Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wearability Report: Vogue 1247, A Not-So-Perfect Little Skirt

I'm looking at clothes I made after I got a chance to wear them a few times, and report on how it went. I'm calling this the wearability report, where I'm listing the good & bad workmanship, the pattern merits & faults, the fitting strengths & failures, and following up with a general wearability score for the garment on a 1 to 10 scale, and general thoughts on it, a few months after it was made.

Earlier this summer, I made this skirt, from Vogue 1247, blogged about here.

I loved the pattern, actually I still do and I currently have another version on my sewing table (this time for winter - it's in danger of turning up a bit squee as it stands, but we will see how it goes!).

A  few good things, and several issues:

1. (workmanship) All the seams align well, I'm mega proud of this.
2. (pattern) Pockets gape, especially when having a phone inside. To fix I just catch stitched them to the skirt front - which worked very well, and was an easy and unobtrusive fix. Should have been in the pattern instructions.
3. (pattern, fitting) It's really short, which makes it unusable for work. I wore it for a while at home, but the shortness makes it uncomfortable even there. I tried to wear it at my high hip for extra length but it's just too snug for that - the size I made is the right size if the skirt sits at the waist.
4. (workmanship) The back zipper - a normal zipper since I didn't have a black invisible one on hand - was quite shoddy and didn't look very straight. It basically ended up as an exposed zipper that had that frightful homemade look. Unfixable:

4. (workmanship) The crooked waistband, where I went off pattern and invented my thing. At least no one could see this one - I wrote about it in the original post.
5. (fabric quality, workmanship) I'm afraid I don't have a picture for this. The linen got really nasty after washing, with all topstitched seams bunching up. No amount of pressing helped. I think part of this was my underlining in silk organza and then throwing it in the wash.
6. (workmanship) The piping worked and looked nice, even though it limited the color options for the top.

Lessons learned: 
   1. spend more time sewing up the waistband correctly.
   2. underlining has a time and place; summer garments are not it

Quality score: 5  (2 good - 1 neutral - 3 bad, out of 6)
Conclusion: Pattern too short as designed, very very poor workmanship. Because of the fabric quality issues and my faults while sewing it up, I have relegated this to the wadder pile, and will be throwing it out soon.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Blog direction

Not a massive change, but I had some ideas about series to write and wanted to explain them before they magically appear on the blog.

First, the internet has been brewing with wadders lately. I really appreciate these posts, because let's admit it - who doesn't have wadders! But I feel that more interesting would be to know what happened to the good / almost there clothes later. Were they really good? Did you end up wearing them? Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic does this sometimes, most recently here. I think I want to do this too, and the format I'm thinking of is in two acts:

Act 1 - Wearability Report. I'd write this 4 to 6 months after the make, or at the end of the season (of example, most my makes this summer would get one of these) - did it work, did it not work? Did I end up using it? How did it fare among my other stuff?

Act 2 - Whatever happened to... Report.  I'd write this about 1-2 years later. Are they still in the rotation? Did I wear the thing to death?

I think it's important to do this in two acts, especially because I tend to wear the things I really like a lot, so they deserve two updates (instead of just one). We'll see how it works.

Then, I just got a Google Glass from a friend. I got this with the express purpose of doing a series titled Sewing Through Glass (see here for my very first one!). I'm not quire sure how this will go, but I would like to just video the stuff I make step by step. I'm getting ready to sew Vogue 1381 for example, and that will be interesting to see. It's also going to be cool to see just how often you do mess up while making something. Then, if I do take all these little videos along the way, I can add a "making of" video when I write up the make at the end.

Since I want to make many small videos, I'm not sure I'll end up posting them on the main blog feed - I might just add a new RSS feed for the videos and make a weekly round up or something. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Thirdly, what I was considering for a while, but haven't given it much thought in a few weeks, was to do weekly or bi-weekly What I'm wearing posts. This would be more interesting to me than to any of you, but someone told me on a recent work offsite that I wear things I make quite a lot and I really liked hearing that! Then I wondered if it was really true. Now, actually doing this requires me taking a picture each morning before I go to work, which doesn't always happen, but I am considering setting up my camera in a semi-permanent position and programming one of the remotes to do auto-picture taking. It will also be an interesting effort in finding out wether tshirt + jeans really is the tech uniform! Actually maybe I should just call the series Tech Uniform :D

I'm leaving you with a picture of my current project - a winter version of Vogue 1247:

What do you think about my plans? Good? Bad? Let me know!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rain coat: construction

I have a bunch of pictures with details about my rain coat. This was my original construction plan. This is a very picture heavy post.

