Saturday, 21 November 2015

Completed: Tanja Dress

Sometimes you get an idea of how a pattern should be made up, and you can't shake it. So it was with this dress. I came across the pattern on my new favourite blog: Noble and Daughter. I discovered Charlie's blog via Seamwork magazine, and have spent a good few happy evenings pouring over her back catalogue. I could happily wear every single thing she has sewn. And she has great hair! When I first saw her version of this dress, I thought it was a knit dress. Further reading established she actually made it in wool crepe, which is just beautiful.

The pattern is the Tanja Dress by German pattern company Schnittchen. I have heard of them before, but haven't been particularly drawn to any of their patterns. And to be honest, I'm not enamoured of the version on the pattern cover, which I don't think looks great. However, as I said, Charlie's version is beautifully made and fits perfectly. I was sold, and from nowhere the pattern jumped the queue right to the front. If you are unfamiliar, it's a "fancy dress" (their words!), with a tulip skirt with pleats, and either a cap or long sleeve. It has waist darts at front and back.

It's designed to be made up in wovens; they recommend cotton or wool with some body, presumably to preserve the tulip shape of the skirt. But I couldn't shake the knit idea, specifically ponte. My plan was to make it in a woven first, but I didn't have anything seasonally appropriate in my stash. I did, however have quite a lot of this purple ponte, which I bought in Mandors last Feb.

My measurements put me at a size 36 on the bust and hips and 38 on the waist, but because the fabric has stretch I sized down to the smallest size the 34. The picture on the pattern looks pretty roomy at the waist, and I knew I'd prefer it a bit more fitted.

Thoughts on the pattern:
Well... it was OK. The instructions were brief to say the least. The pattern level suggests Easy+, but the instructions were half a page of A4 with no diagrams. There was mention of a sewalong/tutorial on the website, but no direct link and I couldn't find it. The instructions themselves were pretty straightforward, and the dress was very intuitive to put together, so I didn't really use them, but a beginner would really struggle.

I bought the pattern on PDF, although a printed version is available. The pattern pieces are full size, rather than half, which is nice, but I'm not sure I understand why it's necessary, particularly when I then had to trace, as they were overlaid. I'd rather have half pattern pieces and not have to trace. There were also a few printed blank pages, which always annoys me, as they are never truly blank and so it's just a waste of paper. Some of the pattern markings were different to what I am used to, but they were all explained.

The construction would have been fairly straightforward but I made a few stupid mistakes. The ponte shifted around a bit during cutting meaning my pleat marks were off on the front skirt. I then realised I'd cut my back skirt piece too large. There must have been a fold in the fabric when I cut out. I know cutting flat is meant to result in a more economical use of fabric, but when your clear bit of living room floor isn't wide enough to accommodate a 170cm wide fabric, it just becomes problematic! I had to do a fair bit of unpicking as a result, which, in a lightening zigzag stitch was not fun.

I changed a few things to accommodate the knit fabric. I omitted the hem facing and instead just turned once and hemmed with a twin needle. I also omitted the bias facing at the neck, and again just turned and twin needled. The sleeve hem were meant to be turned twice by 1cm, so I cut off the first 1cm  to reduce bulk, and so it got the same turned once and twin needled treatment. I added clear elastic at the shoulders and waist to help support the weight of the fabric. Finally, I omitted the side zip, as I can get it on and off without. I used a lightening stretch stitch/twin needle throughout, and my walking foot on some bits. The edges were left raw.

The cap sleeves are really only half sleeves. I'm not sure if there is a technical term for this, but by that I mean that they don't fully enclose the arm. I find this difficult to explain so have a look at the techincal drawings above and the photo below. I have a RTW dress with sleeves like this which I love. My sleeve notches didn't match, but this could have been my markings - I didn't go back to check - so I used the shoulder seam one and ignored the others. The instructions had you finish the bottom half of the armscye with bias binding, but I opted to turn and twin needle. But this kind of presented a problem in that the top stitching was just going to kind of stop in the middle of nowhere. I chedked my RTW dress, but it has princess seams, so they top stitched to there. After a quick headscratch, I decided to continue the top stitching and curve it round to meet the top stitching on the sleeve hem. I'm quite pleased with it.

