Thursday, 31 December 2015

More a Miaow than a Roar

Let me quickly try to blog against my Vintage Pattern Pledge target - I was aiming for 4 garments from vintage or reproduction vintage patterns, and though I'm pretty sure I've sewn 4 and a half, I've only blogged 2: my graphic alert dress and my frocktails capethis broderie anglaise top doesn't count because I sewed it late last year. 

So here's vintage pattern garment number 3 for the pledge: a pink animal print (is there such a thing as a big cat with pink fur?) top made using a 1980s pattern. 

This next photo is the best I have - I'm not sure why the rest of my photos are so washed out! 

The fabric is a spongey, crepey, slightly stretchy fabric from Lincraft - it's got to be a cheap polyester. I bought it a few months ago (before I learnt my lesson) for a ridiculously cheap sale price, thinking it would be good "test" fabric, though it's unlike anything else in my stash...  On the plus side it needs no ironing, which makes the top useful when I'm running late for work.  In the below picture I'm doing a terrible job of acting "running late for work". Terrible! 

And the pattern is one I picked up very cheap in a second hand store - there is not that much demand for these 80s basics! I thought it looked like a good pattern though: firstly it's a designer pattern, and secondly it includes three very different tops: a shoulder-buttoned pullover top with cut on, fluttery sleeves (A); a drop shoulder, side-buttoned (!!) long sleeved top (B), and a forward shoulder, front-buttoned blouse (C).  I'm kind of staggered that these three tops were considered good for a single pattern back then - they are all so different!  

On first glance the pattern looked too small for me - it's a size 10, I know the sizing is the same as in modern Vogue patterns, and I currently fit a size 12 in modern Vogue top patterns. However, back then clothes were worn a lot looser than now - yippee!  For 80s patterns I get to go down a size (unless I want an 80s fit!), just keeping an eye out for nipped in waists :).  

I wanted to make something simple with my stunt fabric, so I went with variant A, and left off the shoulder buttons. On the pattern envelope photo the neckline on this top looks absolutely comfortable, but I assume a very slim model was used, as when I cut this out I found the neckline quite constricting - and so small that those shoulder buttons would have been a necessity - so I recut my neckline and facing a couple of centimetres bigger all around to fit my head.  

Without the shoulder button detail all that's left is the shape, with what turns out to be a rather lovely sleeve - I think these sleeves would look beautiful in a drapey silk. The arm scye is quite low cut but not so low cut as to show any bra. 

I sewed this very fast and carelessly, and the result is absolutely wearable but nothing special.  I do like a simple top though, and I think I may be able to square the shoulders on this pattern to make for an even more fluttery sleeve - and a pattern that would then work with a border print along the shoulder line (ideas, ideas, ideas!). So in short, I'll definitely be coming back to this one.

Happy new year, and see you in 2016!

- Gabrielle xx

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Deckchair Dress

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas have had fun over the last few days, and that you are all finding the time and inclination for sewing.  My Christmas was good - too much cleaning and shopping for my liking, and way too little sleep or sewing, BUT it was great to catch up with relatives on both my and Mr UpSewLate's sides of the family, and quite satisfying to plan and produce a festive meal for a big group :).

Anyway, I finally have some free time so I'm going to try to blog a few of the garments I made this year that I hadn't gotten around to documenting. I'll start with this one - I'll call it the Deckchair Dress because the fabric looks better suited to a deckchair - which I showed on Instagram a while ago.

I think it looks quite good in these photos, but in real life this dress is not a success.

I bought this fabric from the Home Dec area of Lincraft, but it's extremely soft and limp.  I ironed and starched it for a very long time to get it to look relatively good for photos, but it crumples very easily, frays like mad. and stretches out as you sew seams in it. It's such a wimpy fabric that I can't really imagine it suiting any kind of home dec project - actually any project at all.  So why did I buy it?  I loved the stripes, the price was good, and the fabric in the shop had been treated with something that made it feel sturdier. Lesson learnt! Next time I hanker after striped canvas I'll look for the real thing.  

Anyway, leaving aside the fabric fail, the whole point of this dress was to have a bit of fun playing with stripes. I started with the bodice part of Vogue 8815, making sure to align the waist darts exactly with the vertical stripes. The bodice was a bit short, so I added a "belt" with the lovely blue stripes on the horizontal before adding a simple long skirt - aiming for an old fashioned look. The skirt has pleats that line up with the waist darts, and also a funny little pleat over the side seam to address the fact that when I was working out the skirt shape I forgot I have a big difference between waist and hip measurements.

