Golden gown

150627gown03This year’s Midwinter Ball was winter wonderland themed, so naturally my mind went to creams, whites, silvers, blues and sparkles. Lots of sparkles. Basically, Elsa dresses, right?

There might be no cape and the sparkles are rather subtle, but in the end I am completely thrilled with this gown.

150627gown10(Yes, I always wander around the bush in near-zero temperatures wearing sleeveless ball gowns. Don’t you? My photographer said it all put him in a rather Picnic at Hanging Rock frame of mind. Fortunately, no disappearances occurred.)

150627gown06This is the Simplicity 2580, view D again. It’s such an easy sew! Well, apart from the bit where I sewed the right-side-out bodice to the wrong-side-out skirt. This also happened on the earlier green version so that step must just come at the point where my brain’s had enough of this sewing lark. Plus the doubled over front bodice piece, forming the cowl, makes it confusing to tell which is the right side and which is the wrong side.

150627gown09I made no changes to the pattern apart from adding in back darts. They’re a little lumpy because I did this right at the end, catching in all the overlocking and elastic on the waist seam, but I’ve now added the darts to my traced pattern so they can happen in the proper order next time.  Otherwise, I’ve used clear elastic on the shoulders and waist, overlocked all the exposed inside seams, hand-stitched the neck and armhole facings and machine-sewed a double fold hem (on account of running out of time to hand-stitch).

150627gown08The fabric is a viscose/elastane/lurex knit from Tessuti; cream with gold woven throughout. I was lucky enough to have a friend heading up the highway to fabric shop so I gave him three options from Tessuti’s website and asked him to stretch-test them all. It’s a pretty stable knit, quite like a ponte, and is so comfortable to wear I think this ball gown qualifies as secret pyjamas!
150627gown13Once all sewed up it just needed something extra to lift the plain colour. After visiting four fabric shops one afternoon I found some suitable lace mesh at Spotlight. With the help of my mother I fiddled around with the placement of a few of the flower bunches then hand-sewed them down (in the very pleasant company of Phryne Fisher). I love the subtle embellishment the lace appliqué adds, lifting the dress without being overpowering.

All dolled up for the ball - photo by Mick Tsikas
All dolled up for the ball – photo by Mick Tsikas

I like this pattern so much I’m plotting a few more dresses from it and contemplating drafting a cross-over/faux wrap front bodice to make it baby-feeding-friendly. I’m also debating whether to cut this particular gown off at knee length after attending CBR Frocktails to make it a bit more wearable. There aren’t too many occasions where one can sport a full-length golden gown!

150627gown04

150627gown01The other best part about this gown? There was enough fabric left over to make a birthday present for my one-year-old odd-daughter. The pattern is Brindille and Twig’s t-shirt dress which I hacked to add the colour-blocked skirt band (there wasn’t enough width in the gold scraps to get the full skirt out of) and a Peter Pan collar. I also had to cut the back in two pieces instead of on the fold. The sleeves and skirt band are in black ponte and the collar is a lighter-weight jersey because I thought two layers of the thicker knit might be too bulky. A very quick sew after all the puzzlement of making new pattern pieces for my changes.

150627gown02

Ch-ch-ch-changes

150605dress4

If there’s one thing sewing is widely acknowledged as being good for, it would have to be making you realistic – and appreciative – about your body. Once you get a few garments done and start to learn some fitting and adjustments, it seems that suddenly everybody is able to acknowledge their short torso, full/small bust or rounded shoulders – whatever it may be that makes them a unique body. And you learn that what is, is, more or less.

I’ve spent much of the past 18 months cranky at my body for not doing what I wanted it to do. Being cranky at your flesh for what ultimately turns out to be a (fixable) medical issue really is a waste of energy and emotions. But try telling that to the irrational brain that’s used to being in charge of things. Now this body is finally doing what I want, yet that hard won knowledge about it might as well be thrown out the window. The outside flesh is even more alien to me right now than the little guy growing inside.

150605dress2

For a few years now I’ve walked around with the knowledge of my bust/waist/hip measurements in my brain. Maybe it changes by a centimetre or two with a kilo here or there, but generally I can look at a pattern and have a pretty good idea what size I’ll need. I’ve been the same RTW dress size for years (you know, as much as brand variance allows, but I know the size needed from the shops I love). Now? Not so much.

