Me-Made-May’12

I, Marianna of Sew 2 Pro, will endeavour to wear at least one made-by-me garment each day for the duration of May 2012.’

When I signed up for this group project, initiated by the sustainable sewing blogger So Zo What Do You Know, I little anticipated what big parts in my wardrobe would be played by a coat, boots and a brolly.  Hang on, didn’t I actually see one parent in the playground wearing gloves?! 

Never again will I smirk when I hear the folk say: “Never cast a clout till May is out.”

Elizabethans

The day the Queen came to town, I wore the dress I named after mum to Queen Elizabeth I.  This picture was taken at a fashion booth, one of many, that was on display during the visit.  My coat, brolly and bag were temporarily put on the floor, causing a small security concern. 

Along with Trash! this dress featured heavily in the first half of the month and I don’t want to see it again till October, although I discovered it teams up nicely with a Pipetto Originals belt that I wear with jeans sometimes.

Pleats

Saturdays saw me in my two pleated tops.  Here’s Number 1 worn whilst hassling the McCulloch & Wallis dummy (as is my custom).

And here’s Nicotine Surprise, worn with a nearly camouflaged doggy.

My fascination with pleats was indulged some more when the warm weather returned.  Here’s the Lime Burda 7378.

Schoolrun Skirt

Probably the Me-Made outfit I wear the most in the summer.  I made it some 3 years ago by adapting the Basic Skirt Block into an A-line.  The fabric is an old, discontinued print from Alexander Henry called Zen Charmer which seems equally popular with the kids and the mums. 

Every year I buy a simple top or two to wear with this skirt.  This year, in the spirit of Me-Made, I trimmed a H&M T-shirt with some black crochet-type lace that I didn’t know what to do with for years.  I’m not sure if this mini-project was executed entirely professionally (notice how the T-shirt stretches out where the lace has been sewn on), but seeing a bit of skin through the lace is a nice effect.

New Look 6459

Recently, I made a smart, new version of this pattern but here are a couple of the oldest dresses I’ve ever made.  In fact, I’m thinking of retiring them as the fabric is old and the zips not up to close scrutiny.  The problem is that I still love them so I wear them on hot days at home when I’m burning dinner and I’ll probably give them one last holiday in the scorching sun.  In other words, they’re beachwear!  And the halter necks helps with the tanning.

NL 6459 in faded Viva Frida fabric (by Alexander Henry again)

And in Tattoo by Alexander Henry.  This dress is now 5 years old.  How many RTW dresses would put up with so many summers of use?

Heartbreak

If it hadn’t been for Me-Made-May’12, I wouldn’t have had the camera out in the garden on that first warm Sunday of the month (13th), when we also happened to snap my daughter carrying her kitten Blackadder: the only picture of the two of them together.  Blackadder was killed days later and we miss him more than I can say.

Dear Blacky,

Thank you for being a part of our family and adding so much love and fun to our days.

I’d hoped we’d have years. What a fine lapcat you’d have become!

Enjoy your sleep.

M&C xx

Skirt Nouveau

If I lived in Paris, I’d probably get used to sights like this.  But in my neck of the woods, the creeping, enigmatic lines of the Art Nouveau style are rather rare, so when I glimpsed this Liberty-style fabric from Classic Textiles (44 Goldhawk Road, £7 a metre), I felt a real longing to get myself a piece! I had visions of making myself a Colette Jasmine blouse and, with a long and narrow skirt, coming across all Mrs Dalloway.  That plan went on the backburner the moment I saw this Girl’s Gingham Skirt in the May 12 issue of the Burda magazine.

I decided I had to make it for my daughter and I used my Art Nouveau print to give it a slightly more grown-up tone (gingham is lovely but too much like the school uniform!).

This was my first Burda magazine pattern.  The instructions were clear enough, though there wasn’t much handholding (in other words, beginners beware…).  I traced the pieces onto newspaper and added seam allowances by using a sewing gauge and a fashion curve.  I picked the largest waist size and added 4cm in length which fits my  132cm -tall 7 year-old.

I made each sash double-sided (from two pieces of fabric) though from what I understand, the instructions call for one piece with the long sides folded under.

I left out the lace on the underskirt as I didn’t want to detract from the print.  Although the underskirt is 2cm longer than the print skirt, it doesn’t quite show: I guess I went a little wrong in my measurements!

The pockets on this skirt are charming: they have flaps, piping and Cute Buttons.  Along with the underskirt, they elevate this skirt pattern to something more special than a simple gathered skirt made from rectangles of fabric.  Every little girl deserves one of these!!

Holiday, Wedding, Funeral

Burda 7378 is a sleeveless dress with pleats radiating from a raised waistline and two darts at the back.  Last summer when I bought the pattern, I wasn’t sure if my beginner’s skills would be up to a pattern marked “average” but having been rather intrigued by pleats that feature so often on Ready-to-Wear clothes, I thought I’d at least get some insight into their construction.  Rolls and Rems provided an easy-to-work cotton poplin (at £4.95 a 115cm-width metre) and invigorated en route by the fabric’s fantastic colour I quickly set to work.

After this:

And this:

And this:

I ended up with this:

I wore my Burda 7378 on my last summer holiday and loved the contrast between the colour of the dress and my tan (those were the days!).  Though the pleats weren’t perfectly executed, I still gained much satisfaction looking down at them.  After my hols, being very much under the impression that the pattern was a thumbs-up, I made two more versions.

A sophisticated, funeral-friendly black:

 And a shot-silk version, fully lined in an oyster acetate:

Here’s a close-up of the fabric.  It’s by John Kaldor and was bought at a considerable discount from Geoff Rosenberg.  The colours are to die for!