I'll start one by one. First, interfacing. The Robson coat pattern suggests less interfacing than I ended up using. I mostly used a very lightweight fusible interfacing (to match my very lightweight silk), but also silk organza.

I forget what the pattern asks for (I will edit this later), but I did the following:
* front facing - fusible
* front of jacket - lightweight organza
* everything floppy (lapels, epaulettes, back rain guard) - fusible
* collar / undercollar - fusible
* top of sleeve - fusible
* hems - a slightly stiffer lightweight organza

The pattern doesn't suggest interfacing the belt, and I didn't have enough interfacing left for it, but I think that would have been useful as well.

The top of sleeve and hem interfacing was an idea from Nordheim's Vintage Couture Tailoring. The top of sleeve is very simple - just cut a matching fusible piece and fuse.

The hems are using bias silk organza:

The process here is that you have wide strips of organza and you overlay them from seam to seam:

Then, you pad stitch them to the seam allowance:

Then they are turned up along the seam line.

I also sewed a lightweight chain inside the bottom hem, along the hemline. It helps with making it a bit of a round shape when I wear it closed.

I didn't bias-bind all seams, but I instead I used the hot pink for the pockets and lower hem. I then used a chocolate for the facing.

This way, there's less of a pink peek when you see the insides. The seams are flat felled and topstitched in pink:

Construction went together well, and I am pretty happy with it. It does need a good press often though.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Dixie Charm: the stealth shawl

With autumn and winter fast approaching, I wanted to get back into crochet. I even have a mini yarn stash, so I decided to choose from it. I had two choices: a dark silver silk/linen blend and an autumnal color cotton blend. I went with the dark silver since it had a pretty sheen to it that would work well with anything.

I wanted something easy, because my next project will be to tackle the mitts I got stuck with last winter. Hopefully now that I have a few more projects under my belt, I can tackle that again and be more successful than last time :)

Easy crochet project (Ravelry link), I thought something that requires no fitting would be good, so in order for it to be useful at work, I figured a shawl or a wrap would do. I wasn't quite sure I would like wearing one of these with normal clothes, but it didn't turn out too bad - see top picture!

Knowing I wanted a shawl or a wrap, I hit Ravelry looking for a crochet pattern that would take up to 600yards of sport weight yarn, and I found this lovely item called Dixie Charm, so I started with it. I bypassed gauge making and everything too (pattern instructions condone this!):

It's very cute at first :) The pattern is crocheted in a V shape, going around the outsize. It has a one row setup, 3 rows of lace work and two rows setting up the filled spaces. It went together pretty easily, although I did skip a bunch of double crochets (UK trebble) at the beginning. By the time I got to the 3rd pattern repeat I had the "go in 2s" thing sussed out, and the rest went smoothly.

I'm calling it a stealth shawl because of the form it had when blocking - a coworker suggested it, and I thought it was a good idea.

It seems I have 7 full repeats. Because I was running out of yarn, I didn't finish as the pattern suggests. Instead, I did a short repeat of Row 4, Row 5,  Row 8, Row 9 and then finished with a row of single crochet (UK double crochet) all around (including the bottom).

I thought it would be too short a good way through, but actually it didn't turn out small at all, it's perfect length and it covers my arms well. This will be useful for my Californian trips - the AC is always on there.

I find it is very pretty - I really like the lace work. No, this is not me sounding old at all!

I also didn't realize these things actually stay on your ams without you constantly adjusting them, so it works really well as office wear.

Here's a back picture.

A very successful project, no?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Finished Bellini

I like to let the hype die down with pattern companies and patterns when they appear (too much hype on the interwebz in general!), but I kept going back to the Martini dress from Capital Chic Patterns.