This has all come to a head because the annual ball is looming. I wanted to avoid the stress of last year so figured I’d buy a gown. Something stretchy or empire line, because I honestly have no idea what shape I’ll be on the night. Online searches appear to reveal that pregnant women either a) aren’t supposed to go to black tie events or b) can’t wear sequins, lace or anything gorgeously spangly. Bah to that! I joke to everyone that I’ll make Kim Kardashian’s sofa cover. I’m still not convinced I want to sew anything. For months I’ve been too busy napping to sew; the only things that have emerged from my sewing room are an oversize Finalyson for me, a baby quilt for my brother, half a Kielo dress and a tantrum at my continuously unthreading overlocker.

150605dress3

So I head to the shops for a last ditch try for something RTW that has space for a bump, looks elegant and doesn’t cost a fortune. Halfway through the expedition I remember I basically haven’t been clothes shopping since starting to change shape. I had an early burst of enthusiasm when my tummy looked like it only contained a large dinner and bought some delightfully stretchy Metalicus dresses, but that’s it. Remember how I said I’ve been the same RTW size for years? Yeah, the fourth gown in a row in “my” size where the zipper wouldn’t get within cooee of doing up and I agreed that wasn’t the case any more. Turns out just because I’ve been squeezing into my same old bras and clothes doesn’t mean I’m the same size or shape.

That experience combined with contemplating stash patterns to sew a gown made it really finally hit me: I don’t know my measurements any more. I don’t know my body any more. I don’t know what adjustments need to be made. That stomach I’ve been admiring in the mirror each morning, willing to poke out more? It means real change. People say your ever-changing body while you’re incubating a new human is a way to prepare yourself for the loss of control babies bring to life. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept. It’s tough. But I suspect the first step is to drag out the measuring tape and reset the numbers in my head – this week and next week and the week after…

150605dress1

PS – I sewed this dress after writing the bulk of this post. It’s view D of Simplicity 2580 in a polyester stretch crepe from Spotlight and I’m happy enough with it that I’ll make the full-length version for the ball. The construction was super easy, with the front bodice self-lining to make the cowl work nicely and as a bonus encases all the bodice seams. Bit the bullet, took those measurements and wound up sewing a size larger than “normal” (Simplicity’s size 20 here). I added clear elastic to the shoulders and waist seam, and hand stitched the neckline, sleeve facings and hem. I’m generally happy with the fit, although it’s a bit baggy in the back which I’m hoping adding a couple of darts to the next version will fix.

150605dress5

Growing Mossy

150208mossdots3

It hasn’t been by design, but I’ve done a whole lot of double sewing over the summer. I find sewing the same pattern twice in quick succession is very useful for consolidating in your mind the best way to make it and how to solve any tricky parts (I guess making a trial muslin does the same thing…). Mixed in with the double Dahlias I also worked on two version of Grainline Studio’s Moss skirt. I don’t know why it took me so long to try this pattern!

150208mossdots4

First up I used this medium-weight, slightly stretchy polka dot denim from Spotlight. I have a RTW plain denim mini skirt that I bought when at uni and have worn nearly to death and was looking for something to replace it as a summer wardrobe staple. This one certainly fits the bill.

I have sewn fly front zippers before but it was a very long time ago so I was grateful for Jen’s online tutorial with lots and lots of photos – and the pointer to it in the pattern instructions. The second time around was much easier but I still had to refer the the photos at one point when I forgot to sew the zipper to the skirt piece in the right order.

150208mossdots1

I’ve seen reference around the place to something odd happening with the Moss waistband, though not entirely sure what. Mine came out the right length on both versions but ended up different heights on the overlap both times. Not sure if this was my dodgy sewing, but I did try hard the second time around to make sure all the seam allowances were correct and sewn straight and it still came out wrong. The polka dot one was more pronounced so I unpicked the taller end of the waistband and resewed it so the height matched the other side (top stitching still a bit dodgy but not really noticeable when worn).

