Grown up lady dress

You know how sometimes you get outfits that you can put on and immediately feel polished? Clothes that make you feel like you’ve got your shit together and can manage pretty much anything? I’m not exactly sure why, but thats how this dress made me feel when I wore it out yesterday. Like I was going to get stuff done! (I got lots of eating done, but thats another thing this dress is good for.)

  

This is the Kielo Dress from Named, with the sleeve add on they released earlier this year to make it winter friendly. I made it up in a cotton/lycra blend ponte from The Fabric Warehouse, I love the print! I realised when I was organishing my fabric a few months ago how few patterned fabrics I own (except for stripes, of course), so it was nice to use this one! 

  

The pattern was so simple to make up, once I got past the dreaded tracing/ adding seam allowance stage. The sleeve pattern incorperates a new armscye shape to trace as well, but it was all very straight forward. Sewing was simple as well, I didn’t make any changes for sewing a knit instead of a woven except for using my overlocker for the main construction. I sewed the darts with a straight stitch and used a twin needle for the hems and neckline. I really like the double ended darts in the back, it gives it such a nice shape. I thought I had increased their depth (and shaped the CB seam) enough to fit my sway back, but looking at these pictures there is still a bit of fabric pooling above and below the ties. Just as well I can’t usually see it!

I did make a few changes to the pattern itself, other than adding the sleeves and lopping about 10″ off the hem. For some reason I didn’t consider the distance between the shoulder and waist before I cut it out, so it did what every wrap dress I’ve ever tried on does and bloused terribly in the upper body if I tied it at my waist (or sat unflatteringly at the widest point of my hips if I tied it where the fabric wanted to go). Because of the shape of the wings I ended up with big scoops of fabric between my armpit and waist, not quite what I was going for! In desperation I ended up shorteneing the length of the wings by 2.5 inches on either side, tapering to nothing towards the hem. This helped reduce the excess of fabric, but does mean that they only just meet at the centre front, rather than the more dramatic overlapping shape they had before. But I’m much happier with the overall silhouette, so I’m ok with that!

  

Token blogger-in-a-Kielo-Dress shot! You can see that the wings look much shorter than every one elses…( I keep calling them wings in my head, how else should I describe them?) I felt like I was pulling a flasher pose here, hense the ridiculously hammy face!
  

I also changed up the neckline a bit, I felt it was too high with the long sleeves and relatively long hem. I just eyeballed a more scooped shape, about 2 inches lower at the centre front than how it’s drafted. I ended up drafting a facing for the neckline too, as I thought turning and stitching as instructed wouldn’t work on my now significantly more scooped out neckline (though I haven’t had great luck turning and stitching boat necklines either, to be honest). I treated the facing like I would a woven one, stitching and understitching it (though with a zig zag stitch rather than a straight stitch) and then topstitching it with the twin needle. I’m really happy with how it turned out, no waving or sagging to be seen!

   
 

The only downside to this dress is my incessant need to fiddle with it. I’m always smoothing the fabric under the wrapped sides, or adjusting the ties. Its not sitting perfectly in these photos either, probably because we’d just had lunch and I was full of delicious food and not worrying about it! I guess that makes this a more accurate representation of how it looks when being worn…

  

So there we go, my grown up dress! I think it must be the sleeves and the just below the knee length that make me feel like a proper adult… Does everyone else have clothes that make them feel like that? I’m sure it can’t just be me!

Top to toe woolies

From full on glamour in my last post to practical hand knits today! A pretty massive winter storm has hit New Zealand over the past week, and while Wellington hasn’t copped it like the South Island has there is still snow on the mountains around Wellington and we’ve had freezing southerly gales and horizontal hail and sleet. So I’ve been knitting furiously, trying to finish my second sock which has lain abandoned since April when I finished the first one! But first I have a hat which I also finished in April, but when hasn’t had much wear until lately. I find it a bit difficult to post about my knitting, as I generally don’t deviate from the pattern at all so I never really have much to say, so this post is a two for one…

 

the jersey is my Lesley sweater from Home and Away
 
This is the Fidra Hat by Gudrun Johnson, knitted up in Zealana Air Chunky. Its been so long since I knitted it that that I can’t really remember how it went, but I don’t recall it causing me too much grief! This yarn is both the most expensive and the most luscious think I’ve ever knit with! Its a blend of cashmere, silk, and possum down, and it is the softest thing I have ever felt. I still have about half a ball left, so I’ll need to think of something fancy for it. 

