Friday, February 25, 2011

Get Creative 1007 Retro Dress - Finished

So, it's finally finished. This pattern range was put out by Spotlight but a few years ago they cleared them all out for approx $1, so I picked up the few designs they had left.

According to the size info, even the size 14 is too small for me. Checking the finished measurements, I thought 14 would be fine.

I blue tacked it onto Dot and it seemed ok - nothing stood out as far too small. I made the petite adjustment at the waist and knew I'd want to lengthen it so that it came to just under my knee.

Last year I had to have an emergency trip to my Mother's to help her move house and declutter. My Mother was one of those people that would buy fabric thinking she'd make something but it just never happened - she didn't even like sewing! Anyway, I am now the proud owner of quite a bit of vintage fabric (30 - 50 years old) - she did actually realise some time in the 80's that she didn't sew and stopped buying (fabric, anyway). A lot of this fabric has really interesting weaves, not like the plain weave that seems to be all you can get these days unless you're paying $$$. It's a shame that Mum's taste isn't quite to my taste or else I'd have ended up with a lot more - ah well.

So, this fabric is Mum's favourite from the stash I got from her. It's definately not my style but it's fresh and bright, so I thought a Summer shift would suit (yep, it's another 'wearable' muslin).

See the old zipper? When I was about 8 yrs old, the big old department store in our town went out of business. In the last two days they auctioned off all of the contents of the store. In these days Mum & Dad were still under the impression that she'd start sewing up a storm at any minute, so they bought oodles of bags full of sewing notions for $2-$5 each. Zips, braids, trims, ribbons, bias, buttons, you name it. I've got quite the zip and button collection now too. Mum and I recently came across all of the braids & trims but between us we seem to have lost them ......... ah well.

I think this is a cotton but it's quite a thick one and you can see the slubby texture. It was a nightmare to cut with my horrible shears - the cutting of this dress prompted me to do a little research on shears and now I am the proud owner of a pair of Gingher 8 1/2" Dressmaking Shears.

<- There's the fabric with all of the pattern pieces laid out - not a lot of wiggle room on those sides! At this point I wasn't sure if I'd do facings or bias, so didn't bother to cut the facings (in the end I decided on facings).

Getting rid of some of the fullness at
the centre front seam

So, I sewed it all up - far too roomy on the sides. I ended up taking it in down to just below the waist.

Not only was it too roomy down the sides but the front bowed out way too much for my liking - taking 2cm from the centre seam of each front piece at the bottom and tapering to 0 at the top fixed that.

Side seam wierdness
When I redrew the new side seams I just eyeballed it - not hard to sketch a straight line right? Man oh man did I have some problems - enough that I actually put the dress away for a week or so. The side seams were hanging in weird ways and I couldn't figure it out. When I finally laid it out and put a ruler to the sideseams I discovered that they were so far from being a straight A-line it wasn't funny. Redrew the lines (using a ruler this time), resewed, side seam weirdness gone! If I'd only just done it the right way to start with!

Bad zipper insertion
I also messed up the zip insertion - I thought I had the right foot but I was thinking of Mum's. I meant to go back and fix it but forgot until I'd attached the neck facing. Not relishing all that unpicking I thought putting a tab over it would cover it up. As it turns out, unpicking and resewing would have been quicker - so typical of me, the bodge job ends up taking more time than doing it the right way the first time!

Tab to cover the dodgy zip.

I sewed the zip in in green to match the topstitching on the front.

Topstitching on front

One other thing - I meant to put side seam pockets in this dress. I even wrote it on the instructions in red marker. Of course that would have been useful if I'd actually bothered to use the instructions! Now, I think it's probably too fitted where the pockets would be for them to be of much use - could always try on side I suppose and just see (due to the thickness of the fabric I'd only use one piece, sewn directly to the front side piece).

Finished!! Actually, maybe that hem could come down a smidge. (I don't know why I'm standing like a trucker in that first pic)

Pattern Description:
Misses' / Miss Petite Dress in two lengths, sleeveless & short sleeves.

Pattern Sizing:

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Sort of .... I made some deliberate changes. I would have expected it to be less voluminous in the skirt and slimmer fitting down to the waist looking at the pattern pic.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The few that I looked at seemed to be.

