Monday, 22 September 2014

Completed: Cloth Boho Maxi Dress- Last Dress of the Summer?

Hello folks!

I hope you've all had good weekends. In this post I share with you a project that was a long time in the noggin before I dared make it real. As seems to be the case with most things I get my hands on, this *should* have been a simple make, but either my darndedness or some weird pattern mis-instructions made this a far more complex project than it need be.

Worn with my ma's mirrored velvet hippy jacket
So- this fabric was bought on a whim and was the last 2 and just over a half metres on the roll. But as soon as I had it I was dreaming of a gorgeous boho version of the Anna dress. I even got around to tracing off all the long version pieces and was about to get to seeing if I could tweak the fit on the bodice when other projects got in the way and pushed it onto the back burner. When I finally got around to eyeing it up again it was clear that I wasn't going to be able to get the Anna of my dreams out of only 2.5 metres of fabric, especially one with such a large directional print.

So I had a rethink and decided to go with this Boho maxi dress from the now- defunct Cloth magazine that I subscribed to all too briefly. I only got 3 issues before it folded (as it were). This is actually the first thing I've made from the magazine (as I'm not too keen on the print-it-yourself PDFs really) but I did enjoy how the magazine signposted me to a lot of pattern designers and blogs that I follow loyally today, even if looking back the magazine was actually a bit of a noncommittal mishmash of sewing, refashioning and styling RTW clothing.

I didn't technically have as much fabric as was recommended for the Cloth pattern either, but I was not about to be deterred again. Besides, the printed PDF pattern didn't make any sense to me- it required you to stick on about 6 blank pages for no apparent reason to the finished pattern sheet, and had the bodice of the dress on a detached section even though the instructions told you to cut bodice and skirt as a single section. I matched up all the numbers and the finished sheet looked like the miniature version in the cover sheet, but I don't understand why it wouldn't just get you to stick the bodice piece on top of the skirt, as once it's all printed out you have the flexibility to stick it wherever you want? So I did just that. It didn't seem to quite match up on one side, so I drafted in a new line to smoothen things out and hoped for the best.

Then, using some construction basics I picked up from making the Staple dress I decided to modify the pattern to suit my needs. Instead of cutting 4 identical long sections and having central as well as side seams I decided to cut the 2 bodice pieces on the fold separate from the skirt so that I could maximise the fabric that I had. One the back bodice the eye print is upside-down, but hopefully this isn't too noticeable! I also decided to cut 2 skirt sections on the fold, and had to shorten slightly as I couldn't quite get the length I needed out of the fabric as wax print has the pattern running crosswise to the grain.

Can you spot the upside-down eyes?
Then after this I pretty much made it up! I drafted some facings for the V-neck, then made up the rest of the dress more or less as if it were a staple dress (but with massive side slits and no pockets). I even decided to do several lines of shirring at the waist instead of making the pattern's recommended channel of elastic, because I thought it might look more flattering (and I kind of enjoy shirring now) and because I didn't have the patience for the magazine's instructions! The illustrations are far too sketchy, it's just wasn't clear to me what I was supposed to be going for (as there are no technical drawings, and there aren't even very clear photos of the full length finished dress- the snaps of the magazine spreads above are all you get!).

Anyway, I bumbled through, and so far, so good. Before I put the shirring in I tried on the dress to find the best point for the waistline and it was HUGE. Even though I'd not been able to cut the full required length there was still about 10 additional inches in the skirt (for context I'm about 5 foot 5). And so wide! And the V-neck was so deep! How did all this happen? I got my boyfriend to take some photos of me 'swimming' in all the excess fabric. And then, because he's such a good sport, I even persuaded him to try it on. He's 6 foot 3 and it fit him perfectly! In fact, if he was of a more hippyish bent I would have let him keep it as he looked pretty good in it, and it is basically a kaftan and therefore a unisex garment.

'Scuse the mess and the manic expression- it's late and it's been a long evening of sewing!
However I was too selfish and took it up A LOT then added A LOT of shirring. It's still not the most flattering garment as there was just so much fabric to bring into the centre so it has a lot of volume at the chest (and shows a bit of side bra when the arms are in certain positions), but as I had the skirt side slits hemmed and armholes all finished I was loathe to bring in the side seams more.

Slight risk of side-bra...

So here is the finished result! Not quite as elegant as an Anna, but definitely pretty boho. I wore it out on Saturday night with some flat tan boots and enjoyed floating around in it (although it was a bit tricky to run for the night bus in!). I also added a little 'modesty' loop to control the deep V (which I left at the back and rather like) and used a sweet vintage button from my boyfriend's Grandma's stash.

