Sunday, 9 August 2015

Hemline ratbag

*Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by jumping shots. You have been warned*

Sometimes things come into our lives just when we need them. I'm pretty sure it's the universe throwing us a bone, saying "Sure, everything else is going shittily, but here, take this one good thing to make life easier! You're welcome." For me Simplicity 1803 was one such karmic free pass. You see around eater time I was knee deep in a fitting funk. I'd been muslining S1873, the Sew Over It 1940s Tea dress and the 03/14 Burdastyle Skinny jeans patterns for months and was no closer to making them fit. With each alteration a new fitting issue was brought to light, and I couldn't move forward until I'd perfected the fit. I was literally living in a muslin graveyard (The Tuileries garden if you will - hehehe geddit??)

Enter Simplicity 1803. I muslined View C in size 10, with lackluster aspirations of adding it to my fitting to-do list. Then lighting struck. The muslin fit perfectly!! ...Well almost perfectly... practically perfect in every way! With a couple of minor tweaks it was perfect.

Tweak list (Hehe sounds dirty):
-1/4 sloping shoulder adjustment
-Took in the CB 1/2"
-5/8" Swayback adjustment
-Since I made it sleeveless there was a little gaping in the front armscye which I rotated out into the princess seam

On the fly adjustments:
(The final fabric that I used was a lot drapier than the curtain I used for muslining, so during the construction I made a few more tweaks)
-Take in the princess seams 3/8" at the waist grading to nothing under the bust
-I also didn't realise until after I'd sewn/lined the shoulders that they could do with being taking up 3/8". It was too late for this dress, made I've made that alteration for a subsequent version and it  makes the shoulders/neckline sit flatter.

The great fit of the muslin left me so suprised I legitimately left the pattern alone for months, scared that I'd stumbled onto some sort of sewing black magic... well that and I fell into a revision induced timewarp... Also I wasn't sure exactly what fabric to use for the dress. Then one day, during a routine stroke search of the fabric stash (think strip search but for fabric...) I came across this gorgeous floral remnant I bought in Shaukat last October.

I won't lie, I went to Shaukat to buy Liberty fabric, but was so intimidated by the sheer volume and price of the fabric (plus the slightly brusque attitude of the owners) that I only ended up leaving with remnants and no Liberty. Whilst this isn't actual Liberty it has the same look/hand as the Liberty wool/cotton Varuna I fondled whilst there. It's thick and warm but it still has a gorgeous drape, plus I love the contrast between the deep unctuous teal background and the more muted flowers. The floral clusters sort of remind me of my grandmother's sofa, but I think I'm into it.

The remnant I had was 1.2 metres long (1.5m wide) but it was a little jagged. Plus the fabric has a fairly obvious twill weave so I could only really cut it one directionally. So I made a couple of changes to get the pattern to fit. First I cut 5/8" off the skirt length (On top of the 2" I'd already hacked off the skirt pattern) I also eliminated the front and side front panels of the skirt, instead cutting another back panel on the fold. Finally I omitted the centre front seam of the bodice (folding off the seam allowances and cutting it on the fold) This was a bit of a risky move, since I assume part of the reason for the seam is to make it easier to sew the inset V, but a heady mix of arrogance and sewist's intuition told me it would work out fine.(And it did!)

The other major alteration I made was to fully line the bodice, as the pattern itself only contains neckline facings and instructs you to bias face the armscyes. I like a lightweight unlined bodice as much as the next girl, but I like my garments to have longevity and, since I don't have a serger, a  lining is the easiest way to ensure that. I just used some navy cotton lawn from John Lewis and cut the bodice pieces again. I also interfaced the lining neckline to add structure/rigidity to the inset V. I also handstitched the bodice lining to the waist for the first time.
Bias bound skirt/pocket seams

Since I'd eliminated the skirt's side-front seams, where the pockets are supposed to go, I moved the pockets to the side seams. I also bound the skirt seam allowances together with bias binding. Both the pockets and bias binding were made from an old floral sheet, that my grandparents' friend's sister brought back from America in ???? . So yup, I destroyed a piece of family history... but on the brightside I just love the clash of bright happy florals on the inside of the dress!
Inset V closeup

This is Ruby. Ruby would like you to know that she does not approve of my attempts to take artsy close-ups on the floor. She thinks they're poxy and pretentious, and the only thing I'll achieve is getting dust on the dress. Ruby also thinks I need to get more adventurous with my poses; "That hand on hips smiling thing is sooo passe don't you know..."

