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

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

D&G Sundress: Vogue 8974

There was an icy wind blowing down the street the other night as I walked home from the station, trying very hard to imagine being warm. Despite the sunshine in these photos, Sydney weather has turned the corner, and the evenings have a bite to them.

I thought about this summer dress, waiting to be blogged, but frankly it didn't warm me up at all...

...all it did was remind me I needed to get cracking and write the blog post!!

The dress is Vogue 8974 which I imagine you've already seen blogged here and here, or in one of its many other blogged incarnations.  I started sewing this dress back in 2015 (!!), tweaking a muslin till the fit was perfect, but when I applied my adjusted pattern to the good fabric (Dolce & Gabbana textured cotton from Tessuti Fabrics - and no, pretty sure they don't have any more of it), the fit was completely off, and much looser than in my muslin.

I focused on aligning the centre front and back chevrons, then put the dress aside till the following summer.

In 2016 I got thinner, and when I came back to this dress the fit was even looser.

I sewed the main seams, set in an invisible zip in lieu of side snaps, moved the shoulder straps to line up the stripes (oops, a cutting out misalignment) and then spent hours and hours pinning and re-pinning the dress to take in all the saggy areas.

And then I put it aside again, wary of committing to so many adjustments.

I got it out AGAIN a few months ago, and hooray, I'd gained lots of weight and the dress now fit me perfectly!  #silverlining

Unfortunately by the time I'd finished up all the hand stitching on the inside of the dress (sewing opened seams flat, attaching facings to seams,sewing up the hem... ) I'd gained yet more weight, so in these photos you are not seeing that wonderful moment of perfect fit; you're seeing my "this is slightly too tight but I'm smiling anyway" version of fit :(.  Bugger.  

At this rate though I am hopeful it could fit brilliantly next summer ... or the one after?


Vogue 8974 is a nice little pattern - the dress has interesting lines, a fit and flare profile that's a bit different from the usual, and I think it looks good on a variety of figures. It's a fun one to use with a striped fabric, and it's not super hard to sew.  The pattern includes instructions for side snaps to fasten the left side of the dress, but this is easily swapped for a zip, and you can also omit the belt if you don't happen to have belt-making paraphernalia to hand.

I haven't tried the little unlined jacket pattern that comes with the dress but I think it looks pretty sweet too. I was originally thinking to make a matching jacket with the piece of fabric I have left over from the dress, but then that might just be stripe overkill.

If I make the jacket, or make the dress again, there is one point I'd like to change: I'd add interfacing. How modern, right?  The pattern only shows the belt being interfaced, and while I noticed this vintage feature in time to retrospectively interface the dress facings, the upper edges of the bodice and the side seams, I wish I'd noticed before sewing the strap tubes.

Fit / Size

Arghh. Well, fit is the real challenge with this dress pattern. I found it was a bit of work to adjust the bodice to fit nicely, with darts in the right place, straps laying flat (I didn't quite achieve that - I needed a fitting friend for the back) AND side bodice not too low or high under the arms. You might be lucky and the dress might fit you out of the envelope, but I think it'd be realistic to go into sewing this dress expecting lots of try-ons and adjustments as you go.  For the record my dress is mostly a size 12-14, but ranges from size 10 above the bust to size 18 at the waist.


I made a few "modernification" modifications to the pattern:
  • An invisible zip instead of side snaps - I'm too lazy for side snaps! 
  • Front straps without buttons (couldn't think of what sort of buttons I'd want)
  • Moved the front straps to align the stripes (they shouldn't be set back from the "V" but should continue its line), and next time I'd angle the back straps to make them sit flush against my back
  • Used my overlocker instead of turning under and stitching down seam allowances on the facings
  • Used interfacing on bodice edges, side seams and facings
  • Added height to the bodice as when the dart was in the right place the bodice cut looked too low 
  • Skipped the belt in favour of showing off the chevrons at the waistline

From memory I think I also changed the grainlines of the pattern - I really, really wanted those chevrons down the front and back, but that meant cutting the centre front (CF) and centre back (CB) seams on the bias.  I intended for the chevrons from the bodice and the skirt to meet at the waist in a double ended point, but I mustn't have measured carefully enough when I was cutting out, and that double point doesn't quite work out.


On a completely different topic, in case you were wondering where I went between February and April... I went nowhere; life just got crazily stressful, both at work and at home.

