Saturday, 9 July 2016

My Vintage Pledge for July - Leaving an Impression with Vogue 1054

Hello! Having agreed to sew something for the Vintage Pledge in July, it gave me a good excuse to make this pattern from my collection, Vogue 1084 from 1956:

I bought this pattern in a sale a while ago, then took it out from time to time to look at that lovely neckline. I have a thing about dresses with stuff going on at the back - don't know why! I think it's partly the idea of turning on your heel and swishing out of a room dramatically, and as you do your outfit makes a final statement as you leave. Not that I'm often in that situation, but I like to daydream...

Anyway, I also had this fabric from Ikea, which is part of their collaboration with Katie Eary:
Have a look at the collection - there are some other brilliant fabrics, as well as some fab homewares. I bought the fabric on a whim, with no project in mind. It's a pre-cut piece of cotton, measuring 3 metres in length, 150 cm in width - what was I going to do with all of that blue leopard! It sat to one side for a little while, then the request for this July Vintage Pledge came along, and fabric and pattern seemed like the perfect combination

When I bought this pattern, I made a mistake and bought the wrong size - must've been tired or something... I bought size 6 - 12, but I'm more of a 14 really, so I graded it up then made a toile of the bodice just to be on the safe side. (I'll go into how I did that another time) I decided it fit pretty well! The only further adjustment I made was a slight sway back adjustment to the back bodice. Besides fitting, the toile was good practice for constructing the dress. Though it appears simple, there are a lot of details in the construction which you have to plan for, as it were, or else you'll be unpicking a great deal!

Here's what I mean in more detail:
I've circled the areas where you have to take extra care!

Because the sleeve is cut in one with the bodice, on the front you have to reinforce with a small machine stitch, then snip into the bodice to make attaching the side front easier. I also ironed a little patch of interfacing to these snipped areas for extra reinforcement. 

The interfaced corner on the inside of the bodice

Then on the back, when sewing on the facing, you have to 'interrupt' your stitching along the neckline when you reach the armhole and shoulder seams. This makes it all easier to turn and lie flat.

So other than having to take extra care over where some seams meet and the facing, the rest of the dress goes together pretty easily. 

There's a cute little bow at the back which slots through a gap in the centre back seam:

The circumference of this skirt is huuuge! 

I was considering being lazy and just machining it, but the stitching just stood out too much. I bound the edge with bias tape, then spent an evening slip stitching it in place:

I also bound and hand stitched the sleeve hems:

The instructions don't call for any lining; I generally don't line the bodices of dresses because I don't like the feeling of all those layers. To keep the insides neat I used French seams where possible, and overlocked the rest:

Centre front is a French seam
But I almost always line the skirt. I wanted to add some extra fullness to this skirt, especially at the back, so I added a gathered frill at the hem of the lining. Luckily this lining was only £1 per metre - I think most of the 3 metres I bought went into this frill!:

But it was worth the effort - it provides extra swishi-ness and the skirt is the right amount of full without being too puffy. And using the rolled hem on the overlocker made it so quick and neat.

I can't wait to find an excuse to wear this dress - luckily I have a wedding to attend in August, so it will get an outing then. Otherwise, I might just wear it to Sainsbury's, I love it so much!

See you soon!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Frivolous Frills

Hello! I have tons of clothes, and really have no need to make any more except for the reason that I feel like it and enjoy it. It keeps me out of trouble! I usually see something in a film, or something pops up on Instagram that takes my fancy, or I buy some random fabric and then have to think of something to make with it. My imagination will be sparked, out come the patterns, and away we go.

It was a combination of these events that resulted in the latest dress. First, I've been really taken with all the off the shoulder styles that are around at the moment; I particularly liked the tutorial that By Hand London put together showing you how to draft your own. 

Next, I've always wanted to make this pattern from my collection:

Simplicty 4669 from 1954 (image from Vintage Patterns Wiki)

I had an idea that since the straps on this bodice seem to sit on the edge of the shoulder, this would somehow work well with a ruffle or frill.

And finally, I had a big piece of this polka dot fabric in my stash:

I think I got it from Ikea many moons ago; I don't remember how much it cost, but it can't have been much!

I decided to make view 1, with the body in plain black, and with the neckline frill and some extra hem frills in the polka dot. I bought some cheap-as-chips black twill from Walthamstow market and started working on the bodice.

But as I was working on the bodice, I went off the idea of a full skirt. I often feel a bit swamped in a full skirt; I think pencil or just slightly flared suit me. 

