Wednesday, 22 November 2017

McCall's 7381 Dress

Thank you for the lovely comments on my formal dress and also on my wedding anniversary.   Now back to more regular stuff!  The weather here in Hong Kong is finally starting to cool down enough to think about long sleeve dresses so I tried out a recent pattern purchase.

McCall's 7381 is a pretty versatile dress pattern, having 2 bodice, 3 sleeve and 2 skirt variations.  I actually made a version that isn't shown, view C knotted bodice with the shorter skirt and long sleeves.

I cut a size M and folded a bit out of the circumference of the hem sleeve only so that I could fit it onto my 2 yards of fabric.  I also found that I could fit it on over my head quite easily so I left off the snap fastenings on the front bodice overlap and just edge stitched it closed.

If I made the long sleeve version again I'd be tempted to put the sleeve band on before sewing the sleeve seam.  It's not as neat a finish, but the sleeve opening is quite small and would not fit onto the free arm of my sewing machine so it was a bit fiddly to do in the round.

The bodice is lined and the front facings are interfaced so the pleats on the outside stay in place nicely.

The fabric is a poly print featuring colourful parrots - the nature print obsession continues! - admittedly this one is a bit more twee than I'd usually pick, but I think the black background helps make it look a bit more grown up!

I really like the finished dress on the dress form, but I am less keen on it on me although I am hoping I can fix it as I'd definitely like to make it again.  It looks alright in the photos, but I feel uncomfortable and am constantly fiddling with it.  The problems I have are :
  • I find the skirt to be quite short even though I took the tiniest hem allowance that I could.  I planned to wear this with tights and boots, but even so I feel a bit exposed.
  • It's slightly empire line and I think I'd prefer it with a longer bodice so that the waist of the dress hits closer to mine.
  • The fabric in the skirt, which is unlined unlike the bodice, is quite static-y and floaty.
I can make these changes for next time, but to try and save this one I'm thinking of adding a border at the hem in some heavy black crepe I have to both lengthen and weigh down the skirt a bit.  I'm also thinking about whether I can add a skirt lining to the waist seam without having to unpick anything.   

I figure I have nothing to lose, but please do let me know what you think or if you have any other ideas.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

BurdaStyle Ballgown

I don't often go to very formal parties, but when I do I love to make something new.  I had no idea what I wanted so I just went fabric shopping and let that provide the inspiration.

The fabric I chose was a bold floral polyester brocade that I purchased in China.  While I was working on it I was amazed to see that Goodbye Valentino was working on a dress in the exact fabric.  So for once you can actually currently find this fabric at Mood!! - Brocade fabric from Mood.

This is a mix of 2 patterns, both of which are too old to still feature on the BurdaStyle website unfortunately.  I found the images on the Russian site for reference.

Bodice - 03/2008 - 119

Skirt - 07/2004 - 134 .  Previously made here and once again I left off the chiffon side godet pieces. Also, thank you earlier me for labelling that old blog post so I could find the pattern #.

I really procrastinated about whether to do the full skirt from the bodice pattern I had chosen, but in the end decided that it might be a bit too much going on with the floral fabric.  I think in a strapless style though, a full skirt would look amazing.

As usual I didn't leave myself a ton of time to make this so I haven't made many notes or taken many photos of the dress during construction, but let's see what I can remember.....

I interfaced the entire bodice, straightening out the waist seam and moved the darts on the skirt so that they would line up with the princess seams on the bodice.

With this type of dress I like to finish the whole of the outer dress, then make the lining and attach that by hand.  I didn't use the neckline facings, instead just reinforcing the neckline edge with some bias tape and then turning to the inside and hand stitching down.  To get a nice point on the centre of the front neckline, I used a small remnant of lining fabric, stitched the shape of the point, clipped, understitched and then turned and pressed to the inside.  I did the exact same thing on the lining fabric, without the bias tape and remembered to take a few photos which hopefully show better what I am talking about.

