Sunday, 24 May 2009

Spotty Marie skirt

I made this from the free pattern on Burdastyle and hemmed it to a more flattering length. It was actually a bit tricky to get the hem right as the original pattern has facings for the hem which is a sort of tulip shape. I cut and hemmed it shorter so it didn't have the balloon / tulip shape. I also lined it with the help of Connie Long's book 'Easy Guide to Sewing Linings' - basically the quick-lining technique. Lining really makes it a lot nicer to wear, and the whole skirt feels a lot more substantial. I did managed to prick my finger on a pin and bleed on the lining a bit which was slightly annoying. I am now deliberating whether to use this skirt shape for Jackie. The shape will probably be a bit fuller made from silk, but that might be quite nice... Hmmm. I will also need to move the zipper to the back, as the Jackie bodice opens at the back but that will probably make it neater to finish.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Basic skirt block

So now I have finished the bodice, and given that I don't want to use the skirt that comes with the pattern, I need to come up with an alternative for the bottom half of the dress. As this is going to be a pencil or tulip type skirt (I think) I thought I better figure out how to draw a basic skirt block. Luckily I found this awesome tutorial on drawing a basic skirt block on the Fashion Era site I used to produce my own custom-sized skirt block patterns.

I then made it up in black cotton as per the instructions, and just basted in a zip (which was
about 5cm too short as it turns out - nightmare wriggling in and out of the thing!) - when I'd sewn it together it turned out that the curve I'd drawn from the waist to the hip was not shallow enough (ie was too curvy) and that made the toile a bit baggy around the hips. So I re-stitched that bit of the side seam (starting at the original seam on the waist and ending crossing the original seam at the hips - couldn't be faffed with unpicking the whole lot) at on each side, probably less than a centimetre from the first seam I'd sewn, and tried it on again and it was just about perfect. I transferred this adjustment back on to my master pattern by putting the pattern piece on top of the garment (inside out) and marked the pattern piece, trimming off the excess... not sure if there is a more scientific approach (the tutorial said something like "transfer all adjustments you make to the toile to the pattern" - not very explicit!) but hopefully it will have worked for the next one! I made the block knee length so I can cut the patterns shorter if necesssary.

When on, the shape of the toile looks fab from the front, but it's a bit meh at the back - it has two darts at the waist which give a nice simple shape but it seems to just hang a bit once you get to the ass area... I guess this is only supposed to be a plain block which you then do stuff to. So now I am trying to find instructions on putting in a slit at the back or something...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Jackie part II

So I have just finished the bodice! I lined and stitched it all on machine - no hand sewing whatsoever - thanks to this awesome tutorial I found on BurdaStyle which shows you how to do this cool inside-outsidey magic seam thingy. In the end I found it easier to follow than the one on Threads I referred to in my previous post.. not sure if they even do the same thing, but I will be using this method a lot going forward.

I did use the Threads quick-lining technique to start with - it basically involves cutting your lining from the garment pattern pieces and sewing the facings to the linings and thereafter treating it as one unit. Here is a pic of the lining with the facing pinned to it. I have never sewn lining fabric before - slippery little sucker...

The inside-outsidey magic seam thingy I used for sewing everything together. The picture to the left was taken after I'd sewn the neck and armholes and before I'd sewn the side seams. I have left the back open as once I have made up the skirt bit (hopefully that will be a lot less fiddly and time-consuming) and joined the skirt to the bodice there will be a zipper there. Hopefully I've left enough of a seam allowance. The lining technique is awesome and for this project has worked well - I'm really chuffed with the results of my first attempt at lining something! I think when I sewed everything together I should have trimmed the seam allowances down at the armholes as there is a little bit of bulk there... but I gave it a good iron and it seems fine. I've been amazed at how easy the silk dupion has been to iron. Which makes up for the fact that it FRAYS ALL OVER THE GODDAMN PLACE. Ugh.

I'm really glad how the straps turned out - I hate hand sewing (it's always slipstitch isn't it?!) and the pattern for Jackie calls for hand sewing at the shoulders. Yawnarama. But the inside-outsidey magic seam thingy lets you sew the whole lot on the machine then turn it the right way and press it. It looks much neater and more professional than my hand sewing, that's for sure...

I didn't do anything with the seams on the inside - just pinked the edges - maybe I should have used some seam binding or something? I did that for the seam joining the silk bits of the upper and lower bodice and it looked very neat but you can't see it as it's hidden by the lining. Hopefully it will be ok, I can't see me wearing this dress every day! Though if I can finish the skirt bit I'd like to wear the dress for my cousin's wedding at the end of May... but first I have to figure out how to make the skirt...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


So I am part way through my lovely oyster silk version of the 50s delight below. Actually, I think I need to name it - how about Jackie? I decided that I didn't want a button fastening at the front but instead a zipper at the back, and though I haven't got as far as the skirt bit yet I am thinking of having a more tulip-style skirt instead of the full skirt the pattern uses; the silk dupion is quite voluminous and I don't want it to end up looking like some sort of 80s wedding dress… But for now I am just making up the bodice.

When I made the practice version, the gathered seam under the bust did not lie quite under my bust but instead sort of across it (a factor of my freakishly long upper body as opposed to the size of my bust, sadly) so I needed to make an adjustment for this in the silk version. What I ended up doing was extending the length of the upper bits of the back and front pattern that make the straps. So far it seems to have worked but I haven't sewn everything together yet. To remove the button closure facing stuff from the front of the bodice, I just folded the front bodice pieces back to the 'centre front' line and cut them on the fold. Again, seems to have worked so far but I haven't really fitted it properly yet. Is really hard to do with pins sticking everywhere… perhaps I should buy one of those Lady Valet dress forms… For the back, in order to leave enough fabric for sewing in the zipper, I added an extra 2cm to the centre back seam allowance.

