Much 70s, So Dress

_DSF7633I’ve set myself the realistic but still challenging goal of finishing one project each month in 2015. In January I made some pyjamas, which I have yet to blog about because blog photos mean makeup, but wearing pyjamas means no makeup, and I just don’t know what to do.

_DSF7585February’s project was much more makeup friendly! I found this wool twill in a local vintage shop and knew it would have to come home with me. Despite loving it, I couldn’t really work out what I wanted it to become. Eventually I realised I was overcomplicating things, and that I should just make a bloody A-line dress because that is exactly what I like to wear.

_DSF7618Out came the pattern from Dressing Chic Revisite les 70s which I have used previously for my birthday dress. I’m not sure if I’ve cut it out slightly inaccurately, or if I’ve traced the pattern inaccurately, but none of the seams at the waistband line up exactly with each other. Fortunately it’s incredibly hard to tell on this fabric, but I’ll probably retrace the pattern if I use it again.

_DSF7609While I’m happy with how this has turned out, I do think I could do a bit more work on the fitting of the bodice in future versions. The neck gapes when I stand in some positions (most of my awkward photography poses). I think this is partly the shape of it, but might I need a slight full bust adjustment? I also have a problem with the bust darts. Despite careful pressing, they do seem a little pointy. This is an issue I have with the orange dress, too, so I wonder if I need to reposition them slightly. Does anyone have any suggestions?

_DSF7586Because I’d made the dress before, I felt confident enough to push my skills slightly. It has a lining, which is a first for me, and the invisible zip is actually invisible! I’m feeling quite proud of myself. I didn’t bother pattern matching, because I didn’t think there was a very obvious repeat when it was laid out on the floor. It looks a lot more obvious on the dress, but I’m not concerned.

I’d been noticing the lack of handmade winter clothes for a while, so it was great to add this number to my wardrobe. I can see it getting a lot of wear in the next month or so.

Do you manage to make clothes for every season, or only for the ones you like?

Very Easy Very Vogue 7808

_DSF7463Here is my first (and only, for this year at least) Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge make; something of a surprise success, considering that the toile looked very reminiscent of my costume for the part of King Herod’s advisor in a junior school nativity! The pattern is Very Easy Very Vogue 7808, and once I’d disregarded almost all of the instructions, I did find it quite easy. I should point out that there isn’t a weird mark above my boob in real life, it’s just photographed strangely. I took the pictures in front of my mum’s shed, but let’s pretend it’s a beach hut.

I made view A, but as you can see in the photo below, there are some departures from the pattern envelope. It was a really interesting challenge to try and understand the instructions, while using today’s techniques, and to also find a way to make this pattern into something which wouldn’t feel too much like a costume. It’s pretty bonkers, but I’m really pleased with the results!

I got the fabric from a shop in Goldhawk Road (most likely A-Z fabrics), where they had a massive selection of wax prints. I was shopping with my mum at the time, and although I had no idea what to make from a potentially croissant printed fabric (or trees? or kidneys???), she is a very bad influence on me, and I bought it. I might use the leftovers to make a blind for our kitchen!

King Herod's Advisor contemplates the pattern, wonders where it all went wrong...

King Herod’s Advisor contemplates the pattern, wonders where it all went wrong…

I tried to make this pattern earlier in the year, but it was all a bit of a disaster – not even considering the King Herod’s advisor part. Considering it’s just a kaftan, this is the project I’ve made that has required the most changes, so I’m going to list them out below.

Lesson 1: Stay Stitch, you idiot!
The instructions have you attach interfacing to the main fabric, not the facings, presumably because it wouldn’t have been iron-on in the 70s. On my first try, I decided to attach it to the facings, but forgot to stay stitch the neckline, so that looked a mess. This time round I left off the interfacing, partly because of the thick fabric I was using, but mostly just to see what would happen. It seems to have worked out ok. I also stay stitched the shit out of everything, and am pleased with the results.

Lesson 2: Facings and sleeves before side seams 
The instructions would also like you to sew the sides before attaching the sleeves or the facing, but I decided to leave that till last, since the facing was nearly impossible to attach last time, with the sides sewn up. I attached the sleeves in the flat, before just sewing straight along them and the sides to close the dress up. Much easier!

