Saturday, 28 March 2015

Dress to Skirt - an Easy Refashion

I have such a hard time throwing out or even handing on clothes I've made *if* I love the fabric...

This particular dress had been hanging around for a lo-o-o-o-ng time, the cheery yellow fabric still making my heart sing but the crappy fit of the dress making me feel like such a poor sewist.  Over the past two years (gah! YES, it takes me that long to get around to simple alterations!) I've had a few goes at pinning the bodice to correct the fit on myself, but I simply haven't had the skills or patience to crack it, and of course I haven't been organised enough to get a fellow sewist's help. So finally last weekend, while my sewing mojo was running hot, I took to the dress with an unpicker and turned it into a skirt.

Sorry I look so unimpressed in most of these photos - it's hard to smile for the remote! Eventually my kids joined me outside and a smile started to appear... 

So as you've gathered, I made the original dress about two years ago. I sewed it from a combination of vintage Vogue 8811 for the skirt and modern Vogue 8815 for the top - and the two patterns didn't really come together very well for me. I made so many mistakes in making the dress - dodgy pattern hacking, a complete misunderstanding of grainline, poor fit -.but the fact that those mistakes now seem utterly obvious makes me glad; I must have improved over the years! 

The alteration was really easy once I got started, and it only took an afternoon and evening to get it all done, even with lots of interruptions for the usual family stuff (snacks, meals, cleaning up, calming people down... ).  

Here are the steps:

  • Unpicked the side seams and waist seams, as well as the visible hem stitching, and removed the vintage zip (and hey, unpicking is actually quite fun when you've got a sturdy fabric to work with!).
  • Re-sewed skirt side seams with a modern cream coloured invisible zip (I love invisible zips!) and a much wider seam allowance - the waist on this was always too big on me. When I originally sewed the dress I had the fabric selvedges showing on the skirt side seams, but I think that made it look quite clunky and home made.   

  • For a waistband I scrounged around in my notions drawer and found some petersham-like ribbon that came tied around a present last year. I think this sort of a non-waistband is also supposed to be flattering if, like me, you suffer from a short waist section - and it was quicker than making a waistband!

  • And then all that was left to do was a truckload of pressing and hemming. I knew if I didn't get the job done quickly it'd hang around for another few years, so the hem is just machine sewn. This time around I used a longer stitch length - about 3.0 - and sewed from the right side, like most people do most of the time! There are still puckers in there, though there are less than first time around, and they're concentrated in one side section on the front and another side section on the back - it seems obvious that the amount of puckering relates to the angle of the curve relative to the grainline, and with a wide skirt like this I think it's hard to avoid entirely. Having said that, if you have a method for avoiding puckering on a big curved hem I'd love to hear about it! The only one I can think of that would work with a machine stitched hem is to use a hem facing cut on the identical grain... 

If you look closely on the side seams you'll see there's still some puckering there too, though again, quite a bit less than first time around. This puckering belongs to "I thought I knew better than the pattern when I cut this skirt out but I didn't know much about grainline". I didn't have enough fabric for this dress, and I thought I was being clever by fitting the skirt pieces on the fabric at different angles to the grainline than the pattern indicated. Ha!

Yes, I did manage to get a whole dress out of the fabric when I probably should only have been able to get a skirt, but at each side seam I have one piece of fabric on the straight grain and one on the bias:

This skirt is not a work of perfection, but I'm not that fussy - I wear imperfect RTW, so why wouldn't I wear imperfect homemade garments? It's good enough for me!  These photos show how I think I'll wear the skirt to work - maybe with a cropped jacket on top. And as the weather starts to cool down I hope to wear it with this pale pink Undercover top (wow - I'm finally making garments that coordinate!).   

Now if you follow me on Instagram you'll know I was complaining last weekend that my blog-jo and photo-jo were both missing (yes, I've taken a while to report them as missing, but they left a few weeks ago, perhaps made nervous by the boldness of the Graphic Alert dress). And yet I blogged last week, and here I am blogging again! I was going to just wait for them to return but they've been gone so long that maybe they aren't coming back - maybe they've found a new home? - so I decided to press on without them! If writing cures writer's block, do you think blog posting cures blogger's block?

Thanks for reading this post :)

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Cocktail Shorts (Vogue 9008)

You: Ooh, what's that?

Front, cocktail shorts (Vogue 9008)

Back, cocktail shorts (Vogue 9008)

Me: They're cocktail shorts!! Wanna see them on?