150208mossdots6

I was in between sizes so cut a size 14, the larger one, in the denim but ended up taking it in just over a centimetre on each side seam before attaching the waistband. Because of the sizing and the slight stretch in the fabric (and possibly because it’s not really the proper weight material for a skirt like this) it sits a bit lower on my hips than I’d really like. So for the second version I cut a size 12.

150117moss_faces4

I also added three inches to the length of the skirt. I like the mini length in the denim but there’s a limit to how many short short skirts have a place in my wardrobe. I wasn’t sure how short it would turn out and did cut the hem band pieces int he polka dot denim to attach as per View B but ended up deciding they weren’t needed (I didn’t cut them in the faces fabric, just added length to the main skirt body). As it turns out, because of the smaller size and this fabric having no stretch whatsoever, the hem sits in about the same place. But the waist is higher so it feels quite different to wear.

150117moss_faces5

This fabulous fabric is from – believe it or not – Ikea. In fact, they still sell it. A few years ago I found out Ikea sold fabric and made a special trip up the highway to check it out. At that point I was still rather clueless about what material was suitable for which garments, so I wound up with all these heavy-weight cottons, more properly suited to home dec stuff, and no idea what to do with them. I made a few cushion covers out of this (but then decided they didn’t go with the sofa so they’ve been retired) and felt slightly sad about not being able to find a clothes usage. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw a man at the shops wearing shorts in this exact print. Aha! Of course, it’s perfectly suited to become a hard-wearing skirt.

150117moss_faces9Because of the way the pattern repeats on the fabric and the fact I didn’t have a whole lot left there wasn’t much pattern matching opportunity. I cut the front and back panels nearly on the fold, so there’s only a bit of the pattern lost in the seam allowance, and much the same for the yokes. Similarly, there was little room to play around with pattern placement. I’m very happy with how it turned out though and it’s so much fun to wear – and hasn’t failed to attract comments yet.

150208mossdots7For both skirts I lined the waistband and pockets with remnant quilting cottons from the stash. The multicoloured spots is Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric I used to line a friend’s bag and the newspaper fabric was left over from a skirt made ages ago. I love having secretly exciting insides like this; they give me a thrill every time I pull the skirt out of the cupboard. Plus I think the newspaper/faces combination is perfect for me because I gather people’s stories and retell them. Oh, and I got clothes tags for a belated Christmas present! The faces Moss was the first thing I added a tag to and it makes me so proud.

150117moss_faces6

Double blooming Dahlias

Recently I’ve been watching the television series Suburgatory. It’s a classic fish out of water sitcom about a single dad and his teenage daughter who move from New York City to the suburbs. One of the supporting characters is named Dahlia. She’s your stereotypical plastic consumerist teen, always clad in tight, short dresses, the pinker the better.

This Dahlia is not a bit like her.

150115dahlia_pink2

I sewed up two of Colette’s Dahlia dresses in quick succession as some of my first makes this year. I was attracted to this pattern for the sleeved, wintery version but it’s the summer frock that I’ve actually made. Both have had a fair bit of wear so far; the style is perfect for my lazy summer holiday mood.

150118dahlia_ww1

The first version is sewn up in a fantastic Wonder Woman quilting cotton. I’d admired it in Spotlight several times but not been able to think of how to make it work. Then The Monthly Stitch announced its G33k Out challenge for December and gave me the excuse I’d been looking for. However, it took me a while to find a pattern that addressed my concerns that a whole garment of Wonder Woman going BAM! would be a bit … in your face. Add that to the time eaten by the sewing of several Christmas presents and, well, December flew by and I missed the challenge.

150118dahlia_ww2

In the new year I re-contemplated the summer dress version of Dahlia, discovered the TMS January challenge was all about denim and found some chambray/denim scraps left from a skirt that looked good with Wonder Woman. BAM!

150118dahlia_ww3

This was a nice and easy pattern to sew up – though I did my usual trick of mixing it up straight out of the packet and combined the View B bodice with the View A skirt, mainly because I wanted the fabric to feature so I preferred not to cut it up into panels. The gathering (and advice in the instructions about sewing three rows of gathering threads instead of the usual two) was an interesting and different-to-me way of shaping the bodice and was very easy to do. I also like the method of attaching the waistband lining.