_DSF7464Lesson 3: Keep the girls under wraps
The front slit was a bit of a challenge, and my first attempt featured a very wide, very puckered and dangerously low opening. The pattern calls for buttons to do it up, but I didn’t want to add any, and didn’t take into account that this would leave the girls very overexposed. I reduced the length of the opening by two or three inches, and sewed the facing and front together a lot closer to the eventual cut line in order to reduce the width of the slit. It’s still not perfect, and there is a little puckering at the bottom, but it’s a lot better than before.

Lesson 4: Ribbon trim is not for the impatient
My original attempt featured a ribbon trim around the neckline, as on the pattern envelope, but it looked very amateurish and puckered a lot. Since this was such a busy print, I went simple this time round, keeping the details to a minimum. As it’s going to be used for holidays, I did some topstitching around the neckline, just to stop the facings flipping out every time I put it on.

_DSF7465Lesson 5: Experiment before hemming the skirt and sleeves
During most of the construction process, I had no idea whether this was going to turn into something wearable, but I was very surprised when I tried it on by how much I liked it! After messing around with various hemline ideas, and sleeve lengths, I was further surprised by my decision to go for a short hem at the front, dipping down at the back, and quite long sleeves.There are slits in the sides, which would probably make me feel a little exposed if worn away from the pool/beach, but I love the combination of retro pattern, African wax print, and a Japanese vibe when worn with an obi belt.

I wore this months ago when we went to stay with Ben’s parents in France for a few days, and it was absolutely perfect. One additional benefit to the hi-low hem is that you don’t burn the backs of your thighs on plastic patio furniture which has been left out in the sun! So practical! If we were in the 70s, I’d wear this non stop, but alas, we are not, and I’m not sure if it’s something which’ll see much wear away from the beach or pool in my 21st century existence. However, I work in a pretty chilled out office, so I might treat them to some surprise croissants and legs next summer.

Dolores Batwing Dress

DSCN0937 A couple of months ago, Zoe sent me some pictures of her new batwing top/tunic/dress pattern, and asked if I would mind testing it out. Zoe was my first real-life sewing friend, and is one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, so I was very happy to help. I’d been keen to give sewing with knits a try, and I’d got as far as cutting out a lady skater pattern when I got the email. I’m glad I hadn’t got the fabric cut out as it proved to be perfect for the Dolores batwing dress. I was a little apprehensive, as my only knit project to date was the t-shirt refashion, but this came together beautifully. DSCN0944 The pattern is so quick to put together, with just eleven pages, and four pattern pieces (of which you will need three for each variation – unless you fancy a selection of arms on your garment for ultimate changeable weather protection). I really appreciate this kind of level of environmental awareness in a pattern design, and it’s the kind of touch I’d expect from Zoe, who is the queen of reusing, refashioning and recycling. And, well, lets be honest, nobody really likes assembling pdf patterns. I’d planned to make this really slowly over a week, in order to be able to go crazy with notes, but it was such a quick and easy project that I was done in an afternoon (and I am not a fast sewer). Since I was testing the pattern, I made everything according to the instructions, although I did some neat little tucks on the sleeves, rather than gathering them. According to the instructions, I was a 12 at the bust, grading out to a 14 for the waist and hips. I’m really pleased with how that sizing turned out. DSCN0947 I wasn’t 100% sure that the shape of this dress would really suit me, especially as I usually do not have love for you if you were a fashion born in the 80s, but I’m in love with the relaxed slouchy shape. I’m sure that other people would look fantastic in this dress without a belt, but I am not one of them. This is fine, as I rarely look good in anything without some kind of waist definition, and it’s nice to actually use all of the belts I own. After going through my (extensive) belt collection, I was really surprised to see that it went with pretty much every one of them!! Ben was astonished that I’d made something so practical. What I love about this dress is that pairing it with different belts completely changes the look of the outfit. With a thin black belt, it’d be perfect for work; with a massive gold belt, it’s ready to party; and with a canvas belt it would be perfect for a day at the beach.

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I’ve got a slouchy back, yeah!

