Monday, 28 April 2008

So I have a new job!

I wasn’t looking but I was getting a bit stressed about my finances, especially since interest rates have gone up three times since I started working full time at the fabric shop! One day out of the blue I received a phone call from a friend of mine asking if I wanted to come and work with her. It’s with a Government Department doing market research (which is what I used to do before I went to study costume) and it’s a massive pay rise. Of course I said yes…

The issue is, I haven’t worked in an office for five years and fashion (not to mention my body sadly) have changed in that time. Therefore I have nothing to wear! I have this week off to relax and prepare and make a whole wardrobe of work clothes.

Obviously I am limited as to time so I can only focus on the barest minimum to start with, and it’s about now I wish I had a set of TNT (tried and tested) patterns to fall back on. Still I’ll give it my best shot. I have almost finished the jacket for the wedding and then I’ll be straight into it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

The Jacket Part One - Interfacing and Underlining

The jacket is made from a very fine silk dupion. Like the dress, the silk is not of great quality and so is quite fragile. I decided to underline the whole thing in silk organza (which incidentally cost more than the dupion!). Normally I avoid this kind of process because, let’s be honest, I’m really lazy and underlining can be fraught with difficulties such as buckling, and pulling. Anyway, there was no option here so it had to be done.

I cut each jacket piece from silk organza and basted the layers together by machine (I’m on a schedule so no time for hand basting). On the larger pieces I left one edge un-basted to allow for any discrepancies to sort themselves out.

On the pieces with interfacing I basted a lightweight shapewell to the organza along the seamline and cut away the seam allowances before applying the organza to the fabric. I generally use fusible interfacings where possible as I like the look better but, again, there was no option but to use sew-in on this project. In addition to the interfacing pieces given in the pattern, I also cut the upper collar and a brace for the back which I applied after I sewed the centre back seam.

For the under collar I sewed the centre seam in the underlined fabric then overlapped the interfacing seam, trimming out the seam allowance and sewed it flat (I’m not sure that makes sense!). I hand basted the roll line then pad stitched by machine, up and down in the stand and across on the main section.

Next step is construction – the bit I like best!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

M5466 A success!

Here is the finished dress I’ll be wearing to the wedding next Saturday. I am so happy with the result, most importantly it’s really comfortable so I won’t have any problems a) sitting through a Catholic mass and b) packing away my dinner later :). The pattern was really simple and only took me a few hours to run up (after all the time I spent making the toille, trying to lose weight, giving up on that, cutting the thing out then putting it off for as long as possible!). Anyway I have some news which means I am about to undertake a marathon sewing effort this week (more on that later) so I have to clear the decks first.

Alterations to the pattern:
I bought the pattern to fit my upper bust measurement as I always do but that ended up being the top size in the envelope (12). Now I always have to add for my hips (and more recently my waist) but I usually have larger guidelines to follow. This time I worked out the difference between me and the body measurements on the pattern, divided it by the number of vertical seams and added that amount at the appropriate places. On the bodice I was able to just swing out the side seam at the waist the required amount and join it back to the existing armhole. The skirt was a bit more complicated because of the pockets and pleats so I just slashed the pattern in a clear space (between the pleats and the pocket) and spread the pattern the required amount. It wasn’t that hard but as usual I put WAY too much thought into it! It fits the bottom half of my body and the pleats look to be in the right place so that is good enough for me.

After my toile I made the following additional alterations:
  • Lengthened the dress by 8cm (it finished well above my knee – not a good look with high heels or sitting on a church pew with your thighs exposed, yuck!)

  • Made a full bust alteration (fba) which allowed me to lift my arms, and I filled in the front armhole ‘scoop’ a little as it looked a bit funny to me and brought the sleeve too far onto the body. Now the sleeve hangs nice and straight from the shoulder line. I am always wary of sleeve alts as they can be a bit of a can of worms but this turned out well so yay!