Thoughts on the dress:
I love it. Love love love love it! It has turned exactly as I envisioned in my head. I was concerned that it just might not work in a woven, particularly with the darts and pleats, but it does. Yes the darts could be a little sharper and the pleats a little more defined - the fabric doesn't press well - but actually I like the looseness of the pleats as they are. I'm really pleased with the finish. I took care to ensure my side seams matched and that the pleats were even. I love how the fabric hangs, I think it looks quite luxe, although it will be interesting to see how it washes and wears. I understand ponte is prone to pilling pretty badly.

Nice view up my nose, but it's the only photo where I actually look like I love this dress!
I adore the shape of both the bodice and the skirt. The skirt narrows quite dramatically towards the hem - in fact, uncut, the pattern piece looks like an A line skirt piece upside down. The bodice in particular is really flattering, and could be used with many other skirt shapes. The fit is good. There is a little bit of gaping at the back neck that I would address next time, but it's not bad enough for me to bother in this version. The waist is ever so slightly dropped. I have no idea if it's meant to be like that or not - it's hard to tell from the technical drawings, or the photo on the pattern, but Charlie's is also like that, and actually I like it that way, so I'm calling it a design feature, regardless.

I'm in danger of rambling on forever about this, so I'll wrap this up now.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Completed: Cotton + Steel Inari Dress

I genuinely am a fan of Autumn. Not in a "squeee pumpkin spice latte" kind of way (I've never had one, but they sound disgusting. I'm a black Americano kind of person), but I love the change of seasons, the colours, ankle boots and the fact that tights mean I no longer need to shave my legs every day. I do not like the lack of light. It affects my mood, and it limits my ability to take blog photos.

Which is my explanation for the fact that my new favourite ever garment has taken so long to make it to the blog.

Awful, awful indoor photos with terrible, terrible lighting BUT thanks to Franca, I finally have a tripod! Also, I genuinely have no idea what's going on with my legs in all of these photos!
This was a fabric driven make. The fabric is yet more Cotton + Steel rayon challis, this time from the spring collection. I wasn't totally blown away by the prints this time around, but I loved the painterly aspect of these stripes. The print is also available in the cotton substrate, and in more colours, and I wish these colours had been available in the rayon. Look at that citron colour - beautiful!

This time I decided to buy enough to make something decent - rather than yet another simple dartless loose fittging top. I bought 2m from Miss Matatabi, as it's cheaper to buy it there, including postage from Japan, than buying it in the UK.

Once I had the fabric, I deliberated I while. I did think about a pleated or gathered skirt for a while. It then was going to be an Alder or a Biscayne, and for a while I considered a Biscayne dress hack. But there have been some really lovely versions of the Inari dress by Named on the interwebs, which slowly won me over. So instead of a simple dartless loose fitting top, I've made a simple dartless, loose fitting dress...

But, but, but! Isn't this lovely? The drafting is impeccable. I'm sure you will have come across this pattern before, but for those of you who haven't, this is a subtly cocoon shaped dress which sounds awful, but is actually very lovely.  I generally have a preference for balancing out volume; loose fitting tops with skinny jeans or trousers, or full skirts with a skinnier fit top. As a result, I was a little concerned that the silhouette might not work on me, however that shaped side seam which curves forward, results in an optical illusion of far less width at the bottom, which removes the sack-like feel. The vents and the high-low hem also provide some interest to an otherwise very plain dress.

Hi-lo hem and vent
I did my best at pattern matching, but with the inconsistent stripe width and the slippery fabric, success was variable, even with my walking foot and many pins. I'm not overly bothered though. Even with stripe matching, I was able to get this dress from a little more than a metre, leaving me enough fabric to make something else!