I’ve got a fair bit of this gorgeous fabric left (although not enough for the lady skater), so I’m wondering whether to make a long sleeved t-shirt length version. It’s a bit strange really, as I didn’t think I was a pink person… Are you planning to make this pattern? I reckon the long sleeved version would make a fantastic snuggly little black dress for winter. In unrelated news, I thought I’d do a little advertising for my little brother, who is a personal trainer. I’ve been working out with him for a couple of months, and have noticed an amazing difference from my previous sloth-like existence. If you’re based in the Brighton and Hove area and would like to get in shape with a supportive trainer who will write a programme based on your goals and lifestyle, either outside in the fresh air, or indoors at Underground Gym in Portslade, then check out his Facebook page.

1PPW: T-shirt Refashion

Things have been a little quiet around the blog of late, and I am full of excuses! I went to Japan, started a new job, got sick, and got bitten on the foot by some form of monster-insect (leading to my first ever trip to the hospital) all in the space of three weeks. Anyway, enough of the excuses. I’ve got a backlog of posts to catch up on, so I’d better start this one!

IMG_1979Kath from Bernie and I came up with the brilliant 1 project per week sewing challenge a while ago, and I was more than happy to jump on board. I always want to join in with challenges, but this is the first one which has really been vague enough to suit me, while encouraging more order in my erratic sewing style. It has since fallen massively by the wayside, but more on that later.

My first #1ppw is actually a refashion (which is totally allowed – awesome, right?). I bought this t-shirt dress a couple of years ago to wear to a Club Tropicana party, but in the end, I went with something else. You might be surprised to hear that my day to day life doesn’t really call for me to wear neon t-shirt dresses which look like nighties. It did originally have a belt, which made it a bit more flattering, but it was still quite baggy and see through.

Since receiving the sewing machine of my dreams for my birthday, I’ve been really keen to try out new techniques. The idea of sewing knits had previously terrified me, my old machine was erratic and I imagined it might just vomit some thread onto them. My new machine handled things fairly well – the tension seemed to be impossible to adjust, but the stitches looked ok on the underside, which is to say the outside of the garment, so I wasn’t overly concerned about this on my first, and experimental, project. If anyone has any tips, they would be gratefully received. Bear in mind that I have done no research into sewing knits, save the knowledge that I needed to use a zigzag stitch of some kind.

I pinned the t-shirt in half, lined my Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee pattern (which is free when you sign up to her newsletter) up with the shoulder seams and centre fold, then drew around it. The pattern doesn’t contain seam allowances, which was fine for my purposes as it meant that I could just sew straight along the line that I’d drawn. I then repeated the procedure on the other half of the t-shirt, before checking that they lined up by pinning it in half again along the lines on one side, and then making sure the pins showing through on the other side were at least vaguely close to the lines there.

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I sewed both of the side seams using the stretch stitch on my machine, then tried it on to check that the fit was ok, and that the length I’d marked looked ok. It all looked fine, although I thought the stitches looked a bit odd. After consulting the manual it turned out that I’d used a multi stitch zig zag instead of a stretch stitch, but I didn’t think it really mattered – you can’t really see it from the outside.

I trimmed the side seams down, but didn’t bother finishing them because DON’TYOUTELLMEWHATTODO!

I chopped the end of the t-shirt to about 1cm below the line I’d marked, then folded it up once and pressed it, before turning to the proper stretch stitch and hemming it. I have no idea if this is deemed an acceptable method of hemming a t-shirt, but I’d had enough excitement for one day and wasn’t prepared for the fun of a twin needle.

I’m really pleased with how a fairly simple refashion has made this into such a wearable garment. Not only did I make this into something I actually wear all the time, but I also got a good idea of the changes I will make to the pattern for future incarnations (a few inches longer and size bigger on the hips, if you’re interested!).

I’ve come to the conclusion that this t-shirt just isn’t very photogenic. Or maybe it’s me. One of us is the problem here. After two attempted photoshoots (one abandoned due to a menacing looking seagull), I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re just going to have to live with the one before and after shot.