Anyway, the cotton version of Jackie was a cream colour for the bodice, and it was quite translucent and you could see the folded darts a bit. So I wanted to line this version - also to make it nicer to wear. As I have only ever made two other things before - both of those being massively simple - and the dress pattern does not have instructions or patterns for lining, I am having to figure it out by trial and error. After a bit of searching I found an awesome tutorial on Threads which shows a great quick-lining technique . If this is the quick version, don't know that I'll ever get around to the 'slow' method…! I have sewn the facings to the lining pieces (which are just cut out from the same pattern as the bodice pieces) and now am about to sew the lining/facing unit to the front fabric… it is all pinned and ready, hopefully will get around to doing that tonight. Am a bit nervous about turning it the right way in (which involves pulling the back sections through the shoulders - sounds confusing to me) and pressing it but watch this space….

Friday, 8 May 2009

A little bit of glamour

The next thing I wanted to make was a dress - something that I could wear for lunches out, something a bit summery... I had bought a gorgeous vintage dress pattern in a 1950s style (Vogue 2960) and also found some yummy oyster silk which I ultimately want to make it up in. Thinking Jackie O with big shades, some natural pumps and a small handbag... I made it up in cheap cream cotton (and some bits of pink chambray for the skirt, which takes LOADS of fabric).. this pattern - though graded 'easy' by Vogue - was a lot more tricky for me. It had interfacing, darts and bound buttonholes! The interfacing I used for the bodice turned out to be much too stiff (lesson for next time, I have since purchased a lightweight version) and also the buttonholes were really tricky to do neatly. Even sewing the buttons on was a trauma... It turned out ok for a practice, though the cream cotton is quiet translucent so not sure to the extent I'll be able to wear this version. I hemmed it to just on the knee as anything longer than that is really unflattering on me.

My first attempt

I was really excited when I was choosing which pattern to start with, though I feared the whole thing might end in a pile of shredding tissue paper and a load of wasted fabric. Thankfully I had bought a load of really cheap cotton in a few basic colours so I wasn't so fussed about cocking things up.

The pattern I chose to start with was from the 'Very Easy Vogue' section of the pattern catalogue... I chose the version in the top right of the picture, no complicated sleeves! It has no buttons or zips either, you just slip it on over your head. It has a yoke which sort of lines the inside at the back and the front. The tricky bits were sewing on the bias binding around the armholes in a curved shape (maybe I wasn't pressing the binding properly but it was a tight curve and there was quite a lot of slack), and hand sewing (DOOM) the shoulders together. That and following the pattern - it sounds so obvious but on my first attempt at using a pattern I really found it tricky to understand what some of the steps were getting at. Luckily this is where VogueSewing came in handy.

I made two of these in the end. The first in a mint green cotton with gre
y satin binding at the armholes, and the second in a Liberty lawn which was actually really nice to sew with and iron. They are both sweet on. I hemmed them both to a level just below jeans waist (which is actually quite low on me) as I didn't want them to be thigh length.

For the second attempt, I managed to get the yoke the right way around; for the first one, the curved yoke - which is actually meant to be at the back - somehow ended up at the front. Looking back, that perhaps explains why it was slightly too wide at the front and I had to put in a couple of tiny tucks to take up the excess... d'oh. The second time I managed to get the yoke right. I also bound the inside seams with seam binding for the second one, which looks so neat! Well - for me anyway, it's all relative.

In the beginning...

It seemed like such a wonderful thing to be able to make up clothes that actually fit in gorgeous fabrics, and so I thought I would teach myself to sew. Plus I thought it was about time I had a hobby other than watching Hollyoaks and shopping. I have always had a creative streak, perhaps from my mother, so I thought I might as well try to put my money where my mouth is. Obviously however it was not going to be a speedy process...

There is something about my obsessive Virgoan personality which meant I was never going to just jump right in there and start cutting up old t-shirts. Oh no. I need order and method. I already had a sewing machine which I bought the last time I was on the precipice of actually learning to sew, but before I actually jumped right in. So the next step was to find the highest authority in the land on sewing techniques. Something traditional. During an afternoon spent perusing Amazon, I quickly came across what surely must be the bible of how to create fashion... Vogue Sewing... and it is. I ordered it quicksmart and started reading as soon as it arrived. It is awesome. It was first published in 1970, and it shows - though updated there are some brilliant references to what one should and should not wear if you are 'carrying a few extra pounds'. I ordered a couple of other general sewing reference books a little later - I found on occasion that the diagrams in VogueSewing can be a bit tricky to figure out (well, for a novice). The great thing about VogueSewing however is that it reads really well in conjunction with their patterns, which was a real plus when it came to making up my first garment. Though I still managed to get things the wrong way around... More on that later.

There is also an abundance of free information and know-how available on the interweb and it wasn't long before I had found the BurdaStyle website which has loads of awesome stuff on it, and caters for total beginners... There are some really talented people out there!

So after much reading and faffing and procrastinating, I went to John Lewis and had a flick through their 'Very Easy Vogue' section and tried to pick a pattern that looked easy but was slightly more advanced than a sack with armholes...