Fabric Used:
Vintage cotton that is quite heavy and has a slubby texture.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
According to the sizing info, even the 14 in this would have been too small for me. As it was I ended up taking in the sides down to just past the waist until it was approx a size 10.

Petite adjustment to raise the waist line.

Added length so that it came to just under my knee (I should have added more to give myself a deeper hem).

I wish I'd remembered to do a sway back adjustment - it's not as bad as it could be but it could be better.

I also wish I'd done a small FBA to give me a bit more room and drop the under bust seam 1cm so that it really is under my bust.

I added a tab across the top of the zip at the back because i messed it up and forgot to fix it until after I'd put the facings in.

The front of the skirt seemed to sit out too much, so I took 2cm off the centre front seam on each front piece and tapered to zero at the waist.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, I might with the modifications I wish I'd made and didn't. I also think it would be better in a fabric that isn't as stiff as the one I used.

Easy to sew and easy to wear.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emery Pincushions

Finally done! I've only had the emery for a couple of ....... years, actually (yes, years). I bought half a cup of emery powder from Dottyral many years ago and finally I've made the pincushions I always intended to.

For those that don't know, emery is a fine black mineral that keeps your pins and needles sharp. The little chilli that comes attached to the tomato pincushions has emery in it.

I made a regular pincushion and a wrist pincushion. The regular pincushion I've always used is actually one my Grandmother made (quite possibly before I was born) - it's filled with lamb's fleece which stops pins and needles from rusting (instead they rust at the point they're touching the velour casing :-/). My wrist pincushion is on a hard plastic open 'bangle' thing that is exceedingly uncomfortable and easily gets pulled off. The new one has an elasticised wristband that slips over my hand, the pincushion's length goes along my arm, not across it like the other one (which got caught on stuff) and it fits on the upper part of my forearm so that I can wear it with a watch. 

I put a thin piece of stiff plastic on the bottom of each one to stop pins poking through to the surface of whatever they are sitting on (like my arm) and covered the calico bags in some scraps left over from making a boyfriend a bathrobe years ago.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Some advice from McCall's in 1969

I have a lot of old sewing books and sometimes the advice they give really cracks me up, here's an example:
"FOR SHOPPING. In the city, a simple dress or suit is most appropriate. Add a comfortable top coat when necessary. Pants are out.
For neighborhood shopping in the suburbs, follow the same formula using casual styles. However, if you look well in slacks, you can wear them here."(McCall's Step-By-Step Sewing Book, 1969)
Okey dokey ..... pants are OUT for the city, I've been quite the rebel without even realising it.

And completely unrelated, here's a pic from Quito - I did buy some of those scarves. The table runners I bought in Otavalo look similar to the lime & orange number at the bottom of the pic too.
Quito, Ecuador 2010

Friday, February 4, 2011

Self Drafted Sheath - Wearable Muslin

My self drafted sheath had one really buggy thing about it - there seemed to be a pouch under the tummy area. All I could think of was to lengthen the darts but really, contour darts nearly to the hem?? After consulting the fitting gurus at Pattern Review, the general consensus was that sometimes that's what you've got to do.

Well, I ended up making the darts about 3 inches longer and also taking them in (both front and back) which has given me more definition in the waist and removed that pouch under my tummy - excellent! (No pic yet)

So, this dress started life as a single bed quilt cover. There it is on our lounge room floor, waiting to be cut up. 

The muslin was drafted over a period of several months, actually, it was drafted quickly ....... the fitting was a completely different story. I drafted it, made it up in calico and it was like a great big sack - ridiculous amounts of ease Winifred Aldrich! This is meant to be a 'close fitting' dress! So then began the long journey of fitting. I'd work on improving it for hours and hours, then give up and put it away for ages. A week/month later, out it would come again, it'd get some more improvements until frustration got the better of me (and it). At one point I found that I actually had a sheath dress pattern in my stash, I thought I'd give it a go ........... bad, bad move. It was worse than what I'd started with! I promptly tossed that and decided to stick with what I had.

