Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Crush and the Wrap

I've got two garments to share with you today, both finished a while ago and even photographed a few weeks back: a stripey wrap skirt that I'd hoped would be suitable for the office (that word "hoped" gives you a hint...), and a very simple boxy merino wool top that has turned out to be a bit of a wardrobe crush for me.

Let's start with the crush:

I've got a favourite, favourite bright green knit top that I wear all summer with jeans, skirts, trousers, you name it (you can see it on me here in day 21 of Me Made May from a few years ago) - and as I was reaching for it to wear out a few weeks ago, I realised (a) it was way too lightweight for winter, and (b) I needed to sew myself a winter version. The original number is RTW from ages ago and a very simple boxy shape, so I decided I'd just trace around it. The need was such that I couldn't even waste time with paper - I traced it straight onto my thick black merino wool with PINS! A few hours later (and a good part of that devoted to measuring all the symmetries; nothing is more annoying than a simple garment cut off grain, and I didn't want one side larger than the other either) the winter version was done.

And not only do I love this top (as is or layered; with jeans, skirts, trousers etc etc) but I also really want a few more of them... I wish I'd bothered to do my tracing onto paper now! I've got in mind a cosy quilted white version and am mulling over a houndstooth wool version too.  Yes, I will need to get out the paper and trace my summer top all over again, but I think it'll be worth it.

Pattern: traced from RTW
Adjustments: none
Fabric: thick merino wool from The Fabric Store
Rating: ACE!!!!


And now for the skirt, view B of Vogue 9172, shown with the same top.

I'd seen a couple of versions of this skirt sewn up online - from memory I think participants in an online sewing comp all had to sew this up? - and it looked like it would make for a great work skirt.

I sewed up version B of the skirt, which is the longest version and supposed to hit below the knee with a demure wrap (judging by the drawings on the pattern envelope). I guess the length is correct on me, but the wrap is not nearly as office-friendly as I'd hoped. The wrap width is quite narrow and the resulting split is very high, so this skirt is never going to come to work with me.  I don't even want to imagine how revealing the split would be when I was sitting down!

I cut out and sewed in the side seam pockets, but their outline showed in the skirt front and I felt they wrecked the sleek lines of the skirt (as well as creating unnecessary bulk) so they were quickly unpicked.

As one of the reviewers noted on Pattern Review, this skirt doesn't include much ease. The pattern description is that it's "semi-fitted" but if you're used to sewing Vogue's designer patterns you might want to go up a size with this one. I sewed a size 16 this time around whereas I'd normally sew a 14 in Vogue skirts/ pants - it feels tight on me despite the stretch fabric, BUT in these photos I'm a several kilos heavier than usual (I changed doctor and my new doctor lowered my daily thyroid extract dose to the point where I was rapidly putting on a heap of weight and feeling like shit. Luckily when I got my blood re-tested recently I was able to prove this had brought my thyroid levels way, way, WAY too low, so my dose is back up and I should be back to normal again soon).

Apart from the height and width of that split - I should have measured first, I should have adjusted... - I think this pattern is a good design. I really like that it's fully lined, and the separating zip hidden on the inside of the wrap is a clever detail. If I made this again I'd use a much lighter weight zip - my heavy duty zip shows through the front wrap layers and creates too much extra bulk on the tummy. I'd also leave off the pockets (as I did this time), and would double the width of the wrap and extend the zip down a few inches. Oh I think I'd change the angle of the front wrap pieces of the skirt and taper in the side seams to better match the tech drawings for this pattern - the skirt is much more rectangular and the wrap much less than the drawings would suggest...

I'm happy enough with my execution of this skirt - I've lined up the stripes the way I intended, the zip looks neater than expected, and I've paired stretch outer with a stretch lining - but unfortunately this skirt is a wadder for me. I know it looks OK from a few angles, but it's too risque for my office, and I just don't feel drawn to wearing it outside of work.

Pattern: Vogue 9172, view B
Adjustments: skipped the pockets
Fabric: striped, stretch medium weight polyester from The Fabric Store and stretch lining from Darn Cheap Fabrics (via last summer's Frocktails trip to Melbourne)
Notions: separating zipper from Spotlight
Rating:  off to the charity shop


Finally, to add a bit of colour to this rather drab post, can I show you some of my recent fabric purchases?  I recently found some lovelies at Tessuti Fabrics: lovely mulberry lace remnant and coordinating stretch viscose for a planned dress, and a gorgeous geometric remnant in some of my favourite colours (hmm not yet sure if this will make a top with a square neckline or a rectangular skirt). 

No promises now, but I took flat photos of a bunch of other clothes today and I'm going to make an effort to blog again before another month passes.

In the meantime, wishing you more sewing successes than failures!

See you soon

Gabrielle xx

Friday, 26 May 2017

Frocktails Sydney: Dark Floral Vogue 1228

Frocktails always feels to me like an opportunity - and close to an obligation even - to make a new dress. So although I'd made a formal dress (not blogged, barely worn) late last year for Melbourne Frocktails, Sydney Frocktails called for something new.

