Monday, April 21, 2014

Complete: Drape Drape 2 Dress (As Top)

Hello again! I'd planned a different post this week, but given that was on what may be the title holder for My Most Hated Make Ever it was hard to muster up enthusiasm. Next time, perhaps. Instead, this is the top I got started on in response to all of your help on twin needle stitching. Mind you, I realised about halfway into it that it didn't actually need any twin stitching, but my practice pieces worked a treat...

This is a reworked version of the No. 7 Batwing Dress from the Japanese book Drape Drape 2. I bought this striped knit about a year ago, against the day that I'd dare sewing with knits, and since it's a nice drapey one it seemed a good fit. The original had an asymmetric ruched skirt attached, but I know I'd get way more wear out of it as a top, so I used part of the back piece of my Rowe Top pattern and sailed on in. I admit, it doesn't have much hanger appeal...

The construction of this was really counter-intuitive. It's in two pieces (at least the original was), with the front, sleeves and most of the back as one piece. The lower back, or really, back skirt, joins at the waist and side seams. I had to go fairly slowly and read the instructions carefully; for a while there I thought the sleeve cuffs were the parts that formed the back neck!

I realised after I'd taken the photos that the singlet I was wearing underneath was bunched up on one side. One day I'll notice these things beforehand...

It's really hard to describe the way it went together - even now I have to keep running back to check it. That massive (a full 150cm wide) main piece wraps around to form the upper back and - happy surprise, this - when you use a striped knit it becomes a rather lovely chevron design.

 Given the number of recent less than stellar makes, I feel justified in being quite proud of my stripe matching here!

The neckline and sleeve cuffs are bound using narrow strips of the fabric. Being striped meant it was much easier to be accurate. :) 

I found I needed to change course partway through my alterations. I'd added a wide folded band to the lower front, so that it would be firm enough to hold the drape in place above, but the lower back piece, which I'd envisaged as a kind of high-low hem didn't work at all:

It was too flimsy, given that the lower front was more fitted and firm, and went a bit ripply at the edge. I ended up cutting it off and sewing a facing to it, to make it the same weight as the front band. It did mean the bands didn't match up exactly (see below), but since it bunches and drapes at just that point when it's worn it really doesn't bother me. Besides, I matched up the stripes... ;)

On reflection, I think I'm well on the way to achieving my 2014 goal of becoming more confident in sewing with knits!

I've also been doing some not very arduous costuming sewing. A local theatre group needed one of the dresses to be a bit more fancy for the final scene of their upcoming how, and they asked if I'd mind having a go. I didn't take a Before Shot, but it was just this sans beading:

I drew the flowers on, then just filled in the gaps as required. It was far, far easier to just keep the pattern width the same on both sides than it would have been to create a mirror image.

They wanted something on the overskirt as well, but chiffon doesn't take too much added weight well; beads get surprising heavy! I didn't want to interfere with the floaty drape so I just did a running stitch with the short bugle beads all the way around. It doesn't look like much here, but boy do those things sparkle under lights!

It was nice, relaxing, in-front-of-the-TV kind of work.  I'm starting to wonder whether I can't incorporate some beadwork somewhere in my own makes. I've been pinning lots of vintage 50s cardigans and musing...

In other costuming news, I've put my hand up for helping out with our school production, The Sound Of Music. I'm up to my ears in 1930s fashion inspiration...Happy days!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pattern Hack: Colour-Blocked Annie Cami

Hello, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to leave some twin needle advice or links after my last post. May I just paraphrase Julia Child and say that people who sew really are the best kind of people! I've been having all kinds of fun playing, and think I've got it happening now. Thank you all!

I mentioned last time that I've been having a run of Not-Quite-Right makes. The shorts issues were all about fit (obviously!). The ones coming up are all fabric-related. This week's post is to do with finishing. Alliteration aside, it's starting to sound like a fairly demoralising series!

You know what, though? Even though I made a hash of the finishing with this one, I actually really like it. And for perspective's sake I went through some of my RTW stuff - even the higher end stuff has plenty of mismatched stripes, not-quite-aligned seams, etc. So I'm not going to beat myself up over it. :)

The pattern is Style Arc's Annie's Cami, which I used for my broderie refashioned top (here). I mentioned then that the bust dart was a little high on me; this time I decided to make that work in my favour by using it to make a colour-blocked version. The darker brown fabric is a delectable silk remnant (only 40cm) I found at The Fabric Store in Melbourne about a year ago, and I found a similarly textured eggshell-coloured silk that matched some time later.

This is one of the very few successful impulse fabric buys I've made. (The others, for the record, are the sublime teal silk-cotton I used for my Gathered Sundress, and the feather print chiffon that I made my kimono-shruggy thing from.) An epiphany: Impulse buys only work for me when I genuinely love the fabric. Not when I've seen someone else do something amazing with something similar, not when someone else talks me into it, not even when it's an amazing bargain. Only when I have a genuine "yes!" moment - and I've come to realise that those are actually a lot rarer than I thought they were.

This fabric is one of the most beautiful fabrics to wear that I've ever owned. The lighter, upper one is slightly heavier than the darker one, but I think that works well here since the top hangs from the shoulders. (Note to self: looking at the photos, I think I'll make it an inch or two longer in front next time.)

