Thursday, 18 August 2016

Donna Karan Drape Jacket: V1129

I started this jacket back in 2011, before I owned a serger (or an edge stitching foot), back when I was very cautious sewist, still finding my feet.  I wanted to sew designer Vogue patterns like this one, Vogue 1129 by Donna Karan, but I was really concerned that a mistake at any individual step might be ruinous to the final garment (I'm so not like that now). So I took the sewing slowly, with tailor tacks at every possible marking and the neatest of precision notches... and it was going beautifully till I got stuck on a step that was beyond my experience and skills. 

My sticking point related to the way the drape is sewn and where it's sewn. It's basically supposed to be sewn onto one side front of the jacket in a curve, with the stitches hidden inside the drape, then attached to the rest of the jacket neckline, ending at the other side front.  Vogue provided a guide for the curve, but I wanted to adjust the placement of the curve - when I pinned it all in place the fit didn't look right, and I didn't know how to make it look right. Argh! What's more, I wasn't sure I'd understood the way the drape was supposed to be joined to the neckline...

In the months after putting it aside I took it out periodically, reviewing the pattern instructions in case they "clicked", examining the jacket, then putting it away again because I still couldn't work out how to sew that curved drape on neatly. And then it stayed put for a long time, because I had the idea in my head that I was stuck on something very tricky indeed.

Anyway, fast forward to the week before last and this time the challenges didn't seem that great - hooray for having better skills than 5 years ago!

I pinned the drape in place again, tried the jacket body on, moved the fabric around a bit and took out some excess at the armhole - easy :).  The curve I've sewed isn't perfect but isn't normally seen, and the fit seems good.  And the way the drape connects to the neckline is actually straightforward, but I'd made a small mistake in an earlier step that had made my garment look different to the diagrams, and I guess that had thrown me.  I hadn't finished the seams a few years ago (as I mentioned earlier I had no serger, and my zipzag stitch looked messy) and the fabric wasn't unravelling so I didn't finish the new seams either - consistency is the thing! 

You can see in these photos that my fabric is a dense wool - it wasn't labelled because it was a random op shop find (and only $8 from memory!) but it has a distinct wool smell and feel.  I'd say it's from the cheaper end of the wool scale because the fabric also feels quite scratchy on the skin.

Here's what the pattern envelope photos look like - and yes, I accidentally copied the colour (except of course I didn't; random op shop finds don't allow for colour choice):

The pattern is described as follows on the back of the pattern envelope:
Unlined, fitted jacket with pockets, drape, two-piece sleeves and topstitch trim, above mid-knee length.
There is a bit more to it than that though... princess seams, faux flat felled seams, in-seam pockets and clever concealed snaps in the front (as well as a nifty hidden hook and eye that holds the drape in place on the shoulder, though I haven't yet sewn mine in).

I cut this jacket out as a size 12, adding length to the sleeves and body at around hip level.

These days I think I would have cut it out as a 12/14, but I don't mind the fit of the 12 - and I think the finished jacket looks pretty similar to the pattern photo.

I like the length and fit of the jacket overall, though the sleeves feel a couple of centimetres too long on me (and I have no recollection how much length I added to them, sorry).

This pattern is out of print and Vogue are no longer selling Donna Karan patterns, but if you do come across it, it's a good one - the jacket has the clever design lines you'd expect from Donna Karan, and I think it also makes a pretty useful layering piece for those sunny winter's days where there's just a bit of a chill in the mornings and evenings; so pretty and practical if your weather is mild.

I don't normally give my garments a test run before blogging them because I'm clumsy and a messy eater, and I don't want to show you food stains when I'm trying to tell you how happy I am with a pattern, but it dawned on me that my typical delay between taking photos and finishing a blog post actually gives me ample time to wear a new garment out and about, without the risk of nasty stains in the blog photos. So this time around I have tested the jacket - and found I like it more than I expected :). I thought the itchiness of the wool was going to make this jacket borderline unwearable, but it turns out it's absolutely unnoticeable in a long sleeved top and a scarf (that is unless you try to cuddle me - sorry kids...).

There's not much more to say - but when I was taking these photos a darling little fellow called Charlie wandered over and became my new best friend (sadly he had to scamper after a few minutes). He does a good job of looking like he's with me though, doesn't he:

So, to conclude, I love the shape and fit and drape of this jacket, and I'm impressed with past me for doing neat top stitching without any specialist sewing machine feet to help keep me at the same distance from the seam edge.  I don't love the fabric, but I like the colour and the fabric is absolutely wearable so long as I wear a scarf with it (not a problem!).

I think this jacket would be divine in a soft cashmere wool - something smooth and luxurious and drapey - but I don't need another jacket this shape, so I'll leave that one for someone else to make :).

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Diane von Furstenburg in Pink

A couple of weeks ago this next post appeared on A Stitching Odyssey as part of the Vintage Pattern Pledge month Marie and Kerry of Kestrel Makes were hosting.  I was incredibly flattered to be asked to pen a post for Marie's blog - and I imagine many, many of you read Marie's blog already - but I also wanted to blog the post here for my own sewing records.  I've left the words pretty much the same as they were for Marie's blog (though I've changed the title, which grated on me), but I've moved around and added a few photos here.  I'll try to get a new blog post up soon too! 


When you hear the name "Diane von Furstenberg", wrap dresses are probably what spring to mind. They're the style she's most famous for of course, but she also designed loose fitting dresses like this one - and from the number of copies of this pattern I've seen for sale, I'm guessing it must have been a popular style.

