But Now It’s a Dress

1 but now..

1 welcome to the dollhouse

1 under my thumbnail

The dark line under my thumbnail isn’t dirt but a bruise!

I wanted fine Rouleau strips to be a key feature of my tablecloth dress, the design of which is based on a client’s gently draping number in viscose.  But I just couldn’t get the strips to turn right side out.  I tried every method – from funnelling to sewing thick thread to the inside to making them so wide that they really didn’t much resemble Rouleau strips at all. My fabric was just too tough to co-operate. I made so many, the strips gradually getting wider and wider until they no longer resembled Rouleau strips at all. After several hours of progressing in mere centimetres and in a perverse way enjoying it, my thumbs became too sore to grip and I came to my senses asking myself: if I was a costumier, would these wasted hours be tolerated by whoever was paying me? Of course not!

1 rouleau strips1 bias binding

So to Plan B which was to make bias binding instead. I cut the strips a mere 2cm wide and pressed until the finished size was 0.5cm. With this method, unlike with Rouleau strips, there is no danger of wrinkling. Even better, just as when I made the Colette Dahlia dress, the binding was used not just to construct the straps but to enclose the neckline too.  1 bodice cf

Getting into this dress is something of an intelligence test. First you step into it, put the halter neck around the back of your head, then slip on the two shoulders straps. It took me a while to master this technique.  Initially there was grappling and I’d be reminded of that scene in Absolutely Fabulous when Patsy gets lacerated on the strings of an elaborate designer lampshade!  :-)

1 go eastI hope these photos – taken in bright light of what was almost mid-day – do justice to this dress.  I love everything about it: the deep blue, the way my skin shows through the gaps (it’s a much better contrast then when the dress was white) and I love how the sun casts interesting shadows about my legs as it peers through the lacing. One advantage of this fabric being somewhat of a toughie is that it doesn’t crease as much as typical dress linen.

1 back white

The only thing that went majorly wrong is that that original back opening that goes down very sensually to the waist – shown in the pre-dye dress here – gaped open too much when I put it on: clear proof that you can’t copy a dress if you use a vastly different fabric.

So I spent some time inserting a lapped zipper and now the back looks like this.

1 back blue

1 beachyNot as sirenish but on the plus side it means I can wear a strapless bra which doesn’t at all show (I’ve had a bra that adapts to a strapless one but haven’t worn it till now).  It isn’t uncomfortable – though I seem to be slightly stooped in some pictures so I think it might take me some time to trust that it’s not going to slip down!  😯

Thanks Etemi for this most fun and creative challenge! I found the tablecloth patterning limited my choices when drafting and resulted in something not so much like the target design but just as good and certainly more wearable!

As ever, I’ve learnt a thing or two and earned the definitive feelgood dress of the summer

The deadline for Etemi’s challenge is this Saturday. I can’t wait to see what the others have done..

P.S. If you’ve lost your keys and they look like this, they’re on the beach at Greenwich!2 keys

It Used to be a Tablecloth

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The barbarians are coming! They’re tearing hand-made heirlooms and (gasp)…. turning them to beach dresses!  Yes, those flimsy things destined to fade and be destroyed by suntan lotion in a mere summer or two.

#usedtobeatablecloth is a sewing challenge where we turn a tablecloth or some forgotten piece of household linen into something summery to wear. I’m taking part because I saw the lovely Little White Dress made by Etemi, the challenge host who blogs as The Secret Costumier, but also because on my second foray to the charity shops in search of suitable material, I got really lucky.  I found a tablecloth very similar to the one Etemi used. I don’t know whether it is indeed handmade – I doubt anyone would have parted with it if that’s the case – but it’s beautiful, if slightly spoilt by a light stain or two.  I found it folded on a rail and as I opened it up wondering if I could use it, an older woman came over admiring it and we struck up a conversation as she wondered how many hours of work went into it. I thought the tablecloth needed a chance of a more worthy owner and did actually ask the woman if she was interested in buying it.  She declined, saying she couldn’t be bothered with all the ironing.

1 tablecloth stillSo now it’s belongs to the barbarian.

Does it look familiar to you?  I’m pretty sure that in Croatia every house proud woman of a certain age has one: I seem to recall drinking glasses of squash at numerous tables adorned thus.