Stripe matching at the side seam
This is actually my second Named pattern. The first was the Alexandria Peg Trousers, which were not a success, I think partly because they are too big. This time around, I went with my gut and cut the smaller size. My bust measurement put me in a size 38 (same size I made for the trousers) but the finished garment measurements showed there was plenty of ease in the 36. The dress is meant to be oversized, but I wanted it slightly more fitted in the shoulders, like the Scout tee. So I used the Scout pattern as a comparison for the shoulders, and the 36 matched most closely.

The fit in general is fine, however I have some reservations about the sleeve. The armscye is quite long and low, which has the effect of feeling like the sleeves are clamping my arms to my side. Due to the ease, I have full arm movement, but the shoulders ride up if I put my arms out to the side. I am aware that I cut a size smaller than recommended, however I don't feel this is the cause. After a quick conversation with Cassandra of The Stitchery about it, we both agreed it was the armscye shape that was to blame. When I make this again, I think I will switch out the armscye and sleeve for that of the Scout, although I will keep the length and the cuff which I like.

Before sewing a pattern I tend to google image it, particularly if I'm unsure about fabric type or fit. When I googled the Inari, I found this lovely version in wool. I particularly loved the little touch of neon thread details and so shamelessly copied them for my version. In my head this would be a fabulous contrast against the black and white, but in reality you can't really see it's there! Never mind.

I did attempt to use my overlocker on this project, but it seems to be broken. It will not form a thread chain no matter how carefully I thread it. It might need to go into the repair shop, but I will try Google and Youtube first. Instead, I did a mixture of zigzag and pinking shears to finish the seams on the dress. Unfortunately this hasn't worked well. After a first wash, the pinking has frayed badly, and the zig zagging looks pretty raggedy too. On the insides this isn't such a problem, but the side seams are visible at the vent. I'm sure it's something that no one else will notice, but it bothers me.

The pinked facing after one wash.
The neckline is finished with a facing, which isn't my preference, but I do like the clean look on the outside. So far its staying in place, but as this as the area I pinked, I will need to go back and refinish the edge differently in such a way that won't reduce the width further!

That facing after 2 washes! I really need to fix that!
My only gripe with this dress, other than the poor finishing, is the lack of pockets. I guess I could have incorporated them into the side seams, but it feels like that would detract from the shape of the dress. I will just have to cope without them. Other than that, I love this dress. It's brilliantly comfortable, but also feels quite dressy. In this type of fabric I think it could work well as a "going out" dress, but it equally works for casual and work. It's not hugely season-appropriate, but I can layer it up, and that hasn't stopped me from wearing it. In fact, so far I've worn it to a sewing meet up at Kelvingrove museum, a Halloween party*, to work, to the opera and for dinner and karaoke! How's that for hard working? I think there may be more of these in my future!

Recent meet up at the Kelvingrove in Glasgow
 *the Halloween "party" consisted of the 4 of us, lasted half an hour and Baby Boy was scared of the pumpkin, and cried the whole time. He looked pretty cute though!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Completed: Vintage Pledge: 1970's Shirtdress

We are now into the last quarter of the year, and I finally finished the first of my 2 vintage pledges for 2015. This is also the first of my A/W sewing plans, and it came from the "need" category. I'm feeling pretty smug right now. It won't last. My next project is already a bit questionable.

But back to the dress in hand. I came across this pattern last year when searching for a pattern from 1974 to make my 40th birthday dress. This pattern is from 1973, so didn't fit the bill, but I loved it so much, I bought it anyway. I made it part of my Vintage Pledge to stop it from becoming yet another unmade vintage pattern in my collection (I don't have many - maybe 15 or so, but I have to date only made 3).

For ages, I couldn't see past the red dress on the cover artwork. It was always about the short sleeve dress for me, and the lady in red just looks so fabulous. But then, suddenly chambray popped into my head. This particular chambray was bought in Goldhawk Road during my visit to London in July. It cost me something like £12 for 2.5m. I like Goldhawk Road. Its a nice chambray. A little stiff, but it has a nice slubbiness and texture to it. Frayed like crazy though, and it creases pretty badly too.