This dress was incredibly easy to sew, but it took my quite a while to decide which stripes I wanted where. And even then...  well if you look closely you'll see that although I've matched the location of the central blue stripes between the bodice front and skirt front, the stripes on either side of the centre front don't match.  I cut the skirt pieces out so the stripes would match, but the skirt front and back are just rectangles, and what I've obviously done is sewn the front skirt piece on upside down :(.

And speaking of mistakes, have a look at the back view: the centre back zip is an ugly mess, there's too much length in the lower back (hello wrinkles), and there's gaping in the upper back / shoulder area. Oh well, the dress is already at the op shop and will hopefully be bought by someone who doesn't notice the issues.

Oh well, they can't all be successes, can they!

I'll be back soon with more sewing.

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

Friday, 11 December 2015

Ethel on Holiday

I've been procrastinating on a lovely dress I'm sewing, worrying about whether it's going to fit the way it should, and it got to the point where all sewing stopped.

Not good.

So I decided I should do something useful instead - like taping together A4 pages, in case I get inspired to sew one of the PDF patterns I've bought but don't feel like the tape job.  I started the boring job with a couple of my most recent PDF purchases, the Ethel pants and the Edith top from StyleArc patterns.

And you know what happened, don't you?

No, NOT amateur yoga! No, my sewing mojo came back - I just had to sew the pants! 

My stash didn't have any suitable linens that weren't already earmarked for other projects, so I made a beeline for Tessuti Fabrics, keen to find myself some summery black linen.  

But the fabric I fell for is a double sided Lithuanian linen in two neutral colours from the opposite end of the colour spectrum to black.  The fabric is a beauty though - two layers of linen in slightly different colours that are sewn together with nearly invisible threads, and a divine crinkly texture when it's not ironed. I'm really tempted by the dark blue version of the same fabric BUT I'm trying to only buy fabric when I have a very definite plan in mind, and there is no dark blue double linen plan around here. 

Because the weather has been gloriously hot, after a quick machine wash, my double layer linen dried super fast on the balcony in the late afternoon sun and was ready for cutting out while the sun was still out. Hooray! The cutting out was very straightforward - there are only a couple of pattern pieces, and everything is on the straight grain. I cut out the size 12 (my RTW size in bottoms) and used 1.8 metres of fabric, which after washing was probably more like 1.7 metres of fabric.  I couldn't really have gotten away with less yardage without sacrificing length, so that's something to note: StyleArc's fabric requirements are realistic!

That evening I sewed like a demon, and finished all but the waistband and the hemming, for which I wanted natural light.

A little more work on Sunday morning and taadaa - new pants!

These super wide-legged,

drop crotch,

elastic waist pants

are ridiculously comfortable.

I'm not sure if it's a good look - it seems too comfortable to possibly look good - but this combination of a loose style and a soft fabric makes for even more comfort than my nasty tracksuit pants (NOT shown!).  To be honest, these pants make me feel like I'm on holiday, even though I'm obviously just padding around my own little garden. What more could I want from a pair of pants?

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Set Theory: Riviera Stripes

First of all an apology is in order. I promised Susan a "how to" to explain how I'd substitute in a different pattern to get around my fitting woes with the Inari dress, and I haven't done it.  It's a little more work than I was originally envisaging, and I just haven't managed to get my act together.  I haven't forgotten, but if you *need* to know how to alter one pattern with another, please have a look at the following posts instead:

  1. this post, which walks you through the modifications the author (SewingTidbits) makes to the Grainline Moss Mini pattern, based on the pattern pieces from a similar Lekala pattern she ordered to fit her exact measurements, and
  2. this post from the Fashion Incubator, which responds to a sewing blogger and basically says we should modify patterns that already work for us

I'm really sorry Susan!


And now let's go to the subject of this post.

This top and skirt - two items, and clearly part of a set.

Isn't the fabric awesome?

A couple of months ago Tessuti Fabrics had a flash sale: $10 / metre for a limited selection of flawed fabrics. I love a bargain, and I love Colette's eye for fabrics, so I raced to the Surry Hills store in my lunch break and (of course) found several fabrics I loved.  This stripey fabric had several tears in it, but it reminded me so much of the coastal parts of my holiday to Europe last year - beach umbrellas, southern Europe, sun and sea - that I determined I'd just work around the damage.   [The fabric is called "Circus Stripe", it's normally $26/ metre, and there was an unflawed bolt of it in the Surry Hills shop last time I was there.]

