Dresses of a year

Before you have children, everyone tells you that once you do your time will disappear. And you think, ok, sure, but you really have no concept of how things will change in your life. How much longer everything takes with a small person in tow. How your own time pretty much condenses to the few hours between dinner and bed, plus the unknown length of nap time. But that time can add up into some pretty serious chunks of sewing (as long as you adjust your tolerance to mess and don’t mind the only time the dining table gets cleared is when you want to cut out fabric…).

Herewith projects sewn, photographed but unblogged in 2016 because some things have to give. In roughly chronological order.

170107dresses7Three Seamwork Kennedy dresses. (Yes, there are only photos of two.) I quite like this pattern, although it is a tad short. I was really unsure about the sack-like trapeze silhouette, but this pattern convinced me as long as it’s fitted around the bust and shoulders, it’s ok. These were in my nursing stage so I added the exposed zippers, which worked well but now I no longer need access are of an awkward length (almost to the natural waist where they’d probably look better ending just below the bust). The first was made in a polyester textured navy and white stripe stretch fabric from Spotlight, inspired by this Karen Walker dress. I raised the back neckline so it doesn’t have the V and ties. I’d wear it more if I hadn’t used a gold bias binding around the neck and sleeves which is very scratchy. The purple tropical print was the second and most successful. This is a silk/cotton blend with a seersuckerish texture bought at The Fabric Store years ago. Made for the Canberra Sewing Crew’s autumnal high tea and worn heaps, even to work with tights and a blazer. For the third version, I lengthened it into a maxi dress for my birthday picnic. I love the look of this but the feather fabric (“peachskin” from Girl Charlee) is a) slightly sheer and b) quite sweaty so it really needs a slip underneath and since I don’t have one, has hardly been worn.

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One Acton dress pattern testing for In The Folds. In the few years I’ve been regularly reading sewing blogs, there have been two or three kerfuffles about pattern testing so I signed up for this as much to see what was involved as for the pattern (although I do like the silhouette and wouldn’t have volunteered for something I wouldn’t wear). I thought Emily wrote a good blog post about her process (after the fact) and I was impressed with how she ran it – especially having a closed Facebook group for all the testers so we could see each other’s progress and get quick feedback from Emily on muslins, fitting and the like. The top of this is a cotton-spandex knit from Spotlight, originally bought to make leggings, and the skirt is silk from that same long-ago trip to The Fabric Store as the purple tropical print above. I also modified this slightly for nursing, extending the straps at the front to the waistline and attaching them to the top of the bodice with press studs (I think I’ll go back and sew them on now to make them more secure). I sewed this right before winter and it promptly got too cold to wear a floaty silk skirt so it hasn’t been out of the wardrobe much. I’d like to make another version, View A this time with the plain A-line skirt.

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One chameleon two-piece ball gown. The problem with all the ball gowns made so far is they get worn once or twice then never again, not being especially practical dresses. This year’s was going to be totally different. I used the short version of Vogue V8921, which hits about knee-length, and used the pattern to draft a maxi skirt, gathered at the waist instead of pleated, that buttons at each side seam behind those crossover panels. The dress is made of silk jersey (from Mood, more on that in a moment) and the skirt of polyester chiffon with a burnout floral pattern from Spotlight that I dyed blue. I was thrilled with the execution, which came out as a whole how I imagined, but I was displeased with my fitting skills. It was these photos that made me realise my post-baby body needs an FBA on patterns not a larger size. The dress on its own is too large in the back, so the crossover panels droop badly and pull the side seams to the front. It’s sitting on my sewing desk waiting for some large darts to be put in back in the hope that will fix many of its problems.

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One glorious emerald Anna dressThis was a pretty quick, I-need-something-glam-fast dress to wear to Fashfest and it’s turned out to be one of my two favourite makes of the year. I just feel fabulous every time I wear it! It’s the tried-and-true Anna bodice with a scooped out back plus a self-drafted pleated skirt (if by self-drafted you mean “lie fabric next to ruler and pleat until it’s the right width”). But the thing that really makes it is the fabric: more of that silk jersey from Mood. I’ve wanted to sew with this for years but it’s always been prohibitively expensive – until one late night browsing the Mood website for something else entirely I stumbled across it at 15 per cent of its usual price (A$11 a yard!) and, well, the only question was which colour to buy. I got 3.5 yards each of three colours (I still have a bright red/orange to sew) quick smart. But the next morning when I thought to share this bounty with instagram, lo it was changed to 15 per cent OFF the regular price, per haps alerted by my order? This stuff is an absolute dream to sew and it feels like wearing a waterfall. I’ve worn this dress so much. (Yes, it does need some bra-strap-holding thread chains in the shoulders; I know this but haven’t bothered.)

