Saturday, 28 June 2014

Mad Jaywalking

The Tessuti Fabrics Jaywalk competition? Yes, I entered too, and this is what I made in a mad, crazy weekend rush:


All very bright and striking with the orange backdrop, but below are my "official" entry pictures, taken a little earlier in my lunch break on the Tuesday of the competition deadline - in which you can see the dress just a little better, though still not that well:


That's front, side and back sorted then, right? Oh I know, you can't see the dress very well - but honestly I have to blame the photographer (shhh, that's me).  I think I need to do a basic camera course, maybe even the same course several times over - does anyone have any recommendations for a short course in Sydney?

I'll show you the details bit by bit, since evidently I can't show you the details on me!

First of all, the pattern is this McCall's beauty from the 1950s:

I chose this pattern after a lot of thought - I know it seems a crazy choice for a competition involving stripey stretch fabric, but as I didn't expect to win I wanted to make something that I would really like. When I played with the Jaywalk fabric I had in mind a picture of a vintage shirt dress in muted stripes, and all (d1-3) those (d4-10) selfies (d11-18) in (d19-25) May (d26-31) just amplified my love of the "narrow bottoms + loose top" silhouette. Where's the fun in sewing something you don't like? The red dress on the pattern envelope looked like THAT kind of silhouette :-), though my skirt hasn't worked out anywhere near the illustrated shape. So I used the stretch striped Jaywalk jersey to make something not recommended for stripes, and perhaps not so suited to stretch fabrics - but it's a dress I wore to work the day after completing, and that I'm sure I'll keep wearing. {Breathe out.}

I don't have much experience with proper vintage patterns, so I did a lot of paper measurements before any cutting. Interestingly I was able to sew the pattern (in a vintage size 16 - and I'm about a size 12 in the Big 4 these days) with minimal adjustments, although arguably the fit I've achieved is too loose - or perhaps more suited to a woven incarnation of the dress.  According to the vintage pattern envelope I should have been a size 14 in the bust (and I probably should have been wearing a bullet bra!) and a few sizes up in the waist and hips; the bust is a bit loose and there was quite a nice amount of ease at the waist and hips.  

The pattern was classed as easy back in the day, and it's really not particularly tricky for an experienced sewist though there are quite a few details. It's simply a belted shirt dress, with an invisible zip in the side seam, a buttoned bodice front (it's a proper 2-piece shirt front, but as there's also a side zip I didn't make my buttons functional), and buttoned triple-darted sleeves.  I tried not to take any short cuts, and I cut out and sewed the whole dress to the best of my ability - what more can you do?

The orange fabric you see is a stretch cotton, also from Tessuti Fabrics. I was initially going to make the collar with the orange fabric underneath, but on trying the bodice both ways I found I really preferred having the orange upper-most - apparently having the loud orange on display makes the muted Jaywalk colours easier for me to wear :).

Both the belt buckle and the buttons are vintage, picked up ages ago at a second hand store - and I still have heaps of the buttons left!  When I got up to making the belt I was running out of time, so I tried to wing it and insert a long piece of buckram that I'd cut to size into the sewn belt tube. Unfortunately it proved impossible to insert the buckram without it creasing really badly and making the belt look a mess, so I now have a soft belt :). The buckle is a vintage one that I cut the fabric to fit, and I've just double stitched a row of those little "o" shapes with my machine to make buckle holes. I have made belts before and made them properly, so next time I'll have to check one of my sewing bibles as to the correct method!  

And back to the subject of collars, my experience is that precise cutting out makes a huge difference to the look of a garment, but particularly with collars, where a little asymmetry or deviation from the drawn curve is so noticeable. Collar points are noticeable too - mine aren't that good.

I pinned and pressed the collar so as to have the Jaywalk fabric peeking out from under the orange collar, giving the effect of piping. You can see in the next photo that the effect of this is that on the neckline, the orange fabric hangs past the Jaywalk fabric.

The seams are nearly all sewn with a twin needle straight stitch (lengthened) and finished with an overlocker. The shoulder and arm seam, continuing to the cuff, is stabilised with lightweight ribbon rather than clear elastic, as the seam doesn't need any give:

Here's the invisible zip in the side seam - to sew this in I started by interfacing the seam allowances, then basted the zip in with my regular machine foot and a long stitch length (and lots of pins and pencil markings to help me match the stripes). I finished with the invisible zipper foot and a regular straight stitch. I think it worked out well:  

The cuffs are faced with the same (stretch cotton) fabric as used for the contrast collar and belt, and are under stitched as well as catch stitched to the seam allowance to keep them from rolling out. I did the same with the collar but didn't take photos of it! 

