Monday, 18 August 2014

An Archer-ish shirt dress

Do you ever wake up and realise that you're not in the same place you thought you were when you went to sleep? I don't mean physically, more mentally. I have these moments in sewing quite a lot, little milestones that seem innocuous but they smack me on the face with the knowledge that I know how to do this and I might actually be good at it. My Prom dress was one of these moments, my first culottes were one of these moments and this dress is one of these moments.

I've wanted to turn the Archer into a shirtdress for a while know, but the problem is that I like my dresses quite (Very!) fitted up top, and the Archer is the complete opposite of that. After fudging around for a while I realised I could smash (technical term) the Archer button bands and collar onto an existing fitted bodice and save myself the hassle..
Buttoned up

I actually don't have a go-to fitted bodice pattern (Slap wrist! Bad sewist!) so I dug out a vintage Women's realm pattern I bought before I started a sewing often enough to know my measurements by heart. That's a long winded way of saying the bodice for a 34" bust and i'm 36", so I decided to take the plunge and do my first FBA to make it fit. Turns out FBAs are really easy and make you feel oh-so professional as you slash and spread.
Unbuttoned- Ignore the random wet spots from freshly washed hair

The FBA worked like a charm but on my toile I found I had some excess fabric at the back, which pinched out, and the shoulders were far too big. Google to the rescue! By typing my symptoms into Google I was diagnosed with a rounded back (Soo true!!) and told to take a horizontal tuck out of the bodice front to remove the excess fabric. My final issue was seriously pointy darts. I've always preferred princess seams to darts so converted the pattern (like this) and Presto! Points disappeared!

Fitting done it was time to Archer-ify!

I basically reduced the bodice neckline to the size of the Archer's and then extended the Center front to the width  of the Archer's left side button bands. I decided not to complicate it by doing the right side as a separate band. I pretty much eye balled it and it probably shouldn't have worked but it did. Strangely, the collar fit fine on the toile but on the real dress it came out 1" too big for the neckline, so I had to reduce it as I went.

Most of the dress went together in one fell swoop, and I used my Overcasting foot to finish all of the seams. The Overcasting foot also came in really handy for top stitching because it has a plastic edge that you butt the fabric up against to get a really straight line.

The fabric is this really cut pin-dot chambray I bought in a John Lewis sale a while back, it was about £5/m and I had about 1.5 meters. The armholes are finished with self-made bias binding. I'm also officially obsessed with making bias binding, it makes everything so pretty! In other news, I've finally made peace with my machine's buttonhole stitch so these are the twelve prettiest buttonholes I have ever done! At this rate I might even have worked out how to use the buttonhole foot by Christmas... The buttons are from my grandmother's stash and the skirt is just a gathered rectangle.
Left: Side view & armhole                                                Right: Buttons & Buttonholes

In my opinion though, the best thing about this dress is the hem. My first ever hand hemmed skirt and I'm now addicted! To save skirt length I did a tiny rolled hem and catch stitched it down. I'm definitely not the fastest hand sewer but what this hem lacked in speed it makes up for in beauty! I had no idea that not having a line of topstitching would make such a difference.
Left:  Wrong side of hem                                                     Right: Right side of hem

For me this dress is a milestone . I can usually pick out flaws in my sewing like it's my job but with this dress I know that I've exceeded my expectations and there's nothing about it that I'm nit proud of. This dress is the culmination of hundreds of mini lightbulb moments along the way (Like "Aha overcasting!", "Aha topstitching!", "Aha bias binding!") I've been slowly building up skills and it took this dress to show me that I'm not the same girl who picked up her mum's sewing machine to cobble together a skirt two years ago. I'm not in the same place I thought I was. I'm somewhere better!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Summery Strappy Sorbetto Hack

So this isn't so much a "How to" as a "What I did"... It's sort of "How to do what I did" if that makes sense. What I'm trying to say is that I know absolutely nothing about pattern drafting but this is what I did and it worked, so hopefully it will work for you too!

Now let's get cracking!

Materials needed:
-Sorbetto pattern (Or any other woven vest/top pattern eg. Wiksten tank, Tiny pocket tank or even the    Polly top- you could probably do a cool sweetheart neckline with the Polly!)
-Tracing paper (Or drafting paper/ Greaseproof/ Christmas wrapping paper)
-Fabric (I used about 1.5 Meters of 130cm width fabric)
-1/2" double-fold bias binding (Either make your own matching binding or buy some- or better yet use contrast binding!)