...Okay Rubes how about this then....

...Nope. Still don't like it... Well, there's just no pleasing some people.

The one thing I was most worried about was sewing the neckline. I was convinced that the V would end up crooked or puckery or floppy and it would look awful! So obviously I was super careful to be precise while sewing and paid a lot of attention while grading and clipping the seam allowances... You know, right up to the point when I clipped right through the centre of the V whilst trimming it down, causing it to unravel...

Yup. That happened. There was nothing I could do except resew the V 1/4" outside the original stitching line. This V is slightly bigger than the original, but you totally can't tell and I actually think it sits really nicely. So, as it turns out I didn't really have anything to worry about, in fact the inset V turned out to be the least of my problems...


The problem came with the lining. You see I've only ever fully lined a sleeveless bodice once,( for my bust-gathered S1873 hack) but I rashly assumed that in the 4 months between making that dress and this one, that I would magically have retained the order of construction. Needless to say, I was was incorrect. It turns out I'd jumped the gun on attaching the skirt and inserting the invisible zip, so when I went to pull the bodice right-sides-out all the pieces were already attached. Instead of  a beautiful lined bodice I created the fabric equivalent of a Mobius strip. *Facepalm*

The invisible zip I didn't want to unpick
Honestly, I was a little thrown. I've been on  a bit of a sewing roll lately and I was a little gobsmacked that I'd made such a giant error. I was also convinced that to fix the problem I'd have to unpick my practically perfect, lined invisible zip. I felt pretty defeated.

Luckily, defeatism isn't a good look on me (or anyone for that matter) so I blasted Tempest in a Teacup and the latest Bad Bad Hats album and perked up considerably. A little consideration also showed me that if I unpicked the shoulder seams I could turn through the bodice front and back separately, then reattach them at the shoulders. No need to unpick the zip! SCORE!! When reattaching the shoulders, I machine stitched the fashion fabric, then slipstitched the lining by hand. My hand sewing skills are pretty piss-poor, so it's not pretty,  but it works.
Dodgy shoulder solution

Once I got past the lining hiccup it was all plain sailing, and even with the hiccup the whole dress
only took a couple of days. Overall, I like this dress a lot. It's one of those dresses that grows on you the more you wear it. At first I wasn't sure whether the neckline would suit me, or whether it would look a bit gimmicky, but I've come to love it. The only thing is that this fabric is SUPER warm, so I think I'll get more wear out of the dress come autumn. Sigh. When will I ever get my seasonal sewing right? It's not like the seasons follow any rigid pattern that I could follow... Oh, wait...

I would, at this point like to make a formal statement rescinding my previous stipulation that my hemlines are getting longer. This dress is evidence that said stipulation was simply untrue. I apologise to anyone who I may have hurt or misled during this period of hemline uncertainty.

In fairness, I did try out a lower hemline, but with the bright teal, large scale floral, inset neckline AND longer length it started to look a little overwhelming.

That's about all I have to say about this dress, so I'll leave you with some more jump shots. (Can you tell how much fun it was messing around with the timing on my tripod??)

Yup, I totally stuck that landing. Totally.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Oh, for pleat's sake!

I have a confession to make... I hate pleats!

Let me clarify: I love the look of pleats, but I HATE the actual pleating process. Let's just say I had a bad pleating experience early on in my sewing career and I never really got over it.

So I'm not really sure what possessed me to attempt to to hack Simplicity 1873 (The mother of all confusing irregular pleat patterns) into a skirt.  I must have been going through a faze of either extreme cockiness or sado-masochism because I decided to unite my two nemeses: Pleats and chiffon
(... Okay technically georgette...)

The rematch was set.

The location was determined; the parking lot at midnight (...Okay, technically the sewing nook in my bedroom).

The seamstress in the blue corner.

The Poly-Poltergeist and The Com-pleater in the red corner.

The opponents circled each.


As usual the seamstress (For real though, that would totally be my wrestling name) took none of the precautions necessary when cutting chiffon/georgette (Such as using a rotary cutter, stabilising with starch/gelatin or cutting between layers of tissue paper) Instead I just sort of went at it with neon orange tailors' chalk and some very sharp shears and it worked out pretty well. It did, however, cut everything in one layer, to prevent shifting, but that's just standard practice for me to help get the best fabric yield. I had a 1.5m of fabric, but it was only 112cm/44" wide so I had to cut on the cross-grain.

