Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top 5 of 2016: the Misses

Following on from my recent Top 5 Hits post (thanks again Gillian!), I've just gone back through all my 2016 posts identifying the "misses", and as it turns out they fall neatly into two categories: fit and fabric (or both).

Let's start with the fabric fails:

This Vogue 1129 coat - love the style, the drape, the colour and nearly everything about this coat, but the fabric is insanely scratchy.  I've managed to wear it just once.  A silk scarf helped, but I have other softer coats.  It's on the list of things to re-sew in a nicer fabric - wish I'd had the guts to start this in a good fabric, but then I did start it years ago...

Next up, there's this StyleArc Esme top (already donated to my local second hand shop). The fabric is an interesting and warm double sided material from The Fabric Shop, but I just don't like it. My recollection is that I bought it when I was looking for something very specific for a party dress and thought this might be close enough - the print was similar to what I wanted, but the colour and fabric type weren't right. I will have to try this pattern again next winter in a merino wool - perhaps down a size too depending on the fabric. I do love the pattern though - check out the cool collar:

And then there's the floral raglan sleeved top (Vogue 1389) in this post - I really like the pattern and intended to sew the top again in a plainer fabric but never got around to it. The fabric is one I bought to make my daughter a winter fit-and-flare dress, but she had no interest in it, and I should have just passed the fabric on to someone else. Oh and I'm not sure why I look so smug in this photo:

And now for the fit fails:

This dress, adapted from Vogue 1314 - urgh, I'm too old to be dressed up as a sausage, even if the fabric is a divine colour. Not sure what I was thinking when I made this - perhaps I was daydreaming!

More in the sadly "too small" camp: this StyleArc Rosie top and vintage skirt:

I still intend to make the Rosie top again with more width, and I've got the skirt fabric back in the stash so it can become something else one day.

And then there's the accidental compression bikini pants (and I can't believe I've got a bunch of horrible and quite cheeky photos of myself wearing them on the internet!):

Finally these Burda 7214 mustard pants are the cross-over - the fit looked OK in the photos but loosened with wear (and felt wrong), and the fabric was too thin and stretchy for this type of garment. Disappointing, but the pattern itself is excellent and I really should have another go at it with a heavier stretch fabric - and maybe if I give myself belt loops and a higher waist the pants won't feel like they're falling down: 

That's more than 5, isn't it - it's 7 garments by my count!  I should also include a failed skirt I never blogged - the fit failure (too tight, too short; I couldn't fit it for blog photos) that was my version of Vogue 1389 (close ups posted on Instagram here, and here). And then there were the umpteen garments I started and didn't finish - but they don't count, do they? 

Looking on the bright side, there were no dud patterns in there, hooray! - but obviously I still need to work on my fabric choices and fit. Maybe those areas can be my 2017 new year's resolutions....

How was 2016 for you as a sewing year?

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy year with plenty of successful sewing in 2017!

- Gabrielle xx

Friday, 30 December 2016

Stripey Tee

Another top, yes. And I've already got so many, right? Are you wondering why I haven't branched out and made other garments lately?

Well despite (blog) appearances to the contrary I have; I've made a frocktails dress and a little jacket, and I'm mid-way through a skirt, but the question is absolutely valid - why am I making so many tops?

Well to be honest the reason is very boring: it's easiest for me to fit tops at the moment.  I've put on weight recently, and my upper body size doesn't change as much as my lower body when I gain (or lose) weight. See, boring!  Pants are on hold for now, but I will make some more dresses and/ or skirts soon.

So back to the top. This one is "self-drafted", but it's based on tracing around a RTW t-shirt, the same one I used for the citrus yellow travel top in this post. So not much drafting skill involved really!  I was working with a very small but lovely viscose remnant from Tessuti fabrics - quite wide but less than 0.8 metres long - so I didn't have room for anything but these short kimono sleeves and this slightly cropped length.

Basically I used my earlier tracing and just folded the sleeves and body length back till the pattern width doubled fit my fabric width and the pattern length fit my fabric length. The stripes are across the top because I like the idea of drawing the eye upwards.

Oh and if you like this shape and don't have a similar RTW top of your own to trace around, I suspect it's very similar to that of the Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono tee (which I have, but cannot be bothered to unearth - sorry).