150118dahlia_ww5

I made my own bias tape out of the denim which was a bit wider than the recommended 1/4″. For the second version of this dress (that’s the pinkish one up top) I used store-bought bias tape of the “correct” width but I actually like the look of the wider binding better.

150118dahlia_ww4

The only difficulty I had was because the way the neckline binding forms the straps, I found it impossible to fit the dress properly until right at the end of sewing (I cut a size 12 bust and size 14 waist based on my measurements). This wouldn’t be a problem if I’d made a muslin but, of course, I didn’t. As a result, this one is too long in the bodice for my liking and it gapes a bit under the arms. You can see in the picture above how it’s all blousing out. I’m not too concerned about the loose fit because, realistically, having Wonder Woman suddenly faced with a decision and BAM!ming all over the place means this dress was always going to be a casual garment. But I wanted to get the fit better for the second one.

150115dahlia_pink6

This time round I shortened the bodice by 3cm and took about 1.5cm off both front and back side seams at the underarm, grading it back out to the full size at the waistband. This largely fixed the problem of the bodice blousing out excessively, but has created some funny pull lines from the top of the bust to the top of the arm hole. If I make it up again (a distinct probability) I’ll try reducing the side seams a bit less. (This fabric is a lightweight printed cotton, also from Spotlight, BTW. A good weight for sewing this pattern.)

150115dahlia_pink9

The other modifications I made were to add bias tape to the waistband seams (like piping but without any cord) to define them a bit in this busy fabric, and including inseam pockets. Because, pockets. I can’t not have them. I’ve never done inseam pockets with a side zip before (in fact, this is the first pattern I’ve sewn that has a side zip and I like it a lot) so there was a bit of swearing, unpicking, googling and checking RTW dresses in my closet to work out where you’re supposed to put the pocket bags. I initially sewed them one on each edge of the skirt pieces, like regular pockets, then realised that would mean you’d have to unzip the whole dress to use the pocket. Not so sensible.

The answer was you sew the pocket bag together (around the curvy edge) then attach one part of it to the skirt front. The other edge folds back and becomes the seam allowance for attaching the zipper to, instead of the skirt front being the seam allowance. The opening of the pocket ends up on the front side of the zipper. Naturally, I didn’t take photos while puzzling this out.

150115dahlia_pink3

If there’s one big thing I’ve learnt over the past few years of sewing, it’s don’t stitch to a deadline. It never works out well. Of course, I ignore this much of the time and impose (often arbitrary) deadlines on myself. So it was with this dress. We were headed interstate for the weekend and I thought it would be nice to have a new summer frock to wear. But there wound up being a lot of unpicking involved – working out the pockets and also attaching the piping neatly to the waistband – and it wasn’t finished by the time we had to walk out the door. There was still the bias binding to attach to the neckline and armholes, and hemming. It would have taken maybe 30 or 40 minutes at the machine.

150115dahlia_pink8

That was time I didn’t have, so I packed up the binding, scissors, pins, needle and thread and took the show on the road. And the train after the road. It took more than seven hours of hand stitching but that labour means I love this dress all the more! I added length to the straps to make the ties because I was worried a hand-stitched join at the shoulder wouldn’t be strong enough. I did intend to re-sew it properly on the machine later, but now I’ve decided I like the bows so I’ll keep them. I’m looking forward to trying out the sleeved version of this pattern now!

150115dahlia_pink5

What’s up, Charlie Brown?

Around where I work it’s pretty common to be greeted with, “What do you know?” instead of the “what’s up?” or “how’s it going?” most people might find normal. It makes sense; we’re in the knowledge business in an environment where rumours are currency. The question always give me more pause than a “how are you” though – what do I know? Well after the past year of sewing and blogging, here’s what I know.

