Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Experiment Dress

I've called my latest creation The Experiment Dress because it was a first for me on several levels:

  • First go at a real vintage pattern (oh the excitement!);
  • First attempt with a border print; 
  • First "jumper" dress;
  • First try with the 60's style (OK you can't really see that now, but see my explanation below). 
All in all, it turned out OK - I'm not exactly feeling over the moon with it, but I'm not overly upset with it either.  

So I got my hands on this lovely vintage pattern from a really cute shop called Berylune when I visited Leamington Spa (it opened a few months ago, and it runs craft classes), and I simply couldn't wait to rip it open (...don't worry, it was just a figure of speech; I was in fact very careful with this beautiful piece of "antique") and make a start on it. It is the vintage Simplicity 7270, dated from 1967. It was a "how to sew" pattern, including a page of detailed instructions on how to interface a neckline. And yes it was a pattern for teenagers, but the sizing appeared perfect for me, at first glance. 

I wanted to make a "jumper" dress for this cool autumn weather, so I used my second "coupon" from Paris which was a heavyweight viscose. To prove this to you, see picture below (don't be shy mum) the beautiful fabric wrapped around my wonderful mum at the top of the Eiffel Tower (she was cold, and, well, she rocked this look)! 

As you can see, it has a quirky border print, and as with my other "coupon", it was €10 for 3 whole metres! I wanted to experiment with this, and this 60's dress seemed like the perfect candidate, as the dress front and back pieces are basically 2 rectangles (alarm bells ringing in my head) so it shouldn't be too tricky to keep the border print under control. 

So I spent ages trying to ensure that the neckline/front and back yokes have symmetrical prints (and the bits of the fabric that I want), and the bold print at the bottom sits centrally, and that the skirt will finish where the border finishes, whilst keeping the length at the desired level, just above my knee. I think all that has worked out well. 

I had a bit of a problem with the fit though. OK that was an understatement - the finished dress looked like a huge sack on me! I should've seen this coming - the rectangles were gathered at the top for the chest area, and of course that meant that the waistline was going to be larger than the bust. D'oh! Part of the problem was also that I was so excited to work with a vintage pattern, I didn't want to alter the pattern, and also was too lazy to trace out all the pattern pieces. 

Perhaps the 60s style is just not made for me. I prefer a closer fit at the best of times, so I had to do something. So I added 4 darts, 2 front darts at 3cm width, and 2 back darts at 2cm width each, and also included curved side seams, taking in 3cm at each side, and had a whopping 4.5cm seam allowance at the centre back. So you get the idea! I took in over 40cm at the waist! 

Given what I had to work with, the finished product didn't seem all that bad, although of course, it no longer had the 60s style in my opinion. 

I also got to try out a "visible" centred dress zipper (I couldn't quite bring myself to insert an invisible zipper to this vintage number), and it wasn't too bad at all, apart from all the unpicking when adjusting the fit. In fact I would say that it was easier than inserting invisible zippers. I didn't follow the instruction on the pattern here; rather I referred to my Dressmaker's Technique Bible and basted the seams first before sewing on the zipper closed. Here's a picture of it from the back: 

As usual, I would be interested in hearing what you think! Do you think this looks grown up enough for work? Perhaps over the purple shirt? Or for dress down Fridays, under a long-sleeved top (ok, maybe not that white one in the photo above, but a dark top)? I don't feel like I love it, but maybe it'll grow on me...

Sunday 23 September 2012

Small bust adjustment tutorial - Part 1

As promised, I am going to do a series of tutorials on small bust adjustment ("SBA"), as when I was researching the subject, I was surprised to find that whilst FBAs are often talked about, SBAs simply don't get half the attention. I suppose it is not that surprising - if your clothing is too small around the bust, then you've got to do something about it to make it fit; on the other hand, you could make do just fine without having to adjust the pattern (a padded bra, anyone?) if the top/dress is a little too loose.

After being in denial for quite a while, I finally thought, if I'm making my own clothes, shouldn't I do everything I can to make sure that they actually fit me well? It was my wearable toile of Simplicity 2444 that prompted me to make a SBA, as the use of the contrasting fabric made it absolutely clear that I had to do something about the excess fabric.

So he we go - tutorial 1 - introduction and illustration on Simplicity 2246 (Lisette traveller)

Do I need to do a SBA?

