Christmas Day Dress

I feel like I must be the last sewing blogger on the internet to make the By Hand London Anna Dress (though Kat assures me she hasn’t made it either)! there are so many versions of this dress out there, and the bodice seems to get matched up with other skirts all the time. I managed to grab a paper copy of the pattern when BHL stopped printing them, and I’ve imagined it paired with several lengths of fabric from my stash since then. Then when I saw the Cotton + Steel/Rifle Paper Co collaboration, I knew that I would use some of their rayon for my first Anna.

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I’m going to rave about the fabric before I get to the pattern, because I love it so much. You might have noticed that rayon is one of my favourite fabrics to sew and wear, and C+S rayon is even nicer than most. This one is lovely and smooth and drapey, and has a nice weight to it which makes the skirt hang beautifully. And how gorgeous is the print? I’ve always been a fan of Rifle Paper Co., so I was super excited to get some of this fabric (it came from Miss Matatabi, by the way). I also have some of the canvas waiting to be made into shorts, and some of their cotton for a dress…I’m not obsessed at all…

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I really wanted a pattern which would let the fabric be the focal point, and I think the Anna works really well as a canvas. The bodice and cut on sleeves doesn’t have too many seams to interrupt the print, and the multi-paneled skirt hangs and swishes beautifully in the rayon. I also really like the boat neck, I think the width of it is a nice way to offset the higher neckline.

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I did make a muslin of the bodice, as I read enough reviews which said they had trouble with a gaping neckline to be wary. I ended up pinching out nearly an inch on either side of the back neckline, and half an inch of each side of the front. I used the tutorial on Ginger Makes to do my flat pattern adjustment, and it worked really well. I still get some gaping at the back if I roll my shoulders right back (how my mother would ask me to stand!), but I think that’s probably just the nature of a high, wide neckline. When I stand normally it sits nicely. I was surprises that I didn’t need to take any length off the bodice or adjust the bust tucks, it all fit pretty nicely once I had the neckline sorted!

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I’m very pleased with how my zip went in, its one of the most invisible invisible zips I’ve ever sewn! I have a little bit of extra fabric at the back waist, but nothing too major. I have to have some moving room!

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I also discovered that I could do a blind hem with my beloved Bernina! How did I not know I could do this? Its so pretty, and so fast, I love it! Blind hems for everything from now on.

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It’s funny, this dress feels very me three years ago. Its the sort of thing I would have been desperate to buy before I could sew, and the sort of thing I would have sewn until about 18 months ago, but I feel like my style has moved on quite a bit from then! I still really like this dress, and I adore the fabric, so it’ll get worn, but it’s funny to think how much this dress sticks out in my current wardrobe. Its nice to have some really girly dresses in there, I suppose. I was planning on this being my Christmas day dress, but to be honest I’m not sure there’s enough room in the bodice for the two Christmas meals which I will be required to eat over the course of the day! I’ll see how I go, I might have to change into something more forgiving after lunch (because eating less really isn’t an option!).

I hope you all have a good holiday period! I’m planning a stay at home sewing marathon over New Year, then we head away for friends’ wedding. I had better get working on the dress I want to wear for the wedding…though I suppose I can always wear this one if I don’t get it done!

Family History Skirt

As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of my sewing hardware has come from my Nana. My sewing machine is her 1968 Bernina Record, I use her shears, her needles and thread, and her sewing box full of odds and ends lives in my sewing space. Sometimes I feel quite sentimental about the whole lot (and this is one of those times). I’m not sure when I aquired this woolen skirt of Nana’s, but its been in my drawer for ages. It was always too big, but it was made from some lovely tartan wool so I kept it.