Soon as I’ve made it into a dress I will dye it a dark blue because I’m very much missing my dark blue perforated summer dress that Django the Hun* shredded.  I did a test with some remnants of dye powder to see if it would take and it worked very well.  Not only is the tablecloth made of a natural fibre (linen) but all that thread must be cotton as it took the dye too (I was hoping it would stay white as polyester thread does as the contrast would have looked beautiful).

client's dress close up

The target design

My plan is to make a version of a client’s dress that I altered a year ago.  I thought it was quite chic.  Being twice the age of the client, my dress will be less revealing but I’m aiming for a similar arrangement of rouleau strips, perfect for exposing the shoulders to the rays.  No bra will work with this but I don’t care….a back view

I prepared the pattern in next to no time using my block.  Inevitably, my drafted pattern doesn’t quite match up to the threadwork pattern of the tablecloth and I have already had to rethink the length of the skirt and the width too.  You could have a lot of fun with this, working out the different possibilities of where to place the laced parts.

Etemi is very lovely and her blog well written with clear, very appealing presentation.  We met in June in Goldhawk Road but it turned out I’d come across her before; her refashioned shirt was one of my favourites in the Refashioners Challenge 2015.  Do join us if you can: there’s ten days before the deadline and it’s a quick project – provided you have the right tablecloth.  The challenge post has all the details as well as helpful hints and images to inspire.

I have cut out my pattern pieces ready for the making and look, there’s enough tablecloth left for one or two more dresses! 1 leftovers

*not a barbarian but a Hungarian Viszla!

One Nap

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1 side napOriginally I wanted to make a day version of the Six Nap Dress with a black bodice and a tartan skirt: something weighty that would eliminate the need for many metres of fabric.  I learnt from the dress’ designer, Masayo Yasuki of dogstar clothing, that the skirt has 8 metres of organza and 6 metres of lining.  With so much silk in there, I figured there had to be something very simple and not fiddly  in the way it’s designed, otherwise surely the dress would be more expensive than it was (it retailed at £380).  But what went on in there?  Lots of deep pleats, all the same length (which wasn’t obvious to me till Stephanie pointed it out), and then two extra squares of fabric inserted, one at the front and one at the back, to give those bias dips.  It added up: two more metres in the organza than in the lining.

I had 1.5m of very cheap (but not all that nasty) white polyester lying around.  It feels soft but has weight and movement… and a slightly non-flat, puckered texture that I’ve recently noticed on quite a few H&M and TopShop garments. I attempted to tye-dye it – imagine the contrast of white against a patterned deep blue, had it worked.   Unfortunately it doesn’t get very wet, this fabric, and so the overall effect is a kind of faded blue with a few interesting patched of deeper colour which you probably can’t see.

1 insertOne difficulty I’ve encountered on this project is that most of the draping and pinning of the skirt during the experimental stage has been done with the fabric on the crossgrain, for convenience’ sake.  That way you get the width for all those pleats.  But I was never happy with the fall of the fabric so this time I cut it up into 72cm pieces and joined them.  Then I pressed up and hemmed everything.  I attached it to the bodice, pleating going a bit slapdash by this stage, and I also attached it to the long side zip.  Ah, the joy of finally being able to try it on!  Then I ripped open the original joins (one at the front and one at the back) to insert kite-shaped pieces which hang on the bias, dipping just below the hem. But they’re too small to make an impression of a deliberate style.

In a previous comment, Ruth joked that her own version of the dress is more of a Three Nap than Six.  In which case I better name this One.  I don’t think I’ve ever made anything so sloppy (inside it has the finish of a Great British Sewing Bee garment, all unfinished seams and unmatched thread!).

1 skirt

Having conceived this challenge as far back as in May, I’m keen to move on to other projects.  But this half-hearted draft isn’t a good enough note on which to exit.  So I’m going fabric shopping and maybe the right tartan or even  organza will show up.  Though I’d be much more happy to spend money on the latter if I felt I knew what I was doing.

Which I don’t!

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1 1 nap

Updates and Dates

Hair CutFirstly, may I thank you on behalf of Connie for your kind words of support in her decision to cut her hair short and donate it, as well as to fundraise for the charity which uses the hair to make wigs for children who have lost theirs.  I was so moved that this blog prompted many of you to sponsor her and leave lovely messages.  Amongst the familiar names that I’ve got to know over the years and come to regard as friends, there were, much to my surprise, some unfamiliar ones from a few who outed themselves as readers!  It’s very humbling and I thank you warmly.

sideThe cut was booked for Connie’s 12th birthday and I picked the best hairdresser I know, just in case.  She did a pretty good job!  We quickly got used to the new Connie; in fact it’s hard to believe she hasn’t always looked like this!  When the  salon manager heard what she’s up to, he gave the salon fee to the charity and the hairdresser, the brilliant Yvette, did the same with her tip.  But donations arrived from all angles: friends, family, bloggers, the running community…  The latest amount raised now stands at £429, more than twice the initial target.