The full time job I mentioned towards the end of this post grew a couple of months ago when my colleague in the team left the company for an amazing overseas role, and I've been stretched trying to cover both our roles ever since.  We've recently been interviewing to fill the position, which was going to report to me (yay, a manager job!), and I was hopeful we'd be making a job offer in the next few days, but on Thursday night I was given the bad news that my Department has decided to save money by not filling any vacant positions for the rest of this FY.   I'm not sure what I'm going to do now, but I know I'm not prepared to kill myself for another 6+ months doing two jobs.

On the home front things are going nicely at the moment, but that's after a couple of pretty intense months with my daughter spending a few weeks in hospital, my son starting high school, the cat developing severe allergies, and my dad and his partner both in and out of hospital for surgery and tests. My daughter is hopefully having a preventative operation in a few weeks, and dad's having more surgery next week, but hopefully after that the health worries will ease off.

So - that's why I was MIA! I used to think sewing was my form of relaxation, a contrast to the frustrations and stresses of work and family life, but it turns out that when the stress is ramped up I just don't have the mental bandwidth to sew.


And back to the sewing... Marie of A Stitching Odyssey has been running the Vintage Pattern Pledge since 2014, and I joined in last year (somewhat unsuccessfully, you could argue) and the year before.

Here's all I managed last year against my vintage pledge:

Vintage Vogue skirt
Vintage DVF dress

This year I'll be having another go at pushing myself to sew from my vintage patterns - and I'm delighted that after three attempts this dress finally counts towards my pledge!

During 2017, I, Gabrielle of Up Sew Late, will sew up or finish sewing at least four of my vintage or reproduction sewing patterns. 

I'll try to blog again soon - I've got swimmers, frocktails dresses and a couple more tops to share with you as soon as I can get my photos in order :).

Happy sewing

Gabrielle xx

Monday, 6 February 2017

Irregular Checks Collared Shirt (Vogue 2634)

I intend to get through several of those items listed in my New Year's Resolution post, but with Sydney frocktails less than two weeks out I'm not letting myself go near any sewing that isn't The Dress.

And accordingly let's move onto the blogging backlog.

This one is an oldie but a goodie - a collared shirt I sewed up years ago but which I'm still wearing every now and then :). To be honest, the shirt's fit these days is not what it used to be (it used to be loose) but no buttons are actually popping, so it's still passable. I used Vogue 2634 for this shirt: the pattern was issued in 2002 so would definitely be out of print by now, but if you do come across it in the second hand store it's worth at least considering for purchase. That is unless you want long sleeves on your shirt, in which case please read Katherine's review of this pattern.  Actually you should read it anyway - she is not such a fan of this pattern, but a second perspective is a good thing!

The pattern describes itself as follows:

Loose-fitting top (three-lengths) has collar, collar band, slightly forward shoulder seams and short or below-elbow sleeves with stitched hems or long, two-piece sleeves with pleats/button cuffs. A: shaped hemline. A, B, C, D: pocket variations. B, D: flaps. D, E: sleeveless, side slits.

Mine shirt is hip-length with short sleeves - it's essentially view D with the short sleeves of view B.

I used a lovely white linen with irregular checks in navy blue - I think the occasional breaks in the navy blue lines probably represent a printing flaw, but I don't mind the way it looks. Oh and there's a small navy blob on one shoulder because all along one edge of the fabric was a navy shadow print of figures playing sport, and I didn't have quite enough fabric to entirely avoid them. I think my small blob is the top of a baseballer's head :).

The navy blue thingamabub hanging on the coathanger is a half-baked idea - yeah, that's what they look like :). Back when I made the shirt I had this idea it would be cool to have a sort of reference to uniforms and epaulettes that I could wear with the shirt when I so desired - and I sewed up this little thing with D rings only to find I couldn't attach it to itself or the shirt. So now it hangs with the shirt so I can remember what I was intending, even if I can't fulfil that intention - and that's OK, it amuses me to think I was that impractical!

Because I made this shirt a long time ago, at a point in my sewing career when I hadn't realised you didn't have to sew straight sizes and when I hadn't realised sewing pattern sizes didn't correspond to RTW sizes, I sewed this as a straight size 12.  I also hadn't realised you were supposed to wash your fabrics before sewing them, so while this shirt started its life lovely and loose, over time it's gotten quite fitted as I've grown and the linen has shrunk.