In the next photo you can see the sleeve pleats - which are a bit pointless in a soft, stretchy fabric!

I added a waist stay with the aim of helping to support the weight of the skirt fabric and prevent it from pulling on the bodice, though I'm not sure how well it's working:

And of course there's some stripe matching. Side seams, shoulder seams, arm seams, and skirt panels. The skirt front has soft folds that align with the bodice darts, and the back skirt is made from 4 separate panels that align with the centre back seam, with very slight bodice pleats. I managed to match the stripes across the panels pretty well, though not perfectly:

So that's it!

There was a lot of sewing in this dress, all a mad, crazy rush the weekend before the competition deadline. Started late, finished late (the night before the due date), took photos in my lunch break on the due date, and sent my photos in a few minutes before crunch time. Crazy. And I have to admit (to myself mostly - you probably already knew) that sewing deadlines are just not fun.

Hopefully I'll be wearing this dress lots come Spring (and finding or making myself a dolman sleeved jacket to go on top).  I'm glad I made it, I'm happy with the care I took with it, and I'm super pleased to have used a lovely vintage pattern. Will I enter the comp next year though - and will you?

See you soon
Gabrielle xx

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Invisible Cities Dress

Do you ever save up favourite makes for "special" occasions? And then not end up wearing them....?  Or do you save up favourite fabrics for that magical future date when you'll be such a talented sewist that you just *know* you'll be able to whip up clothes that exactly match your creative ideas - only better?

Guilty as charged, m'lud :(

This dress is a good example of those crimes against sewing. The fabric was bought ages ago (11 months ago?), the result of a coup de foudre in Tessuti Fabrics, then lovingly put away. When I finally got around to making something of it - this dress - I loved it. So does that mean I wore it? Hmm. Worn on 1 May as an opening splash for Me Made May. And that's it.

OK, enough of the beating up. My skills are not perfecto, but I'm detetermined to change my ways and sacrifice (I mean sew) more of my pretties. Is it too late for a New Year's resolution? Too early for next year's? And I AM going to wear this dress again and again in June and July and so on.

As you can see this is a simple dress shape but an amazing fabric. I'm calling it the "Invisible Cities" dress because it reminds me of the Italo Calvino classic (reviewed here in NY Books some years back) - not sure why exactly, but maybe because the print looks like it's showing an idealised, fictional city?

I do think less is more when your fabric is a stunner - too many details in the pattern and you lose the excitement of the fabric. In this case, when I bought the fabric I had Anita ponti pants in mind, but the idea just didn't convince me - I was pretty sure it'd be nigh on impossible to position those buildings without drawing attention to the wrong body areas. Finally I realised that a simple dress would be a great alternative with less pattern placement risk. As you can see, I positioned my fabric to give myself a natural belt and belt loops in the fabric design - and I hadn't thought through what this would mean for my tummy, so I now have a lovely glowing tummy builder in my dress. I also didn't have enough fabric to do more than match horizontal lines in the fabric. If I'd had more fabric I'd really have liked to match vertically as well, so that the darker areas on the front hips joined up with darker areas on my back hips.  

Here's the front of the dress, followed by the back, so you can see what I mean about the pattern placement and imagine for yourself what I wanted to do with it:

Here's a close up of my hemline and a side seam (not perfect, even on the horizontal lines, but the pattern print wasn't exactly straight) - and check out the cute architectural details:

I top stitched with just a single line of straight stitching, with a stitch length of about 3.5 I think.

Now, did you notice that the sleeves look awkward when the dress is laid flat? That, my friends, is called over-adjusting!