It was sunny! Far from ideal photo-taking conditions.
For some reason this dress took ages to make. I can't remember when I started, but I think it might have been August. It wasn't a difficult sew - it's a very straightforward pattern - but there were whole weeks where I wasn't sewing, due to life, that made this quite a protracted process. Particularly annoying as I would then forget what changes I had made. I made a muslin first, as it's a 36" bust, and I am a 34". The muslin swamped me, and the initial collar was beyond hilarious, so I made the following changes:
  • Took 24mm out of the side seams
  • Took 24mm out of the centre front and back
  • Moved the bust darts up by 3cm and also lengthened them by 3cm
  • Removed about half of the collar - taking out about 8.5cm in width. I actually used the collar pattern piece from the Archer shirt for the shape, as the original was also far too pointy.
  • Took 14cm off the length, at the lengthen/shorten line.
In the end, I think I overfitted it. It fits, particularly in the bodice, but it's a little neat over the hips and bum - most noticeable if I put my hands in the pockets. When making my muslin, I took it in at the back, but made a note to redistribute this 24mm across the front and back, so the side seams stayed in place. What I think I might have done is rather than redistribute, I've taken 24mm off the front and 24mm off the back. As I say, I can't remember, but this would explain why my collar piece then ended up being too long... Ahem. So, yeah, not a great collar, but not bad for my second ever attempt. The bust darts are a bit too long now, so could do with reducing by about 1-1.5cm, and for some reason they are not level.

I can also see from these photos that there are serious draglines at the shoulders. I'm not sure if that's just from wear - I took these after wearing this for a full day - or if it's a fitting issue. If it's the latter, I have no idea what's causing them. Ideas?

Hands in pocket - tight over the bum. Now you are looking at my bum!

I made some construction changes too. The pattern came with a sleeve facing, which I don't like, particularly as the instructions have you slip stitch the facing down and then top stitch, which seems kind of pointless. Instead, I made bias binding from an old shirt of P's, and faced the sleeves using that, topstitching in place. I added in seam pockets. I french seamed all seams, including those pockets. I ignored the instructions to hem using seam binding and just did a double turn. It's a nice deep hem, so there was plenty of allowance to do this. I also topstitched it, as I liked the consistency with the other topstitching. I did consider topstitching the side seams, almost fake-flat-felled-like, but I couldn't figure out how to do that without sewing my pockets shut. Finally, I neglected to make the self fabric tie belt, as I don't care for them.

I really like the resulting dress. There are a few niggles, which I've mentioned above, but it's absolutely wearable as is. It's quite a plain dress for me, but I like its simplicity. I'm really pleased with my topstitching. This was the first time I've been brave enough to do it in a contrast colour. I picked the buttons to match the contrast thread (and did the buttonholes in the contrast thread too). Two are slightly more purple than blue, which wasn't planned, but which I quite like. It's not hugely noticable, but like the stripey bias binding, it's a detail that makes me smile.
Unbelted. It kind of works (pls ignore the creases).

I did think about adding another couple of buttons so it buttons right up to the collar, which would give it more of a modern feel, but my collar is wonky. Not noticeable as is, but definitely noticeable when I hold it closed. For a future version though, I think adding a collar stand would be nice. I considered it for this time but ruled it out as I've never sewn a collar stand before, so I thought doing a hack might not be the best place to start. I should probably sew an actual shirt first. Other variations to the pattern would be to add a back yoke, with maybe a pleat, or patch pockets, either on the skirt or as breast pockets. You could add quite a lot more "shirt" details which could be lovely. Or equally I could continue to keep it simple.

Top stitching, and slightly wonky collar (where it joins the bodice, particularly on my LHS)

Buttons - the third and fifth down are a different colour. 

Bias faced armholes
I'm not sure I'll like wearing this under a cardigan. I just feel a bit mumsy wearing collared things under cardigans. But it might layer over a polo/roll neck or a long sleeve tee. It would have been perfect in summer, when I was meant to make it, paired with my clogs. Next summer. In the meantime I'm wearing it these lovely new shoes, c/o Clarks!

Also, I got new glasses! I actually have 2 new pairs. You'll definitely see the other pair in future posts. I really love these pinkish brown ones, but I know they aren't everyone's cup of tea. P took a bit of persuading. What do you think?