Typically, the big 4 pattern brands use a B cup for their patterns (apart from the Amazing fit (and equivalent) patterns with different cup sizes), and Colette uses a C cup (that's why I've been too scared to actually try it out!).

When I was looking at McCalls 5927 (with A-D cup sizes) from my stash, the instructions included a helpful guide/chart as to how to find out what cup size you are when it comes to sewing patterns. I'm sure there will be plenty other patterns with such a guide (and it's probably available online too), so it's worth checking that out first.

I would say that you would probably know by now if you do need a SBA. The signs to look for are:

  • Bagginess around the chest area when the dress/top fits well elsewhere;
  • Side seams not straight, with the top part shifting towards the back;
  • Waistline not level, with excess fabric in the centre front. 

Basically there is too much fabric both horizontally and vertically, so we need to fix both.

What do I need?

  • Ruler (I usually use a French curve but a normal ruler will do too) and pen/pencil to draw on the pattern pieces;
  • Scissors;
  • Clear tape;
  • Bodice front pattern piece(s). 

Basic bodice pattern - I'm using Simplicity 2246 (Lisette Traveller) for illustration

Step 1 - shorten or lengthen pattern as usual

Step 2 - find the vertical waist dart, and draw a vertical line through the centre of the dart, extending it upwards. (Line 1)

Step 3 - draw a (almost) horizontal line connecting the centre of the side bust dart, extending it towards the bust point. (Line 2)

Step 4 - draw the stitching line around the armhole, so we don't get confused by the seam allowance.

Step 5 -  measure the stitching line around the armhole, and pick a point that is approximately 1/3 way from the bottom (side seam rather than shoulder seam).

Step 6 - draw a line connecting this point (from step 5) and the intersection from Line 1 and Line 3 (approximately the bust apex). We'll call this new line Line 3.

Then it's time to cut! As our objective is to remove the excess horizontal and vertical fabric, the SBA is essentially a pivotal adjustment, so we'll be cutting the pattern up a bit, leaving little hinges from which we can pivot the pattern. 

Step 7 - cut from the bottom of Line 1, through to Line 3 without stopping, leaving a hinge at the armhole point. 

 Step 8 - Cut Line 2 from side seam towards the intersection of all three lines (roughly the bust apex), leaving a tiny hinge there. 

Step 9 - Adjust Line 2 by pivoting the bottom left piece upwards, overlapping the pattern piece on the side seam. When you're happy, tape it in place. Based on how much of a SBA you need, it may be the case that you could eliminate the side bust dart altogether. It depends on how much design and wearing ease it is built into the pattern, quite often I would eliminate the bust dart so there are 2 less darts to sew! 

Step 10 - Pivot the left piece by pivoting it upwards and rightwards, overlapping on the waist dart whilst keeping Line 1 roughly vertical and parallel to the centre front. Tape in place when you're happy. 

Step 11 - Reduce the length of the pattern piece on the right (towards the centre front) to align the bottom of the pattern piece, as all the pivoting in the previous steps will have shortened the bodice front. Because of this, I would always be careful as to how much of a petite adjustment you do at the beginning (step 1). I made the full petite adjustment for my Little Lisette traveller and the waistline ended up being just that tiny bit too high. 


Step 12 - Redraw the waist dart (and the side bust dart if you haven't removed it altogether in step 9). You should end up with a narrower dart because you will have already reduced the width of the waistline by doing a SBA. Also remember to adjust the connecting pattern pieces if necessary. 

That's it! It's really quite simple. I've used the exact same method for McCalls 2401 (blurry version and spotty version) and it worked a treat too. 

Here's what my McCalls 2401 front looks like (it does not have a waist seam)

This type of bodice front with a waist dart and a side bust dart is really common, so I hope this tutorial is helpful. More tutorials to come to show you how I've done a SBA for other types of bodice pattern pieces! 

P.S. some of the photos simply refuse to be rotated when uploaded! Apologies for those but hopefully you can still see what I mean by turning your head/neck instead. And if anyone knows how I can fix this, please let me know! 

Thursday 20 September 2012

Vogue 8278 pullover dress

As the summer is swiftly leaving us for yet another year, I felt the urgency to squeeze in just one more summery project before autumn sets in. So I picked a pattern labelled as very easy, and gave it a go. 

