By Hand London Alix

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By Hand London ‘Alix’ is a dress pattern in three length variations to be released shortly.  I made the pattern-test version which is going to be amended once all the testers report their findings.

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The dress was originally conceived as a maxi and according to its designer, Elisalex, it was inspired by the David Hockney painting “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” (1971).  The woman in the painting was and still is a designer, the celebrated Celia Birtwell (somewhere in my stash is a rather rare fabric of hers I bought many years ago).  The design attempts to capture an early seventies vibe.  1-tech-drawing

The blurb reads: Inspired by the dreamy glamour of the 70s, Alix will take you effortlessly from a hazy summer festival to an elegant soiree in town.  A high-waisted prairie dress with a V-neck yoke, inset waistband, tie back belt and a full skirt, pleated at centre front and back.  And best of all, no zipper.  With long, billowing raglan sleeves secured at the wrist with a delicate elasticated cuff and three skirt length option (& everything in between!) Alix can be just as at home worn with a pair of beat up old jeans as she is swooshing down the red carpet…!

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1-muslinUsing some old bedlinen I first made a muslin to familiarize with the instructions (there are usually a few mistakes at the pattern-testing stage which is one of the main reasons why some pattern companies ask for testers; and why it’s helpful for the testers themselves to have experience of using commercial patterns). I also wanted to check how plunging that V-neckline is.  I think the depth is pretty good but after exposing myself liberally all summer, I wanted a warmer garment so in the grey version the front yoke is 3cm higher.

Adjusted pattern piece

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Raising centre front by 3cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-side-alixI’ve made four other changes.  I lengthened the hem by 16cm (as with the raising of the décolletage, I am fully committed to a process of nunnification of this dress).  I have added piping to the waist ties, waistband and the yoke/neck – in fact I made over 6 metres of piping which gave me a lot of satisfaction as I was able to use up one of a hundred pieces of black fabric remnants lying about that I am unable to throw away out of deep loyalty to the two tribes to which I belong: Goth and ‘Green’.  I have lined/underlined the back and skirt (only the front bodice and the sleeves are not lined).  Finally, I thought ‘the delicate elasticated sleeve’ wasn’t ambitious enough and so trimmed the last 3cm off the length then gathered the sleeves into cuffs, which are also piped.  The finished cuff is 3cm tall and 24cm wide all around which is quite a lot more than my wrist measurement but just enough for me to be able to put my hand through without feeling like an escapologist!  Oh, and I interfaced the yoke, back of neck and waistband.

Inside front

Inside front, showing skirt lining.

 

Inside back, showing underlining

Inside back, showing underlining

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-frontWhat I like about this pattern is that it’s nicely constructed (pretty on the inside) and it gives scope to being creative. At first I imagined a mostly black, slinky maxi in viscose, preferably printed with cats or something eccentric and a turquoise waistband, ties, neckline for creating contrast and drama.  But you go to the shops and vision is compromised by the fabrics available. This fabric may appear grey and possibly drab, but I promise that if you 1-fabriclook closely it has sparkle, a sprinkle of a silver metallic. It has a feel of both viscose and wool and was a bargain from Simply Fabrics (which really impressed me with their range this time).  It was the end of a roll so I am going to think very carefully how I will use up the last 0.75 metre I have left.

Family critics like the dress but commented on the unusual appearance of the bust, which is shaped by a small inverted pleat.  It will be difficult to adjust this by changing the pleats to gathers at this stage: those particular pattern pieces are sandwiched between the inner and outer waistband (and indeed, the piping) but it’s worth bearing in mind if you intend to make it yourself.  (*Nipple tweak update: see last photo)1-alix-bhlI hope everything else, like the lovely yoke, will detract, though I may just fix.

Many thanks to the frightening woodland creature who took my pics!

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NIPPLE TWEAK UPDATE: I’ve replaced the pleats with darts, sewing them without unpicking the waistband pieces.  The dart points are machine stitched and from about half way the wider ends are ladder-stitched.  It’s not an ideal way of sewing the dart but I think it’s enough for the unknowing eye to be detracted by all the other detail…  Better?1-nipple-tweak-update

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

First Dungies

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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.

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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!).

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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’.

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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!

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

Pattern Testing the Sarah Shirt

1 By Hand London Sarah by Sew2pro

The Sarah Shirt has just been released. A few weeks ago, By Hand London asked me if I’d like to test their new pattern which I volunteered to do a while back. The offer came at what was a glum time, professionally and weather-wise, and the thought of doing something I’d not tried before put a spring in my step.

1 sarah tech drawingSarah is a swing shirt which means it widens out from the chest. The fabrics recommended are viscose rayon, silk crepe de chine, silk Marocain, silk charmeuse, sandwashed silk, lightweight brushed cotton, cotton voile, cotton silk, challis, sandwashed cupro.  Some of these are a bit esoteric; let me know if you have experience of!

Soon as the PDF arrived,  I assembled it (using my time-smart method) but it took several outings to find the suitable fabric.  Several  reasonably-priced lawns in interesting designs offered themselves but I staunchly resisted as they carried the danger of the shirt flaring out unflatteringly.  I needed drape and knew how it would feel when I found it.

Eventually it cropped up in Fabrics Galore, on Lavender Hill, some 12 minutes walk from Clapham Junction station.  This store has become a bit of a favourite and it has many offerings for other future projects: for example I’m desperate to find an excuse to buy lashings of extra-deep, top-fluffy raspberry fur.  And like me, they’re clearly firm fans of Alexander Henry fabrics: a company whose designs prompted me to buy a sewing machine and learn.

1 fabrics galore bhlWhen I asked about the fabrics listed above, I was showed challis which looked perfect for a warm version of the blouse (Variation 1, long sleeved). The drape I liked best though wasn’t the reasonably-priced viscose I’d envisaged but, ahem, silk at £12 a meter (the requirements state that just over 2m is needed, so ouch).  Even then, I wasn’t immediately convinced.  I held it draped on me in the shop mirror and worried the colours were dark or dull but as the deadline was less than a week away, I convinced myself the fault was in the mirror which was dusty. And I was right!  Outside in the sunshine on the walk back to the station, the colours looked like spring in my hand and I couldn’t wait to get started.

That’s ok, Fabrics Galore!  My mirror’s like that too 🙂

Reinforcing the seam allowance before clipping

Reinforcing the seam allowance before clipping

The shirt is easy to sew for a confident beginner.  Maybe an intermediate level of skill is advised for achieving a professional look to the collar.  But it’s a relatively easy collar: no awkward matching of width to the neckline (there’s a bit of leeway in the button placket) and no dreaded collar stand which always trips up my needle with its thick bits in the corners.  After the collar is attached, there’s what I consider a ‘weak point’ as the collar meets the button placket area.  This has to be clipped into. I don’t like weak points – they make me feel insecure, like the garment’s gonna unravel in public making me look incompetent! – so I took the precaution of interfacing within the seam line before clipping.

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wintry winds: not ideal!

There were some mistakes I spotted and reported back on.  But also some that were noted by the other testers which never entered my peripheral vision at all (B- to C+ is probably the grade I’d be awarded for my effort!).  For example, I never notch (except on sleeves).  Possibly because when I first started out, trying to make head or tail of sewing patterns, notches weren’t on the top of the list of all the stuff I had to decode.

One suggestion I made (as did the other testers) was to add an instruction to stay stitch as much as possible.  The shirt has an inner yoke (I like those), and as it’s attached by the burrito method, there’s quite a bit of traffic in the area so invest some time in this.

Short Sleeve optionsI wasn’t sure what the instructions required regarding the look of the Variation 2 short sleeves: was it the option on the left or the one on the right like the Aster sleeve? I chose the turnback cuffs.

I found this pattern to be true to size.

All our corrections have been included into the released edition.

Finally, something I didn’t think important enough to mention which now bugs me….  As the shirt widens out, side seams become the true bias (or near enough).  I’d take the precaution of stay-stitching the sides before cutting the fabric.  To do this, chalk the outline of a pattern-piece and sew just inside before re-applying the pattern piece and cutting. It’s quite possible you don’t need to, but with certain fabrics which are – unlike me – expensive and unstable, a belt-and-braces approach is my preference.