Out came what is starting to become my old stand by, Butterick 8571:

I've used this skirt here, here, and here - I find it just works for me. But I wanted to tie it in with the frill. At first I was going to add another polka dot frill at the hem - but no, just too much. I decided to draft some pockets with flaps at the hip to tie it all together:

Everybody loves pockets, right?

Close up of the left hand pocket, with the hand picked zip

Excuse the rubbish bathroom selfie, but the dress is actually quite nice in this plain version - maybe a future project?:

But now the frill! The obvious course to take would be to cut a rectangle that was the required depth (plus hems), and was the measurement of the neckline and shoulders times 1 1/2. That method is fine, but I find that can make for a rather boxy frill. Instead I cut the frill as a circular piece, then gathered it to drape across the neckline and around the shoulders:

Completed frill

This way the frill has a flare at the hem without too much bulk at the top. It seemed I was pretty much making it up as it went along with this dress, so I decided to do something similar at the hem:

This time the inner measurement of the frill was the exact measurement of the hem, without any gathering.

So here it is all together:

Here are some details:

I gathered the frill with a long machine stitch, then tried it on with the dress to adjust the size. The off the shoulder section had a piece of elastic applied with a 3-step zig-zag to keep it in place:

Elastic applied with 3-step zig-zag 
The rest of the gathering was stitched directly to the neckline:

I didn't line the bodice - I get really hot! - but I did line the skirt in this rose pink polyester, as well as the hem frill:

Despite having no need for this dress in my wardrobe, I did find a reason to wear it at a friends birthday party. Of course, I forgot to take any photos of it in action!

That's it for now - see you soon!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Rules are for Breaking - my Birkin Flares

I've always said I wouldn't make jeans. I didn't see the point - I hardly wear jeans, and have spent time selling them in a professional capacity and understood how much work went into them, something I wasn't really interested in. I have plenty of pairs already (many of them gifts from when I worked in denim, which mostly go unworn), and I don't have any particular fit issues with this garment and so don't have a need for making them.

But then I saw the Birkin Flare by Baste + Gather (I can't remember where) and they intrigued me. 

birkin flares-8.jpg
Birkin Flares from Baste + Gather

If I do wear jeans, I like them either black and slim, or retro and wide. But I think I'd been looking at a lot of fashion gumph about how the 70's was back in fashion, and this was a shape I didn't have. Rules broken!

It is a PDF pattern, which is not my favourite method, but I did like the way you could choose what size(s) to print. I didn't print the instructions as they're 48 pages and I don't have a home printer - just had to sew with the lap-top on! But they are VERY well written - if you do make these trousers, read through the instructions before you start as there are little tips on printing, needles, thread tension, and stitch size.

I messed up when it came to choosing my size. I have a tendency to make things a bit too big and I wanted these to fit pretty closely. After comparing the pattern measurements to a favourite pair of high waisted J-Brand jeans, I opted for the size 29

Finished measurements
Luckily I made a toile, because this was most definitely not my size! It was way too small especially in the waist, so I ultimately went for the size 30. I think I made the mistake of comparing this waist, which is about 1" below the natural waist, to my high wasited J-Brands, which because they sit higher are naturally a smaller measurement.

Sizing issues over, I found some really cool black stretch twill on Walthamstow Market at only £3 per metre that was a denim weight. I stocked up on denim weight needles, got several spools of topstitching thread, and ripped a zip out of some worn out jeans which were being disposed of. 

And off I went! There is a fair bit of work in jeans - nearly every seam is stitched twice for strength, little bar tacks are sprinkled about, and you have to jump from top stitching and normal thread all the time. But the instructions with this pattern are really clear and well illustrated - if you follow them exactly, you won't make a mistake!

So here they are:

I followed the instructions pretty much to the letter, and everything went pretty well. All the guidance in regards to the stitching of the pockets, the order in which to assemble, and so on, is excellent. 

Construction of the back leg - ignore all the creasing and chalk marks

The only time I took my eye off the ball - when I was putting in the zip - was when I made a mistake. I think I got distracted, and ended up putting the zip on the wrong side as according to the pattern. But no big deal - they still work!

I know a lot of people are going to see the creases in the picture above and say it's a fitting issue, but I had been sitting down for some time before I took these pictures. They fit fine! They fit 'closely' over the hips and thighs, but I don't feel they are too small. Anyway, my experience with jeans is that they loosen up with time.

And here's the back view:

The only thing I'd change if I made these again would be to change the belt loop placing. Instead of the one belt loop at the center back, I'd prefer two placed just to the left and right of the center back.

I also didn't bother with the rivets at the corners of the pockets because I wanted to keep the trousers as 'plain' and simple as possible. And these are fashion trousers - they aren't going to be worn every day and I don't think the pockets will actually get that much use.

I noticed in many of the reviews these trousers have been styled in a sort of boho, hippy, gypsy-esque style. What drew me to the pattern was the late 60's/70's feel of the shape; I see it more as something you'd see on a go-go dancer in the background of nightclub scenes:

Love Ann Margret's polka dot flares!

Plus, I've been watching the series 'Aquarius', which besides exploring the Manson Family, also depicts the clash of generations in the late 60's. The costumes aren't always accurate, but there are lots of great bell bottoms!

But I think the biggest inspiration for making these trousers has been this photo of Bruce Lee which I randomly came across. I immediately became obsessed with his trousers:

If you like this, just Google image Bruce Lee - he was so f***ing cool! I don't really have any interest in martial arts, but I can confirm that these trousers are suitable for dramatic karate kicks:

See you soon!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Matchy Matchy - Flamingo Blouse and Jacket

Hello! Today I'm delving into the 1930's and the 1990's by way of patterns, mixing them all up, and linking them together with the magic of fabric. 

I made a version of the long sleeved blouse below about 20 years ago, before I really understood about altering a pattern correctly to fit:

I remember I added extra width to the front and back, but the armholes and neck were all wrong - I wore it anyway. It didn't really work; I wore it a few times before I gave up on it and just resolved this pattern wasn't for me.

Now I know better - I know how to grade a pattern up to the correct size, and then adjust it for my specific figure. And now I know it's wise to make a muslin/toile, something I never used to do. I was too impatient, and I just thought it was just a waste of fabric.

Out came the rulers and the tracing paper and I traced and slashed and adjusted until I had something that looked right. This was fairly involved, and I'll probably cover it in another blog post. I made a toile out of some old curtains that were in our house when we moved in:

It came out surprisingly well - the fit was pretty good, and just a few minor adjustments were needed, like a wider front facing allowance and so on. 

Now for the fabric, which was this beauty below:

I picked this fabric up from Hamid's on Ridley Road Market in Dalston, for the lovely price of £1 per metre. You'll notice that the flamingos are at a right angle to the selvedge, which I thought was weird; surely you'd want them to run parallel to the selvedge? This meant I had to break all the sewing rules and lay the pattern out on the cross grain - I didn't want sideways flamingos!

I said earlier that I used to find toiles annoying because I'm really impatient - I just want to get to the sewing part and then the wearing part! But the toile was really helpful in that it made the sewing go really quickly - all the fiddly bits had been worked out in the practice run, as it were.

Here it is:

There are some really nice little details on the blouse, like pleats in the sleeve head and the tucks at the shoulder:

Pleats on the sleeve head

Tucks running from the front shoulder to nearly the bust
I didn't really fancy using any of the closure methods on the packet - a zip looked too bulky, and who has time to make all those rouleau loops? I just extended the centre front to create a self-facing band with buttonholes:

Once the blouse was done, I was left with a pretty sizable amount; I suppose cutting it crosswise didn't use as much up? I'm on a mission to reduce my pile of stash fabrics, and I had the perfect use for the rest of it: a jazzy lining for my replacement Burda bomber jacket.

I made version A, but without the unnecessary shoulder/yoke section

I made this jacket once before a couple of summers ago, as detailed here. I absolutely loved this jacket, and wore it non-stop in the milder months - it was the ideal weight for summer evenings. But in a moment of confusion, it was left on a train - the first time I've ever lost a piece of clothing! I did everything I could to get it back, which mostly involved filling out a Transport for London lost property form, but it was not to be. Someone out there has a custom made bomber jacket; I hope they appreciate it!

Anyway - I'd been meaning to replace it for a while. With the weather improving a little, now seemed the right time. And because I had the previous blog post to refer to, I didn't really have to think much this time round. Here's the finished item, made with fabric from the Textile Centre on Walthamstow Market:

I only deviated from my original version in a couple of places. First, I used exposed zips on the front pockets, rather than the welts I used before:

Cheeky flamingos peeking out!

I love exposed zips - so easy, and they look so impressive!

For the second moderation I added a little placket to the front of the jacket, to sit behind the zip. I noticed this piece is usually present on the classic MA-1 bomber jackets and Harrington's, but for some reason is often left off of domestic sewing patterns. I just guess-timated the size and length; I had it stop short of the zip top a few inches, for no reason other than I liked the look of it:

And here's the flamingo lining:

And together with the blouse in all it's flamingo glory:

Again, this has proven to be one of my favourite jackets and I've worn it almost every chance I get. I'm thinking I'll have to make more in other colours, or maybe tackle a satin embroidered version. 

I'm off to ponder all of those possibilities - see you soon!