Superstyle me!

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1 v1285 cover pattern envelopeWhat kind of a beast* is this?  No, not him – I mean the dress I’m wearing.

Django can be unpredictable (which is why I look a bit wary here).  Once with his claws he accidentally shredded a dress I was wearing.  But this dress is safe.  The denim’s pretty thick.  In fact the dress holds me up when I sit in it.

1-creaseThis pattern, V1285, was a gift from Lesley, a kind of reciprocal pattern exchange we tried.  She’d told me she was going to send me a pattern from her stash that she thought would suit me and when it arrived I was delighted.  I had an immediate vision of the dress I’d make and went straight to trouble, firstly buying this kind of dark blue-grey stretch denim with a surface sheen redolent of what some of you might call “market jeans”….   (I really believed stretch denim would work as well as the recommended “two-way stretch knits only:” Rayon, Spandex, Cotton Spandex….  )Then I did weird stuff, topstitching everything…  No way was I going to  tolerate those perverse ‘external darts’.  I was like Harrison Ford’s character in Mosquito Coast,  blinded by a ruthless determination… I was so driven to recreate the look of a heartbreakingly expensive Hobbs dress I’d seen years ago, it took me right to the end to admit I was painstakingly recreating the kind of look you get on …. market jeans.  Luckily the tension on home-made topstitching it pretty rubbish so all that expensive topstitching thread is really easy to unpick.  The dress now looks darker and subtler, but those flapping darts are not served well by long periods of sitting down.

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Target: Hobbs NW3 Denim Dress

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Capture: market denim topstitch thang

 

 

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But the worst part was the mistake in the instructions on what is my favourite part of this pattern, the notched neckline band (step 6).  I’m struggling to understand why no review pointed this out….

This is a close up of the notch, on the right side and inside:

The right side looks fine, the inside is a bit unattractive.  But that’s my second bodice.  If you follow the instructions which suggest you attach the neck band to the inside first, you’ll end up with the mess on the right side of the garment.  Really Vogue?  That is perverse.

I think my finished dress looks better off than on.  The A-line skirt is not flattering to my short shape but the notched neckline is fabulous and it’s a good transition garment (to autumn), with lots of coverage if made in a warm fabric.  There’s the option of making a slip and camisole too which I may attempt if I make this again (I’m on the lookout for some shimmering stretch velvet).

How to style it though?  It’s not good enough to stand alone.

A one-inch wide Belt in tan, the same colour as Django?

Or an Animal-print belt?

Tights and heels?  And maybe a silk scarf.

A more colourful vest underneath (something has to be worn underneath as the neckline is low cut and stands out rigidly?)

It seems neither smart enough for an office, nor soft enough for a fun day out!   In what setting does this belong?  A charity shop?!1 vogue 1285 pattern envelope

Should I just remake it, next time avoiding the self-inflicted wounds of attempt no. 1.?

Please advise.

* The number of the beast: V1285 (pattern envelope description) ‘Lined, mock wrap dress has collar, close-fitting bodice with bands, hook and eye, fitted skirt, overlay with mock band, belt loops, sleeve bands and invisible left side zipper. Darts are stitched on the right side of fabric. Lining forms attached slip with shoulder and lingerie straps.  Purchased belt.)1-django-the-pup

Invisible Mending

1-two-holesI dug out of the wardrobe my Jigsaw suit – which I haven’t seen for a few years! – and immediately spotted two little holes on the back of the right shoulder.  ‘Moths!’ I thought, ‘Aargh!!!’  But wait a minute.  If it was moths, why hadn’t they gone for my much tastier wool skirts and cashmere cardies, which I check often and they’re always fine?  In fact the holes looked very much like those I get on my T-shirts, always over the navel area and made, I suspect,1-satchel-strap-buckle by the buckle of my belt.

I think these holes were made by the buckle on the adjustable strap of my bag which I carry on my right.

I needed the suit almost pronto and didn’t have much time to do thorough research on how to repair it but a quick look on YouTube with the search term ‘invisible mending’ was mostly disappointing.  So I improvised a little repair job.  Tell me what you think.

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  • I opened up the lining to get to the inside.  I cut off a small rectangle of fabric from the seam allowance after staystitching it half way to stop fraying.

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  • I cut this rectangle in half and after dabbing some Pritt Stick (don’t scream!) on the affected area of jacket, I stuck the squares over the holes.

