Winter Favourite

It’s been so cold here for the past few weeks! We’ve had a (pretty low key) cyclone sitting over the country, and so it’s been all 130 kph southerly gales and torrential rain and hail. We’ve had a few good landslides around Wellington too, as well as the usual airborne trampolines and bits of flying roofing iron. In the middle of all of that wildness, I decided I needed to make myself a new winter dress, obviously.


The pattern is McCalls 6886, which I initially overlooked as it’s a pretty basic tee dress. I’m really glad I picked it up during one of the Club BMV sales though, because it’s a nice wee pattern. I love the shaping in the side seams, and the neckline has also turned out really nicely. I probably could have lengthened a tee shirt pattern to get a similar effect, but I’m lazy and this pattern has turned out well enough that I’m glad I didn’t try!

I took an inch out of the bodice length at the top lengthen/shorten line, which I think was a good move. I’ve got a little bit of pooling above my butt, but not enough to bother me. The only other change I made was to slim the sleeves by about an inch at the wrist, tapering back to the seam allowance above the elbow. It’s pretty slim fitting through the body, I think I’d sew a narrower seam allowance through the hips if I was using a thinner or clingier fabric. This stuff is heavy enough to skim rather than get caught up on the waistband of my tights!

I cut the crew neckline, with the intention to modify it once I could try it on, but I actually really like the higher neckline. It’s much cosier than a scoop or a boatneck! I followed the instructions to turn and stitch the seam allowance to finish the neck, which I’m usually a bit leery of (I’ve had necklines stretch out really quickly when they’re finished like that), but it seems to be holding up nicely.

The fabric is a loop-back merino sweatshirting that I bought last winter from The Fabric Store. I had planned to make it into a SOI Heather dress, but the idea of having to match the stripes across those princess seams kept putting me off. I’m actually really glad I kept it for this super simple pattern, I love the way it looks and it’s really warm and comfortable!

I’m so happy with this dress, it’s got everything I like! Stripes, long sleeves, cuddly merino… I’ve been wearing it as often as I can get away with! Obviously I should make another one… I recently picked up a length of seconded fleece backed merino sweatshirting which would be lovely. It’s bright red though, so I might try dyeing it. I also think that this would be a good pattern for the printed scuba I got from Mood ages ago, it would show off that busy fabric perfectly!

(also, my image editing program gave up the ghost mid way through these pictures, which is why I have randomly appearing and disappearing power points…)

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Double Denim

At the end of last year, Emma from Emma’s Atelier organised a sewing challenge for the Wellington Sewing Bloggers. We were going to finally stop procrastinating and sew jeans! Now, I got my jeans finished by the end-of-challenge date in March, but the date was pushed back a few times to accommodate others who were still sewing. Eventually the 6th of May was decided on, so I decided to sew up something else for the challenge as I had already blogged my jeans

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I was going to have a crack at some Ginger Jeans, but I didn’t get organised in time. Instead I decided to use the rest of the stretch denim I had left over from my Safran Jeans to make another version of the skirt from v1247. I really liked my first version of this skirt, but it is pretty short, and the fit is all a bit squiffy because I was more worried about pattern matching than the trifling matter of accurate seam allowances…

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This version does fit much better, I don’t have the odd bubbling above the pockets like I did with my first version. Guess those seam allowances do matter huh? I added 3” to the hem of this one, and I prefer the longer length. I also added an exposed zipper up the back (I thought sewing denim and using a metal zip made this skirt enough like jeans to qualify for the challenge!). I used Megan Nielsen’s tutorial for the zip, and it worked fairly smoothly. It isn’t as neat inside as I would like, due to the way the seam allowance gets clipped, but I can live with it! I bound all of the internal seams with Hug Snug, to keep the bulk down (and because I couldn’t be bothered making bias tape). It looks a bit dodgy up close, but if you aren’t looking too closely it looks pretty good!

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I’ve been wearing this skirt heaps since I finished it, I didn’t realise I needed a denim skirt but it has obviously filled a gap in my autumn wardrobe!

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I’ve also made a long sleeved version of the Deer & Doe Melilot Shirt, in a Robert Kaufman chambray from fabric.com (I think it’s this one, but I’m not 100% sure). I love my short sleeved one, so I thought a long sleeved version would go well in my wardrobe, and I was right! I really love this shirt. I’ve seen some mixed reviews of the Kaufman chambray around, but it’s really hard to find lightweight chambray in store in Wellington, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s really nice and soft, and it pressed and sewed up nicely. Hopefully it’ll wash well, because I’d like this shirt to last.

