Thank you to all my lovely curious readers who contacted me about my blog being deactivated.
If you think that was a bit strange check out the message I got on my dashboard:
Red text alert! What?! No, no no! I don’t do any of that!
It popped up right after my last post so I clicked through to tell them they had made a mistake and finally we are back up. The internet pixies have been severely reprimanded and WordPress.com Support were apologetic and quick to me get back up and running, I even got a compliment on my header image and background, aww nice
Thanks for coming back, please feel free to scroll down to yesterdays post if you haven’t had a chance read it and I’ll be back soon (hopefully) with more 1930s dress progress for you.
Until then happy sewing (and blogging)
There hasn’t been much sewing going on in my room lately. Part of the problem has been lack of space and plenty of mess. I don’t mean to sound like a spoiled brat since but basically my new room is too small and I recently purchased a few extra items to go into it and despite knowing full well I really didn’t have the space I stubbornly assembled them anyway.
So on Saturday I had a big clean up and I disassembled and put those items away in their boxes until I do have room for them. Then I managed to finish of my second Esther (photos this weekend), which I cut out last month. I stitched 80% of it before putting it down but I think if I added up the actual sewing time I probably made this one even quicker than the last. It’s really nice and warm too, much warmer than the first since it is actually made of wool. After a quick runway show in the hallway for husband I re-threaded my machines ready for the new JJ blouse.
Here is my thread selection, I had the absolute exact shade sewing thread to match my fabric and then I spent about 5 micro seconds deciding the overlocker thread, the options were light-blue and light-blue-that-is-ever-so-slightly-green, and I chose the ever-so-slightly-green
Nerdy Husband entered the room then and announced that he needed to use my computer to back up files while his computer did other computery things and promptly banned me from using the overlocker lest I upset the portable hard drive’s spinning thingy with the vibration*.
So I resigned myself to pattern tracing for the rest of the day which wasn’t such a bad thing since it helped me nail down my next immediate projects. If you are interested I have listed them on the My Wardrobe page, but I warn you that it is an ever evolving list and that any item appearing on this page is not actually guaranteed to come into existence.
Right, now let’s get on with why we are really here: The Gok Coat…and the jury is still out.
I finished this coat quite a while ago after my amazing vintage button haul from eBay arrived.
I used #119 from Burda 03/2009 and I originally cut my usual size 42 but after a bit of basting on Scarlett and a closer look at the model photo I cut it down another 2 sizes.
I only kind of like it… sigh…clearly my effort at photos reveals this, care factor: minimal, and I admit I have not yet worn it out in public. The gabardine is actually a bit more plum in real life, this colour is really hard to photograph! My inspiration was from a David Jones Catalogue I got in the mail for winter 2010 and I do love the buttons and buckles and the alterations I made to the gun flaps (cut them more pointy like the coat below).
Unfortunately it makes me feel huge, especially in the shoulders and despite cutting it down to a 38 it still feels way too big for me, even layered over my thickest winter items. I really should have considered the model image more before I chose this pattern as my final choice.
There is another problem too, just before I finished it I was out for lunch in the city and I saw a girl wearing a mac coat of the exact same shade but in a much more fitted a-line style and I knew straight away I had picked the wrong pattern. I mean, this coat is still maybe salvageable, but I think it is well beyond being transformed into that silhouette.
So right now, looking at these photos again, I am leaning towards saving it by nipping in the waist more and refitting the shoulders and bust but this will require a huge amount of unpicking of my very neat top stitching, so perhaps next winter?
So what do you chickies think? Scrap it, save it, make another even better coat, put it in the ufo pile until next winter? Leave me your thoughts below.
Ohh, let’s do one of those poll thingees!
*You might be wondering how Nerdy Husband got away with an overlocker ban so easily, well the “backing-up” included some very important files, files belonging to me, like all my digital sewing patterns…oh and our wedding photos! So there you go
Do you like my new cardi?
Please excuse the fact that it was a very bright day and also I have managed to chop my feet off in almost every photo.
On Saturday, after a long (and not entirely abusive) life, my computer finally kacked it (that’s the technical term, trust me). There was much swearing and gnashing of teeth but no tears since I’d just backed up the most important stuff the previous day.
