Monday 28 May 2012

Lace-up back - done!

I have some good news to report (and no, not just about how the sun has finally come out here in the last few days) - after a lot of drama and incidents, and needless to say, unpicking, the lace-up back of my wedding dress is finally completed!

What's more, this also means that the only thing left to do on the dress is the hem!

Incidents first? Well first of all I managed to stick a hand sewing needle through my thumb under my nail! Ouch! That was a week ago and it's still a bit bruised! Lesson learned - trying to attach the fabric covered corset cord to the dress by hand is not easy! After that I've been using a thimble. Much safer.

But hey, I soldiered on, after whinging about it for about half an hour...

Then last Friday, the most gross thing happened. I was happily reinforcing the loops by my machine, and there it was, this gigantic spider that was sat between the dupion and the lining layer, STILL ALIVE! Now I'm not a screamer but I almost screamed. It was huge (especially on reflection) with solid looking legs.

Thankfully my other half came to the rescue. I covered the details of the dress and made sure that he couldn't sneak a peek of course! We found a seam where it was still left open (thank god for that! otherwise he'd have to get through from the bottom of the train to the top of the princess lined dress!) so he managed to get the fast moving creature through that. Bless him, he was worried about not having washed his hands thoroughly before getting into the dress - which was the least of my worries at that time! That's why I'm marrying him.

OK drama over, here are a couple of pictures of the lace-up back finished:

I thought I'd try out different ribbons and see the effects - I preferred the self fabric ribbons (I haven't pressed it yet after turning the spagetti loop out - please bear with me) in the end.

Overall the lace-up back was not the easiest thing to make. I know that I've made a couple of toiles of this already, but I had not given as much attention to those as I did to the real thing. I made sure the fabric covered cords are nice and smooth (to learn how to make them, see tutorial here), all the loops are perfectly aligned and are of the same size and shape, the loops are secured about 10 times to the dress (in addition to the organza selvage which they've been sewn onto), and the modesty panel evenly attached to the back.

For the modesty panel, I did include 4 bits of plastic covered steel boning to make sure that it stays in shape when laced up. Unlike the spiral steel boning which I love using for bodices, I used the covered steel boning because they only bend one way. I also used a couple of longer pieces to stablise the back opening and reduce wrinkling.

I'm really happy with how it's turned out. I think when I put it on the opening is going to look a bit bigger, because I've turned my dress form down to its smallest to over compensate for how much my body would "give". What do you think? If you have any questions on how to make a corset back for your wedding dress, please feel free to ask and I'll try my best to answer!

I'm going off on holiday to Malta shortly (maybe I'll do some fabric shopping when I'm there? although I really don't NEED any more fabric... ) so perhaps I'll put my almost finished dress into a garment bag rather than leaving it out on the dress form...

Saturday 19 May 2012

And I'm off to the races...

...cases, of Bacardi chases... 

...except that no Bacardi was involved today, but a Best of British Beers Festival (and the races)! 

So I had 2 free tickets to the JLT Lockinge Stakes at the premium enclosure of Newbury Racecourse today -- naturally I had to go as my brain is not programmed to say no to freebies. The Beer Festival was also a very attractive factor, which did wonders in convincing my other half, who is less keen on horse racing, to come along. 

Of course I had to made a dress for a special day/afternoon out. I wanted something smart enough, but also not too work wear or evening wear. Simplicity 2282 came to mind and now I finally have an excuse to make it!  

I knocked this together in the last couple of weeks (since we received the tickets) in the evenings. Work has been pretty busy which often ate into my evenings but thankfully this dress was straightforward enough so I managed to complete it this morning, about 2 hours before we had to leave the house!

This was my first Project Runway pattern, and I loved it! The subtle peplum, the slightly puffy sleeves, and the high neckline which complemented the rest of the retro vibe... what's not to like? I must admit that I'm not usually one for such a high neckline, but I thought this one was perfect for this dress. 

I found this pattern quite interesting - it had 6 pieces and the construction was, dare I say, unique, at least when compared to all the dress patterns I've used so far. It had 6 main pieces, with a long/big centre front piece with princess seams, and separate bodice and skirt pieces for the rest of the dress. Then there were the "designers additions" that you could add - so I used the short sleeves and the peplum. A lot of the assembly process depended upon the points where the peplum started at the front - so it was crucial that all the stitchings started/finished exactly at the same points... It's difficult to explain this - but for those who have the pattern, I'm sure you will know what I mean!

I used some medium weight cotton that I bought from my trip home to Beijing last year, and man, how I missed working with cotton! It is the most well behaved fabric ever! It just sits there when you cut it, and there's no shifting or slipping when you sew it either. OK it wrinkles a little when you wear it, but I think this dress has survived the day fine -- considering that I travelled on the train to and from the racecourse, sat down and had a picnic and some beer, then did a lot of clothes shopping (which included taking it off and putting it back on a number of times), I was rather happy with what I ended up with...

