Friday, April 4, 2014

Pattern hack: drop-waist Lady Skater

Hello from (not so sunny) Wales!   Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I actually finished this dress a week or so ago before coming to the UK to spend some time with my parents, but didn't get round to taking any pictures, so thanks Mum for being the photographer for these.

I've seen a lot of drop waist dresses around, and pinned a few like this one and this one but wasn't sure whether it would work on me. Would it be flattering?  Too young ?  Overtly bum-enhancing? But that's the great thing about sewing. I wouldn't want to shell out heaps of cash for a dress style that I was a bit unsure about, but having a bit of a play with some op-shopped knit to see what happens, bring it on!

Rather wrinkly back view
For this dress I started with the Lady Skater by Kitchykoo, which I've made twice before (but only blogged once).   To change it to a drop waist I traced off the bodice pattern piece with three quarter sleeves in a size 3 and added length to the front and back, curving out at the hips. I didn't want it to be skin tight so I measured  the widest part of my hips and added in some ease.  The skirt is just two gathered rectangles (half the width of the fabric each), gathered using Megan's Nielsen's clever method, putting elastic in the bottom bobbin which worked a treat.

Initially I added 25cm to the length but after a bit of playing around with the bodice and skirt on my dressform, I shorted it to 17 cm. This meant that the dress ended up being a bit shorter than I originally intended, but as I'm only planning on wearing this with tights, I think it's OK. I forgot to take any pictures during the construction process but I did things in this order, using the overlocker for most of the sewing apart from the gathering, shoulder seam elastic and hems:

- stabilise shoulder seams with clear elastic
- sew one shoulder seam
- sew the neckband
- sew the other shoulder seam
- sleeves in flat
- gather each skirt price separately
- attach skirt pieces to the bottom of the front and back bodice
- sew up the sides  and arms

Hems and the neckline were finished with a twin needle.  These pictures were taken after wearing the dress all day and it was stretched out a bit so I perhaps need to take in the sides a little more, especially under the arms, and also narrow the neckline. However, minor fitting issues aside it's a super comfy dress, a bit different to the other knit dresses in my wardrobe, and I think I'll get a lot of wear out it of during Autumn and Winter (and the Welsh Spring!)

Hwyl fawr!  (that's goodbye in Welsh in case you were wondering)

Pattern: hacked Lady Skater by Kitchykoo, used before = free
Fabric:1.5m of cotton knit from the op-shop = $3
clear elastic and thread from stash
Total = $3

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sometimes simple is best: Mission Maxi, dress and tank versions

See how I colour-coordinated my dress to our chickens?
Sometimes you just need a quick sewing fix. This Mission Maxi was cut out while I was waiting for dinner to cook and sewn up afterwards. It probably took 45 minutes all up (it isn't hemmed and I'm still deciding whether to  top stitch the neckline and armholes) but it's received more compliments of anything that I've made!    I wore it to work yesterday and received several nice comments, MMSTL loves it and LittleFB wanted me to leave it on to read him a bedtime story and went through my jewellery to find  necklaces that would go with it. It's pretty funny being  styled by an eight year old boy :)

I have actually made this pattern before when I first started sewing with stretch fabrics, in a drapey purple cotton knit and it was hideous.  The neckline and armholes were gaping and too low, the racer back was too narrow - hello bra straps!- and it clung to every lump and bump. Blergh. So the pattern was abandoned for a year or so.

Last week  I visited a friend  to whom I'd promised a homemade garment as a birthday present. She wanted a racer back top , in stripes, so I pulled out the Mission Maxi pattern, grabbed a size 20 maxi skirt  in a drapey viscose knit that I picked up in the op shop to test the pattern for her, and we had a little sewing session.

Her top version turned out so nicely that it's definitely a wearable muslin - look how great she looks!  The op-shopped skirt actually gave us plenty of fabric to work with (there would have been more if I hadn't stuffed up with the cutting) and we even almost managed to match up the stripes, pretty good considering we were using a regular machine, had no real idea whether they were on grain or not and the knit was pretty slippery.


Bit wrinkly at the back but possibly because I find it impossible to stand in a normal way when posing for photos
With a renewed enthusiasm for  this pattern,  I came straight home and cut out the maxi dress lenth in a size 6, adding 0.5cm at the bust as a cheat's FBA.  As this is more of an autumn version I used some heavier black double knit and did the neckline and armholes the way I usually do, by cutting a strip (in this case  1 1/2 inches), folding in half and over locking to the right side, stretching the band at the same time. This helped with the gaping and  because the bands are wider then the ones in the pattern, also made the neckline a bit less revealing.   I also raised the shoulder straps by 1cm.   You can see in the pics there is some wrinkling at the back, maybe due to the weight of the fabric, but it's not too noticeable in real life.  Also I should point out that it does still slightly show my bra straps; I've got them tied together with a strip of jersey in these photos.  Ha ha.

