Wednesday 24 October 2012

Butterick 5457 toile - and your help/view please!

I'm making another bridesmaid's dress! This time it is for me. Yep, I'm going to be a bridesmaid for my mother-in-law's wedding in February. It was so sweet of her to ask me to be her bridesmaid, and I am so excited to be a part of her special day. What's more, I've decided to make my own dress, my bolero, and the bolero for her too, to keep us both warm on the day. 

I'm usually far too lazy for unwearable toiles, but when it comes to formal wear, I think it is often necessary. This is especially the case for this bridesmaid dress - despite all the questionable reviews that I have read about this pattern (and see my verdict below...), I decided to be brave and give it a go, as I particularly liked the horizontal and vertical pleats (what is it with me and pleats?), and the dipped neckline. But I was sure about one thing - I do not want to waste the beautiful crepe-backed satin (in 2 different purple tones) so a toile was absolutely necessary in this instance. 

I used an acetate satin in a slightly sickly looking baby pink that I bought a while ago for this Jason Wu peplum dress, but unfortunately I was just dreaming and never actually made it... I wanted to use a satin material to see how it will drape. 
The fit actually turned out to be spot on - I cut a 6, and it's quite a closely-fitted dress. The only real design change I made at this stage is that I omitted the gathered skirt - whilst I like gathers generally, I do not like them in formal wear as it adds too much bulk at the waistline (who wants that?!). Instead, I used the skirt pattern from one of my old favourites - Simplicity 4070 and it seems to fit fine. 

Now the pattern - oh how I can see what all the reviewers are saying! There are a few issues that I have with Butterick on this one:

1) The pattern pieces are kind of confusing. This is because there is no mention about underlining on the envelope, or in the cutting layouts. But when you start reading the instructions, it says "one lining layer will be used as underlining". I would not usually use the lining fabric as underlining too - I am thinking about using silk organza as the underlining - it's stable and thin. 
I used self lining for this toile (to use as much of this Marshmallow fabric as possible!), so I had to cut out a few pieces 6 times, which of course confused matter even more. 

To help future attempts at this pattern made by other seamstresses and myself, I have summarised the pattern pieces in this little table below. 

Bodice pattern pieces
Midriff pattern pieces
Fashion fabric
1 (pleats) fold, 2 (side front) x2, 5 (bodice back)x2
6 (front), 7 (back)x2
3 (bodice front) fold, 4 (side front) x2, 5 (bodice back)x2
8 (front), 9 (back) x2
3 (bodice front) fold, 4 (side front) x2, 5 (bodice back)x2
8 (front), 9 (back) x2

2) I also didin't like the lining layer - is it really necessary to have so many pieces of lining? More importantly, with the split of bodice and midriff, there is an ugly bulky seam around the empire line, and because of this, the pattern only calls for short boning which extends to this line. More likely than not, boning is inserted to provide more support for the whole bodice, and provide a better shape around the midriff. In my opinion, bodice boning should at least extend to the waistline. 

So I have now redrafted the lining pieces into 3 different pieces only - the centre front (cut on fold), side front (cut x2) and bodice back. I am planning on using these for the real thing, and add boning to all the seams extending to the waistline, and also add boning in the middle (approx) of the bodice back pieces too. 

3) I had issue with the midriff pieces. I was pretty sure that I did cut the front piece (6) on bias, but when the instructions asked me to stretch the top to meet the top edge of the corresponding underlining piece (8), the fabric simply refused to stretch that far! It was really quite frustrating. I had the same problem with the midriff back pieces also. It may just be the fabric that I am using, but I shall make sure that I cut my crepe-backed satin extra wide just in case! 

Oh look at how the seams do NOT line up?!

Obviously I have not bothered to press all the pleats in place, but for my real version I am going to be really careful with the gathers in the midriff pieces - they will need to be more evenly distributed for a smoother transition between the pieces. Ahhhh, look at this:

 So, my lovely readers, before I make a start on my real dress, I wanted to get your opinion/help on a few things: 

1. What do you think of the skirt? Personally I feel that it is currently too plain, especially as compared to the fairly "busy" bodice. So I am considering a pleated skirt - what do you prefer? To give you a slightly better idea, my pleated bodice section is going to be in a very pale lilac, and the rest of the dress  (and the bolero) in deep purple. 

2. Do I really need to cut the midriff as 3 pieces - is there any chance that a one wide pleated belt may work (I will draft this in a slightly more scientific way than guessing/eyeballing it but I wanted to throw this one out there!)

3. Does anyone have any tips on how to insert an invisible zip neatly with a bulky back section? The midriff part is going to be quite bulky, with all the horizontal gathers/pleats. I haven't inserted a zip here (just pinned it at the back), but I would be interested in hearing any tips that you may have! 

4. Do you think underlining crepe-backed satin with silk organza would work? Any other alternatives that you would recommend? 

Please do feel free to let me know what you think - if you have a comment about any of the above, please say and I will really appreciate your help/opinion! 

Thursday 11 October 2012

Midnight Blue Skirt

I think this may be my new favourite skirt! I love the midnight blue fabric, with all that beautiful print -  floral, paisley and whatever else... Would you be jealous if I told you that this costs me £1.10 a metre??   It is a drapy polyester georgette from a shop at Walthamstowe, and I underlined it with a dark blue faux silk lining which also cost about £1. So this skirt is really cheap as chips! 
As you will probably have guessed, this is indeed a Simplicity 2451. I made a view D, and the skirt actually turned out a bit like the picture! 