I like the cropped view, so when I got that pattern I got the Bellini as well since I always like tops. I wear jeans to work most days after all! It also so happens that they have a sew along, so perfect timing?

The first thing I liked about this blouse happened right after I opened the zip file I received by e-mail. It's only 15 13 pages long! Anyone who tapes PDF patterns together will know this is a really nice achievement - only 13 pages is extremely good (the last two are just blank pages). In the end I printed only 12 pages since page 13 is the scalloped collar and I'm not a great fan of those - I do however, like scallops in general. The eating kind.


I started by comparing the pattern pieces to my sloper:

They looked similar enough, although notice how the front shoulder seam is a good 2inches lower than my sloper's front shoulder. The rest looks OK. I wasn't sure about the shoulder seam, so I decided not to go with my Liberty fabric for this make.


I used the same cotton fabric as for my blue afternoon blouse. Not sure what type of cotton it is, but something light - a voile perhaps. This fabric isn't great now  - actually I decided while sewing this up that it's pretty terrible, all things considered. As an aside, I bought this fabric at the same time as a lovely lovely other cotton which I ruined on an ill-fitting Laurel blouse. Talk about priorities.


Construction went together relatively easily. I had to revert to instructions for the collar. It was a new-to-me method because the blouse has facings, but the collar itself is finished cleanly with the raw seams to the inside, so you have to do some strategic clipping to get things to align. It was a bit fiddly, but easy enough overall. The drawings in the instructions for this stage were good, so probably achievable by an advanced beginner.

I steered away from the instructions after that, but from what I can tell from the sewalong I sewed it up in a similar manner.

The pattern calls for 5 buttons - I ended up using 4, as I never button up the collar. The only difference was that I sewed the buttons horizontally rather than vertically as the pattern instructions said. In hindsight, this was a mistake - I checked later and all my RTW shirts have vertical buttons, and there is a good reason for it: fabric pulls otherwise.

The facing felt a bit wide during construction, but then I wore it 3 times last week and I didn't think it was too wide so who knows. I finished it with hand overcasting. I did it just so it was there, but I don't think most fabrics (this cotton included) need a finish when they have fusible interfacing applied.

There is a simple row of topstitching on the collar and the fronts.

The instructions say to use bias binding for the sleeves. I'm not a fan of making bias binding, so I just used a faster method. What I did was cut 1" bias strips from the fabric (continuous bias method) and pressed in half:

Then I attached as you would a neckband: stitch band to right side of the fabric, raw edges together at 1/4". Trim seam allowance. Turn band to the inside and topstitch from the right side just inside the 1/4" line, so you catch it with the stitching. The results are similar to the use of bias binding, but I find this more straight-forward.


Let's start fit with the good parts -  no swayback necessary. This is all kinds of amazing, because I have a love-hate relationship with that adjustment. The back of the sloper predicted this would be the case.

However, after wearing it to work, I realized that the front fit is rather off. Here's a picture of the problem in a picture where I was sitting straight:

Not enough room around the bust, making the blouse ride up, which makes it show midriff and puts the collar in a weird place.

Given my sloper fit the pattern pieces, I wasn't sure what was wrong here. Now, some of this is due to the fabric, and some due to the unfortunate buttonhole direction. But overall I thought the measurement itself was off.

So I took out my measuring tape...  my back is 3/4" wider than when I made the sloper.  I also had a "shoulder measurement" taken at the gym - it's a standard one they use, and I last had it taken mid-July. They take it with arms by one's side, just underneath the shoulder joint. That measurement showed an increase as well, by roughly the same amount. My other measurements stayed the same, so this is a direct result of the gym.

So now I need a new sloper. 

I'll keep wearing this, because I like the blouse. But now that this version is done, I want to do better. I'm planning to cut a new version, one size up, which I think should do the trick since the problem is the back measurement rather than the front measurement.

I leave you with an Oktoberfest bier shot:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Hello Rain Coat

Oh my it feels like I worked on this for quite a while... I guess that's because I did, it took me almost 4 weeks to finish it - but then, I was away to Ireland for almost a full week, and then was so annoyed with it that I didn't pick it up for another 10 days.

