Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lace dress

Hello everyone, I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend! 

I have quite a project to share with you today. It is pretty special on a number of accounts: 

1) I have finally tackled one of my biggest fears when it comes to sewing...working with lace. And boy, did I throw myself into the deep end with this one! 
2) I have not had such a challenge since completing my wedding dress
3) This is my first White Tree Fabrics Blog Team make!


The fabrics
White Tree Fabrics kindly provided me with a beautiful heavy corded lace and a luxurious duchess satin for the underlining. If there ever was a match made in heaven, it was those two! What's more, I already had a piece of cotton lining with a very similar shade. I like it when a plan comes together ;) 

I wanted to give this stunning piece of heavy corded lace the attention it really deserves, and that could only mean one thing - appliqué seams. Yes, it is time consuming, but I adored the all over, seamless look that's often seen on couture lace dresses. 
Can you spot the dart and the side seam?

I also love the scalloped selvage of the lace, and used it everywhere -- I made sure the pattern was cut so that the hem falls onto the selvage to minimise the hand stitching. 

The pattern

The pattern is McCalls 6505, which I have had in my stash for quite some time. I love the design, and the photo on the envelope, but have read mixed reviews on the instructions. 

And they were right of course, as the steps described were pretty confusing! Thankfully, though, since I was using appliqué seams, I needed to change the steps anyway. So I spent hours checking all my sewing reference books, and searching through the internet, to come up with a plan that would work for my dress. 

My steps

Here's the nerdy part. I've summarised the key steps I went through, in case it helps anyone else who has been looking at attempting this pattern, or making a similar dress. 

Firstly, the terminology. I'm going to call the lace layer, er, lace, then the duchess satin as "underlining", and the cotton lining the "lining". 

Underlining and lining

1. After making a toile of the lining, I took in at the waist, chopped off some length, and made the slashed side dart into a full, overlapping dart. I also transferred these changes to the pattern for the lace layer. 

2. Making the underlining, and the lining layers, leaving the centre backs open. 

3. Attaching the underlining to the lining at the top/neckline, across the entire top edge. Understitch. 

4. I also made a waist stay, to take some of the weight off the shoulders... literally! This was attached to the lining layer (i.e. sandwiched between lining and underlining), and brought through the lining via buttonholes. 

Cutting the lace

5. Thread trace the pattern pieces on the lace, including the marking for the darts. If I were to do this again, I would thread trace the actual stitching line, as opposed to the cutting line, i.e. I would exclude the seam allowance. 

6. Take great care cutting around the thread, allowing full motifs outside the thread markings. I would say this was the most crucial step in the whole project.  

7. The appliqué seaming begins! Here's a photo of the side dart with the basting and pins. I took my time with the hand stitching here, ensuring continuity of pattern where possible.   

8. I then tried stitching the side seams with a narrow zigzag on my machine, as a shortcut to doing the appliqué seaming. It wasn't the smoothest experience, because the heavy cords often got a bit stuck in the feed dog, but I went slowly and it worked ok. 

Sleeves and neckline

9. I drafted the cap sleeves, rather than using the ones from the pattern, because I wanted to take advantage of the scalloped selvage. 

10. Time for more hand stitching... to attach the sleeves. 

11. I cut a strip of selvage from the remaining fabric, and hand sewed it to the neckline, going from centre back to centre back (via the front!), and also "finished the arm cycles (the portion not covered by the cap sleeves) the same way. 

Attaching the layers

12. After trying the layers on together, I hand basted the lace to the underlining at the centre front and underarm side seams. 

13. I took all three layers together at the centre back, and handpicked the zipper through all layers. Finish the portion of all layers below the zipper. 

14. I then made some covered snaps with the lining fabric, and sewed two pairs at the top of the centre back to the lace. 

15. Finally (!), I hemmed the underlining so that it hangs above the scalloped lace hem, and then the lining so that it is even shorter and is invisible when worn. 

Needless to say, it was a time consuming project. This wasn't my usual "weekender", but it was much more rewarding. I was finally ready to attempt working with lace, and I am really pleased that doing this the couture way has worked out well. 

I must admit though, this was possibly the messiest project that I have ever done! All that thread tracing, snap covering, pins that slipped through the net (yep!) and of course trimming off the excess lace from appliqué seams... My sewing room is a complete mess, and I keep finding red fluff everywhere in the house, and on our clothes... I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only person who's pleased that this project is finished! 


Now over to you - do you sew with lace? Any tips to share? 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Dropped waist summer dress

Hey, everyone! Greetings from the highest point of south east England! Here I was (last Sunday), at Leith Hill, just south of Dorking in Surrey, which was a lovely spot. From there, apparently I was supposed to be able to see both London to the north, and the sea beyond Brighton in the south on a clear day -- although my eye sight wasn't quite so brilliant, I am pleased to confirm that it did offer far reaching, and stunning views.  
Yep, I made another summer dress! It all started when I saw someone on the train with a lovely dropped waist sundress on a hot summer day, and that was all the motivation and inspiration I needed to knock this little number together. Long term readers will know that I have a soft spot for a dropped waist silhouette (remember this spotty outfit here, together with a simple tutorial?), and I realised that I didn't have anything in that shape in my summer wardrobe, especially anything less structured. 

I immediately thought of this purple fabric of an unknown composition (it was a super cheap buy from a market - who am I to be all OCD about what it's actually made of? :p) in my stash, and without hesitation I started to draft a simple side dart bodice pattern for this dress. The great thing is, because the fabric cost next to nothing, and I had 5 metres of it (did I mention it was cheap?), I wasn't too concerned about messing it up. Thankfully, with a bit of luck, the dress came together within a matter of a few hours. 