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This is the original A line skirt. It had a side lapped zipper and a hook and eye, four darts in the front and two at the back, and had a facing instead of a waistband. It was also fully lined, and had a blind machine hem. The wool is Ross hunting tartan (Nana’s married name was Ross, and she’s a Scot), and was apparently purchased by a friend of Nana’s when she was in Edinburgh and brought back to NZ for her. I really wanted to remake the skirt into something for me, because the fabric is lovely and I like the connection it has with Nana. So I unpicked the facing and the darts and all the seams, and rescued the zip, and chucked the whole lot in the washing machine (on a cold delecate cycle with wool detergent, don’t fret!) to get rid of its musty wool smell and to try and relax the old seam lines. Then I gave it a good steam, and sat down to cut out a By Hand London Charlotte Skirt

 (Looks like I need to press my darts in better….sorry!)

Cutting out took me hours! I was determined to match the tartan across all the seams and the waistband, and I had so little fabric to work with that I found it quite stressful. And I’ve just realised that I didn’t get any pictures of the side seams, so you’ll just need to take my word for it that they all match up… I ruled lines across my pattern pieces to make sure they’d match. Just as well its a PDF, I made such a mess of it!

 
You can barely see the cente back seam though, so I’m pretty chuffed with it. I had to piece the waistband, as there wasn’t enough fabric in the original skirt to cut it in one piece. I ended up folding the pattern piece into three, so that the joins would match up with the side seams. It all worked pretty well, I think! I do wish I had included a back vent, because its quite narrow at the knees, but I didn’t even have enough fabric for that. I decided matching the tartan was more important than being able to take the stairs two at a time.

 
This is my first ever lapped zipper! I hand picked the lapped side, which I think looks really nice. The hand stitches just sink into the wool and become pretty much invisible. The button came from the amazing collection that I was given by my friend Kelly a few weeks ago, which had belonged to her Grandmother, so its definitely a skirt made of vintage materials.

I reused the original lining by cutting out the skirt pieces again, but I turned the darts into pleats to allow for slightly more movement of the lining. The original lining was hemmed with a three stitich zig-zag, which was such a pain to unpick! I wanted to do the same for the new hem, but I must have selected the wrong stitch and ended up with the blind hem stitch. Which isn’t blind, because I don’t have the right presser foot, so it looks a bit odd! But its the lining, so nobody will care. 

 
I really wanted to use the same techniques on my skirt that were used on the original, so there is a lot more hand sewing  on this skirt than I would normally use. Aside from the zip, the hem and the inner waistband are both hand sewn. I finished the seams with a zig-zag stitch, which I would never normally do anyway, but especially not on fray-prone wool like this! But thats how the original was done, and it seemed to last well enough, so we’ll see. The hem is finished with some green vintage bias tape which I had in my stash, as it was going to be too short if I turned it up twice and stitched it down.
 
Here are some closeups of the innards. I really enjoyed taking my time over this skirt, I even enjoyed the hand sewing! 

I’m really pleased with the fit of the skirt too, for the most part. The only bit that concerns me is that there appears to be some excess fabric pooling across the centre front between the points of the darts. Its something I noticed on my Brume skirts as well, so I might need to look up some pattern adjustments to see what I can do to reduce it for next time…

 
I wore it with my Nettie Bodysuit, which was a good choice. Usually when I wear pencil skirts I do up the waitband over my top, then pull the hem up to my waist and smooth everything out before I pull it back down, but the hem of this skirt is too tight to do that! Nettie means that I don’t have to worry about wrinkly tops making funny bulges under my skirt.

 
So thats my new/old skirt! I’m happy with it, despite its minor fitting issues. I’m glad to have another winter skirt in my wardrobe, now I just need some jumpers and merino leggings to go with it…

Technicolour Dream Coat Blazer

It officially the first week of Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, but I don’t think anyone has told Wellington that! Its still really hot and muggy (especially at night, I’m looking forward to that ending!), and if it wasn’t for the fact that its getting increasingly dark in the mornings I wouldn’t be thinking about the changing season at all. That may be why I have made this incredibly summery, unbelievably colourful Victoria Blazer, even though it isn’t exactly seasonal anymore…

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Its so bright! Its easily the most colourful thing in my wardrobe. I found the fabric in a little vintage fabric store called Sew Love Tea Do in Auckland when I was up there at the end of last year, and I seriously waffled about what to do with it. I only had about a metre of it, so a dress was out! In the end I decided it would make a fun blazer, and after my initial experiment with the Victoria Blazer I thought I would try it again. My tweed Victoria is obviously too big, so I went down a size and I’m much happier with the fit on this one!

