First Dungies

1 Hammer Loop added to Kwik Sew 3897

Scissors at the ready!

1 Kwik Sew 3897 DungariesA couple of months ago as shop windows changed their displays for the spring, denim garments of every description exploded onto the scene.  It seemed the right time to address an old injustice of my never having owned a pair of dungarees!

A voice of reason told me to go into any of the shops, like H&M or M&S, and try on a pair to see if they suit me.  But I didn’t.  It would have put me off.  Changing rooms offer such a dispiriting experience.  I often try jeans on and despair at how awful they look, but soon as I change back into the pair I came in – the jeans I wear all the time – I invariably find that they look bad too!

1 Kwik Sew 3897 Pattern envelopeSo instead I bought a dungarees sewing pattern, Kwik Sew 3897, some jean buttons (online) and buckles at £1.60 pence a pair from the haberdasher’s at the market in Bromley (an excellent resource for zips, thread, even boning: Thursdays and Saturdays only).  The buttons which come with matching spikes are extremely easy to apply though I  had a little practice on a scrap, just in case.  I would have liked to have used rivets too but the ones in my stash didn’t match the buttons.  I find this is often the problem with making stuff out of denim: the studs, buttons and rivets available to sewists are never on a par with RTW and your garment inevitably gives off an air of the Eastern Bloc.

1 rivets and buttons

Buttons and rivets for jean wear

The other problem with making denim look rugged and cowgirl (which is how I like it) is that it’s hard to achieve that topstitching perfection on our genteel home-sewing machines.  Perfect bar-tacking?!  Forget it.  Equally spaces double rows? Nah.

Trying to get equal tension on both sides of the fabric was particularly frustrating.  Some of you offered advice when in previous post I showed an example of wonky bobbin thread on topstitched seams.  I learnt how to fiddle with bobbin tension (thanks Kim).  But a reader (thanks, Sue C!) suggested it was impossible to achieve the same effect at home as with an industrial machine designed to take denim.  1 uneven stitchingSo I finished the dungarees as I started, with the usual polyester thread in the bobbin area.  Only on the hammer loop, where both sides show, did I use topstitching thread in both.

So, here I am in my finished dungarees, made using an IKEA curtain (I warned you I had an inexhaustible supply!).

1 Dungees

Likes: simple, clever construction that results in a fairly genuine-looking article.

Dislikes: it’s hard to fit these in a way that would flatter a shaped figure so a muslin is a good idea if your denim is expensive or if you’re fussy about how you present yourself.  I think they’re too big and I could possibly go down a size or two.

And their cut is wide and blokey.  A bit… ‘Bob the Builder’.

1 bob

Changes made:

  • Narrowed the legs a good 4cm (it’s not possible to narrow the hip width without remaking the bib too, as top and bottom are joined in the first stages of construction)
  • Added an extra button at each side
  • Cinched in the waist by adding buttons at an angle, so the top button is closer to the centre than the hip button
  • Added a hammer loop so as to hang me scissors instead of losing them all the time!  🙄
  • Added some extra topstitching, e.g. on the back pockets

1 betty blueVerdict: Soon as I put them on, I realised how comfortable and practical they are.  Shame they’re not more flattering too, like those worn by Betty Blue.  I can wear them when I want to impress with an attitude of capability. 

But why oh why did you people who claim to have lived in dungarees during the 1980s not warn me: if you’re rushing to the toilet, don’t fling the straps behind you when you sit down.  You’ll hear a disheartening ‘chink’ as those buckles hit the porcelain!

1 Back View KS 3897

1 Kwik Sew 3897 Back of Pattern envelope1t rosie the riveter in dungaress

Jane Eyre Dress

1 Gathering Jane Eyre1 Sew 2 pro Jane EyreI like to play around with the ‘governess dress’ theme and the brief I gave myself for this year’s version was ‘demure… or deadly?’

(You do realise, I hope, that almost everything I do and say is tongue-in-cheek 🙂 )

The fabric is pincord, the finest known to humanity.  Over the last few years I’ve made many dresses and shirts out of this and will continue to do so till I run out of supply (this current batch is from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham). I love its softness and warmth; it has substance yet for some designs, say a circle skirt, there is the necessary drape too.  I would have liked the contrasting detail to be just white in a crisp cotton or silk (for a particularly strict governess look) but I worried that the repeated washing would cause the black dye to spoil the whiteness.  The tartan is, I think, a good compromise and on the few occasions I have worn this I’ve been given the thumbs up.

Back in March while making this, I listened to a dramatized serial of Jane Eyre on Radio 4 with what I consider to be among the most interesting young actors around, Amanda Hale and Tom Burke, in the main roles.  As I worked on my governess dress, I imagined it on Jane. Here she is, pattering lightly on the stone-flagged floors of draughty Thornfield Hall, dabbing at her permanently dripping nose.  That’s what one of those big, pouchy pockets is for – a hanky! 1 Jane Eyre

The other pocket’s a money bag.  When he remembers, Mr Rochester tends to issue his wages in half-yearly lumps.  But reader, don’t hold it against him, for we have traveled into the past, where there are no nice shops and no stuff to buy.