Finally, I have joined The Fold Line. This is a new online sewing community type thingy. If I'm honest, I'm always skeptical* about these things, not least because it just feels too much like hard work to have to post everything I make to a million different social media. I've pretty much given up on Kollabora, I'm rarely on Pinterest or Twitter these days and I hate Flickr since Yahoo took it over. However I thought I would give it a go. You never know, this one might be more like Instagram and keep me hooked. I did have an interesting sign up experience, where I created an acount and then was immediately banned from the site because it thought I was a spammer, but that was all resolved literally within 5 mins of me emailing them. Pretty good customer service! Unsurprisingly, I'm @grosgraingreen if you want to be my friend! And there is a Sewing Scotland group, for those that might be interested! Are you joining?

*Is that the correct spelling? It looks really weird, but autocorrect is telling me that "sceptical" is incorrect, and I'm too lazy to get up and check in the actual dictionary.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Autumn/Winter 15

It's feeling like ages since I last posted, but it's really only been a couple of weeks. It's been a busy time though, as we were away 2 weekends in a row and then I was working last weekend. All this has really impacted on my sewing time. I don't generally tend to sew at the weekend, but if we're away that impacts on all the other stuff that we do, which then ends up taking priority during the week. I'm all for sewing over housework, but if the boys are coming out the bath dirtier than they went in, then I need to address my priorities!

Being away has also impacted on my general social media interaction, as I've just been too busy. But it's good to take a break now and again to spend time with people I actually know.

So, I have no sewing related stuff to show you today. I am slowly working on one of my Vintage Pledge items - a chambray shirtdress. I'm not convinced it's going to turn out well though, which really doesn't do well to motivate me to finish it. When I tried it on early in construction, my husband commented that I should be wearing it to work in a sewing factory. And now I can't see past the fact that it does look a bit "uniformy".

I have a lovely afternoon of sewing planned on Sunday at The Stitchery, with Jen. Although I'm not finished the shirtdress, I don't want to take that with me. I did plan to take the Named Alexandria trousers to sew, but now I'm swithering over sewing something else entirely. I might print and cut out a couple of options and then I can decide on Sunday morning.

And so to Autumn sewing plans, which seems to be the theme of most of September's blog posts. I have opted to split my list into "need" and "want" in a bid to narrow my focus and allow me to prioritise a bit. I'm never great at sewing plans. Actually, I'm great at airy fairy ideas of the billions of things I want to make. But coming up with a concrete, deliverable plan is something else entirely. So let's call this a list of things I could do with and/or patterns that I <3. :)

Before I returned to work I decided not to buy or make anything specifically because I didn't think I needed anything. I have just spent the past 3 months wondering what the hell I used to wear to work every day. So, I need work clothes.

1 / 2 /
Trousers: I have all 3 of these patterns already, so I just need to decide what to make them in. And then how to wear them. Can the baggy/flowy trouser translate to winter wear? Maybe with an ankle boots? If not, I guess it'll be a couple of more pairs of Ultimate Trousers (#3).

1 / 2 / 3 / 4
Tops: to go with the trousers. I don't yet own any of these patterns. No specific thoughts on fabrics yet, but I do fancy either the Inari (#3) or the Lexi (#1) in scuba.

1 / 2 / 3
Dresses: I like wearing dresses but I'm not sure what kind I want right now. So, I'm detailing my vintage pledge dress in the hope it will turn out alright after all (#2 above). Plus the Inari dress (#1), which I really want to make in a black and white Cotton and Steel rayon in the stash. It's probably not that autumnal, but our office tends to be pretty warm. I also love this RTW by Hush (#3 above) and reckon it would be pretty easy to knock off.

I don't need much in the way of casual wear, other than a new pair of jeans which I will probably buy. In addition...

1 / 2 / 3 / 4
#1. A shirt, in either chambray or black/white gingham or both! #2. Culottes - although I'm not convinced by how I will look in them. Possibly with a matching cropped top for Christmas nights out?! #3. All the stripey tees, most probably using the new Lark pattern. #4. A line skirt, in denim, naturally. I love the pocket detail on this pattern.