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I didn’t have enough fabric to even consider pattern matching, but I tried to match patches of colour across seams, which I think was actually pretty successful. The lapels blend into the pattern across the front pretty well! I did have some problems getting the collar and lapels to sit properly, they just wanted to roll out towards the sleeves. Under stitching the lining helped a little, and catch stitching the lining to the armscye seam seemed to help more, but its still sitting a little funny around my neck. Sort of ballooning outwards a bit. You can sort of see what I mean in this next photo…

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I don’t know whats caused it, maybe I made an error when I was cutting it out. I’ve decided I can live with it!

I think what makes this jacket really nice is the lining. Its a wonderful coral coloured silk satin which I rescued out of the remnants bin at The Fabric Store years ago, before I started sewing seriously! I’ve been hoarding it ever since, too scared to use it. It was a bit of a bastard to sew with, shifty and slippery as anything, but I managed to wrestle it through the machine and its turned out ok. I didn’t have enough to line the sleeves too, which makes me a bit sad because its lovely and soft! I did have enough to use for the cuffs though (just as well, because I forgot to cut them out of my main fabric with the rest of it, and I didn’t have big enough scraps left when I realised my mistake!). I interfaced the silk, as it would never have been stiff enough to hold the shape of the cuffs on its own.

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I must admit that I was deeply unsure about this blazer when I was making it…its just so bright, I wasn’t sure what I would wear it with, or when. But now that its finished, I actually really do like it! And it goes with lots of stuff in my wardrobe, because I have so much navy and grey, so I’m not sure what I was worried about. And I finally used the BHL label which came with my Holly Jumpsuit pattern! Thats the only BHL pattern I’ve bought directly from them, all of my other ones have come from Dresses and Me, and they don’t come with the official labels (though Penny does put cute little Made by Me labels in with her parcels). So that was exciting!

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This might be my last post for a few weeks, as Monsieur and I are moving into our new house next weekend! I’m really looking forward to getting everything organised the way I want it, and getting my sewing room all set up, but I’m dreading the thought of packing (should really get started on that) and the actual physical moving part. Why don’t I have a teleporter??

1930s (ish) Beach Pyjamas

After my last (whiney) post about not being motivated to finish anything (thanks for your advice and kind words!), I put my head down and got to work on my main outfit for Art Deco weekend. I’ve been wanting a set of beach pyjamas for ages, they just look like such comfortable clothes! Then i saw the amazing set that Anna made last year, and I was sold. I had a look around for some vintage patterns, but they were all unbelievably expensive! So I looked up some inspiration pictures, and fell in love with this photo…

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How awesome are those hats? The set I particularly like are the white trousers and the chevron halter top. I wanted a two piece set, even though a lot of them seem to be one pieces, mostly for practical reasons, but also because a set of wide legged cream trousers will be a good addition to my dancing wardrobe! In the end, I decided to go with the By Hand London Holly trousers and the Sewholic Lonsdale dress bodice. Happily, both patterns were already in my stash!

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After all of my procrastination, I’m really pleased with the result! Especially the top, I think its super cute. I haven’t made the Lonsdale up as a dress (mostly because I don’t like wearing things I need special underwear for…I need to get over that) but I might have a go at it next summer, because I really like it as a top! I cut the striped fabric on the bias, because I wanted the chevron effect up the front, but the lining is cut on grain to make it all a bit more stable. I pieced the lining with some of the striped fabric for the straps, so that they were striped on both sides.