I think I'll get a lot of wear out of this dress.  It's perfect now for the slightly cooler days were are having, and I can see it working well layered up with a jacket or jumper over the top  for when it gets colder.  Confession: In may have worn it two days in a row... that's got to be a good sign.

See also:
Sew Brunswick
Very Purple Person
Cut Cut Sew

Pattern: Jamie Christina Mission Maxi (Used before = free)
Maxi fabric 1.5 m of black duble knit from Brunswick fabrics ($6)
Top fabric: recyled maxi skirt from Savers = $4
Total: $10 for both  and an extra win for  a bit of upcycling!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vogue 1548: possibly the best op shop find ever?

There she is, hanging out with another awesome op-shop find, a 1950's  Singer 201K Treadle
As the ladies at social sewing know, I get a lot of my fabric from op shops and I've found some treasures. I always have a look through the patterns too, and have a little collection from the 60's and 70's even though I haven't made many of them up. 

Last week I hit the jackpot. A 1976 Diane Von Furstenberg for Vogue patterns 1548, uncut, in great condition and in my size for the princely sum of .... 99c!  When  picked it up I knew it was something special but I didn't realise quite how special until I got home and mentioned my find on Twitter and did some ebay searching.  I'll have to make sure that I do this classic pattern justice and what better time to do it as 2014 is the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress.

I think I'll trace rather than cut this one eh?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Drape Drape or how to make a dress with only one pattern piece

Quite happy that I actually managed to sew something at social sewing
It's true folks, this dress is made from a single pattern piece (not including the arm and neck bindings). Of course most of you will already know that because the Drape Drape books came out AGES ago and there are lots of super versions of this dress already out there in blog land but for some reason I was never tempted by them.  Maybe I thought the patterns would be too complicated?

But then Nic came to social sewing wearing a groovy, grunge-inspired dress-as-top and I was hooked.  And she let me try it on and she'd brought the Drape Drape books with her.  Not to mention that Mindy (social sewing regular but blogless) had generously left a pile of free fabrics for us to rifle through including a drapey cotton knit with a groovy irregular stripe and a kind of 70's vibe. The planets aligned.  All other sewing projects were abandoned and  two hours later I was wearing this dress  from Drape Drape 2.  It's kind of short in these pics but it the hem has dropped a bit since which looks better.

This pattern is super easy, just two seams and the arm and neck bindings to sew. Talk about a quick sewing fix!  In fact when I got home I immediately cut out another one (I cut the size M/L)  in some stripy drapey op-shop rayon (?) and sewed it up the next day - the only difference was adding a bit of length.  I stabilised the shoulder seams with some clear elastic on the sewing machine and  then sewed the whole thing on my over-locker. Vrooom!



I haven't hemmed this one yet and advice on Twitter is not to go too short, so I'm thinking maybe an inch off?  I like how the stripes work on the drapey side and the chevron thing happening at the other side.  And did I mention how comfortable it is? I'm usually into more fitted things but on a 39C day like tomorrow this dress is going to rock.

Talking of Twitter, I found out on this important sewing grapevine that Sewbusylizzy had the same thought process and may shortly be modelling a similar stripey version of this dress, although undoubtedly in a much more glamorous location than a veggie patch :) Can't wait to see your version Liz!

Nic generously lent me all three copies of her books so I need to trace some more patterns, stat! I'm thinking the asymmetrical top in DD2 and what else?  Suggestions anyone?


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Horray for (Grainline Maritime) shorts!

Until a few weeks ago (yes, I'm behind in my blogging)   I had one lonely pair of shorts. faded khaki ones that were too big. Yet shorts are so practical for my lifestyle.  I ride my bike everywhere and am always pottering about in the garden. WHY DID I NOT HAVE MORE SHORTS?

So I made shorts,  two pairs in fact,  from the same pattern - Maritime shorts by Grainline studio.

I had so much fun making my  Silver denim Moss mini that I thought that the Maritime pattern would be a good bet and I wasn't wrong.  The clear instructions and tutorial made everything nice and straightforward - even inserting the zip fly .  I still have no idea how it works, it just seems to appear out of nowhere.  Sewing magic.