IMG_3444The day after, we flew to Canada.  A first-time visit and a memorable trip which strengthened friendships and family ties… even if the children did want to disown me for making them walk long distances.  I will write about the experience some day as I found it inspiring to people-watch in the streets of Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.  But first I’ve to comb through the hundreds of photos we’d taken.

So I return to an imminent deadline for my own Six Napoleon Challenge.  I’ve had feedback from all the participants and unless magic wands are waved over the weekend, the consensus is that probably only one dress has been finished in time to meet the deadline of this Sunday.  Ruth,  you’ve done it again!  I can’t wait to see it, or rather, you in it.

1 t Jo's bodiceDoes this mean that for the rest of us, the challenge is a failure?  Well… not quite.  Other dresses will come I hope.  When they’re ready.  I feel somewhat disappointed in myself in that I haven’t provided the inspiration or the know-how to enable the others to continue – leadership was never my strong point.  But hopefully everyone taking part has learnt or expanded their skills in the process of trying.  Wonderful news came from the west coast of Ireland this week, where my friend Jo is staying with her family …  and a Bernina!  You may recall that back on a teary day in June, Jo and I drafted the Six Nap bodice pattern to fit her.  Afterwards, Jo made the bodice in a rose-print cotton and liked it enough to make it again.

1 t jo

The second version is in a more brocade-like fabric from the stash (we think it might be an upholstery fabric).  It was made to go over a RTW skirt.  I asked if it’s comfortable to wear and was told yes, despite the asymmetry.

1t JO v2 back

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Now Jo is on her third, I think this one calls for a skirt of its own.  Well done Jo: I’m chuffed it worked!

And now, my own experiments….

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I draped following Anita’s method of cutting two stumpy  1 l shapes, sewn together at the short ends. This is similar to joining a circle skirt to a bodice except for the amount of pleating at the lowered waist.  And the circle has been left a rectangle.  I tried it out using pattern paper, joined to make a 2m x 1.4m piece.  (I know  :roll:  I try and live a green life then go axe down a tree, metaphorically).  I even sellotaped back a 10cm deep hem.  It was very noisy!  But it’s the low dip of that corner that concerns me; it would reach my feet.

I used graph paper (like this printable one) to try out some ratios.  1 grraph

The first illustration is as in Anita’s tutorial in her guest post.  The second is as in her suggestion of using 3m of fabric.  I raided the charity shop for some bargain bed linen and used 3m to make this.1 bedsheetIt was more fabric that I could cope with, to be honest, though it helped to drape from the waist rather than the bodice hem.  I will play with the graph paper and try to reduce the diagonal length of that mitred corner.

There’s one more method to try.  Now I’ve always suspected Stephanie to be really clever and was very impressed when in her last post she presented another interpretation of the Six Nap pleats.  Which I’ll attempt next.  This method will also result in a shorter length of the dip.  But whether to go crossgrain and risk puffiness or lengthwise and risk showing lots of joins in the skirt?

It’s All About the Skirt: a guest post from Studio Faro

Option 21 drapeFor the skirt part of the challenge, I’ve been experimenting with folding, pleating and pinning squares and rectangles of fabric to the bodice on the dummy stand.

But the result hasn’t really captured the essence of the Six Napoleon dress.  

So it is time I hand over to the expert!  Welcome to Anita of Studio Faro as she suggests some ideas on how to recreate the skirt….

#FirstSample Skirt, the Six Napoleon Challenge

Firstly I’d like to say huge thanks to Sew2Pro for inviting me to contribute to this fabulous challenge.  And it’s so fortunate that dogstar is one of my favourite local brands producing what is most likely the most interesting designs in Australia.  So many local designers are enslaved to overseas trends and fail to develop a distinct design aesthetic.  Not so dogstar!

I’m late to the party so I won’t be covering the bodice development but offering some ideas for the development of the skirt pattern.  Initially I came up with at least three different ways to get at this pattern and I’ve decided to share the most interesting with you here on the Sew2Pro blog.

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The first thing that caught my eye in the fabulous dress was the dipped hem in the front and the beautiful and generous hem allowance all so obvious in the transparent silk organza. My challenge was to find a way to cut this skirt so that the front dip was in fact a right angle. Very similar to drafting a circle skirt and leaving the corners on! 