Am I psychic? Possibly.
I was thinking about throwing the thing out the window when Husband came in to see what all the fuss was about and promptly left again. Lucky for me (or perhaps more for the computer) he returned, just as I was picking it up, with a set of small screw drivers and other computery thingees (more technical terms, I’m on a role here). After a ridiculously short amount of time plugging, button pushing and screw drivering he had coaxed it back from the brink long enough for me to save the rest of the hard drive. Nerdy husbands are so useful.
So on Sunday I got taken computer shopping because while we could probably scrape together enough items from his nerdy room it really is time I bit the bullet and shouted myself a new computer. Well I said shopping but it was really just browsing and investigating and the purchase will take place next week. After we finished telling sales people to leave us alone for about an hour I got dropped back home and then Husband left to give his sister H a long ago promised driving lesson.
With my room still strewn with previously mentioned computery bits and a PC I dare not turn on without help close at hand I decided I needed a quick sewing pick me up.
After Knitting and I had a few words and decided that just right now we are not getting along I cut the BurdaStyle Esther pattern out of a black and silver/grey striped knit that I got from the Joveeba relocation sale in Perth. I picked up this piece, 152cm wide and 2.20m long, for AUD$16.00. I cut a size 40 but my fabric wasn’t quite long enough for the pattern, however since I had extra width I was able to add a join in the collar piece which ends up at the back of my neck. I chose to do this on a black stripe with the hope of it being less obvious.
Then I decided to try a little experiment: I re-threaded all 4 threads of my overlocker in black and challenged myself to make the whole thing without my sewing machine and started the timer. Give or take I finished the whole thing in about 1 hour 40 minutes and that includes pressing, adjusting the tension on the Bernina, getting a little distracted with making a cup of tea and sending a couple of text messages.
Ok, I admit I did use the Elna just to baste the open edges of the crazy super loooong collar together but as you can see my concession did not include re-threading it to black (the white got chopped off by the overlocker knife anyway!).
But then baby got put back in the corner to keep the side of my PC case company.
So I am quite pleased with my effort and it certainly put a smile on my face when I went to open the door for Husband wearing my new cardi.
The Esther pattern used to be free back in ancient BurdaStyle history but for $2.50 it’s still a steal of a pattern. I will say however that the instructions are rubbish, don’t even bother to read the words, they make no sense whatsoever, just follow the pictures. As a pattern however it simple, quick (even if you do use a sewing machine) and an easy fit. It lends itself to knits and even jersey for a more light weight look, you could mix up the colours on the collar, sleeves and cuffs for a bit of fun, why don’t you go check it out all the other versions online?
I regret to report that not a lot of sewing has been happening lately. I have arranged and rearranged my sewing room three times but I think I am now happy with it. After a week of not feeling very well I am getting my sewing mojo back and hoping to get through a few UFOs this week so my brain can move on with new projects. So for now I thought I’d finally post the construction of my “maxi”dress.
I called this dress the NSFW dress, because there is far too much boob action and I cannot wear a bra with it. It’s not meant for work anyway, it’s meant for summer and the beach, two things that are several months away here in Wellington. Also, it’s NSFW because there was a lot of swearing involved in the process…let’s talk about that shall we?
I’d wanted a maxi style dress for a while, something to run around the house on a hot day in, nip down to the beach or to the shops and feel pretty. It was meant to be a bit of fun sewing, a quick project to get my sewing mojo back on track but the facts are that it almost killed me. The reward is that by the end of it I realized that if I stick with a project, through all its (many) problems, nut out the solutions and then get it done without moving on to something else I get an amazing feeling of satisfaction, who would have thought?
The truth is the only thing that kept this dress alive was the fact that I am completely in love with the fabric, I just couldn’t let it beat me. And I do admit, that while thinking through solutions to the fitting problems that reared their head I did cut out a new project, but I didn’t officially start anything new until I sorted this one out.
So, on to how I made this dress:
Want a sneak peek of me preparing my pattern pieces? Here’s me laid out on the dining room floor, piecing together parts of each piece, the skirt was so large it was 3 pieces for the front and 3 for the back…I didn’t copy enough sheets so I had to supplement with tracing paper (the yellow stuff).