  
I do love a big pom pom! This one is a faux fur number which I liberated from a keyring once I realised how expensive it would be to get a fur pom pom off Amazon or Etsy or similar (damn shipping rates). I love it, but it does pull the hat back on my head after a while. I think I must have overstretched the ribbing when I blocked it, and now it’s a bit big. I may give the ribbing a light steam, to see if I can shrink it back together a bit.

  
The problem with using this wool for this pattern was that the gorgeous texture gets somewhat lost under the halo from the wool. A combination of knit, purl and eyelets form a double chevron pattern which is really pretty. If I was going to knit it again, I think I would use a smoother yarn with a tighter ply (is that the correct term? Something which is less loosely wound together) so that the different textures and patterns would really stand out.

Next up is my first proper pair of socks. I say proper pair, as these are the first ones I’ve made in sock yarn which will actually fit inside a pair of shoes (unlike my actual first pair of socks).

  
These are Hermione’s Everyday Socks, by Dreams in Fibre, a free cuff down pattern on Ravelry. I didn’t soley pick the pattern based on the name, but I do love all of her Harry Potter references in her patterns! The stitch pattern is actually the same as the Laule’a Socks, with offset purl stitches creating the texture amongst the stockinette stitches. I used the magic loop method to knit these, and found it much easier than using DPN’s, especially when lugging them around in my bag.

  
My only real problem with these came when knitting the heel flap. I followed the instructions for the Eye of Partridge stitch pattern, and I’ve ended up with a nice sturdy layer with the floats and the back, but the front doesn’t look like the textured pattern that all the examples I looked at achieved! Maybe I didn’t pull my floats tight enough to make the slipped stitches pop out, I don’t know. Never mind! 

  
Knitting these was really fun, the stitch pattern is so easy to memorise and even the heel flap/gusset went smoothly. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the kitchener stitch to graft the toes, I hate kitchener stitch! I find it so unintuitive, I have to refer back to the instructions for every step (I use the tutorial on Purl Soho every time).

The yarn I used is Madeline Tosh Sock, in the Optic colourway. I really like the tweedy look of the flecks of grey against the cream, it was fun to see how it looked as I knitted with it. I have another ball in the Night Hawk colourway which I’m looking forward to using!

  
This seems to be how all the hipster girls I see around Wellington wear their chunky socks, but I’m not sure I can pull it off…They’re lovely and warm inside my knee high boots though!

1960’s party dress

I’ve finally finished the second part of my Vintage Pattern Pledge, a party dress made from a vintage Simplicity pattern which I found at a local vintage store. I was sure it was an early 1960’s pattern ( I looked it up when I bought it, and was sure it was 1961 or 62), but I’ve just checked the vintage pattern wiki and they have it down as being first released in 1959. I’m still going to call it a 1960’s drss though, as the pattern wouldn’t have made it to New Zealand until then!

  

I bought this pattern for the gorgeous stepped neckline, but the whole pattern is really lovely. Vintage patterns have the best details! I had expected that there would be some serious fitting work to do before starting on my final dress, and I made an unprecidented two muslins before cutting into my final fabric. Two! It was worth it though. The pattern is a single pre-cut size, as most patterns of the era are, and it was a size below what I would have made up. I had no idea what the ease in vintage big 4 patterns was like, so my first muslin was made up exactly from the pattern. Once I tried that on  I had a better idea of where I needed to make changes, and came up with the following list:

  • Increase width at the waist by 1/2 an inch on both front and back bodice pieces and skirt pieces, blending to nothing at the bust dart and at the mid thigh
  • Remove 1 1/2 inches from bodice length
  • Take 5 inches off the skirt (ladies in the 1950s/60’s must have been giants!)
  • Take 3/8 of an inch off the raglan seam at the back neckline, blending to nothing after 1 1/2″inches 
  • Shorten bust darts

I then made up another muslin, and decided it was pretty good!