The draft above is how I decided to use 2 metres of polyester organza to replicate the skirt of the Six Napoleon Dress. The cut is based on the width of the fabric (140cm), halved to determine the length of the skirt (70cm), of which 11cm will be the hem turning (to finish at 10cm) and the remaining 59cm are the skirt length. This also presents an opportunity to produce a zero-waste pattern.

Where the skirt has a dip in the hem I’ll be using the corner sections of the cut with a mitre in the very deep hem. There will be one dip in the front and one in the back.

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The preparation of the skirt for draping goes like this:

  1. Cut the cloth into two pieces along the cut lines and trim the excess from the mitre seams.
  2. Press under the 1cm turning on the deep hem edges and sew the mitre seams.
  3. Join the two side seams using a French seam or equivalent to avoid the use of overlocking.
  4. Press the 10cm deep hem and pin in place and sew.

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Mark the bottom edge of your bodice on your workroom dummy as a guideline for the draping of the skirt.  Please note where I have indicated for you to pin the longest part of the skirt in the front and back.1 nap6 bodice seam

Begin by pinning the corner of the waist seam to the front right and back left as indicated.  Then space the pleating out for each section of the skirt.

1 6nap top skirt

You can manage the direction and fall of each pleat by shifting it above the bodice seam to get the best drape.  The excess above the seamline will be trimmed back to the seam line plus seam allowance (1cm).

As you can see below, the #FirstSample is a reasonable success.  The high/low in the hemline is there and the effect of the deep hem is maintained.  However I do think this would work a lot better with 3 metres of organza for this layer.  That way there’d be a lot more in the pleating around the waist.

1 final sampleFor the lining of this skirt I’d recommend you use a lining cloth of 150cm width and follow the exact same process giving you an underskirt or lining that’ll be 5cm longer than the organza layer.

And of course we must not forget the opening for the dress!  I intend to slash through on the left side of the skirt for a side seam and mark a notch at 15-18cm where the zip is most likely to end.

There are other methods of working on this skirt pattern and I’m looking forward to seeing them in your own workings.  I’ll be sharing my other methods on my blog well-suited in the coming weeks.  I’m so looking forward to seeing all your wonderful dresses when they’re finished.

Thank you so much Anita!  I’m much indebted.  And I look forward to reading more on well-suited (readers, please do subscribe so as to receive Anita’s updates).  

Here’s a round-up of everyone’s progress.  If I’ve left you out, please leave a comment and a link so I can add you.

Mary, a professional couturier, has explained her bodice-making process in this post.

You can ake the bodice only as my friend Jo is doing.

Fabrickated is under strict supervision of her pattern-cutting tutor Vanda who will not let her settle for second-best.  But isn’t the end of term nigh?  Won’t Kate be saved by the bell?!

Of all the bloggers here, Stephanie in Ottawa has the least drafting experience.  Yet her bodice is perfect.  Will she complete the conundrum that is the skirt with the same high standards and attention to detail?

Stephanie on the other side (Ernie K Designs in Seattle) has written a great analysis of pleats evident in the skirt which helped me visualise where I was going wrong with my rectangles.

Demented Fairy is still marking papers but is steaming with enthusiasm to get stuck in.  She also has the expertise, experience and great fabric.

Ruth who is also a teacher gave most of us a massive head start but is back in the sewing room and has now outlined her splendid plan here.  She’s also found a literary connection to the name for this dress.  It turns out it’s just as much about Sherlock Holmes as it is about the French general.

Pella of Pattern Pandemonium has been intrigued enough to experiment with both the bodice and the skirt but hasn’t got the incentive to make the final article.  Will somebody please invite her daughter to a summer ball!  Maybe Anita’s instructions will inspire her to get back to the stand and make is for herself.

As for me, I’m going away.  I’ll be following your progress eagerly and I’ll hopefully be able to leave comments on your posts but no sewing machine anywhere for me.  Which will be hard.

Anyone else tempted to join us?  The deadline for your images and/or posts is the weekend of 6-7 August.

Phantom of the School Ball

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Yes, it’s meant to be scary…

If I was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, my filmable speciality would be a tendency towards snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by sewing a seam the wrong way around, or cutting into the garment while trimming the final seam, or some such last-minute act of stupidity.

1 the dressBut I learnt a valuable lesson when I met Lesley last year, when in the course of conversation she said she doesn’t generally use small stitches!  I received this heresy with a pretence of calm, afterwards beginning to ask myself why I insist on using the 2.2 straight stitch length which is there by default whenever I switch on the machine. Do I really imagine my garment would fall apart if I stray towards slightly longer?  Ever since, I’ve been gradually forcing myself to go up to 2.6 or even 2.8 (wey hey!!) with no obvious compromise in quality.