Going risque with the modesty loop undone!
This is probably the last dress of the summer, the warm weather is fast dwindling although we're still getting a few flashes of sunshine here and there. I'm off to Andalucia soon though so this is a nice easy holiday dress. I was also hoping to make a nice gingham French Gypsy dress before the weather turns too gloomy, but I should really be getting my bonce around print-matching my beloved tartans and do some seasonal sewing for once!

And I leave you with this lovely out-take of me looking like I'm squaring up for a fight! Menacing.

Any one else still clutching onto the Indian summer? I'm still dreaming of other holiday makes that I know won't be done in time!

NorseOtter xxx

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Completed: Ultimate (Short) Trousers

Hi folks!

Hope you all had nice weekends. I finally finished my shorts from the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers pattern! These were actually finished off earlier in the week, but like a geek I wanted to style them to emulate the pattern sleeve artwork so needed to find the time to trim my fringe and get a nice sunny(ish) moment to shoot.

See what I was going for there? I think this is probably going to be their only moment in the sun, as unfortunately I rushed through the fitting and as you can tell they're really quite small, especially on the legs. Not the best look! Not that it's put me off the pattern as I can see it would be really cute and very wearable, if I'd made the right size. Although it doesn't seem to be quite as high-waisted as the artwork suggests.

Many more experienced sewists wouldn't bother to blog something like this, but I'm just proud to have followed it through and made it to the end. Now that I've got my head around how it works I can make a much better pair for next time! I've also noticed that a blogger I follow, the fabulous vintage-inspired Lucky Lucille, has also been posting about 'Pants Fitting Issues' (with a different pattern) and has included some links to useful resources that I will be checking out.

I won this pattern from Dolly Clackett's blog and in my winning comment I promised to make it up in a fabulous print in her honour. These are obviously not the promised shorts! I do have some rather wonderful sky blue fabric in what I like to think of as a 'cravat print' from Mermaid Fabrics in Hackney, but it seems like the moment has passed for that now as the colours are a bit too summery. They also have a navy colourway that I might be tempted to buy instead for my 'proper pair'- I think making up the full trousers with a matching Brigitte scarf and a white shirt would look perfect!

 It has taken me a long time to finish these and they were done in small rushed steps with big chunks of time in between while I got my sewing machine fixed and made my friend's dress, so no wonder the finished result isn't great. This little side view is showing all the strain on the zips and side seam. Definitely need a bit more room there!

 And this front view shows there's a bit of gape at the waist, and in the back view below there's a bit more room at the base of the back.

And you can see how tight they are over the rump! Apologies for the extended run of unflattering shots. I made this up in a straight size 12 in some fabric I had left over from a beginner project I did a while ago- a lovely vintage pencil skirt which was a cute design but the fabric was totally inappropriate. With the level of stretch the fabric just wouldn't press and the kick pleat at the back never managed to lay flat. So I used up the last scraps and cannibalised the zip from the old skirt (which I guess will now go to fabric recycling, really don't like the stuff and only bought it because it was cheap).  As I should have known, the fabric was totally unsuitable! I really regret using it as this pair can't serve as a muslin for future fitting as I plan to make this pattern up again in the proper recommended wovens with little or no stretch. Once I've got the fitting nailed a tartan pair is definitely on the agenda!

I was thinking that, even though there are fitting issues that mean they won't get worn for any outfits, I might keep this pair as 'modesty bloomers' to wear under skirts when I'm cycling, but as you can see here they cut into my thigh a bit too much to do that comfortably! I did get a couple of friends to try them on too, but even though they're both slimmer ladies than me they found the leg turn-ups too tight- I think I went awry in the construction there by rushing through the handstitching on the first turn (it was nearly dinner time and I wanted to be at a point where I could happily put them down!). It did wrinkle a bit but the cuff hides it, but I think this is contributing to the tightness.

So, a cute pattern manhandled by me, my impatience and my poor fabric choice unfortunately. But I'm not downhearted! Once I've cleared off a few makes from my list and got through a bit of my fabric stash that's earmarked for certain patterns I will return to the Ultimate Trousers and try to do them justice. Getting the fitting right is going to take a bit of patience but I think it will be worth it, as actually I cycle almost every day and trousers in my wardrobe get worn through regularly!

Have you attempted trouser-making? Any advice or fitting tips?

NorseOtter xxx