Friday 30 January 2015

Jungle January jacket

Given the amount of animal print fabric in my stash it was only a matter of time before I gave in to the roaring attraction of Pretty Grievances' Jungle January. I had an end of the bolt piece of fabric with a tiny amount of stretch in it and picked this pattern from Knipmode december 2013.

It had been a while since I made a Knipmode jacket and as there's rumour of inconsistency in sizing I thread traced the seam lines and added generous seam allowances. Instead of making a muslin (nothing around that would mimic the drape and stretch of this fabric) I imagined I could fit along the way. What could go wrong with such a straightforward pattern?

For starters: the neckline curve was way off. I checked the pattern pieces to see if the neckline was stretched, despite my staystitching. Nope. The only way to fix it was by adding four darts, thus removing 12 cm (!) equally divided over front and back. That's not a fitting issue, that's bad drafting! And what makes me really angry is that, by looking at the magazine pictures again, I think they knew. See for yourself.

Luckily animal print provides good camouflage for unwanted darts and I can do the necklace trick as well.

Now let's discuss the other elephant in the room jungle. Have another close look at those models. What's up with their arms? Could it have something to do with an incredibly low and therefore very restrictive armscye?

Not even my generous seam allowances could fix this completely. Darn, my jungle chic-ish jacket is utterly useless for climbing trees, friction based fire making or wrestling a python!

Never mind, I'll wear it open. Makes it easier to flash my Hong Kong finished seams and facings as well!

Needless to say this pattern will get its walking papers. As a wearable muslin this jacket will do, as long as I remember to get changed when cleaning windows ;)

Frozen jungle!

Wee-ooh wim-o-weh.......Lion alert!!!

Happy jungle sewing, and let's be careful out there!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Deer and Doe in the snow

O, irony! When I reflected on last year's sewing I noticed my least worn 2014 garment was a black Anna dress. The first thing I made in 2015? Another black dress! I know, I know. To balance this decision the time was right for a remake of my most worn garment of 2014, a Deer and Doe Plantain shirt. In the unpredictable Dutch climate long sleeved shirts are never out of season and my first Plantain has been in heavy rotation.

The pattern is a free download and can be found here. Construction wise I have nothing to add to the earlier post, it was a quick and easy project. I used a lightweight stretch fabric, consisting of a sheer black layer with wrinkled taupe cotton jersey with cut-outs as a top layer.

Clockwise: neckband detail, sheer under layer and top layer

For the neckband and elbow patches I used the wrong side of the fabric. 
Did you mention elbow patches? Come on, show them!

That will do. Thank you.

I usually take my pictures by using a tripod. So awkward! Static poses, caused by trying not to move out of focus, forced smiles or dumb pointing with a clearly visible remote, it's my least favourite part of blogging. Could you tell that for this shoot I was modelling for a real person, challenging me to try some silly different poses?

Prepare yourself, Mr Foxgloves. Snowball fight!

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Finished McCall's/Burda shirtdress

The tale of three shirtdresses, merged into one: the finale! It was one of those projects that unexpectedly took forever. This dress started as a McCall's 6696 for Christmas. 
After tracing the pattern I wanted some more drama, and drama is exactly what I got. In more ways than one, ha! 
In an earlier post I described how I selected the bodice of Burda 5/2010 #137, a self drafted 3/4 circle skirt and the sleeves of said M6696.
All three elements came with their own set of troubles. Sigh.

I made a muslin for the bodice and made adjustments for forward shoulders, a small FBA, and added an inch to the indecently low neckline. Because of the altered shoulders I needed to adjust the collar and lapels as well. They were constructed in a rather unusual way:

The bodice had a cut-on facing in the front, but no facing for the back neckline was included so I drafted one. 

On the left you can see the facing, and the collar during construction.
Due to shortage of fabric I had to redraft the skirt to a half circle skirt. On the front I added extra width for the cut-on button band and facings, in line with the bodice facings.

After cutting the sleeves I had some doubts. Cruella de Vil vibes?
I went looking for pictures all over the internet but, other than the envelope pictures, no one seemed to have to used the long sleeves with pointed cuffs of M6696. 

A quick poll on Instagram showed most of the reactions were in favour of the cuffs. Democratic decision made (and not regretted!).

So....Bodice? Check! Sleeves? Check! Skirt? Check! Construction time!

This happy dance was days later, after testing buttonholes, sewing eleven of them, using a chalk marker to get the hem straight and handstitching four metres of hem, finished with satin bias tape.

Will I make this dress again? Probably yes. After all the work put into fitting this pattern mix it deserves a remake. I imagine a sleeveless summer dress in bright floral fabric or white linen. 
What will I change? Looking at the pictures I think the curved waistline on the bodice will look better if it's straightened out. And I will shorten the vertical darts. In fact I will revisit the darts on this one. Odd how revealing pictures can be, compared to what you see in the mirror. Especially when working with black fabric and artificial lights. But it's nothing that can't be fixed!

Now is the glass half full or half empty? In other words, did I finish my Christmas dress ridiculously late or marvelously early? At least there's one item less on my December 2015 to do list!

Now that the Christmas leftover drinks are out I'd like to thank the Empress of the 1000 Shirtdresses for hosting an inspiring challenge and for pushing back the deadline so many times that even the slowest of shirtdress sewists could finish in time.

