Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Sew for Victory: McCalls 5974

For this dress I wanted to have a play with knit dress pattern McCalls 5974, as I'd had two successes with it in the past. Isn't the blue lovely? It's a spandex cupro blend, according to the guy at the shop! I'd never heard of it before, but it's supposed to be similar to rayon. It's lovely and soft.

I also put it in the Sew for Victory sewalong because even though the pattern is not vintage 40s I think the style is (totally allowed in the sewalong, I assure you!).
Actually the gathered yoke style is similar to the cardigan I knitted for the Knit for Victory 40s knitalong. Gosh, talk about a one trick pony, haha!

I styled it in a modern way though, because I'm not into being period authentic, and this is just for fun. I'm not actually time travelling ;)

This was another of those instances where I think I'll do something simple and it turns out to be much much more complicated than I thought. I essentially redrafted the entire pattern. 
I created a yoke and rotated the pleats into it (sorta just making it up as I went). I also lengthened the bodice to have a waist seam. 

Pattern malarkey, closing up the old pleats and moving them up!
This of course meant redrafting the skirt too. And then when putting it all together there was an infinite amount of fiddling as I tried to make it work to what my vision was. Gah! So much work. So many seams unpicked and resewn!
One of the lessons learned was to always cut the pieces bigger than you think you need if you are just making stuff up. Perfectly obvious in hindsight, but that's why my bodice is on the verge of indecently low-cut. And that's also why it has bands, to add a little bit more width. I probably could have crossed them over more but didn't want it too tight...
That's also why the waist seam is uneven; I ran out of fabric to make it long enough in the centre front! Tilted waist seams are the bane of my sewing life!
Thankfully wearing it with a belt hides that issue a bit. This belt seems to go with a lot of my stuff! 

Check out the shoulder pleats! Ignore that ugly mess at the centre front waist seam ;) 

I also did some invisible hand stitching on the front overlap just to make sure there weren't any wardrobe malfunctions/gaping.
Here is a shot without the belt. I think it's definitely lacking something. So much so that I appear to be falling asleep in the photo! I considered sewing up a self tie-belt. Maybe something to try another time?

Omg so much better with a belt.
I am not a photographer- here is an out of focus shot because skirt twirlies.

And can I just say YAY, I found something to wear with these cool tights I got for Christmas!

I didn't even know if this would be wearable when done but in the end it is passable. I'm still not sure if I should make another one. On one hand, I quite like the style, and think I could make it better next time. On the other hand there would still be a lot of fiddling! It's probably inevitable I will try another version as this is like a wearable muslin and I want to show this idea who's boss. Would you make another one?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Completed: Polka Dot Cambie for Sew Dolly Clackett

I am a sucker for a sewalong, to my own detriment. I totally squeezed this Sewaholic Cambie out at the last minute just to be one of the cool kids and join the Sew Dolly Clackett sew along!
Sorry about the bad quality photos, but well, at least I finished the dang thing!

I call this the Maryanne dress in tribute to Maryanne, who runs Made on Marion, blogs, and is generally awesomely skilled and inspirational! I bought this fun cotton from Made on Marion. I don't generally buy quilting cotton for dresses, but I wish I had more cute dresses like this!

Okay, time for a full confession: The lining on the bodice isn't even stitched down in these photos- I didn't have time! Haha! This is why I think I ought to resist sewalongs, so I don't end up sewing shoddily at the last-minute!
However, I did get to put the zip in by hand, even if the bit where the piping meets is slightly dodgy.

Oh yeah, and piping! It was my first time putting it in- and it looks decent, though I need more practice. Too bad these photos are so bad you can hardly see it, haha!

I tapered the piping to nothing at the underarms.
Omg though, I had a scary moment when I tried it on and realised the piping had made the waist tighter (it may have also been related to all the Easter chocolate I scoffed)! I think the extra bulk, as well as the stabilising effect of the piping reduced the ease. I also wonder if I accidentally eased the waistline into the piping as I sewed it. EEP! I let out the centre back seam as much as possible. I hope it's enough, because you can't just sneakily let out the side seams when the piping is already at a set length. Lesson learned- be very careful with piping!

I was smart enough to prewash the piping though: check how much it shrunk after washing! Now imagine the nightmare of having that shrinkage happen upon first wash of the completed dress!

The ends of the cord were even with the tape before washing. A good 1.5" of shrinkage on each end!