The fabric itself is a lovely black crepe georgette. I actually got it free when one of my mum's work friends was off-loading some of her stash! Score! The grabby texture of the crepe made it MUCH easier to work with than the crinkle chiffon I used for this skirt, and it made the sewing process borderline pleasant.

The whole premise of the skirt occurred when I made a  wearable muslin of the full Simplicity 1873 dress.I really liked the skirt on the dress, but the curtain fabric I'd used was way too heavy-weight and the skirt belled-out awkwardly (Plus it weighed an absolute tonne!) Also I wasn't a fan on the center front box-pleat-it pretty much made me look pregnant :/ I immediately started dreaming of hacking the dress into a skirt and using a drapier fabric. So I did.

Other than folding out the center front pleat the only alteration I made was to fiddle with the side seam pleats a little to get the skirt pieces to match up with my personal skirt waistband. I sort of expected to need to chop off some length, but in the end I liked the length it was, so I kept it as is.

Lining rolled hem

I used french seams throughout, for the georgette and lining, and rolled hems for both. I really love rolled hems, but I think I need to invest in a rolled hem foot, because the georgette didn't respond very well to the man-handling that was me manually rolling the hem with three lines of stitching.

For the lining I used a grey lining fabric of indiscriminate fibre I got for £1.95 at a charity shop. I NEVER remember to buy lining fabric when I'm at an actual fabric shop (Too busy being distracted by all the pretties) So when I see it in charity shops I always scoop it up for the stash. To reduce bulk at the waistline I cut the lining as a simple 1/2 circle skirt.

Zip in georgette (Free hanging overlay)

I really want to talk to you about my lining/zip method because I am beyond thrilled with the results!

If you remember, when I made this skirt I tried using Grainline Studio's method for a free-hanging overlay over a zip. There's nothing wrong with the method, but it just couldn't get it to work for me, so I was pretty reticent to try again.
Lining with underlap

Instead I came up with my own method, which is sort of  the opposite of the Grainline Studio method. Instead of inserting the zip into the lining I inserted the zip into the georgette. (Sounds more traumatising than it was, promise!) Then for the lining I  sewed up the CB seam from the bottom until about 15cm from the top. Then on one side I folded and topstitched the 5/8" Seam allowances. On the other side I sewed on a rectangular flap  from the top of the french seam to the waist. (The flap then attaches to the waistband underlap at the waist, and is pressed across and topstitched to the other side of the CB at the top of the french seam.)

That was a terrible explanation, but if you've ever sewn a skirt vent, think of that but turned upside down, so that the hem attaches to the waist band. Essentially it means that the lining opens(so you can get the skirt on) but the under-lap of the flap/vent stops any chance of your pants being on show. Plus, because of the free hanging overlay you can twirl un-impeded.
This photo is probably the best expalantion
I've now used this method 3 times with great results on sheer fabrics. At some point I might make a step-by-step tutorial because (as far as I know) there isn't a method like it on the internet.

Sidenote: This was actually the first time I've sewn a skirt waist band with an underlap (Rather than continuing the zip all the way up the waistband. I actually really enjoyed it, but I think I need to add another snap to the waistband, because you can sort of see the waistband facing peeking out the top.

In other news the t-shirt is another of the H&M V-neck rub-offs that I mentioned in this post. The fabric is a lovely maroon cotton knit remnant I bought at The Cloth House on my birthday last August. It's a lot more stable and less stretchy than the knits I usually use, so the fit is a lot tighter, which is a shame, but not uncomfortable. Also the fabric was super wider, so although I only had 1m I was able to squeeze out this t-shirt and a matching So'Zo Vest top.

I also made the necklace. I went through a faze last summer of being obsessed with leather necklaces. (This faze co-coincided with the realisation that my local leathersmith sells his leather scraps for £5/kg.) So basically I went a bit nuts making tonnes of leather bows and turning them into necklaces, hairbands and hairclips, and all my friends got necklaces for their birthdays.(Tehehe). I don't wear jewellery very often anymore, but when I do this necklace is definitely a fun statement piece. Plus, with all the brown leather and maroon in this outfit, I totally feel like I'm channeling my inner Gryffindor.