Wednesday, 4 October 2017

French Navy Orla Dress in Orla Kiely stems

I got sucked into the excitement of anorlaaffair, which was an Instagram sewing challenge, in July.  I mean, a simple woven dress!  Free pattern!  Yeah, it was easy to get sucked into.  It was just the middle of July when my sad departure from New Zealand didn't feel too impending and I was going wild with patterns and fabrics and random ideas.

So I cut this out in a size XS.
The size chart for the XS: 81-63-87
My actual measurements: 83-67-94
The size chart for the S: 85-67-91.

Can you note some foreshadowing?  I have been sewing a lot of knits...but I'm not sure that's any excuse.  I know I have wide shoulders after all so on a dress like this if anything I should size up.  Oops.

The fabric is another piece of Orla Kiely stems, from Saved Fabrics etsy shop.
I really adore this rainbow fabric and I was totally excited about this dress - enough to try a few things.  I french seamed the side seams, although I still held off from doing so on the sleeves.  I assume you can't french seam a gathered waist but I remain puzzled how to finish it in a nice way.

I moved the back zip to the left side so that I didn't mess up my stem pattern.
And I skipped gathering the sleeves and just made haphazard tucks as I came to the top of the sleeve.

Well I got to nearly done and popped the dress on and realised it was a solid 4" too small.  I mean I could not get this dress on.  No chance.  And so it wilted into a UFO on my floor until I realised it might fit my friend's daughter.  (His 8 year old daughter.)  But still it sat there because now I was galvanised by moving panic and too many projects in too little time. 

It ends up I sewed this literally in the last hour before I had to put my sewing machine into a box.  I do give things to op shops when I'm not satisfied with them, but having a project nearly done, and a potential - and potentially excited - wearer, I just couldn't box it up undone and leave it for 6 months.

So here's the failed Orla:

In the end it didn't fit the 8-year old, but another colleague at work had daughters who it does fit, and they love it!  The best bit is that this colleague is Irish so the Orla Kiely connection seems like a match made in heaven.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Cocoon Cardigan x 2 by Patterns for Pirates

I saw a reference to this cardi, and to this pattern company, a little while ago and completely discounted it for a very good reason: you have to measure and cut out your own bands!  Quel horreur!  Couldn't be doing any of my own measuring, no chance, and so I never considered the pattern more attentively.

And then one day at work I realised my radiographer in the office sewed and she was wearing a beautiful grey the end of that shift I had the pattern printed in my hot little hands.  I cut a size XS.  I had to have a friend over for moral support when I made the pattern piece for the bands, but I survived just fine (it's not hard.) 

My first version has been showcased here.  I wanted to get an idea of how the pattern came together, and I knew that long and grey were in its future.  I used the short body, with the wide cuffs, long sleeves and long sleeve cuffs.  No pockets.  I thought it was a bit silly as it's really short and doesn't come around to the front very much, but in truth I started wearing it the minute I made it and I wore it, um, until I made the second one.

Which I know took exactly an hour and 20 minutes to make, because I made it before work on my last shift before vacation, and I was late to work. 

In this version, I used the long body, wide band, long cuff and long sleeve, I think. Plus the pockets, which are totally amazing.  I made it for my birthday, took it to Australia with me, and wore it every day.  This fabric is a blend of merino and silk, I snapped up 3 meters at Designer Textiles in south Auckland - where I went on a fabric field trip in early August.  Because of the silk in the fabric, it drapes really nicely.

Then I had to make a striped one which is exactly the same as the grey one (except in plain merino):

 I was getting a bit rushed so some ironing of the band didn't happen - that really helps to make it lie flat.  But do you see something amazing!?  Do you see that I managed to match my stripes?  Including on the pockets?  I think I must be on a roll as I also got working on a plaid Archer around the same time.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Musings on pattern placement

This post has less to do with the patterns that I used (which are the Patterns for Pirates coccoon cardigan and the Sewaholic Renfrew) and more to do with planning, reflection and instinct in sewing.