Lining remnant stitched right side together at v neckline & clipped at point


View from right side after turning and pressing

View from wrong side

This is how the finished dress looked on the inside before the lining was sewn in.  If you make this I recommend cutting the sleeves with a bit extra seam allowance.  I am sure that they are intended to be self lined, but mine did not quite meet up in the middle leaving some exposed edges.  It didn't matter since I covered this with lining, but still it was a bit annoying!

Finally some more photos taken on the night of the party, these are all phone photos that I had to email to myself (thanks to broken cable connection and probably general tech incompetence) so they are a bit blurry, but hopefully you get the idea!  Overall I was really happy in my dress, maybe next time I go to a ball I will wear this again rather than make another one!

The night of the ball also happened to coincide with our 17th wedding anniversary!  We had a black tie wedding so my husband is wearing the exact outfit he wore back then, actually the bodice of mine was red with a similar neckline now I think about it, wonder if that was subconsciously in my mind all along!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Vogue 1395 Rebecca Taylor Dress

Firstly thank you for the comments on my shirt making post, it's helpful to know it's not just me that finds shirts difficult, but also to get some recommendations for improving my skills.  I will definitely look into the famous David Page Coffin book and Pam Howard's Craftsy class.  Also I really should mention it more often, but since I live in Hong Kong practically all my fabric comes from local stores and markets here or in China which I know is of no help to anyone hoping to source the same fabric, sorry!

Back on more familiar territory now - dresses!  This is Vogue 1395 by Rebecca Taylor in a polka dot linen.

I cut this out and started it in a print fabric ages ago before I realised that you need a fabric that looks at least similar on both sides otherwise the tie looks a mess so I abandoned it.  This is clearly stated on the pattern envelope so I only have myself to blame.  I guess you could self line the tie portion of the overlay if you're really set on a certain fabric?  My penchant for buying crazy print fabric has meant it has taken me a while to get around to attempting this dress again.

I had already cut in a size 10, I would usually start with a 12 now, but fortunately this pattern is pretty forgiving in fit.  I lengthened the skirt by around 5cm as it looked pretty short and also raised the neckline a bit.

It's quite easy to put together, there is a lot of narrow hemming to do around all the overlay edges which is a bit time consuming.  Once the bodice was put together I just breezed on ahead without looking at the instructions and so forgot to catch the centre back portion of the overlay in the waist seam.  When the overlay is tied in place I decided it wouldn't make much difference so I have left it loose.

While I did find a fabric that met the two sides look the same criteria, this linen was a bit stiff for the design, particularly in the sleeve/shoulder area and my sleeves stick out a bit.  I absolutely hate altering anything so I am hoping that the fabric will soften with wear and washing, but if not I will have to make the shoulders narrower.

So to summarise, this is a lovely easy to wear dress pattern, but fabric selection is really important!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

McCall's 7387 Shirt

I have always found shirts quite tricky to make to a standard that I am happy with.  However they are something that is hard for me to get to fit right in RTW and I do like wearing them.  I also think that with practice I will definitely get better - they are not technically that difficult to sew, they just require precision and some internet research on better techniques than is usually found in pattern instructions.

Anyway, I think this is a great looking pattern from McCall's, I like all the variations so I'm thinking that if I work through all of them, making changes and improvements along the way I will learn something....

McCall's 7387 Shirts / Shirtdresses

I decided to start with view A and was determined to make it in a lovely soft horse print cotton.  I underestimated quite how much of a fabric hog that back piece is with the large pleat so I had to leave off the sleeve bands, but I think the print would have looked strange there as the scale of it isn't really suited to narrow bands.

I had quite a few problems along the way and this  is definitely a project I needed to step back from when I had finished so that I could stop focusing on the things I didn't like about it and look at it as a whole.  That said, of course I'm going to dredge up all the problems I had with it here since this is a learning process, but I will not be pointing out any of this stuff when I wear it!