So, having finished all three, imagine my disappointment (here we go!) when I put them on for the purposes of this photo shoot only to be told by my DH that this pattern makes me “look fat”.

Huh?  Now he tells me?!  Ok, I admit that a couple of times last summer when I wore the lime dress to slap-up meals, I thought to myself: ”Thank goodness there’s enough room in here!”  In fact, I’d even made a mental note to recommend this pattern to anyone accommodating a 4-5 month-old fetus!

And in case you think it’s the stiff poplin, let me emphasise that the two more drapey fabrics don’t make it much better: this really isn’t the pattern for you if your waist is the particular feature you like to accentuate.  Maybe the dress would look better in View A - a maxi.  But I’d still hesitate to recommend it if you aren’t tall.

If all this hasn’t put you off and you decide to give this dress a go, here are a couple of notes on sizing and modification:

Sizing

If you’re between sizes, go down: you’ll be fine!  My three dresses are size 10 (US: 6) though I’m 12 hips on a good day.

Sewing the Straps and the Lining

By following the pattern instructions, you’ll be attaching the lining to the fashion fabric at the neckline and armscyes, handstitching the lining to the zip then sewing the dress straps as in the diagram above.  The lining straps are then machine-stitched before the garment is turned to the right side and the fashion fabric straps are slip-stitched (Step 14).  The best of my attempts at this produced:

It wasn’t so simple with the silk!  But you don’t have to follow the instructions slavishly!  Having for some months now been an avid reader of the Slapdash Sewist, I now know that there is another way.  If you’re averse to handsewing and if the slip-stitch isn’t your best couture move, I refer you to Slapdash’s All-Machine Clean-Finish Sleeveless Bodice Lining Tutorial.  Especially recommended if you’re making the long, fully lined version of dress.

Good luck and let me know how it went!

P.S. I don’t care if it does make me look fat: I’m ready for that Holiday/Wedding/Funeral…

Love Missile NL 6459 F

 

 

 

It’s great to come across a pattern that yields a flattering garment with the minimum of hassle; it’s greater still when that pattern comes with enough variations to create an entire season’s wardrobe. New Look 6459 is a sleeveless dress with darts to the bodice and some definition to the waist which gives it a feminine silhouette.  It lends itself to anything from a beach bum dress to quite respectable evening wear (more on that later).

Here are a couple of versions I made previously: some of the first garments I ever made, both now dying of old age. 

For the Summer 2012 version (which, given the weather, I shall mostly be wearing with boots, a cropped cardie and a brolly), I’ve made View F in a soft lawn by John Kaldor, bought for £8 a metre from Geoff Rosenberg.  

I bought the fabric while finishing my Mad Men Challenge dress when, still in a vintage mood, I was drawn to the Betty Draper-like print of the deep pink roses and leaves on a purple-grey background.  It’s quite a departure from my usual loon prints!

A beginner making this pattern (marked “Easy”) could follow the instructions, as I did the first time I made it, and end up with a very good dress.  But with a little modification, NL 6459 View F can be upgraded to a fantastic dress!  Here are a few notes which you may find helpful:

1 Beware of Cutting the Bodice from a Printed Fabric

Beware of the centre front seam on the bodice and cut carefully if using a print fabric.  The Front Bodice has a centre seam which is at a slight diagonal.  This is necessary in order for the straps to be straight on the grainline.  The first time I cut the bodice and sewed the centre seam, the break in the flowers ruined the look of the front:

This simply wouldn’t have done, being just below the cleavage and something of a focal point.  I decided to make this piece my bodice lining.  The second time I cut the bodice front, I made sure the stitching line fell on the “blank” parts.  The result is more professional and presentable:

2 Suggested Improvement to Bodice Lining

The instructions call for the bodice and the bodice lining to be sewn together to the skirt and the zip to be attached to both.  I did this when making this dress in 2008.  The inside looks like this:

Ok, but not ideal to have the ugliness of those edges staring up at you every time you disrobe!  An improvement would be achieved by the following:

a) After step 19 in the instructions, edge-finish the bottom of the lining.  I do this by pressing under 0.5cm and zigzaging.

b) Stitch bodice to skirt and attach zip at centre back.

c) With right sides together, stitch bodice to bodice lining.  Leave the short edges of the straps unstitched.  You will be turning the garment to the right side through these gaps!

d) Stitch the side of the lining to the zip.

e) Push the garment to the right side through the gaps and press.

The result it the more pro this:

Please note that you would not be able to do this with Views A-E as the bodice and the straps are not in one continuous piece.

3 Option for Strap Adjustment

When stitching the bodice to bodice lining, there’s an area of 3cm on the back which is to be left unstitched.  This is to allow for the insertion of the strap in one of the final stages of the making of the dress.  It means that the length of the strap can be adjusted to suit.  My tip is to leave a wider area unstitched (4cm-5cm) so that at the fitting stage you can:

  •  fit the straps to the left or right of the suggested positioning,.  This is useful if you want to hide your bra straps when wearing the dress.  Choose the bra you want to wear with the finished dress and wear it to the fitting as the position of bra straps can vary a lot.
  • angle the ends of the straps slightly towards the centre if your shoulders are like mine slightly sloping
Consider these variations:
 
  • Find a smart fabric, cut the skirt pieces some 10cm-15cm longer for the dress to cover the knees (find the most flattering cut-off point), put some interfacing in the bodice and you’ve got yourself a number elegant enough for theatre.
  • Make the dress from a stretch jersey.  Sure, it’ll cling mercilessly to your stomach, as jersey dresses tend to do.  Hell, you might even feel the need to sign up for Pilates classes.  But this is a small price to pay for the fact you won’t have to insert a zip!!

Right, I’m off to go make this again…