This way, unpicking mistakes is much, much quicker!

There were several instances of unpicking in the making of daughter’s speed dress! It’s hard to concentrate in a busy home. Mum popped over on Saturday afternoon so there was chat – not to mention distracting, horrific cries coming from the TV as the ladies Wimbledon final was broadcast!

1 conichiBut I’m dead pleased with how this turned out. I had to think on my feet in designing it, adding to a basic idea of a bodice and a long, rectangle skirt. Daughter was away at a sleepover on Friday night so in her absence I made the bodice and lining based on a pattern made from the cling-film wrap but decided to put some gathering stitches at the neckline, just below the chin, so I had the option of gathering them to make the centre front fit better if it was gaping (it was). I ended up liking this as a feature.

The other feature – the sash – I copied from a dress with a pleated yoke I made for her three years ago which was dug out for reference.  The new yoke is 1.5cm taller to be more in proportion with her now longer torso. I had no time to make pleats and no time for sleeves.  1 Waistband

And I had a bit of serendipity!  Mid-week I was asked to alter a dress for a very lovely client who came half a year ago to be measured for a bridesmaid’s dress which she ordered online (from China) for a now imminent wedding. Instead of having a skirt that’s fully gathered (too girlish?), the client’s dress has gathering around the middle part only. This I decided to copy for daughter’s dress. It has a nice elegance to it and mimics the gathering at the neckline. It was extremely quick to fit: I cut the rectangle twice the width of the bodice and just gathered tightly in the centre, leaving the half sides even.

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The finish isn’t too bad: I pressed the bodice seams open but didn’t do anything else except hide them inside lining. The skirt (i.e. the rectangle) has French seams, even at CB below the zip, because I wanted the inside to look nice as she kicks around!

The hardest bit was getting the back yoke seams to level up across the zip. I spent ages fiddling and unpicking and sewing again then remembered to look at the clock.  I also remembered the sash will largely cover this part!   :roll:

1 maskaDaughter was due at the Masquerade Ball at 6:30pm. I finished the dress at 4 o’clock then gave it a long soak to get rid of the gelatine with which I’d stabilised the fabric. I washed it and it dried in the breeze in only 20 minutes – that’s polyester for you!

1 kosa

But see this cascade of hair? Alas, she is going to have almost all of it cut off and sent to the Little Princess Trust to be used in making a wig for a child who has lost theirs. She’s also fundraising to help the Trust pay the wig weavers (in China) who make the wigs.  If you can, please help her by making a small donation via her “fundraising page”; any amount would be most welcome (but is not, of course, expected.)

This is quite a bold move, I think, as her friends all have long hair.  I would advise her against the short cut but I love that she’s been moved to support the charity … and quietly admire her desire to differentiate.

1 fantom i maca-horz

 

Mummy Dearest

1t jean bodiceThe Six Napoleon Challenge: I am officially postponing the deadline, for two reasons. Firstly, to enable Ruth and Demented Fairy, our teachers/lecturers one of whom is still marking papers, to join us and to add their esteemed grey matter and wealth of sewing experience into the mix.

And, because I have enlisted the help of Anita from Studio Faro.  Anita is a pattern-drafting expert and teacher who demystifies mind-boggling designs in the Pattern Puzzle section of her blog.  She will write a guest post here once she has cleared her current commitments.  This will be followed by something on the Studio Faro blog.

Guys, we’re in good hands!  :-)

Thank you Anita, I’m very grateful.

Challengers: could I ask you to submit something by the first weekend of August (6-7), which is a few days after I come back from my holiday?  I will aim to put everything together on the 8 August.   Apologies to those who feel like you’ve had to rush it, but I trust this will help you.  Or maybe you’re cursing my name because of the inevitability of Parkinson’ Law kicking in, by which I mean that work will drag out to fill the time available!

