Sunday, May 17, 2015

What the Wardrobe Says

At a certain point in a sewist's career, his or her wardrobe will start making demands. The first squeaks I heard this year were about using up fabric scraps:

"Don't you go wasting those lovely pink ponte scraps! Don't be lazy - get creative!"
It wasn't a bad idea - so I rifled through my fabrics for something else to "get creative" with.  I started with the pink ponte scraps of course (left over from this raglan sleeve top, whose raglan sleeves I'm still disappointed with, but which gets worn because it goes with so much and the fabric feels so lovely on), and then chose a small piece of striped print ponte from Spotlight, not a scrap but certainly too small for a whole garment (what was I thinking?).


I decided I wanted a top that was quite basic and not a fabric hog, as I wanted the pink scraps not to be overwhelmed by the stripes. The pattern I chose was Vogue 8916 - this is a "wardrobe basics" pattern that includes a top, jacket, skirt and dress.  The top is designed for a woven fabric, and I usually sew a size 12 in Vogue tops, so normally in making the top in a stretch fabric I'd have stuck with the size 12 or even gone down a size. However, having made the top before in a size 14 (my Splat! top, blogged back in February last year, and also worn last May in MMM14), I knew the sizing was quite fitted, so I sewed a size 14 as before.  [For sizing reference, in Australian RTW I wear a size 10-12 in tops. I think this equates to a size 6-8 in US RTW sizing, and a 10-12 in UK sizing but I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong.]


This time around I wanted 3/4-ish sleeves (inspired by Jackie Kennedy jackets from the late '50s / '60s), but the pattern is for short t-shirt length sleeves. To get the right length I just measured how far down from my shoulder point I wanted the sleeves to end, and then used a ruler to extend the sleeve cutting lines to this length plus a few inches.


The top as drafted is longer than I wanted, so at the hemming stage I tried the top on and pinned the lengths I wanted for both the bodice and sleeves - and I ended up cutting a few inches off the bodice to get to this high hip length with a nice deep hem. 


The neckline was sewn down with a twin needle, seams were finished with an overlocker, which I know is unnecessary with a ponte, and the hems are sewn with a single line of stitches (long stitch length though) about an inch in from the edge.

Oh and this next one is a close-up photo I took for myself with a tripod and remote - but all those other, much better photos, were taken by my 7 year old daughter. And there was no need for me to crop or straighten them (unlike when I'm taking the photos)!! 


I'm really pleased with this one - yes, it's very basic, but the pale pink cropped sleeves make it a little more interesting than a straight stripey top, and it mixes well with heaps of my current wardrobe inhabitants (like the blue jeans, the narrow black pants, the black culottes and my pale pink B5650 midi skirt).  And I have to say, it's ridiculous how much better this top fits me than my earlier plain pink Papercut top with the raglan sleeves....


Speaking of which, I've been thinking about raglan sleeves a lot this year - they seem such a simple design shape, but my experience suggests it's not easy to draft a raglan sleeeve that will fit well. Obviously some raglan sleeves work beautifully - I really like the sleeve shape on this cashmere jacket I made a few years ago, for example -  but there seem to be a lot of raglan sleeve patterns around that are built from straight lines and no darts, and I know I can make that sort of pattern for myself (as I did with my geometric silk top, which you can see here).

So in the interests of testing ponte fabric with a good raglan sleeve pattern, but not because I needed one, I decided to make a raglan sleeved ponte jacket. I pinned out the pattern - Vogue 1098, just like the cashmere jacket - but then, wouldn't you know it, the wardrobe started squawking again:

"I need a skirt! Make something plain and warm, for goodness sake! You need a warm skirt for winter... "
This kind of demand smacks of utilitarianism to me (maximising utility, where utility is defined as the lack of suffering from cold legs), and it's downright irritating to a hedonistic sewist, but it did sound sensible - I do get very cold in winter...

So plans for a the raglan sleeve ponte jacket were ditched, and I made a very simple lengthened Libby A-line skirt.  I've fully lined it for warmth, and it's a very sensible and not particularly stylish length (maximum warmth, minimum puddle drag, style - qu'est-ce que c'est?), but it does fill a cold weather gap in my wardrobe.


I used the Libby skirt pattern as part of my painterly dress in January, but the fabric I used back then had incredibly little give, so the fit is very different.  I cut it out a size larger than last time but then ended up taking it in to the original size when I tried it on - and it's still loose (in fact it sits on my hips rather than at my waist).  If the width grows I'll take it in, but I'm expecting to see a little shrinkage in the wash (yes, I skipped the pre-wash - but you don't need to tell me how silly that is; I know!!).