Let's talk about the pattern I used and how I changed it, and then I'll explain what went wrong with my sleeves. I used this pattern, Vogue 1314, a Tracy Reese designer pattern which is intended for lightweight knits and has a whole lot of gathers, front and back:

This pattern comes with separate lining pieces, which as you can imagine use the same dress shape, with the gathers omitted. So I used the lining pattern pieces for the dress, and the original sleeves shortened (fabric limitations - I even used the selvedges in lieu of sleeve hems!). After measuring myself and checking the pattern measurements (on the pattern pieces), on a size 10 in the shoulders and bust, grading out to a size 12 for waist and hips I made a bunch of adjustments. I added 3/4" to the length above the waist, raised and narrowed the neckline and shoulders, and removed the bust dart and redrew the arm scye. I lengthened the skirt by 3", though half of this length is used in the deep hem. And I narrowed the sleeves and massively reduced the sleeve cap, aiming to minimise gathers in attaching sleeves to the dress. I also drafted a neckline facing (cut out carefully for more pattern matching, of course). On trying the dress on before hemming it, I took the dress in from the hips down, and I can see now that the dress is a looser at the waist than in other areas so I guess with this stretchy firm fabric I could have sewn a size 10 throughout. 

When you remove length from the sleeve cap, you make the length of the sleeve shorter, which means less easing or gathering of the sleeve fabric when you attach the sleeve to the dress - and it's much easier to attach neatly. However (learn from my mistakes!) you need length in the sleeve cap for comfortable arm mobility. If the sleeve cap is too short for your arm, the sleeve will feel unpleasantly tight and will pull on sleeve fabric at the underarm as well as pulling up the outer sleeve length. More of a problem with a woven fabric, but still worth watching out for in stretch fabrics...  

Next time around I'll be less aggressive with the sleeve cap and leave in the bust dart. I'm sure there are different schools of thought on bust darts in ponti or other thick knits, but since making this dress I've been thinking about them as a 3d shaping concept: they're obviously used to shape the fabric, and when you leave them out you always seem to get excess fabric in the front under arm. They seem less necessary to me for small busts (the bigger the curve to fit without a bust dart, the more fabric will be folding on itself at the armpit) but I still think they make a noticeable difference. If you're using a super stretchy thin knit, and your garment is very fitted, your fabric may well stretch enough over the curved bust shape all by itself, but looking back on my own sewing I think they're useful even with a thin stretch merino.  

Here you can see what I mean - I've got a fold of fabric above my bust in this merino top: I should have added a dart!  

My son was kind enough to take photos for me just when finished the dress, so I'd better show you some of his photos too:

And the very serious expression here is due to photo exhaustion:

Overall, even though I made a couple of silly fit issues, I think the fabric more than compensates - I love the dress! 

I'll try to get some more blog posts up soon on my Jaywalk dress (I made a vintage shirt dress, I didn't win but I know I'll wear the dress) and Papercut patterns pleated pants (fitting challenges overcome with a fun design feature), as well as my daughter's Princess dress for her cousin's bat mitzvah (a nightmare make of sequined chiffon and silk), a vintage Barbie suit (I won a giveaway!), and some self-drafted knit tops. I'm way behind! 

See you soon

Gabrielle xx

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

MMMay14 Days 26 - 31 (and that's a wrap)

The last of my weekly me made May posts - is that a cheer out there? Was it me???

I have to admit that by the end of the month I was tired...

Day 26

On Monday 26th May I met up with the lovely Kristy of Lower Your Presser Foot fame to help out with some blog photos, though I don't think I managed to do her very attractive jacket justice. We met in a lovely old part of town - wide streets and grand sandstone buildings - and once the embarrassment of public snaps was over, had a good catch up as fellow working mums and sewists. Kristy was kind enough to take lots of photos for me, but my camera then did its trick of not storing the bulk of the photos that she took. There are enough for evidence of me madeness - and you can see what a dork I am in real life; I did my jacket up wrong :)

Just to confound the camera to the max, I was wearing 3 unphotogenic me mades: this V8718 jacket in a stretch designer linen (and let's not talk about the pretentious photos in that original post), this V2465 Chloe for Vogue top in Liberty cotton, and this V1282 Donna Karan for Vogue skirt (you can't see this but it's vertically panelled, with horizontal pleats. And it's a stretch cotton). 

Photos taken by Kristy with camera on continuous burst mode.

