Friday, March 23, 2012

Refashion - Maxi to day dress (The Palm Dress)

I love the look of maxi dresses and I own quite a few but I've found that they just aren't all that practical for me. So often they don't have much covering on the shoulders and/or back which means that unless it's hot, I'll get chilled ('cos that's where I notice it first - which would be why I am known for always carrying a pashmina with me, I have them in a billion colours, solids and prints). Of course when it's hot enough for me to be wearing something that only minimally covers the top of me, all that fabric (particularly if it's synthetic) makes my legs hot. So that means that if I'm at home, I'm walking around with my dress skirt scrunched up to let my legs breathe or worse yet, tucked up into the legs of my underwear! Thankfully I haven't inadvertently done this whilst I've been out of the house but it's probably only a matter of time before I forget myself and assault the general public with that charming image - not elegant!!  So, anyhoo, last year I decided that it was time to make my maxis more wearable, ie. a length that doesn't have me fighting to tuck it up into my underwear and possibly commit a grave faux pas. So far I've converted three of them, there's still a few to go though.

After - the hem looks droopy in the side pic but it's not in real life. Actually, those vertical seams look a bit crooked too but I think that's because I just threw it on for the pic and didn't even check the mirror. Oh, I usually wear shoes with it too - talk about lazy!

This particular dress I actually bought at a charity shop with the intention of shortening it - even if I'd wanted to, there was no way I could have worn it with a bra, just look at that bust, a strapless bra would show right through that hole in the middle and I don't do braless. I loved the print and the fabric is a very thin, very stretchy, very slinky knit - feels gorgeous but I was soon to find out that it is a nightmare to sew with my machines. I don't know what this fabric is called but I have quite a few maxis made out of it and quite a bit of it in my stash (which would be a good thing apart from the aforementioned 'nightmare to sew' bit).


I started this dress about this time last year (yes, last year), I finished it in Oct/Nov. Why the delay? The hem - as I've mentioned, that's where so many of my projects sit languishing for months until I get fed up with seeing them sitting around. In the end I used a double needle to do the hem - it's not a great job, there are some skipped stitches but, meh, it's done and it's been worn quite a bit over the summer. I've had a lot of compliments on it too. 

To make it, I basically cut off the extra length all around the bottom, cut that in half and used it to make the top. I very carefully unpicked the top and skirt because I was happy with the way the dress fitted from under the bust and wanted to keep that shape. The new shoulder seams were originally the side seams of the skirt, the original hem is now the neckline (trying to minimise any sewing on this fabric that I can). I sewed the (now) CF together up for  afew inches and overlapped where the two top pieces joined the back skirt a smidge. As I'd cut so much length off, I had to cut down the new bodice pieces so that they matched the skirt but I angled the cut out to the (now) sleeves. The sleeves came a long way down my arms and looked a bit stupid but I still wanted more coverage up there, so I sewed in a stretched piece of elastic with zigzag along the new shoulder seams to gather up the shoulders. Of course it didn't gather as much as I'd wanted because elastic never shrinks back to anywhere near it's original size after I've sewn through it but it was enough. I've since read that apparently there is specific elastic to buy for sewing through in order to have it recover, I wonder if it's easily available in Australia. After all that it was just a matter of hemming the new sleeves and skirt which apparently is a 7 month project for me.

As I said, I wore this quite a bit over the summer and I've found that I really should have made the two bodice pieces a bit shorter, sometimes if I'm not sitting up nice and erect (like I should be), the shoulders start to slip off. I had thought I might just do another round on the overlocker where the bodice and skirt meet but I don't really want to go messing with the length. I plan to make  spaghetti strap out of the left over fabric and sew it across the back neckline - that should take care of that and I'll be able to slouch all that I want.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vogue 8555 - The Hibiscus Dress

I made this dress last year out of a small piece of very cheap cotton I'd bought about 6/7 years ago (I think the plan was to make a tote). Anyway, I was not confident of getting a good fit 'out of the packet' and before I wasted my animal print sateen on it, I thought I'd make it out of something I didn't love. (When tigerboy saw the animal print his eyes bugged out "Isn't it a bit cougarish?" "Well, I'm over 40 and with a younger man, I'd say if the print fits, wear it." "Okaaaaaay." Doesn't take much to shock Mr. Conservative.)

I had just enough to make the dress - I've only got a few centimetres left. With my limited amount of fabric I did at least try to get the stripes of dark and light purple to kind of match and I think I did the best I could with what I had.

To start with, I'll just get this right out there in the open for anyone that has spent ages poring over pattern reviews trying to work out if the person in the picture is their size and if so, which size they ended up cutting (I did that, boy did I do that). I'm 168cm tall and my measurements are 94cm (37"),  72.5cm (28.5") with the widest part of my thighs being 99.5cm (~39"). According to those measurements, for this dress Vogue says I'm between a size 14 and 16, actually, nearly exactly smack bang in the middle. Additionally, I have an upper bust measurement of 89cm (35"), so if I went by that, I'd be choosing a pattern between a sz 12 and a 14. To confuse things even further - I'm a D or DD cup, have been ever since I was in high school. Nearly everything I've read says that with only a 2" difference between upper bust and bust, I shouldn't even be a D cup. The thing is, my underbust is the same as my waist, so does this mean I have a narrow back? Gah, all I know is that I always have to make patterns smaller.

