Saturday, 27 July 2013

Made: A maxi length Washi dress (also with birds)

You might remember that the first Washi dress I made in grey, with birds, was made with half a Primark reversible duvet cover. Well, this is the other half.
Maxi length Washi dress
 This is the maxi length version of the basic Washi pattern. As before, my big design change was to make the bodice princess seamed. Other than that, I obviously followed the Washi Maxi tutorial to make the dress significantly longer and fully lined. One slight difference, more visible on the back view, is that I bound the lining and outer together using a bit of leftover bias binding from the previous dress. I wish I could say this was a specific plan, but actually I screwed up and this was the only way I could think of to recover from the screw up without unpicking 8 miles of stitching. I've nothing new to say about the pattern -- it makes up very quickly when you're making it for the second time, I still like all the same things I liked before. I didn't do the best job with the full lining and I wish, in retrospect, that I'd blind hemmed rather than top stitching the very deep hem, but I'm still pretty happy with this dress, even though I'm not sure I'd ever willingly leave the house in it.

Back view

The fabric, being cream, desperately needed a lining. In the absence of any time/inclination to go and shop anywhere, I once again bought a cotton sheet to do the job, this time from Tesco for €10. I used pretty much the whole thing making this dress. Overall, I think it cost about €20 to make this maxi dress. That seems like a lot, but wow, it's fabric hungry. There's like 5m of fabric in this dress, so €20 isn't ridiculous.

Close up of the pattern
 I managed to get the border print to behave exactly the way I wanted to this time. However, I had real problems with the two layers of fabric and the princess seams. I am going to steam iron it again later and see if I can improve it any, but I fear that it's just too many similar-weight princess seams in one obvious place to ever look good.

I had a bit of a crisis of confidence with this dress because, I have to admit, it's a little Bride of Dracula-ish, and my friend T. also right pointed out that the very plain cream bodice is kind of blah. I've been wearing the dress this afternoon with a little blue empire line cardi, and I think actually that's a much better look.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Too tired to sew

It's been a tough couple of weeks. My first course delivery at my new university just had to take place in a heatwave, of course! It's hard work lecturing anyway before you add in stifling hot rooms and half-asleep students. Plus I managed to hurt myself through my own stupidity right at the very end of last weekend, and spent Monday and Tuesday basically wishing I were dead and wondering how I was ever going to teach on Wednesday. (The answer was: carefully.) Thankfully the medication kicked in and I was better on Thursday and almost back to normal on Friday. Still, the combination of pain and hot weather wasn't really a happy one, and definitely not conducive to sewing at all until I felt better.

This weekend therefore I had grand plans to make another Washi dress, but I was stymied by the sheer weight of exhaustion that hit me on Saturday. In the morning I acquired some inexpensive sheeting (Tesco this time, rather than Primark) to use as a lining for the other half of my reversible Primark duvet cover, since it's too sheer on its own to be decent. I prewashed it and hung it out to dry in the glorious sunshine while I worked on the pattern. I'd decided to do the cream dress in the maxi length version, to take complete advantage of the border print. I therefore needed to do just a little bit of basic pattern manipulation as described in that post. I used the pattern to cut out the top layer of the dress, brought in the dry sheet off the washing line ready to iron and cut, ate lunch and then, to be quite honest, I totally ran out of steam and crawled back into bed for the afternoon. I eventually resurfaced at about 7pm, ate dinner and had plans to work on the dress, but in the end I went back to bed. I must have needed it because I slept right through and woke up feeling 100% better today. However, I had a million things to do around the house, mostly cleaning and cooking, so I had no time for sewing. It's a shame though, because the weather is about to break this week and this dress is definitely hot weather wear. Maybe we'll have a few more warm days though, you never know. It's been such a weird year for weather so far, heaven only knows what the rest of the year will be like.

The only other crafty thing I've done this weekend is stitch a quick invisible hem by hand back into a pair of trousers. I kind of love that I have that skill now. It doesn't sound like much but when the hem came down after only one wear, I don't know what I would have done before -- asked my mum to look at it, probably, whenever I eventually had her and the trousers in the same country at the same time.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Finished: Washi Dress with Birds

I'm not going to lie, this dress started life as a reversible duvet cover from Primark.

Despite all my efforts, yes, there is a bird looking at my crotch
On Friday night I got home after my third day of nine of hours of teaching in an unventilated room in unusually warm weather and as I was lying around in an exhausted heap I thought: I really want to make something. Really want to. The only thing was, I didn't have any fabric that I felt I wanted to play with (and potentially throw away if the project didn't work), and I didn't really have a pattern. All I have with me here in Ireland are a couple of envelope patterns, neither of which I wanted to make just now, three copies of Burda, none of which had anything that really grabbed me to make this weekend, and my accumulated digital patterns. I don't have a million of them because I loathe printing out and sticky-taping patterns. I'd rather trace Burda spirographs than print out and put together a 30 page pattern. Still, I went though those all again. Nothing really seemed appealing until the very last file, alphabetically, which was the Washi Dress by Made-By-Rae.