I’ve got an exciting little deadline to fill the first part of the weekend.  On Wednesday, my daughter announced we should go to a charity fundraising ball at her school on Saturday night because at the beginning of the event she will be doing a dance she has choreographed with a friend, previously scheduled for the Summer Fair but cancelled.  I’d known about the event for some time but was quite keen not to go, not because the tickets are expensive (the aren’t) but because it’s a ‘formal attire’ evening.  It now turns out it’s the only chance I’ll have to see the dance performed on stage.   Daughter will need a dress to wear once her performance is over and she can join us.  In her innocence she planned on wearing her now very tight and slightly stained Tudor Tyrant costume but I suspect a satin fancy dress isn’t the look the organisers are aiming for!  So I reached again for the cling-film, wrapped her up and made this…

1 connie's cling film form

She is a bigger girl than when I last sewed for her exactly a year ago.  There might even be a bust dart in there somewhere!  I now have just over a day to produce a formal dress, using my petroleum-smelling cheap polyester which happens to be in a colour she loves (it’s still stiffened with gelatine).  She’d like me to make something like the beautiful green Greek Goddess dress you can just about see in the top picture which a friend would like fixed after another dressmaker bodged it (no pressure there then…).  But I can only make something very simple in the time.  If I fail (there are 4 errands requiring car trips between now and then), there is always a chance the charity shops will have something lovely in her size.

1 maskeDid I mention it was a masked ball?  We’re making masks too!  If only it wasn’t so windy today and the spray paint didn’t end up on my toes!!  I bought a pack of paper masks and covered two in glue and strips of gauze before painting.  I like the rough texture this has created.

Did I mention I love an adrenaline rush?  And that I’ve replaced my meals with tea so the time I save on preparing and eating food I spend instead …  on the loo 😯   ?

And oh, look: I’ve rescued the black bodice.  I took the advice of reader Sridevi and levelled the tail-like back.  The zip is an open-ended one used for jackets which makes it easy to get in and out of.  But it’s too long.  I don’t know whether to look for a shorter one – what are the odds of finding a 23.5cm open-ended zip? – or to snip this one and tuck the ends inside.   Available zip lengths  is definitely something to consider when drafting this as a bodice alone.  Bonne chance, mes amis. 1 bodice-horz

Frankenstein

1 bodice sideAfter more monstrous activity, the 6 Nap bodice is done.  Well, the first attempt anyway. Actually this is the second.  The first, which included boning, is lying on the floor somewhere.

I’ve had something of a bad week – two disappointments, a minor followed by a major, though neither sewing related.  Certainly the mood is low and the Gothic references will be heavy!

1 the monsterI began as last week when drafting with Jo by sewing a close-fitting bodice with princess seams.  Instead of fabric I used blackout lining left over from the curtains in the old flat (the kids’ bedroom was east-facing and would be light at 5am this time of year!).  I’ve used this for toiles before so didn’t have much left.  Some pieces are the wrong side up and therefore a different colour.  You can see where I patched up the centre–front neckline after I originally cut it too low – hence ‘Frankenstein’.

1 bodiceI love using this PVC-like material as it’s quick to sew and if you use the longest stitch, it unpicks in an instant with no ripping.  No need to staystitch.  It doesn’t distort in spite of all the stretching and pinning over the ironing board (see below), not to mention from getting it on and off countless times.

I pinned and pinched and made it as close-fitting as I could, especially under the bust and from neck line to bustpoint. When I felt sufficiently contained, I put it on the dummy and drew the new style lines, using my tracing of the original dress as a reference and copying the curved lines (lines of longitude) in relation to the asymmetric hem which was the first reference I drew.

 Then, instead of slicing up the bodice as with Jo, I pinned each section to the ironing board, lying it as flat as possible, with a piece of paper underneath.  I pinned along the style lines, so the pins stuck up vertically from the ironing board.

1 pinning

 Laying out Back 1 pattern piece and pin-tracing

I removed the ‘skin job’ from the board, drew from pin to pin, and used my Shoben Fashion Curve to add seam allowances.

Before I forget: if you’re going to do this, start by marking the grainline.  In the above picture it’s the arrow in the middle of the pattern piece.  Just two pins, one at each end, then you can extend the line on the paper.

Here it is, made up in a fabric.

1 fron bodiceIt’s a black poly blend, very firm, nicely textured and slightly glossy.  It feels more expensive than it was (£5 a metre).  I took a shine to it ages ago and now I’ve finally found a project for it, I go back to Goldhawk Road and find it’s the end of the roll.  The first version was made from the better end of the remnant.  I used the fabric for the lining too but ruined it when I attached the bodice to the lining and – all rushing optimism – made an infinity loop.

Don’t be fools like me, my friends: use the second method in this Threads video recommended by Ruth which shows a clean-finish method.  Pretend ‘facing’ is ‘lining’ and all will be fine!  As it frays easily, the fabric didn’t survive the seam ripper so  what you see above it made from the flawed end of the roll with creases that don’t come out (especially noticeable around the shoulder).  Also the lining is cotton lawn which isn’t firm enough.