The pattern is this one, Vogue 2065, a Diane von Furstenberg for Vogue American Designer Originals from the late 70s:

The back of the envelope description reads as follows:

Loose-fitting, A-line, pullover, blouson dress, seven inches (18 cm) below mid-knee or ankle length, has scooped neckline, round collar, center front neckline slit with button and thread loop closing, elasticized waistline, pockets in side seams, narrow hem and top stitching and edgestitch trim.  Above or below elbow or full-length sleeves are gathered into buttoned, shaped turn back cuffs. Purchased belt. 

And why did I choose to use this pattern? Well, to be honest, even though I'm very happy with the dress I've made, this pattern wasn't my first choice!

I had two first choices: a red and cream striped 1940s summer dress, and a cream wool and lace 1940s winter dress, both already well underway.  I'm very sorry to say fitting issues with both dresses got the better of me when I tried to finish them up (for now - but I will conquer these dresses!), so I had to step away from the 40s and towards a more recent era.

My next thought was to sew something fun and exaggerated from the 80s.  I got so far as to identify a couple of very cool and unusual Vogue Individualist patterns in my 70s/ 80s filing cabinet drawer, but then an annoyingly sensible voice piped up in my head and reminded me I already have a wardrobe full of fun clothes that get very little wear :(.  So I made a second pass through the filing cabinet drawer, this time looking for "wearable" and "suitable for the office (or casual weekends)", and came up trumps - THIS DVF pattern; pretty, office-appropriate and very wearable, and even in my size.

I really hope the very bright pink fabric stops it from being a boring choice!

By the way, please excuse all the crumples in the photos - I did iron the dress properly, but I then drove into the city to take these photos wearing the dress, and apparently driving makes silk crepe de chine rumple and crease! 

I usually sew a size 12 in modern Vogue patterns for my upper half and a size 14 for my lower half, but I thought 70s sizes might be a little smaller than modern sizes, so the straight size 14 in this pattern looked about right - and it was.  The pattern was straightforward to sew, though the amount of hand stitching required took me by surprise and meant the dress took a lot longer to finish than I'd anticipated.

My gorgeous, very drapey silk crepe de chine comes from last summer's sales at The Fabric Store here in Sydney, and it proved to be the perfect choice of fabric for this dress, even if  I didn't have quite enough of it (my neckline and cuff facings are cut from a different fabric).

It's hard to show movement in photos without jumping around (and also being a good enough photographer to capture the jump!); the next photos are the best we managed to show the swish and drape of the fabric:

You don't normally see castles in Sydney, but yes, the building behind me in a couple of these photos is very castle-like.  The building was apparently based on Inveraray Castle, and was originally built as a "palace for horses" (ie stables!) for the 5th Governor of New South Wales.  And it's now the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, which I think is a much more suitable use of a small castle!  

The rolling parklands are the Botanic Gardens, very pleasantly located between the sea (downhill from these photos) and the city - in this map you can look for Gate 10 to see where the Conservatorium sits in relation to the sea and the gardens. 

If you compare my dress to the detailed description above you might notice a couple of differences... firstly, my dress is knee-length, not 18 cm below mid-knee, and secondly, where's that top stitching?

It's knee-length because I just thought the shorter length looked more balanced with the elbow length sleeves and simple bodice (I did try the longer length and it was a bit nightie-like).  I normally add between 7 and 10 centimetres to skirt or trouser lengths in Vogue patterns, so it was a novelty to get rid of some length - a full 16 centimetres, and that's with enough fabric left for a nice deep hem too.  I should point out though that a lot of that excess length probably came from my fabric "dropping"; the much smaller collar pieces certainly stretched out significantly even with minimal handling.  And as for the top stitching, well it turns out it was only supposed to happen at the hemline, and other than that, the instructions are all about slip stitching and more slip stitching!  I ended up continuing with the slip stitching theme for the hemline anyway - when you're on a roll...

Here's a close up of the collar - it's not perfect, but given the amount of adjusting that was involved to cope with the uninterfaced collar upper stretching out I'm pretty happy with it:

I did have to make another surprise adjustment as I was sewing the dress - but it's one that's not as noticeable.  When I tried the dress on with the cuffs pinned in place before sewing buttonholes, I noticed that the cuffs were very tight on my arms, so to gain a few millimetres of width I've sewed press studs with buttons on the outside instead of buttonholes.  There was actually supposed to be a second button on those cuffs, just in case the cuffs were too loose, but I didn't see any point adding buttons that I will never be able to use so I left them off.

Obviously too I have yet to get a purchased belt, and my hemline really needs one.  I did a lot of measuring and marking and trying on to make sure that hemline was horizontal, but you wouldn't know it because the elastic at the waist tends to move at my hips when I walk around, and that makes the hem rise at the sides! I wish I'd noticed before we took photos... but I'm sure it'll be fine when I add a belt.

So, what's the overall verdict? Well, pleasantly surprised!

Mid-way through making this dress I was really worried about my pattern choice; it was looking so much like a nightgown that I thought it was going to be a wadder - and what a waste of hours of handstitching that would have been!  Thankfully the elasticized waist pulls it back into "dress" territory, as does the shorter hemline  - phew! - and I know this dress is going to get a lot of wear.

Thank you very much to my two charming photographers for the day, my mum and my daughter:

And thank you very much for inviting me to write this post Marie!

See you soon

- Gabrielle x

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