I am reminded of something that Sophie first put on her instagram. (here) She didn't blog about it.  I'm not sure that link will work for everyone but the gist of it is: she bought fabric from the Fabric Store because a piece of fabric said Take me home and make this dress!  And the vision was absolutely electric - the dress is crazy but it works and she looks amazing in it.

When I do that - when I know exactly the fabric, when I have enough background about the pattern, and I have the skills, ie I'm not pushing my level too much and can therefore push the pattern to be its very best - when I demand that the result be not just wearable but amazing - it is.

And I don't bother to do that very often.
I think that instinct is the hallmark of the sewists that we follow, although taking good photographs probably helps.  They have, by luck or by hard work or by talent or by experience, figured out their own style and they are willing to put in the work here and now in this project to make it as close to perfect as possible.  And the results look amazing, they are worth the effort. They are that magical thing we all want to achieve: better than RTW.

I bought a huge amount of mountain print merino in Auckland at the Designer Textiles warehouse.  It had paint splotches on it and a few holes here and there so they gave it to me for 5 dollars per meter.  Of printed merino.  I took lots.  And my first goal was to make a top with a mountain on it, similar to a certain one that I coveted by icebreaker.

I had some plain cream fabric to use as the accents, but despite my instinct, I went with mountains for the sleeves.  This project quickly fell out of my favor.  The mountains on the chest are somehow in...the wrong place.  The mountains on the sleeves are...annoying the hell out of me.  The whole business doesn't work. 

I took this and toned it down.  I listened much harder to my inner voice and popped out this little Patterns for Pirates cocoon cardigan.  I was careful to make the upper sleeves only pieces of blue sky, and the cuffs and the hem band are cream merino, not the patterned stuff.

This one works a lot better.  In fact, this was a chance to test out this pattern and I went crazy shortly afterwards and made lots more cocoon cardis!  Patterns for Pirates has my attention!

I was very reflective after this experience.  Making one project badly definitely led to thinking harder about making the second project right.  But what kind of commitment do you have to make to each sewing project to make every single one count?

(PS I still had friends who liked the Renfrew so off it went to a new, happy home.)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Deer and Doe Chataigne shorts in Liberty cord

After my first pair of Chataigne shorts I was so excited to make a second pair!  I had this great Liberty fabric and the size 34 had fit really well in a stretchy fabric, other than being a bit short.  So I wanted to make them a touch longer, and thought in the nonstretch fabric a 36 would be perfect.

I had one meter of fabric, minus a bunch of little pieces that were apparently sent as swatches.  So I had to use lining from elsewhere.  I was nervous about ironing the cord but eventually stopped being very cautious about it. I generally tried to make sure I was ironing over two layers so that the pile wouldn't go flat, but it's pincord anyway and I could barely tell the difference when I didn't.

Construction went as before, except for a small caveat - in the meantime between cutting this out and finally making these shorts, about 3 months went by.  Wintery months.  So they never quite got to the top of my list and I only finally put in the effort and made them sometime in August. 

You can tell that I was lazy with ironing, but I was also lazy with the waistband.  They were so great, that I thought I'd hand sew the waistband down like I did on the first pair.  But I had so little eventually I changed my mind and just stitched in the ditch.  This caused the waistband to twist a little and not lie perfectly flat.  It's not a big deal at all when I am wearing them.  Just the standard results of yet another move coming up - rushed sewing.

There was a tiny pleat right at the v front - I marked the front, I did everything right, and still I couldn't get it to come out perfectly!  But the busy fabric saved me as it's pretty invisible in there.  I also forgot to make them much longer so I used hem tape - just used about 2 mm of the hem and then folded the tape inside.

They are great!  I didn't finish them in time to take them on vacation to Australia, unfortunately, but in December when I get to Australia (semi-permanently) they will get lots of use.

However after making this pattern a few times, I think that the pockets are good, but the pleats in the front and the v of the waistband are less than flattering.  The butt bothers me a bit too if I am being picky.  I don't think I'd use these as a best-ever shorts pattern, but they are consistent with Deer & Doe sizing and definitely cute.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Orageuse Lisboa silk top

This fabric was a single meter panel with a design incorporating the taupe sky, a watercolourish Italian scene, and flowers at the bottom.  For some reason after making my beautiful Lisboa dress (here), I thought that this one meter of fabric would be enough to make a reversible Lisboa top.  No chance of that!!  As it is, I had to use the bottom of the fabric for the strap that goes across the back, which I find rather jarring.