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I swapped the zip for buttons up the back, mostly because I think it looks cute, but also because I couldn’t find a separating invisible zip. It does make it more difficult to get into it on my own, but I managed! I shortened the bodice by almost an inch, because I have a really short torso, but it could probably do with being a bit shorter. This was also pointed out by monsieur, so it must be quite noticible! (Honestly, he watches one episode of the Great British Sewing Bee with me and now he’s an expert…)

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The Holly Trousers were really simple to put together after the top, I knew they would fit after making my Flolly Playsuit last year. The cream linen/cotton blend I used was beautiful to sew with, and presses really well, but doesn’t stay wrinkle free for long! I’ll try to press some nice sharp creases down the fronts of each leg, but I’m not sure how long they’ll last. I used my invisible zipper foot for the first time to put the side zip in, it looks so neat and was so easy! It looks like the foot will be a good investment.

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They’re super long trousers (even taking my lack of height into account), I’ve already taken a 4″ hem up on them! I’m trying to decide if I should hem them to the right length, or turn them up and cuff them like oxford bags. What do you think?

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So there we go! I’m glad they’re finished in time, they’ll be nice and cool to wear on a hot day in Napier! I think I’ll make a navy and cream headscarf to wear with them, rather than a hat, since I’ll have my parasol with me. Such a shame that they’ve gone out of fashion!

A Practice Victoria Blazer

So this was never meant to be a bloggable item of clothing, it was only supposed to be a muslin! I never usually bother, but as one of my goals for this year is to become better at sewing and making things fit, I thought I should have a go. I know, I know, I should be making a muslin first for most things, but I usually just can’t be arsed. For the Victoria Blazer from BHL though I was a bit confused about which size I should make. My measurements put me pretty squarely in the size 12/8 box, but the finished measurements for that size seemed huge! So I bit the bullet and made a practice run.

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I had this wool plaid in my stash, it originally came from the remnants bin at The Fabric Store for $10 so I figured it wasn’t too much of a loss if it didn’t work! I cut the size 12/8 first, and I do think its a bit big. I know its supposed to be a boxy style, but I think I’d like it to be a bit narrower in the body and back.

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I’ll cut my next version out in the size 10/6, and maybe look at putting some narrow darts in the back, just to bring it in a little bit. The floral cotton I have set aside for my next version if stiffer than this wool, so it’ll stick out more at the back. I don’t want it to look like a tent!

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Its lined with a striped acetate from The Fabric Store. I wish I had lined the sleeves, as the wool is a bit itchy, but I had already finished it before I thought of that! I hand sewed the lining to the armscye and at the back hem.

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Even though its a bit big, I really like the style. The way the neckline/darts are fashioned is really clever, and really easy to do, even though I haven’t managed to get the darts sitting quite right here. I’m not sure if I need to steam the crap out of them again, or if I haven’t sewn them down far enough. I’ll do some careful measuring and draw my seam line on the next version I think, so that they sit better. I really like the wool as well, I wish I had more of it to make a matching pencil skirt! It reminds me a bit of my Nana for some reason, maybe just because its wool and plaid. Today is the anniversary of her death, so it was nice to spend some quality time with her sewing machine and one of her wooden spools of vintage thread. I think she would have quite liked it.

Festive Sewing part 3: a Flora for Christmas day

More By Hand London, this time the Flora dress!

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I’ve had all of the elements for this dress sitting around in my sewing room for ages, but for some reason I was seriously procrastinating about getting it started! I was a bit scared of cutting it out, the label I had written out to remind me of the details of the fabric (width, fibre content, pre washed or not etc) said that it was only 115cm wide, and I was worried about how I would have to modify the pattern to fit the very voluminous skirt onto the narrower than recommended width. So it all just languished in my stash, until last weekend when I decided that I really wanted a new dress for Christmas day. I laid out the fabric and pattern, and to my happy astonishment, the skirt pieces fit on the folded fabric with only a centimetre overhanging the selvidge! I must have remembered wrong when I was writing out the tag. A bit of a waste of time and angst, but I’m glad I didn’t have to get up to any shenanigans trying to get the pattern on the fabric!

