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

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