So many wrinkles! I would normally iron a garment before photographing it, but without forethought (or ironing, obviously) I was just madly trying to get photos of as many of my unblogged garments as possible while everyone (including crazy puppy) was out.

I'm not sure if you can see it even in the close ups, but after a failed attempt at sewing twin needle finishes around the folded over neckline and sleeves I opted to instead finish these edges by hand. My pick stitching isn't invisible but it's even enough and I like the fancier-looking finish this gives on the outside of the top. I was a bit concerned the neckline stitches might pop as I put the top on and off, so I've sewn a bit loosely and added knots every now and then around the neckline so that if stitches do pop, only a small section will come undone.

So, not much to say about this one - a very simple sew - but as it turns out, this little top slots into my corporate wardrobe very nicely. The beige/light brown colour is not one I'd normally choose to wear, but maybe I need to rethink colours - besides which the top is as comfortable as you'd expect a t-shirt to be, and its lack of sleeves means it fits smoothly under even my more tailored jackets. Sold!

I've got one more top I want to try to post before the end of 2016, along with my top 5 sewing misses (I haven't yet checked - not sure how many misses there were, so perhaps it will be top 3, and perhaps top 20). And then I expect my normal (irregular blogging) program will resume in 2017...

See you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Top 5 of 2016: the Hits

Taking a lead from Gillian, here are my personal top 5 from 2016:

The flying squirrel Rachel Comey dress (V1482) - I don't wear this that much but I LOVE it; it feels really special on and is incredibly comfortable and eye-catching (in a good way, I hope).

My D&G inspired polka dots and carnations dress - a great work dress, and one that gets a lot of compliments too:

My Japanese seersucker checked Gabby top - I wear this soooo often, and I don't care that Mr UpSewLate hates it (too shapeless apparently, but I won't listen to that!):

My Tessuti Chloe pants and Vogue 8877 linen top - love these as a combination but also as separates. The pants go with everything, and the top feels very designer-ish even with basic jeans:

And another Rachel Comey dress, the super summery Vogue 1501:

I'm sensing a colour theme here... I seem to be a bit obsessed with blues! 

Honourable mentions also go to my StyleArc Edith top (worn very frequently), the Vogue 1264 black pants shown in this post (a work staple, and I should really wear the cute vintage top more often), and the Vogue 8993 dress that I would be wearing now if I hadn't put on a bit of weight - these are all favourites too - and in terms of post popularity, I guess I should include my only "how to" (on mitred self-faced vents). 

It may look like 2016 was all beer and skittles, sewing-wise, but that's of course not the case - I made several garments that I'm not at all interested in wearing, and I'll share that list with you soon. 


Till then, happy sewing!

- Gabrielle xx

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

StyleArc Ethel Designer Top

And here's another StyleArc top, also sewn from a pattern bought at StyleArc HQ over the Melbourne Frocktails weekend. This one is the Ethel Designer Top, and this time the pattern is one size too big :).

I was really drawn to the seam and stitch lines on this top - angled seam lines front and back, and deep facings top stitched in place around neckline and armholes. The top is pretty boxy looking though, so I wasn't sure if I was being foolish sewing this up in too big a size - hence the use of rubbishy Spotlight fabric for test purposes.

Apologies for the horrible camera angle - I didn't really think when I was taking these pictures, but obviously I'd positioned the camera way too low!

I think it would be better a size down, BUT I like this top anyway. It's very airy and comfortable, and I think the excess ease looks OK with narrow pants, though I should probably wait and see how the top looks when the fabric softens after a few more washes.

The pattern is intended to be sewn in linen, so I'm thinking of making it again in a beautiful orange linen that I got as a remnant from The Fabric Store when I went there with Nicole on her not-so-long-ago weekend in Sydney.  I think to pair it with the Ethel Designer Pants (made last summer - see this post) I'd need to size the top down to bring the waist in - otherwise I think the combo would be too voluminous all over.  Hmm looking back at that post is reminding me how lovely and loose those pants are... I think they would be fabulous in a very lightweight cotton or silk!

In the next photo I've pinched out the excess ease at the waistline; I think the top looks better like this.... 

StyleArc actually gave us printouts of diagrams showing how to grade their patterns up and down (ie how much per size for tops and bottoms), so it should be perfectly do-able to size this top down.