Step 1:
Choose your size and trace your pattern.
(Full disclosure: I used a size 8 at the bust but graded out to a size 18 at the hem so the dress would be swishy and have butt room. I wouldn't recommend being so dramatic when grading out because it seriously screwed up the grainline so i had to straighten  out my dress hem.)
Optional use of mugs as pattern weights

Draw a straight line across your pattern front, from the armhole to the Center front (CF). This line should be perpendicular to the straight-grain.
(The line will be the starting point for the new neckline)

Step 3:
Draw your neckline
I just free-handed my neckline based on a few tops I've seen around. You pretty much want two gently curving lines (One from the armhole, one from the CF) which meet at the point where your strap will start)

Step 4:
Extend the front hem down to dress length. If you have an existing Sorbetto try that on and measure down from the  hem to where you'd like the dress to hit, then add a hem allowance. This is how much you'll lengthen the pattern by.
(For reference I'm just over 5 foot 5 and I lengthened mine by 15")

Step 5: THE BACK
On your traced pattern draw a straight line across the pattern back, from the armhole to the Center back (CB) Just like you did on the front. (This line is the new back neckline so you don't have to do anything else to it)
Step 5.5: Rush out to buy more brown paper for tracing!

Step 6:
Lengthen the back piece by the same amount that you did the front.
(Sorry no picture but you get the idea)

Step 7:
Celebrate! The pattern adjustments are done, yay!

*A note on seam allowance: If like me you're suddenly freaking out that you haven't added seam allowances fear not! As you're going to finish the neckline with double-fold bias binding you don't need seam allowances, and the original top pattern will have had seam allowances included so you don't have to add
anything to the side seams.*

Step 8:
Cut out your pattern
I added a CB seam as I couldn't fit the pattern on the fabric in one go. If you're making self-fabric bias binding now is the time to do so. I didn't measure my bias binding but I cut it extra long so I had room to play around with strap length/placement.

Step 9:
Here's the order I used:
-Front darts
-Center back seam
-Side seams and pockets
-Bias binding across front neckline (See red line)

-Bias binding around back and up the front, extending up to make straps
(Sorry no picture, but imagine the arrows going all the way around to meet at the center back the the straps going over the shoulders and attatching on both sides at the back.)

-Position straps and attach to back

Now put on the dress and twirl! Yay, twirling!!

*Note: This dress has no shaping so without a belt it looks like an A-line/sack/loose shift dress*

Hopefully, this was a clear explanation of my Sorbetto hack. If anyone has any questions don't hesitate to ask and if anyone does make their own version then please share it, I'd love to see!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Summery strappy sorbetto

Once upon a time I got obsessed with watching America's next top model. (Obviously my tastes have much improved by now... cough...) One the things that stuck with me is the tagline the models had to say each season when shooting an advert for Covergirl (Some sort of makeup company); they'd stare at an auto-prompter and stumble mechanically over the phrase "Easy, breezy, beautiful".

Now I don't claim to know a lot about modelling (see pictures below) and I really don't know anything about makeup, but I do know sundresses and if those three words were to describe the perfect summer dress then I'd say this one comes pretty close!
What? You mean you don't wear boots and odd socks with sundresses?!

Step one: Easy
No zips, no buttons. I slip this over my head and I'm out the door. I didn't even add the elastic waist I was going to so all of the shape is from my trusty belt.
Step two: Breezy
This dress is definitely breezy! It's a nice loose shape so it doesn't cling and get all sticky in the sun. Plus the hem catches the breeze and swishes as you walk, so it gets bonus points for making me feel like a princess.
Step three: Beautiful
Well, I'll leave this one up to the eye of the beholder but it has navy polka dots so it's awesome in my book!

This is actually my 3rd Sorbetto (4th if you count the toile which I still wear despite the fact that the straps are held on with pins...). I've yet to actually make one up without some sort of alteration but this is definitely the most bastardised. I'm working on a tutorial for you but I pretty much hacked off the shoulders and redrew the neckline then extended the hem until it was dress length.

This is was really lightweight cotton, although it's surprisingly opaque, so all the seams are french,but some of them ended up a little puckery and I'm not sure why...  I also tried my hand at putting in-seam pockets into my french seams using this tutorial. Just looking at the tutorial gave me a headache but I'm so glad I went through with it because I always regret not putting pockets in skirts and they make me so happy every time I out my hands in them!
Hands in pockets

I'm obsessed with rolled hems right now, (they're just so tiny and cute!) so there's one on this dress. I usually hem things a little shorter than this so I'm not sure how I feel about the length. Longer is definitely better for keeping you cool and covered in the summer, but sometimes I think the length plus print plus volume of fabric swallows me up.
The skirt's not uneven, it's just my phone weighing the pocket down. Promise!