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One Cotton + Steel + Chalk fab floral dress. Like most of the rest of the sewing sphere, when I saw the Rifle Paper Co. collaboration with Cotton+Steel I had to get some. 2016 has been the year I discovered rayon properly – its drape! its feel against the skin! – so for me there was no question about the substrate and Miss Matatabi only had red left by the time I finally went to buy some. Lucky I love red! I wanted to try out the Cotton+Chalk Rosie dress pattern that came with a Simply Sewing magazine and am happy with the pairing of fabric and pattern. I also love the piping I added at the waist panel. I’m not happy, however, with the fit – I just couldn’t work out the sizing properly and even though I took the side seams in heaps the neckline gapes something shocking plus the zipper bulges. I think part of the problem is the bodice is too long – I’m working on a new sloper so I can try to adjust these things before I get sewing. But these issues haven’t stopped me wearing this a whole lot as a casual dress. (Psst… I can’t remember how I discovered this but Rifle Paper Co is doing another fabric collection, this time inspired by Alice in Wonderland. I think it’s out a bit later this year.)

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Two Cynthia Rowley rayon sundresses. These are a really wearable muslin and the actual planned dress, and I’ve worn them both heaps. The spotty one (at right) is the other of my two favourite makes for the year, but I’ve failed to get photos apart from a windy, footless impromptu few at MONA in Hobart. The pattern is Simplicity 1873, which I’ve had for years and made up once before, in a perfectly pattern-matched plaid taffeta that was much too short – a problem exacerbated by a flighty skirt. This time I lengthened the skirt (or maybe used the pieces from view A instead of C?), scooped the neckline out ever so slightly and added pockets (and colour blocked the skirt on the spotty version). There was a bit of faffing around with the seam allowance in the side seam but I’m really happy with the fit. I also love how full the skirt is – the front has three panels, with the seams hidden in the pleats. The orange/purple zebra-esque fabric is rayon from Spotlight, bought originally to make a Sewaholic Cambie with to imitate this dress from an episode of Awkward:

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but I couldn’t face fitting that pattern properly (again), so used it as a muslin for this one. I cut it on the crossgrain for the direction of the orange zig-zags and then didn’t have quite enough for the skirt so one of the back two panels is pieced. I was worried about the weight of the extra seam (it’s about two-thirds of the way down) but it turns out to be a total non-issue. The red spotted fabric is a rayon crepe from Tessuti and seen all over Instagram. I took both dresses on a recent work trip to LA and was secretly thrilled when another of the reporters asked if the spotty one was Gorman (how good is it to be able to reply, “No, I made it”?).

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Miscellaneous un-selfish sewing. First birthday Oliver+S field trip cargo pants (minus the cargo pockets and adding adjustable elastic) made from a worn-out pair of my jeans. Christmas and first birthday Oliver+S Pinwheel tunics and dress. Seamwork Almada using vintage kimono silk for trim.

Not pictured: Tote bags from a Japanese bag book for all the women I give Christmas gifts to. A dopp kit from the Grainline Portside set for my brother. Two True Bias Sutton blouses (and fabrics bought for a third, which totally counts, right?). Metres and metres of birthday bunting. Three MadeIt Patterns Groove dresses. Second birthday Brindille and Twig Pocket Raglan Dress and Big Butt Pants matching set. Two balloon ball covers traced from one a cousin gave us. Bandana bibs for a dribbly teether.

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3 Moji (face with heart eyes)

 

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I made pants. I made pants! Three times I made pants for me. And I like them. I am not really a pants-wearing person, apart from jeans. After fruitless searches for work pants that fit well (pre-sewing era) I basically gave up on them and made skirts and dresses my uniform, with a pair or two of tights to get me through the winter. But pants are more practical for the amount of inelegant sprawling on the floor I do around home these days (not to mention the odd bit of crawling demonstration).

 

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I went looking for a pants pattern that would be easy to sew and require little in the way of fitting. Since the jogging/sweat pants style is highly fashionable at the moment, there is lots of choice out there. I settled on Seamwork’s Moji mainly because I have heaps of their monthly pattern credits to use up.

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The first pair I made up in green cotton sateen that I seem to have bought metres and metres of for some unknown reason. These are a size 16 (all three pairs are) sewn as per the instructions except I added in understitching on the pocket facing top to make it sit more neatly and tacked the cuffs at the side seam so they wouldn’t fold down unexpectedly. I used some twill tape for the drawstring and grommets that were left over from bag-making.