  

It looks especially good with a black bra and tights…

The bodice fitted surprisingly well across the bust and shoulders, considering I made no changes there other than taking that small wedge out of the back neckline to combat gaping. The darts are perhaps not pointing in exactly the right place, but they’re ok. 

  

Finally I took a deep breath and cut into this much adored length of fabric. I’ve tried to match this fabric to several patterns since I bought it from The Fabric Store last year, its caused me some grief! Originally I wanted to make a Republic Du Chiffon Madeleine dress out of it, but when I tried to gather a scrap of it it just bunched and looked terrible. Its a silk/wool blend from Tory Burch, and is reasonably hefty with quite a stiff hand. I’m glad I decided to go with somethng more structured rather than persevering with my original plan!

  

I did have a wee bit of trouble with two parts in the instructions, the lapped zip and the vent. I had to pull out my Readers Digest Sewing Guide for the zip, and I just did my own thing for the vent! I really struggled to get the side lapped zip in neatly (you can see it in the side seam above), so I ended up hand picking it. The overlap is probably too wide, next time I’ll try to make it a bit more narrow and subtle. I was a bit worried that my hand stitching wouldn’t be as strong either, but it held up ok!

  

I must say, I was rather surprised by just how shapely this dress makes me look! Got to love a wiggle dress. My trouble with the vent stemmed from my decision to line the whole dress, and I didn’t think to look up how to modify the shape of the vent for the lining (the pattern is unlined). But the time I realised I was going to have trouble, it was too late for me to change what I had done, so I just fudged it. Not the most perfect piece of sewing I’ve ever done, but it’ll do!

  

 I used some deep red bias tape to finish the hem of the skirt and sleeves. I love the flash of bright colour that you can see inside the sleeves sometimes!

 

The best part of this dress is the shape of the upper bodice though. The sleeves are two piece raglan sleeves, and they’re so beautifully shaped, while the neckline is so pretty! Something I really noticed while making this was how it seemed to be designed to fit on a real, 3D form. I would have had huge trouble pressing the bodice without the assisance of a tailors ham, and pinning and pressing the neckline facing would have been a nightmare without it! So often modern patterns seem to be made up of flat shapes, this was a very different fitting and sewing experience. I used silk organza to interface the whole facing, and then added an extra layer at the front raglan edges to try and keep those points flat. It worked surprisingly well, the points only rolled outwards if there was downward tension on the lining, which was eay to fix with a few stitches through the facing at the raglan seams!

  

This dress has been a total labour of love, I don’t think I’ve ever put so much effort into a dress before! I’m glad I did though, I would have been gutted if I had done anything less with this fabric. I wore it to the wedding of some of our good friends yesterday, and had the most lovely day. The weather was perfect, sunny and crisp (and no wind!), and the location was absolutely stunning, and it was just a beautiful, happy day!

Tiny woolies and some pretty knitting kit.

This last week I went a little bit crazy knitting baby hats. I’ve just finished a fairly large knitting project, and I wanted something little and fun while I waited for the wool for my Bronwyn Jumper to arrive. As several of my friends are pregnant or have new babies (all girls, which makes it easy), I thought I’d have a go at some baby hats. And they were so fast to knit and so cute that I ended up making four over the course of last week! 

  
Aren’t they adorable? Both patterns are from Purl Soho, and all of the wool is Quince and Co. Lark (except for the light grey, which is left over Brooklyn Tweed Shelter from the aforementioned big project, and the dark grey which is Cascade 220) 

  
The first pattern I tried is the free Garter Ear Flap Hat, in the baby size. I was able to get both pink hats out of one skein of Lark, with a little bit left over. I really like the shape of the hats, the ear flaps are so cute! They’re shaped with short rows, which are really easy to knit neatly in garter stitch (I still struggle to make the wraps look nice in stockingette). I knitted the grey one first, and then played around with adding the coloured brim to the next two. I really like the colour combinations I chose, the teal is left over from my Laule’a socks, and I think it and the pale grey look cute with the pale pink but not too sweet or girly.