 I bound the neckline/made the straps with self-made bias-binding. This was my first time using bias binding on the outside of a garment (I used it once to bind seam allowances where it hid from the world in shame) but I was surprised at how easy it was. My topstitching is definitely not great in places but it's not really noticeable, plus I think the spaghetti straps make it look a lot less handmade, if you know what I mean. I've started calling this dress my Sorbetti (Sorbetto + Spaghetti) because I like the straps so much!

And just for you here's a bonus twirling picture. Twirly dresses are the best!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Salme Silvia Saga AKA This girl is on fiiiirrrreeeee

Sometimes you need some time to decompress after a project, to relax and let it out of your mind for a while. My Salme Silvia is definitely one of those projects, I spent so long thinking about how to make it work that once it was done I had to set it down and forget about it for a while. (That's why I finished it in June but it's only being blogged now... well that and I procrastinate..)
Gesticulating wildly

This is the Silvia dress from Salme patterns and I was really surprised to find that, pretty much, no one on the internet had sewn it,(and you know if it's not on  the internet that means it never happened!!) which I don't understand as it's a drop dead gorgeous dress and it's actually a really quick make too. Winner!

I was gifted the Silvia last Christmas (After some ...subtle... hinting) but I didn't actually start sewing the dress until March when I made my toile. I read on the internet that Salme patterns run large, especially in the back, but since the UK size 10 was had all my measurements (36" Bust, 28" waist- This NEVER happens I always span several sizes) I decided to go for it. I figured I could always size down if I needed to. I made up my toile and the front fit perfectly but it gaped a but at the back so I pinched out the excess, altered my pattern and moved onto the real deal.

This is where things get wacky. For the real thing I used a random, super drapey, black patterned polyester that I found a meter of in a charity shop for £1.95. As it was so light I underlined it with black cotton and it was lined with black polyester satin left over from a different project. I sewed up the dress and went to try it on. Hopefully you see where I'm going with this: The dress was too small!! It fit snugly around the waist and was out by 10cm at the bust!!

It turns out my toile fabric (Black velvet left over from another project- Don't ask.) had a lot of give in it and I hadn't exactly been precise when cutting it out so my toile so it didn't reflect the true sizing of the pattern at all!

So back to the drawing board I went and two toiles later I had achieved an accurate, and awesome, fit for Silvia. Since I had to pinch out extra fabric in the original toile to account fot the stretch it turns out that the size  8 actually fit really well straight out of the tin! I just shaved a little off the back, especially at the waist, and took a dart out of the front neckline and I was done.

Once I'd sorted out the fit I went back to my black polyester and unpicked and re-cut the back pieces (NOT FUN) Putting the dress back together was a breeze as I'd already done it once. I also made a few alterations like swapping out the skirt for a gathered rectangle, setting the straps farther apart so they cover my bra straps and sewing the neckline facing on the outside (I thought it would be a cool design feature but it kind of gets lost in the print)

So why is this dress called "This girl is on fiiiiiirrrrrreeee"? It's mainly because this dress makes me feel hot!! Like bombshell hot! Which isn't a regular occurrence for a dress. It is totally my style and it suits soooo many occasions; I wore it to open days, I wore it to college, I wore it on  my birthday. Pulling this dress on just makes me feel awesome and that's a pretty awesome super power for a dress to have.

... However, there is more to the name... You see, since this dress makes me feel so awesome I decided to wear it to a party. An outdoor party. A party with a fire, which we all huddled around once night drew in. A fire that spit sparks out onto the crowd. A crowd which contained a girl wearing a handmade dress made entirely of  very flammable polyester. You can see where this is going right...? This  girl caught fiiiiirrrrreeee!!!
Actually, to be fair, only the lining caught fire. A spark flew out the fire and when straight down inside my dress burning a hole in the lining on my stomach. Mass panic ensued but miraculously both my stomach and the outside of my dress were fine.
Melted lining hole!

The dark, creepy side of my brain thinks that sewing this dress was sort of like making a deal with the devil (Just go with it!) I made the deal and got a kick-ass dress but it came with a hellish fitting sequence and was then almost burned alive... Yeah, I guess you're right, that does sound a bit insane.

Anywho, now that I've sorted out Silvia's fit I have a million different ideas of how to use it. SO this won't be the last you see of Silvia this summer...Mwahahahahaha!!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Fabricoholics Anonymous

Hi, My name is Cammie (Hi Cammie) and I'm a fabric addict.