I had to make quite a few adjustments. I cut a sz 12 for the armscye and neck, a size 14 for the shoulder (length), sz 14 for bodice sides and skirt.  And this was what I got from that. Baggy bodice and baggy skirt.

 The bodice alterations:
  • Change midriff side seam to between a sz 14 and a sz 12 just under the arm, grading to a sz 12 for the waist.
  • Sewed bodice to midriff with a 5mm (under bust)-1cm (sides) seam allowance because I was concerned about the bust pulling the back forward and the midriff not sitting properly under the bust.
  • Sway back adjustment in the back midriff (a horizontal tuck of 3cm in total in the centre, graduating to zero at the side seam).
I could have taken the bodice in a bit more, as you can see from the last pic, there was still plenty of ease in the waist. Next time I'll reduce the sides even further. Unfortunately, these alterations happened after I'd lined the bodice - I hate unpicking but there was just no way I'd wear it the way it was (even so, I'll only go so far). So that left me with a baggy, baggy skirt.

The skirt alterations:

  • Lengthen darts on skirt considerably and change hip curve (my biggest part is lower than Vogue thinks it will be).
  • Change skirt to size 12.
  • Add a vent to the back centre seam of skirt.

 In the future, I'll just cut a size 12 of course. I also think it is a tad too long in the shoulders, cutting the size 12 for shoulder length would have fixed that.

I used a very old interfacing that I had, it's stiff like cardboard. I remember that years ago when I used it it ended up bubbling, so I didn't actually fuse it to the fashion fabric, I just sewed it in with the fuse side to the lining. The dress would look better if the midriff was fused to interfacing.

For the lining I used an old piece of plisse that came from my Mum's stash - it was only a tiny piece, just enough to line the bodice. Plisse is like a tiny seersucker. Turns out that although I cut the lining 5mm smaller, plisse is not a great lining fabric, due to the weave it has a bit of stretch.

Plisse lining

Plisse lining

As I'd spent so long fitting this skirt, I actually used it to convert to an A-line when I made the cling wrap bodice dress.

I do plan on making another version, I think I'll incorporate less ease when I make it with the sateen - I'm still planning to go all cougar ;)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Blue slinky knit dress - self drafted.

This dress was a nightmare. I started this dress ................. at least 8 months ago, maybe (probably) more and finished it in December. Each step along the way gave me headaches, even the cutting out. I had JUST enough fabric except there were two little holes in it - I had to darn them and thankfully because of the smooshiness of the slinky, you can't even tell. This fabric is probably nearly 15 years old, so who knows if the holes were there when I bought it (quite possible, I think it was a remnant) or whether they developed with age and it's just the beginning of the end.

I've only sewn with slinky knit once before (which would have been around the time I bought this fabric) and it was a very simple two-piece above the knee dress that I made - side seams and shoulder seams only. That was smart!

I could not get my overlocker to play nicely with this and neither of my sewing machines were much better.  I couldn't find a stitch on either of my sewing machines that would deal with it. In frustration I pulled out a dress I'd made 15 years ago to see what I used in it which turned out to be the overlock stitch on the old sewing machine. Excellent!! Yeah, would have been except that this particular slinky wasn't having it. In desperation I finally used the stitch that has 2/3 straight stitches with a zigzag - that was going to be the best I could manage but the long seams ended up puckered. You can actually see that at the front - it's still noticeable near the hem - after this sitting around for months I just couldn't be bothered 'fixing' it any more. Of course, when I was making the pattern I hadn't taken into account how much slinky knit stretches lengthwise because of the stretch and weight. I ended up having to cut about 4 inches off the top of the dress. I ended up pinning it together at the shoulders to get the 'right' seam line. I tried various treatments to finish off the armholes but all resulted in a lettuce edge look - not what I was going for, until I bought some wonder tape online and viola! Finally I could neatly finish off the armscyes with a straight stitch (still couldn't get the double needle to play ball I think - either that or I just couldn't be bothered stuffing around with it ........... probably option two).

Then of course I had to deal with the hem (which is where a lot of my creations stall). After at least another month of the little blue scrumpled heap being moved from place to place, I hit upon the idea to use hemming web and iron the sucker in place. By this point I wasn't even going to try sewing it as well - I was well and truly over it. I've used hemming web in the past on jeans and wasn't sure if it would hold up on slinky but I've just washed the dress and it's still holding fast, yippee!

Seems I was twisting in the last pic (probably trying to work out whether the camera had taken the pic or not) which has given it some wrinkles that aren't normally there. I can see it needs a press too - even slinky gets wrinkly after being scruched up on floors and in mending boxes for months on end I suppose.

After the experience of this dress it will be a long, long time before I deal with slinky again (I'm fairly sure there's some in my stash but I'm ignoring it and pretending it's not there!)

Basically, to make this dress I used my self drafted TNT knit dress pattern that I've made several dresses with. Obviously I cut up the pattern to give me the seam lines I wanted and extended the shoulders to give me the caps.