If I remember correctly a couple of others who've made this top have said something about the instructions for the facings being a little confusing - maybe I'm mis-remembering, but in any event I was mentally bracing myself for making mistakes when I sewed the sleeve facings.  If I understood the instructions correctly, what StyleArc suggests it to sew the armhole facings with facings right side to the right side of the top, then to flip the facings to the inside before top stitching in place, and then finally to sew the side seams. This order of construction might be what makes the approach a little different? I guess I would normally hide the side seam within a facing, but I can see that StyleArc's approach would be good if you want to avoid puckering from discrepancies between the lengths of the facing and outer armhole edges - sewing instructions are really just a suggestion though, aren't they?

There's not too much more to say about this top - it really is quite a straightforward sew, and if your fabric is wide it doesn't take a great deal of length. The pattern indicates you need between 1.7 and 1.9 metres for the top, but from recollection I got it out of 1.5 metres with lots of fabric left over. So as I said earlier, I'll probably be making this one again in a smaller size and a nicer fabric :).

Gotta go - we're heading to the beach again this afternoon!

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

StyleArc Alannah T-Shirt

Hooray for summer holidays! I have a significant backlog of unblogged sewing but I've got time off work and the evening light is fabulous, so the other evening, while Mr UpSewLate was at the local dog park with puppy and kids, I took the opportunity to race around the garden snapping pictures of myself in four of the tops I've made recently.  This top is the one I snapped last, and I was getting weary of my own forced smiles, so when the family came home and my daughter offered to take over with the camera I was extremely relieved.

I bought this paper pattern when I visited StyleArc's HQ on the Saturday of Melbourne Frocktails weekend (still impressed that they would rock into work on a Saturday to open up their office and show us around, let alone sell us patterns at a huge discount!). Not all patterns were available in all sizes, so although I think of myself as a size 12 in tops and a 14 in bottoms, I picked up a couple of patterns that were a size larger or smaller, and this was one of them. This is the Alannah t-shirt in a size 10, and while it's a little snug across the bust in my cotton jersey from Spotlight I think it would be a good fit in a viscose stretch fabric.  

I'm happy to report that the Alannah t-shirt pattern is a very straightforward and quick sew without sacrificing shape: the sleeve is not symmetric between front and back (thank goodness!), back and front aren't identical, and the pattern nips in slightly at waist level. You could sew this top entirely on the sewing machine, or do the whole thing on an overlocker and cover stitch machine. Mine was sewn predominantly on my overlocker, with just the hems done on my sewing machine.   

The only deviation I made from the instructions (which are brief, but not at all tricky) was to skip the tape in the shoulder seams. I do use clear elastic in the shoulder seams (and neckline, and anywhere else I think needs it)) when I'm sewing with drapey or heavy knits, but this cotton jersey didn't seem to warrant it - and the proof is in the pudding; my shoulder seams haven't stretched out at all. 

I might need a few more of these, I reckon... 

Happy holidays!

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Vogue 1501: The Birthday Dress

A couple of months ago now my mum brought me back several delectable fabrics from her trip to New York (no, not from Mood Fabrics, if you were wondering), and we agreed they could be an early birthday present - hooray! This pebble-patterned crisp cotton was one of them - such a great pick, given my current obsession with blue fabric - and I'm delighted to have been able to sew it up in time for my birthday, early last month.

The pattern is of course the very recognisable Rachel Comey dress, Vogue 1501 (aka the Delane dress, and related to the Klein dress).

I wasn't sure of the fabric composition of the original dress as shown on the pattern envelope, but then I did some searching on the internet, and interestingly all of the RC Delane dresses looked to be made from 100% polyester! So I guess the dress on the pattern envelope is polyester too; maybe a polyester crepe.  Mine is cotton :). For our humid summers I will always choose cotton over polyester, and I suspect the sewing's easier this way too :).

Here are a few of those original polyester dresses - although I'm not a fan of polyester in summer clothing, I have to say the design does look great in a drapey fabric:


And apart from using a very different fabric I stayed pretty much true to the pattern.

I sewed a size 12 in the bodice, size 14 in the waist and below, and then made just a couple of minor deviations:  I lengthened the skirt a couple of inches (I'm around 5'8" with an average torso length), and while I tried and liked the idea of the shoulder pads, I left them out so as not to lose any bodice length.