I have tried the Washi before. Months ago, I printed out the front and back bodice and ran up a muslin. I was totally unsuccessful getting a good fit with the bust dart. I discovered that the best shoulder fit was from a size XL, but I had a real problem doing a large enough FBA (7cm) without then having to take out a huge amount of width at the waist, and since it's an empire waist dress there's not a lot of room to push in a waist dart big enough to take up the width. I kept ending up with something that looked like a sack full of boobs, or else the waist was way too loose and it became a tent dress, neither of which is really a look I like. So, Friday night I clicked on the file and sighed at it. 'If only it were armhole princess,' I said to myself, because recently I've been able to get a good fit out of a few things using armhole princess seams. And then I slapped myself on the forehead because hi, if I want armhole princess seams, I can HAVE armhole princess seams. I just had to play with the pattern a bit. And buy some fabric.

One of the nice things about this dress: no zip or other fastening, just a bit of shirring.
I spent about an hour on paper pattern adjustments, including making it armhole princess instead of bust darted. I cut a muslin (in fact, I repurposed the last muslin I made) put it on and... it fit. \o/ Best moment of my sewing career so far, seriously. I did make a couple of further little tweaks during the muslin stage but I actually could have gone straight to fashion fabric and it would have been OK. This is the power of having a basic armhole princess bodice sloper, I guess. I used this tutorial in order to make the original front bodice pattern piece of the Washi pattern into two pieces with an approximate armhole princess seam, and then slapped my sloper on top of the new pieces. Hey presto, instant armhole princess! Spending time on slopers to get good bust fit from a couple of methods a few months ago is really paying off. The only reason my bust darted sloper didn't work on this pattern is that I wanted a tight curve under my bust and my darted sloper isn't really set up for that. I did use it on the camp shirt muslin I mentioned above, and although the shirt wasn't very successful it wasn't because of the boob part of the FBA. I still want to try out some knit princess seams and woven shoulder princess seams as well.

On this dress though, so far, so successful. However, it was then far too hot on Saturday morning for me even to consider trailing into the city centre to the fabric shops, so I had to improvise with what I could buy locally: hence, Primark duvet cover. If you're not European, the significance of Primark is probably lost on you. It's a cheap-as-chips clothing retailer, very much of the "three washes and you're done" school of clothes manufacturing. I usually try not to buy anything at all from Primark because they notoriously use the worst kind of sweatshops to produce their clothes, and the quality is dreadful. However, my options for local fabric sources are very limited. A king-size duvet cover nets you about 4.5m of usable fabric, but of course it's also extra wide, about 200cm, for €20. The one I bought had the same border print of birds and plants on a grey background on one side and on a cream background on the other. The cream side turned out to be too sheer to use on its own and I didn't want to go out again and buy something to use as a lining, so that meant using the grey side which is more opaque just by virtue of colour.

When cutting the fabric, I tried really really hard not to have a bird hovering around by my crotch or around my backside... and failed. I also pretty epically failed to match in any way at the side seams, or even in the height of the border print, because I'm an idiot who doesn't pay attention to my own damn cutting diagram. I have to be honest though, and say I really don't care that much about the side seam match fail or the bird hovering around my crotch, and I don't think it looks that bad.

Not very pretty insides: pinked seams, topstitched facing, bound armholes

I really missed my serger making this. The fabric turned out to be relatively loosely woven and so as I handled it it didn't stay in very good condition. I didn't dare do a lot of seam finishing because it frayed so badly and in the end just pinked all my internal seams, turned and topstitched my facings and hem, and bound and topstitched the armholes. I don't think this dress is going to last all that long and while I maybe don't care that much it would have been nice to be able to just zip along my seams with my overlocker to finish them rather than pinking.

You can read my proper pattern review of the Washi dress on PR, but in conclusion: I love it. I wish I had some lining fabric because I want to make a maxi dress version with the other half of the duvet fabric, and I would also really like to make a version with sleeves out of a very nice blue glazed cotton I have with me. I thought I wanted to keep the blue cotton for a different project, but now that I've made a Washi I think it would be a great fabric to use for a dress. It's more stable too, so I think I might have a go at flat-felling the seams to finish it.

Of course, now I've made a sundress, Dublin is blanketed in thick grey clouds. :| I hope that's not my fault...

Friday, 5 July 2013

Burda 05-2012-135 muslin

I decided to have a go this week at making Burda 05-2012-135, a fairly simple collared blouse

Burda 05-2012-135

It's pretty ordinary, although I quite like the little pleat on the sleeve and the deep cuff. I didn't really like the way the facings are done -- they're actually cut onto the front pieces and then you fold them back. You can see from the shot of the sample that they're quite wide and they of course then end up flapping about in a way that drives me entirely insane.