1 Back View1 Inside outThe back is shaped by two contour darts, the sleeves are ‘bracelet length’ and there’s a side zip.  Do you like how I’ve used tartan leftovers on the inside, including a bias strip as hemming?

Email me if you would like to buy a pattern of this dress which I can design to your measurements. The fit is similar to a shift dress but with room at the front due to the volume from the bust dart gathering.  Being above the knee, it has a sixties, mod vibe.  The level of skill: intermediate.

Link: Quiz: How Jane Eyre are you

1 Je

Pintucks

1 stylearc faith with loop and button closure1 front

1 faith 2

The original Stylearc Faith

Nothing new to see here: this is the same blouse as in my Bishop Sleeves post.

But there are some brutally frank close-ups of the loop and button closure, the less than perfect collar as well as pintucks.

The idea was ‘to upgrade, with ambition’ the Stylearc Faith Top I made earlier this year out of lawn and judged to be wearable but a bit simple.  I fear it’s one of those garments you suspect makes people think ‘you spent hours and hours sewing, just to make that?’  The pintucks were wide and the back-of-neck gathers too crude.  But I thought it had potential.

1 stylear faith hackThis garment has more interesting details, the fabric is silk and I will enjoy the feeling of luxury every time I fiddle with the loops and covered buttons while getting it on and off. It’s not precise enough in execution to save for special occasions. This will be an everyday blouse worn over a tight vest to give me warmth and decent coverage throughout our too cold summers.

In the process I made two mistakes which led me to learn a couple of important lessons. The first relates to sewing sheer fabric where the seams show through.  This doesn’t look good.  It doesn’t so much matter on the side seams but the original bodice front had a centre seam which in the sheer version looked ugly, despite my using French seam to keep raw edges hidden. So I had to discard attempt number one (after all the pintucks were made – 🙄 ) and started again, creating a single front piece which was then slit at the neckline with a very narrow facing to which the rouleau strip loops were attached.  In short, Lesson One: re-design your pattern to reduce the number of seams.

The second hard lesson was first chronologically and is more relevant in that it relates to pintucks.  I decided to begin by making the back first to give me practice of pintucks in the less visible area (in the  Faith pattern, this area is gathered).  But despite careful calculations (or so I thought), the finished piece ended up too narrow to fit my shoulders. I’d already widened the shoulders to eliminate the raglan sleeves but it was nowhere enough so I had to chuck that away and start again, this time making longer than required pintucks on a rectangular piece and when they were finished cutting out the pattern piece so that the pintucked area would fit the neck piece.  1 back stylearc faith

Pintucks are not for everyone; they require so much time that you have to be a bit of a fan to think it’s worth it.  Here are some tips if you want to give them a go:

  • On woven fabrics, where the grain of a fabric is visible, or where there’s a visible pattern like on this striped chiffon, you can use the lines as a guide to the placement of pintucks and their width.

 

  • Some use a double needle to make them, I used a pintuck foot.  .1 pintuck food

 

  • Press each side of pintuck after it’s formed to sink in stitches, then press to one side.

 

 

 

1 and tie knots nicely

Pintucks on reverse

  • I used a basting stitch, later removed, to mark the end points of each pintuck so to know exactly where to stop stitching.  (Chalk lines turned to dust and disappeared under all the pressing and  jumping from machine to ironing board.)

 

 

  • 1 take thread to wrong sideYou cannot backstitch at the ends: it looks unattractive.  Instead, pass each thread to the wrong side, using a hand sewing needle (yes, lots of time-consuming threading) and tie into a  secure knot, taking care not to ‘choke’ the pintuck.

And two very important points:

  • Stiffen your fabric to make it easier to handle if your pintucks are fine. You can use starch on cotton. I used gelatine.
1 jcrew pintuck

J Crew Pintuck blouse

  • If you don’t want to risk making your pattern pieces too small by adding pintucks, make them on separate sections of fabric then add to the garment.  Many RTW garments tend to have them applied in sections, as in this JCrew top (quite similar in colour to mine.)

 

 

This post  looks at pintucks from a historical sewing angle and was very helpful in my research.  It shows something that had completely escaped me in my focus on sewing the garment I’d envisaged: that pintucks are often horizontal. (As the post suggests, use the straightgrain or crossgrain but never bias as it’s too stretchy).

You could put a few rows of horizontal ones on a little girl’s dress and unpick them as she grows out of the length.  On coloured fabric, there’d emerge an interesting colour difference due to fading.  Just don’t forget to make them first and then cut your pattern 1 Helline Denim dresspiece.

Here’s a great denim dress with what look like horizontal pintucks….  I may just copy it someday.

Have you ever been potty about pintucks?!