Axis Dress

Hi, hello! It’s been a while, things were looking very different around here last time I blogged about anything. In fact, it’s been nearly six months, the longest break I’ve had from blogging since I started six years ago. My hiatus started towards in December, when everything got busy for Christmas, and then continued as the beginning of my year was consumed by constant bouts of (all day) morning sickness, where I could barely be bothered to drag my sorry self off the couch, let alone into my sewing room. And then, just as I’m starting to feel like a human again, we’ve all been tipped into this bizarre, scary, unnatural new world of self-isolation and social distancing, which hasn’t helped with my motivation to sew at all! Even though I’m an essential worker, and would ordinarily be at work in the operating department with all of my colleagues, I’ve been told I can stay home for the 4 week long national lock-down period that New Zealand has been observing for most of April. There’s not a lot of information or evidence around Covid-19 and pregnancy yet, and I appreciate how lucky I am that I’ve been given the chance to stay safe at home. I’ve been working on a few new sewing projects, partly out of necessity- things are starting to get pretty snug over my 22 week bump, and partly just to do something that feels like a part of my old, normal life.

This dress is one which I made to wear to a wedding last November, which I had intended to re-photograph before posting, but I’ve missed my chance and it doesn’t go around me anymore! It’s a Papercut Patterns Axis dress, my favourite from their most recent Geo collection.

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The fabric is one of my favourite pieces I’ve ever bought, it’s a Japanese rayon crepe from The Fabric Store. Because I love it so much, and because I know that Papercut bodices aren’t usually a great fit for my body straight out of the packet, I took the time to do a muslin to check the fit of this pattern. And I’m really glad that I did! It took me three bodice muslins before I was happy with the fit. With the help of my friend Lauren, we draped two new darts, one at the bust and one at the armhole, and then rotated the armhole dart out. We also shortened the waist on the bodice, and lowered the neckline, and shifted the waist darts in  towards the centre front. I thankfully remembered to carry the length adjustments over to the beautiful wrap-around back!

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Look at that lovely back detail!

I sewed the version with the A-line skirt without the centre front split, as I thought this swishy rayon deserved a little bit of volume in the skirt. I had intended to shorten it a few inches, but when I tried it on I decided I really liked the midi length it was drafted at. I struggled to get the hem level, as there isn’t anything holding the back half of the skirt up except for the waistband it dips a bit, and looks longer even though it’s actually the same length. I couldn’t decide if I should trim it shorter so that it matched when I was wearing it, but I think it’s fine. I’d rather it was a bit longer than ended up a bit shorter, which was my worry!

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I’m really pleased with how the fit turned out, I felt really secure in the bodice even though I only knotted the ties together once. I think if I make it again I might decrease the width of the ties a bit and lengthen them, so that I have enough for a bow without it being too bulky, especially if I choose a linen or slightly crisper fabric than this fluid crepe. Because of the general wriggliness of rayon crepe, and it’s propensity to grow unexpectedly,  I decided to line my bodice in some lightweight rayon challis that I had in my stash. This meant that I had to cut a self fabric facing for the ties, so that you wouldn’t see my non-matching lining on their wrong sides, but that was simple enough to do.

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I finished the dress off with a “Hello, Gorgeous!” label from Kylie and the Machine, it’s so cute. It was a lovely dress to wear on a hot day for our friend’s wedding down in Blenheim, in what feels like much more frivolous times! I hope that you’re all coping okay with whatever your current situation is, and that you’re finding some escape in crafting (or being a crafting voyeur, as I have been!).

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(I was so excited to realise that I had these matching earrings!)

Wedding Sewing

It’s been six months (six!) since Hamish and I got married, so I figured it was about time I posted about the wedding sewing I did before I forget completely! I started out at the beginning of last year thinking that I would make not only my dress, but also dresses for my three bridesmaids. Once I started working on my Masters research project I dropped the idea of making any dresses pretty quickly, between my project and working I didn’t have masses of free time! I wanted to make something to wear though, and once I picked out my dress (from local bridal designer Sally Eagle), I started to have a think about what I could make to complement it.

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I decided I would make a top to wear over my dress, as it was pretty much backless and I thought I would want some coverage for post-dinner dancing at the least. But I has also tried on a lace over-bodice when I tried on the dress, and that looked so pretty…So I ended up making two tops, obviously!

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For the first top (what I started to jokingly call my “ceremony look”) I used some beautiful chantilly lace, which I first saw at Silk World when we were in Melbourne last year. Unfortunately, they only sold it in 3m lengths, and I really only wanted a small bit because it turns out lace is pretty expensive! Luckily I found the exact same lace the next day at Tessuti, and they were quite happy to sell me a 1.2m length (though it doesn’t seem to be on their website anymore).