The fabric itself, well the print anyway,  gave me a few problems;
  • Should I try and match it?  I decided not to, I don't think I'd have had enough fabric and just considering how to match the separate front band gave me a headache.  I would have preferred not to have horses bottoms down my front band so that could definitely have been planned better!
  • The blue horses show through to the wrong side of the fabric so I really should have used a plain white fabric for the yoke facing.  I learnt this by the time I got to the collar.
Ghost horses on my back yoke
  • When I put my collar on I realised that I hadn't cut it symmetrically and those horses were taunting me so off it came.  I didn't have enough fabric to redo the collar the way I wanted so I changed to to a collar stand, with a seam in the centre back.
Really annoying collar pattern placement

Then there is the pattern which has some good and bad points;
  • I made a size Medium, it fits perfectly, no adjustments whatsoever.  I would have to add some width to the longer versions, but that is easy.
  • As I mentioned above, I really like all the variations shown in this pattern.
  • I think the instructions should show the burrito method for the back yoke.  I'm annoyed that I thought about this afterwards!  There are lots of tutorials for this on the internet (one example from ClosetCasePatterns) and as long as you cut and sew accurately it is a much cleaner and quicker finish.
  • The hidden placket seems unnecessarily complicated.  I read a few reviews where the reviewer had changed the front bands to a regular shirt front with visible buttons because they couldn't follow the instructions and I thought "I've made closures like this before, how hard can it be?".  Well quite hard it turns out!  I am certain that in the past I have used a much simpler method with extended fronts that you fold to create the band (like this from Threads).  Here the bands are constructed with lots of separate pieces and then sewn on.  There is nothing wrong with the instructions, although the diagrams are quite small, you just need to be very clear which pieces are front band, facing band and fly.  Of course this is a perfectly valid, and probably the traditional, method, but then they go and have you just stick a collar on with no collar stand.  I don't know, I sound really grumpy writing this out, but I just think make your mind up, is this a formal shirt or isn't it?!
After all that moaning and putting the shirt into time out for a bit I have come to appreciate it though I'm going to give myself a bit of breathing space before tackling another version!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Lace Dress : BurdaStyle 02/2009 - 124

I recently travelled to Ireland for a wedding (and decided to have a holiday there while I was at it which was wonderful).  I hadn't planned on making anything new, but as the date got nearer and nearer I remembered that sewing for a special occasion is really one of my favourite types of sewing projects.

I decided to be a bit sensible and choose a simple style that I've made before, but in a special fabric.  I used this old BurdaStyle sheath dress pattern, it's from 02/2009, but I can't find it available online.

I found some guipure lace just over the border in Shenzhen, China in one of my favourite colours and immediately knew it was the one, I also got some matching silk crepe lining.

While this is normally a very straightforward dress to put together, making it in lace is quite time consuming.  I underlined each piece with the silk lining - I always prefer to baste them together by hand on a large flat surface than stitch on the machine.  I also cut the fabric with extra wide seam allowances so I could have plenty of room to fit as I sewed,  which added in extra time for basting, trying on, taking off, tweaking and so on for what seemed like forever.

When I was happy with the fit the seam allowances were trimmed, pressed and then slipstitched by hand to the underlining so they would stay nice and flat.  I didn't add a separate lining so I also wanted the sides to look good and feel smooth.  I used interfaced pieces of the silk crepe for the neck facings.  The hems were also finished by hand.  It was surprising how heavy the dress was when finished, it has a luxurious feel to it and I was really happy with it, but pleased to get it finished after so much handstitching and the deadline fast approaching.

This is the back partway through fitting, the dress form really helped me get pretty close actually.

And the finished dress which looks so simple from the outside!

The wedding itself was fabulous (obviously - you know the Irish are going to put on a good party) and the sun even made an appearance during the outdoor ceremony.    

The whole trip was great, although I'm really stuck with my sewing now that I'm back.  I think I have that trans-seasonal problem that seems to strike - it still feels far too hot to think about anything other than summer clothes, but I am also kind of excited to get stuck in to the recent brilliant issues of Burda.  I can't seem to get my brain to focus on anything, I think a fabric shopping expedition may help don't you?!