Sporting Mabel

Making things to fit into my everyday wardrobe does not come naturally to me. The endless opportunities sewing allows means I get swayed by the dressy and fabulous, neglecting the things that I actually choose to wear.

Trying to be more mindful of my every-day clothes, last summer I noticed that I mainly wore a short denim skirt I’d picked up on Walthamstow market for about £1.99. The skirt doesn’t really fit and is a-line, one of my not-so-flattering silhouettes. So, whilst it suited my mood and lifestyle, I knew I could make something much better.

I chose some denim coloured cord that I have in my stash. It has a slight stretch, thus I chose Mabel by Colette Patterns to pair it with. (This is my second Colette make with this fabric, the other is my frequently-worn Clovers.)

I decided to play up the jeans look, as I had with my clovers, by cutting the front pattern as a pair. I planned to sew a flat-felled seam. However, after sewing the first part of the seam, wrong sides together, and pressing it open, I decided that I liked the contrast of the grey (wrong side of the fabric) against the darker blue of the right side. I changed plan and left the wrong side exposed, simply turning the raw edge under and sewing the seam allowance down with some grey thread to blend in.

This led me to think of a ribbed waistband I had that was left over from a sweatshirt I used in an earlier refashioning project. So I used this instead of cutting a waistband from the pattern. The ribbing was pretty light-wight so I interfaced it with some wool jersey.

This is the second time I have made up Mabel. It’s a great pattern for heavier-weight jersey or, in this case, woven fabric with some stretch. I’m pretty pleased with the organic way the design for this skirt came together and I’ve already paired it with a number of wardrobe staples.

Mabel out flat.

Mabel out flat.

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Denim MoJo

I’m breaking a long sewing/blogging hiatus with something nice and simple.

I’d earmarked this Burda pattern for a wollen woven top that I didn’t get round to making last winter.

Burda Shift Dress Line Drawing

Burda Shift Dress Line Drawing

http://http://www.burdastyle.com/pattern_store/patterns/shift-dress-092012

Then inspired by a suddenly remembered spread in a fashion magazine, the first few exercises in Colette Pattern’s Wardrobe Architect series, and an article in InStyle about current denim trends, I came up with the idea for an jean-y version I could throw on or style up.

A page from my inspiration book

A page from my inspiration book

I tried to incorporate some of the features from my inspiration dress; all seams have a dark red top-stitching and I finished the openings with a facing flipped to the outside. However, as the fabric faded a little in the pre-wash, I had to abandon the super-smart denim look and so I left the edges of the facing raw, they’re fraying nicely. The straight seams are flat-felled and the darts are clipped close to the top-stitching.

Here’s the dress on a lovely breezy beach walk. I’ve also worn it with tights and a long-sleeve jersey top underneath. I will see if I can style it for a night out, but I can’t see me wearing it to work though! Or at least only on a dress down day.

Finally, something to show.

Ah, yes, so that’s where two and a half months goes to. In amongst the job hunting, sewing has been taking place (albeit not as much as I would have liked) and I’m ready to reveal the first item in my summer sewing plan, Colette Clovers.

Stefan and his lovely bread.

Stefan and his lovely bread.

Fabric:
The pattern calls for a fabric with drape. I was worried throughout the construction, that I picked a fabric which was too stiff. It’s sort of a baby corduroy. In the end I think my fabric choice worked well in all but one respect; it caused the waist band to sew up a little tighter than my muslin fabric. But it’s also a little difficult to tell because of that whether the wrinkles are caused by fit or fabric.

Size & Alterations:
I started with a size 14. When I first tried my muslin on I was a little disappointed. It looked good round the legs, but I had flappy droopy poulter-wang crotch syndrome. I started by pinching this out, planning to take a wedge out of the front crotch rise. However, on reading Colette’s sew-along posts for this pattern, I decided that the problem was more that the waist was too big and thus sitting too low. It was also too loose round the hips, so I took it in from the lower hip up to the waist by about three inches.

This solved my dodgy sounding “front area” problem. I then added length to the back crotch rise as the back at the waist was dipping down a little.

In the finished article these alterations were perfect apart from the waist. With hindsight, I should have made the waist a little looser to accommodate the stiffer fabric I was going to use (or it could just be that I put on some weight since the muslin; sitting around at home applying for jobs all day will tend to do that to you.)

Construction:
I love Colette’s pattern instructions. They are simple, concise and easy to understand, and backed up with a wealth of extra material online. I read the preamble to these instructions (rather than diving straight in) and got the idea to draw round the pattern pieces with tailor’s chalk. Yes, this is not new, my mum was doing it in the 60s I suppose, but I’d never really considered forgoing pinning. What convinced me was the thickness of my double layer of fabric. I was never going to get a pin through that. I’m now hooked on tailor’s chalk and have been using it ever since (more of that later).

