Monday, 24 January 2011

A Dress for January (Nightmares in Silk)

    There is a blog out there called "A Dress a Day".  While this is a fabulous goal it seems somewhat unrealistic, so one of my resolutions for 2011 was a dress a month.  Every month I will make AT LEAST one dress - and post it up to the blogosphere.

    January's project was the Liberty silk, which I mentioned in a previous post.  At £5 metre, rather than the usual £29.99, something of a snip (no pun intended!).

    As I've never sewn in silk before I decided to pick an easy pattern - check it out!  Easy peasy, right?  The sleeves and the arms are all one piece!



    What I wasn't really prepared for was just how much of a slippery bugger silk actually is.

    Straight away it became evident that this is no ordinary fabric, I had to weigh it down with tins of soup while I crawled around on the floor cutting out the pattern pieces.  My husband was on Skype to his parents at the time, who must have been wondering about the sight of their Nutter-in-law crawling around in the background on a piece of brightly coloured fabric, surrounded by tin cans (and a small black cat laying on one end - