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!