Confession time: I like fabric. A lot. In fact I love fabric, all sorts of fabric. Fabric is what I spend all my money on. If I could I'd marry fabric and have a fabric themed wedding where my wedding ring would be made of fabric.... Too far? Or just far enough?

Either way I think I've got my point across. The problem is that my ongoing love affair with my fabric has completed a civil take over of my room/sewing studio and is slowly but surely instigating an invasion of the rest of the house. So maybe it's time to, I don't know, sew with it...? I know, crazy idea, right? (Honestly though, I don't think I buy fabric because I sew, I think I sew to justify buying fabric!)

With that in mind I set upon my second button-up Sorbetto. I never blogged my first Sobetto but it gets worn a tonne (and cropped up quite a lot during Me-Made-May) so I thought it would be perfect for the summer. The fabric itself is pure heaven. It's soft and drapey, has awesome raised jacquard spots and is the perfect shade of teal. (I bet you didn't know there was a perfect shade of teal but trust me, there is!) I bought it during the John Lewis clearance sale almost exactly a year ago, it's sat on a shelf ever since because it was too perfect for me to risk ruining it. I wanted to do the fabric justice.

Spoiler alert: I didn't.

Okay, that might have been a bit extreme; I actually love this top and have worn it A LOT since completion, but there were definitely some issues with construction and I'm not as proud of it as I could have been.

Firstly: The pattern
Don't get me wrong there is absolutely nothing wrong with the pattern, it's all me. I made my first Sorbetto months ago and drafted the button band without making any alterations to the pattern.  This time around I couldn't remember what I'd done so I just fudged the front and it's a tad wonky (also I should have interfaced it because it has a tendancy to drape open in between buttons. Also, The shoulders are a tad large and tend to fall off. I think this could be addressed by picking a smaller size and doing an FBA (I made a straight size 8 but graded out to the width/length of size 18 below the waist to make it really long and drapey)

Secondly: Construction
Now let me tell you this fabric is pretty but it's also pretty damn annoying. It's had a seriously loose weave meaning it frayed like a bitch and even a 70 needle made tiny holes nearing the stitches. Despite this, all was going well until it came to finishing off the neck/armholes and I realised I'd run out of bias-binding. Instead of making/buying more like a normal person I thought I could just double fold the hems and call it good. This ended up with a bulky, uneven neckline which I then had to painstakingly unpick. Yup, you guessed it, unpicking also made holes in the fabric! Eventually I managed to cobble a neckline/shoulders together but it ain't pretty.
Note to self: ALWAYS trim seam allowance when doing French seams

Often if I have a really hard time sewing something I love the finished garment even more because it shows how I overcame my problems (Ya'know like some sort of philosophical metaphor about how beauty is born of adversity...) , sadly with this top I feel like the end doesn't justify the means. Off to the "Meh" pile it goes.

The bottom half of my outfit, however, I love! My most favourite sewing project to date was my Culottes, finishing those was the first time I properly realised that I could sew,they're the first thing I was 100% proud of. Since I love my first pair so much making a second pair was a no-brainer. There's actually not a lot to say about these culottes.

They're made of the lightest, floatiest rayon challis ever. (So light I sometimes have to check I'm actually wearing something!) Cutting out was a little difficult, with the fabric shifting around everywhere but it wasn't as bad as I've heard it can be. The waistband stretched out a little, despite being interfaced, so these culottes are a little looser than the first pair, but that's actually quite nice in the summer. The only problem is rayon wrinkles, like A LOT, so I tend to get a crumpled butt when sitting...
Crumpled butt...

In one respect these culottes actually have one up on the original pair. Since my culotte fabrics were so light and drapey I interfaced the side seams before I inserted the zips. Unfortunatey, on the first pair the interfacing was too heavy for the fabric so the zip tends to bubble out dramatically ruining the silhouette. This time I learnt my lesson and used a super lightweight fusible interfacing (LOVE that stuff) and the zip went in like a dream! Hurrah!
Side zip

Construction was a breeze. All seams were sewn and overcast (Like serged but on a normal sewing machine) in one afternoon. I let them hang for a day to see if the bias stretched out (It didn't) then did a rolled hem to maximise floatiness. Easy peasy.

Oh and just in case you forgot they were culottes...

These two projects (Sorbetto and Culottes) are sort of polar opposites: One quick and easy which became a wardrobe staple, the other long and arduous with questionable results. I guess that's why I like sewing, there's never one definitive path or outcome and even if you've done something a thousand times you never know what will happen in the next project.