It is something a little different from what I usually make -- it is a loose pullover dress, Vogue 8278. It is indeed very easy! The dress is made of 1 front, and 2 back pieces, plus a few bits of facing and the belt - this was exactly what I hoped for, a very quick project. 

I actually bought this pattern with a particular piece of fabric in mind - a while ago I bought a few metres of lovely printed silk habotai from Walthamstowe (at £5 a metre! and yep, from the stall in front of Sainsburys on a Saturday! Go go go!) but I wanted to test out the fit first with some less precious fabric from my stash instead. 

So I ended up using a super soft viscose, having the plan in mind that if it didn't work out, it would be comfortable enough to be worn as my PJ ;-)  Don't you think it would make a lovely PJ without the belt? 

I didn't make too many alterations - just a SBA (tutorial to follow!), a small waist adjustment and a petite adjustment (I didn't shorten it by the full amount, based on the reviews that I've read, but as I generally prefer the skirt to be finish above my knees, I think I will shorten it more for my next version) . I also ended up shortening the belt by a couple of inches, just so that the bow stays up nicely. 

Do I like it? Hmmmm I am not sure! I certainly love how soft the fabric is, but I am unsure about the loose fit. I think it is a little too blousy on me, and it may not be the most flattering silhouette for my shape. Being a pullover dress, of course there is a lot of excess fabric around the waist, but I suppose the belt does a reasonable job. I also cannot think of when I can wear this - to me, the belt makes is a little less casual, but the shape of the dress is too casual... What do you think, my dear readers? 

Sunday 16 September 2012

Giant baby blanket...

No silly, not a blanket for a giant baby (let's hope not anyway, for my friend's sake!), but that the blanket has turned out to be huge for the anticipated size of my friend's unborn baby boy... How can I get the message across...I think I can wrap it around me with no problem! Perhaps it's a good thing, as at least in theory, the baby would be able to keep using this for the years to come. 

Anyway, I was inspired by Jane's tutorial last week, and rushed straight to Fabricland to buy fabric for my own version of a baby blanket, for my friend's baby who is due next month. 

The main change I made was the material used. I bought the animal-print cotton of 180cm x 110cm, and also 180cm of some cotton flannel/brushed cotton (rather than fleece). I wanted the blanket to be 100% natural (I even used cotton thread), mainly because I still remember having a horrible allergic reaction to fleece when I was little. You never know how sensitive a newborn baby's skin might be, so I tried to keep it as natural as possible. 
The flannel is of course generally thinner than fleece, but I was really happy with how soft and fluffy it was. It did require a little bit of care and attention when handling it, as flannel tends to shrink a lot, and is rather stretchy when sewing. I did the following to make sure that it didn't misbehave too much:

  • I prewashed it (to remove any chemicals), along with the printed cotton, on a 30 degree cycle, and then dried them on a very hot cycle. This is because flannel shrinks more when washed hot and dried cold (what a weird fabric!). 
  • I pressed it after washing and drying with a hot iron, by simply placing the iron on portions of the fabric, without dragging along it.
  • When sewing, I pinned the fabrics together with the flannel at the bottom, to prevent it stretching and the blanket losing shape. 

It was such a simple project (I whipped it up in one evening after work), and I was really happy with how cute and soft the result was! 

Sunday 9 September 2012

My little Lisette traveller

Before I start showing off my new creation, I thought I would remind you all of my first ever GIVEAWAY that is still open. Remember, all you need to do is commenting on that post before 30th September 2012 for your chance to win (the winner will be selected at random)! Good luck! 

Now I cannot wait any longer to show you my new dress ... voila!

With belt:                                                        Without belt:

So here it is, my very own version of Simplicity 2246, the Lisette Traveller dress. This was a pattern that I've had, and been wanting to make for a while - as it turned out, I was simply waiting for the right fabric. 

The fabric
I bought this gorgeous lightweight cotton (poplin?) from my mini-moon at Paris, from a store called La Folie Des Coupons on Rue d'Orsel, not far from Sacre Coeur. As the name suggests ("coupons" mean pre-cut fabric lengths in French, and typically they come in the length of 3 metres), this was a 3 metre remnant, which only cost me €10 (see proof)! I simply fell in love with the print - it was subtly floral yet sophisticated, and I just had to have it. The good news is, I only used just over 1.5m for this dress, so there should be plenty leftover for another project ;-) 

The pattern

This was my first Lisette pattern, and I loved it! Lisette is a relatively new line designed by Liesl Gibson, who had worked as a designer at a couple of top brands. I seem to recall her designing another pattern brand, but I think that's for kids clothing only. 