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  • I cut a piece of fusible interfacing.  On the inside, I placed it over both patches and pressed with iron to seal all three in place.  I used a piece of silk organza when pressing the right side to stop the garment from getting shine.  No, I really did remember to do this, eventually!

 

1-after-repairNow the right side looked like this.  It was enough to stop light getting through but still those little sunken circles, like a vampire bite in Hammer Horror, bothered me.  I remembered one of my many chats with the dry-cleaner (a bit of a mate of mine these days), who told me the Invisible Mender comes every Thursday to do his thing.  I popped by to ask about the service but the dry cleaner shook his head.  ‘He died!’ he said.  My jaw dropped…  He wouldn’t be recruiting another.  The repairs were costing £50 and people were unwilling to pay, preferring to buy another suit.  ‘But how did he do it?’ I asked.  ‘What did he use?  A machine?!’

‘No, he would ‘weave’, he said.  He shrugged, ‘He’d take thread from the inside…’

A ha !

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  • I went back to the seam allowance that keeps on giving and pulled off some threads.  They were too kinky and very short but luckily I had some thread conditioner.  What I didn’t have, and it would have been most helpful, is a needle threader (where did they all go?!)

 

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  • I had to push the needle in before I could thread it, but eventually I got a little darning system going, trying to incorporate the patches beneath into the weave layer. It really helps when the ‘thread’ is exactly the same colour as the garment.  I kept pressing regularly: it made it all look much better!

 

1-finishedThis is the result, a close up.  I hope you don’t think it looks worse!  The area is bigger than the holes but I hope less noticeable.  It’s more of a ‘graze’ now and if I wear my hair down it will be in a shadow.

Have you ever used an invisible mending service or done it yourself?  Was the repair really invisible?

I leave you with a clip from Lead Balloon, where Jack Dee and Omid Djalili (playing a dry cleaner) have an argument on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Eci0OJbJw

Fluttering Skirt

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As a kid at the seaside I used to be fascinated by rubbery hats adorned with large fluttery flowers worn by the kind of slowly-swimming ladies who didn’t like getting their hair wet. My mother had a different kind of hat, though equally fascinating, as it made your head look like a hedgehog.  She never wore it but I did, indoors, and can still remember the feeling of patting my hands over the hundreds of bendy spines as the hat gripped snugly around my head.1-flutter-skirt

When I found this fabric (£5 per metre in Rashid’s Fabric House on Goldhawk Road) I was delighted – it immediately evoked the swimming caps of yesterday!  Admittedly the colour is black but there is no sobriety to this fabric whatsoever. The flowers flutter excitedly as I move!

I decided to turn it into a skirt.  It’s an atypical choice: I’ve always sought to detract from my sagging saddlebags by keeping the silhouette below the waist smooth.  But having shrunk in recent years and with the recent craze for decent derrieres, I’ve decided it would be fun and mould-breaking to build up a little in that department!

It’s a pencil cut with a kick pleat at the back.  I lined it as the poplin is rather thin.

The base fabric is cotton, a light poplin. The flowers must be polyester: they’re very lightweight, sharply cut and don’t fray.  Since buying this fabric in June I’ve seen similar flowers used in rather unsophisticated RTW, as detail on a shirt front for example.

Each flower is attached in its centre by a couple of small stitches which I suspect are also backstitched as they take some time to unpick..  And I would advise to unpick: catching the petals in the seams would not look good so it’s helpful to use the sequin-sewing approach of removing attachments from the seamlines before sewing.  But unlike with sequins, I was able to move some petals temporarily out of the way by basting them folded back and removing the basting once the stitching was done.  I also removed the flowers from joined pieces in places where two flowers would overlap.  1-flutter-flowers

While I was in Canada in July, my aunt and I had a laugh on the topic of being handed  hand-me downs, something of a tradition amongst Croatians.  She then offered me some of her mostly new or hardly worn clothes which I accepted because she has great taste but also because I thought it would keep a kind of connection across the ocean every time I wear her things.  This silk top is one of my favourites from her stash.  It looks peach but is dusky pink.  It’s very understated, unlike the skirt.  I wore this outfit to the Tate last weekend and the skirt raised a smile with a couple of passers-by.  I wonder if they were reminded of swimming caps!