The Libby skirt is very straightforward but fits me pretty well (and yes, of course that means it has darts and curved lines!), and being designed with a facing instead of a waistband flatters for my short waist. It's also a free pattern, so it's a good one to play with if you want to see whether Tessuti's drafting and instructions are for you. Even though it's a straightforward pattern, I made a couple of changes in sewing it up. I moved the invisible zip to centre back because I find zips to behave much better for me in that position (my backside is a lot less curvy than my hips!). I tried something a bit different with the skirt lining too - maybe this is silly, but I thought I might be able to minimise future stretching at the waist if I brought my lining fabric all the way up to the waist instead of ending at the facings - so that at the waistline there are two layers of ponte AND a layer of lining fabric. Time will tell if that was a clever idea or not...


What more is there to say? On its own the skirt is not very interesting, but it offers warmth to a lot of leg length, and it's the kind of neutral colour that will go with lots of other garments - I'm thinking it will work well with big chunky knit tops, big scarves and cropped jackets. And the sandals I'm wearing in these photos will probably be switched with boots!


I have vague plans to make the Libby again in a much more fun fabric (bright orangey/coral wool!) this winter, but honestly, I'm not getting nearly as much sewing (or blogging!) done as usual these days. My son changed schools this year, and it's meant getting up an hour earlier most days of the week. For the first few months of the school year I just stayed up as late as usual, but I became absolutely exhausted and run down. In late March I got a cold, and then that developed into the flu, from which I'm only now recovering - so I'm taking that to mean I need more than 6 hours sleep a night!

Unfortunately, more sleep means less sewing time :(.  How do you fit it in??



See you soon

- Gabrielle xx




Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ruby on the Pier

On Thursday we had a heatwave, and circumstances combined to enable me to get some photos of a little gem that I'd sewn a couple of months ago in the tail end of summer...

Ruby top in striped seersucker cotton

Weather? Check, 33C (91.4F) according to my car; rather warm for Autumn.
Photographer? Check, a son who was prepared to offer his skills with a smile :).
Location? Check, a photogenic pier in Walsh Bay, where we'd be meeting my daughter and a friend.

Location, location, location! 
My photographer

So, the gem in question is a Ruby top, sewn from a lightweight striped cotton seersucker that I'm certain I bought at Tessuti fabrics but that I can no longer see in their online fabric store. 

I loved the look of the Ruby top in Tessuti's photos, but when I looked at the printed pattern pieces the armholes seemed more cutaway than I wanted. What do I know though, right? I'm not a pattern drafter, and it's hard to judge how a flat piece of paper will translate to a fabric draped on the body - so of course I needed to sew one up!

I sewed it up - and what do you know, more cutaway than on Tessuti's photos!

Ruby top, front view

Aha, but it's not what you think...

My Ruby IS more cutaway than you'll see on Tessuti's website, but that's because in my haste to sew the top I didn't read the pattern instructions. My top has no self-binding on the armholes and neckline, and this extra strip of fabric on the openings obviously makes shoulder straps wider and arm and neck openings smaller.  The final look of the top is very pleasing in terms of pattern visualisation skill development (yay!), but not so pleasing when I realise I've sewn myself a more cutaway top than I should have. In practical terms it means I didn't need the keyhole back opening - the neckline became large enough for my head - and that the top was super easy to fully line.

Ruby top, side view


Easy to line? A lined Ruby?

The stripey seersucker was very thin and summery but too see-through by itself, so I lined it with a soft white cotton voile from my stash. Without the keyhole back opening and the bias strips on the openings, a bagged lining was very easy - I sewed up shoulder and side seams on the two tops separately, then sewed them right sides together at the neckline, trimmed seams, and turned right side out and pressed. I then pinned the bottom hems together at the back, then turned the top inside out again and pinned the bottom hems, then sewed them together nearly all the way around, leaving a small gap for turning the top the right side out again.  Because I'd only left a very small opening (the fabric is very lightweight so it doesn't need a big opening), when I pressed the top again I found I didn't need to sew up the small gap - absolutely no fabric is trying to stray out of the gap.

Ruby top, front / side view

This Ruby is also quite cropped compared to most. The finished length is about 56cm (22") from the shoulder seam in my size 8 top, whereas the standard top length is 63.5cm (25") in a standard size 10. I'm really happy with this length, but I do think hip length would be great in a more drapey fabric.

Ruby top, *nearly* back view

And having just had a browse over on the Netaporter site (I really should be browsing that site before sewing, right? So many inspiring garments...) it seems that both lengths are quite fashionable, and that there are lots of interesting variations to make to a Ruby top with side splits, contrast binding, gathering, pleats...

Helmut Lang
Chloe

Isabel Marant
Halston

Yup, they're all basically Ruby tops!


I'll try to post again soon, and till then I hope you're having fun with your sewing!


- Gabrielle xx

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