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This is the first time I’ve sewn tower plackets, and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. There was a little bit of head scratching as I tried to get everything to fold correctly, but it all suddenly fell into place and looked like what I was expecting! I put a bar tack right across the top of the split to reinforce it, as I’ll be wearing these sleeves rolled up most of the time, but next time I think I’ll use a shorter vertical bar tack to strengthen that area. The long bar tack is just a bit clumsy looking! I am happy with the way the cuffs turned out, the curves on the cuffs, collar and pockets look really nice together.

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I hemmed this one with some grey bias tape, as I’ve never been happy with the turn and stitch hem treatment on my first shirt. Bias tape just sits so much flatter around those sharp curves at the side seams. The buttons are my favourite mother of pearl shirt buttons from Made Marion Crafts in Wellington.

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I’m not entirely sure what the deal is with those big wrinkles above the pockets on this shirt, I wonder if that just happens with dropped shoulder seams? Any suggestions? I have so many versions of this planned now, I’ve got some rayon for another long sleeved version, and some more cotton for a long sleeved dress hack, and some linen for another short sleeved summer version… I need a job with a smart/casual dress code so I can wear them all!

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In the end, only Emma and I had finished items for the challenge reveal, so here we are in matching denim (she used the same stuff for her Safran Jeans), and with our matching Ida Clutches, before we had delicious chips and soda at Six Barrel Soda Co!

Finally, does chambray count as denim? Is this outfit double denim? I really like both pieces, so I’ve decided not to be to bothered about wearing them together. Double denim is in now anyway, right? I’ve seen the hipsters wearing it for years! Either way, down with fashion rules…

 

Spotty chambray sheath dress

I’ve been really wanting some easy to wear dresses this summer. Last summer I was all about the Southport dress, but I’ve had a couple of nasty sunburns this summer (bad Kiwi! Should know better!) so I was wanting something with a bit more coverage. I bought McCalls 7464 in the post-Thanksgiving sale last year, and I thought the jewel neckline and sleeves would give me a bit more protection. It helps that a sheath dress was one of the items in my #2017makenine too…

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I used a lovely Japanese chambray from Miss Matatabi. It’s so soft and comfortable, but I think I bought the last of it sorry! It was really lovely to sew, and I have a chunk left over for a top. I find some chambray too blue (I know that sounds stupid, they’re obviously all blue), but this softer cornflower blue is the perfect colour for me. I imagine it’ll be lovely in the heat, though I haven’t had the chance to test that theory yet due to our stormy, chilly summer!

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M7464 is a ‘petite’pattern. I wasn’t 100% sure what that meant, but it turns out that it means the patterns have a shorter nape to back waist length which is perfect for me! It was a simple enough pattern to sew up, I read through the instructions once before starting and then didn’t really refer to them again. I really like the shape of this dress, with it’s front and back princess seams, I think it’s really flattering but not too form fitting! I made view C, but with everything cut on grain rather than cutting the princess panels on the bias (so technically probably view A without the pockets. Either/or.)

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I do wish I had a better match with my zip colour. I thought this pale blue one would be best, but I might have been better with a navy one! Either way, it isn’t too bad really.  One thing I did change from the pattern was to omit the full lining, as I was after an easy breezy summer frock. Instead I used the tutorial for drafting Non-Flip Facings from What Katie Sews. It worked really well, they haven’t popped out of the neckline once! next time I will make the front facing an inch deeper at the centre front neck, as I failed to take the seam allowance into consideration and so it’s only about 1 and 1/4 inches deep at the CF. Even so, it stays put!

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I am really happy with this dress, but there are a few changes I’ll make for next time (and I have two pieces of fabric set aside for another summer version and a winter version already). I feel like the waist of this dress is sitting at the right place, but I have about 2 inches of excess fabric in the upper chest. You can see it bubbling around my collarbones in some of the above pictures. If I pinch it out, the whole dress just feels perfect around the upper chest, rather than feeling a bit sloppy. I’ll need to do some research into the best way to remove that excess fabric and how to modify the sleeve to fit the new armhole (any suggestions or tutorials appreciated!). The back length feels fine, but I might experiment with removing excess from the front and back as well as removing it all from the front. There are toiles in my future! Once I’ve got that sorted, I think I’ll have a perfect dress pattern.

