Teal Shift Dress

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was trying to sew more for others, as my wardrobe is rapidly reaching bursting point. I made linen shorts for Hamish, and at the same time I made a Pauline Alice Xerea shift dress for my lovely Mum. She was looking for a nice breezy dress to combat the hot weather we were having, but something that was still stylish and nice enough for the office. I’ve got a few sack and shift dress patterns in my pattern library, so I got her over to have a look, but  wasn’t surprised when she picked Xerea! I thought she would like the pockets and the shape of the dress, and she did. Then she picked out a lovely teal milled linen from The Fabric Store, and I got sewing!

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The first thing I did was lengthen it by about 30cm. As drafted the pattern is really short, and Mum is several inches taller than me, so I thought I would hedge my bets and add loads of length that I could trim back later! It turned out to be about the right length, I trimmed off 2cm and then turned up a 3cm hem to get it sitting just at the knee.

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We also opted not to add the short sleeves on, so I trimmed the armscye back a centimetre or so and then hemmed them with the same bias tape I used around the neckline. This is the third time I’ve made this pattern, and it always comes together really quickly and neatly! I love the princess seams/dior darts/curved pocket combo (not that you can see any of those details particularly well in this plain linen, but they’re there and are really nice), and the V neck at the back is also a lovely detail.

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The only thing I’d change for next time would be to scoop the front neckline out slightly, as Mum finds it slips backwards a bit and can become a bit restrictive, depending on how she’s sitting! She’s worn it heaps, which is gratifying, and we’re talking about trying out a long sleeved woolen version for winter. I think I’d change the back neckline to be a standard high curve, drop the front neckline, and add a centre back seam with an invisible zip for a winter version. Or maybe put a keyhole and button in the back yoke? I’ll need to have a think about it!

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Maybe I’m coming around to sewing for other people, it is nice when you can make something for someone who really appreciates it! It’s a chance to make stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily make for myself either, which can be fun. Though I think my sewing time this year is going to be a bit limited now that I’m back to studying, so it might be a while between sewing projects for other people…

Thanks for modeling for me Mum, I’m glad you like your dress! xx

The raincoat which nearly killed me…

I’m a very selfish maker, I hardly ever sew or knit for other people. I’ll sew for my mum (because she’s awesome), and I’ll sew or knit for Hamish (because he’s super fussy about buying clothes, and I’m still trying to get him out of tee shirts that he’s been wearing since before we got together, 10 years ago), and I’ll make gifts for special people in my life, but that’s about it. I don’t usually feel guilty about this, but when my sister asked me to make her a raincoat I felt a bit bad that I had never sewn for her before! I was planning my own raincoat at the time, using the Papercut Waver Jacket pattern, and as Abby also liked the pattern I figured it would be easy enough to make two! Now, if you’ve just followed that link to see my version of the Waver, you’ll notice that I blogged it a while ago. In fact, the fabric for both of our raincoats was bought from Drapers Fabrics when we last visited Auckland…in September 2015. This raincoat was my longest ever work in progress! It was probably also one of my worst ever sewing experiences, and there is definitely a strong correlation between those facts…

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I made her the longer version of the Waver, with the hood and the drawstring waist. I wish I had made the longer version for me too, its a much more practical length for a rain coat! My sister is tiny, so I re-traced the pattern and cut her an XXS, then took an inch off the waist and the hem. She has a lot of hair though (I’m pretty sure she got her full allocation of hair and then half of what should have been mine), so I left the hood at its original size instead of shortening it like I did for mine. I also left the sleeves at full length. I made the same aesthetic modifications to both jackets, adding in-seam pockets behind the patch pockets and a self-fabric facing to the hood.

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So the pattern wasn’t the problem with this project at all. I cut Abby’s coat just after I finished mine, intending to have both done by winter 2016. it was as I was cutting up the waterproof nylon that we’d picked that I started to realise what I had done to myself. This fabric rolled along it’s cut edges worse than anything I have ever dealt with before, all of my newly cut pieces were rolling up into little skinny tubes before my eyes! It’s also completely rigid, there was no easing anything or using any of the tricks I’ve learned to sew nice curved seams over the years. I’m so glad that we picked a pattern with raglan sleeves instead of set in ones! It wouldn’t hold a crease at all once it cooled down (though at least it didn’t melt), and it slipped all over the place under my presser foot, making the stitches an uneven length and the tension a bit wonky. I wanted to cry after a few seams! It was worse than silk velvet, than tissue knit, worse than bag leather or the finest chiffon. The shifty, slippery silk satin lining Abby picked out was honestly a dream to sew by comparison.

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So I put it aside, meaning to come back to it once I had a better idea of how to deal with the fabric. And then it languished, for a whole year, until my sister started asking pointed questions about it’s whereabouts at the beginning of autumn this year. I really did feel guilty then, so I braced myself and pulled it out of the WIP bag of shame. It was still an absolute bastard to sew, but I used a super fine microtex needle which helped with my dodgy looking stitches, and I topstitched where I could to keep the seam allowances flat. I really wanted to seal the seams to make it as waterproof as possible, especially after topstitching them, but I couldn’t find seam sealing tape anywhere, even online sources wouldn’t ship to New Zealand for some reason. Eventually Hamish suggested I get some tent seam sealing glue from a camping store (I got this one), which was a brilliant idea. It comes as a sponge-topped glue stick like I remember from primary school, and I just painted it in an inch wide strip over each seam on the inside. I doubt it’ll be as effective as a sealing tape in the long run, but it seems to be working for now!

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The press studs are the same as the ones I used on my Waver, and I used the same round elastic for the drawstring as in mine. It’s much more comfortable than a rigid cord! Abby had to have two photoshoots for me to get pictures for this post, there’s something weird happening with my camera and pictures keep coming out unfocused. And it isn’t just my shaky hands, it happens when I use the self timer too! At least I know she’s wearing it though, I would’ve hated to go through all that and then have her not like it!

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