Here is the pattern layout (sorry it’s a photo, not a scan, I haven’t got that set up yet):
This dress is fairly basic in terms of pattern pieces. Two triangles make up the bodice with long rectangles for the neck ties. There is a front skirt piece and a back skirt piece, both cut on the fold and an extra rectangle that makes up the shirred rear panel.
Because my cotton fabric was very light weight and therefore see-through I chose to underline the entire dress. I cut all pieces from my printed fabrics and then again (except for the shirred panel rectangle and neck ties) from a plain white cotton of similar weight.
I was super excited about my first project involving shirring so I tackled that first. Following what I read in a couple of my sewing books and online I hand-wound the elastic thread onto my bobbin while putting a little tension on the elastic. It was quite fiddly and I dropped the bobbin several times undoing my hard work but eventually I got into a kind of rhythm. I put the elastic thread on one of my machines spools to give me both hands free to fill the bobbin. I filled it all the way since I had no idea how quickly I’d go through it and then I threaded it up. Your bobbin goes in the normal place (obviously) but thread your needle with your usual thread choice, I am using a white Gutterman 100% polyester thread.
I always do a test when I try something new or reset my machines settings. Use a scrap of the actual fabric you are using, in this instance I folded it double since I’ll be sewing through two layers when I do my real shirring. Here is my first practice attempt:
Because this fabric is quite thin, I upped my tension to 5 and just had a go. It seemed to be the right choice so I moved straight on to the real fabric piece.
Fold the rectangle in half, wrong sides together and mark your line spacing, the pattern instructions suggest 1cm intervals and when marked out this left a perfect 1.5cm seam allowance at the bottom edge. I used a chalk marker but you could use a quilting foot with adjustable guide if you want.
Place the rectangle under your machine and start your shirring. Leave a decent thread tail when you start and at the end of your first line leave another. Pull your top thread to the back and knot it off with the elastic thread.
When you sew your second line and so on stretch your fabric flat again as you sew.
Ahh, after the wedding dress I’m happy to admit that I am a little over white thread and loooong straight seams and my sewing machines will only go so fast no matter how hard I push on the pedal Amongst my other nerdy talents I’m also a bit of a car girl but I only lead-foot it in my sewing room, hehe
Then I slipped the lining skirt inside the outer skirt, pinned and basted the front pleats.
It’s always fun to try things on Scarlett even when they are nowhere near finished yet. I was concerned at this point that the skirt was HUGE and would swallow me whole. This is not just a case of picking the wrong pattern size, I think it is more the pleats, we just don’t get along. I had the same problem when I attempted this BurdaStyle pattern. I ended up looking like a pregnant elephant and the entire thing got thrown in the corner until I rescued it into a Jenny skirt.
This is how the shirred panel will sit once it’s attached to the top of the back skirt piece. The sides join onto the bodice, which I made up next.
The bodice is quite quick to assemble. I did it wrong, well not wrong, but I thought of a better order of construction about half-way through. What I did was place the lining and fabric pieces together, right sides facing, stitch the inner edge and outer curved edge then turn and press. Pin and baste the pleats in each cup.
Fold the neck tie rectangles in half and stitch the long open edge and upper short edge, turn and press.
What would have been better would be to only stitch one edge of the bodice triangles closed, open it out and then attach the neck tie to the to edge, fold right sides together, stitch and turn.
But too late for unpicking now, it’s time to add the shirred panel.
Like so: Again I turned in the raw edge of the bodice and slid the shirred panel raw edge inside and top-stitched closed. I guess you could apply the same method as before, open everything out and stitch it more cleanly then shirr (is that the singular of shirring?) this panel afterwards but the instructions definitely suggest shirring the panel first.
And here is how it looked on Scarlett:
Next the bodice gets attached to the skirt. The cup pleats line up with the front skirt pleats, side seams line up also, pin and stitch.
I was quite excited to be almost finished, just the hem to do, but that warm fuzzy feeling didn’t last much longer. I was halfway unpicking the skirt from the top when I realized I hadn’t taken a photo of it. I was unpicking it because after I tried it on it was, as I suspected, super gigantic.