I'm obviously way too late for Sophie's Two Piece Setacular Party (yeah, that was last year!), but a two piece set was what my mind envisaged when I picked up this glorious roll of fabric.

And I'm really pleased to say it worked out as I'd hoped :).

I should note though that projects that work out "as I'd hoped" are rarely blissfully straightforward for me.  Even if the planning, cutting out, sewing and fit are all smooth sailing, there will be doldrums of procrastination and doubt.

Both this top and skirt - even though they're easy patterns - had their challenges.  Both started out too large for me, and both involved zip battles and lots of unpicking and resewing. And although I managed to finish the top within a reasonably short timeframe, the skirt was subject to a long period of "I'm not sure I can make myself sew this to the standard I want it" before I knuckled down and got it  finished.  Thank goodness I started them in winter! 

I made the top using Burda 7051, view D.  The pattern is in Burda's "young" line, and heaps of patterns in this line really appeal to me though they're intended for teens and younger women.  This line is definitely trendier than the generic line of Burda patterns, and I suspect it uses a narrower size range.  This particular pattern fits busts 76 - 100cm (30 - 39.5") inclusive.

I cut the pattern a few centimetres longer and also a size larger (14) than my measurements had indicated as I wasn't sure how fitted the pattern would be, but you can see my top is a bit loose on me. Mind you, that's after cutting out a botched centre back zip and resewing the centre back seam with a wider seam allowance to get past the mess, and also after taking in the side seams at least a size. Oh and with the waist darts omitted (to get the shape of top I had in mind). Maybe I need to re-measure myself - the top is even loose at the bust level, where I did a lot of taking in!  Anyway, the loose fit feels very comfortable, and the bonus is that I can easily get the top on and off, even without a zip.

Are you wondering what went wrong with the zip? Well, it turns out that even though I'm an invisible zip Ninja, I'm useless with regular zips. The zip in this top is supposed to extend from the neckline most of the way down the back. At the time I was sewing this I didn't have an invisible zip that length in any kind of coordinating colour, but I had a white regular zip that was the perfect length.  Despite following all the advice of The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, when I sewed my zip in it wasn't perfectly centred.  And even if I'd been prepared to let that "slide" (yes, pun intended), when I tested the zip, the pull got stuck because I'd sewed too close to the teeth a third of the way down. Then when I tried to unpick my stitches to redo the zip, the fabric frayed and the stripe lines unravelled, and the zip was still stuck. Ha. My only recourse was to cut the blasted thing out and sew the centre back together as a seam - which as I mention above, turned out to be a good thing as it improved the fit of the top :).

One of the things I really like about this pattern is that it includes facing pattern pieces; one each for front and back.  This is my favourite type of facing (much neater than separate neck and arm facings on a small garment like this), and I always prefer facings to a bias edge finish (for me they're much better behaved in both the sewing and the wearing).  I cut the facings slightly smaller than the outer pieces in height and width so as to keep them hidden when taking turn of cloth into account, and to be confident that they wouldn't flip out I clipped the seams assiduously and attached each pressed facing a few inches under the armscye with a couple of small machine stitches on the seamline.

The waist darts in this pattern are probably also a very good thing, but I left them out!  The result is that my top rises and sticks out at the front. This doesn't particularly bother me compared to all the other dramas with zips and stripes. In any case I wanted the top to be a little boxy over the skirt and I made the top long enough (and the skirt high enough) to overlap. If I make this top again I think I'll either include the waist darts or add some length to the front of the top. I guess the alternative would be for me to make some fitting adjustments at the shoulders...

I really like the cut-in angles of the armhole, and the armhole sits at a height on my body which isn't unflattering (ie it's ended up reasonably high cut on me).  However, you can see from the back view that the top needs either a strapless or racer back bra.

Finally I want to mention that if you've never tried a Burda paper patterns, they're worth a try!  I used to subscribe to the Burda magazines, and their brief and cryptic instructions were often quite confusing, but the paper patterns are something entirely different - they come with instruction sheets with all the usual tips as to how to cut out, adjust and sew your pattern, along with a decent amount of words and LOTS of accompanying diagrams. This pattern's instruction sheets were three large pages long. Each page is nearly eight times the size of the envelope, and each page divided into 4 columns: line drawing diagrams in the first column, English instructions in the next, followed by French and Spanish instructions.


Onto the skirt!

I made the skirt using view C of Vogue 8328, a basic pattern for a pleated knee length skirt that came out in 2006.  It's OOP now, but I can still see the pattern listing on the Vogue patterns website in their OOP section, so I guess it hasn't been out of print too long?  I picked this pattern up for 50 cents in an op shop, but I'm sure there are lots of other similar old and new patterns around that would have worked (skirt patterns don't change that much over time, do they!).

