding width to grade up a leg size, you shouldn't grade up by the same amount at the hip as you do at the ankle.

Overall the fit is pretty good for "out of the envelope" - the compensations I made took the pattern back from an XXS (!!) to about an S, which is the size that corresponds to my waist and hip measurements, and the excess lower leg width is largely (hehe) my own doing.  There is some pulling from the back - the fit on my backside feels too snug compared to the loose comfort of those pleats in the front - but then again I wasn't able to add width at the crotch seam to grade up this part of the patternThe leg length is OK for my height (about 5'8" with a short body), though I don't have enough length for a deep cuff.

Oh and I used too long a fly zipper and my zip comes up onto the waistband, so the (3) hooks and eyes that go over it make for a very secure waistband, but I find this interesting and unusual rather than problematic. I don't have a photo of this, but I'll try to take one and add it for your interest and amusement :).

So what I have now is some really cool pants that I just don't love. I know these photos make the pants look good, but the pants do NOT look that good when I wear them in real life. I do like the pattern, and I'm thinking of making the pants again, this time in the correct size and without any extra ankle width, but this pair have ended up just a bit too wacky... 

 Hopefully some time in the magic wardrobe will make me love them more?

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

- Gabrielle x

PS A few of my Instagram friends have been waiting a long time for this blog post - thank you for your patience guys!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Fleece Hoodies

Over the weekend I made my daughter a couple of Burda fleece hoodies.

First up I made a red hoodie, worn on Saturday:

The pattern I used is Burda 9614, a unisex pattern that includes sizes 3 to 13. I sewed a combination of view D (the hoodie) and view A (regular long sleeves as opposed to the layered sleeves of view D) in a size 8, which is intended to fit a child 128 cm tall (just a couple of cm taller than my daughter). The pattern is semi-fitted, and I think it's normally intended for a much lighter cotton jersey BUT it works well in a thicker fabric so long as the fabric has a good amount of stretch, as does this red fleece.

And then I made a checked pink and cream one, worn on Sunday and Monday:

Top stitching fleece is just painful, and I wasn't happy with my stitching on the curved pocket openings and lower line of the red pocket, so I added some seam lines to the pink and cream version with the intention of (1) getting rid of the curves and (2) getting rid of the top stitching. I guess I didn't think it through properly though, so although I did get rid of the curves I still left myself a lot of unpleasant top stitching. Oh well... I've left it as is, and hopefully the kind of people who notice messy top stitching will be distracted by all the check matching - front seams, pocket, side seams, and upper back to sleeve backs..

I've used this pattern (Burda 9614) many times before for both the hoodie and the long sleeved t-shirt pattern, and I really like the fit for a tall, slim child. Using a thick fleece I probably should have gone up a size in widths, as the pink and cream checked hoodie is apparently a bit too snug (this fabric has less stretch than the red fleece). And I should really remember by now that my kids have longer heads than the Burda average - every time I've made this hood it's been a bit short.

Next time I need to make a kid's hoodie I'm thinking to try Burda 9482, which looks - at least in pattern envelope photos - to be a much looser fit, with raglan sleeves and a bigger hood with a raised neckline.

I can't say I particularly enjoy sewing fleece, but sewing these up gives me back a little fabric space, and addresses my daughter's lack of warm jumpers. Is it just me, or is it hard to find proper warm winter RTW jumpers for girls? I haven't been searching that hard, but I get the impression from what I see in the city shops that girls are supposed to look pretty and not feel the cold - all year round. I know girls are tough, but seriously...

Back soon with some selfish sewing!

See you soon
- Gabrielle xx

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Danni in Stripes

I've discovered a local indie pattern company!

I know people have been making StyleArc patterns for years - and they're an Australian company - but somehow they only registered as a pattern company I should check out this year. Maybe it was all Jean's makes in May, maybe it was K-Line's Rosie drafts, and maybe it was Lara's knits - I don't remember who prompted me to go LOOK at the website, but a few weeks back I looked and promptly bought a few patterns. Including the Danni Dolman sleeve dress pattern.

It was so cold taking these photos (brrr) even with a coat on standby! That sunlight looks so good but it ain't full of warmth!

The patterns took a couple of weeks to arrive from when I ordered them (just like Vogues when I order them from the US).  I heard somewhere that they're printed on demand, which probably slows things a little, plus my postie seems to work part-time. StyleArc don't have the to-die-for packaging and cool branding / photoshoots of the newer indie brands, but on the other hand they seem to issue new patterns every month, and many of them very up-to-date with RTW styles. They're cheaper than the "cool brand" indies too, AND they send freebies :). The patterns are printed on sturdy paper, and include a fabric sample instead of a fabric recommendation. Instructions are succinct, though longer tutorials for specific techniques you might need (eg how to insert a zip fly, or how to level a skirt) are available here on their website. So even though many of the designs have quite straightforward lines, the assumption seems to be that you've sewn a few similar garments before. Which is fine by me :)

As the Danni dolman dress is a very simple shape I figured it would be a good pattern with which to verify how StyleArc patterns fit me - they claim to have a RTW fit, and patterns are ordered in a single size, but my measurements seemed to put me in a size 8 whereas in Aussie RTW I'm more like a 10-12!

Here's the pattern illustration:

Judging by this test dress, the areas I'll need to modify for StyleArc patterns are pretty consistent with the areas in RTW that don't fit me well: shoulders; length; and waist-hip curve. 

I made just 2 modifications to the pattern in making this dress:
  1. The neckline looked very wide, so I measured it and brought it in by 2cm on each shoulder to ensure my bra straps would be covered. The pattern illustration shows a slightly draped neckline, but I have rather narrow shoulders, and I didn't want to risk making the neckline unwearably wide.  I'll have to confirm with my next StyleArc pattern whether they draft for medium or wide shoulders...
  2. I took the sleeves in by about 2cm along the shoulder / sleeve line. This has made them quite tight and meant I also then needed to remove some sleeve length (2-3cm) where they were too tight on my lower arms. It also would have slightly reduced the dress length. I did this to correct my own stripe placement error - I'd forgotten to cut out the fabric so that the stripes would make nice chevrons down my arms! Stripes not aligning on noticeable seams is one of those things that really bugs me, so I *had* to make these stripes align even though it affected comfort :(.  
OK, so let's have some photos:

There's a centre back seam, which is very easy to match stripes along as it's dead straight. And having that CB seam reduces the amount of fabric this dress consumes.

The fabric is a piece of stripey viscose/spandex that I found on Tessuti's remnant table last year, and it's a lovely quality fabric but definitely not warm enough by itself for winter! If you can't tell the colours, it's a black stripe on taupe. Made up into a dress I like the way it looks a lot more than I thought I would - though to be honest I'm not sure when or where I'll wear something so body-con.

Effort: Minimal! A couple of hours?

Cost: $20 for the fabric, + $15.60 for the pattern (including part of the postage cost) = $35.60

This may be the start of a beautiful thing ;)

See you soon
- Gabrielle xx

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