Oh and I didn't have quite enough fabric, so my facings were cut from a contrasting white cotton, which feels very summery. 

Looking at these photos, perhaps I should add those shoulder pads back - I thought the bodice was verging on too short and pulling up the front hemline, but if anything the opposite looks to be happening! Hopefully that's just my lazy posture...

The bodice is roomy (hell, mine's even puffy in the front!) with a loose hanging back bodice over a more fitted back skirt.

I'm not convinced this is a particularly flattering garment, but it feels breezy without being revealing and I really like that - it's a pleasure to wear on a hot day, and that's the main thing!

In case you're tempted to make one of these dresses for yourself, let me get into a bit more detail in reviewing the pattern.

Firstly, you've probably noticed the pattern is rated Easy - and I think that's a fair rating, as there are no complex acts of sewing involved. Having said that, this is the sort of pattern that requires patience: there are a lot of little steps involved, and several of these demand you pay attention to your cutting and/or stitching. Which is absolutely fine, but if you're in the mood for slapdash sewing you might want to delay the attachment of your bodice to the skirt at the front waistband, for example :).

The instructions are pretty comprehensive: they show you how to make and attach a button loop, how to prevent your pockets from flapping around, where to understitch, which stress points to reinforce, how to insert an invisible zip without a bubble at the end, and how to include a bias bound finish on the inside of your waistband. I suspect the instructions wouldn't be quite detailed enough for an absolute beginner, but I think they'd be sufficient for someone with a few garments to their name.

My only quibble is with the suggested seam finishes in step 19. The pattern suggests you finish your raw edges on the bodice side seam, but I think this can make for too thick a finish on light fabrics so I just overlocked these edges. The recommended fabrics for this pattern are crepe, linen blends, jersey and chambray, so maybe I've just used an inappropriate fabric, and maybe bias tape would work on less summery fabric.

One quibble isn't much (not from an analyst!) and there is LOTS to love with this pattern: roomy and well placed pockets, hidden under the folds of the pleats; armholes that are not too low and not too high; an interesting design that keeps you cool in summer without resulting in horrendous sunburn; lovely facings; neat finishes; a choice of a tucked in bodice or a loose and breezy one; and great instructions.  That's heaps!

I should also say I'm also pretty happy with my own sewing on this dress :).  I restrained myself from bolting ahead and taking shortcuts, and I even unpicked some of the narrow hems and resewed them when they weren't looking neat and symmetric, even though I abhor unpicking!  I really like the look of the pebble print on this dress, and I'm pleased to have had a go at balancing the pebbles over the front bodice and on the waistband - though I'm not sure if this is at all noticeable to anyone else :).

Hmm I think I like the side back view best - there are no idle thoughts of Teletubbies creeping into my subconscious from this angle:  

So will I make this dress again? I might! I'd like to make it in a white linen jersey, with the skirt lengthened and the darted, zipped up back skirt replaced by an elastic waist and just enough gathering to get over my hips. I know the narrow hems would be a bugger to sew in a jersey though. I'd also like to play with the shape of that loose back bodice with a more structural fabric...

If you're thinking of making this dress, here are my final thoughts on what to pay attention to and what to skip: 
  • If there's plenty of fabric you can skip the centre front seam on the skirt
  • There's no need for bias bound seam edges except at the lower edge of the waistband 
  • The shoulder gussets can be omitted if you're not using shoulder pads 
  • The pleats need to be carefully aligned above and below the waistband, and should be symmetric on either side of centre front.
  • Don't skip the understitching 
  • The neckhole is not huge - you will probably need the back button and opening
  • Pay attention to the waist band and hip sizes, but the rest of the garment is loose
  • Check the front bodice length if you are taller or shorter than average 
  • The front bodice has very visible, angled hems so don't skip the ironing steps here
  • Follow the directions for reinforcing, stitching and clipping the front bodice carefully so you don't get a mess at the junction of the waistband and front bodice

I hope that doesn't put you off! 

Oh and once the dress is sewn, there's one further challenge - how to hang it in your wardrobe! By the shoulders, like a regular dress? From the waist, like a skirt? Folded over a hanger, like umm... like a tricky thing? 

Thank you and goodnight!~

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

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