What are your plans for Autumn? And how "deliverable" are they?

Friday, 11 September 2015

Completed: Made Up Initiative

Assuming you read other sewing blogs, you will be familiar with the Made Up Initiative being run by Karen from Did You Make That? and Love Sewing magazine. Karen explains it much more eloquently than I can, but essentially the idea is to raise money for the National Literacy Trust.

Making the elephant noise and action
I have no idea if this is an inherited thing, but my kids LOVE books. Small Boy has had to be forcibly reduced from 3 or 4 books at bedtime to a much more manageable 2 (never set a standard based on lift the flap books with only a couple of dozen words...), and is now super excited that he gets to choose and bring home a book from the school library EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. He will happily spend time just looking at his books, and he will correct us parents if we dare to do the quick version, or read the wrong word. He is not palmed off with an exasperated "but "said" means the same as "cried"". Pedant.

Baby Boy has loved books from birth (exaggeration). I used to have the pram books that he could look at when we were out and about. Unlike Small Boy who just used to eat them, he actually looked at them. He loves opening and closing them and turning the pages, and when he was introduced to the wonder of flap books, well, he was in 7th heaven. Sadly he doesn't have much respect for them so a lot of the flaps are no more, but his love for the books is no less. Especially if they feature dogs or monkeys.

After thinking about this, I got to thinking about what my challenge/pledge/whatever should be. Something for one of my boys seemed like an obvious choice. If I'm doing something selfless, why not make it doubly so?

The pattern is the Rowan Tee by Titchy Threads. What sold me this one rather than any other kids t-shirt pattern, was the many, many options and the fact that it goes all the way up to age 12, so I don't need to buy it twice. Perfect!

The elephant fabric is this one from The Village Haberdashery and it's a lovely stable interlock with around 25% stretch, which was pretty much exactly what the pattern recommended. The ribbing came from Kitschy Coo's actual shop. It's actually not that far from my house, which makes me feel bad about never having been before. Baby Boy was with me and was much taken by Casey, Amanda's dog, who you will be familiar with if you follow her on IG. Casey is much better behaved than Amanda would have you believe. Amanda is also obviously lovely. 

This was a nice quick sew. Good comprehensive instructions, although there are a lot of them because there are so many options and variations, so you need to identify which bits you need. You insert the sleeves flat which is nice in a knit. They did have a nice trick where they have you press your sleeve and main hems first. You then stitch the shoulders, insert the sleeves flat and sew the underside of the sleeves and side seams as one, before hemming. This means you get that clean hem that comes with hemming in the round, but you avoid the fiddliness of having to measure and press it in the round. Clever. The pattern also offers the ability to print off just the size(s) you need. I'm not going to pretend to understand how this is done, but you just tick the size(s) you want and they are the only ones that print. Quite handy, but since I selected one of the smallest sizes, I was obviously left with quite a lot of blank space around the pattern pieces. This would have been no different without this fancy technology, it was just more obvious.

The tee was entirely constructed on my sewing machine using my walking foot. I used a lightening stretch stitch for construction and the twin needle for hemming, all without issue. The given SA seems pretty wide for the ribbing, leaving the exposed bit of the ribbing very narrow. For next time I would reduce the SA here.

The verdict? I love this tee. I'm very proud of my pattern placement, and I think it looks very professional. Baby Boy couldn't care less, but I did catch him looking at the elephants a couple of times. It's nice that some of them are upside down, so they are right way up when he looks at them. Small Boy was a bit grumpy that he hadn't got one, but grudgingly agreed that the elephants were a bit babyish for a big 5 year old boy. I have promised him a trip to Kitschy Coo to pick out his own fabric. I haven't told him that Mummy has a bit of a queue of her own, though.

Given the difficulty I had last time in getting good photos of the kids, this time I just let Baby Boy do his thang, and recorded him in action. Hence lots of pushing the trolley shots. He loves that trolley, but he can't turn it around, so once he gets to a wall or door, he just cries until you turn him around so he can go back again. Or sits down.