The first pair is made from some op-shopped denim with a little bit of stretch. I cut the same size as my Moss (4) and had the same fitting issue: gaping back waistband and a bit too big at the sides.  Did I think of making an alteration to the pattern piece before hand? Or course not.  But because the waistband has a centre seam this was pretty easy to fix, I just took the excess out of the CB and the sides and then removed the same amount from the waistband and interfacing pieces.    I did think about adding length - these shorts are shorty short short- but in the end decided to embrace the pattern.  Plus it's a good incentive to keep doing those leg exercises.

I was so excited that  I had actually made shorts that I wore these on a trip down to Gippsland before the hook and eye had been sewn on.  BUT our car broke down on the way back and we had to leave it in Moe and catch the train home, leaving my shorts in the car in the process*.   Grrr.

 * I did have something else to wear on my bottom half. 

Yes, both shorts pictures were taken at the same time but  I thought you might appreciate a slightly different view of the garden.

But now that I had discovered the wonders of these shorts I couldn't be apart from a pair for too long so I did what any sensible seamstress would do; I  made another pair!  This time in a polka dot cotton sateen bought from Spotlight many moons ago.  My Mum might recognise it actually as I think she was with me at the time. It's softer than the denim but has a bit of stretch too.   I left off the back pockets this time so they came together pretty quickly.

Here are the innards.  Nice and neat looking, although I completely  forgot to finish the inner pocket seam on the polka dot pair, and I put the nice lining  fabric on the other pair the wrong way round. Oops, never mind.

I'm not sure I'm done with this pattern yet and am  tempted to make a crazy printed pair for Jungle January (I have the perfect op-shopped curtain...). Could I be addicted to shorts?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Five favourite garden things

Oh little garden.  You have been sorely neglected on this blog recently, which is a shame because you are doing so well, despite the lack of rain.  Not sure what the upcoming heatwave will do.  We'll just have to cover you up and hope for the best.

Pumpkin patch

Corn and radishes

First ripe tomatoes (late this year)

Sunflowers: always so cheery in the garden

Developing passionfuit I love it when they appear from the flowers.
 What's looking good in your garden right now?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Starry, Sari Anna

I was going to write a whole post on reflections and goals but I still have finished things to blog and seeing as "being better at photographing and blogging the things that I make"  is one of my goals for 2014, I'm going to do that instead!  Here are my other goals, just in case you are interested....

- challenge myself and learn new techniques;
- reduce my number of UFO's
- sew predominantly with fabric from the stash and:
- take my time and do things properly.

So here is a dress that I finished just before New Year's eve: the Starry, Sari Anna. It had been sitting unfinished for a while so it was time to get to some of the goals.

Grapevine and beans growing like crazy - hard to tell where one stops and the other starts!
My second version of the Anna dress from By Hand London is so called because the fabric started life out as a batik Sari from the op-shop and reminds me of a starry sky. Some of the dots are even clustered like little constellations.  I'm guessing the fabric is Rayon, lovely and drapey and cool.

I went with the V neck this time.  Turns out that the V is a lttle to wide and deep for my narrow shoulders so there is some bra-strap action going on there. Perhaps I'll make some of those little bra strap tie things to keep it in place.    I made the same size as last time (UK size 10) but took took a 1cm wedge out of each side of the back neckline on the pattern and also lengthened the bodice by 2cm. I also took the top in a little more when I inserted the zip. 

Not enough fabric for the skirt panels meant that I had to get creative on the skirt design. I didn't want a gathered skirt so I  just cut three skirt pieces - one front and two back - and played with pleats on my dress form until they looked right. I ended up with four pleats at the front, two each side lining up with the pleats on the bodice, and two box pleats at the back lining up with the back bodice darts.

Nice insides, with no attempt whatsoever to pattern match.
Instead of facings I lined the whole dress, the bodice with the border of the sari because it was so pretty and I didn't want to throw it away, and the skirt with some cotton batiste.  Using batiste gives the skirt a bit of fullness and might help the rayon from creasing so badly.  I followed the tutorial on the BHL website for lining the bodice and the invisible zip is attached using the Sewaholic machine method which looks neat and saves on hand stitching.

I'll leave you with a couple of dress form shots without the belt.


So there we are, another Anna which, apart from the colour palette looks quite different to my first version. I also like the fact that a sari has been given another life as a summer dress! I may have caught the Anna bug as there are already many more versions buzzing around my head...

Pattern: Anna dress from By Hand London (used before = free)
Invisible zip = $3.50
Fabric = recycled sari from the op-shop = $3.99 and 50cm of batiste for lining = $5
Thread from stash
Total = $12.50