This muslin is in a cheap polycotton black and white stripe that I had set aside as a shirt muslin because of an unfortunate sun fade/yellow mark that ran across the fabric in several places. It's pinned together rather than buttoned, but the pins are exactly where the buttons would be.

I cut a size 46 bodice with size 50 sleeves, and added in a 5cm FBA based on my measurements. Unfortunately I then took out most of the 5cm at the side seam. You can see I actually took a little too much out when I was playing with the fit because there's that characteristic little fold suggesting bad bust fit above the bust on the left of this shot. As bad as the fit is on this incarnation, it was SO MUCH WORSE when I left the full width of the FBA in -- utterly tent-like. (I also made zero effort to set my sleeves in properly, so please ignore the puffiness and pleating).

Overall, I am not at all thrilled with this blouse. It's quite boxy looking on me, and I don't really need any assistance to look boxy since I don't have all that much of a waist at this weight. If I were going to make this up in fashion fabric I'd need to play some more with reshaping the side seams to try to get the fit right at the bust and waist and to get the shirt to cope with my butt (which is the cause, I think of that wrinkling/pooling in my lower back) and I don't know that I find the blouse flattering enough overall to bother. In addition to refining the shape at the side I'd have to play with the sleeve quite a bit -- take out some of the sleeve head ease for a start since it's excessive when you're fitting a 50 sleeve into a size 46 armhole. I quite like that cuff detail but the sleeves too long overall. I also couldn't make any sense of Burda's instructions on how to finish the back neck AT ALL, so I'd have to figure that out even though I don't love the collar. And finally, I really REALLY don't love those front facings. I loathe any facings that flap about like that. I suppose the buttons/buttonholes would anchor it somewhat but I bet it would still be quite prone to flapping.

All that said, while I am feel very indifferent to the pattern I am very happy that I made this muslin. In particular, I am pleased to have had a low pressure go at a couple of elements of the garment that were new to me: collars and cuffs. I think I need a better explained pattern and/or my sewing books to get to grips with collars -- Burda isn't great for teachine new skills -- but apart from the finishing and a little bit of uneven-ness I am actually pretty happy with that collar. Certainly, making this muslin has helped me refine what I want from the first shirt I actually make from fashion fabric -- probably something more fitted than this (which means probably a princess seam), probably a collar with a collar stand rather than this one piece collar, and definitely a pattern with better instructions. This one, meanwhile, is going to go lurk, unloved, somewhere for a few weeks until I decide what to do with it.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


The good news is that last weekend I found a place to live for the longer term here in Dublin, and after some to-ing and fro-ing with paperwork and what-not I am now all Sorted Out!  \o/ I get the keys in three weeks, but I actually won't move in until a fortnight after that due to scheduling problems getting my stuff moved over from the UK. Why is this relevant to my sewing blog? Well, it means that some time in the week of 12 August, I will be back in possession of all my sewing gear, hurrah! \o/ Of course, I have no idea how I am going to fit it all in to the space I'll have available but that's a separate problem that I will deal with later. *sticks head in sand*

Burda 03-2013-107C
In anticipation of being joyfully re-united with all my belongings I've been thinking about what I will want to sew for the season ahead, including potentially sewing for the mini wardrobe competition that PR is running in September.

Because I am tragically lame, I have a spreadsheet that has every single item of clothing that I own listed against a theoretical "ideal wardrobe". This allows me to say with reasonable confidence that my most urgent requirement is long sleeved knit tops for work. I'm therefore perusing my pattern stash (envelope, Ottobre because it's usually good for knits, Burda of course) for the sort of smart-casual top you can wear on its own on warmer days and under a cardi as the weather gets cooler. I'll probably also make a couple more short-sleeved knit tops because they're handy in the early autumn (and seriously, the things I've made that I wear the most often and love the most).

I also need jumpers (which I will probably buy) and also cardigans. I might try to sew at least one cardi though, just because there is that one great Burda pattern from earlier this year (Burda 03-2013-107C). Unfortunately everyone who's reviewed the pattern on PR has said it runs small and close fitting and it's only up to a 42 in the first place so, ugh, grading. Lots and lots of grading, plus some kind of sneaky FBA to give the Boobs of Doom some extra room amid the ruching. (Also knit buttonholes, yikes. I can't be the only person afraid of those!) Other than that, most of the stuff on my list is a want rather than a need. Mainly, I would like to make at least one dress. If I do make one, I'll probably start with a knit.

So: knit tops, maybe a cardigan, maybe a knit dress. My overlocker is seriously going to get a workout once I get it back, I think, and I'll probably burn through a good percentage of my knit stash which will be great.