Thursday, 31 December 2009

Fabric Dyeing Samples

One of the things I loved learning in my costume course was dyeing fabrics. A lot of the time we used dye to create aged or dirty looking clothes that could withstand laundering (one time I had to create a pair of old, pee-stained men's underwear for a character in 'the Scottish play' - but that's another story!).

Luckily we sometimes got to play around with pretty effects too.

However I don't have the equipment at home to dye fabric and I am not very confident with colour so one technique I have embraced is discharge dyeing - sort of like reverse dyeing. Here is a project I made using this technique during my course. The fabric is silk dupion, the original colour is the purple and the gold was uncovered when I used the discharge technique.

The beauty of discharge dyeing is the colour you end up with was there all along so it always 'goes' with the original fabric. You can use any technique such as tie-dye or shibori and you simply remove colour from the original fabric rather than adding a new colour on top.

So why all this pondering about dyes? Well, I have a wedding to go to at the end of January, it's another of my fella's friends so I can't wear the dress I wore to the last wedding I went to (I suppose I could, but you know how it is I'm sure!). I have been a bit stuck as to what to wear so I've been re-reading all my books and magazines but it was during the most recent episode of Gossip Girl (don't judge me, I only watch for the clothes!) that I saw this dress on Leighton Meester aka Blair.
Image from here. I have no idea who the designer is, but I'd love to know.

That was my lightbulb moment as they say. I took myself off to Fabulous Fabrics (I have a $100 voucher that I got when I left my job in July) and bought some 10cm samples of various shades of silk dupion. Sampling is REALLY important, since you don't know what you are going to get - and sometimes it is not what you were hoping for!

I bought indigo-navy, chartreuse and two shades of turquoise for my tests. I used RIT colour remover, which I have used on silk before, so I know it's safe. You can use bleach in various dilutions on other fabrics such as cotton but bleach makes silk turn to jelly - not a good look!
Here are all the samples together:
I really love this chartreuse sample but I didn't leave it in the solution long enough - this colour was quite stubborn.
I tried to create an ombre effect on the navy but I was impatient and the effect is much too subtle!
While I loved these two turquoise shades, the discharge technique is a bit too much like a wet look. At a wedding in the heat of summer you do not want to look like you've sweated all over your dress!
These are my two favourites, the chartreuse and navy left in the solution for much longer (or I could have used a stronger mix). The darker shades at the bottom are the original colours and the lighter shades are where the dye has been removed. There is not such a dramatic contrast as in my purple dress above but I think it is a really pleasing effect anyway.
Here are the samples on top of the original fabric:
I think either of these could work really well in a dress inspired by the gossip girl original. I would use the paler shade on the bodice and the original colour for most of the skirt, with some kind of graduation in the middle (maybe a shibori technique?). I am not sure I will go for the level of embellishment in the inspiration dress bu never say never!

Now a question. I love both of these colours a lot and can't choose between them. My fella doesn't have a preference either so what do you think? Anyone out there prefer one over the other? Please let me know as I am itching to get started on this project!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas dress 2009- Vogue V8494

Here is the dress I made to wear on Christmas this year. I wore it to dinner with my fella's family on Christmas eve and then to breakfast at my Dad's on Christmas morning and lunch at my Mum's. It looks a bit rumpled but not bad for three sit down meals and 118km of driving over the two days!

I cheated with the shoes for these photos, I actually wore flats since I was the skipper (designated driver) but don't you just love these green pumps (from Nine West if you're interested).

The pattern is Vogue V8494.

Pattern Description:
Lined dresses A, B, C, in two lengths have bodice princess seams, back zipper and a-line skirt. I originally planned to make view B, with black contrast bands but in the end I decided I didn't want to cover up any of this gorgeous print!

Pattern Sizing:
Standard. I cut a 12 to the underarms, grading out to a 14 at the waist and 16 at the hip.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
The drawing is remarkably accurate (for once).

Were the instructions easy to follow?
When I read through the instructions I thought they were a bit long-winded but went with them anyway. It turned out to be fine and even though you have to hand sew the shoulders it does give a nice finish and guarantees you'll maintain the unusual style line where the centre panel forms the straps. I put this together easily in one day (or I would have if I hadn't made a massive dumb mistake and had to unpick half the dress!).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the shape of a full skirt but not so full the Fremantle Doctor will leave you red-faced. It's fitted but can still accommodate a full Christmas lunch. I have no dislikes.

Fabric Used:
A beautiful printed cotton sateen that reminds me of Monet's garden (not that I've been there!). I used white cotton voile for the lining and the whole project cost less than $50 Australian.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
Don't you hate it how you fix one fitting issue and another one rears it's ugly head? In addition to my usual fba (4cm total), sway back alteration (take out 2.5cm above the waist at centre back), and narrow back alteration (take out 3cm all the way down the back - normally I would taper to nothing at the waist); this time I also had to add length to the front bodice at the shoulders. Maybe I now have a low bust on top of everything else - anyway, all I needed to do was add 1.5cm to the top of the shoulder on the front piece only. It was easy since there aren't any sleeves!

I also stayed the v-neckline with silk organza selvedge using the instructions in Clare Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques.

Step one, cut strips of selvedge 1cm shorter than the seamline on the pattern and pin in place distributing the fullness. Step two, fix in place just inside the seamline with a small running stitch.

Oh, and I used an invisible zip instead of a regular one.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I love how this dress turned out, I will almost certainly make it again. I have it in mind for a summer work dress and possibly a more 'evening' version as well. If I got invited somewhere really special I'd even make the long version.

Love it! It's comfy in the heat without looking sloppy, and was pretty easy to get together in a hurry.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Pattern Review - New Look 6750

This is the dress I made to wear to the wedding in Donnelly River, New Look 6750. Apologies for the lack of detail shots, it was made in a real hurry!

Here I am on my bushland verandah about to walk through the bush to the wedding ceremony.

Pattern Description:
Empire waist dresses with bodice, skirt and sleeve options. I made bodice B with skirt D and sleeve E.

Pattern Sizing:
I cut a 12, grading to a 14 at the hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, I think so. Except I lapped the sleeves back over front instead of front over back - oops! But I was in too much of a hurry to fix it.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
They were fine, it's a fairly straightforward pattern. Because the fabric is a sheer I sewed all seams with a french seam (except the armhole, which I stitched then zig zagged and trimmed). I lined the whole dress - the pattern doesn't have a lining in the skirt. I also used an invisible zip.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like all the different combinations. I think this will be a handy pattern to have.

Fabric Used:
Polyester georgette which I bought from a local designer who was selling off stock from her workroom about a year ago (maybe more).

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
No changes to the design. I made a slight fba, which I just incorporated into the under bust gathers.

I did have trouble getting the neckline to sit flat. This always happens to me on this style of neckline. I think my understitching/clipping/trimming technique needs work!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would definitely consider making this again and I would recommend it.

It worked perfectly for the occasion - a daytime 'formal' wedding in the bush. The sleeves protected my shoulders from the sun but without making me too hot and the skirt accommodated a wonderful dinner and several glasses of champagne. Oh yeah, and it didn't get creased while travelling!

Since it turned out to be quite a cool day I wore this cardigan over the top for much of the time. In the evening I wore a tan tweed coat that I made from a vintage 60's pattern (which I have now lost - sob!) before I started blogging.

I bet you are as glad as I am not to see another olive/cream/teal creation!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Having a little rest

I thought I would feel burned out after completing my wardrobe competition entry but actually I have been feeling really motivated. Unfortunately that hasn't translated into action for the last week or so, since I am still very busy at work and come home exhausted most afternoons. Pretty soon most of my big stuff will be done and I'll be able to get ready for my two weeks off - can't wait!

My priorities in the short term are:
  • three more work tops,
  • another work skirt,
  • a dress to wear at Christmas,
  • a couple of cotton dresses for knocking about the house on hot days, and
  • A couple of presents (ONLY for people who appreciate from now on!).

I don't think this is too much to ask for the next couple of months and then of course it'll be back to my favourite time of year - autumn (or should I say 'jacket time').

Anyway, I haven't posted yet about the wedding I went to in early November so here goes. I haven't yet written a review for the dress I wore but I will do it soon. In the meantime here are some pictures of the place we stayed at.

The couple who got married are friends of my fella, he went to school with them and they have been together since year 11. I had never met the couple before (or 99% of the guests) so I was pretty nervous but everyone was really nice. There are no photos of the actual wedding since I didn't get permission to post them but rest assured it was lovely! We all stayed on site, the wedding was in pretty patch of bushland behind one of the cabins and the reception was at the community hall, all in walking distance.

The venue was a place called Donnelly River, an old mill town in the South West of WA. Here is the cottage we stayed in. I was skeptical about shared accommodation but it turned out fine.

The best part of the stay was the wildlife. There were native animals everywhere. We even saw a blue wren - which I have never seen in real life before - but I didn't have my camera handy at the time. The animals are quite used to people and you can even buy food for them at the general store. Not that I endorse 'taming' wild animals of course, but I don't think these ones rely on humans as their only food source.

There were a lot of emus around, which I was pretty scared of. Here's a baby one, not scary at all!

But this is as close as I would get to a full grown one!
There were also a lot of roos, which I am not generally fond of - only because I am terrified of hitting one with my car (which would be very bad for both of us). In this setting they were fine, I really enjoyed feeding them.
Look at this face!
Here's a pic of a joey in its mother's pouch. Depending on the time of day you would either see its head or feet poking out! BTW did you know that kangaroos can have two joeys at one time, a grown one like this and a tiny baby one? The mother produces two different kinds of milk to meet the needs of the two babies - how cool is that?

Everyone say aaaah!

Most of the time the roos just lay around in the sun!

There were also loads of native birds. Here is a photo of my fella feeding a twenty-eight parrot from his hand.
Here's a twenty-eight up close.
Okay, enough of the science lesson. I hope my non-Aussie readers enjoy these pictures but I promise a pattern review is not far away.