One challenge in making this to fit me is that I haven’t got the long body of the imaginary model wearing the original dress.  My pieces are really quite small and I’m wondering how to squeeze into the eventual dress.  The top of the side seam with the zipper will have to be open I think.

But the upside of all this is that it’s quick to cut and sew.  I didn’t need to staystich or clip the vertical seams, just finger-pressed them open and steamed over a ham.

I will make this once more but need to go back shopping (or else cut up another curtain!).  There are a few mistakes in drafting to improve, e.g. the asymmetric hem point should be higher and more central.

Whereas the back needs the exact opposite: it should be lower and less central. Right now that is a duck’s arse!1 back of bodice one

I hope those of you who have taken up the challenge are enjoying the karma of my being challenged!  To think that in my younger years I used to believe if it isn’t possible to achieve perfection at first go, it wasn’t worth doing.  Please feel free to criticise or suggest: I won’t mind: I’m really thick skinned!

1 t how am I supposed to sleep on all these pins

Drafting with Jo

gardenI woke today to a mini-flood in the garden. It had rained all night and then it rained on and off all day with the heaviest deluge saved for the early evening which is the time of week when I do racewalk training at the local athletics track.  As my coach worried if lightning was going to strike us, I did only 2km, splashing through the submerged innermost lane, mostly to give my young training partner Izzy (now, she is very talented) someone to chase on her 5 laps in preparation for an upcoming county championships.

1 inThe whole day felt subdued. Humidity, awful traffic and an ironic sense of an impending doom as the nation headed out to vote in the referendum. If I wasn’t such a stickler for driving smoothly (I have a hybrid car…),  I’d have driven into a man who, walking with his family, stepped out to cross the road without looking, ballot papers in hand, heading for a school being used as polling station.  ‘In or out?’, I felt like shouting after him – to find out if I should have driven faster!  😈

I’d voted days before by post, to remain. When the referendum was announced I was slightly more than half in favour that we should remain but as I listened to the arguments of both sides over the past months, my feelings strengthened to an almost certainty. This was after listening to the economic arguments and opinion from family and friends as well as due to a sense of gratitude to the EU I feel for nudging us to clean our environment. (On the other, the UK leads in driving improved standards of animal welfare which is where I wish it to influence other EU countries).

It’s been an interesting time with many people raising their political voice in a debate they feel they can understand, like voting used to be!  1t elisalex and charlotte

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (1985 ed.)Despite the subdued mood, I had fun today as I worked with my friend Jo on drafting the Six Napoleon bodice for her.  The plan was to graft together the Elisalex and Charlotte Skirt Patterns – a process which results in what I understand is called a “Frankenpattern”. Jo and I started sewing at the same time – by coincidence – about ten years ago, starting with simple projects negotiated around raising small children (we met at a weekly mummy-run playgroup at the local community centre which we in turn organised).  I remember how surprised I was to discover I had a fellow sewist in my circle – it wasn’t so trendy then!  Not only that, but Jo told me her parents had given her the old Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, the very book I’d borrowed from Greenwich Library to teach myself with.

Toile no. 1

Toile no. 1

Jo, who’s quite a bit busier than me, has no experience of drafting but she is big a fan of By Hand London because the patterns fit her straight from the envelope. Even so, we had our work cut out for us.  The Elisalex bodice is a bit short of the natural waist and the Charlotte skirt (which has more darts than I’d have asked for!) sits low.  We had to fill in the grey area in between.  We used lots of brown greaseproof paper for tracing and Sellotape for sticking it together. The messy, parchment-like paperwork indeed looked like skin of a monster!

I love visiting Jo. Every corner of her home arouses my curiosity so that I feel compelled to go around asking ‘who made this!?’ and ‘where did you get that?’ and ‘how does this work?.  Your typical nosy foreigner basically…  Not that Jo’s home is cluttered!  :-)  Just indicative of a happy, busy, creative family life.

When Jo quickly made up the first toile on her Bernina and put it on, she shouted: ‘it fits!’  But of course, it wasn’t to be. The front looked good enough but when she turned, the back told a different story.  Masses of gaping at the neck and not enough width below the waist (the bit I’d filled in!).  The hem was a big ragged too!

IMG_3330

As we sat in the basement kitchen for draft 2, a mystery guest, in a tuxedo, watched us nonchalantly from the garden. Jo thinks he was looking for mice among the ferns.