I love it when a plan comes together ;) Excuse some of the creases, I was too impatient to press it properly before putting it on!


Back view


An inside-out view. I finished the neckline and armholes with a single-folded bias tape, which I made from the scrap from my 1940s fitted, Sew for Victory blouse


Despite not knowing what the mysterious fabric is, I have found it very comfortable and cool to wear, and indeed I felt pretty cool wearing it, too! There is a slight niggle with it, though - I'm no longer sure if purple is my colour! Just as I was wondering that when I put on this dress, my dear (very honest) husband said, hmm I don't know about that colour on you...!

Anyway... How's your summer sewing going? And happy weekend, everyone! 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Free sewing pattern - Picnic Dress!

I've got a little freebie for you today - a pdf copy of my Picnic Dress pattern! For me, this is the perfect summer dress pattern -- it's simple, quick to sew, and is pretty versatile for achieving different looks with different fabric choices. 

This was the version I made last week: 

And this was how my love affair with this little pattern began, and indeed where the name came from:

I've only used floral prints so far, but some bold, wide stripy prints could look super trendy, too. 

At the moment I've uploaded the pattern in my size only, but I do hope to grade it to a multiple sizes in the future. Do bear with me ;)

Sizing
To help you determine whether we are "body doubles" (hello!), and/or enable you alter the pattern to fit you, I am a little lady who is 5'3 tall (160cm), wear UK RTW 4-6, US 0-2, fit Simplicity patterns in 4-6, and Burdastyle 30-32, and often benefit from a slight small bust adjustment

What you'll need
  • 45'/112cm wide light/medium weight woven fabric - you will need 180cm. I think cotton works perfectly for this pattern, but I can also see this working with some cool, summery and drapey viscose/rayon prints. You could also achieve a smarter look with a taffeta, with some added boning in the princess seams. 
  • Interfacing is optional, and you'll only need a small piece (some scrap pieces perhaps?) for the small facing pieces only.
  • Invisible zip 16'+ 
Instructions
Firstly a word of warning, I didn't write instructions for this one. This is because it is quite a simple pattern, with princess seamed bodice and a rectangular gathered skirt and spaghetti straps, and I would expect that many of you could sew this up in your sleep ;) That said, if you would like to sew it, and would like some help with the steps then please do let me know and I'll write them up. 

To download the pattern, click on this link (if you haven't already clicked on the one at the  the beginning of this post). When you print, make sure you choose "actual size" rather than "fit to page", and do measure the test square before you start cutting. Then you are good to go :D 

Here is a close-up of the bodice

Back view

Enjoy the free pattern! I hope you like the pattern, and I can't wait to see what you make :) Any comments or questions, please get in touch. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Pink Picnic Dress!

Update - You can now make your own version with the free pattern here! Enjoy ;) 

Summer is here, and I am really loving the long and warm days, as well as the light and breezy evenings. What better way to celebrate it than joining in with the Sundress Sew-a-long 2015, kindly hosted by Heather B?

Remember my first Picnic Dress? It has been one of my all-time favourites, which I find myself reaching for as soon as the weather turns warmer here, as well as packing for holidays. More than two years have now passed (how time truly flies), so it's time to make another! 
This time I made it with a beautiful lightweight pink floral fabric, which has been whispering to me, wanting to become a Picnic Dress from the moment we first met. Isn't it just the prettiest and the most girlie sundress? 


It was so quick to sew, and only took a couple of afternoons/evenings to finish! It was a simple self-drafted pattern, which I very much enjoyed using again. Want to make your own version? I am planning on sharing the pattern with you shortly -- initially it will be in my size, but I do hope to grade it to other sizes when I have the time and patience for it. Watch this space! 

We are so lucky to have all this beautiful countryside right on our doorstep. All this is just a 5-minute walk from our house! What's more, just last week, we spotted a few deer in the commons land by our house on our evening walks, yet it's difficult to believe that we are less than an hour from central London. Last summer we had been so busy sorting out the house, that we didn't have much time to appreciate our surroundings. Whilst that was very rewarding in its own way, we really are able to enjoy the summer and the Surrey Hills this time, and just hope that the good weather will last for a good few more months!


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Belated MMM round-up!

My goodness, hasn't it been a while? I've had quite a bit going on in my life in the last few months, but as soon as it all settles down I'll be able to update you with all my news. Before then, I feel obliged to upload some snaps from my first participation at MMM :)

I should declare now that although I managed to hit my target of wearing me-made clothes for at least 3 times a week with relative ease, I did not religiously photograph myself so there were quite a few days/outfits missing. But here are the ones that I did take: 

Let's kick off with the jolly holiday pictures - we spent just over a week in Mauritius (it turned out to be a much needed holiday, after a few stressful issues lately), and it was fabulous! 



In contrast, at the beginning of the month, I got a lot of wear out of my Navy Wool Coat, since it was still pretty cold in the UK. 

Then there were a few work outfits: 


Also my Geometric vintage blouse, my red Lottie blouseModest raspberry dress and old favourite dress had at least a feature each this month as part of a work outfit.  
Then we have some more relaxed times, including dress-down Fridays as well as weekends/evenings. 

Overall I'm pretty happy with how my first MMM went, and would be keen to participate again in the coming years! Now I'm going to head to the blogsphere and check out everyone else's selfies ;) Before I go though, let me leave you with one of my favourite snaps from the vacation, which was taken from a sun lounger by the infinity pool at the hotel:


Until next time, stay well and keep sewing! 
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