  • Removed the pleats in the back bodice and skirt. On the skirt I converted the pleats to darts, I think there was an article in Threads a while ago if you need instructions on that but really I just extended the pleat lines until they met at a point and then fine tuned them after the dress was together. On the bodice I started a really complex process of closing pleats and swinging fullness into the darts (there’s me over-thinking again!), in the end I figured there was plenty of room in the bodice with the pleats pinned out so I just pinned them out of the pattern place and kind of squished the piece flat. That could have been an absolute disaster but fortunately it wasn’t!

As I fully lined the dress I didn’t cut the facings. I put in the pockets and sewed the skirt and skirt lining (without pockets of course). Then I sewed the darts in the bodice back and front and constructed the bodice. Next I sewed the dress and lining waist seams.

The next step was to insert the invisible zip and the lining. (I cut off the seam allowance from the lining cb seam in the zip area, tapering back to the original edge at the bottom, then I sew the lining to the zip tape before I do anything to the neckline. Having trimmed off the seam allowance makes the lining pull back into the neckline and you never get fabric stuck in the teeth. This is an industry method I picked up somewhere and I use it all the time on facings and linings now. I might do a tutorial on this one day if anyone’s interested, but I never remember to take photos as I go!

For the neck I laid the fabric and lining together before forming the pleats. I sewed the two layers together at 1.5cm then used this as a guideline for applying a bound edge. That is I laid the raw edge of the binding to the stitching line, sewed a 0.5cm seam and trimmed back to the first line of stitching (essentially removing the seam allowance). I then flipped the binding over, tucked in the raw edge and hand sewed it down.

I hope you can see the binding well enough here.

I made up the sleeves and lined them, then sewed them into the lined armholes. I bound the raw edges to neaten them.

This fabric is silk, but not great quality so the vertical seams frayed like a bitch. I didn’t want to risk a ridge from overlocking so I used a zig zag stitch to finished the seams, the lining is a tightly woven habutae so it didn’t need anything. On the hem I cut some bias lining to make a Hong Kong finish then hand sewed the hem. The lining had a machine sewn hem and finishes about an inch shorter than the dress.

In conclusion:
This dress came out really well, it’s flattering and was very easy to put together, I would probably make it again (in a day time fabric for work) but there are a couple of similar styles in recent Burda magazines that I am more likely to try!

Now I am on to the jacket, which I’ll post about very soon, and my news…well you’ll have to wait a couple of days for that too (Must. Finish. Jacket. First.)

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

New knitting project

Here is a picture of my new knitting project. It’s a lace cardigan from the Rowan knitting magazine number 35, design number 14 called ‘Alice’. I can't find a link to an image so here is a scan.

I’m using a bluish/greenish I suppose you’d call it spruce for the body, the yarn is Jaeger matchmaker 4ply. The frilled edges are in Rowan Cashsoft in a purple colour. I bought the yarn in 2005 when I was in London doing work experience at the costume department of the BBC (ah, good times...).

I really like lace knitting, if you haven’t tried it you should! Most patterns are intricate enough to keep you interested (especially since I like to knit with really fine yarn) and repetitive enough to be relaxing. Plus it has that retro style thing goin’ on that I really like. I can see myself wearing this to work with smart trousers and a white t-shirt, or even with a pencil skirt and slightly frilly blouse. I hope it will be this winter not next – lol!

Friday, 11 April 2008

An autumn work outfit

This is a t shirt and skirt I whipped up pretty quickly. The t shirt is from New Look 6731, view B but with the cap sleeves from Views E and F. The skirt is from a Vintage Vogue pattern which seems to be discontinued and I no longer have the envelope so I can’t give the number – sorry.

The t shirt is made from a knit burn-out called ‘Camden’ – I think it’s a poly viscose blend or something like that. It’s really light, easy to sew and I am very pleased with the result. The cowl collar gives it a bit of something different and when I wore it to work the other day I got several compliments. Can’t complain about that! I will definitely use this pattern again and it doesn’t need any alterations beyond cutting a 12 at the top, blending to the 14 at the hip.

