My Girl

1 my girl1 fit and flare bodice and circle

Fitted dresses are not very suitable for small children as they tend to have rather large stomachs“.  I’m  always amused when I read this sentence from Winifred Aldrich’s instructions on constructing ‘the Classic Dress Block’.  To my imagination (fed on too much fiction), it suggests children to be a separate species: alien, greedy, inconvenient….

My daughter, who just turned eleven, is at the upper end of the height range for Aldrich’s girls block and I think this ‘fit and flare’ style really works.  The first bodice was far too short and wide and took two more muslins to get right but they were simple to make and very little shaping was required: the side seams took care of the fit with the only darts being the 1.5cm wide nips from the back neckline to each shoulder blade.  After making the bodice, I cut the skirt based on the measurement of the garment waist, working out the radius and cutting this out as a circle from the remaining fabric first folded into 4.  (By Hand London has a really clever Circle Skirt App that does this more easily but I don’t think theirs is the most efficient use of fabric if you haven’t got much.)

1 flareWould you believe that this short skirt has more than 3m of circumference at its lower edge?!  I bought some bargain bias binding and hemmed with that: it’s a much quicker way to hem a circle than all that folding and pinning.

1 Back view

But while sewing for girls isn’t as tricky as fitting a woman’s bodice, there can be, er,  complications.  Some children are very ticklish.  Not to mention absolutely terrified of you coming at them with a tray of pins!

Oh the dramatics we had, and the cajoling…

This was made for the Year 6 Leavers’ Production of Peter Pan (Year 6 is when UK children leave Primary School).  My daughter practiced hard and read for several parts in the auditions with the hope of being Tinker Bell – she of the emerald bodice, iridescent skirt and a doughnut in her hair!  Instead she was chosen for the part of Narrator.  There are some wonderful costume opportunities in Peter Pan, for girls and boys.  I remember a sticker book of Disney characters I had as a child.  How I loved Tiger Lily with her smooth black hair.  I‘d have loved to dress in moccasins and fringed suede.  But for the Narrator’s role, all that was required was an “occasion dress”.  I kept it simple.  Zip, velvet ribbon, bias binding and Japanese cotton fabric (from Stitch) cost under £15, so no great loss if she never wear this again – though she bloody well should!

I’m very proud of my daughter.  She has tried hard to make her mark in a large primary school with 120 pupils in her age group.  Over the years, she has produced work of super quality, played her ukulele in school concerts with confidence and calm and bounced back from setbacks with admirable resilience.  She insists that I don’t teach her to sew so imagine my delight when from time to time she astounds us by producing  gifts of soft toys she made by following internet tutes  🙂

1 Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi

Left to right: Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi

A Pleasant Alteration

Phase Eight Ninette after straps adjustmentMy client, a first-year student, was shopping for an outfit to wear at a wedding and spotted this beautiful, expensive dress in Phase Eight.  She waited until it was in the sales then bought it for a fraction of the original price.

That’s the kind of thing I like to do.

Except that when I play chicken with the shops, my coveted item sells out, thereby becoming ‘the one that got away’ I spend years afterwards searching for on Ebay and in charity shops, just in case….  🙄

I suspect the reason why Phase Eight didn’t sell out of this number is that the straps are too long.  This size 8 had an excess of 5cm (2inches) that I took out.

Normally I baulk at alterations (there are some horrid ‘prom dresses’ in suburbia), but I loved this dress at first sight.  The colours remind of me of staining you get picking and eating cherries!  The skirt conceals a tulle underskirt between two layers of white lining: the outer lining stops the netting catching on the dress fabric and the inner lining makes the underskirt more comfortable against the skin.  The fabric is polyester: stiff but not organza.  The bodice is interfaced with a soft backing which prevent it from being too sheer and it is also lined.

This is the wrong side of the strap, before the alteration.  Observe how ‘helpfully’ the white bodice lining is a few mm narrower than the bodice.1 Before

I felt I knew what to do – though that did not stop my hands trembling when I unpicked the stitches!

1 Opened up

Step 1 – opening up. It’s important not to be afraid of removing enough stitches to make room for sewing of the shoulder seams. P.S. Notice the white interfacing on the fashion fabric.

1 right sides together, stitch straps

Step 2 – press right sides together, pin and stitch bodice 2.5cm away from original stitching line. Trim and press open.

1 Right sides together, stitch lining straps

Step 3 – the fiddly bit. RIght sides together, sew the lining straps 2.7cm in from original stitching. (Ok, so I did sew 2.5cm the first time, but as it lies in the inner curve, the lining ended up longer than the bodice and had to be redone).

1 slipstitch lining to fashion fabric

Step 4 – press opened seam allowances to the inside, pin and slipstitch together.

1 After

Inside of adjusted strap

1 after, right side

The right side

Does my method look right?  Would you have improvements to suggest?  I charged £15 for about 90 minutes work (opinion welcome…)  It’s one of those tasks that would take a third of the time once you’ve done it so often that you’re more confident.

I really enjoyed this job.  It came at the end of a week which began nastily on Monday.  On Monday, I spent hours sewing double layers of crinkly chiffon for a client who wanted them turned into two gift shop scarves.  It worked out a fraction of the minimum wage.  I might write about that some day 🙄  🙂

But whilst on the subject of lovely RTW dresses and summer, here are a couple of links:

Almost Famous, one of my favourite shops (though I tend to look rather than buy) is also having a sale.