Sarah BHL Varation 2 front and back1 bhl sarahI don’t often buy patterns as I enjoy drafting my own too much, but BHL is a company to which I’m eternally thankful for making me feel like a goddess whenever I wear my Anna dress.   Discovering that the designer behind it, Elisalex, was completely lovely in her communication and,  despite her young years, definitely a human was a bonus (I’d expected alienating nu-speak of a fashionista).  Haters say pattern testers give up their time and money to advertise freely but I’ve had a bit of excitement and intrigue doing this and I think many of us have bought patterns which appear not to have been tested at all so…   good work, friends!

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But Lose the Issy

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Sophisticated figure-hugging folds redolent of a classical statue, or a dog’s dinner?

Yeah…  1 issy pattern envelope

About that….

I’d had this Stylearc Issy Knit Top on the top of my to-do list for so long that I forgot it was given to me.  This meant that I made the mistake of assuming it was a size 8 like the other Stylearc patterns that I’ve bought (for those uninitiated to this company, the pattern comes in the one size you order).  In fact, it’s a 12.  Even so, and despite my taking it in at all seams, this is huge and the ruching which pools below the waist bears little resemblance to the drawing on the envelope.

A previous review warned that the asymmetric neckline (i.e. the diagonal slant at centre front) is difficult to finish and the underneath tends to flip to the right side.  To prevent this, I decided to trace the top section of the pattern to the bust and make a facing.  This worked fine.  I also found it easy to construct the ‘clever’ and ‘distinctive’ neckline formed by folding back the inner wings of the pattern towards the shoulders.  It’s certainly a style unlike any I’ve tried before and the instructions were thorough.1 issy front pattern1 mournful shroudBut the result is this cowled look which I’ve been seeing on womenswear for a few years now.  At first it seemed an elegant alternative to the simple jersey top but I’ve come to the party too late and it’s all a bit hackneyed.

I’d be happy to post this pattern to anyone up for the challenge of making a better job.  You need to be a UK size 12-14, though there might be less ease if your jersey is tight or thicker than my drapey viscose.  Leave me a message and if there’s more than one ‘applicant’, I’ll do a draw.  The paper is only in an OK condition: it has the inevitable pin marks plus a rip and a scratch where Blogstalker loyally savaged the pattern on my behalf!

Stylearc Issy: Back View with diagonal hem

Stylearc Issy: Back View with diagonal hem

Keep the Faith

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Pin-tucks: there's something very satisfying about sweeping these aside with a hot iron to set shape

Pin-tucks: there’s something very satisfying about sweeping these aside with a hot iron

StyleArc’s Faith Woven Top is graded as medium in difficulty.  This means that those same features that make it a great project for a beginner wishing to learn new tricks might prove the undoing of the more experienced sewist looking to do a fine job – maybe even show off a little –  by trying out couture techniques or testing fitting skills!

Neckline guides - pattern pieces cut from paper only

Neckline guides – pattern pieces cut from paper only

The pattern has five pin-tucks at each side of the centre front, though there’s also the option of gathers.  The back is gathered at the neckline, below the simple mandarin collar.

I’ve noticed StyleArc often provide pattern pieces to be used as guides for checking the finished width of gathers or pin-tucks: something I’ve not noticed with other pattern companies and I nearly forgot to use them but they’re useful for spotting discrepancies before attaching the collar.

1 faith stylearc side viewThe raglan sleeves are easy to sew too, fitted to the shoulder by, in my view, over-simplistic darts. There are no closures; instead there’s a centre front split as well as side seam splits below the waist.

My frustrations, which tended to be slight, came from the simplicity of the pattern.  Take the splits: I like to use French Seams for a clean finish but I haven’t worked out how to do so neatly where the seam breaks into a split (or a pocket, for that matter). Similarly, the raglan sleeves and the flat, upturned collar: the result is somewhat lacking in sophistication. I might have avoided the peasant look by using a light, silky fabric with drape instead of lawn; it would have ensured the fabric skims the figure like on the pattern envelope drawing.  But I doubt then the pintucks would have been easy.

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Crude topstitching (well it was a bit dark!)

Sizing

As with previous StyleArc projects, the ease was spot on. If you require a reference, I bought size 8 and it fits perfectly my 34”/86cm bust and 10”/25cm upper arm.  Though it’s a bit long for my height.

Changes made to the pattern

1 trim into waist–   Interfaced the sleeve tabs lightly.

–   Shortened the sleeves and the hem by 2 cm.