I used a size 38 with no modifications except to raise the armhole slightly.
Sorry no head, I stood too close to the camera, and didn't feel like taking more.

Otherwise, my construction proceeded as the first version did.  I admit to being a bit lazy with this.  I did use french seams, but I didn't iron it very well as you can see by how the shoulders don't lie quite flat. 

The truth is, this fabric had some unfortunate memories associated with it.  I quite like the top although I would increase the depth of the slits next time.  I still find it very challenging to finish this kind of split hem.   Maybe there are things that just don't get fixed until you have a serger.  Because of the facing, I really think a lined top would be the best way to make this, still in a very slippery fabric like silk.  

So I gave this to my friend Regina who loves it and reported back to me that she has received compliments at work.  We are both happy. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

By Hand London Elisalex in French flowers

I first tried to sew an Elisalex during the year I was learning to sew.  I went for the version with sleeves and sized up to the 8/12.  It was awful and I was never able to salvage that dress.

I became more interested when I saw that By Hand London had released a revised version of the dress, with improvements for the sleeveless version and a bit less tulip in the skirt.  Since my original version was on paper, I emailed them and very shortly received the updates as a pdf.

This time I went sleeveless, 6/10.  I removed about 8" of the skirt pattern - 1 entire sheet of paper in length.  The fabric is cotton with a brushed feel, which I got in Paris a few years ago.  It is beautiful fabric although I tend to avoid too much in the way of flowers, and I thought it had stretch and was going to make a Morris with it ages ago, but alas, it doesn't.  So it is an Elisalex instead!

I noticed the irritating mirror pattern across the butt quite awhile after I made this dress, which must be a sign of how much I love it.

The pattern is straightforward.  I had no problems with it.
And then came the real shock - this dress fits.  Like for real fits.  This is amazing.  I made no changes and the straps aren't too long and the bust isn't puffy.

No effort, magic dress.  I'm in love and I already have a version planned involving lemons.  (Who doesn't, these days?)  I hope I will have enough time to make it before I move! (Update: no chance.  See you next year...)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Cali Faye Gardenia dress in merino

This dress caught my interest when I first discovered Cali Faye's patterns.  I pondered it at length and was so excited to make it!  I went through a variety of fabrics in my head.  It seemed to have a lot of plusses - cool orientation of the fabric, knit, interesting shape, etc - this is close to the sort of thing I often cave in and buy so I pinned a lot of hopes on it.

As I started to feel the stress of another impending move, I cut out any plans for a muslin and inspected the pattern pictures closely.  The model in the photos has basically the same measurements as I do and is in a size S.  Based on the fact that I didn't want the dress too loose, I went for an XS instead.

Merino jersey: from The Fabric Store, this time from Dunedin just because I happened to be there visiting a friend.

I also changed the neck binding as I didn't really like the idea of applying the binding as thought it's a woven - after all I hate doing woven bindings and that's part of why I like knits!  I did a foldover knit binding like from the Megan Nielsen Briar - and initially I thought I had done it too tight and ruined the dress and my mood was low.  But I persisted.

I put in so much work to get the pockets in.  The instructions are ridiculous here.  I think usually you attach the pocket to the front and back of the skirt, with right sides together, and sew with a small seam allowance.  Then you flip the pocket out and align the front and back, and sew the entire thing together, turning nicely at the corners.  That way you don't have any funny gaps all over the place.

The instructions here had you sew the pockets separately from the skirt, and left all those gaps where things didn't line up the first time around.  Luckily knits are forgiving and all those gaps were closed eventually....

And then I tried on my dress and was in horrors, because those awful, hideous pockets ruin the dress!  They add width directly over my hips and are too low to be useful.  It took me a week with my Gardenia in the time-out pile before I picked it up and realised all I had to do was take off the pockets and the dress would be fine.
Sry forgot to iron hem

I did that.  And it was.  I like it now!