November Sewjourn

Our November trip to Sewjourn is probably the one that I look forward to the most, in that the timing is perfect.  It’s at the end of year after what often feels like a long winter, yet isn’t too close to Christmas.  It allows us all to breathe out and regroup before we launch into the busy end of the year.

Sewjourn November 2014.

There were only five of us this time, which made it rather quieter than usual! And it was all about garment sewing. Tan finished two tops, one using lace she had dyed herself, and did lots of work on drafting clothing to her shape. I was really impressed at the way she took different ideas and launched into them, modifying things as she went along and translating her thoughts into shapes. Love watching the creative process! The rest of us used patterns. The top from New Look 6216 was the pattern of choice among many of us, being made in knits, wovens, lengthened into a dress, pieced from scraps, and generally played around with. I took along all of my knit scraps (there were four or five bags) and they were pounced upon and turned into a number of different garments. The leftovers were thrown out, which was rather liberating! I now have a tidier sewing room. I will get to blog posts with details on all the garments that I made at some stage, but in the meantime here is the weekend’s output (not quite everything that was made, but not far off it either).

Sewjourn November 2014.

Clockwise from top left: Kathryn’s garments (there were a couple more pairs of pants and a muslin of a top as well), Wendy’s knit extravaganza, Rachel’s beautiful woven garments for her daughter and herself, and then mine, with something for every member of the family.

The sewing room is now unpacked and reorganised – just in time to me to start thinking about my mid-December trip back to Sewjourn!  I am so lucky.  Thanks again to my sewing friends.  I know I say it every time, but you really are a wonderful group of women.

DCF Challenge – Spring 2014

I met Emma of Ernest Flagg through sewing blogs.  Her blog hit my radar when she won the Tessuti Jaywalk competition earlier this year, and since then I’ve had the good fortune to meet her in person.  Emma noticed that she and I often use the same fabrics in our garments, and suggested that maybe the two of us could do a little seasonal sewing challenge, using fabrics purchased from Darn Cheap Fabrics.  So the DCF Challenge began!  Now, Emma lives in Sydney, and I live in Melbourne, not all that far from one of the DCF branches.  So I was put in charge of fabric selection.  How is that for trust! And this is what I came up with.

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Not one fabric, but two!  Both are polyester, which I usually try to avoid, but I absolutely couldn’t resist the colours.  The woven on the left is almost a crepe weave, and feels surprisingly nice.  The knit on the right is a lightweight “sweater” type knit.  Both were the ends of the bolt, so we ended up with less than two metres of each fabric for each of us.  There were no rules about which fabric should be used, or what to make other than it being seasonally appropriate.  So, what did I make?

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

I made McCalls 6739 from the woven, in view B.  I have been eyeing off this pattern ever since I saw a sample made up at The Cloth Shop in Ivanhoe.  The pattern description is as follows: MISSES’ DRESSES: Loose-fitting, pullover dresses have neckline/side front pocket variations, princess seams and topstitching. A: ruffles. B: seam detail. A, B and C: semi-fitted through bust. Ruffles A and sleeves D: narrow hem. Designed for light weight woven fabrics. SUGGESTED FABRICS: Linen, Denim, Jacquard, Poplin.

I haven’t seen many of these made up, but the first one that appeared in my search was this gorgeous sleeved version by Anne.  I’m definitely going to make a sleeved version of this dress at some stage.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, when I first assembled this dress and put it on Ada I was VERY concerned about the shape and depth of the armholes at the front.  And yes, there is a little bit of side boob exposed, but it’s not indecent.  I will probably wear this dress with a strapless bra though – there is just way too much potential for strap exposure, even with bra strap holders (that I hadn’t added anyway).  And I’m too old to be exposing my very utilitarian bra straps.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

The neckline is higher than I generally prefer, but think that it balances out the rest of the silhouette at this level, and because it is squared off it is a bit more interesting.  In terms of alterations, I sewed size 14 but petite-ed the entire pattern at the “shorten here” lines, and I’m glad that I did.  It really helped with the overall proportions.  Actually, there was one piece that I forgot to petite at the time – the pocket lining piece – and had to go back and take a big tuck out of it to make everything line up.  I like the pockets – they are fun and add a terrific design element.  I am not generally that excited by pockets in dresses or skirts and tend to leave them out unless they are part of the overall silhouette and design, as I don’t ever put anything in them.  But these ones are fun.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

I also angled the centre front and back pattern pieces about half an inch off the fold of the fabric at the neckline to reduce the gaping potential and encourage the neckline to sit closer to the body.  And yes, I did remember to do the same thing with the facing pieces.  This has worked pretty well and is something that I often do, especially with the back of garments.  Remember when patterns used to have darts at the back neckline?  That is why – to contour them more closely to the body.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

The sewing machine got a fair workout during construction.  I used the overlocker on some seams and for edge finishing.  Because the dress is topstitched in a number of places I decided to twin needle the hem as well rather than hand sewing or blind hemming.

McCalls 6739 in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

And of course, I couldn’t leave the knit fabric languishing.  In my eyes, the two fabrics “match” one another (although they definitely don’t match one another in my husband’s or younger daughter’s opinions).  I had the Mouse House Creations Julia cardigan pattern, and there was just enough fabric for the short banded sleeve version.

I cut a Large, based on my measurements.  It was so hard to decide which side of the fabric was right and which was wrong that I decided to use one side for the body and the reverse side for the bands.  This was constructed entirely on the overlocker, and I think it took less than an hour.  I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the neck/body band double, which would have been my preference, so just used the overlocker to roll hem the edge.

McCalls 6739 view B and Mouse House Creations Julia cardi in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics
This cardi could do with being photographed again over a plain garment!  The jury is still out with me regarding this pattern.  There are elements of it that I really like, but I don’t think that the angle of the side seams at the bottom of the band sits well.  I like it from the waist up, from the waist down not so much!  There have been many of them popping up on blogs, and it’s definitely easy to sew, but I’m not convinced on the fit.

McCalls 6739 view B and Mouse House Creations Julia cardi in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

So there you go – my first DCF Challenge garments.  I can’t wait to see what Emma has made – it should be up on her blog this evening!  I think she has used the knit…..

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

striped shingles

Back when I made my first shingle dress early last year, I said that I would make another.  Well, this blog post is evidence that I do as I say – but it is also evidence of how long this can take.  Around eighteen months, apparently!  This time I used stripes, to really make the most of those angled shingle pieces.

Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

 Now, I do understand that lime green and black stripes are possibly not everyone’s cup of tea.  But they are mine!  I paid full price for this fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics when it first became available, although it did eventually move to the $2 table.  But you never know!  It’s very stretchy and has a pretty high polyester content, but also has vibrant colour, excellent recovery, and fantastic texture.

Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

After my experiences with my last dress, I tried out a few ways to hem the bottoms of the shingles.  Turned and stitched with a twin needle, zig zagged, overlocked, roll hemmed on the overlocker.  They all looked terrible.  So in the end I left the edges raw.  They show no signs at all of fraying or ravelling in any way, so I’m happy with that.

I made size 14, and did most of the sewing on the sewing machine.  There are lots of layers through the side seams, with the under dress then the shingles on top, and in places where they overlap, so I felt that machine sewing left less room for error.  Some finishing was on the overlocker, and the sleeves were set in using the overlocker as well.  The neck band was applied to the outside with the sewing machine, then turned over the layers to the inside and stitched in the ditch.
Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

This is such a fun dress to sew and to wear.  And it creates all sorts of fun optical illusions!  I do like the “slimming” illusion.  My husband says that I need to make sure that I never wear this dress on television – the cameras couldn’t cope.  Since I am never actually filmed for television I don’t see that as a potential problem.

Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

Other pattern details:  if you haven’t already worked it out this is Vogue 8904.  The pattern description is as follows:

MISSES’ DRESS: Close-fitting, pullover dress has self neck binding, tiers, and raw edge finish. A: sleeves. B: self armhole binding
FABRICS: For Two-way stretch knits such as Rayon/Spandex, Cotton/Spandex.

Line Art

Now I am tempted to make the shorter sleeveless version in more sedate stripes for summer.  I wonder what else is in the stash?

Oliver + S Library dress

I suspect that I now own almost all the Oliver + S patterns.  Oh my!  Well, there are possibly a few missing from the collection, but I certainly have purchased plenty of them.  My latest make is the Library Dress.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

These are such reliable patterns. They are always beautifully drafted and finished, and the instructions are excellent. This one was no exception. Clare chose to have it made with short sleeves and no collar. I added flat piping made from bias strips of chambray to highlight the edges of the neckline, sleeves and the front band.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

There was impetus to get this finished – Clare was going to a Japanese themed birthday party. We thought that a dress that looked Japanese inspired would be better than a costume as such, and this fitted the bill nicely. The fabric is cotton/linen from Spotlight, and the selvedge describes the print as being of a Polish folk design. Not terribly Japanese at all!

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

This was lovely to sew. I think I used size 10, and as you can see it is quite roomy in width. She did need the length of the 10 though. The contrasting buttons down the back please me greatly.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

The pattern description says: This sweet, little mock-wrap dress includes a wide front waistband with optional piping, a pleated skirt, and buttons up the back. It can be sewn in two different versions: a short-sleeve dress with a collar or a three-quarter-sleeve dress with notched cuffs.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

This is a style that works well on tweens. It’s not too “little-girl” frilly, yet has nice swing to the skirt and feminine details. Nowadays I always choose to buy my Oliver + S patterns in pdf, so that I can easily reprint different sizes as required. While I mention pdf patterns, I have to say that Oliver + S are my favourite ones. Each pattern piece prints separately. Pieces that are small enough to fit on one page are on one page, and those that need to be assembled are still on as small an amount of paper as possible. I love just assembling one piece of the pattern at a time – highly preferable than trying to align and tape a massive sheet that won’t even fit on the table.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

I have a few more Oliver + S patterns in the works for this summer, especially since Clare has grown a little and needs some new dresses. And I get to pass the other Oliver + S ones that she has outgrown down to Stella, and enjoy seeing them all over again! Win win!