2015/01/img_5257.jpg

  • Things that fit look so much better. Well, duh! Isn’t that partly why one sews in the first place? But at the start of the year, despite sewing for at least 18 months already, I just hadn’t got the hang of making things fit properly. That changed when my mother and I did one of the Burda online courses together and ended up with a set of slopers each and a better idea of how to adjust patterns. That little bit of knowledge (oh so dangerous!) has given me the confidence to start messing around with patterns – AnnaFlora, Lonsdale with self-drafted bodice, messing with the Cambie skirt right out of the box – and even drafting a few skirts of my own. I’m also sold on the usefulness of making muslins, although I don’t always have the patience to do so.

2015/01/img_5250.jpg

  • Stretch fabrics are just so comfy! I actually haven’t blogged most of these, but I’ve made a ton of stuff up in stretch fabrics this year. I looked at the RTW dresses I wear the most and realised a majority were in stable knits, so set out to create the same thing. Since I discovered ponte and where to buy it from, the beautiful wovens in my stash are having a hard time getting a look in (their only saving grace is really that it’s still hard to find nice stable knits in prints around these parts). I’ve also been unashamedly making woven patterns up in stretch fabrics. I made a BHL Anna and a Flora, a colour-blocked shift, a blazer, a cardigan, a sequinned sweater, and a whole flotilla of Kirsten kimono tees. Plus a maxi dress inspired by Oona, the apparently fabled Vogue 1250, and a pencil skirt, none of which made it to the blog but all get a lot of wear. Oh, and a striped pleated skirt. Phew.
  • I really enjoy a puzzle or an engineering challenge. I always have, really, as years of participating in the maths section of Tournament of Minds probably should tell me. So, you want to dress as Bananaman for Halloween? You need a pen holder that looks fancy but is ready in 10 minutes? You want to vaguely recreate a 1920s Chanel ball gown? I’m sure I can figure out a way!

2015/01/img_5326.jpg

  • Pattern matching is totally worthwhile. It’s just so darn satisfying when you finish and all those stripes line up. Quadruply so when it’s plaid. I stand in the coffee queue these days looking at the seams on other people’s clothes to see how their patterns match up.
  • I’m impatient with imperfection. By which I mean I rarely come back to things that need fixing up. Or I delay, preferring to turn my mind to the shiny new project. For instance, I’m perpetually searching for a pattern that can become a TNT for work dresses. I haven’t found it yet. As part of the search I made a Cambie, which I think is a strong contender. I wore it a couple of times, even to work, but the bodice is too long. All it needs is to unpick the zipper and top waistband seam, cut the excess out, and re-sew. But do you think I’ve done that? She’s been sitting on my sewing table for more than three months now, making me feel guilty about the demise of a beautiful dress every time I look. Sometime I’ll get around to it…

2015/01/img_5705-0.png

  • Organisation is incredibly helpful. One of the problems I’ve had for a while now with PDF patterns in particular is that because they’re on the computer and not in the box with the rest of my patterns, I often forget about them. I’d been musing about how to solve this for a while when I stumbled across Sarai’s post about organising patterns. I downloaded Tap Forms, the app she suggests, then and there and got cataloguing. It’s made such a difference! You can set up the database form with whatever sections you want. I included the fabric amount required for my preferred size, among other things, so now when I’m shopping and think something would be great for such-and-such, I can just look up how much is needed instead of guessing (I’ve actually done this several times already).

How about what I want to know? I think my main aim is so sew more mindfully. I tend to sew in frenzied fits, inspired by a pattern or fabric and motivated by a need to make it happen now now NOW. But it would be useful if that was a little more directed to the holes in my wardrobe. It’s doubtful I’ll ever have an entirely handmade wardrobe because I like sewing fluff too much and my skills just aren’t good enough to create a lot of the more tailored pieces I tend to wear to work. That said, I have been trying to shop mindfully for a while now – spending more on better quality clothes that last longer and supporting small designers (currently I’m obsessed with this top by Melbourne designer Jude, which I’ve worn at least weekly since buying). So I need to apply that to sewing. Less getting distracted by new patterns or cheap fabrics and more thinking about what is actually needed. Though I’m sure there will still be plenty of fluff!

Fast and fancy festive frock

150112lace2

I love having a new dress for Christmas. There’s something that feels special about saving a frock up to bust out in celebration of holiday and family and good times. This year is the first time I’ve made such a dress and it was a real last minute, spur of the moment thing inspired by the fabric. It was the usual story for me – in Spotlight hunting down something for another project entirely when I am suddenly smitten with some cloth. In this case, a cream cotton lace with fluoro pink edging on the flowers. Perfect for a twist on the Christmassy classic red and silver, no?