Okay, let's talk about the fit. Since I worked so hard on getting my Vogue darted bodice to fit, I was hoping I could get away without making a muslin, by comparing the cambie with my fitted bodice. I read about people using their blocks to circumvent the muslin-fitting process so I gave it a try. I won't go into what I did since I fumbled my way through. But the result was it fit perfectly!! Haha, just kidding. It still fit badly. I was quite discouraged...
What did I learn from this process? Flat patterns are complicated beasts currently beyond my full comprehension. I think next time I would just muslin the pattern from scratch instead of trying to get clever.
Another mistake I made was trying to get away with the lining-as-muslin trick since I thought there was a chance it'd need barely any adjustment. This really just made the process harder as soft lining fabric isn't suitable for a muslin, and you can't mark, slash and hack with abandon like you can with a proper muslin.
So in other words, by trying to save myself time, I made the whole process just as tricky, if not more so. To be fair, it did fit better than I normally get out of the packet, but it was still bad.

So in future, if you see me contemplating trying out a new fitted dress pattern, smack me over the head and tell me to use a tried-and-true!!

Still got a few wrinkles around the back, but it's acceptable. I'm still really curious to see if it can be improved though!

Anyway, Maryanne rescued me by offering to help me sort my fitting issues. Sewing friend Joy also helped. Sewing friends are the best! I was having issues with nipply dart points- I took some volume out of the bust with a tuck, but couldn't resolve the nipplies until Maryanne helped me by pinning them in shape on me! Lifesaver! The interesting thing was that everything I'd read said to end them below the apex (and I'd tried and tried to make them work like this), but Maryanne showed me that they needed to go right to the apex. Which shows you that you shouldn't take everything you read in a book/online as gospel!

Disturbing nippily bust darts pic I took... HELP!!
Nipply situation under control though I still need more practice at sewing perfect darts.
I probably should have just stuck with the dual bust AND waist darts like previous fitted bodices have used. Just having the one dart naturally makes it a bit more finicky to fit I think. But once I've perfected it, at least the dart sewing will only take half the time?? :P

Oh and I used the skirt from New Look 6799, which is a gathered A-line, because I didn't want the full poof of the gathered rectangle from the official Cambie skirt.

Not too sure what I'm doing here.

I put myself under last-minute pressure trying to get this finished, which is definitely not my favourite way to sew... though I must say, at least it was a motivating factor!
Anyway, more pics:

TOTALLY needs a petticoat!!

Here's me thinking what a genius I am for making a summer dress just as we're heading towards Winter.
All in all, I think this is a successful Cambie, though I did learn a few lessons and muck around a lot. Hopefully I'll make a bunch more in future and they'll be super easy! I'll be playing with piping more though. I've always admired it as a detail, it is so cute! 

And congrats to Roisin for her upcoming wedding. Thanks for inspiring us with your amazingly cute dresses!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Completed Knit: Cropped Cardigan with Bobbles and Cables

Pretty cardigan, right? Well it was a pain in the butt, I'll have you know.

This was not a particularly enjoyable knit at times! I actually put it down for a few months; yes, it was my first knitting UFO.
I made some mistakes, and those were:

- Going down needles sizes to get gauge, when the yarn was slightly too thick. That means I found the knitting to be slightly tight, which I felt slowed me down and made my tension a bit dodgy. (Then I made the same mistake again with another project, UGH!)
I did use an 8ply, just as the pattern called for, but this 8ply must be a bit closer to 10ply I think.

-Poor pattern choice, and modding without knowing what I was getting into!

Possibly thinking "If I'd known it would have been this much trouble, I'd have burnt the book!"

Let me tell you the saga…
When I got this book, I fell in love with the lovely cable patterns in this cardigan and was determined to knit it, even though I discovered it didn't have a schematic (those are alarm bells you hear!).
I noted that it had no waist shaping and was designed for positive ease. Well, I'll add waist shaping, and make it negative ease! Easy right?

Well, not so easy, because my gauge was slightly too big, even after going down in needle size, and I couldn't just knit a smaller size as the smallest size still would have been too big.

The complications basically came in the form of the construction (bottom-up, seamed raglan sleeves, which I'd never done before) and lack of schematic. I basically drew my own schematic in the end. I have learned from this experience to keep NEAT notes though, as I could hardly figure out what I'd written when I revisited them!
I discovered as I studied the pattern that the sleeves had 15cm (5.9") of positive ease in them. Ummmm, that's NUTS, I thought. And it confirmed my suspicion that there was something fishy going on with the model. It is quite well disguised, but there is definitely a lot of bagginess in the sleeve.

Look at the model in green. Baggy sleeve! And I believe the model on the right is wearing a cardigan several sizes too small for her. Deceptive.