  
I will admit to not being the greatest fan of garter stitch, especially in the round! I’m just prejudice against purling, and one of the best things about knitting in the round is that you usually don’t need to purl! Not so here, obviously. It is lovely and squishy though, and the texture is rather nice. I am considering playing around with the pattern to convert it to plain knit, I’ll just need to figure out how to stop the rolled edge rolling too far. Maybe I could just do a few rows of garter stitch instead!

  
After three garter ear flap hats in a row, I decided to change things up and use the Basic Hat Pattern from Purl Soho. I didn’t want it to be too basic though, so I improvised a little bit of colour work using the left over wool from the other hats. I really love how it turned out, its so cute! I think I like this pattern more, its more versatile and I can imagine designing more exciting colourwork patterns for it. I love the pom pom as well, I think its the best one I’ve ever made! Sarah from Fabric Tragic pointed me in the direction of a Fork Pompom tutorial, and it was so much easier than faffing around with cardboard discs. And its such a good size for a baby hat!

  
And now to the knitting pretties…A couple of months ago I recieved an email from Meg, who runs Wellington based business Rose Marlow, asking me if I would like some of their gorgeous knitting accessories in exchange for giving them my opinion. I was a little surprised, no one has ever approched me with a similar offer, but after having a look at the Rose Marlow Etsy store I was keen! They make lovely modern project bags and stitch markers, as well as selling NZ wool. Meg assured me that there was no need to blog about the items, and so I sent all of my feedback via email, but to be honest I love the things they send me so much that I’m quite happy to talk about them here!

  
I particularly like the project bag, its a really good size for small and medium projects. I had all of the wool I used and all four baby hats in it with room to spare, and also managed to fit my massive scarf in it when I was working on it. It also fits in my handbag, which is great. The best thing about it though is that it zips shut, perfect for keeping light fingered cats out of my knitting!

  
I also recieved these lovely stitch markers, made out of gold and marble-esque glass beads and stored in a little polka dotted bag. I think what I really appreciate about both of these items is that they’re chic and modern, rather than basic plastic or the fussy vintage aesthetic which seems be be so popular with crafting accessories. Its nice to see something different! I taught one of my friends to knit earlier this year, and I’m planning to buy her some pretty knitting things for her birthday.

I hope you don’t mind a little bit of advertising in this post, I’m certainly not planning on making a habit of it! But I really do love what Rose Marlow are selling, and they’re a local buisness, so I’m happy to give them a shout out:)

Rainy Day Waver Jacket

It’s taken me over six months, but I’ve finally made myself a new raincoat!

  

This is the Waver Jacket from Papercut Patterns, made up in the shorter length with the hood (obviously). I have to admit to competely overlooking this pattern when it was released, because the samples just reminded me of the lab coat I wore for my undergrad studies! But there have been some very cute versions popping up on my blog reader since it was released, and when I decided that I wanted another raincoat this pattern fitted all of my requirements. And I’m really glad I tried it, because I love the end result!

  

I only made a few changes to the pattern, the major one being the addition of in seam pockets. I really don’t like patch pockets for putting my hands in (its the one thing I would change about my Cascade Duffle Coat), and when I saw that Lauren at Lladybird had added side seam pockets to her Waver, I shamelessly decided to copy her. I also took an inch off the length of the sleeves and off the bottom of the hood. The hood was so massive when I first basted it on! I think having no hair means that I’m very aware of hood size, I don’t need to worry about fitting a pony tail or anything into the back of my hood! It still feels pretty massive, but I’ll be able to fit a hat (with pompom) and a chunky scarf inside the hood with no problems, which will be excelent when it gets properly cold. I possibly over shortened the sleeves, 1/2″ might have been a better adjustment. Its not a major drama though!

  

I love the drawstring at the waist, I think it looks much nicer than if it fell straight from the bust. I used round elastic instead of rigid drawstring cord, which makes it more comfortable. Its also easier to get the tension right, as the drawstring comes out on the inside of the jacket and can’t be adjusted when I’m wearing it done up! I put a pair of silver eyelets in the lining for the cord to exit through, rather than using a button hole as instructed, as the lining just got chewed up by my machine, and because I thought they looked better.