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I wanted a princess seamed bodice with a high front neckline and an open back and capped sleeves. I decided to start with the By Hand London Elisalex bodice, because I knew it fit, and I’m much happier hacking a neckline than trying to fluff around with sleeves! I traced on the front neckline from the By Hand London Anna dress, and slashed the back neckline from the shoulder to the waist. After a muslin, I took a bit of extra length off the long edge of the open back, as it was gaping a bit, and I widened the neckline a touch. And then, I took a deep breath and cut into my beautiful lace…

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I spent a long time trying to maximize the pattern placement on the bodice. I especially loved this lace for its delicate floral motif, but also because it had two scalloped selvages. One was a small regular scallop, the other was a more ornate, eyelash-y edge. I decided to use the large scallop along the sleeve hems, and I trimmed the small scalloped selvage off completely so that I could hand sew it around the neckline once it was sewn together. That left me with a pretty big amount of fabric to fit my pretty small pattern pieces onto, and I managed to match the floral motifs across the princess seams front and back pretty well! To finish the hem I sewed a strip of bias tape I made from the same silk crepe de chine as my dress, so that I could tie it closed and it would hopefully blend into the waistline of my dress.

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Because lace doesn’t fray, I was able to get away with some pretty dodgy sewing techniques when I was sewing this! I used a microtex needle and standard thread, and the sewing was easy enough. The reason I wanted princess seams was so that I didn’t need to have the large triangles of the dart showing through the lace, and to make all the seams as unobtrusive as possible in a sheer fabric. I ended up sewing the seams as usual, then topstitching the seam allowances to one side at 1/8”and trimming the rest of the seam allowance right back to the topstitched line.

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In the end you could barely see the pattern matching against the ivory of my dress, but I’m still glad I went to the effort! I really love how delicate and ethereal the lace turned out, it definitely added a bit of romance to my otherwise plain dress (which I love! I wanted something minimalist, and I definitely got it!). As pretty as this top turned out, it didn’t really solve my original problem of having a bare back for dancing and partying later on… Which is where the second top came in!

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This simple little shell top was inspired by this two piece Anthropologie wedding dress which kept popping up on Pinterest when I was obsessively looking for ideas. We don’t have Anthropologie here, but I was pretty sure I could make something close enough! I was lucky to be able to buy a length of the same ivory crepe de chine as the rest of my dress from Sally Eagle, so that was a great start. I started with the cropped version of the Grainline Willow tank, and traced on a boat neckline similar to the shape of the first top. Because the silk is so fine and floaty, I ended up lining it completely with self fabric. This took away the problem of finishing the neckline and armscyes with facings or bindings, both of which would show through. Instead I trimmed the seam allowances pretty short with pinking shears to reduce their bulk, and then they were all enclosed in the lining. I finished the bottom with a machine rolled hem, incorporating both layers.

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You know I can’t resist a button up back! I found these gorgeous wee vintage glass buttons at Miss Maude, and I had to get them. They’re possibly a bit heavy for this fine silk, but I reinforced the centre backs with strips of organza to help stop the back from buckling. The roleau loops were actually easy to make, the lightweight silk was pretty easy to turn into little loops! One thing I really wish i had thought to do is add strap-holders to the inside shoulders, so that I could hook the shoestring straps of my dress into them and stop them slipping down my arms all evening!

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This little top was exactly what I wanted! It’s a much more modern and minimalist look than the lace, and I liked having the chance to change it up for the two halves of the day. I’m still impressed that I didn’t spill anything on either top (or my dress) all day, though the hem of my dress is pretty covered in grass and other farm-adjacent stains… I think I’ll be able to wear my reception top again with a bunch of things in my wardrobe next summer.

So this post has ended up being really long, thanks for reading all the way to the end! I’m definitely not a bridal seamstress, and I’m still not really sure if I approached these two projects in the most traditional way (especially the lace), but I’m really happy with how they both turned out, and I’m glad I was able to make something for my wedding day! I’m equally glad I opted not to make the actual dress, I would have stressed myself right out trying to get that done in time… Instead it was a pretty relaxed lead up to a lovely, easy, fun day with our favourite people, can’t ask for better than that!

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The photos in this post of me (and Hamish) were taken by the lovely Billie Brook out at Ohariu Farm, and I would really recommend both if you’re getting married in the Wellington region!