This is Sewaholic's Robson Coat.  I had this crazy idea back in February that I should make a trench coat made of waterproof fabric, so went ahead and ordered the pattern. Then, I bought the fabric (waterproof silk) at MacCulloch & Wallis the same month, and also chose some super fine matching fusible interfacing. Then, I ordered blue buttons and blue seam binding. Then, I did nothing about any of this until late August, despite having the wettest summer since records began in Switzerland.

This allowed me time to understand that I will be making a rain coat rather than a trench coat because of the fabric - very flowy as it is silk twill. I was happy with that, and actually I wonder if this pattern works very well in a stiff fabric - the pictures on their website also show it with a bit of extra fabric. But then again, plenty of stiffer fabrics in the blog circles with this coat, so I might just be crazy :)

I also last minute ended up choosing pink over blue for the accents:

I wanted soooo much to sew this up for my Ireland trip in late August, but sadly I put in a sleeve the other way around and just ended up so upset over this whole thing that I left the thing be and didn't touch it again for two weeks. I had to cut the sleeve head away and piece together another one - see the horizontal seam in the arm below. I didn't have enough fabric to recut the whole sleeve, and didn't want to wait for more fabric to be shipped from the UK. I'm happy that episode is over.

I initially cut a size 8 at bodice and moved to 6 at hips, but didn't think I really needed to go through the trouble after sewing up a muslin, so the actual thing is size 8 all around.. I did shorten the pattern by something like 10cm - I'm 163cm (5'3") and it would have hit me somewhere at midi length had I left it as it was. The length as it is now hits just above my knees, which is ok for a rain coat, but if I were making a trench coat I would have had to cut another 10cm or so from it.

I shortened below the hip, ignoring shorten/lengthen lines, because I wanted to remove as much from the flare as possible, since I am not pear shaped so I was worried it would be too flared. Looking back, I should have removed about 3-4cm from the waist area rather than all going from the below-hip since the pockets are ever-so-slightly too low. Not stupidly low mind you, but low enough for me to notice.

Fit - I *think* this fits in the bust and shoulder area. I mean, it looks ok to me, and it feels OK, but would very much like someone who knows fitting better to tell me if I'm wrong. I'm no fitting expert and also have little interaction with real people on this stuff so would appreciate feedback I think the drafting was good - the sleeves in particular, these are things I am particularly afraid of, and they went in very easily.

I wore it in Strasbourg over the weekend, including to dinner. Dinner was actually a fully me-made outfit:

Looking at this pic, I was very vintage 20s-looking, although that was not the look I was going for. Good to know though. The skirt is V1357, the blouse is the Belacarra

This post is getting a bit long, so I think I'll do another one on insides. The pictures won't be as nice, as all the pics I took during construction were phone pics. To give a sneak preview, I interfaced a LOT more pieces than the pattern requires, and I also  interfaced hems with organza. I'll do a round up of that later.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

OWOP - results!

Well now. I didn't quite keep to my end of the bargain with my OWOP challenge - I did wear me-made blouses all week (only photographed during the workdays though), but didn't manage to complete the two extra blouses I wanted.

First, the pictures:

The order on this picture is a bit random, but I think:
Monday - refashioned Zara men's shirt
Tuesday - silvery Afternoon blouse
Wednesday - Belacarra blouse
Thursday - blue Afternoon blouse
Friday - refashioned silk dress. I don't think I ever did post this one but it was a silk dress that was too drapey for its own good, and now is a blouse.

I managed to cut the pattern for the Bellini blouse on Sunday. This only happened on Sunday because I spent all week nights crocheting (shawl close to being done), and spent the weekend finishing my rain coat. Here's a sneak peek, I'm planning to take proper pictures at the weekend:

I'm hoping to finish my Bellini tonight. I had one slight mishap with the collar (sewed down the wrong long seam - why oh why!!!!), but now I think I'm ready to: sew the remaining 3 seams, bind the armholes, and make buttons.

Monday, 8 September 2014

OneWeekOnePattern - maybe, possibly?