View C of this pattern has a faced contour waistband which fits the skirt from waist to hip, and pleats below the waistband that flare out gently to knee length.  The pattern is not really designed for stripes - the pattern envelope just says you should allow extra fabric for stripes, but curved waistbands and curved hems obviously cut through stripes!  Since I wanted to keep a straight line around the hem of the skirt and I couldn't be bothered hunting out a rectangular pleated skirt pattern, I "translated" the horizontal curves of the skirt's (at hip and hem) to straight lines, with the pleats themselves doing any necessary shaping. I also cut the skirt with a lot of extra width at the side seams in case I'd mis-measured the skirt widths when changing the curves to straight lines.

The first sewing step was to make my pleats and top stitch them down in case the stitching on the inside of the pleats was strained.  Next up I interfaced the contour waistband, overlocked edges, and sewed the waistband to the pleated section. I basted the sides and back together and tried the skirt on - and *&(*!! - it was too small.  The contour waistband would only fit me if I sewed it with tiny seam allowances, and given the fraying I'd had with top, a tiny seam allowance seemed like a recipe for a fall-apart skirt. I had to put it aside and think about it.

The solution I came up with was to ditch the contour waistband completely and just use the pleated skirt section - easy! Without the waistband the pleat top stitching extended to my hip level, which leads to extra volume just below the hips.

Then I interfaced the centre back seam allowance and sewed in an invisible zip - and it looked terrible, with the stripes horribly misaligned.  I unpicked my stitches and had another go, this time with lots of pins on top of the fabric marker I'd used first time around to show where the stripes should line up on the zip. Still horrible... so at this point I folded up the pieces of skirt and moved onto other sewing.  

Several weeks passed; spring was well under way, and I wanted to have the outfit to wear in summer. With encouragement from friends on Instagram, I got the skirt out again and unpicked the zip again, lined the stripes up again, and sewed the zip in again, this time sewing just a couple of centimetres at a time and checking stripe alignment very carefully as I went.  And this time it was good enough.

I pin fit the skirt side seams together on myself and with lots of basting and fitting and adjusting sewed the side seams together.  I curved the seam sharply from waist to hip to meet my body shape, and added a gentle flare from hip to hem.  As with the centre back seam, the stripes don't match perfectly but the matching is good enough!

I forgot to take any absolutely side on photos, but in the below picture you can see the upper part of the side seam - and you can see how my stripe matching isn't perfect :).

I like the way this skirt has enough volume to twirl, and that the straight hem keeps the hem horizontal - you can also see the stripe alignment on the centre back seam in the next photos:

And then all that was left to do was to finish the waist with a lovely pale yellow piece of petersham ribbon on the inside, cut the hem to my preferred length, press and top stitch the hem in place with white thread in hiding in a white stripe.

All in all I'm glad to have persevered - this set took ages from start to finish, but now that I'm happy with the way it looks I'm sure the pain will soon be forgotten!

Thanks for reading, and I hope all your stripes are aligning and zips are working first time around!

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Monday, 26 October 2015

How to Make Mitred Self-Faced Vents

As I mentioned in my Inari dress post, my personal favourite type of vent is the mitred, self-faced vent - like this one, which I'm going to show you how to construct (though please pay a bit more attention to your top stitching than I did!):

Looking through my wardrobe I found four different types of vents - your preference might be for the simpler types, but perhaps you'd still like to see some other options?

The simplest type of vent, vent 1, just has the seam allowance turned under and top stitched in place:

Loose top in jungle print polyester, made using DKNY Vogue 1454 (blogged here)

The next one, vent 2, is only slightly more complex, with the seam allowance turned under and top stitched, but also an overlap between the front and back seams of the vent:

Vogue 2634 (2002) shirt in light-weight linen (sorry, but I don't think I ever blogged this shirt)

Then there's the vent (vent 3) which is faced by a deep hem, in this case overlapping with the other side of the vent, though the following jacket also has some of these sorts of vents in centre back and in the sleeves that aren't overlapped:


RTW textured linen jacket

and finally there's the vent, vent 4, which is self-faced with a mitred corner:  

 Vogue 1325 heavy linen jacket (blogged here with absolutely minimal detail)

and here's a RTW example of this last type of vent too:

RTW cotton trousers

This last vent is the sort I used in my recent Inari dress (blogged here), and it's the type of vent I'm going to show you how to add to an existing pattern. You can easily apply this technique to add attractive vents to patterns that don't include them, and of course you can apply the technique to vents in other places than side seams. Oh, and I'm sure once you've followed the detailed steps a couple of times you'll be able to wing it without needing to draw the extra facing pattern around your original pattern...