Day 27

Day 27 was another beautiful day.  I was absolutely busting to wear my floral RTW skirt but I wasn't sure I had any me mades that went with it... dig deep enough though and you'll find OIL! On this occasion the "oil" was a couple of not too ancient makes from rather ancient patterns (though to clarify, we're talking 80s retro 'ancient' as opposed to proper vintage 'ancient'): a cropped jacket made from an 80s Donna Karan for Vogue pattern, and a polka dot silk twill kimono-sleeve top made from an 80s Butterick classics pattern.  I do have a weakness for an 80s silhouette, even though I'm old enough to have enjoyed the 80s first time around :).

I didn't have time to roam too far for photos, so these are taken in the CBD proper, very close to Wynyard station and some of the popular food courts.  Even though I was on a late lunch break, there were loads of passersby - turns out you need to synchronise your photos with the 'don't walk' signals of all the nearby traffic lights. Crazy.

Photos taken by me with camera attached to gorillapod on a step, on 2 second timer, with camera on continuous burst mode.

Day 28

And Wednesday 28th May was another gorgeous, Spring-like day with wonderful big blue skies. It was the perfect day for some cheerful tourism, so I took myself speed walking down to the Opera House and Bennelong Point at lunch time.  Places like this are perfect for selfies, because you just blend in with all the other selfie-snappers!


My summer heatwave dress (V1360, Kay Unger for Vogue) has become loose (yes, everything from 2013 is a bit loose now, and the fabric I used for this dress also wasn't the best quality) so I tried adding a belt.  It kind of works, but ultimately I need to take in the princess seam line from under the bust through the length of the skirt.

Photos taken by me with camera attached to the brass railing, via my gorillapod, on 10 second timer, with camera on continuous burst mode.

Day 29

Day 29 - the fact that I wore a black me made dress (V1025) tells you I was getting tired by this point! There were still choices in my wardrobe without repeats, but my creative brain could only get as far as 'black dress'.  Hmm. There must have been a few connections still firing though, as out of the wardrobe I managed to pluck a new coordinate, this thrifted linen jacket whose pocket bows match the mock bow belt on the dress. Well!  I've had both garments for years and I hadn't noticed they were a couple till now - maybe there's something to be said for tired brains?


These photos were taken in the high ground of the city that's above the Rocks and just below a busy road coming off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There were people around, but I was too tired to worry what they thought of my playing with figs (the vine on the wall behind me is figs) and mucking about with dead palm leaves.  Yes, yes, move on...

Photos taken by me with camera sitting on a wall, on 10 second timer, on continuous burst mode.

Day 30

Friday! Today the weather started to turn. We had overcast skies, and they matched my sombre mood.  More black clothes... this time my recent Splat! top (the top from V8916, consciously made over-sized) worn with RTW black pants and loafers and red RTW mini trench coat.


I was in such a rush with an errand that had to be completed that day that I took these photos en route in Westfield shopping centre, near some windows and the glow of Miu Miu's signage. So fash.  

Oh camera, you do a great job but I think it's going to have to end soon - it's just not fun anymore the way it used to be, is it... 

Photos taken by me with camera attached to a railing, via my gorillapod, on 10 second timer, and on continuous burst mode.

Day 31

Saturday, and the last day of May! My imagination spent, I wore my Grainline Moss Mini again with a RTW t-shirt and jumper. In the photos below I was out with my daughter looking for a special plant which we needed to deliver by 10.30am, in time to drive to netball, before coming home to have guests over for a late lunch / afternoon tea, before going out for drinks and dinner with friends. Phew!

I wasn't going to wear me made that evening - too tired! but then I did. I just didn't take any photos. Can I use an old photo instead? One in which I don't look as tired as I felt? Yes? OK, well the cosy dress is V1338,  and we had a terrific evening.

Photos taken by me with camera on a bench via my gorillapod, on 10 second timer, with camera on continuous burst mode.


This year was my fourth me made year, and I'd expected it to be pretty similar to previous years - an overwhelming amount of inspiration in the Flickr pool, a few meet-ups with other sewists, and a slightly less vague idea of what I like to wear / what suits me.

It was different this year though.  Because I was Instagramming during the day and trying not to allow the internet to take over my evenings, I didn't spend as much time in the Flickr pool as I've done in previous years.  But the instancy of Instagram and my smaller group of contacts there made the experience feel more personal and more educational - a quick, rough as guts photo shared immediately does tell you quite a lot!

Phew! At the end of the month I resolved to catch up on sleep, but what do you know, it's past 1am and I'm still blogging.

So goodnight ;)

and see you soon

Gabrielle xx

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