The pattern has been standardised by Simplicity, so it has a similar sizing and ease with your usual Simplicity patterns. The instructions were a little bit different though, as they are even more helpful than the usual Simplicity patterns. There are lots of Lisette tips along the way and it reminds you to finish seams after each step. The pictures were very illustrative too, and I had no problem making the collar and the button placket, both of which were a first for me. 

I think this is why a few people on PatternReview have rated this pattern easy and great for beginners. My view is that this is a wonderful pattern, though one that I would not recommend to beginners. Whilst the instructions are very helpful, I thought that this pattern had quite a few steps which may well be overwhelming for a beginner. I remember the days when I started sewing, and feeling nervous about making one single buttonhole (on the Cath Kidston bag from the Sew! book), let alone 10 of them, and not to mention inserting a collar and all the topstitching. 

Another thing I liked about the pattern was that it had a cute name - the traveller dress. 

Pattern alterations

I made a view C (the one with the gathered A-line skirt) and made a few alterations to this pattern:
  1. A small bust adjustment - this pattern included a total ease of 5 inches around the bust for a size 6, which I thought was a little excessive. I halved the ease for my dress, by doing a SBA. I'm planning on doing a series of tutorials on how to make SBAs, including alterations on a number of different basic bodice patterns (please watch this space!). UPDATE: see tutorial here! 
  2. I made a petite adjustment on the bodice.
  3. I also shortened the skirt by 6 inches so that the skirt finishes above the knee.   
  4. I also made a self-fabric belt from view A/B but am currently unsure whether it actually adds anything to it (let me know what you think?)
My "new" gadgets!

and some of them not so new actually...

First of all, I tried out my brand new "gathering" foot. Did you know that this existed? I bought a universal one and it cost me less than a fiver! I thought it was an excellent investment given how much I hate gathering. It looks like this:

Although it is not a snap-on foot, it is really easy to attach - all I needed to do on my Singer 8280 was undoing the screw and swapping the shank with the gathering foot. I then set the stitch length to the longest, and increased the upper thread tension to 6+ and off it went! There was no need to do parallel stitches, pull bobbin thread, baste and unpick. All done in one step (unless you wanted to unpick this one stitching line, if it bothered you - yep I am one of those pedantic people!). 

I used this helpful gadget on the waistline of the skirt, and on both sleeve edges! It was really easy and I was a happy bunny. 

Next I used "new" gadget number 2, the button foot. I made the purchase over a week ago, at the same time as buying the gathering foot, making comments like " oooh isn't this just soo clever? I can't believe I have not come across it already!" Guess what, when I was putting all my new sewing feet away after making this dress, I realised that I had one in my toolkit already!!! There it was, sitting quietly in my little zippy bag, only a shade darker than my newly purchased one. In fact, it was a standard accessory that came with my machine. D'oh! So if you haven't done so already, I would suggest checking what sewing feet came with your machine before purchasing new ones... 

Anyhow, it was a helpful little thing nonetheless. The soft blue tip holds the button firmly in place where the buttonhole step 3/4 stitch option does the zigzag stitch without feeding the fabric anywhere. It was rather clever and was so much easier and offers a lot more control than hand sewing buttons into place. A word of warning though, start very slowly by checking that the stitch length and position is right by turning the needle by hand as failure to do so would be rather disastrous. I ended up with one badly cracked button and 2 slightly chipped ones. Oops, I was far too clumsy. 

Where was I?

Have you noticed that the pictures weren't taken on top of our staircase today? No, it's not because I am still waiting for my freshly painted wall to dry, and no, of course we didn't paint it... -- with the weather being 27 degrees (in the UK! in September!), how could we possibly not take advantage of it? ;-) So we went to Mapledurham House and Watermill, which was a 10 minute drive from my house. Isn't it so grand and beautiful? and did you know that some lucky people still live there? 

It was a lovely day/afternoon out, made even better by the fact that my Lisette traveller was ready to travel and see some grand stately home just in time for our little trip. Perhaps next time we'll take a picnic!

Sunday 2 September 2012

McCall's 2401 - spotty version

McCall's 2401 - take two!