I had a little bit of a setback though with regard to the sizing. I cut a size 6 based on the body measurements and my previous Simplicity projects, but as it turned out (after I've added the sleeves!) that it was too big. I then took in the princess seams and the side seams, as well as using a rather large seam allowance for the back zipper, but then the dress turned out a bit too tight... Oh dear! So I let out some of the zipper seam allowances again, allowing a bit more ease (this cotton is not stretchy at all) and voila, we are done! If I do make this again, I will cut a size 4. 

Other than the sizing crisis, I didn't need to make many alterations to the pattern at all. I raised the waist line slightly, shortened the short sleeves and also did a much wider hem than called for because I wanted the dress to be knee length. So basically I adjusted the pattern to fit my short torso, short arms and short legs! too bad the pattern didn't have a petite version. 

I think this is all I've got to say about this pattern - overall I was very happy with it, and had I cut the right size to start off with, I would've had a much easier journey! I love peplums, and this dress certainly did the trick for me! It's conservative enough so I can wear it regularly, and the peplum makes the dress really fun without being overpowering. I think it's a winner (unlike the horses I bet on today... )! 

As I mentioned in previous posts/comments, I'm really focusing on giving my homemade garments a better and more professional finish. So I used my overcasting foot again, and hand finished the top and bottom of the zipper too. Here are some sneaky peaks of the back zipper and the inside of my dress (mostly finished this morning!):

Thursday 10 May 2012

My noisy Sorbetto and the new overcasting foot

Those that know me well will tell you that I can never say no to free things... and they are right! So having downloaded the very popular FREE Sorbetto pattern a few weeks ago, I could not wait any longer to make my own version. 

Well, here's what I ended up with...

I'm not thrilled with it... I used a tiny piece of viscose (perhaps more commonly referred to as rayon) and some satin bias tape... This is where I've gone wrong! The bias tape is way too heavy for the viscose (it all seems so obvious now) so it' does not lie flat at the neckline or armholes. It's a shame because I do like the colour of the tape - I thought about making a self-fabric bias binding but decided that the satin tape would really bring out the accent of the fabric! oh well - this is how we learn, right?

Perhaps you could see it more when I wear it:

I don't look very happy there, do I?

I wanted to make this into a wearable toile but I don't think I'll end up wearing this. Maybe my next one will be better once I've adjusted the pattern a little?

I decided to call this the "noisy" Sorbetto because of the print on the fabric. It's mainly blue but it has so much going on! The piece I had was 63cm long and 110cm wide, so it was really quite tiny. I had to cut the pieces like this to fit it all in:

The pattern is a good one. It is extremely simple - there are 2 pattern pieces only, and all you need to do is 2 darts, a box pleat and a bias tape finish. It only took me about 3 hours in total to make it, so you could quite easily do it as an evening project! The instructions were also very clearly set out - this is my first Colette pattern and I was impressed by the instructions. It also takes very little fabric - you could make it with just about any leftover fabric! 

I had to make some alterations though - as with most other sewers, I lengthened the top by 2 inches. Given that I'm only 5'3, (and would consider myself to be fairly proportionate), and the finished top didn't feel long to me (although I did do a wider hem), this pattern was originally designed as a short top. so if you're reading this, please do lengthen it and you won't regret it - of course you could always take that off if it's too long! 

The finished fit was a very loose one. I took an an inch at both sides to improve the fit slightly... I cut a size 0 but it was very baggy. The pattern claims that if in doubt, cut a bigger size but I would suggest the opposite personally. Actually, I think I would suggest making a toile first to perfect the fit. 

Will I make this again? I'm not sure - I know that the bias tape caused the failure of this task (oops, I think I've watched too much of The Apprentice!) but I feel that I have other top patterns that will provide me with a better result without the alterations. But I'm not ready to rule this out altogether - so I will keep the pattern in my stash and who knows? It may just be perfect for some leftover fabric from other projects. 

There was another reason why I was so keen to make this NOW - I bought a overcasting foot for my basic Singer, and I was sooo excited about trying it out properly. It looks quite like a walking foot, but there's a "pin" at the bottom of the foot which acts to keep the edge flat. This is also known as a overlocker foot, as the seam finish resembles that done by an overlocker/serger. 

I made the purchase after reading several blog posts and an article in Sew today - especially as it does more than giving a neat finish to the seams! But I'm sticking with the basics for now - I bought this attachment because I was tired of the zigzagged finish of my seams. 

Here are some photos of it "in action":

Can you see the pin in the middle? 

I used a zigzag stitch, set at its widest, and was so happy with the finish (bearing in mind how much viscose frays!)

The needle goes left and right of the pin, the right being on the edge of the seam. I find that I get a neater result when I position the fabric so that the edge ends just to the left of the pin, with a stitch length set relatively small (but this will probably change when I use it on other fabric).  