Finally, this is what I've got. For some reason there's a diagonal drag line across the top chest in the photos - after seeing that, I checked the mirror, nope, not there - clearly I was standing strangely. There still seems to be too much room over the stomach area, maybe if I lengthen the darts it will improve it. One thing that didn't make sense to me was, as drafted, the front hip width was wider than the back hip width - this seems backwards to me, I know I stick out way more at the back! I think I ended up taking some width from the front but there's still a bit of pouching going on.

This was my first time using bias binding - I wanted to have at least 1cm of trim showing, so I used the wide binding. Unfortunately, I didn't think I'd be able to cajole that wide binding into a keyhole opening as I had planned. I thought about cutting it in half and reironing it so that the keyhole only had narrow binding but I thought that might look a bit stupid and to be honest, my patience was wearing thin, so bye bye keyhole, I'll see you in another piece of clothing.

Centre back zip (I've never done any other kind of zip - but I plan to), hook & eye closure (wouldn't you know it, I did two stitches and realised I had the hook on backwards!! It's still backwards :-\ )back vent, centre front & back darts, horizontal bust darts.

It's a very easy dress to wear, no problems sitting or running and, as this is cotton, it's really light and feels like you're wearing air - perfect for our summers. It's an 'around the house' dress at the moment.

So, there you go - what is the deal with that front part??

$10 quilt cover (still a lot left - machine covers?), $1.58 bias, hook & eye set
From the stash: zipper that had been pulled out of something else (probably from my Mother's stash and older than I am), thread

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to make a cape / capelet

This is from a book I just received - Successful Dressmaking The Complete Book of Dressmaking, fully illustrated with step by step instructions by Ellen & Marietta Resek

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dorothy (Dot to friends), the Sewing Stunt Double

So, here she is - my paper tape dress form. She was made using instructions by Connie Amaden-Crawford on -of course, the article is no longer there but there are plenty floating around on the web these days (here's one). According to the date on the bottom of my printout, I printed these in December 2006 - so it was a 4 year project to get her to this stage (yes, I'm completely on top of things).

She got made up a few years ago and hung around on a hanger for a few months getting in the way, then sat around on my studio floor for a few years getting covered in dust and becoming more and more misshapen. A couple of years ago I managed to snag a free torso mannequin from a store ....... that's what is inside her.

She's mounted on an old lamp stand that someone was throwing away which has a dowel inserted into it that goes up through the mannequin (had to drill a hole in the neck and base of the mannequin - the mannequin base sits on the top of the lamp stand). She's a little bit tilted but it's the best we could do at the time.

I remember this take took forever to dry, actually I'm pretty sure that we ended up cutting her off me before she was completely dry - there are only so many hours that I'm willing to stand around, barely moving in what feels like wet concrete. She was already quite stiff at that point, so we needed to cut in more than one place. Thus, she has ended up looking a bit like Frankenstein's wife after I finally got around to mending those cuts a few weeks ago.

To close up those cut lines (tape would not stick):
  • cut out small tabs from the thin plastic that you buy necklaces on at the dollar store
  • put a hole in each end of the tab with a hole punch
  • make a hole in the dressform on one side of the cut line with the awl on my pocket knife
  • attach one end of the tab to the dressform using a brass fastener
  • pull the dressform together to the correct measurement (she's still a tad too big in some places though - it was harder than it sounds for me to be exact)
  • make a mark on the dressform through the other hole in the tab (make sure it's at the outside edge of the hole, otherwise the dress form will pull apart a bit after it's inserted - I realised that a bit too late)
  • make the other hole and insert the fastener
  • continue
After all of that sitting around, she's a bit misshapen so I've had to pad her out a bit in some places to try to manipulate the shape. Also, my partner didn't realise the importance of necklines, armlines, waistlines, sideseams etc. so they're either non existent or dodgy city. Try explaining to someone that doesn't make clothes why it's important that a centre line is actually parallel to the floor.

Of course, I can't pin anything to her so I've been using blutack (the cheap version) to stick stuff to her - unfortunately, it tends to rip tissue paper if you're not careful. It'd be really useful to have the proper shoulders on her too ............. taking the previous timeline of this project into account, I'd say armholes, shoulders and a pinnable covering might be a few years off.

Now that I've got Dot, tigerboy is so confused that I still have some fitting problems - I can't seem to explain to him that she will have the same fitting problems I have, it's just easier to fix on her than me, after all, I'm not a contortionist.