1 mystery guest

Toile 2 fitted better but this time there was horizontal excess at the back so we pinched out a massive 4cm swayback (Jo has a cracking figure, very shaped, with long and slender limbs).  With this sewn up in a dart, we pinned the bodice onto the dummy and carved it up using the Six Napoleon sketch as a guide as to where to place the seams.

1 bodice 21 bodice 2 back

Toile Number 2.  Cotton fabric, vintage Laura Ashley

Using pins to mark new style lines for the Six Napoleon Bodice

Using pins to mark new style lines for the Six Napoleon Bodice

bodice drawing

We cut along these lines and when I left Jo, she was pinning the pieces to paper and drawing 1cm seam allowances all around.

1 pinning the pattern piece

We’re not aiming for a close, corset-like fit for Jo.  She would like to wear this as a top only, over a skirt or with jeans.  This threw up some interesting dilemmas:

  • As a stand-alone garment, will the bodice be too short or will it provide adequate coverage over the stomach and hips?

 

  • The zip is to be fitted onto the longer side of the bodice.  Even so, will this opening be wide enough to squeeze into the garment?

 

  • Maybe the zipper should be top to bottom, like an open-ended jacket zipper?

 

  • In which case, can one buy a concealed zipper in this format?

 

  • I’ve been making my own bodice too.  After making a mistake when cutting the first pieces of the lining, I gave Jo strict instructions: cut fashion fabric right side up; cut lining fabric wrong side up.  So that they fit each other.

 

  • Finally… After making a mistake when sewing my own bodice and lining… In what order do we attach the bodice and lining?  Without ending up with the curse that is the infinity loop….!  Any pointers gratefully received.

 

To be continued…

The Mummy

1 mummy bodice drawingHere’s something you don’t see every day.  On a sewing blog.

I attempted to make a close-fitting model of myself, which to then carve up along the Six Napoleon seam lines into 9 pieces (five for bodice front and four for the back). The plan was to lay these long, narrow pieces flat on paper and trace around, also adding seam allowances and grainlines for an accurate bodice pattern.

1 back of the mummy

In a method similar to making a duct tape dummy, I had my ‘husband’ wrap multiple layers of cheap industrial clingfilm (shrinkwrap) firmly around me into a kind of semi-rigid carapace.  It’s the stuff used to wrap pallets.

At first I wanted just a kind of corset.  The shoulder straps were added as an afterthought, the idea being that I’d get an accurate angle of the shoulder.

Unfortunately we got rather carried away and wrapped way too tightly!

As you can see from all the flesh squeezed out into my armpits and general resemblance to sausages.

Before the mummification, I’d put on a bra to give my bust the volume and support that I’d want while wearing the dress.  I also wore one of those waist-trainers which I bought to wear under my wedding dress.  It reduces my waist by 1-2 cm.  The corseting took off another 3!

There’s something fascinating about feeling yourself becoming smaller and… plastic.  I enjoyed smoothing each new layer around me as I twirled around. 1 experiment in corsetry My husband drew a line down the side, roughly representative of a side seam, and the warp was then slowly and carefully cut along this mark whereupon my flesh spilled out of its casing like a hot haggis.

1 haggis

Haggis – tastier than you’d think

But the clingfilm form is too small to be of use. The inner layers are less rigid than the outer ones and after releasing they pull a little, shrinking.  But had my husband not then gone to France (screaming into the distance), I’d have given this another go as I believe it could work with more layers and aiming for snugness rather than tightness.

This is probably not something any right-thinking person would do, but for the rest of you who might here are some tips:

  • Be careful.  Don’t attempt to do this on yourself or you might have to offer an embarrassing explanation down the Accident & Emergency Ward.  Get a well-briefed friend to help you!
  • Don’t rush it or you might fall over.  The process took some twenty minutes starting with my husband walking around me, till he got dizzy.  He sat down and instead I slowly rotated on the spot in front of him till I got dizzy.  But I couldn’t sit down!
  • Wear a swimming costume or leotard with a side seam to give your friend an indication of where the cutting line should be.  For a balanced bodice, draw on both sides before cutting as it will be difficult to know where the opposite side seam is once the form is off.
  • Snip carefully.
  • When binding, don’t pull too tight above the midriff.
  • Post update Official: it’s not just nutters who do this. Fashion Incubator – who is a clothes-manufacturing industry professional and extremely experienced – did a similar experiment.  Check out the post here.  There’s good advice in the comments too.  Thanks to Pella for the tip!

1 corset