Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sari Dress

Happy Australia Day! I think I can still technically wish all and sundry that, since we're in between the actual day and the actual public holiday (celebrated on Monday - say what you will, we Australians do love our three-day-weekends).

I've been wavering a little as to how to 'classify' this dress - it is a refashion, but since it's a refashion from an old sari (which let's face it, is really just a length of fabric) there's really not a whole lot of imagination involved. Maybe I'll chalk it up as both.... Here 'tis:

The sari itself was beautiful - silk, with a gold/mustard floral main print down the centre, with a cream printed border then a red outer one. And having worn this to work on a 37deg day (which Mr Google tells me is 98.6 Farenheit) I can confidently state that it's as light as air to wear!

Much as I adore yellow and all her tonal friends, it's not really the ideal shade for me - not around my face, anyhow. (I tend to get asked sympathetically if I'm feeling alright :/ ). I thought I could just about get away with it if I used the red at the neckline though. (In your face, Colour Me Beautiful!) I used Simplicity 4072 as a starting point, and reshaped the bodice and armholes so it was fitted. I widened the midriff band so as to make use of the cream border as well.

The front bands took a bit of working out. The pattern piece is straight up from the midriff, then angles back  and curves along the neckline. The red border, obviously, does neither of these. I managed to place the upper, longer curved part so that it didn't lose the red pattern, but the straight front was more of a problem. I ended up making the each band into two pieces, and sewing them together at the point the pattern angles. While I don't love having an extra seam there, I'm pretty happy with how I matched the pattern.

The back bands needed slightly different treatment. I ended up cutting an extra piece for each of the cotton voile lining, gathering along each side of the red border print, then positioning it on the extra piece and sewing it down. And I felt pretty smug about matching the pattern at the shoulder seams too!


Pride goes before a fall however - I completely forgot to match up the pattern on the side midriff seams. Oops. Although I think I'd be pretty miffed if I had spent the time to, because when I tried it on I had to take it in a bit anyway - my mock up fabric obviously wasn't the best choice for accuracy, I guess...

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THIS:  The only thing I'd do differently if I were making it again would be to do extra lining pieces for the front bodice bands as well as the back. The back just sits a lot better I think. The silk itself is so light that I think it could do with that little extra bit of weight at the neckline. It's a small complaint though, and since I can very happily live with it as is I'm not about to dismantle the front to fix it.

The best thing about this dress for me is that it actually fills a wardrobe gap.  We have a couple of 40+ degree days every summer - even in south-eastern Australia - and coming up with outfits that are a bit dressier in really hot weather is a bit of challenge. So tick that one off the list!

Have a wonderful week :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Go-To Dress

I have to confess, I wasn't sure about writing a post on this particular refashion project. At first it just didn't seem impressive enough to warrant it! But then it occurred to me that not only has it become a bit of a wardrobe staple for me, but it's also actually a good example of how sometimes it doesn't take much effort to turn a festival of frump into a bona fide favourite.

Here's what was huddling in the op shop rack:

It was in pretty good condition; no stains or fading. And the fabric itself was exactly the shade and weight that I'd been looking out for. That, and the fact that it sat nicely over the shoulders, was what sold me. The cons? It was almost completely shapeless - other people may be able to rock the smock look, but I'm not one of those favoured few. Plus, the sleeves were way too wide, and the armskyes started almost at waist level. All happily fixable, however!

The first thing I did was to unpick the side seams down to about hip level, then the sleeve seams. I also unpicked the armholes to roughly 3" down from the shoulder on both front and back. Then I cut off about 2" of width from the sides and sewed them back together. This made the armhole much higher (and more flattering). I cut off the same amount from the width of the sleeves. I had to unpick the sleeve hem either side of the seam, just enough so that it would sit flat enough when sewing the sleeve seam. Then it was just a matter of sewing the sleeve back to the body and sewing the sleeve hem back in place.

After that I positioned long darts in the front and back, just enough to shape it slightly, but not so much that it couldn't blouse out a bit when it's belted. And that, as they say, was that!

I love a good shirt dress :)  And I think this one will be a really good transitional one; it's light enough for warm summer days, but with boots, tights and a cardigan I think I'll get a satisfying amount of autumn wear out of it too. Definitely a go-to dress. Yay for refashioning!

Thought I'd give a sneak peek of what's on the needles at the moment too - Still Light Tunic for me. I'm using Cascade's Heritage Silk yarn, which I love. It's so soft to use and has a beautiful sheen. It's been a few months now ( but knitting always tails off a bit for me during summer) so I'm ready to move on to another project. Nearly there...

Have a wonderful week :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Head vs Heart Skirt

Well, hello! We're back with the first make of 2013 - my Head vs Heart Skirt. I used New Look 6899, which is pretty much a full circle skirt, adjusting the waistband so it sat on the natural waistline, and adding about 3" to View C/E's length.

I've dubbed it Head vs Heart because the whole process of making it triggered off a bit of an internal war. Let me explain...

It all started with the trip to the fabric store - which really was only to stock up on some basic notions (if only to prove to myself that I do indeed have will power....) Maybe you can relate to the following scene:

Dani's Head:  (Sternly) Now remember, we're just here to get overlocker thread and pins, ok?

Dani's Heart: (Defensively) I know that! I'm just looking. Jeez...

Head:  So long as we're both clear...What's that?

(Both turn to look at fabric table, which appears to be emitting celestial music)

Heart: (Reverently whispering) Ohhhhh...look!

Head:  No. No, no, no, no no! We are not buying any fabric today!

Heart: But look at the print!

Head:  It's yellow.

Heart:  I LOVE yellow!