 Changes to the previous version:

  • Raising the neckline by 9cm. I wanted a larger fabric section for the upper block.
  • Keyhole opening at the back, bound with self-binding. I haven't been happy with the hook and eye closure of my last one; it's a little heavy for the fabric and tends to sag. This, in comparison, sits nicely.
  • High-low hem. I extended the back piece as far as the available fabric allowed. I like things to cover my backside. (Plus my favourite skinny jeans are almost fraying at the centre back seam and I'm not quite ready to tackle jeans sewing. Our little secret ;) )
  • Including the front pocket. I re-positioned it slightly so that it sat flush with the front horizontal seam.

My second rate finishing was not, I'm happy to report, the topstitching. I'm actually very pleased with my 1/16" work there. No, the issue arose because I didn't think through the construction steps. Since it was silk I thought french seams would be lovely. And they were - mostly. What I didn't take into account was that the seam allowances at the side openings had to be folded back and sewed in place. Discovery: this absolutely does not work with french seams! So the insides are a real mess at the opening point - they're just kind of ironed into submission and sewed till they were flat... Plus silk is sneaky and slippery. After the first wash I discovered I hadn't completely caught all the edges of the mitred corners of the hems in my stitching. Do you think I could iron those corners back into place? I could not. They're now a slightly warped 60 degrees corner rather than the traditional 90.... Not sure I can get away with calling that a design feature!

I've since read a fantastic tutorial on sewing with silk by The Little Tailoress. It's fantastic, like everything she does, and I'll be referring back to it every time I'm tempted by silk in the future :)

Keyhole opening with shell button from stash and a thread loop.

Topstitching. Happy me!

I mentioned the high bust dart working in my favour here - that's because using it to mark the colour blocking gave the top some subtle shaping.

On tracing paper I marked both the upper dart seam and 1cm down from this, and also where the bust dart finished (small cross on pattern), and 1cm below this.

I traced around the top of the bodice, then used a ruler to draw the new seam line and allowance using my marks. (Apologies for truly dreadful picture.)

I did the same thing to the new lower front, and ended up with two pieces that looked like this. You can see how the bust shaping is formed by that "wedge" at the side. Worked a treat!

On a side note, may I trouble you for some advice please? (Since you were all so helpful last time!)  I raised the front neckline by drawing in a curve I liked freehand. I've since been told that that's what a french curve is for. I've seen these in my local sewing supplies store, but haven't been really convinced they were an essential tool. Do you own one of these? Are they useful? More to the point, are they indispensable or do they just gather dust in Sad and Lonely State? I'm curious :)

Finally, it being that time of year again:

'I, Danielle, of One Small Stitch (, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear a handmade or refashioned item each day for the duration of May 2014. I will also attempt to wear two items for at least ten of these days.

I'm thinking that will help me gauge how I'm going in terms of wardrobe vs individual garment sewing. I think also in the weekly roundup posts I'll keep track of what I did / where I went each day, to give me a good idea of where the wardrobe gaps are. I know I really struggled last year on weekend home days!

Can't wait! Are you taking part in Me Made May this year?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Some Not-Quite-Right Shorts....and a Just-Right Rowe

It's been longer between posts than I planned, partly because life got busy for a while there, and partly because I've been a little unsatisfied with my recent makes. It's all very well calling the not-quite-right projects "learning experiences", but several in a row can be a bit disheartening, huh? And hard to get excited when it comes to posting about them...

The reason for this make's "not-quite-rightness" is entirely my own fault. The pattern is Pattern Runway's Sweet Scalloped Shorts . My measurements corresponded exactly to the ones listed for the S size, so since I was using the chambray left over from my shirt  I decided to forgo any muslin and just hope for the best. I told myself it would be good practice for making the "real" ones, and also for pants/trouser making....but secretly I was really hoping that they'd just magically work out fine. (Anyone else done that? I'm not the only one, surely??) And...they're ok. Probably more successful than I deserved, actually.

They're wearable, and that chambray is sublimely soft and comfortable. I just wish I'd put the effort into making them really good :(

First welt pockets in the back, there! I had a bit of trouble getting the corners perfectly squared, but maybe that's a matter of practice. They're not easy, after all!

I've been really struggling to pinpoint exactly what adjustments are needed. The fact is, apart from some comfy RTW jersey running shorts (which I do everything except run in), I almost never wear shorts - certainly not tailored-style ones - so I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a Good Fit. I'm fairly sure not this though:

 Apart from that, the rise feels a bit long, evidenced by the massive amount of excess fabric when I sit down:

Perhaps they're just too big all over. I'm wondering about just going down a size, or even'd be so nice to have an easy solution! 

I'm wearing them around the house, but I'd rather they were a bit more versatile than that. On the plus side, I got to squeeze out the pocket lining pieces from my carefully hoarded scraps of my giveaway dress. I love this fabric...

The pocket bags for the back welt pockets were completely humbling. I still have no idea how to do them. I tried following the Pattern Runway tutorial, but it was like reading Swahili. I can't tell you how much better I felt after reading Sew Busy Lizzy  had the same trouble... In the end I made it up as I went along, and while they may be technically incorrect, they are doing the job they need to. So all's well that ends well, I guess.

As for the top (see first photo), that there is my fourth Rowe top. Oh, how I love this pattern. I took out the 4cm or so from the width of the sleeve this time around, and it's now exactly right. I want to play around with the neckline next time and see if I can make it a rounded scoop one, rather than the V. I attempted hemming with a twin needle - I saw somewhere that you can use a bobbin of thread up against the usual spool and thread the needle with both strands, but this didn't work at all. The threads kept tangling above the needle eye and snapping.

Can you use a twin needle on a normal machine? How?? Any suggestions gratefully received!