Plan A was another formal dress in a divine duchesse satin layered with tulle and boning and organza and lining (hmm sounding a bit like my Melbourne frocktails dress...), but the pattern I had lined up for all these materials was the wrong size. Cold feet and procrastination ensued - I will make this dress another time though. 

Plan B was to make something quick, with fabric from the stash, and using a pattern I'd used before - learning from Blogless Anna, who always rocks up to the Melbourne Frocktails in simple, elegant garments made impeccably from beautiful fabrics. 

Here it is then: Vogue 1228 (previously blogged here, in what I admit was NOT a particularly useful review), sewn from a small length of gorgeous fabric from The Fabric Store that I'd previously earmarked for a mildly flared midi skirt:

Apologies for blending into the background in so many of these pictures (but that's introverts for you, right?) - I don't know when I'm going to have the free time to re-take them, so I hope they're good enough for you to see where the dress starts and ends.

This Vena Cava pattern is rated easy in the Vogue rating system, and is definitely rated correctly. Mind you, Vogue's "easy" is not the same as Simplicity's "easy" - there are still some interesting techniques going on! This pattern is described as follows on the envelope:

"Close-fitting (through bustline), above mid-knee length dress has front and back stitched pleats, kimono sleeves with sleeve band and narrow tabs, stitched facing at neckline, invisible side zipper, very narrow hem at lower edge."

Between making the dress way back when and now I misplaced a crucial page of instructions (yes, the page that tells you how to make the front and back stitched pleats and how to then finish the front neckline without showing the pleat), but luckily for me another blogger had documented these exact steps in her review

I found the fit to be consistent with other Vogue patterns I've made before, but if you do sew this up, as usual, I'd recommend measuring the pattern pieces. On me the dress is a little close fitting through the hips because I just assumed I could still wear the size I'd cut out last time :(.

Sadly the pattern is way, way OOP, but there look to be lots available on eBay and etsy. 

This heavenly fabric is from The Fabric Store, though they don't have it in stock anymore. It has a lot of body, which I love in the sleeves of this dress. Although the right side of the fabric is very dark with a lovely sheen, the underside is a pale grey and matte. I don't recall the fabric composition but perhaps it's a viscose-silk blend?  It's beautiful up close but the right side is quite fragile; I ended up snagging the dress on the sequins of my handbag while we were out.

The handbag - which I didn't make, though it'd be an easy sew - is another story.  Those big sequins show different colours when you flip them, which made for lots of fun with certain cheeky people writing messages on my bag while I wasn't looking :). Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if Christy made a bag just like this one day...

Having made the dress before I knew I could skip the side zipper (one benefit of being slightly pear shaped!). 

I also knew the neckline was a problem - as drafted, the neckline is quite low. This is a problem on me because the square shape is also quite wide, and the corners of the neckline end up showing a triangle of bra cup on each side. Obviously this is not going to be an issue for people with a lower set bust, but I needed to either raise or change the shape of the neckline to remedy this issue. If I'd raised the neckline, this would have raised the point where the bust pleats release, and I felt those pleats need to be quite high to do their job. So my solution was to narrow the neckline by a centimetre all the way around (back and front) and then also to taper the sides of the square inwards from the shoulder line to the lowest point on the bust, changing the shape from square to isosceles trapezoidal (I love a bit of geometry in sewing!).

Fabric limitations brought the hemline up several inches, but I was then able to make up some of this length with a hem band sewn from fabric cut on the cross grain (and it doesn't hang quite right, but since this dress is generally worn in the evenings I don't think this is very noticeable). 

And instead of making tabs to hold the sleeve bands folded over I used small, invisible hand stitching to hold the bands in a permanent fold.

Yay or Nay?
This dress is definitely a "yay" dress!

Give the fancy fabric I thought this dress would end up languishing in my wardrobe with all the other fancy dresses, but it's had heaps of wear - I don't go out much, but this dress has still managed about half a dozen outings over the last couple of months!  I'll have to remember this for future dresses: a simple design makes for a more adaptable dress than a complex one.

This particular dress shape is also perfect for running down the street, catching the train, playing with the pup... it's not voluminous, but there's enough width in the skirt for lots of motion. Alternatively you can pretend you're running for a train while your pup lies around in the grass:

And the frocktails event itself? Well, it was every bit as fabulous as you might imagine :).  The venue was cool, the cocktails and snacks were delicious, there was a surfeit of frock inspiration, and too TOO many people to chat with - locals, Queenslanders, Canberrans, Melbournites - these events always go too quickly!  You can see lots of portraits from the night on Caroline's Instagram feed (thank you Mr Usefulbox for this lovely photo of me!), and you can read Caz's wrap-up blog post here.

I'm already looking forward to the next frocktails, and if you're even slightly tempted, I'd encourage you to come along too! see you soon

- Gabrielle xx
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