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I really like the cuffs in this design; I feel they add a touch of formality to what is a pretty casual pant design. (When I showed a photo of these to friends, one responded “sweet pants” and the other “sweat pants?!”) I’m also extremely proud of the top-stitching on all three pairs – it was my first time using an edge-stitching foot and it sure makes things a lot easier.

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The only thing I don’t like about the green pair is that they feel a bit like they’re going to fall down all the time. It’s mostly paranoia due to lack of elastic, I think, because they haven’t actually fallen down any of the numerous times I’ve worn them. Nevertheless, I decided to make a few tweaks for the second pair – the floral number. I tapered the legs in slightly from nothing just above the knee to about 1.5cm at the ankle. And I used 12mm elastic in the waistband channels either side of the drawstring. This makes a huge difference in how secure they feel!

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The fabric is another cotton sateen, from Spotlight, and was a compromise choice after my husband vetoed the lairy blue and orange linen I had in my stash (it might have to wait until I’m back in a skirt mood again). I figured the greyscale print meant these would be loud pants in a muted kind of way. Right?

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I wore those two so much that I just had to make another pair. Even more so after I tried on this pair in Country Road and figured I could copy the details like the knee patches and elastic ankles. These are made in tencel, similar to what I used for my Alder dress, and I love the feel fit and how it drapes.

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Drafting the knee patches was very straightforward; they were folded at each end and top-stitched to the front pant pieces before sewing the legs up as usual. For the elastic cuffs, I extended the legs by two inches to give enough length to create a 12mm elastic casing and a bit of blousing above it. If I was doing this again I’d also add a bit of width to the bottom of the pant leg – there’s not quite enough such that when you take the pants off the elastic gets caught on your heel.

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I also decided last minute to do flat-fell seams but it turned out too fiddly in this somewhat slippery material so I settled for faux-fell – the side seams are overlocked and then topstitched. The waistband has a self-fabric tie and one inch elastic. It would work perfectly well without the tie, but I like the detail of it and the grommets.

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In conclusion: 😍😍😍

(Photo credits here are to my mum and Frank. I’m learning to be more opportunistic in getting blog photos done, otherwise they don’t happen at all.)

Morning people

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Now, dear reader, I can hear you looking at the above photo and thinking, “That fabric wasn’t in the sewing plans. One frock and she’s gone off the wagon!” And you wouldn’t be wrong. But!

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It came about because, as planned, I made a sleep bra from the EYMM everyday essentials pattern and then wondered how to wear it in the mornings. My favourite silk dressing gown (bought in a Melbourne alleyway store for my wedding) doesn’t cross over far enough any more and it’s always been rather shorter than is modest when one goes outside to collect the newspaper (yes, I must be just about the last Millenial to get the paper delivered…). As I was musing on all this, the latest issue of Seamwork came out with the Almada kimono as one of its patterns.

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I really like the way the ties fold the front in when the kimono is done up, and the big sleeves. I also like that the pattern has the option for adding a snap at the front to keep the gown closed at the bust (although I lost my chalk mark for where to place said snap and think I may have attached it higher up the neckline than designed).

The maroon fabric is a silk-cotton blend (from memory) that I bought approximately a million years ago when I first discovered The Fabric Store. It’s lightweight but perhaps a bit more crisp and less drapey than the pattern calls for. However, it feels lovely to wear. The trim is another silk-cotton blend from the same shopping trip, which actually has more drape than the main fabric but is interfaced here.

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I couldn’t be bothered making bias binding so I’ve used a pale red and white striped pre-made cotton bias tape to finish the front edge (I wanted aqua but couldn’t find any so this was the closest match in the shop). It and the hem are top-stitched with an aqua thread that matches the cuffs and ties. Inside, the finishes are all French seams, even where the cuffs are attached. I couldn’t tell you if this took two hours to make, as Seamwork promises, because I sewed it in a whole lot of short sessions but it certainly was a pretty quick sew. This is an unaltered XL (based vaguely on bust measurement) but I cut the hem at the 3XL length to make extra sure it offers paper-collecting modesty.

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The shape and position of the sleeves and cuffs has taken a bit of getting used to when wearing the kimono because it’s not a shape I’m familiar with and occasionally movement feels a little restricted across the front shoulder — bizarre, I know, in a garment with so much ease. I’ve worn this basically every morning since making it, so that’s a big hit.

The sleeping bra that started all of this is also a big hit. It’s made from eucalyptus-coloured jersey (probably cotton) with excellent two-way stretch. I sewed the whole thing on the overlocker (bar the gathering stitches, but they’re basically just basting) in one relatively quick late-night session. It’s really comfortable to wear and perfect for breastfeeding. In fact, I liked it so much I’ve made two dresses from the pattern as well!