Thanks, Mary. Cheers!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

A McCall's dress that didn't fail to impress

This, my dears, is not my long overdue shirtdress for Idle Fancy's Autumn of 1000 shirtdresses. If nothing else, that tiny waist should have been a clue! It is in fact the engagement dress of actress Grace Kelly.

On one of the last days of our Christmas break my youngest daughter and I met at Paleis Het Loo, a Royal palace halfway between our respective homes, to visit the exhibiton 'Grace Kelly, princess and style icon.' The exhibition opened with stunning dresses from Kelly's 50's Hollywood period, most of them designed by costume designers Helen Rose and Edith Head.

A lace dress, designed by Oleg Cassini, made me wonder about the lace pattern placement. The, slightly off center, vertical use of scallops in the skirt puzzled me. Would you cut it like that? The same scallops were used exquisitely in the bodice, especially along the deep v-neck in the back. It was one of Grace Kelly's favourite dresses and seeing the fabulous fit of the bodice makes you understand why. That neckline is to die for.

Of course THE lace dress was the wedding dress Kelly wore in April 1956 when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco. It was designed by Helen Rose and gifted by the MGM studio.

The second part of the exposition showed the dresses from her Monaco years, during which she promoted French Haute Couture and wore designs by Lanvin, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Madame Grès and Chanel. Lots of iconic dresses and accessories, including of course the Kelly bag, were on display. No pictures, as by then security pointed out to me I apparently missed a 'no cameras' sign. Oops.

By the way, did you know that  Grace Kelly was wearing a McCall's dress when she first met her future husband Prince Rainier of Monaco? 

On the day of the scheduled photo session at the palace a power failure in her hotel prevented her from ironing her clothes. This silk taffeta McCall's dress was the only one to emerge uncreased from her suitcases. A sign at the exhibition said: 'It was extraordinary that Grace Kelly wore a dress made from a home sewing easy to make pattern on this important occasion.' She had even advertised the same dress as a model on the cover of a 1955 spring collection pattern book. 
Extraordinary? To be honest, I preferred this dress over some of the designer pieces!

Which brings me back to home sewing. My Christmas dress, the McCall's 6696 meets Burda mix, is finally taking shape. I know. It's halfway January, but since I already missed that deadline I can take my time and finish it whenever I want. As a matter of fact the dress on top of this post vaguely reminded me of my own work in progress. Shirtdress, lapels, jacquard, even the turned sleeve bands......let's get on with it!

Thursday 1 January 2015

Looking back and making plans

From simple tops to a French jacket, sewing wise I've been all over the place in 2014. There were hits, misses and in betweens, so let's do a quick round up.

Best make

My lace Moneta dress. Underlined bodice, French seams, lace pattern matching and many hours of hand sewing. I've been wearing it a lot. It's nice to have a dress that's ready for any party.

Most useful addition to my wardrobe

Without doubt the three Mabel skirts I made so far. Very versatile, filling gaps in my wardrobe. Blogged herehere and here.

Unexpected win

Refashioned peplum top, made by cutting up a frumpy wrap dress.

Favourite dress

This floral Moneta dress always brings a smile on my face!

Most worn

The Deer & Doe Plantain, blogged Before Tripod. It's been worn to death.

Biggest miss

The By Hand London Anna dress. This may come as a surprise because it's my most popular blogpost by far, but I should have listened to my gut feeling. It's not fancy enough for formal wear, I do like my evening gowns to be sleeker. Too much fabric in the skirt. My husband says I look like I'm off to sing in a Very Serious Choir. Nothing wrong with serious choirs but it was not the look I was after (and it can't be unseen now). Maybe I can give the dress a second chance as summer lounge wear by teaming it with beaded sandals and colourful bracelets. Early 70's vibe, anyone?
I think my initial enthusiasm was caused by the bolero jacket. I like it very much and I've worn it on various occasions with a black cocktail dress.

I asked my husband about his favourites. He picked three, because he liked the silhouettes. 

Mabel skirts left and right, in the middle Lekala 8004.

What can I say? If you open any style guide and look for a full hourglass figure these outfits are following all the rules. V-neck, fitted, emphasis on the waist.
When I'm not blinded by shiny new patterns I know what to go for.

As for pattern companies: in 2014 I made patterns from Knipmode, Burda, Vogue, Simplicity, Lekala, Colette Patterns, By Hand London, Deer&Doe and SBCC.
Personal preference: Vogue designer patterns and Burda.

However, looking back I notice that usually any project I pick is the opposite of its predecessor. Sewing simple knit patterns is followed by something more challenging, after sewing a neutral solid I crave for loud and floral. Like I said, all over the place! And why not? I'm wearing everything I make and with only one exception I like it all!
I started the year 2014 with one rule: No Rules!
No restrictions, no limitations, no deadlines.
It really worked for me.
So here's to another year of no rules in the sewing room.

Thank you so much my dear sewing friends all over the world for your inspiration, support and helpful comments. It's been a wonderful year.

I wish you all a very happy, inspired and colourful New Year!

Edit: although I did not follow all the rules I forgot to mention this post was inspired by Gillian. Thanks Gillian, I really enjoyed reading all round ups!