 

I also used hammer on anorak snaps instead of buttons, again just because I thought they looked professional and fancy! I used six instead of the four marked on the pattern, as they are smaller than the recommended buttons, and I didn’t want rain blowing through the gaps! Rain comes in at all angles in Wellington, so it’s always a hazard…

 

I had planned on making pocket flaps to cover the openings of the patch pockets, but when I sewed them on and cinched in the drawstring around the waist, they caused the bottom half of the jacket to balloon out like there was a crinoline under there. They were just too bulky and too close to the waist, so I unpicked them. The patch pockets are now less waterproof, but the whole thing is more flattering!

  

The fabric is possibly my favourite part of this whole project. I found the shell fabric at Drapers Fabrics in Auckland when I was up there last year (Thanks to Bella for taking me there!), its a waterproof wool from Italy. I’ve never seen anything like it before, it feels like a crisp wool suiting but when I ran a scrap under the tap it was totally waterproof! It sewed and pressed beautifully, and thankfully the holes from my unpicking self healed like any normal wool. I couldn’t find seam sealing tape anywhere, so it’s not going to be completely waterproof, but it should be fine for getting around town in the rain!

The lining fabric is some mystery slippery stuff I got for $3p/m from the Fabric Warehouse pop up sale a few months ago. It was a bit of a nightmare to sew! Its super slippery, frays as soon as you look at it, and shreds at the slightest provocation. I underlined it with some cotton to give it a bit of strenght at the seams, but to be honest I don’t have high hopes of it lasting too long. But it’s so pretty and cheerful I thought I would give it a go, I can always replace it if it falls apart…

  

Big thanks to Marta and Kat for these photos, we had brunch on Saturday and then scouted out good photo locations. Its nice to have a change from my teal wall! I had unreasonable amounts of trouble getting my snaps done up in the right order, I must have had three goes at it. Always start at the top or the bottom, not at the waist!

Dotty Philippa

This is a tale of two halves, of highs and lows, of my epic stupidity… Who would have thought a cute little skirt could cause such drama? 

  
Before I get into my tale of woe, a small disclaimer: I’m friends with Kat, who owns/operates/designs for Muse Patterns. However, I paid for this pattern with my own pennies, and I’ll do my best to provide an unbiased account of sewing it up. 

  
I was super excited when Muse Patterns released the Philippa Dress, I had been looking for a simple princess seamed sheath dress with pockets incorporated into the bottom of the princess lines so that I could copy a RTW dress I had seen. I couldn’t find anything that had the pockets I was looking for, so I was on the verge of modifying a princess seamed sheath to use the pockets from the Xerea dress when Kat anounced her latest release. It was pretty much exactly what I was after (minus sleeves, but thats a much easier addition than what I thought I was going to have to do!), so I snapped it up. 

  

Now, eagle eyed readers will have noticed that this is not, in fact, a dress. One thing I really appreciate about Muse Patterns is the variety of options incorperated into their patterns, similar to what you get from a big 4 pattern. I had a short length of this lovely soft Japanese corduroy, so I thought I’d try the skirt first, rather than making a somewhat unseasonal dress. It has the same cool pockets and seaming on the back as the dress, but with a lapped zipper and a narrow straight waistband.

  

  

The front half of the skirt came together easily. I used a small scrap of black lining for the pocket bag to decrease bulk, and decided that I couldn’t even come close to pattern matching across the side panels with the amount of fabric I had which made cutting easy. Unfortunately, I had a moment of complete reading comprehension failure when I was looking over the instructions, and I sewed everything together with a 1.5cm seam allowance. When I held it up, I thought the front looked very small. Looking back at the instructions, I realised that there was a 1cm seam allowance and a 1.5cm hem allowance. I was so annoyed with myself! I was able to let the vertical seams out by 5mm each, but the horizontal and angled seams in the pockets were going to be a total bastard to fix, so I just left them. I was careful to sew the back panels so that the angled seams were also at 1.5cm, so that they matched the pocket angle at the side seams. Then I was extra careful to sew the side seams together at 1cm!
  