–   After an SPR Reviewer suggested this pattern suffers from a lack of shaping, I trimmed off 1cm from the waist, i.e. the waist is reduced by 4cm all round.  Not sure it helped.

 

Must try harder

I kind of like this: it brings nostalgic memories of mummies at the school gates in the early 1980s… who were probably dressed like this ’cause they were pregnant.   But it needs to be done better.  Next time I’ll:

  •  Use silk (I paid a visit to Simply Fabric last week looking for more Umbrellas in the Rain, but there was no sign of it and the stock was so low so that for the first time I left without buying anything.)
  • Sew 8 narrow pin-tucks on each side, rather than 5 wide ones. I’ll need to stabilise the fabric somehow so please let me know if you have any recommendations.
  • Put in 4-5 small covered buttons at one side of the centre front split with loops on the other
  • Make the sleeves fuller and gathered into cuffs

 

My current project is another Stylearc top. On the evidence of several PR reviews I’ve seen, no one appears to have made a decent job of it. Gulp.

Previous StyleArc Projects

Lea Jersey Wrap Dress

Mara Shirt Dress

Scarlett O’Mara

1 Style arc Mara Shirt Dress1 mara shirt dressIf Style Arc was a parent rather than a pattern company, the kind of parent it would be is the kind that teaches its kid to swim by throwing it into a lake off a jetty.

There ain’t much handholding in the Mara Shirt Dress instructions.

1 Pocket with Flap Style Arc MaraExhibit one: constructing the shirt pocket.  “Fold the pocket in half and stitch as marked on the pattern to create a box pleat.”  But fold in half which way?  Right sides together or wrong sides?  I went with right, which was wrong.  An inch of ink could have explained.  Instead I hear voices:  ‘But Marianna mate, it’s so obvious, how could you have been so …. stupid?!’

1 shirt cuffExhibit two: here’s the shirt cuff.  And amongst the following sentences are the instructions on how to achieve it: “with right sides facing sew the top sleeve to the under sleeve. Follow the notches.  Sew the under sleeve seam and the back seam to down to the sleeve opening.  Sew the outer cuff edge to the sleeve opening, pin the inner cuff to the sleeve seam and sink stitch.”

Yeah,  😕   I’m gonna need some diagrams….1 Stylearc Mara  pocket and short sleeveNotice my sleeves are a lot shorter than on the pattern illustration.  That’s right, there’ve been … amputations.

My choice of fabric – a sheer linen from Simply Fabrics (£6) and redder than these pinkish pictures suggest – compromised the project somewhat as the seam finishes would have been visible from the right side.  So to achieve a less unkempt look, I had to choose French and flat-felled seams; both annoying to alter. Also, I had to omit the side pockets as they showed through and just looked floppy like elephant ears.

1 Style arc Mara Shirt Dress Back view

But despite being traumatised by evidence of my incompetence and amateurism, I enjoyed making this and I think it’s a great-looking dress.  The collar is elegant, the button fly-front looks very professional (and that part was easy) while the sleeves are narrow-fitting and feminine.  During the project, which was drawn out and marked by many interruptions, each morning I’d enter the room where the dress draped over the dummy by the window and I’d be overwhelmed by the gorgeous colour, all walls awash in a shade of blood.

I’m not sure what to wear under it yet.  My jeans are a bit heavy.  Maybe a black leotard and a mini (sooo 1993)?

I’m sewing another vibrant-coloured version of this for my mum but she’s not around for a fitting so I’m off to make something from Colette Patterns now.  Colette’s a helicopter parent.  The kind that reminds you that after sewing the left sleeve to do the other side!  🙂1 S o M

Company of Wolves

1 claylike replacementNl 6459: Rip her to shredsMy friend’s dog jumped up to greet me, his paws on my belly, his claws stuck into the eyelets of my favourite dress.  As I heard a tearing sound, I quickly took his paws thinking, ‘maybe I can fix this,‘ but he slipped, catching himself on a lower rung (so to speak).  Cue more ripping sounds.

I crumpled with laughter.  I love being part of comedy 🙂  My friend though was mortified!  She wanted to take me into the nearest shop and buy me something to wear so I wouldn’t have to go around looking like I’d been savaged by wolves.

Buy me something?!  What, and deprive me of an excuse to make a new dress!?!