Assemble the pattern you want to modify, a sheet of plain paper for every pattern piece you're modifying (a front piece and a back piece in my case), a pencil, an eraser, sticky tape, paper scissors and fabric scissors (not shown), a fabric marker (not shown), pins (not shown) and a transparent ruler.

Start with your pattern with its vent markings - I'm using a fake pattern I've drawn on butcher's paper; it's rough as guts but will serve the purpose.

Place your sheet of plain paper under the side vent area of the pattern, and sticky tape or pin it to the edges of the original pattern. I'm showing this for the 'garment back' pattern piece, but you need to follow all the same steps for the pattern piece corresponding to the other side of the vent too ('garment front' in my case).

Use your ruler to draw a new deep hem, several centimetres out from the original garment edges. I'm starting my ruler at the garment edge and marking points that are 6 centimetres out, but you can choose a different width - just make sure you keep it consistent.

Extend these lines past the garment edges at the lower corner of the vent. and also a couple of inches beyond the start of the vent.

and also extend them above the vent marking. Draw a horizontal line from the original vent marking to the edge of the new facing.

Draw an upper edge to your facing, at least a couple of centimetres above the horizontal to the original vent marking.  I like to angle the top edge of the facing, but you can also just draw it perpendicular to the seamline or parallel to the horizontal line you just drew - both are shown in the next photo. Note: the pencil lines shown below should extend to the original pattern's seamline, and shouldn't stop at the original pattern's edge.

The deep facing you've drawn around the vent is all you need from your pattern - so now use your scissors to trim the plain paper back from the lines you've just drawn.

Pin the modified pattern to your fabric and cut it out. I've only shown the pattern pinned to the fabric for the back of my garment, but I'll also apply all these steps to the front of my garment.

Follow your original pattern's instructions until you get up to hemming the vent - for example, this may include stitching the side seam down to the 'vent' marking on a side seam.

Fold the right sides of the fabric together along the original pattern's garment edge - remember to include the original pattern's seam allowance.  You may want to push a couple of pins through the pattern and fabric to mark the corner and the lower edge of the garment, as you can see I've done in the photo below. Bring the fabric edges so they meet exactly at the corner.

Now carefully fold the corner down and draw a line along the 45 degree angle from the outer to the inner folded corner. I would normally suggest using a water soluble pen that you've tested on a scrap of paper, but on my fabric I've used lead pencil.  Use a ruler (or seam guide as shown) to measure 1 centimetre in from the cut edge and mark - this is the depth at which you'll fold back the fabric later.

Pin the 2 layers of fabric at the corner together and sew them together along the 45 degree angle you just drew, from the mark that's 1 centimetre in from the cut edge to the corner where you can see my pin sticking out. If you've used a pin to mark this corner, please take it out before you sew this short seam.

Trim the angled seam and press it open. This is the mitre join on your facing, and by trimming it and pressing it open you're minimising bulk in the corner of your facing and giving yourself a better chance of a sharp looking corner.  

Turn a 1 centimetre seam allowance on the now mitred deep hem, wrong sides together, and press in place.

At this point if you haven't sewn the two sides of the vent together you may want to do so, as once the facing has been pressed we'll be top stitching it.

In the upper corner of your facing, above the original vent marking, snip the fabric to just before the stitching line. My photo shows a snip that isn't deep enough - I needed to snip this a little further - and I could have stitched the side seam further. Press this top edge of the facing down.

Turn the mitred hem inside out so your new mitred seam is on the inside, as is your turned under seam allowance.

Press the facing, making sure its depth is consistent. If your corners don't look sharp enough, this is the time to adjust them (yes, I should have fixed mine!). On a flat surface, now pin the facing in place ready for top stitching.

Top stitch on the inside of your garment following the edge of your new facing. I like to use an edge stitch foot and a stitch length of about 3 for this step, but if you take it slowly you can achieve a neat result with just your normal machine foot (and in fact even with my edge foot, the fact that I rushed this step means my top stitching doesn't look great).

Turn your garment to the right side, and check out your mitred, self-faced vents:

Congratulations, you're done!

So what do you think - do you like mitred self-faced vents? What's your favourite type of vent to wear, and what's your favourite type of vent to sew?

See you soon

- Gabrielle

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