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Aside from this tshirt and my orange dress, I managed to spend a week working on a muslin for my Belladone dress, and another week working on a muslin for my Delphine skirt. Neither of these have resulted in finished projects yet, but I am more inclined to sit down and do some sewing in the short pieces of time that I do have.

1PPW: Birthday Dress

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Yay! I finished my birthday dress! Happy birthday to me! Oh, wait… my birthday was two months ago. I’ll be honest, all I needed to do to get it ready for my birthday was a tiny bit of hand sewing and the hem… Could I be bothered? No. Thank God for the 1PPW challenge!

This is actually my second #1ppw, but the first one is proving impossible to take pictures of. You’ll just have to contain your excitement a little longer!

Still a couple of weeks behind, I have finally got pictures! With accessories! We took the photos at the King Alfred Centre, our local swimming pool, because it looks a bit 70s, although it was built in the 30s – it was used as a training centre for the navy during the war, and went by the name H.M.S. King Alfred. Quite why they gave it a ship’s name, I’m not sure.

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I’d initially planned to make a Peony from this fabric last year, but as I am now on my second toile for that pattern, with no real hopes of getting it to fit in the foreseeable future, I’m glad I didn’t. At the time when I bought the pattern I was not a toile maker, so I’m very pleased that I now am, and that I didn’t ruin this beautiful Joel Dewberry Notting Hill cotton.

After looking at the fabric a bit more, I noticed a decidedly 70s vibe (I can find a 70s vibe in most things). I quickly dug out Dressing Chic: Revisite les 70s, and decided that the robe trapeze would be an acceptable choice.

_DSF7136_2After examining the slightly bizarre shapes of the pattern pieces, it turned into a more than acceptable choice – there are awesome little pockets built into the waist seam, and I find them the cleverest thing in the world!

The shape of the finished dress is a classic A line. It’s fitted over the bust and the shaping through the waist and hips means that it’s roomy enough to accommodate a large food baby without issues, and still flattering for someone like me, who needs waist definition like she needs air.

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The pattern is very nearly perfectly matched at the front, and I think the busy pattern helps to disguise it a lot. I sort of wish I’d unpicked the waist seam and corrected it, but I’ll have to live with it now. The back is less successful, and I can’t quite work out where I went wrong. I think I just need more practice to be honest. The zip is also a bit of a mess, but I think I can live with it as it’s not terrible. I do want to get an invisible zip foot at some point, though.

After trying the finished dress on, I noticed that the pattern placement over the boobs is less than ideal, but it’s a lot better than when I originally placed the other bit of the pattern over them. Ben didn’t notice until I mentioned it, so it can’t be that bad.

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The only modification I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by quite a lot. I’m 5’6″, and, per the pattern, this dress is shorter than I would feel comfortable wearing most of the time. At knee length, it’s perfect for most occasions.

The book is in French, and as far as I’m aware there isn’t an English translation. I speak French, so this wasn’t a problem for me, but it’s something to bear in mind if you were interested in it. The instructions are fairly visual, and if you know roughly what you’re doing and don’t mind looking a few words up, I don’t reckon the language barrier would be a problem. The patterns come in five sizes – 36 to 44. I went for a 38 and I’m somewhere around a UK 12 with the big four. 1cm seam allowances are included in the patterns, with a 3cm hem allowance (it could take a non-French speaker a while to locate that information).

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There are 18 patterns in the book, and I would wear at least 10 of them (I am incredibly fussy). The remaining eight aren’t really to my taste, although they’re still stylish and in keeping with the period. Of particular interest to me are a sporty A line wrap skirt, some sailor trousers, and a simple coat.

One of the highlights of the book, but sadly not one that I can see myself making, is the very 70s jumpsuit. The accompanying text reads “with a jumper underneath during the day, and a big necklace in the evening, you can wear this all day long”. Perhaps I should relax my anti-jumpsuit stance in favour of a practical all day wardrobe?

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The book is really nicely styled, with photos of the outfits at the beginning, then the instruction section at the back. It’s more like flicking through a catalogue than a sewing book. Paper patterns are included in the book, although they require tracing, Burda style. I highlighted the lines I needed to trace beforehand, which made things a lot easier.

And finally, because they make me laugh:

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