Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Inspector here was just warning me that I had to watch my step. You see, back in France, he's known as King of the Tango.

Isn't this week great - a week with public holidays on either end! It's also school holidays of course, so I've taken the whole week off to look after my little darlings (mostly). We've done heaps of pottering about at home, but today I took my youngest (or should that be younger?) out for a touristy excursion to the Sydney Opera House end of the city and Cockatoo Island.  I love being a tourist in my own city :).

The Cockatoo Island outing is one I've been promising for a few weeks, and the timing worked out well with the Sew Dolly Clackett challenge; dresses are due by c.o.b. today, so I wore the dress I'd finished literally 5 minutes before we had to dash out the door for the train this morning. There was crazy GBSB-style hemming involved: pedal to the medal!

Panther on the Island dress, front view

I wanted to use one of Roisin's favourite patterns (of course), and the one I've made before is By Hand London's Elisalex.  First time around I have to say the Elisalex bodice was not a great fit for me so I used my trusty Vogue 1193 DKNY dress pattern to adjust the bodice's princess seams, side seams, armhole shape and length. The Elisalex skirt is also waaaaay too long (and I'm 5'9") so I lopped off a few inches from the bottom (first time around I removed length from halfway down the skirt as I wanted to keep the lovely tulip shape, but this time around it's more a "fit and flare" dress).

Panther on the Island dress, side view

This is not my house, by the way, it's the Cockatoo Island Military Officer's Quarters (c.1845-57 ie very historic by Australian standards).

The first thing everyone notices about this dress is of course is the dress fabric, which is a Pink Panther quilting cotton.  I was a bit dubious about how this soft fabric would work as a dress, but being lined in a proper lining fabric seems to make all the difference in how the fabric wears, and it ironed very nicely. I wore this dress traipsing around the city and up and down Cockatoo Island all day and at the end of the day it's only looking wrinkled on the back from sitting in the train. The dress got a lot of stares through the day from teenagers, but absolutely no derision :).  So I guess the Pink Panther is either cool or very strange?

Panther on the Island dress, back view

My pattern matching was reasonably successful... except on the centre back, where years of "just in case it's too-tight" practice now has me sewing in invisible zips with a less than 1.5 cm seam allowance, even when I've cut the fabric pieces for pattern matching assuming the full 1.5 cm allowance. Oh well :(.

All in all, I have to say this is a really flattering silhouette, and wearing an interesting print dress is F.U.N. - I'm sorely tempted to make a few more of these dresses!

There's one more thing still to say... Roisin and Nic, I've never met you, but I just know I can trust the internet and twitterdom that you're lovely people, and I hope you have a FANTASTIC wedding and a very happy married life! Hip hip, hooray!

Now if you're still there, it's time for your close-ups:

Something so very, very painful, so hideous, your father will have no choice but to cooperate.




And that's all!

Thank you and goodnight :)

- Gabrielle x

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pink Silk Twill Top

If you know me in real life, you may have noticed I'm a sucker for a little silk top.  I do love dresses and yes, theoretically they're easier to wear, but with black pants or skirt a little silk top seems perfect all year round in this neck of the woods.  When I intercepted my mum's charity donation recently, I knew I had to have more little silk twill tops from the same pattern.

More, more, MORE!

This is the first of what may be many more. 


The fabric is obviously a silk (yes, I told you already!) - a gorgeous silk twill from The Fabric Store. I kind of wish I'd bought more...

Silk twill is a fabric I love to wear - it's got a good amount of structure (though not as much as dupion), and I like it for bold shapes like sleeves that stick out at an angle. It drapes nicely and a light breeze doesn't blow it around too much. It's also a hell of a lot easier to sew than the lighter types of silk, and using Lena's gelatine treatment makes it even easier.

And the pattern? It's Vogue 8879, a "Very Easy" pattern.

I love this pattern - absolutely hated the photos on the Vogue website (a big slash through the back of my top? Noooo!) and was totally uninspired by the envelope art, but the pattern itself is awesome. Thank goodness my mum noticed the line drawings looked good and then accidentally bought the pattern twice! 

If you haven't sewn a Vogue pattern before, this wouldn't be a bad starting point. With careful cutting you only need 1.1 metres of fabric for the shorter top with a plain back in a size M (12-14), and although the recommended fabrics are two-way stretch knits, obviously the pattern works in a non-stretch woven too if you omit the twist in the sleeve band! And being in the "Very Easy" class of patterns, it's quite a straightforward sew.

I didn't use the instructions because I'd misplaced them but I've since found them, and I can confirm that they are short and easy. My only gripe with them - and with the instructions for nearly every pattern I've ever used - is that they don't include instructions for finishing the fabric. I find that the order you serge different parts of a garment makes a big difference to the final finish, and although there are different opinions about which stage at which to serge what, it'd be great to have a recommended approach to fall back on.

A HUGE thank you to Kristy from Lower Your Presser Foot who kindly offered to meet me at lunch time to take these photos and who also suggested this particular spot, near the corner of the Tank Stream Way and Abercrombie Lane.  I had already taken some photos on my side balcony but they were sooo boring, and I just hadn't been able to force a smile for the camera's 10 second count down. When a lovely fellow sewist is taking the pictures a genuine smile is a snap (geddit?). And a mini sewist meetup in your lunch break is a happy addition to a work day: we quickly talked sewing, pattern lines, blogging and bloggers, sewing and family; I went back to work with a bounce in my step.

As the fabric was apparently playing silly buggers with the camera when I met up with Kristy (I'd probably applied the wrong settings), I'm going to resort to one of the boring balcony photos to show you the fabric:

Hmm - I should probably tell you the changes I made to the standard view B, shouldn't I!

View B is cropped in length, with a slashed back which brings the back hemline down - but I don't think I could wear a slashed top to work, and I'm not sure I'd want to.  To make this top a consistent length all around I matched up the front pattern side seams to the back pattern side seams for view C (a long version of the top with no back slashes) and folded up the back pattern piece to this length before cutting out.

The other change I made was to the sleeve bands. On the pattern envelope the sleeve bands look ruched - they aren't, but they're twisted and tacked alternately to the inside and outside of the sleeve for an interesting effect. My mum hadn't bothered with this, and I liked the simple sleeve bands on her tops so I did the same  and left out the twisting. I think the resulting longer sleeve length is flattering as it covers that section of upper arm where lost flab likes to gather, but it all depends on your personal proportions, doesn't it!

For what it's worth here's a view of the insides:

If I make this again (I hope I do - time permitting!) I think I'll lengthen it 5cm and then add another 5cm for a decadent deep hem. The cropped length feels just a little too short, probably because I'm just a little taller than the standard size.
And finally, I feel compelled to be very honest and tell you this top is far from perfect - I over-handled the fabric, and my hem and neckline don't look as smooth as they should. For me the style and fabric (and the fact that so much in my wardrobe doesn't fit me anymore) overcome those shortcomings; I know I'll wear it heaps regardless.

Happy sewing and see you soon,

- Gabrielle x

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