Unfortunately, being soft corduroy, the initial seam lines (which I had pressed and steamed) were still very visible along the front of the skirt. I spent some time steaming them without letting the iron touch the pile, and then I rubbed it gently with my fingernail to fluff the pile back up again. It worked up to a point, but the lines are still a bit visible. 

I also chose to use an invisible zip rather than a lapped zip, as I didn’t have any standard zippers! Other than that, I followed the pattern as written.
  

I thought this skirt was going to be a bit of a disaster at the half way point, and I was so cross with myself for wasting this fabric, but I actually love the end result. The corduroy creases like nothing on earth though! I ironed it just before taking these pictures, but sitting down for 2 minutes and walking around the house caused the creases across the front and in the back…I’ll just need to embrace the slightly rumpled look. I have to say that I don’t think I gave either pattern or fabric the attention or got the result they deserved, but at least I got a wearable skirt in the end. I’m excited to make the dress up in a cute spotty chambray, hopefully I’ll remember to check the seam allowances next time!

Minimalist Jacket

Something that has been missing in my wardrobe for a while is a light-ish weight casual jacket. Not a blazer (though I would like another one of those too), just a jacket that I can throw on to go out at the weekend during the weird, in between temperatures we get before Winter sets in properly. I was lucky enough to fish a remnant of wool/cashmere blend out of the remnant basket at The Fabric Store a few weeks ago, and it was the perfect weight for what I wanted. It was only 1m long and 1.5m wide, but I figured that would be enough for something simple! I was debating a number of patterns, but then I remembered the simple zippered jacket in The Beginners Guide to Dressmaking by Wendy Ward. I’ve had the book for a while, but this is the first time I’ve used it. 
  

(A brief note: I’ve fiddled with the light/colour gradient in these pictures slightly so that the black on black details on the jacket stand out a bit. Unfortunately, this has made my jumper look almost the same colour as my skin tone…don’t be alarmed if it looks like I’m not wearing anything under the jacket, I promise I’m fully dressed!)

The pattern is super simple, but it was pretty much exactly what I wanted. A very simple, minimalist silhouette, no collar to interfere with scarves or shirt collars, and quick to sew. So quick, in fact, that it came together in a day, even with all the hand sewing I ended up doing! 

  
All of the edges are faced with bias tape, and the side seams and centre back seam are also bound. This helps to make it a very quick sew, but to be honest I think if I made it again I’d make facings! The bias tape is less grey in reality than it appears in these photos, but its still definitely noticible. A couple of the samples in the book use contrast bias tape, and I think it does look better when its made a feature rather than trying to get it to blend in! Self bias tape would be the other option, but the wool was too thick to contemplate that…
  
I hand sewed all of the bias tape, as topstitching is super obvious with the slight nap that this fabric has. I really like the clean finish, especially around the neckline. The fabric loves steam, so I had fun blasting all of the seams flat and molding all of the curves! It also loves cat fur, I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that everything I make from now on will be at least 20% cat fur…
  
The other thing I would change if I was going to make it again would be to cut the left front panel into two, and hide the zipper tape in the seam. Again, having it exposed is a fast solution, but I think it’d be pretty easy to incorporate it into a seam. 
  
It is slightly too broad across the shoulders when I’m wearing something lightweight under it, but with one of my chunkier hand knit jumpers under it the fit is spot on! I shortened it by about 2 inches, because I couldn’t find a zip the right length, but I think this length is better on my short torso anyway. 
   
I like it open or zipped up all the way best, I think, but I’ll probably wear it partially zipped the most! Monsieur said it looked like a motorcycle jacket and “those aren’t fashionable for girls are they?”, but I think I’ve managed to prove him wrong, given that every other lady in Wellington seems to be wearing Biker jackets at the moment… I think the lack of collar moves it away from beign too like a motorcycle jacket though.

Theres not really very much to say about this one, it was so simple and easy to make! I’m really happy with how it turned out in the end, even though there are a few modifications I’d make next time. It would be a really good ‘first jacket’ project, as promised by the book! Now I’m looking forward to making the sheath dress from the same book…