I must admit I really enjoyed taking part in OWOP last time around - but as the date looms closer now, I realize I don't have enough repeat makes to sustain me through a whole week.

I have three skirts which I think are made from the same pattern, but we have lovely 25 degree weather this week and I'd much rather not wear wool yet - and two of three are wool. I have two Afternoon Blouses but I'd need at least one more to get through all of the next five days. Everything else is single edition.

So I'm doing something else instead. To honor OWOP, I'm going to tag along by wearing one-week-blouse-patterns (OWBP), where the me-makes will be tops. I will also endeavor to wear both my Afternoon Blouses (mini-OWOP), and also complete two new tops by the end of the week.

For the tops, I have decided to use this prized Liberty tana lawn that my London team gave me before I left (hi team!):

I am planning to make a Sewaholic Belacarra and a Capital Chic Bellini. I have 2 meters of the stuff, so that should be enough for both, and tana lawn is absolutely perfect for blouses. I'm giving myself 7 days to make the tops, since I'm still not done with the rain coat.

The update on that is that after a snafu with the sleeves which left me unable to take it to Ireland, I have eased myself into it last week, and to date I have bias bound the arm seams and have attached silk organza to the sleeve hems. The major hold up now is that I need to cut the sleeve lining, which hopefully I'll do tonight.

In the meanwhile, as some of you might have seen on Instagram, I am working on a crochet shawl, which is going quite well - I'm more than half way through:

I won't be posting outfits every day, but I'll do an update post at the end, and in the meanwhile you can follow me on Instagram to see daily updates.

Friday, 5 September 2014

V1351: almost there

When I thinking about the party dress I posted about last week two weeks how-did-this-become-three-weeks-ago-when-I-wrote-the-post-already(!), I initially started from V1351. That's this DKNY pattern in case you have no idea what I'm talking about:

Vogue 1351 / voguepatterns.com

It's a bias cut dress with a cowl. I thought it was perfect for the party dress, but that I needed something other than muslin to try it out, as the drapey-ness requirements are different.

As an aside, I'm not really sure how draping drapey designs works with muslin. I bought this Draping book from amazon to learn, but now I'm blocked by the fact that muslin is 10-francs-a-metre-in-Zurich - this has to be the one item in Switzerland that I find really expensive. Luckily muslin is cheaper in Romania, so I have instructed people coming over by car to buy me a whole bolt.

Back on the subject at hand, I had this polyester Kaufman drapey mystery fabric in my stash for about two years, it was a birthday present from someone at work, and it was perfect for the project.

The dress is bias cut for the fashion fabric, has a grain-cut bodice lining, and a bias-cut skirt lining. The bodice is very smartly done: the lining actually makes the cowl sit in place. I was a bit meh about the whole thing when I finished - this was the picture I took before I hemmed:

I cut a straight size 12, and it was quite easy to put together. I ended up making various tucks and pleats by hand to make the cowl sit as I wanted it to. One of the things this has taught me is that I don't really like cowls. At all. No that I think about it, I quite disliked the cowl on my Vogue 1250s as well, both on the dress, and on the top. The problem is that I just don't know what to do with it! You live and you learn, eh? Maybe they'd be easier to handle if there was less fabric.

One of the cool things about this pattern, however, it that it's really good. No need for a sway back, nothing changed, the dress looks great. Great instructions for a machine narrow hem - I think I'm finally getting the difference between a narrow hem and a rolled hem.

Obviously, this isn't a fitted garment, but I quite like how much movement one gets It looks excellent with a belt as well:

Turns out I like bias cut things. Who-would-have thought!

One word of advice - the skirt is cut quite long, I had to trim a good deal from it. Size 12 as drafted is really more of a midi length for me (163cm / 5'4").

I decided in the end that I didn't want to use this pattern for the party dress (*cowl* ahem), but I did cut the party dress skirt from the skirt pattern, so I had that going for me :) And I got to wear it a few times at work, although the skirt lining just will not stay put - I need to add thread tacks to it - it's only going to happen next year though now that winter is coming in Zurich. Although we are heading to Mallorca for a team offsite soon, so I might just get that done before I go.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A very special party dress

I was calling this "The Dress" but then I realized that I called the party dress I made last year "The Dress" as well so that won't do. I haven't thought of a name yet, but I can tell you that this dress took a  loooong time to make.