The skirt is made from another poly viscose blend that we at the shop are calling ultra soft suiting, I love this fabric. In fact I bought enough of it in the brown colour to make a jacket, skirt and pants I love it that much. It has a really nice drape and a little bit of stretch so it’s comfortable and flattering. The pattern is as close as I have to a TNT (tried and tested) pattern as I’ve now made it twice, but I will make it again – my version is graded up from a size 10 (that’s how long ago I bought the pattern, It’s been a while since I was a 10!). It's a normal A-line at the front,but the backs are cut with the straight grain down the middle of the piece, rather than the centre back, giving a nice flare to the back without it sticking out. I have to take it in a tiny bit at the side seams and I may lift the front waist a bit higher. I’m also not quite convinced about the length so there is a little perfecting to do on this one yet.

These are versatile pieces that can be worn together or with other garments, I also like that I can wear the top tucked or un-tucked with a belt.

Finished denim jacket - a success!

Here is my finished denim jacket – I am VERY happy with it. To recap, I made this jacket as a trial run for the silk dupion jacket I’ll be wearing to the wedding (which is only three weeks away now so eek!).

The pattern is M5477, using the sleeves and back tab from view C and the collar from views A and B (a notched collar just suits me better). The fabric is an enzyme denim which is navy in one direction and dark olive in the other. It’s not a twill like a normal denim but is more like a close weave linen. Fortunately I pre-washed the fabric even though I’ll probably dry clean the jacket because it shed A LOT of dye and still turned my fingers black while I was sewing it! The lining is a black polyester lining that has become my favourite lining at the moment, all I know is it comes from Japan. It has a beautiful close weave and is not at all clammy to wear.

The things I love about the jacket are: the neat fit at the waist, which is achieved by the side front and side back pieces being cut on the bias; the overall shape is really flattering to my figure type and has a retro feel that really appeals to me; and it was really easy to put together – always a bonus. Note that the pattern states these sleeves are long - they are not. The finished length is about 5cm above my wristbone (given that I have quite short arms they could be even shorter on more willowy figures). I like this length, and they are illustrated this way, but if you want a full sleeve, you'll need to lengthen.

What I will do differently next time: I’ll interface the top collar as well as the under collar (I would normally do this but I wanted the follow the instructions to the letter to see what happened) and I’ll interface the full front piece as well as the side front and back panels just under the arms as I’d like it to look a little more stable in these areas. But that’s it, a size 12 fit me really well without major alterations (I took a slightly narrow seam allowance in the lower sides to accommodate my hips).

The next version will be made from gold silk dupion, underlined with silk organza and lined in silk habutae. I’ll use sew in rather than fusible interfacing. Better get started on the pad stitching now!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Endings and beginnings

So here is the finished shift dress. I put it on one of the dummies at work to photograph – isn’t she gorgeous? Sadly the shape and the colour do nothing for me so I probably won’t get a lot of wear out of this except possibly over a long sleeved black T in the winter. Anyway I have many more exciting (and successful) projects to post about in the near future…

I have also finished the mermaid scarf I was crocheting but haven’t had a chance to photograph it yet, stay tuned.

On to new projects. Here is the toile I made for the dress I intend to wear to the May wedding. To remind you the pattern is M5466, view B. I cut a size 12 to the armholes then graduated out to a 14 at the waist and hips. When I tried it on I could not move my arms! A nifty FBA (full bust alteration) sorted that out so now it fits nicely. As an aside, I’ve never needed to do this alteration before as I’m only a C cup so most patterns fit okay without it. I guess the newer, more fitted styles are going to require more toile making (awesome – not!).

No, my dress dummy does not have a lean, I am just a TERRIBLE photographer!

I will be making several design changes to the dress. The front is fine as is but I don’t like the pleats in the back. The ones in the back neck make me look like a hunchback and as for the skirt pleats, let’s just say my butt does not need any help in that way! I’ll simply fold out the pleats from the neck edge and convert the skirt pleats into darts. I may leave the sleeves as is or I might convert them to tulip sleeves to give me a bit more movement, haven’t decided on that one yet. I’ll also be fully lining the dress in silk habutae. I’ll have a belt made but I’m not sure if I’ll wear it on this occasion.

I’ve also made a trial version of the jacket I’ll be wearing and am really happy with it. As soon as I finish the buttons and buttonholes I’ll post on that one too.

That’s all for now.