Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Realising Another Vision: Elisalex in Botanical-Print Ikea Furnishing Fabric

Hello everyone!

I'm feeling quite smug at the moment as I've managed to get through a couple of my planned fabric and pattern combinations, which is a) relieving me of 'buyer's remorse' where treasured fabric bought with good intentions just takes up space in my sewing chest and b) making me feel good about the design choice I made so long ago!

This particular combination is one of my earlier planned dressmaking projects – way back in 2014 after I'd caught the dressmaking bug and got everyone to buy me By Hand London patterns for the preceding Christmas (I still have a couple of Anna dress plans!). I saw Anneke's dress made in the same fabric and made sure to prioritise an Ikea trip that I'd previously I'd been putting off. I'd always planned to make an Elisalex with it, after my lovely sleeveless one I made in the pharmaceutical print fabric that's a similar weight (never properly blogged, but appears here).   

Two years later, I've finally made it happen! And just in time too, as this furnishing fabric is more Autumn/Winter weight. Having said that, you're always safe having something a little heavier in your wardrobe throughout the year in England, as the nip in the air is never far away.  

I made some fitting adjustments as my last Elisalex does strain a tiny bit in the chest and the sleeves tend to fall off my shoulders. I decided to use up the remaining scraps of both the pharmaceutical Elisalex and my daffodil Charlotte (I had plenty leftover as I used to buy way too much fabric when I started out in case I messed something up and had to recut a vital piece) to toile up a couple more sleeved bodices before cutting into the Ikea fabric I'd hoarded for so long. On another note, I really must make another Charlotte skirt to replace that one, especially after watching Touch of Evil recently. 

As this fabric is a bit more forgiving than my first sleeved version, the toiled bodice fit fine in the bust, but I decided to take off some excess in the shoulder, lower the armscye and add some more ease to the sleeve head. The first tweaks didn't work so well, so I mocked up another bodice, with a couple of slivers taken off the overbust and underbust for a closer fit, and subbed in sleeves from a similar style bodice that I knew fit well – my much maligned Sweetheart Dress. I feel a bit bad that I was so down on this pattern when I first made it up, as I didn't have a clue about fitting then and had been spoilt by all the By Hand London sewalongs. Even though I didn't get it right first time I do still wear it a lot and the sleeves are probably the most flattering I've sewn (although on rereading that post, they were my first ever go at set-in!) so there must be some decent drafting in there. Luckily for me these went in pretty well to my adjusted armscye, so it was a pretty easy win! 

I have to confess I've been stealing inspiration off yet another blogger for one aspect of my dress. I was admiring Katie's Moneta with turned-up sleeves and decided that, as my fabric had a solid white side and I wasn't sure whether I wanted half-sleeves or short sleeves I could cheat and have both! These are just finished with an overlocked edge and rolled up to however I feel like wearing them.

The only other adjustments I made were to shorten the skirt to the same length as the magenta sleeved version (which I may yet do to my first dress as it really is difficult to walk in at full skirt length and frankly impossible to get out of a 6-seater taxi in, which I discovered to my near-injury). I also added in-seam pockets. I lined the bodice with a scrap of lining fabric picked up in the bargain bin at Simply Fabrics. As the lining is a synthetic fabric with a tighter weave I decided to sew with 1/2” seam allowances to allow a bit of breathing room.

 You may notice a bit of duplication in the print of this fabric. I didn't pattern match, but instead did my best with centring designs I liked, and trying to avoid putting any of the circular motifs or grubs in suggestive/ unflattering places. I mainly got away with it, but I'm annoyed at how the central flower in the bodice has the same motif just off-centre beneath it. In my haste not to look ridiculous I just didn't notice! 

I used a few additional techniques to try for the best possible finish – making sure to stay stitch the bodice neckline, and using Tilly's advice from the Lilou dress to baste-stitch vertically down pleats so they don't shift when putting through the machine. The neckline doesn't hug quite as closely as it could – perhaps next time I'll try stay tape for a closer fit. When I appealed for help with my latest Megan dress adjustments Lynne of Ozzy Blackbeard gave me a great tip about sewing with 3/8” seam allowances on princess seams for greater control and to avoid any puckering. Sadly I'd already made up my Elisalex bodice by then, but definitely a tip for the future!

Anyway I'm just about to ruin my streak of being good and 'shopping the stash' by heading to Goldhawk Road for a fabric fix!

How have your sewing plans been going this year? Made any dents in your stash?

NorseOtter xxx

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Make More Muslins! Megan the Second (or Should it be Third?) in Liberty Needlecord

Hello there!