Anyway, I went positively mad trying to figure out how I could fix the pattern with all the modifications I wanted to make. I ended up making a lot of mad calculations, and winging it.
I honestly think I'm lucky this turned out wearable!
Actually, I probably could have just learned to draft my own and stolen the charts from this pattern, and it would have been simpler.

I paired it with my corduroy Sewaholic Hollyburn (note to self: need more Hollyburns).

The cables ARE lovely though.
Checkin' out the cables, and OOH, bobbles!

Pattern blather:
Since I'd decreased the circumference at the bust, I thought I'd decrease the raglans less steeply, so they were about about the same length as the pattern, but I would have enough stitches across the upper chest and shoulders.

For the sleeves (and I agonised a LOT over these), I eventually decided to decrease their circumference dramatically, as well as lengthen them to full length. However all those raglan decreases meant I would run out of stitches before I reached the neckline! So I decided to stop decreasing when I got down to the cable pattern (the last 15 stitches), and keep going straight until it was as long as I needed. I believe this is a saddle shoulder construction, again, something I've never tried before and was just making up as I went…

I pinned my pieces together at this point and decided how long to make the shoulder. Eyeballing all the way, baby! I also plotted some extra shaping to make the front and back shoulders fit in with the new sleeve shape.

Pinned together, now make stuff up.
Soooo yeah. It was a very think-y knit, and I caution anyone who would attempt it! In fact, later Joy pointed out to me that Roobeedoo had made it and had found the sleeves to be as dodgy as I had suspected! Sweet vindication! However her version is still very lovely and pushed me to keep on going.

Oh yeah, and to bang on about it a bit more, I changed the button bands and also the neckline just cos. Also I had to re-knit the bands a few times. AND they're seamed on too. UGH. I wanted to try something new as I'd always done picked-up-and-knit ribbing with horizontal rib, but I am not convinced on the merits of these seamed, vertical rib ones. So much work! But they give a nice look I suppose.

After all that, do I like it? Hmm, I guess so, but I don't love it. I think the seamed raglan sleeves (oh btw, SO MUCH SEAMING in this pattern. Boo!!), give it extra structure in the upper chest, and the cabling adds bulk too. So it feels almost like a jacket, which is weird. AND, my dodgy "Make up shaping as you go" approach didn't work perfectly, so there's a bit of extra room around the neckline which sticks out away from the body (probably the i-cord I added instead of ribbing makes it worse, as it has a little bulk of its own!).

So to sum up my irks with this pattern:
-There is no schematic- what shape are the pattern pieces please??

-There aren't enough photos (only 2), and in one of them the models' hair covers up the details! I have to wonder if the details are covered up because they wanted to hide the flaws in the pattern….

-There is no indication of how much ease the models are wearing, and though from the size chart it is indicated that the design is meant to have 1" positive ease, one of the models is clearly wearing a lot of negative ease. This is deceptive for beginners, who might assume theirs will look like the model's.

-There are no charts for the complex cables, so I made them myself using this chart generator, and then printed them out.

Well, I guess I learned more about knitting patterns and modding and such, but honestly, I probably could have knitted two cardigans for the time it took to figure this beast out! Well, that's life eh? I'm such a sucker for a challenge...

Token back shot.

Anyway, when I was taking photos, I found that I could potentially fix the gross neckline by creating faux lapel thingies. I think it's a much cuter shape somehow, and stops the neckline sticking away from the body. I am considering sewing them down.

Of course, if I did that, I couldn't wear it in the other cute way which fixes the neckline by letting it droop down half unbuttoned:

But maybe, just maybe there's room in this world for a hybrid of the two??:

Also, camera went crazy.
So has anyone else had a pattern they totally got in over their head with? And shall I make little lapel thingies?! Gah though, I'm so relieved this project is over! :)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Completed: The Bossy Burgundy Beignet

So you guys chose for me to make the Beignet Skirt from Colette Patterns when I polled you last month. And behold, I deliver!!

Gosh, me, don't look TOO excited.
I gave it a fear factor of 4/5 and I think I was justified in that (self-fulfilling prophecy?). Lots and lots of hurdles presented themselves but I finally, finally got there in the end. Phew.
I'm really glad I was able to conquer this garment. I probably wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been bossed into doing it by all of you!  I definitely have to make it worth my while by making a bunch of versions (one of my goals for the year, to use tried and true patterns).

I am INSANE for the depth of texture corduroy provides! Cordurooooooy <3
I have wanted a Beignet Skirt for so long, after stalking the amazing versions from Tasia and Andrea.