You: Sure, knock yourself out, take them for a spin, do a little dance...

Vogue 9008 cocktail shorts - perfect for dancing

You: Woah there Nelly, enough with the dancing - I was KIDDING! Let's get those lights back on pronto. OK, have you calmed down? Deep breaths, think of something sad...

Right, now let's have a proper look at the side and front views. Sensibly though. And I think we'll leave the back view for now - I know what you're like when you're in a silly mood!

Me: It's OK, I'm not going to do any more dancing!  Side then front, yes?

Side view, Vogue 9008 shorts
Front view, Vogue 9008 shorts

You: You know, they do actually look like cocktail shorts - not that I even knew there was such a thing, but I guess shiny silver would be about right. What's the fabric?

Me: Who knows, who cares! These are just for fun; they're the practice shorts! It's not like I actually GO to cocktail parties these days, is it.  I was actually going to make cushion covers with the fabric* but I just couldn't be...

*: Fabric source: Home Dec department in Lincraft. 

You: So they're just a muslin?  I was wondering if you'd really wear silver shiny shorts out - you had me going there for a bit!!!  Let me have another look at them... turn around slowly would you, I want to check something...

Side and back, Vogue 9008 shorts

Front, Vogue 9008 shorts
You: So have you made the real shorts yet? If not - don't take this the wrong way, and the cocktail shorts ARE great - well, they're just a smidge on the snug side, aren't they!  You'll make them a bit bigger in the final version, won't you?

Me: Yeah, I know... I haven't even shown you the waistband yet, have I:

Too tight, Vogue 9008 shorts

Me: So I do know they're too tight, but I kind of got carried away and cut out the next ones before I'd checked the fit of these properly...

You: Sigh... then maybe you just need to cut down on the chips or something...

You: Look, why don't you just tell me about the sewing pattern or something?


You're invited to cocktails at 7 o'clock. Dress: shorts.


Once upon a time there was a pair of shorts.

No, make that a couple of pairs of shorts; these shorts. But they were the ONLY ONES left on the Sass & Bide sale rack that day... 

Up close they looked beautifully made.  No internal debates - I tried on the largest size - oh, please, gorgeousness! But alas, it was not to be. Although they fastened, the shorts were just too small. And yet somehow they still looked flattering on... 


I headed back to the ranch as quickly as the corporate workday and commuter train would take me, and soon enough found myself flicking through patterns - which would it be, which could it be?

Bingo! Vogue 9008, view B would be my starting point:

And then I promptly fell off piste.

Here are the (easy!) modifications I made to the straight size 14, view B version of V9008:
  • removed the fly from centre front
  • added an invisible zip in centre back
  • removed the waistband from front pieces
  • added waistband length to front leg pieces
  • continued angle / wrapover of back leg pieces all the way up to waist
Although the shorts photo above shows there's a pleat front on my inspiration shorts, my memory didn't even register the pleats, and swapped the front waist band to a back yoke. View E would have been a better match, but once view B has been modified to fit (ha! that's going to have to be for shorts number 4) I assume its crotch curve and other basic measurements will be consistent to view E.

And for the sewing? I probably could have found some stripes in my stash, but I wanted to test my modifications first. So I dug out this unloved home dec fabric, and end even though I was thinking these would just be test shorts I found I couldn't help myself - I pattern-matched on CF and CB, and I tried to place the florals and swirls at an attractive height and location. My pattern placement isn't spot on - I think the back florals should really be at the same height as the front ones, and the "moustaches" on the front waistline look silly - but these shorts look much better than I expected, and I can imagine wearing them out for drinks if I had that kind of a lifestyle :).

Fit wise, as you can tell from the photos above, there are some big problems. I probably need to start by going up a size, and then by drawing a longer waistband piece. I should use a fabric that has a bit more give than this shiny stuff, And I also need to compare this pattern to some pants that fit and work out where the crotch curves are different... 

Straight after finishing these I cut out another pair from a small piece (0.55 metres!) of blue and white striped cotton ticking, and then another pair from an old favourite skirt that hasn't fitted me in a very long time. I didn't alter the size for the striped pair as I wanted to see how much difference the fabric would make, but with the brown pair I used narrower seam allowances and also lengthened the back darts. Both pairs are nearly done but I've now misplaced the facings. When I finish these I'll share them with you, and THEN for shorts #4 I'll try to get a bit closer to that inspiration pair at the top of this post - and yes, there will be a 4th pair!

See you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

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