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But wait, there’s another connection to Canada.  In Ottawa’s Museum of War I saw this Tlingit Armour, a leather shirt covered in Chinese coins which provide protection while signifying status.  It must shake some, huh?  It reminded me of my skirt: like a po-faced, less frivolous brother.1-vest-with-coins

Sewing Smoke

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1 smokeI’m probably the only one who’d like this challenge to last a little longer.  I could spend another day just touching this dress up: a few hand-stitches here to control the flaws, pressing the organza to perfection so the fall of the skirt improves…. But it’s September and no amount of pampering will change the fact that ‘it is what it is’ – an expression I’ve been hearing a lot lately, as if we’re collectively learning to become resigned.  And ‘it is’ a dress which only approximately replicates what I intended it to, the image on the right.

Option 2

 

The Fabric

The cotton bodice worked out well.  The nine pattern pieces are all different and the fit is good.  Instead of inserting boning – which made it difficult to put on in the very first, binned muslin – I flat-stitched all the princess seams, those of the poplin lining too.  This strengthens the shape and means the seam allowances won’t flip over if I ever wash this.  The extra stitching is also meant to give it a utility, punky vibe I’m after.  This ain’t no Will-o’—The-Wisp dress!

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Do you have a stove-top espresso maker?  If so, do you remember getting it out of the box  new and delighting in the  clean silvery aluminium?  That’s the feeling I got when I was shopping and I saw this organza (from here).  I’d seen other possibilities but this one made me excited.  It looks like smoke, it weighs nothing but it’s tough!  Not that I’d go blackberry-picking in it but no shower of pins spilling on it makes it rip, nor me wheeling over it as I push away impatiently from the sewing machine in my chair.  It smells natural when pressed and cares not what setting the iron’s on.  I got lucky with the lining too.  I went straight to the shop which sells my favourite lining (Unique Fabrics) and found a good colour match.  The texture is soft yet it falls and drapes beautifully (unlike your typical dress lining).  Because this skirt isn’t lined but underlined – the pieces joined by French seams of which Le General would himself surely approve – the lining takes the organza down with it, making the skirt less pouffy.

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The Design

I didn’t have much confidence in what I was going to do with the skirt but I thought £20 for 2 metres of silk organza was a risk I could afford (it took another £15 for the zipper, the lining and the bodice fabric with its own lining).  Anita’s method assured me that I could make 2 metres work but I was reluctant to have that very low dipping hem so I did something very much like what Stephanie in Seattle illustrated in the L-shaped picture here.  Imagine a length of silk 200cm x 140cm.  Cut into three = 66 cm x 140cm.  Cut one of the rectangles in half.  These almost-squares are your bias inserts.  Once those bias squares are suspended upon a point on the hem, they fall almost vertically.  Here’s a state-of-the-art explanation fashioned out of a rectangle of red origami paper (yellow on reverse)

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After that, it was a case of pleating and pinning.

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Pleating and pinning – till your arms fall off!

Of course, once I starting pinning the skirt, I got the same madly dipping hem that I’d feared.  Every time I turned my back on the dress, the point would droop another 10cm towards the floor!

Then a truly painful part: the leap of faith as I slashed the skirt open so I could insert a zip into the side.

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Slashing the organza and lining

the zip of horror

It’s not my best zip insertion.  I may just keep my arm dangling over this part when I wear it.

The Construction

Putting everything together took some planning.  There are various traps to fall into such as sewing the side seams of the bodice too soon, or attaching the lining before the topstitching was done.  Joining the bodice to the skirt, right sides together, must have happened when I should have been taking a break or something.  What a mistake: the skirt all lumpy… But I only admitted this to myself after I’d trimmed the seams and edge-stitched the bodice.  🙄  I had to unpick almost all of it.  The second time, I put the bodice on the stand and pinned the skirt to the inside holding it up with several pins to get the excess out of the way and to observe if it hangs straight.  Then I topstitched.

I give myself a C+.  It doesn’t look as good as the dress I just made, nor as good as the dress I’m making now but then again it was a much harder project.  It’s not particularly flattering either – but I suspected this would be the case which is why I’m glad I didn’t choose it to be my wedding dress.  It’s been great to have to think deeply about  construction and design and to work with new, superior materials.  Far as projects go, it was a marathon but I like those   😉

1 swansThis is a technical post.  There’ll be an artistic one to follow.  In the meantime, here’s a reminder of Ruths dress, very different to mine and very much in spirit; as well as Kate’s, now also finished.  I like to think of it as Odette to my Odile!

And there’s one more coming (I think!).