Personally I think this version is quite different from my first blurry version, in terms of the fabric, the fit, the silhouette  the sleeve lengths, etc etc... but when my hubby (yep!) saw this, he said something on the line of "the dresses you make are very similar, aren't they?" Needless to say, that burst my little bubble about how different I though my two version of M2401! 

But without further ado, here it is - my spotty version of the same dress. I'll let you decide for yourself whether it is similar to my first version. 
By the way we are planning on finally painting the hallway next weekend (had been putting it off for over a year... "I don't have time, as I need to work on my wedding dress" no longer works!) so this may well be the last project that is photographed in front of this (boring) magnolia wall. 

The fabric is a lovely polyester crepe from my local Fabricland. I had to buy this as I have always, since when I was a little girl, had a soft spot for red fabrics with white polka dots. It's just the cutest thing! I bought 3.5 metres of this as I was originally planning on making Buttericks 5708, but having read the reviews on PR, I decided against having a go at that pattern. After my first version of M2401, the drapy quality of this crepe came to mind, and I was really glad it did, as I think it was perfect for this pattern - look at how it hugs my (rather limited) curves!

I made a view E again, size 6 petite, without shortening the sleeves as I wanted them to go just under the elbows. As this crepe had no stretch at all, I incorporated more ease than I did in my previous version. I still did a SBA, widened all darts by 1cm on each side, and shortened the skirt even further than last time so I didn't need to have a very wide hem. 
Another change I made was that because the fabric was quite soft, I omitted the facing and used single fold self-fabric bias tape (I ought to buy a bias tape maker - ironing it bit by bit is needlessly frustrating) as facing. Once again, I used the tutorial here

Here's a photo of the inside of the neckline:
I was really happy with how my spotty version has turned out. I just love the bataeu neckline and the simplicity of it all. Now I am confident that this version is not "too disco" and can therefore be worn to our dress-down Fridays :D 
Now I just need to stop myself from making another version of this pattern for a little while, and experiment with other things. After all, my sewing list for before my little blog turns 2 is already quite long (I know that it only turned one yesterday, but it literally takes me no time to come up with a list...), for example, I'm going to try sewing with lace (Vogue 8766, anyone?), making a bolero to go with my mother-in-law's wedding dress next Feb, making myself a bridesmaid dress (and probably a matching bolero), and also focusing on my work wear wardrobe... 

Saturday 1 September 2012

1st blog-iversary and 1st giveaway!

This little blog of mine is 1-year-old today! I can't believe it!

Despite accidentally deleting my first ever post last week (oops! I noticed that the font was too small, but when I tried to make the text bigger, the update brought it out as a new post... obviously then I went into a state of panic, and accidentally deleted it! But hey, it didn't say all that much), I remembered that today is indeed Moonbeam's first birthday! 

Too bad I haven't baked a cake for it (yet), but I thought perhaps I could try to do my first ever giveaway (if the response is good, I'll do more giveaways in the future)! 

Looking back over the last 12 months, I'm really pleased with how many clicks Moonbeam has received (about 20,000) and my lovely followers :D I am also surprised to find how many sewing projects that I fitted into (no pun intended) my busy schedule, not to mention to oh-so-time-consuming wedding dress! 

I thought I'd pick some favourites -  

  •  Favourite dressy pattern: Simplicity 4070 

  • Favourite casual pattern: Simplicity 2444 but since I've just finished my first version of Mccall's 2401, and am working on my second, I'm also struggling to get that one out of my head!

Now the giveaway - as my Serena dress has had the most clicks, I thought I could do a related giveaway to celebrate the blog-iversary. 

I have over 2 metres (144cm width) of the rich green "dupion" (this was sold as a silk dupion, though I was rather sceptical about its true nature. That said, I thought it was a treat to work with and gave really good result) which I used for the Serena dress to giveaway! I did try to take a photo of the fabric but I don't think the lovely colour is showing through too well:
I think the picture below is a slightly better representation of the colour:

And just to remind you, the finished dress looked like: 

Comment before 30 September 2012 to win! Although it is not necessary for winning the giveaway, I would, as always be interested to hear what you think of the blog - be it your favourite post, favourite tutorial, what I could do to improve it... anything will be welcome. 

Best of luck! and please don't be shy. Also please don't worry if you don't live in the same country as me - I will post it to anywhere in the world. I can't wait to see what you make with it!