150112lace4

I’ve been jumping on anything with fluoro highlights lately, partially inspired by this blazer Sophie made, but keep putting the fabric back down on the basis of impracticality of how it would actually integrate with my wardrobe. But this time my frivolous self shouted down my sensible self.

The bodice is my now TNT version of Anna, with all the adjustments made for the purple wedding-guest version. I did re-draft the neckline (again) because that purple one is just the teensiest bit low, such that one must choose one’s undergarments very carefully when wearing it. This was done in the laziest way possible – drawing around my French curve directly onto the fabric – so that I’ll have zero possibility of recreating this particular neckline.

150112lace6

Most of the design decisions here were made very much on the fly. This was sewn in the limited few hours I had the week of Christmas after accounting for work and the presents I decided to sew up (two Finlaysons and a super-stretchy Kielo that hopefully works as maternity wear) so I was keen to make it as easy as possible. Except for the part where I decided to add in a waistband with piping (the making and sewing of which were brand new techniques to me)… I just wanted something to break up the expanse of lace and figured some solid lines would do that well enough. Plus there’s a guide to sewing piping in one of the bag-making books I own and the techniques are surely just the same?

150112lace1

Naturally I didn’t muslin this new addition, or take any length off the bodice, or anything sensible really. The waistband was initially about double this width but when I’d got the dress to the point of zipper insertion and actually tried it on that looked terrible. Rather than unpick the skirt and re-cut the length (remember, serious time constraints) I decided to try gathering the waistband to half its width. Not sure what the proper technique for this is, but I sewed gathering lines vertically at roughly 10cm intervals around the waistband, gathered, measured, and sewed the gathers in place. It was not at all exact, hence the wiggly piping lines, but I generally like the effect. Next time, I shall look up how to do it properly. You know, if there is a next time.

150112lace7

My goodness, this was one of the worst zipper insertions I’ve done in quite a long while. Mostly because although I’ve come around to the merits of basting invisible zippers in place so that seams match up, I didn’t bother with that here. No time to re-insert it though, and I spent most of the day sitting down so no one was looking at my back anyway. The skirt is just a rectangle 1.5 times the waist measurement, gathered and hemmed.

150112lace5

The dress is lined with cream ponte remnants of the ball-gown lining. It’s so soft against the skin! There wasn’t a huge amount, so I cut the bodice sleeveless (you can see in the photo above how the dress sleeves are transparent) and cut the bottom part as a rather narrow pencil skirt instead of gathering it like on the outer. This creates a peculiar sensation when wearing it, where you can feel the skirt tight around the legs but the outside is still moving freely.

150112lace3

This dress, she’s not perfect but she is a lot of fun and a testament to how much more confident I’ve become over the past year with playing with patterns and going boldly in my own directions. And that’s a great festive feeling.

Summer sewing: picnic dress

Gingham is in this season, I read somewhere during the flood of fashion week wraps. Gingham is in this season, I authoritatively told a colleague as we discussed his tie. Gingham is in this season, I thought to myself as I saw the new dresses coming in from some of my favourite stores. So, gingham is in this season (or possibly last season – I get a bit confused being backwards from the northern hemisphere) and what better way to showcase that than a summer frock?

141208gingham04

The fabric is some kind of cotton (new year’s resolution: pay better attention to what fabrics you buy) I spotted in the home dec section of Lincraft while on a mission for more thread. Aha! I thought. Gingham is in this season and this gingham is not twee. Well, not too twee. It’s still kinda like a tablecloth you might use at a fancy picnic…

Pockets!
Pockets!

The skirt is from the Lonsdale dress because pockets (duh!) and I really love the shape. I cut it on a different grain angle than marked on the pattern because with the checks I wanted the straight-grain to be at the centre front and back. It possibly sticks out a little more at the side seam than on my first version, but not too much. I also cut a fair chunk of length off the bottom – like maybe 15cm – and as I did so, I remembered doing this on the red polka dots too. Note to self: alter pattern pieces.