Lekala 5144

When the weather warmed up a few weeks back I was inspired to sew a summer dress.  Does that happen to most of us?  I feel that I really have put my cold weather sewing behind me for the year now, even though the weather is still very up and down.

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The pattern is Lekala 5144, a raglan sleeved knit dress with gentle shaping and a separate faced neckband. Super simple.

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Lekala patterns are pdf patterns that are customised to your measurements. In addition to height, bust, underbust, waist and hip measurements, you can tweak your order further by specifying things like shoulders wider or narrower than normal, biceps larger than normal, bust higher or lower than normal, waist higher or lower than normal, and so on. Of course, the issue here is knowing what “normal” is. I’ve been experimenting a bit with this feature on Lekala. My starting point was with the alterations I normally need to make with patterns. I know that as well as being short (this is taken into account with the height measurement) I am proportionately short-waisted. So I chose that option. I think that I might have narrow shoulders too. And depending on what bra I intend to wear with the garment, I might order the pattern with a lowered bustline. But this time I told Lekala I had a broader back than “normal”. Big mistake.

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See that fold? That is how much fabric I had to remove from the top of the centre back seam. I often remove fabric from that area anyway, as I have a rounded upper back (sometimes known as a “dowager’s hump”. Ew). Luckily it wasn’t hard to do – I unpicked the topstitching from the back neckband, folded it out, and resewed the seam. Problem fixed.

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Otherwise, the construction of this dress was very fast and highly satisfying. Seams were overlocked, and topstiching of the band and the hems done on the machine with a twin needle. I used different colours in each needle, mainly because I could.

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I’m looking forward to wearing this dress. The fabric is a light weight double knit (like a ponte) from Super Cheap Fabrics in Brunswick. I love the retro style of the print and the colours. There were another couple of colourways – I’m tempted to get some more, but there is already so much in my stash that is begging me to be sewn.

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If you are interested in making this pattern there is a tutorial on sewing the neckband here.

Another Asymmetrical Drape Top

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As the title says, another Asymmetrical Drape Top for Clare. This is from the rest of the laser cut floral printed neoprene (say that ten times quickly) from Darn Cheap Fabrics. It’s size 8, the same as the previous two tops. Because of the nature of the fabric I left off the neck band and just turned the neckline to the inside once and topstitched it down. Seams were all sewn on the overlocker, and topstitching was with a zig zag stitch on the sewing machine.

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The fabric choice has given it a different look to the last two tops, as it doesn’t have the same sort of drape. Clare has also turned the hem band underneath to shorten it a little, as she finds that in this fabric the whole top tends to want to migrate down further and almost become a dress, whereas the other tops have the band sit more firmly on the hips and the extra side fabric just drops into the folds rather than attempting to straighten themselves out.

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That said, she really likes this top – the neoprene and floral combination ticks all the correct boxes for her and negate any issues with it “growing”. In fact, she wore it rock/wall climbing! It’s another interesting example of how different the same pattern can look and behave in different fabric substrates (let alone different prints or colours).

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Style Arc Zara dress

I love a sack dress.  I love a dress with a fitted waist too – but just not on me.  I’ll leave that to the girls with a defined mid-section!  I really do prefer things to skim past my middle, which made the Style Arc Zara dress a pretty obvious choice for me.

The pattern description is as follows: This dress is suitable for all occasions. The twist neck falling into a pleat makes it easy to wear. A very clever pattern which is interesting to sew and you will love the result. Make it sleeveless or with a short sleeve.

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I chose the sleeveless option with the slightly extended shoulder. There are separate armscye cutting lines for the version with the sleeve, so I assume that the sleeved version would fit together as it should. I used size 12, and made petite adjustments to shorten it through the body and take the length up to just above the knee. I also eliminated the centre back zip after working out that I could easily get the dress on and off without it.

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That centre twist/pleat feature was pretty tricky. I had to take it extremely slowly, and study the diagrams and instructions over and over. But in the end we got there! If you are making this, do make sure that you finish the edges of the fold/tuck pieces really nicely, possibly with a very narrow hand-stitched hem. I didn’t, and regret it. You can’t really see it in the photos, but given how long I spent fiddling with this part of the dress it would have been just as quick to do the finishing in that area – and tacking – by hand to really see how it came together. I suspect that once you have made this dress once the tuck/pleat would come together very quickly the second time.

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There is a kick pleat at the centre back for walking easy, which was straightforward to construct. The armholes are bound with self-fabric bias strips, as is the neckline. Next time I would just make bias binding from the self fabric with my bias tape maker gadget and use that. The fabric is viscose from Darn Cheap Fabrics. I adore the colour, but it’s shifty stuff to work with, and shows every pull/wrinkle/watermark. Makes for great wearing comfort though. And absolutely my colour.

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I’m looking forward to getting some wear from this as summer kicks in!