Instead of a simple inside leg and crotch seam I decided to try out flat felling to make it a bit more jean-ey. I’m glad I did. I’ve got a nice neat seam which will hopefully stand up to some wear. I used an orange cotton thread for the top stitching, which adds to the effect. I finished the out side seams using a Hong Kong finish with coordinating cotton bias binding. Other than this I followed the instructions, except that I forgot to try Colette’s interesting method for attaching the waist-band facing. I got carried away by the finishing line and thus forgot… D’oh.

Wearability: make again?
I’ve worn these trousers multiple times since, despite the waist band being too tight. I love them. They coordinate with, and have brought into heavy use, other me-made items. I’ve got at least another five or so versions of this pattern in my head, but I may try to limit myself to two or three more! OK, before I adjudge that excessive, one pair will be a work version and another a brightly patterned version to tie in with the patterned trouser trend (although, by the time I get round to making them, that trend may be over… oh, well).

Anyway, in the spirit of Criticism is Good, any thoughts on the fit of these trews? I personally like it (i.e. it feels like it fits), but are there any obvious adjustments you’d make based on my wrinkles!

From the Wardrobe: Decanter Fine Wine Encounter

I’m going to delve back into previous makes and blog them for posterity! First up, a Burda Magazine dress I made for our annual jaunt to the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, where I encountered a LOT of wine.

Pattern: Dress 111, September 2009 edition of Burda Magazine.

Made/occasion: Made in Oct/Nov 2012 for special occasion (see above)

Alterations/Fitting: No design alterations apart from fully lining the dress. Fitted well, apart from at hips. Decreased hips by inch or two (this is a normal adjustment for me as my hips are narrower than the pattern models used).

Fabric: Not sure of the fiber content. Structure is taffetta like. Main colour is black with small woven grey diamonds at intervals, and there is a woven boarder of antique gold, copper and pewter flowers. My biggest mistake was pre-washing this fabric. The fabric didn’t shrink, but there are now distortions in the weave which show up as grey crease marks. No amount of pressing gets rid of these babies (but I might try sending it for dry cleaning to see what happens).

Pattern instructions: They were typically minimally Burda-y. I.e. you could follow them, but they’re not giving you any extra. HOWEVER, there is a mysterious ‘lining’ piece that I didn’t figure out until half way through the muslin stage. Why, oh why, I thought, is there only one lining piece? Well, it isn’t a lining piece, that’s why. This dress is unlined as drafted in the magazine. No! The ‘lining’ piece is actually an internal structure keeping the two princess side pieces where they’re supposed to be. Absence of this piece means the front and back pleats are free to pull open. As I wasn’t lining my muslin I omitted this piece at the fitting stage only to hastily stitch it in as my pleats went flapping around all over the place. In the finished piece I used silk organza for the, ahem, structural lining.

The mysterious 'lining'

The mysterious ‘lining’

My construction notes/ thoughts: I picked this dress because I really wanted to showcase the border weave on this fabric. Most of the fabric is boring black and I didn’t want to just have the border around the skirt hem. Therefore I pieced the dress using the border in the central front and back pieces (upside down), and in the cap sleeves as well as round the skirt. I deliberately pieced the cap sleeves differently so that I didn’t have two bold flowers staring at you from my shoulders. I like the way the fabric placing highlights the face and decolletage.

I lined the dress by using the drafted pattern pieces, but cutting and sewing the bodice pieces at the pleat overlap lines, so the lining is smooth (this will make sense if you look at the pattern pieces). Instead of constructing the cap sleeves as full circles, folded in half and basted before setting in, as drafted, I cut a half circle from the shell fabric and one from the lining, hemming them at the long straight edge before setting them in as per the instructions. I hand-picked the lining at the neck and round the armholes.

Recommend/make again?: This is quite an elegant dress. It is also unusual with the front and back pleating, and I like the way the pleat matches up with the skirt pleats to look like a continuous fold when wearing a belt (when not, you can see the waist seam). This is quite a sophisticated design element for Burda, I think. I’ll leave you to decide if you can cope with the extra fabric over the boob area. I was concerned before-hand, but decided it’s not too much for me.

I would make this again. I like the style, but the fabric means I won’t be wearing this unless for best. A nice, red, woolen version would be smart for work, I think.

Look what I found...

My first Encounter of the day

WordPress likes to offer me related content when writing posts. Here’s one to help you matching those lovely pleats on the front of the Burda dress. Making sure they line up means you can take advantage of this sophisticated style element

Like water on shale: reviewing Laurel

Although I sewed a proper muslin to test the fit of the Colette Laurel, I decided to further test fit and construction by sewing and entering another version in the competition. I’d had this stripy silky fabric in my stash for a number of years. I’d fallen in love with the muted colours (like the colour of shale or slate when wet) but had no idea what to do with it. The lines are not regular enough to create optical illusions with clever cutting and I didn’t want to break them up anyway. When Laurel came out with only bust darts to break up the pattern I decided now was its moment in the sun and it seemed the obvious choice for my second entry.