Head: You can't wear yellow.

Heart: Maybe I could...It's just a matter of finding the right shade...

Head:  You. Can't. Wear. Yellow.

Heart:  But look how happy and summery it is! And think how happy and summery we'd feel wearing it!

Head:  It's polyester.

Heart:  Don't be such a fabric snob. That just gives it lovely drape. (waving roll back and forth) Look at the drape! It's like it's dancing!

Head:  Stop that. Polyester = sweaty. You know that.

Heart: (Sudden inspiration) We could make a skirt! A lovely, swishy, summery skirt! No sweating in a skirt...

Head: (Cautious, but intrigued) A skirt, hey? Ok, let's think about this.

Heart:  Buythefabricbuythefabricbuythefabricbuythefabricbuythefabrisbuythefabricbuythefabricbuythefabric

Head:  You know, that might just work. Maybe if we... (breaks off, realising that Heart is already at counter, slapping money down and doing a Happy Dance. Calling across shop) Oh, alright then - but don't say I didn't warn you!

Thus it began. (Out of curiosity, I'm not the only one who has these faintly disturbing Smeagol-Gollum style episodes in fabric shops, am I? Surely??)

So who was right, Head or Heart? Well, in the final analysis, the honours were just about even.

In Head's favour, this was a misery to actually sew! The fabric was slippery and sulky (yes, fabric does sulk), and did all kinds of strange shrinking under the iron (which is weird in itself, since I've long since decided that my iron's advertised Anti-Burn Technology is in fact simply that it never gets hot enough to actually press anything properly). You might be able to see the post-ironing misshaped waistband in the photos... And why (why??) when I know I cut it out exactly right, was the skirt hem uneven by as much as 15cm in places? Head felt very smug at this point. Heart flounced off to eat ice cream.

Still, we persevered. After a concerted effort, the hem was wrestled into submission (see first photo; the wind picked up a bit in the second), and while the waistband is still uneven, I figured if the tie hangs down at that point it can barely be noticed.

So then, in Heart's favour this is really lovely to wear - just as happy and summery as anticipated. I've worn it twice now, and both times gotten compliments by people who didn't know I'd made it.

Both head and heart play a vital role in sewing decisions! Knowledge and experience (good and bad) help avoid ending up with disappointing FOs, but never making room for those patterns or fabrics that get your pulse racing a little faster would ultimately turn sewing into a bit of a chore. It's meant to be fun, after all! Maybe I should call it my Head / Heart Skirt. I've also learned that my Heart is apparently a three year old child. C'est la vie!

Have a wonderful week :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year, New Goal

Well, hello! Here we are at the beginning of a new year, with a new resolution and a new blog especially to chart its progress. For any of you that have read my other blog you may remember a post on how impacted I was by Lucy Siegle's book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?  For anyone else, let me get you up to speed...

TDF is basically an expose of the global fashion industry, and its appalling environmental and humanitarian cost. What I really liked about it though was how attractive and feasible the author made alternatives to the high street / local mall seem. As someone who loves fashion and clothes herself, she totally gets the appeal of a gorgeous garment, but maintains it's completely possible to have one without damaging the environment or exploiting the poor. In a nutshell, you can be ethical without being a hessian-wearing, dreadlock-sporting hermit. (Unless that's your thing, of course...) To which I say, hurrah!

So to the resolution. I'm resolved for the duration of 2013 to either:

1. Make my own clothes.
2. Refashion clothes out of old ones.
3. Buy secondhand.
4. Buy from eco/ethical businesses (and aren't there just so many out there! Thanks, Peppermint magazine...)

I think its doable! In fact, over the last two weeks or so as I've been trawling the internet for inspiration, I've been amazed at how many people are doing just that. (I had no idea there even were sewing blogs!) So, I'm feeling excited and motivated by the prospect.

I thought I'd start off by posting the refashion I did right after reading the book. This was a bit of an experiment to see if it the idea worked. I haven't done much sewing for myself, mainly because it's so much easier to fit other people, but it seemed to work alright. Here's before:

A-line skirt in a tweedy kind of fabric. With a bit of creative cutting it became this:

(Sorry, that's an Instagram photo - won't use those in future :/ )

This was a modified version of Burda 7494. Unlike the pattern, each front here is actually a single piece, with a dart running the whole way down - there simply wasn't enough fabric to fit two front pieces. Sleeve length and volume had to be sacrificed a little too, but I thought these half sleeves continued the line of the garment well enough. Discovered when I came to do the buttonholes that my machine couldn't make them large enough. At some stage I'll actually try and master other buttonhole techniques but in the meantime a ribbon loop (using the trim that was around the skirt's waistband) did the trick.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THIS:  Refashioning involves a lot of problem solving! Also, I need to be selective in what I choose to refashion if it's for me: yes, there was enough fabric in the original (just...), and yes, I'm happy with the finished piece. Only thing is - I don't actually like wearing pink....I'll have to find a home for it with someone else who's pink-compatible.

I had a play around with the scraps too. There were just enough to feel wrong about just throwing them out, but none were really big enough to do anything substantial with. So... here's Scrap Option One:

Covered button hair elastics. I may not wear pink, but my girl does! I tried three different sizes (2.5cm, 3cm, 3.5cm) and I think I prefer the medium one. Depends on the hairstyle though, I guess. The smallest one might look better with a thinner elastic too.

Scrap Option Two I'm of two minds about:

Fabric flower brooch. I think the idea's there, but I'll keep playing around with the pattern. Maybe it's the little crochet flower in the middle that's bothering me...

Anyhow, I'm going to chalk this one up as a success. And I think this challenge is going to be fun!

Have a wonderful week :)