Fancy picking cherries and blackberries?  It’s time to make Summer Pudding!1 summer pud

Vincent VG

1 VVG

1 FabricI got this amazing jersey from Jeff and rushed to show it to a friend of mine, an art lover I see a few times a year who I can count on to enthuse unreservedly about my more offbeat finds.  Not this time.  She looked doubtful.  ‘I think,‘ she said slowly, ‘that might work in small amounts.’

What the…?!     😡  

Does this happen to you?  Do you sometimes grow out of friends you assumed were for life?!

Oh, I jest  🙂

Mccalls 6559

The pattern, McCall’s 6559, I had in the stash as I’d once made it into a vest dress for a friend in Croatia (review here).  It’s quick and easy (if oversized) but I like some ambition in my projects to help me learn and improve so I decided to add a couple of elements to the simple design.  What I really wanted was to make this unusual – I was determined to celebrate my find!

The first deviation from View C was the 13cm splits to the side seams.  So far, so good.  1 split

Less successful were the ruffles I painstakingly cut and folded from bias strips of silky georgette.  After I attached them to the armholes, they simply didn’t sit subtly and softly enough so had to be cut off.

1t armhole frill

Instead I bound the neckline and armscyes with loops of 4cm cut longways, their total length some 5cm shorter than the length of garment and stretched lightly to fit.  I don’t like how the instructions ask for the neckline and armholes to be folded under twice to a total of 1.5cm and stitched.  This would make the neckline really low.  On the other hand, the armholes do need to be cut away if you’re going to use binding.  I removed 1cm and it’s not quite enough.

1 binding

To complete the look I call ‘Urge Overkitsch’, I borrowed my daughter’s nail varnish (hmm, too pearly) and decorated a pair of flip flops by knotting them with 100 water balloons (£2 a packet from Tiger).  It’s a project that works best with the plainest of plastic flip flops which I didn’t have so these are my son’s Hawaianas.  He’s really mad about it; tells me to get my own flip flops to tie balloons to.  But he wears them around the garden, I notice.

Jeff always chats to me about my purchases.  He couldn’t tell me much this time except that this thick, cotton-like jersey is produced in Germany and some kind of royalty fee is involved in the reproduction which is why at £12 it’s more expensive than most of his fabrics.  Do you like it?  I have a metre left, enough for a T-shirt,  so any suggestions for what might work are most welcome.  And if you can, please let me know if you recognize any of the paintings in the collage.  Here’s another close-up:1 VVG Fabric

1 Running

Colette Aster

1 Colette Aster side view1 Front ViewBack in May when Colette introduced their latest pattern, a few critics commented that Aster was unambitious and sadly lacking those vintage-inspired details that once differentiated Colette from the ‘Big 4’.  I needed a blank canvas on which to experiment with collar design so I bought the downloadable version ($12) and tested it by sewing Version 1 using some dyed calico that had been festering in my stash.  No frugality was spared in the making!  The large buttons were ripped off an old Boden shirt.  I think they contribute to a very ‘Eastern totalitarian regime’ look that I can’t help returning to from time to time.  Even the blue is the exact shade of the envelopes used during my 10 years of growing up in Yugoslavia (there was never much variety in the stationery available – that is a capitalist affectation!)

Ignore the too-tiny collar which would have been more in proportion had it been 5.5cm instead of 4cm deep but I ran out of fabric.  Next time I make Aster, I promise the collar will steal the show!

1 Colette Aster YokeI don’t consider myself a beginner so I was quietly entertained during the sewing process when Aster showed me a couple of new tricks!  Firstly, the all-clean method of sewing the yoke so that it looks the same on the inside as on the outside.  colette aster yokeThis is unofficially called the Burrito method and is nowhere near as complicated as this diagram suggests.  If you want to give it a go but without Aster, Grainline Studio does a Burrito tutorial here.

1 Tuck bias binding into placket

Secondly, I picked up this smart method  of finishing the neckline with bias binding, the ends of which are tucked into the placket on the inside of the garment.  It’s not difficult to do neatly but ensure you tailor-tack the clipping point accurately.

Likes

  • A good fit.  I achieved this by cheating somewhat: I went down from 6 to 4 (I’m cup B and Colette patterns are sized for a cup C) which saved me from the shame! hassle of having to do a small bust adjustment.
  • It’s so quick to make, thanks to the bias-bound neckline.
  • The variations offered by the three versions mean that you can create quite a few wardrobe staples, none of which need to be as bland as my muslin.

1 colette aster technical drawing

Dislikes

  • This is the umpteenth time it’s happened but there just isn’t enough length in those gathering stitches that round the sleeve cap.  If you look closely, see how much excess is at the sleeve back?  That’s because I couldn’t line up the apex with the shoulder seam.   I suggest you extend the gathering stitch area by an inch on both sides and you’ll have more control when attaching the sleeve.
  • Hemming instructions are oddly taciturn.  Don’t hem at the end as instructed.  Use my method as it’s easy and looks better.  Important: you need to go through these steps before sewing the vertical seams of the placket!
1 Fold under seam allonwanc

Fold and press placket as in the instructions but don’t stitch. Fold and press the 1.5cm (5/8″) Hem allowance

Fold half the hem allowance under and press. Pin up to the placket. Clip corner. Make a small nick in the bottom of the placket fold to reduce bulk when it is folded in the next step.

Fold placket along pressed edges and pin. Stitch entire hem including the placket. Finally, stitch the vertical seams of the placket.

 

Conclusion

I’m impressed by this unassuming number.  It’s well-fitting, easy and versatile.  And I learnt something.

I leave you with my Worker’s Elbows pic!

1t Colette Aster Back View