Dabbling in cloning

Dabbling in cloning

Pattern Used: Colette Patterns Laurel (released March 2013)

Size and Version: Size 14 & Versions 1/2/3 (it’s hard to say which because I didn’t use many of their features, just the basic dress)

Modifications: I decided against the drafted sleeves as I feared they’d elide with the main dress causing one big mass o’ fabric. The last dress I sewed had nice little cap sleeves so I decided to recreate them and pair them with a peter-pan collar in solid colour (black nubby silk) to bring out the pattern. For the cap sleeves, I used the included sleeve pattern, but just cut it off in a straight line under the front and back notches. (I did make sure this worked by sewing a draft on to my muslin.) I drafted the collar myself.

Fit from pattern: Size 14 fitted well across the bust, but was too large everywhere else. I also found the bust dart points were too high, so I lowered them (and they still look high in the photos). I took out about 4 inches around the waist and hip circumference; 0.5 at each back waist dart, and 0.75 at the side seams front and back, graduating from nothing just below the bust. This seemed to make the muslin fit, but after finishing the final garment I decided it was still too large/sacky, and took out another 3 inches by sewing down each side seam, again from below the bust.

Construction: Because the fabric is thin and I didn’t want it clinging to everything, I underlined AND lined this dress. I used muslin (in the British English sense of the word), this has given it a nice spongy feel. The lining is of unknown fibre, but is a Pierre Balmain remnant, apparently lost in a West German warehouse for the last 30 years! I have never caught my man-outside-Sainsbury’s telling porkie-pies, so I’m generally convinced that this is true.

I basted the underlining to the fashion fabric round all edges and then treated as one. Because I was lining the dress I didn’t follow the pattern instructions, but used, instead, what is rapidly becoming my favourite construction method. Sewing the lining and fashion fabric right sides together at the neck and armholes, then pulling the back pieces right-way-out through the shoulders. The zip is then inserted and the side seams finished last. Because I’d sewn the sleeves and collars identically, with the solid fabric sewn to the lining fabric along the outside edges, I treated them the same when attaching the lining to the dress fashion fabric. That is, I just sandwiched them between the lining and fashion fabric so that when I turned the dress the right way out, the were in place and caught in the seams (if that makes any sense at all!).

Feelings on the final dress: I wasn’t sure if I would like this dress. Because of my shape I try and steer clear of anything that falls straight from the bust. The fabric I used is silky, and so I just about avoid the sack look (IMO), but I did take the sides in quite considerably just before hemming, to give it a better fit; possibly too much as there is a little pulling across the back. That said, I like it and I will wear it. Probably to up-market day-dos, like a conference or networking.

Lessons learnt & future focus:

  1. I need to do Full Bust Adjustments from now on. I have to face the fact that choosing the size based on my bust measurement and scaling down the waist and hips doth not a good fit make elsewhere
  2. D’oh, when drafting the collar (which wraps round from CF to CB), I drafted a piece for the front and a piece for the back, sewing them together at the shoulder. Because I had a top collar, under collar with fusible interfacing, fashion fabric, underlining and lining all seamed at the shoulder, this gave me a seam with 12 (six fabrics x tw0 for the folded over allowance, you follow?) layers of fabric to sew through. I could’ve just eliminated shoulder seam on the collar…
  3. Silky fabrics, silky fabrics, must learn to cut silky fabrics on grain (although please note that the stripes on this fabric are not on grain anyway, so they squiff off to the right on purpose), and to sew them well (sewing this really was like walking on wet shale)
  4. Zips, in silky fabrics; mine is bubbly, not good
  5. Hemming, argh, I’m always too impatient and for some reason I can never cut a straight one. I really need to make sure I spend the time perfecting this. I had hoped with the addition of the underlining that you wouldn’t be able to see the hem, but you can and it’s bubbly

Make again?: I’m going to have to say… No. I like this dress and I love my other one, but I sewed these two dresses for the competition. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could make something I would normally avoid, look good on me. I’ve concluded that I prefer shaping at the waist.

Notes on the Pattern: Although I used an alternative method to the instructions, I did read through them before starting to get a basic idea of the pattern, and they are very well written and easy to understand. I like the hand-holding explanations of common sewing terms. I think they can up a new seamstress’s game quite quickly (I mean, who ever learnt about stay-stiching from a Burda Magazine pattern?).

Hullo world (or, at least, the part interested in sewing)

Louis, Louis (er, and Louis) (from 2noblecrows)

Louis, Louis (er, and Louis) (from 2noblecrows)

The Louis Vuitton eyelet fabric from spring 2012 registered immediately on my bride radar (more on what tickles that in later posts). With the frustration of knowing I would never be able to find that fabric (unless my fabric-stall man outside Sainsbury’s happened to find it lurking in his magical warehouse), I parked it as airy, frothy inspiration. That was until Colette Patterns announced a competition to coincide with the launch of their new pattern, Laurel.

“Yes!” I thought “it’s now or never. Can I possibly recreate something that looks anything like Louis’s eyelets?” The answer, after several weeks of production-line sewing is, probably not! But, then again, does that matter?