141208gingham09

The bodice is my first ever time drafting something from the bodice sloper I made during a Burda garment fitting course I did with my mother. I was very unsure about how it would go (scooped out the neckline, changed the armholes, split the front darts in two) but went crazy-brave and cut straight into the fabric. Result: I still had to take in the centre back a fair way (my husband is getting much more reliable with the pinning for fit) but after that I’m extremely happy with it. Will keep the pattern pieces for future use!

Bet you can't see my side seam...
Bet you can’t see my side seam…

My pattern-matching confidence was greatly bolstered by having read this Coletterie post on how to match up plaids and stripes. The advice to cut the waistband on the bias to give a bit of room for error was especially helpful. I decided it was most important to have matching at the centre-front of the skirt and bodice, and the centre-back and side seams below the dart (where the seams are straight) on the bodice. There was much drawing of lines on the pattern, extremely careful pinning and even a bit of basting, which I don’t normally do. But the end result was totally worth it.

141208gingham10

There’s also *almost* pattern matching on the pockets but the fabric has loosened up a bit with some wearing so it’s not as close as when I first sewed it. Remember how I was obsessed with pocket seam finishes a while back? (These ones are French seamed, same as before) Since making this dress, I’ve been checking out the pattern matching on people’s RTW clothes. Some manufacturers clearly don’t care at all!

141208gingham06
The pattern matching on the back was doing much better until I took almost 3cm off each centre-back edge

 

In a last-minute attempt to toughen the dress up a little I decided to sew my first ever exposed zipper. Google and friendly bloggers with tutorials to the rescue! It’s not as neat on the inside as I’d like (the bodice is unlined to keep it lightweight for summer) but I’m still pretty pleased. I wasn’t sure where the top of the zipper should sit so I didn’t cut the tape shorter at all and instead sewed a hook and eye at the neckline. I kind of like how the ends sit straight up like magic.

141208gingham07

For pretty guts, I French finished the side seams of both bodice and skirt. At the centre back, I had enough seam allowance from having to take it in that I folded each side under twice so it encased the raw edge in itself and sewed (like how you’d finish a hem). The waist band is interfaced and has a matching one sewn on the inside, as per the Lonsdale pattern proper. I sewed the inner band to the seam allowance where the skirt and outside band were attached, then stitched in the ditch of the bodice seam to catch the top of it (hope that makes sense).

141208gingham11

At the neck- and arm-holes I finished the edge with this cute bias binding I bought in Paris. I machine sewed it at the seam allowance then folded the whole lot over and hand-stitched to finish. It’s a bit stiffer than the dress fabric so the catch stitching has caused some rippling around the neckline in particular but I’m not too fussed since this is a casual garment. I like having the secret surprise of the flash of orange.

141208gingham08

Finally, the skirt is finished using a rolled hem foot on the machine. I’m still getting the hang of this and there are a few bits (especially going over the bulky seams) where it’s not quite properly rolled and may need a bit of a trim after washing.

I sprained my ankle a month ago and still can't run, let alone walk in high heels...
I sprained my ankle a month ago and still can’t run, let alone walk in high heels…

I feel like I’ve been in a sewing frenzy lately, even if there hasn’t been much blogging happening. The #bpsewvember challenge on Instagram definitely inspired some planning and dreaming – and helped me find a bunch more sewing types to follow. My braining is turning over a few Christmas gift ideas too (yes, I’m fully aware it’s ridiculously close to the day) that will hopefully come to fruition. And then there’s been this Top Secret project…

141208quilt2

Yup, that’s a queen-sized wedding-present first-ever quilt. I don’t tackle projects by halves (see also: sequin and silk ball gown). I consulted some quilting friends on Twitter, bought a very useful book, did some maths and set to. The front combines the couple’s favourite colours, merging and swapping in the middle. The back has a strip with bits from the front plus some scraps from bunting I helped make for their wedding decorations.

141208quilt3

They loved it and I’m immensely proud to have actually finished something so huge (and am awoken to the marvellousness of a walking foot on the sewing machine) – but I don’t think I’ll be doing much quilting any time soon.