Sunday, 22 February 2015

The "Graphic Alert Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the combination of patterns I used:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dress back bodice, in the flat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Gabrielle xx

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge 2015

Hello everyone, I hope you're feeling well and not too tired - it's only Wednesday, and barely that!   Let's talk vintage sewing patterns and the vintage sewing pattern pledge (hosted chez A Stitching Odyssey and Kestrel Makes) for a bit, shall we?

I'm guessing just about everyone loves vintage sewing patterns - is that right? Basically if you like ANY style of line drawings there seems to be a decade to suit you, and if you're prepared to trawl shabby second hand shops and the myriad online shops, OR harass old ladies into giving you their patterns, you can quickly build yourself an impressive collection that represents all your wardrobe daydreams. In 2013 and 2014 I did just that, without any of the harassment. Well, to be honest, it may have started earlier than 2013, but that's when I recall buying into the grading myth, and that's when I went a bit nuts with buying vintage sewing patterns (and luckily I have mostly now stopped, as prices have really risen!).

This dress was made from one of the rare vintage patterns I own that actually fits me! Very bizarre - I would have thought my proportions were a bit different to the norms of that era, but using a stretch fabric probably helped massively with the fit...

Mad Jaywalking (proper vintage sewing)

Do you know what I mean by "the grading myth"? 

Do you remember when there were all those blog posts around talking about grading vintage patterns? I don't remember where they started, but the message seemed to be "Yes, you SHALL have that tiny sized pattern you covet because darling, you too can grade that pattern to your regular human size in two flicks of a fairy's ponytail!" I say that with a slightly sarcastic tone (could you tell?) because although I believe that grading IS a theoretical possibility for most of us, it's not that easy to get around to it - grading takes extra effort, especially when you need to add a couple of fit adjustments into the mix! 

This retro pattern was a quick and easy sew - my daughter even helped make the dress! 

NYE Little Dress (the retro end of vintage sewing)

Anyway, my realisation that despite having a glorious collection of vintage sewing patterns, the ones I wanted to sew were too small, is what stopped me from joining in with Marie's vintage sewing pattern pledge last year - I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get around to the full grading, adjusting, muslining effort for even one of my beauties...

Isn't this next pattern a cracker! The line drawings look quite dated to me, and YET the boxy top, loose pants and long gathered skirt actually seem fashionable!  

Boxy Hibiscus Top (more retro sewing)

And then a few weeks or so back I opened up the post by Kestrel Makes on the subject of this year's vintage sewing pattern pledge, kind of expecting to hear about beautiful 30s or 60s patterns. But right near the top of the post she said "Patterns up until the 1990s are eligible..."

Woah! That's the 1990s, not the 1890s! So - that means - what? It means the vintage sewing pattern pledge this year isn't just for OMG gorgeous bias cut dresses and stylish sailor garb, designer Vogue frocks, and cheeky 60s mod cool; it's ALSO 70s freedom, 80s over-the-top-ness and 90s minimalism!

I'm sure you can imagine what I did next. I counted up my "vintage" sewing from 2014 - and for a wonder, I'd made 4 or 5 garments from patterns from the 1990s or earlier! So I'm in - no excuses left:

During 2015, I, Gabrielle Corbett of Up Sew Late, will sew up at least four of my vintage (up to and including 1990s) or reproduction sewing patterns. 

I'd like to make this little Weigel's dress again, with a nicer quality of both fabric and stitching! I love the version on the right with the button-on bib, but I didn't have enough fabric for the bib first time around. 

Vintage Weigel's Dress (more proper vintage sewing)
This pledge is a really low key one - no penalties for failure, and it's not just for the "cool" kids either. I'm looking forward to discovering some new-to-me sewists and interesting patterns - are you joining up this year?

See you soon
- Gabrielle xx

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Atelier Brunette Top

Back last March when I was telling you about my boxy pink silk twill top, I said it might be the first of many more, and finally, in October 2014 (!!), just back from Europe, I made another of these tops in cotton... a gorgeous Atelier Brunette cotton I'd bought in Paris:

The top two fabrics are Atelier Brunette fabrics ("cosmic blue", and "blue moon"), and the bottom fabric is a Sarah Jane pirate girl fabric from her Out to Sea collection.

In person, the "cosmic blue" is a very pretty fabric - lightweight and fine, and designed in absolutely beautiful colours. The fact that the little circles look like pacmen wandering across a night sky (perhaps eating stars?) also apppeals to me very much :).

I sewed my top as before, with exactly the same modifications, so if you're interested in knowing more about the pattern (Vogue 8879, a very easy pattern) please do have a look at that March post.  I don't particularly want to repeat myself, so this post is going to be more about the fabric, and what a difference it made to use cotton instead of silk twill (or even cotton jersey for that matter - see this post for my mum's silk twill and cotton jersey versions of this pattern).

I wore my new top to work as soon as I could, ironed and starched to within an inch of its life... and yet here's how it looked by the end of a sedentary day in the office:


Cotton is of course very comfortable, and a loose top like this feels great in a hot climate.  But straight away you can see that the cotton version lacks the drape of a silk or stretch fabric. Without that drape, the top needs bust darts, and without that drape, the fit of the top becomes less forgiving.

I don't mind that so much though - after all, I love boxiness! What I don't like though is all the creasing - it makes it look like I did a bodgy job with the iron!

And there are even more creases and rumples on the back:

My assumption going into this project was that the fabric, being cotton, would be a delight to sew and iron and a joy to wear.  The sewing wasn't as fun as anticipated (I suppose I normally sew with sturdier fabrics, but I had to adjust my tension to avoid the seams in this fabric puckering), the ironing was a nightmare (iron and starch a section, move the top to iron and starch another section, notice new creases in the first section, re-iron the first section, ad infinitum), and although the cotton was lovely to wear on a warm day, I was disappointed at how very ordinary the top looked by the end of my work day.

Here are a couple of close ups of the top that same afternoon:

Initially I wasn't sure if the crumpling was just me - perhaps I'm not a very good ironer? - but let's be honest; I have sewn fine cottons before and I haven't had this much of a problem with clothing looking so un-ironed before!

For example, I've sewn a couple of tops in Liberty tana lawn - this ruffled one (blogged here):

and a button front, flared sleeve shirt (blogged here):  

I also made this dress of cotton voile with ribbons on it (blogged here, and also here) - this fabric did show some small creases, but I couldn't press it on a high enough heat because the ribbons tended to melt:

Ribboned cotton voile dress, blogged here and originally here
and this quilting cotton dress (blogged here, photos taken after lots of train travel on a scorching hot and sweaty day):

Hmmm. So then I did a bit of an internet search to see how everyone else was managing with this fabric, and what do you know, it looks rumple-prone for everyone!  Please check out Sew & Illustrate's tank top,  Jolie Bobines' dressBibouchka's dress, and Papivole's shirt and judge for yourself whether it's the fabric or the sewist.

I did get some advice on Instagram that I should use fabric softener when I washed the top, and that that would really help with the creasing (maybe it will?) but I feel annoyed that a cotton that cost me 18 euros a metre should need special treatment.  At that price, so close to the cost of Liberty tana lawn at Shaukat (currently about 19 euros per metre), I expect more.

I made this top for work, but I'm afraid I've only worn it twice since making it - I don't really like "rumpled" as a work look -so although this top is still in my wardrobe, it is currently classed as a fail.

Next up I have a dress to share with you that feels like a BIG win - it's a mix of a couple of different patterns coupled with a wild fabric, and I'm really excited about the way it's come together.

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Nani Iro Paint Spots Gabby

Before I get into this post, I just wanted to apologise for not yet having responded to the lovely comments on my last post. The school year started a couple of weeks ago here in Sydney, and my son started at a new school that's a lot less convenient for us than the school he attended last year. I had 10 days off work to sort out the transport options and a whole lot of other details ("did you say you thought you'd hire a euphonium from us?") and get new routines for both my children in place, but it still feels like we're flying by the seat of our pants (and I'm back at work now).  Being organised just doesn't come naturally to me, even with lots of helpful grandparents around! First world problems strike again, but for the moment this little blog is suffering...

Anyway, speaking of suffering - what do you get when you mix a cute pattern with a cute fabric?  

[Sound of children laughing] 

Well, of course you get a perfectly sweet child's dress - with splotches that look just like charming painting accidents :). Oh, careful with that paintbrush, darling!

[Spooky music] 

Or DO you?

[China teapot drops on tiles, and a young child bursts into tears] 

Oh dear. Oops. I'm sorry, darling, was this YOUR dress? 


[Sound Effects Department, deprived of tea, walks out on strike]


There's nothing wrong with the fabric (I LOVE it - it's a glorious sturdy cotton/linen Nani Iro print, with a sparkly background under the paint splodges - and why should kids get all the fun?), and nothing wrong with the pattern (it's one of my faves, the Gabby dress by Tessuti Patterns).

The dress is very raw looking - selvedge colours show on the sleeve edges, and there's contrast overlocking everywhere instead of neat hems - but that's utterly intentional, and it's not what bothers me about this dress.

I think my problem is that the dress looks way too young for me.

Does that sound ageist? Generally I'm all for people wearing what they feel like, to hell with the dictates of "what to wear when you're age X" (for example, I love the wardrobes of Vivienne Westwood and Anna Maria Dell Russo), but the naive look of this fabric paired with the simple A-line shape just jars for me when I look at these photos.

Anyway, I sewed this Gabby dress pattern in a size S if I remember correctly, with about 10cm added to the length, and with the upper "bodice" cut separately as I did with my Boardwalk dress to save  fabric.  I had only about 1.5 metres of this Nani Iro fabric (from Tessuti Fabrics last year, where it now looks to be sold out, though it looks like The Drapery in Adelaide still has some in stock), so I also ended up cutting the dress a lot narrower in the skirt than indicated by the pattern - about 10cm narrower on each bottom hem side piece, so all up about 40cm narrower over the lower skirt circumference. Because the sleeves and neckline aren't hemmed, the sleeves are slightly longer than usual and the neckline slightly smaller than usual with this pattern. 

Oh and here's a photo comparing the Nani Iro Paint Spots and the Picnic Dress Gabby dimensions - lengths and widths differ, as do sleeve lengths and neckline depths: 

So who wants to help me make a cubby house with sheets on the trampoline before I hand this dress back to its proper owner? 

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

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