Obligatory Auto Awesome:

Looking at these pictures I'm not quite sure I'm that happy with this dress (boo!).

Fabric is Liberty Silk Crepe (I didn't know this existed!!) from Truro fabrics - they don't have this exact fabric in stock anymore, but they have some other options - see here. The dress is my own pattern, and it took just under 3 meters of fabric.

The top is made from my sloper - the back is a normal one, I just made a V-neck out of it, the front I made one-shouldered and then added a gathered strap. The back can be lower, but I'm happy with how it turned out nonetheless.

This is full of couture techniques (and some non-couture ones too!). I underlined with silk organza - the delicious Italian one that MacCulloch and Wallis stocks (here). I added a China silk lining to the bodice, which I stitched and understitched by hand.

I watched-and-rewatched-and-rewatched the Susan Khaljie Craftsy class for this make - it's a great class. Truth be told, by the time I decided what I wanted, her new cocktail dress class would have been perfect (including perfect pattern), but the pattern wouldn't have arrived on time, so I skipped it for now.

I have to give a shout out to the China silk supplier I found in Zurich  - it is the best quality habotai I have EVER seen. The shop is called Keck (link), and the stuff is pretty very stupidly steep at 35 francs/meter, but I swear it is worth it for those special makes! It's not the flimsy stuff that I was used to with China silk -  it's the real deal, I didn't even know you could buy such good quality habotai.  By the way, the term for China silk here is "Seidefutter" - Futter meaning lining, and Seide means silk - obviously, the only possible silk item to be used for lining out there! Much like Romania, silk materials are just "seide", rather than "seide something" like charmeuse or whatever. A bit annoying, but you get used to it.

I also found, in the same shop, an interesting Gutterman silk thread - not the shiny-made-of-multiple-strands kind I used to find in the UK, but one that seems to be made of one strand of silk, and glides beautifully. I stocked up several spools because it's perfect for tailor tacks and basting, and will probably go back often for more. It's also pretty cheap at around 3 francs / spool.

But I digress. The skirt is cut on the bias, and I used the Vogue 1351 skirt pattern as a starting point. I wanted a high-low hem, so a lining wouldn't have worked - instead I underlined in the same China silk that I used to line the bodice. I didn't use silk organza to underline the skirt because I wanted to dress to keep flowing, and organza would have made it too stiff. I finished with a hand rolled hem, as per instructions in Susan Khaljie's Couture Sewing Techniques , which is a wonderful book, well worth reading.

I also added a bit of interest to the low part of the skirt:

I'm not sure it's very visible in these photos, but the hem in front has a pleated overlay that adds a bit of visual interest. I achieved this by cutting the front, then making the overlay and attaching it by hand. This is what it looks like from the wrong side:

The pleat detail is mirrored in the belt, which is wide and made of 3 identical pleats:

The belt has in a fake bow at the back, and it closes with snaps:

The dress closes with a side zipper, and has, on the opposite side, some boning to mirror the draping that results from the zipper. It's not metal boning (it would have been too stiff!), but some very flexible plastic one - the type you would never use in a corset or bustier. The boning is attached to the lining rather than the dress - I'm not sure that's the right way, but it does what it's intended to:

I also added bra holders, in three places. A bit of advice: for the shoulder seam, the holder needs to be on the side close to the neckline - the one I made first is on the side close to the shoulder joint and doesn't work.

I think I need to work on my fell stitch, and also need to be more careful with the lining - the inside doesn't look as nice as it could have!

I did get my grandma's seal of approval though :)

I'm ending this with a few full shots of the dress on the dummy:


Back - in this picture the bias draping doesn't look right, as if I messed up the grain - any ideas?

Front - the hem is even, but the dress was tilted in this photo

PS I just went back through my posts last year and realized I never posted about last year's party dress! Here's a picture - some silk my mom brought back from Thailand, made from the Laurel pattern for friends' wedding: