Sunday, 14 May 2017

Self-Drafted Jaclyn Blouse

Last September my self-drafted Zohra Kimono was a bit of a personal game changer. I'd found myself thinking about the technicalities of dressmaking, mentally constructing and deconstructing garments in my head.

Less than a month ago I was out and about and spotted a blouse that looked the business. Instead of thinking 'Where can I buy one' my head was saying 'How do I make one?', and so the challenge began.

Coincidentally, I realised that I could use Zohra as a basis for my new pattern:

- The length on the body was about the same, sporting a tie waist again, but this time knotting at the back instead of the front.
- I would abandon the wide front/neck band and instead stitch a centre front seam that stopped at the bust.
- The centre front would rejoin at the neck where it would be stitched to a narrow neckband that would (somehow!) fasten at the back neck.
- The sleeves would be cut all in one with the body, joining front and back at an overarm and underarm seam.
- The sleeves would be shorter but wider at the elbow.
- The bottom of the blouse would be gathered into the waistband, just like Zohra.

They seemed like easy alterations to make to the pattern, the hardest part probably being omitting the front band and making sure the shoulder seams would still match up nicely at the neck.

Next mission was to find the perfect fabric. I have an Abakhan trip planned for 15th May, but turns out I'm so inpatient! Hillsborough fabrics was useless. I knew I wanted a fabric with a lovely crinkle to it. They had some silk crinkle chiffon in a shitty shade of brown, when I asked the lad if they ever had it in in black he looked fairly disgusted, as if brown was somehow a much more popular colour (??!). There was plenty of chiffony blacks, but with that boob-window in mind, for once I wanted to try and steer clear of see-through.
The stall on the market did not lead to success, and neither did John Lewis. My final brainwave was to see if Primark had anything in in the fabric I was imagining.
The answer was yes! A £20 wrap dress, but they only had it in pink and grey!!! Frustrated and about to give up I checked in H&M and struck lucky. A very plain dress in this fabric. No darts to take out, no hem to unpick! Just binding on the neck and arm holes that I detached. I bought 2 (one XL, one L) and hoped I would have enough fabric to make that waistband.

Cutting out was tight, but I managed to get my front and back bits cut out with enough left over to make the waistband, however I had to cut this in three bits (main body and two ties), and sew them together as there wasn't enough length in the dress.

I tested my overlocking settings on some scrap and it seemed to work fine, but totally mashed up my centre back when I went to finish the edges. Luckily this fabric doesn't fray, so before I totally ruined my life I abandoned all overlocking!

1- Stitch overarm seams.
2- Stitch underarm seams, clip at curves.
3- Stitch centre fronts together about 15cm up from the bottom.
4- Turn centre fronts under. Press if you're not using crinkle fabric, then stitch down.
5- Repeat for full length of centre back.
6- 2x rows gathering stitches along bottom. Gather until garment bottom measures 75cm. Distribute gathers evenly.
7- Stitch waistband to garment, matching centre fronts.
8- Turn waistband ties right sides together and stitch lengths and ends. Turn right sides out.
9- Handstitch inside of band to waist seam.
10- Attach bias binding to neck, making sure centre fronts match at centre.
11- Stitch on button, right back of neckband
12- Make hand sewn button loop on the left.

Done! If you're using fraying fabric you'll have to hem sleeves and add in overlocking at relevant points. The original dress was not hemmed though, and I didn't want to affect the swing of those sleeves so I happily let myself off without hemming a thing!

This fabric was at times hard to handle. There was the whole overlocking thing I mentioned, and you have to try really hard not to stretch out all the crinkles when you stitch. The machine tends to want to follow the crinkle lines which sometimes is handy, but it makes it really really obvious if your stitch line isn't straight. I had to set my machine tension really high as the bobbin stitches tended to come out quite loose.

All totally worth it though for those lovely crinkles! The fabric is easy to make fit, as they open out where needed and close up where they don't. They gathered like a dream at the waistband!
Pressing is a no go, unless you want to de-crinkle (which you obviously do not). The only time I got the iron out was to make the binding for the neck!

The waistband was really stretchy so hard to make exactly 75cm! But stretchy waistband that ties at the back fits whatever you've had for tea!!

I love these drapey sleeves and sneaky slit at the neck. It's just deep enough to be sexy, but the join at the neckline stops it from going too astray!! If only I had cleavage eh!

Looking forward to gigging with this lady!

Location: Sheffield City Centre- Sheffield Station, Eyre Street Car Park, Leadmill, Hubs Student Union
Currently listening to: Run For Your Life, The Beatles

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Simple Sew Serena Mini Maxi Dress

The Serena Maxi dress from the current Simple Sew patterns collection is exactly what I've been looking for since last summer. We had a bit of sun this weekend so was seriously hyped up to get this thing made!! The pattern features a shirred back (oooh!), a lined bodice (ahh!), spaghetti straps and a gathered skirt. I made a few changed to the pattern which I'll discuss as we go along.

This stunning geometric crepe was a lucky find in Direct Fabric Warehouse in Chesterfield last summer before it closed down. It had summer dress written all over it! It's been sat in my stash waiting for it's moment to shine since July. It was when I saw Emma at Crafty Clyde's Serena Maxi Dress that I knew this Simple Sew pattern could be the one.

I cut a size 8 from the pattern. With the shirred back in mind, I thought making the dress a little smaller rather than a little bigger would be the way to go. As the bodice is lined I wanted to be as accurate fit-wise as possible so that if I had to make any adjustments I wouldn't have to unpick the lining (more on that later....). So to start I made a toile of the bodice. This consists of a front, two side back panels, a shirred back panel and straps. For the proper thing, you will need to cut two sets of back panels and two fronts so that you can whip together your lining.

I shirred half the back panel just to test the fit. A few handy tips for shirring:

-Handwind your bobbin with shirring elastic. You should be able to find shirring elastic in all haberdasheries.
-Set your stitch length a little longer than you usually would. Somewhere between 3 and 4 should be fine.
-Sounds daft, but make sure your elastic is on the wrong side of your fabric when you start sewing so it's not seen!
-Leave long tails at the end of each row. I find this helps so that when you stretch your fabric out when you're done your elastic won't ping!
-Also to avoid any pinging at the end, I like to stretch the fabric out a little, both behind and infront of where I'm stitching. This seems to keep the tension of everything in place and creates nice even lines.
-While we're on the subject, make sure your rows are evenly spaced. I like to use the width of the foot to make sure each row is equidistant from the last.

I find shirring SO satisfying! Though also a little frustrating when your just want to get to the end and have a perfectly shirred back. Then you're bobbin runs out! Agh!! Also what's great about shirring is its elasticity means you can get away without adding any sort of fastening or opening! Yay!

The bodice was a good fit but needed a few changes.
Firstly the straps were too long for where I wanted to wear it. I wanted the back to sit just where my bra comes to, so I made sure I marked on the straps the perfect length to keep the back where it needed to be.
I found the neckline gaped a little, as did the underarms, so I pinched out excess fabric and pinned it to fit. I took the toile off (SO many pin scratches on my back this weekend!),and then penciled in the adjustment lines. I took about 1 cm out of the centre front that I tapered down to the waistline and about 1.5-2cm out of the front bodice at the side seams (leaving the side back panel the same size).
My shirred panel seemed a little loose, though it was hard to tell with it being calico and having only shirred half of it. I decided to take out 5cm on the fold, as I could easily pinch that much out and I really didn't want the back to sag.
Lastly I drew these changes on to the paper pattern and cut it to the new size.

NB, please note that theses fitting issues were not faults in the pattern. Every body is proportioned differently so inevitably some pattern changes need to be made, especially with a bodice that is meant to be so fitted.

Whenever I make something, there are two changes I alway seem to make... TIGHTER and SHORTER. I'm not sure what this says about me!? But it's certainly a recurring theme. As lovely as the pattern looks, I wasn't going to kid myself that I would wear a maxi-dress. One day I'm sure I'll be all over it, but until then, it's minis for me. The pattern features these sexy slits for peeping you knees out of on a lovely summer day, but as a mini, I needed to omit these otherwise it was going to look a bit weird.
Really, I just ended up drafting a new skirt, but don't let that sound daunting. It really wasn't! Also if you like your skirts long and your knees peeping then it's all good, you should go for it! Instead, I measured the front panels of the paper skirt pattern (74cm), minused 3 for seam allowance of the slits I was omitting, then drew a rectangle with this as the width, tapering the sides out a little (but not too much). I made it the length I was looking for, plus a bit, as I ALWAYS overestimate how much I want to cut off! The skirt is gathered into the waistline, hence why it is so much bigger than the actual waist of the bodice (I toyed with the idea of pleating instead of gathering but when it came to assembling, the drape of the fabric looked so lovely when it was gathered, there was no question).

For the back, I measured the actual back diameter of my toile and used the same pattern piece, only making sure the width was the same as the bodice back. I didn't want to add further gathers into the dress where it would be all rouched up by the shirring anyway.

I didn't bother to toile the skirt (don't have all day and running out of calico!), so next thing I cut out my fabric! Deep breath!!!!!

The design of the fabric is very linear, with rows and diamonds and crosses. I knew this was going to involve some pattern matching! Pattern matching has a special place in my heart, it drives me crazy but I love the challenge (remind you of something?), so I'm always up for having a go. Especially when I know the results will be beautiful (!). Before cutting out I made a little list of all areas I wanted to match.
Firstly and most importantly the bodice HAD to be symmetrical. I picked out the part of the fabric design I wanted to run down the centre front and then cut this out singularly, flipping the pattern piece over after having cut half to make sure the design was super duper symmetrical.
I wanted to match the side back panels to the bodice front. They are cut at a bit of an angle so I knew only part of the design would match up, but again these two panels needed to be cut from the exact same part of the fabric design.

I noted down I wanted the side seams to match up, but sadly I did not have enough fabric to make it work. It was a squeeze to cut the skirt pieces out so just had to take them how they came. I DID however make sure that I cut the front skirt so that the centre front of my bodice would match nicely with the little diamond at the top of the skirt! Yay!

The only difference in construction between making the toile and making the real thing, was the real thing involved adding a lining to the bodice. This piece was cut exactly the same as the shell, with darts and back panels added on, then stitched to the shell with a 1cm seam allowance before turning wrongside to wrongside.

So I stitched up my bodice, confident that my toile alterations would result in perfect fit. Well. I threw a paddy Saturday night when they didn't!!! There was still a noticeable gape at the underarms! I put it down to the difference in toile fabric to garment fabric. So I left it for the evening and had a little think. The answer I came up with to begin with was making the underarm seam allowance larger and therefore removing the fabric that was gaping. This made the situation A LOT better, but still not as good as it could be. My solution was to add some tiny darts at the underarms to take in the left over fabric. As both sides of the dress are so symmetrical it was easy to replicate what I did on one side to the other, making sure the dart point stopped at the same point on the design! Coolio. It made all the difference. I then pressed the dart up and topstitched it.

I whizzed up the side seams of the skirt, then added some gathering stitches to the front only. I pulled these until the fabric of the front skirt fit the width of the front bodice. I pinned then stitched. I then pinned in my back skirt to the back dress, pulling out the shirred fabric as I went so that the widths matched up. I stitched this in and admired my handiwork! Just one little alteration to make and that was to unpick and match my centre front diamonds up perfectly! Well worth it!

I'd left attaching the straps to the back of the dress until last. If you follow the instructions there's a proper opportunity to get them sewn into the back so the ends are hidden in the lining somewhere. This is great but I just knew if I did that I would want to change the length. So instead I waited until this point and stitched them down to the back of the dress where the panels meet the shirring. The more observant of you will spot the symmetry of the design on the straps too!

Predictably I cut another load off the bottom, predictably I almost had a hear attack when I thought I'd made it too short.... Every time!!! Did a real narrow hem though and Phew! the length is fine!!

I'm so proud of my Serena Summer Dress! My Mini Maxi! Thanks Simple Sew for another lovely pattern! Now just bring out the sun...


Location: Beauchief Abbey
Currently listening to: Numb Hand, True Widow

Sunday, 19 March 2017

New Look K6230, Lace raglan

I spend a lot of time on Instagram. Probably too much, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It's not just about checking out hot girls, I have found Instagram to be a great platform for sharing ideas and picking up creative tips, finding inspiration and celebrating successes. Sometimes just flicking though suggested posts can spark an idea.

I'd love to be able to give credit to who it was that inspired me to make a lacy raglan but I foolishly didn't hit the save button. Someone on Instagram though has a top with a lace back and it looked cool! I thought 'I could make that!', then I thought why stop at a lace back, could I get away with lace front as well?

I have quite a supply to stretchy lace fabric which I've been stashing for underwear makes, and also some plain black t-shirt jersey left over from my last baseball top.

Perfect! This meant no trip to the shops. I had the inspiration, I had the fabric and I had the pattern. No time to waste!!

After drafting my second dress last month a project like this was just what I needed. Something I already knew how to make and knew what adjustments I wanted to make to the pattern.

I took 2cm off of each edge where sleeve and front/back meet. This time I committed it to the paper pattern! I took out the centre back seam from the pattern. I have made 5 now and not once included this! And I also took out about ?2/3cm from the centre front. This time I wanted the neckline to be a bit less off the shoulder! I wear my black and grey one a lot but the wide neck does always make it look a little bit slobby!

I cropped the sleeve to 3/4 length again and took some length off of the bottom of the top so it was cropped. I'll crop owt at the moment me!! Spring's on the way though so that is fine!

Pretty plain sailing from there. I found it pulled a little at the shoulders/chest so lucky I didn't take any more out!! I did pinch in a little at the underarm seams so the sleeves weren't so loose though. I had a good fiddle with my overlocker settings to get it perfect for the jersey and lace combo. Instead of doing a dodgy hem on the bottom I turned it over really narrow and overlocked around so the overlocking is visible. It makes for quite a nice finish. Is that a rolled hem? Or is that something else?

Pretty see-through, but not going to lie, that was what I was going for. Not sure if me nan will like it but oh well.



Location: Attercliffe Tram Sheds, Sheffield
Currently listening to: 6 Foot 5, Lars Frederiksen and The Bastards

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Self Drafted Olivia Dress

When you know how, the changes to my Rosalie pattern to make Olivia were pretty simple. This time last year I would have had no idea how though, and I would have been pretty mind blown to hear I'd just drafted and realised my second dress.

I used the same block as a starting point, and decided on armscye/bust panels as I loved them so much on Rosie. I SORT OF wish I'd done princess seams from the shoulder down, just to learn a little more about moving darts and try something different, but in visual terms I am definitely pleased with my panelling again.

Where Rosalie is a bit spooky, Olivia is a bit classy. I've opted for sleeveless this time, as Rosalie is quite possibly all the sleeve a girl will ever need! This also gave me chance to practice lining arm holes, which (shhhh!) I'd never done before! There are many different methods, but the one that worked for me was learned from Lisa Comfort's Sew Over It How to Line a Dress vid. The trick here is to make the shell and lining up as normal but WITHOUT sewing up shoulder seams. The two are then attached around neck and arm holes, understitched, the lining then turned in. You do something a bit funky with the shoulders, pulling one inside the other then sewing, making sure you match everything up perfectly before pulling back through to the right side. I could give you an in depth tutorial but just watch the vid ;) For my first attempt it worked pretty well!

The other major change is the skirt is now A-line instead of straight/pencil style. To do this I used a slash and spread technique on my paper pattern. Basically I closed up the waist darts which added kick to the skirt. I made a toile and ended up taking some of that kick out!! It looked good, but just not entirely 'me'.

Really happy with the amount of flare in the skirt now though! Love that shape over my hips and managed to avoid a billowing skirt affair!

The only problem is the back skirt. I hate to point these things out, but I guess it's how we learn! There is some unnecessary bagging in my lower back. Used slash and spread to take the darts out of the back too, but in doing this I have created bagginess! I thought in toiling stages that this wouldn't matter as it would somehow just add to the flare??? I don't know. The waist is pretty snug on me though, so I don't know how I could really add any shaping in to the lower back. Does that make sense? Can anyone help? It's a real shame as I absolutely love the hang and shape at the front. I'm sure it's possible to fix but it's really really hard working behind yourself!

Olivia's neckline is a little different too, the curve looking a little more square? I think? Either way, I think it's great. I took a little out of the back neck too so the zipper didn't sit so high.

Fabric choice is a stable velvet affair, with little diamonds embossed? etched? What's the sewing term?? Sort of quilted but not? Don't stroke it the wrong way or it will make you feel sick. Actually you know what, don't stroke me at all unless you want a fat lip.



Location: Wicker Arches, Sheffield
Currently listening to: Black Saint, Witch