My seam allowances are finished with a 3-step zig-zag but it's held up really well over the years - I won't show you the zig-zags, but here are some close-ups of the button front (which looks like it needed more interfacing!) and the side split:

With all the crazy, non-stop, exhausting heat we've been having in Sydney (and many other parts of Australia too I gather) I'm thinking the sleeveless variant of this shirt would be ideal for work. [Just how do men cope in summer with their suits and long sleeved shirts?] Possibly a size up though, and with pre-washed fabric...

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Friday, 27 January 2017

Inari 2: Adjusting the Sleeves

Way back when (well here...) I blogged an Inari dress I was feeling equivocal about. It was made from a medium weight cotton, and despite the pattern's fabric suggestions ("light to medium weight fabric, inelastic or with stretch") the fabric just felt wrong for the dress and exacerbated sleeve fit issues that would probably have been less noticeable in a knit fabric.

Ever since, I've been meaning to re-make the Inari with a modified sleeve, but also to re-make the Inari in a knit fabric without modifying the sleeve, to see how the sleeve felt when the stretch of the fabric took on the role of accommodating arm motion. What I've finally got around to is a hybrid re-make; the Inari dress with a modified sleeve, in a knit fabric.

Spoiler alert: this one's a keeper:

I put this modification off for a long time, but it's actually super easy.  I took a couple of photos to illustrate how I applied a different sleeve (the sleeve and arm scye from Simplicity 1366), but I'll also describe the process in words of course.

So first of all I cut out the sleeves from Simplicity 1366, with the only change being a reduction in sleeve length. I measured the length of the Inari sleeve (based on that short straight seam under the armpit) and folded up the S1366 sleeve to a matching length.

Below you can see the difference in the two sleeve shapes. The Inari has a much higher sleeve cap, and I figured that since I was flattening this out in the S1366 sleeve (and also since the S1366 sleeve sits on a slightly dropped shoulder) I could forget about the curved hemline - the total sleeve length from the shoulder point should be very similar. Here are the shortened S1366 and Inari sleeves laid on top of each other (I have the Inari front sleeve sitting on top of the S1366 back sleeve):

If you change a sleeve so radically, you of course need to change the arm scye it'll be sewn into. To do this I aligned my Inari and S1366 front and back pattern pieces along the shoulder line, with the grain line arrows parallel to each other.  Since S1366 makes a pretty loose top (a couple of centimetres wider than the Inari in the sizes I've made) I didn't align the pattern pieces on Centre Front or Back, but instead had the pattern pieces matching on width at the underarm - and this means I didn't have to change the side seams of the dress at all.  You can see below that the biggest impact of this change is that the arm scye is raised significantly - ie the sleeve now sits closer into the underarm:

This process is super easy to do, but it does rely on your having a pattern that fits the way you like. The two areas I'm fussy about when I do this are (1) the shoulder line - I want to keep the shape of the shoulder line from the pattern that fits me, and if it's very different from the shoulder line of the pattern I'm adapting I'll spend a bit of time working out the point at which the two shoulder lines should meet (near the neckline vs near the arm), and (2) the grainline - the grainline of the pattern that fits reaaly has to be parallel to the grainline of the pattern being modified. But I'm sure most of you already know this and more!

I kept the Inari sleeve cuffs (but because I sewed the dress with my own order of construction I can't turn the cuffs back the way the pattern intends):

And I used the neckband intended for knit versions of the dress:

Happily even with my sleeve changes the dress still looks like an Inari - and I can finally join the Inari fan club! Happy happy days...

And what's more, I managed to eke this dress out of 1.1 1.5 metres of 150 cm wide fabric (!!) and now have only the tiniest scraps leftover - that makes me even happier! 

Now with my previous Inari I talked a bit about mitred self-faced hems, but if you look at the examples in my "how to" for this sort of finish, you'll see that it's more commonly used with woven fabrics (stretch wovens included).  My very stretchy viscose (an Italian viscose/ lycra from Tessuti fabrics which looks to be sold out in their online shop - but this link takes you to their other printed jerseys) didn't feel like it would support the weight of a mitred self-faced hem without the dress stretching out, so I used the narrow hem finish suggested in the pattern this time around. And because my fabric was a bit shifty, I used steam-a-seam to keep the vertical and horizontal hem edges nice and straight:

The corners DO sometimes flick out in motion:

but mostly they're well behaved:

Thank you to my lovely daughter for taking these terrific photos for me (and some gorgeous floral close-ups)!

And I'll see you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

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