The construction was incredibly easy. The whole thing took no more than half a day to make, including the underlining - I was being rather impatient and lazy so I cheated and machine underlined the pieces by overcasting them at all the edges (with my overcasting foot). It is difficult to motivate myself to underline £1 fabrics by hand! 

I cut a size 4, which is smaller than the size I would've used if I based it simply on my waist/hip measurement, based on a number of reviews of this pattern. I am glad I did it as I love how/where it sits.

Overall I just love this skirt - it has such a classic shape, a good fit, the right length (long enough for work too) and it has pockets! What's not to like? I can totally see why this pattern was a Best Pattern of 2010. 

I wore this already last Sunday at Bicester Designer Outlet Village, where the snaps were taken, and it felt great to be wearing my homemade skirt amongst all the designer shops! Shhhh... but do you think that they can tell?  ;-) 

Saturday 6 October 2012

My modest raspberry dress

I am finally able to share my latest project (or more accurately, one of my latest projects) with you all - my modest raspberry dress! Yep, it's the ever so popular McCall's 5927. 

It is called the modest raspberry dress because the fabric is a lovely raspberry coloured double wool crepe (in fact, I don't really understand what "double wool" means but it was fabulous to work with) from the remnant bin from Macculloch and Wallis, for £18, and the cap sleeves made it modest enough  to be worn to work without needing a cardigan. And after all the troubles I've had with those darn sleeves, I had to honour them in the name somehow. 

I cut a size 4 for a close fit, and had planned on making view D. However, I don't know what came over me... when I followed the instructions, I followed those for views A and B! I couldn't tell you just how annoyed I was with my very silly self! The more annoying thing was, this was my first ever fully lined dress (obviously not counting my wedding dress here, which had a thousand layers!), and following the wrong set of instructions really messed up my otherwise beautifully smooth lining. 

I decided to be brave, and followed view B through in case I liked what I had. But I really disliked the straps :( I had great plans for this to be my new favourite work dress, and without the sleeves, it just didn't work. 

So after a few days of beating myself up, I decided to get over the on-show seams on the inside of the garment, and just add those cap sleeves to my "finished" dress. I'm so glad that I did! I think they have transformed the dress, and gave it so much modesty and sophistication. 

Despite my oversight, I thought this was a really good pattern. This is a pattern with multiple bust sizes, so I didn't even need to do a SBA! All I had to do was a petite adjustment on the bodice and skirt. 

The dress has such simple lines, which are perfect for a work dress, and the pockets are an added bonus. And I love that it is fully lined - the lining (faux silk lining, at £1.03 per metre from Fabricland) just makes the whole thing feel so much more comfortable and expensive. It involved a bit of hand sewing, but by no means excessive. 

Can you see the stitches?
 Some inside out photos (front and back) and right side out photos:

Having added the cap sleeves at the last minute, it actually inspired me to do the same to shop purchased clothes. Wouldn't that be a lovely refashion project? 

Monday 1 October 2012

Book review: Couture Sewing Techniques and Giveaway Winner

As requested by some of my readers, it is time I did my first sewing book review. This one is probably my favourite, not only because I simply could not have made my wedding dress without it. It is, of course, Couture Sewing Techniques (Revised & Updated) by Claire B. Shaeffer. 

Before I start though, it is also time to announce the winner of my first ever Giveaway! Thank you for all the lovely readers that took part - I appreciate all the wonderful comments and very helpful suggestions. The winner was selected by a random number generator (thank you Excel!) and the beautifully green fabric goes to... drum roll please... Arielle (lakaribane) at Fashion Maté! Arielle, I will be in touch by email shortly. 
Now the book review. 
This book is based on the 2001 version of Claire's Couture Sewing Techniques, but revised and updated 10 years later to not only to bring the book up-to-date, but also to add a new chapter on special fabrics and lots of beautiful photos. 

I bought this book almost as an alternative to Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture, which is out of print, and goes for £100+ on Amazon (there is a cd version available from the US, but when I was making my wedding dress, I just didn't want any further delays over potential custom issues/shipping problems). I was really glad that I did make the purchase, as it was of invaluable help (as were all the PR members on the Bridal sewing board). 

The book is made of 2 main parts: the basics to couture sewing, and applying couture techniques. I think this makes logical sense, and makes a great read from cover to cover - this is not what I can say for a lot of sewing books, especially techniques-based ones. However, I must admit that at times, I did find that some techniques are not situated in one place, so I had to jump through a couple of parts. Though all in all, this was not a big problem for me. 

The book contains so many wonderful couture techniques, and made me feel like couture sewing is not out of my (or anyone's) reach. The techniques are well explained, well illustrated, and in most cases, well applied in the later parts of the book. 

It takes you through the history of couture sewing, which personally I found a fascinating read, but I could imagine some readers considering it irrelevant. It contains lots and lots of references to the great famous fashion houses, with exclusive photos of some wonderfully constructed items, which was inspiring. 

There are also lots of "Claire's tip" next to some techniques, and I really loved those as I felt like I was being given great insight of the industry, and "tricks of the trade". 

Towards the very end of the book, there is also a section on special occasions wear and wedding dresses. Selfishly, I wished that the wedding dresses section was a little bit longer, especially as there are not that many sewing books on the market for wedding dresses constructions. But it certainly contained some useful information on the key elements of wedding dresses, which I did find helpful. 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic book. Although I don't think this is something that complete beginners should get their hands on straight away, this is certainly suitable for advanced beginners onwards who are interested in learning how to sew better. It helped me a great deal, and made me appreciate hand sewing so much more. 

Happy sewing everyone! x
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