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Furry photo bomb! Zelda is so nosy, she always needs to know what’s going on when  I have the door of my sewing room closed. She must get terrible FOMO when I leave for work every morning…

 

Clown Top

I’ll preface this post by saying that I really like the top I’ve made, the fabric just makes me think of clowns, with all those big orange spots! I called it a clown top on Instagram and had a few comments saying that it wasn’t clownish at all, but I wasn’t meaning it in a negative sense. Maybe my brain is a bit weird…

 

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This is the top from M7483, a Nicole Miller pattern from one of their recent collections. I also like the wide legged trousers which come with the pattern, but to be honest I don”t really have a lot of places to wear elegant wide legged trousers! I can’t wait to get a job which requires nice clothes, I’ll have so many patterns stashed and waiting for an outing…

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But though I won’t be making the trousers up just yet, I thought the top would be perfect for using up some short lengths of silk I have maturing in my stash. This particular length was a remnant I found at The Fabric Store, after brunch with some of the WSBN one day. I wasn’t supposed to be buying fabric, but I decided that remnants didn’t count! There was only 1.2m at 110cm wide, but I cut everything on a single layer and there was plenty of fabric. It’s a silk crepe, so was really easy to cut, but I have to say it gave me a headache trying to get my pattern lined up on it! I found it really hard to get the fabric on grain after washing, and being a crepe I couldn’t pull a thread or anything to help me square it up. The spots didn’t help, there were no obvious horizontal lines in the pattern! I think I managed on in the end though (and I avoided any unfortunate spot placement, thank god). I almost cut into it with the pattern up the other way, until I realised just in the nick of time that they were practically Mickey Mouse heads up that way!

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The pattern calls for a separating zipper up the back, but I decided to sew most of the way up the CB and then leave a keyhole with a self fabric covered button and loop so that I could get my head through the boat neckline. My pattern matching isn’t quite perfect, but I’m pretty happy with it anyway!

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I really like the length of the sleeves, I think they make it slightly dressier than if they were a standard short sleeve. I’m also pretty happy with the fit, though there are some things I’ll do differently next time. It’s definitely too long along the shoulder seam, the sleeve cap is hanging off the point of my shoulder, so I’ll do a narrow shoulder adjustment next time. I think I’ll also grade out to the next size up from below the bust dart to the hem, as it’s a bit snug around my hips and it tends to get caught on my belt/the waistband of my jeans. I think if I had a little bit more room there that it would sit better and I wouldn’t get that bubble at the small of my back.

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I’m looking forward to cranking a few more of these out, I thin it’ll be cute with high-waisted shorts or a narrow skirt in the warmer weather. I also have a length of silk velvet (also a remnant, I love rummaging through those bins…) which I think would work perfectly as this top! I might even look for a metal toothed separating zipper to put up the back…

 

Trans-Seasonal Shirtdress

So it’s technically Spring down here in the Southern Hemisphere, but the weather in Wellington this month has been particularly horrible. We’ve slid back into single digit temperatures, and we’ve had hail and gale force winds and torrential rain, so my spring sewing has been bumped back a few weeks! I had meant to make a shirt dress out of this fabric last winter using McCalls 6696 (the pattern which barely needs an intoduction) but I had a list of adjustments that I wanted to make so I never got around to it. Then McCalls 7351 was released, and it had most of the features I was going to try to change M6696 to have (the shirttail hem, the slim back without the gathers, no waistband), so I cheerily switched patterns, and then fluffed around all Winter and never got it made. But finally, here it is finished!

I really enjoyed sewing this dress! I haven’t had a lot of practice with big 4 patterns, but I’ve recently bought a bunch because I’ve had such a good time sewing up the ones I’ve tried. I’ve found that I get the best results if I sew a 12 in McCalls patterns, even though my measurements put me in a 14. M7351 has multiple cup sizes, and I used the C cup bodice. I think it fits well, though it does look like I have a bit of gaping at the buttons across the bust in these pictures.

I love the curved hem and the sleeve tabs!

