Monday, 23 January 2012

The Joan Process Dress

Sometimes you make things and they look great, and sometimes you make things that drive you mad doing it. This is my first real experience of being driven mad and then loving the final outcome. I was actually very worried that I wouldn’t, I had that nagging feeling that, “this is the dress I learned how to sew so I could make and it’s going to suck, or be horribly uncomfortable and I’m going to cry”.

To recap , I wanted a tight fitting, brightly coloured dress that would make me feel like Joan from Mad Men.  I bought some luscious bright blue double knit (It is apparently one of the base colours used to make all Pantone shades, like cyan but stronger, and it’s therefore called Process Blue in that system). I found a vintage pattern for the sort of dress I wanted in knits, Woman W400 (see previous post for more details).
I had already cut out the main pieces, FBAd, and redid the darts on my dressmakers dummy Agnetha, and on Thursday night I decided I wanted to get it finished for the sewing meet up on Saturday. This was partly a desire to get it finished, and partly as I wanted to wear something I had made but most of my self made clothes are summery!

So far so good, I finished sewing all the darts, and then tried it on. Uneven dart disaster. Argh! I tweaked the darts (making them slightly shorter and tapering the ends so they were less pointy), altered the shoulder seams so the thing was straight, and made the whole thing substantially tighter. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work, but it did, the darts pulled smooth and it looked great-yay!.

I decided to put cuffs on the sleeves, so made up a pattern piece and sewed it on-and they went on beautifully. As the first time one sleeve had gone in a little stretched I re set them in using the flat method (I had had to unpick all the side and shoulder seams anyway to adjust the width and I  also took this opportunity to reduce the length of the shoulder seams).

So it was all going quite well. I considered the skirt, decided there was no need for 6 different darts on a stretch skirt and just cut it out. I then got knobbled by the traditional vintage patterns which are bizarrely long problem. On the envelope it clearly sits just below the knee. I am not short but the thing was grazing my ankles, and completely impossible to walk in. This is where it all went a bit wrong. I looked at the whole thing and said, the waist needs to come up a bit, and the bottom needs to come up about a foot. I therefore chopped away. As it turns out, I did not take into account the length lost at the waist, so when I tried it back on, after unpicking pretty much every seam in the entire dress, it was now a mini dress. By this point it was Saturday morning.. I panicked and cut out a folded band and sewed it onto the bottom, which looked fine, except that I had sewn it on with the side seams on the outside… Hannah looked on sympathetically (she had arrived by this point as we were already meant to be there!) as I cursed and seam ripped away again. I also still had to do the neckline, which I had altered and recut about three times as I kept realising it was a bit lopsided, and then merrily cutting away the wrong side (curse you mirrors!). Luckily I sewed the collar on and though I had made it more of a scoop than the pattern, and changed the way the collar finished to it went off to a point at one side. so it was a bit of a gamble,  it looked pretty good!
I then put on my finished dress hesitantly, and LOVED it. I wore it all day, it was incredibly comfortable, and it is probably one of my favourite items of clothing ever! Its tight but not too trashy, so I could wear it for work, but also felt completely at home in the Voodoo Rooms with cocktails-perfect! All it needed was my white belt and I felt just like Joan!

Super Sewing Saturday - the Crafter's Ceilidh

This weekend I was lucky to be part of the super fun day of sewing chat and fabric buying that was the Crafters Ceilidh. The meet up was organised by the lovely Debi, Kristen and Kerry, and they did an excellent job!  There were lots of sewing ladies there, some had even come up from the South to meet with us, so that was pretty exciting, plus I discovered the various sewers who live in Edinburgh and I had no idea! Me and Hannah went along, though we were somewhat late due to a slight mishap with the dress I was finishing off (more to come on that later), but we went round Armstrong’s Vintage, Edinburgh fabrics, Mandors and the Cloth Shop for hours, took a rest and pattern swap at the new Sewing CafĂ© that will be open soon and then ended up in the Voodoo Rooms for delicious food and cocktails! 

The day has already been described brilliantly by a number of more on the ball bloggers, so I won’t repeat it all too much (see the posts by Debi, Kerry, Karen, Roobedoo and Scruffybadger –sorry if I have missed anyone elses!).

As I have a massive fabric stash already, and live in Edinburgh so the shops weren’t new, I intended to be good and not buy stuff. I failed pretty significantly in this!  I held out well in Ed Fabrics, only getting some lovely turquoise lining that I split with Scruffy Badger, but then I fell off the wagon completely in Mandors at the sight of reduced price Liberty lawn, and then just kept going at the Cloth Shop!

It was lovely to meet everyone in the flesh and talk about sewing all day, with lots of chat about fabric types and wool and how to do darts well. 

When I got back home and assessed my purchases I think I did pretty well (in the “I’ve got lots of nice fabric” way, not the “stash busting” way!”).
I got some nice fabrics to make skirts out of.

And some lovely liberty and a drapey green spotty fabric to try and make blouses

I also obtained these lovelies at the pattern and fabric swap, one piece of pretty blue border print cotton for a summer dress, and some slightly mad orange eyelet  that may once have been a table cloth that I was challenged to take and make into something!

A big thanks to the organisers, it was a great day, and thanks to all the other sewistas who took the time to come along and enjoy it!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Pluses and Minuses

I currently have about 5 sewing projects all being sewn at the same time and I am making very slow progress with all of them!

It has so far been a new year of pluses and minuses in my sewing exploits.

I have learned two new techniques! Which are awesome!
For my flatmates skirt I tried blind hemming with my machine (without a specialist foot). I tried this after reading this, which slightly blew my mind, I thought it would be really hard! But it's so easy! Admittedly some of my "pin pricks" on the outside of the skirt are somewhat larger than I would like, and the whole thing seems oddly tight stitch wise so it isn't quite perfect, but if I bought something with a hem like that I wouldn't think anything of it! It looks SO much better than my normal hems, partly possibly because I was forced to fold the hem over properly for once, and take more time going in a straight line! My hems are normally terrible-but this isn't! Now I just need to finish it and get Lindsey to try it on again, and hope that the ease I have added in is enough!

I also tried a new approach to sleeves. Easing in sleeves is again not a task at which I excel. Generally I find it super fiddly and end up with tucks everywhere, not always in places where they look intentional. Plus I hate that you can't really see what your doing, making it terribly easy to put the things in backwards, or upside down or just weirdly wonky. So for my Joan dress I tried doing it on the flat (ie before I sewed the side seams). It was a revelation! It was so straightforward, you could see what you were doing, it was easy to adjust the sleeve head ease, no sewing in a tiny ring of fabric and no tucks! They went in so easily and looks great (except that I seem to have overstretched one part so it wrinkles when I move, but that is a knits/feed-dog problem, not a sleeve problem.

I whipped up the bodice of the Joan dress, and the darts are horrible. Nipply doesn't really do it justice! I am going to have to do them again, and I'm not sure that I can fix it easily...darn. Also, one of the darts seems to be an inch lower that the other, for no apparent reason, I've checked the pattern and they are the same height. hmm. As I had to slash and spread the darts to get them to lie flat at all, moving it up an inch isn't really an option unless I re cut out the entire front. As its a knit and therefore inherently bodgeable, I am going to try pulling up one shoulder a bit (possibly where I went wrong anyway, I shall have to have a close look at the grain and see if I have just done the seam wrong to start with). Plus I should probably try and fix the sleeve bucking problem if I am doing things properly.