The skirt has waaaaay too much extra body in it and the shirring was not tight enough across my back so the weight of the back skirt drags it down below my bra strap, I end up with a pool of fabric on my shelf-bum, not good.
So I put the top part on myself pinned the cups together at the centre front and re-pined the side seams so that I had some stretch to get it on and off but felt tight enough across my back.
Next I disassembled both skirts, pleats and all. I mentioned my concern for the pleats earlier and I was close to getting rid of them entirely but for some reason convinced myself to first try reducing the number of pleats and adjust their positioning.
This sewing lesson bought to you by “ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN”.
So I played with the front skirt piece in front of the mirror and decided on two pleats at 32cm apart (16cm either side of center). I re-pinned these then pinned the whole front to Scarlett.
Is this that thing called draping? I’ve never done that before but I guess that’s sort of what I am doing. I wanted to redesign the skirt from scratch. I wanted the least amount of bulkiness but still have a flowing long skirt.
So 7.5cm came off the sideseams, most of that was due to removing the large center front pleat and the two outer pleats.
I did the same for the back skirt, I stretched the shirred panel and pinned the back skirt on and from this piece I discarded 15cm off each side seam. That’s a lot I know but my butt just didn’t need the extra bulk and fabric!
This got me thinking about what would have happened if I’d cut a smaller or even the smallest size. Well the cups of the top would be too small for my breasts so I made the right decision there, I guess I could have cut just the skirt from the smaller size but then I can see problems with lining everything up. The skirt is just bulky and maybe it would work with a silky fabric as it’s made in the magazine but my cotton is super thin and flowy so…ah well, on with the modifications…
Next I considered leaving out the lining to drop some of the weight but the fabric is just too light-weight and see though, so I marked all my measurements with chalk and transferred them to the lining as well, then I repeated my construction as per the original skirt.
I was starting to get desperate but at this point there was no way I was going to biff the wreck of fabric into the corner no matter how much I wanted to.
So for my next attempt I basted the skirt to the bodice with no pleats at all and got in front of the mirror with my pins. I needed darts and badly. So I roughly pinned darts front and back (sometimes Scarlett just doesn’t cut it and you got to get flexible!) and new side seams too. I have marked my pins in green below:
After a few photos I realized I had completely pinned myself into the dress and I couldn’t get out of it. Husband came over for a laugh but wasn’t much more help than that.
I managed to wriggle my way out of it and as I sat in my sewing chair recovering and looking down at the pin scratches on my ribs I had a realisation: The shirred panel, that I was so proud of, had to go. Plainly it was in the pattern to make it possible to wear the dress without adding a closure but MY dress was quickly becoming too fitted for it to fulfill that ideal.
It wasn’t easy but I had to swallow my pride and un-pick it. I would replace it with a plain rectangle panel of fabric and insert an invisible zipper in the side seam.
Then as I was unpicking the skirt for the third time that day I had a second revelation. I simply didn’t like the dresses length. Despite my desire to want a maxi-dress I have never been a long skirt or dress kind of girl, it’s just not me. So I decided to also shorten the whole thing.
Decision made I set to work
I had to start my darts markings from scratch since working with a border print means I couldn’t just lop the bottom of the skirt off. My back darts ended up being longer and wider that my original pinning effort and it took several try ons to get them right. I have what is known as a ‘shelf-bum’ but I believe the technical term is ‘sway back’ although I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I assume I have one through observation of fit. Generally, in RTW clothing, fabric pools on top of my bottom, on my shelf-bum, just where it starts to curve out from my back and is fixed by reducing the amount of fabric there either by altering the pattern early on or chucking in a couple of vertical darts (my preferred method).
Another problem I needed to address was gapage at the front, I fixed this by reducing the gap between the cups, giving them a slight overlap and pulling them down slightly. Then, at Sandra’s suggestion. I curved the lower seam where they meet the top of the skirt but kept the skirt seam straight, this gives your breast somewhere sit because the pleat simply wasn’t enough.
Unfortunately I do not have any more photos of the process because my level of frustration is inversely proportional to my desire to take photos. All I wanted to do was finish the stupid dress but in the end I finished with a dress I actually really love in fabric that is a cherished souvenir. It was more than a small challenge but when all the un-picking was over I really enjoyed the challenge.