Luckily, I had some great tips from Andrea's post on the skirt- I only bought 1.5m of fabric, and it was enough. Colette recommends 2.5, that's a whole metre more! In fact, I almost got the whole skirt out of one width of fabric, getting all of the panels but one out of the first width. If you have small hips, or the freedom to flip your pieces (obviously you shouldn't do that in corduroy, friends! Pay attention to nap! :) ), you could sneak it out of less I think. In fact, yes, Tilly only used 65cm for one of hers! By the way, that's just one more blogger with a stunning set of Beignets. Must... emulate!!

A tip from Andrea was not to bother trying to turn your belt loops inside out for a bulky fabric like corduroy. Instead I overlocked one edge and folded each edge in, with the overlocked edge on top. My corduroy was quite fray-happy so I was careful not to leave any raw edges. I even finished the top and bottom of each belt loop before I folded them under and stitched them on. Better safe than sorry...
And taking another page from Andrea's magical book, I reduced the number of buttons from 12 to 8. That could save you some coins if your buttons were expensive! (Mine were a bit expensive, for some unknown reason. They look fairly average to me.)
I also pressed the corduroy seams open instead of to the side because of the bulk (except on the side seams because of the pockets).

Oh yeah, POCKETS!

Plus bonus weirdo face!
Okay so the pockets were a pain in the butt. I changed the construction because their way didn't make sense to me. I saved my long-winded blathering for my pattern review
Figuring out all the wee details of construction take up so much time, but now I've sorted them out, hopefully subsequent versions will be a breeze. Or I'll be super lazy and omit the pockets...No, pockets are too great.

I didn't want to make the tie belt for bulk reasons, but I wouldn't wear it without a belt to define the waist. Ooh it's so flippin' fancy.  (You can tell I'm a casual girl cos I think belts are what fancy people wear.)

I made two muslins, but realised too late I'd totally done it the chump way and made it way harder than it had to be.  Sigh!! Because the pattern ran large, it sat below my waist. 
So I raised it to my waist by taking it in, but I only realised later that DUH, the skirt sits above the natural waist! So it was still too low!  Cue a multitude of adjustments.  I got there in the end...
I could do a separate post if people wanted to know all about my behind. Heh.

Anyway, once the changes had been made, the seam lines were all changed so much I had to totally redraft the lining and all the facings. It took me ages to figure out how to do it and then do it (the lining hem has to line up to a precise point at the centre front and get sewn to the facing etc.) And when I was sewing it I could NOT figure out why the front facing didn't line up (because I'd drafted it the wrong length for some idiot reason!) If I'd just checked that straight away it would have saved me a LOT of time. On the plus side, I guess I know how to draft all that stuff now??
Oh, Here's another plus side, I finally got this skirt I've been wanting to make forever! Celebrate the good side!

And I think the fit turned out pretty well, for all that work. :) 
I managed to convince myself while making it that it was going to be too small. I do this all the time with fitted garments! Talk about paranoid. But a muslin doesn't act the same way as the final garment.  My corduroy garment has interfacing, thicker fabric, and facings, and I worried I hadn't taken that into account enough. However it DOES fit, to my relief. Haha! I will conduct field testing to make sure it stays comfortable all day. THEN I'll make a squillion of 'em, yeah?

Oh yeah, and it doesn't look too shabby with the beret I just knitted!
To be honest, everyone seems to rave about Colette's instructions, but I was underwhelmed. They were slightly sparse on the diagrams and details and written no clearer than the Big 4, I thought. I made notes on my pattern instructions for next time. BUT, when I was having issues with the mess I'd made of the pattern redrafting, I e-mailed them and Sarai was super helpful! You really can't beat that for customer service, can you! So all in all, the pattern gets a thumbs up! :) Better keep my eyes peeled for more Beignet fabrics... ;)

Ooh, by the way, of course you recognise my Renfrew I've paired with it, yeah? I think this this skirt is very versatile, and I hope to make some cute tops to go with it...
I had a lot to say about this pattern, but I haven't even talked about the fabric yet! I took care not to press the corduroy severely, and put my leftover corduroy underneath my skirt on the ironing board while pressing (with nap facing the same way as the skirt), to avoid mashing down the nap.. Threads has a great article on corduroy. They even recommend shaving your nap down in the seam allowances for bulky corduroy... tee hee! I didn't do that, but it amuses me.
Obviously making sure all the pattern pieces were cut with the nap going in the same direction was important too. I used a plain cotton for facings, to reduce bulk.

OooOO fancy lining.

Buttonholes and mysteriously expensive buttons.
So. Beignet. I did it. Phew. Thanks for the push guys :)