I did my usual adjustments here, I took 1 inch off the bodice length, and another inch off the bottom of the back bodice at the centre back for a sway back adjustment. I also shortened the skirt by and inch and a half. The only place where I ran into a problem was the sleeves, they tapered so much towards the elbow that I couldn’t lift my arms when they were rolled up into the sleeve tabs. I ended up shortening them by 3 inches, and they’re much better now! I’ll never wear them not rolled up, so I don’t care if they’re weirdly disproportionate now.

I possibly could have taken a little more length off the bodice, but I don’t think its too bad. I never pictured it without the belt, but it actually looks ok!  I’ll also probably never wear it done all the way up, which is good because something a little bit funny has happened with my top button, its a bit off centre…

if the bodice was a wee bit shorter my belt wouldn’t ride up like this…

The fabric is a cotton/linen/elastane blend, so it’s really light and breathable and holds a crease really well (good for sewing, less good for wearing…), and has a little bit of stretch. Its basically a really comfortable lovely fabric, and I’m really glad that I have enough left to make a pair of shorts! The buttons are fake shell ones that I found in the $1 bin at The Fabric Warehouse, which is my favourite place to find packets of buttons. I also used some Liberty Saville Poplin to line the yoke and for the under collar and inner collar stand.

So I’m really glad I finally got this dress made, I think I’ll be able to wear it with tights and boots just as easily as bare legs and Keds, so it should get plenty of wear! Though I am hoping to be in shorts and sundresses sooner rather than later…

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!

Dazzle Skirt

During the last sale at The Fabric Store, I bought 2 panels of this amazing black and white zig zag cotton on a bit of a whim. I wanted to make a skirt, and my first thought was the Sew Over It Tulip Skirt which had just been released, but as I laid out the pattern pieces I started to have misgivings. I was worried that the deep pleats on the front of the skirt which give it its lovely shape would look a bit strage with the zig zags, I didn’t want it to look like a WW1 era warship!

Dazzle camoflage paint is amazing, by the way!

So I cast that plan aside, and grabbed Vogue 1247 off my shelf. I love all the versions of this pattern that I’ve seen online, but assumed I wouldn’t be able to get a copy as it is out of print. So when I saw the pattern online one day I grabbed it! I knew it would be a bit harder to make up than the Tulip Skirt, as I would have a bunch more pattern matching to do, but I figured it would be good practice. It was also quite late at night when I was making all of these decisions, and I possibly wasn’t thinking too clearly, but I went ahead and cut it out anyway! It wasn’t until the next morning that I realised just how hard it was going to be to get all those zig zags lining up across the 2 pieces of the front and at the 4 panels which make up the back…

  
 

But I managed, eventually! Its not perfect, but its good enough. I did have to manipulate the front yoke slightly to get the zig zags aligned, which has made the fit across the front a bit funny, but I decided that in this instance fit could be sacrificed slightly for pattern matching! 

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Pockets! Not hugely functional pockets, if I put my phone in one it pulls the front down on one side, but I’m sure I’ll probably end up with my train ticket or lipbalm in there. I have to say, I’m really happy with the pattern placement on this skirt. I like the gradation of few to many zig zags from waistband to hem, I think its really effective.

  
Slightly annoyed that I didn’t realise the skirt had twisted to my left when I was taking these pictures, but not enought to go and get changed and take some more, sorry! I had trouble getting the zig zags to line up perfectly at the top of the zip, and after about 4 attempts I decided it was fine… I used a button from my stash to close the waistband instead of a bar and hook as instructed, because I didn’t have one and I thought this button was cute.

   
 
I didn’t bind all of the seams as the instructions suggest either, because I was pretty sure that the skirt was going to be a disaster by the time I got to that point! I thought it could be a muslin, it wasn’t until I tried it on for the first time that I decided that I actually liked it enough to finish it off properly. I hemmed it with some bias tape and hand stitched it up. Its a short skirt, but we’re heading into tights weather (and I’m ok with showing a bit of leg) so thats ok.  

  
I have plans to make another version of this skirt in some navy needle cord that I bought last winter and never ended up using. I think I’ll add a couple of inches to the hem for the cooler weather, and I might look at underlining it with something slipery to stop it climbing my tights. I’ll need to look for some stretch satin or similar.

  
I wonder if finishing this skirt has broken my sewing drought? I’ve cut out a couple of projects this week, and for the first time in ages I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. Or maybe its the change of seasons? This week has been about 10 degrees cooler every day than the week before it, which has been quite an abrupt change! Welcome to Autumn…