I think this may be my best purchase ever! I'll try out its other uses in the coming weeks but for now, I just want to enjoy how neat the seam finish is - who cares if I'm going to wear this top or not!

Monday 7 May 2012

The "heirloom" summer top

As my wedding dress is now substantially finished, and that I'm waiting for some supplies before I can finish it all off, I thought I'd take this chance to make a quick little top and take part in the one yard challenge on PR! 

So the key to this 2-week challenge is to make a wearable item using less than 1 yard of fabric. Having gone through my scrap bin, I thought this white cotton seersucker scrap with cute strawberries would be perfect for a little summer top and this challenge. 

I'm calling this "heirloom" because this fabric was given to me by my mum when I was at home around last Xmas. This was the scrap from when she made a dress for me when I was a little girl! Only if I had a photo of me wearing it all those years ago! 

With less than 1 yard (and 45" wide) of the "heirloom" fabric, I decided to make New Look 6965 view A which calls for 7/8 yard of fabric. 
I made the following alterations:

  1. Instead of fusible interfacing, I underlined the front and back yokes because I was worried about ironing the seersucker fabric - whilst I know that good seersucker can be ironed as the puckers are woven into the fabric, I didn't want to take the chance. 
  2. I didn't like the straps for view A, so I made some rouleau loops for the straps instead. 
  3. The fit of the pattern was very loose - I cut a size 4 (given the generally larger sizes of New Look patterns) and took in about 2 inches at the waist (in total - 1 inch per side). I prefer the resultant fit much better. 
Overall I was really happy with how it's turned out - I think I've done the heirloom fabric proud! What's more, I've still got a little bit of it left - maybe enough to make a kindle cover? or a cover for my gigantic new phone, Galaxy Note (long story -- my iphone was stolen in Prague so I decided to get something different as a replacement). 

I liked the casual look of the top - teaming it with skinny jeans or shorts should both work (right now it's far too cold to wear shorts... so I'll have to try that out later!) and I can't wait for summer to finally arrive! But if summer simply refuses to arrive in the UK (once again) this year, I may just lose my mind... but looking on the bright side, I can wear it on holiday to Malta and/or on our mini moon to Paris. 

I loved how simple the pattern is - I managed to start and finish it within a day so it would be a great pattern for beginners. 

Here are some more photos:

I adore the little button detail at the back! Although I don't actually need to undo it to get in and out of the top, I think it's a sweet touch. 

I also really like how finished the top looks - that're barely any seams that need finishing. Having done hundreds of hours of hand sewing finishing of the seams on my wedding dress, this was a quality that I highly valued.  

So that's what I've been up to on the bank holiday Monday! Before the supplies for the wedding dress final touches arrive, I wonder if I could fit in another quick project? 

Sunday 6 May 2012

Finish sight!

It's been a while since my last blog post - but I'm back! After a business+holiday trip to the sunny Prague (fabric purchased there to show off when the projects are finished...), I found myself stuck in my sewing room for the bank holiday weekend here in the UK in the still very cold May (seriously... what is up with the weather here?! shouldn't it almost be summer?) 

After a day and a half's work on the wedding dress, I have a lot to report back. The short version is - it's almost done! I think the only outstanding things are the lace-up back (with a zip at the bottom), the hem and the bustle! I couldn't believe it! 

Here's a sneaky preview:

So all the layers have been attached, and the dress is now in one piece! The longer version of the story is that I  did the following in the last few weeks:
  • All pleats tacked in;
  • Diagonal drape hand finished and hemmed to the underlining;
  • Waist stay attached to the corselette;
  • Corselette lining back seams re-opened for the waist stay to come through;
  • The relevant sections re-sewn and hand finished;
  • A suitable bra dissected...
  • Bra cups sewn to the corselette lining;
  • All layers other than the corselette lining hand basted together as they are;
  • Corselette lining layer and the rest, with RST, hand basted and machine stitched at the neckline; 
  • I skipped the grading (I was too scared to cut into the seam allowance on the corselette lining - I decided that it was thin enough to not make a difference, plus the benefit that I won't worry about it fraying and breaking) but understitched all 7 layers of seam allowances to the corselette lining. 

I think that's about it! I was really worried that something would go terribly wrong... especially as I was clipping into all 7 seam allowances at the neckline! Thankfully all the practice on sweetheart necklines has really helped - and I am really happy with how smooth the neckline has turned out to be! 

Here are some work in progress and inside out photos:

So I can definitely see the finish line now... thankfully! I'm going to order some strong cord (the one that I liked from Liberty was not in stock when I popped into the store) for the lace-up loops and some (non-spiral) steel boning for the back closure before going ahead and finishing the dress! I'm so happy with how it's turned out so far and can't wait to finish it and wear it on my wedding day!
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