1 new look 6459 back viewI love a halter neck dress; all that uninterrupted sunshine on one’s back!  This brown replacement was made in an emergency and it shows.  Maybe I was getting bored of the pattern – New Look 6459, my most  ever made, in all its variations – and sewed in auto-pilot as I realise looking at these pictures that I’ve made it too small.  It’s hard to get this one right: the bodice has to be tight otherwise the strapless back sags.   But I didn’t have to make it tight around the waist and bum!

The fabric is Indian block print cotton, light as lawn and from Simply Fabrics.  It was an impulse buy which I soon regretted.  The colours are earthy and dull.  I worry I look like a mound of clay so I’ve tried to lift it by adding a bit of sparkle in the form of bronze-coloured ricrac.  Shame it sinks into the underarm flesh so you can hardly tell.1 close up w strange beads

But at least I get to wear my strange beads with it.  These two necklaces mysteriously appeared in my house some years ago.  I’d assumed my mum had brought them for my daughter to play with.  I took a liking to them and kept finding outfits that match though the string is prone to breaking and each time I lose a bit of the length.  Once whilst I was wearing them, a woman gave them, and me, a long, curious look, like she wanted to talk to me which struck me as odd, but later a friend saw them and looked similarly surprised.  Guess what she said they’re made of?

Clue: you’d have to have been around in the 70s!

Here Comes the Rain Again

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1 Rain again silk from Simply FabricsI didn’t think this print of figures under umbrellas in heavy rain was going to be of much interest to anyone but myself and maybe a few who sew.  But there I was, in Split, Croatia, feeling pretty cool in this light silk (from Simply Fabrics at £8 a1 selfie metre) during a month-long spell of high temperatures that threatened to break 100-year records, and both the long-suffering locals and exhausted-looking tourists would occasionally give it wistful or WTF glances.

It’s very Londony!  In fact, when I got back to London I was treated to two entire days of dingy skies and the exact same rain as in the print, including a total drenching a long way from home during blackberry-picking!

I shouldn’t have had any issues with sewing Dahlia.  It’s my third.  I knew how much to trim off the neckline so the bra straps are in line with the dress straps (Summer Dahlia  sorted that).  I knew to lower the armholes and interface the waist yoke but to omit the yoke lining which adds too much bulk for the zip to glide.  And the silk, which behaved perfectly between needle and plate, promised to give the drape with which to achieve the sultriness promised on the envelope art.  So, in expectation of perfect results, I started with the skirt, patiently sewing French seams at all the vertical joins.  1t blind hem stitchingI used scraps to practice the blind hem on my machine (Notice my stitches look rather like the lashings of rain…)  But having sewed the skirt, just as I was a mouse-click away from buying a nice cashmere cardigan to match – oh sweet hubris! – I got round to the bodice and found the waist yokes simply didn’t match the bodice in width.  ‘Hang on‘, thought I as I tried to cobble new pieces together from scraps, ‘didn’t this happen before?’  When making my Winter Dahlia, I assumed the same kind of shortfall was my fault because I didn’t cut the lining yoke on the bias, or something.  So I did some belated research.

‘My yoke isn’t wide enough for bodice back!’ said a similarly-challenged seamstress commenting on the Dahlia Sew Along, Part 6.

‘Maybe you’ve forgotten to sew the back darts on the bodice,’ the Sewalong replied.

(You know, I think I’d notice that!)

Maybe I’ve cut them upside down‘.

Sadly, in describing a myriad other problems with the pattern, many bloggers blamed themselves, as I did too, initially.  But I’m getting the big picture.  It’s not us.  It’s Dahlia. Do you have a pattern that’s just toxic? One that keeps tempting you back like a glamorous friend that turns up asking to sleep on your sofa and you think ‘Great!’ forgetting how last time she invited all her dodgy mates back for a party and trashed the place while you were at work…

But it’s not all gloom!  Despite the crude upper half (both the back and front bodice just seem to sag), I enjoy wearing this dress.  It’s soft yet cool against the skin (and not at all sheer).  With an old cardie from the collection, it’s warm enough for the cold summer days that inevitably await. And I discovered upon returning from the holiday that the dress is perfect for my almost-forgotten Lapis Lazuli necklace.  1 Laurel with Lapis Lazuli

Link: an almost-forgotten, brooding, perfect rain song by the Eurythmics

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