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This fabric is a bit unusual, as the stripes run parallel to the grainline, rathe than selvedge to selvidge. I didn’t really pay attention to that in the shop, but when I got home I was quite pleased that it did! It meant that I could cut the skirt on grain, and still have the stripes running down the fabric. I have a bit of an irrational hatred of horizontal stripes on circle skirts, I just don’t like the way the stripes curve towards the hem. I cut the bodice on the cross grain, because I like the way the contrasting directions of the stripes look. The fabric is a lovely light Italian cotton, but its rather see through so the whole dress is lined in white cotton lawn. I followed the instructions for lining the bodice, but decided to underline the skirt rather than make a separate skirt lining. I didn’t like the way the stripes showed through the fabric in the pleats, so treating the lining and outer skirts as one piece when I sewed the pleats helped to fix that! I probably should have underlined the bodice as well, to solve the same problems with the darts, but never mind.

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I had a few fitting issues with this one, and you can see that its still not right across my lower back and waist. I can’t figure out if theres too much fabric at the waist side seams, or if there isn’t enough! Either way, its pulling and bagging a bit at the waist. I took about an inch off the CB seam, which helps the fit across my shoulders/upper back, and shortened the straps by about 2 inches. If I make this dress again, I think I’ll take the length off the top of the front and back bodice, rather than the straps, as it it pretty high cut now! I don’t mind the high neckline though (less chance of sunburnt cleavage this way!), but its something I could play around with.

The invisible zip gave me a bit of grief, I just couldn’t get the stripes to match up all the way down! I machine basted it in about 4 times before I gave up and sewed one half down by hand. Its still not perfect, but as one wise commenter said when I told my tale of woe to instagram, I can’t see it when I’m wearing it! I’ve finally ordered myself an invisible zipper foot, so hopefully this will be the last time i have trouble with one…

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I feel like this dress is made up of almosts. The stripes almost match perfectly across the zip, the darts and the side seams. They almost meet in perfect chevrons up the side seams of the skirt. The invisible zipper is almost totally invisible. The fit is almost right. But despite these almosts, I’m almost in love with this dress. Not totally, but nearly. I love the full, swishy skirt (seriously full, I nearly used 4m of bias tape when I hemmed it!) and I think it’ll be a lovely summer dress. Now I just need to be invited to a garden party or a summer wedding or something! I think it matches my favourite summer hat and my Nana’s amber beads perfectly.

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And here is the (almost) obligatory twirling photo, just to show off some of the skirt…

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Ok, its not the most twirly of twirly photos, but the rest of them were practically indecent! I’ll definitely need a petticoat if I wear this dress dancing…

This is my last post before Christmas! I hope you all get to relax, eat delicious things and spend time with your favourite people. Stay warm if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and don’t overheat if you’re down under. Its beautifully warm and sunny here in Wellington, I’m so glad that summer has turned up just as everyone is finishing work for the year. I think my Christmas may end up being al fresco, I can’t wait!

Flora/Holly in action!

First sunny day, out with the camera! This is going to be a photo dump, be warned. Also be warned about the incredibly pale pair of legs you’re about to be subjected to. They haven’t seen any UV for about 6 months!!

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This is the wrinkliest fabric in the world! It looks like it doesn’t fit at all, but its just the fabric, honest! It doesn’t feel like its pulling or anything, unlike how it looks in these photos…

Also, as I was taking these I realised that the lady who lives next door was standing out on her first floor balcony watching me run backwards and forwards to my makeshift tripod (my camera sitting on a book balanced on the drying rack. Surprisingly successful!). It was a bit awkward! So I moved around the house a bit…

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The only place I think it might be a bit tight is across the back of my hips, I might let the darts out a bit before I make my trousers! I am also a bit worried that I may have sewn the sleeves in backwards, they’re a bit restrictive. Though I can’t lift my arms above my head without giving myself an enormous wedgie anyway, so I guess its not really a problem!