I've finally plucked up the courage to cut into this lovely Liberty needlecord that I bought on a trip to Goldhawk Road approximately a year ago for £12 or £14 a metre . I have a couple more Liberty fabrics from Goldhawk Road and Simply Fabrics in Brixton that are still langishing away until I can perfect the fit on the pattern they're destined for enough to dare to cut into them.
In the spirit of trying not to waste effort creating any more clothes that I can't wear due to fitting issues, I decided to correct my mistakes that I made on my previous Megan dress (which I ended up having to give away to a slimmer friend). Funnily enough this dress has made a resurgence on the internet recently thanks to a post from So Zo... about Spring sewing plans- thanks for the mention Zoe, and congratulations!

This time I cut a size up and did an FBA on top of that, but I can't remember how much by as I did it simultaneously with my 1970s Butterick dress. I also decided to do a muslin which I think turned out pretty wearable – the only adjustment I made was to make darts at the back neckline to eliminate some gaping. As these darts ended up meeting with the empire line darts I decided to see if I could convert this into a princess seam for the final version. I regret not making a muslin of this change before diving straight in as, it turned out that I'd forgotten to add seam allowances as it wasn't in the instructions in the Colette Sewing Handbook in their alterations section, which I definitely think should feature this information more prominently, especially as it's aimed at beginners!

So, foolishly I went ahead and painstakingly cut the new princess seamed back bodice pieces out of my fashion fabric, aiming for a perfect pattern match, and obviously they turned out way too small and with quite a lot of gathering as I eased the seams together. I had to leave the dress and sulk for a few days before I managed to work out how to recut the back pieces with seam allowance with the scraps of fashion fabric I had left, but had to abandon all thought of pattern matching. Even though the second attempt fit, there is a still a bit of gathering along the seam which, although not too noticeable, isn't really ideal. I was a bit scared of trying to steam the gathers out too aggressively too, as I was trying not to crush the fabric's pile. Better than back neckline gaping I guess, but I wish I'd just kept the darts as per my muslin!

Anyway, so that was a lesson learnt the hard way. I don't have any pattern drafting experience, so I'm sure someone who knew what they were doing could have handled that much more effectively. Perhaps the reason why most princess seams curve into the armsyce is to distribute the ease more evenly to eliminate any gathering? Anyway, it would take a sharper mind than mine to work out the most elegant thing to do!

Overall it doesn't look too bad, but after wearing the dress for a few days I still don't think it's quite right for my shape. From the front it looks fine, but from the side it isn't very flattering on my figure. I think perhaps I needed to lengthen the bodice a bit more too, as the dart tucks pucker around the bust apex which looks a little clumsy and, well, makes my bust look a bit droopy! I think I'll have to unpick the tucks a little so that the pleat opens out lower down. These tucks have ended up placed on the underside of my bust rather than sitting flat on the ribcage as I think was intended, but with my particular body shape there aren't really any flat plains to work with. I also wonder if I should have altered the shaping of the skirt pieces and dropped the waist as it flares to the hips much higher up than on my actual figure, so my waist is lost but the dress still manages to cling to my wider parts.

I'll still wear this dress as again I love the pairing of fabric and pattern, and at least it's more comfortable than the previous iteration, but perhaps this will be the last Megan while I explore other patterns more suited to my shape. I'm a bit disappointed as it was my favourite pattern in the book, but I still haven't made a Lilou for myself yet so perhaps I'll find a winner there as the fit and flare shape tends to work for me.

 As I mentioned in my previous post on the Margot PJ bottoms, I've been reading along as The DIY Fox works through this book and, as well as picking up a couple of tips, I've also realised that we share some of the same issues in terms of fit which are probably down to us having similar figures. I think I've been blind to some of these issues when making up these patterns for the first time simply because I liked the patterns and styling so much. With what I know now I realise all of them will need substantial tweaking to fit me and my particular quirks, and some of them perhaps aren't worth that much work when there are other lovely patterns out there to be made!

I am pleased however that I've somewhat reined in my impatience and got into the habit of making muslins as an essential part of the dressmaking process. While in this case I could definitely have benefitted from making another muslin when I decided to make another change to the bck bodice, another big thing I learnt was to make sure to wear the first muslin a bit more before cutting into the fabric for the final dress. I think if I'd waiting to cut the Liberty Megan after a day of wearing this muslin version I'd have realised a change needed to be made to the dart tucks and waist length, which is an insight you don't get from a quick try-on and check in the mirror, as it comes up when moving around and sitting.

So, definitely more muslins in the pipeline for me in this year of working towards a better fit (and many hanging around that haven't made it to the blog until the final version is ready to be revealed). How about you? How do you feel about making up a muslin, or toile?

NorseOtter xx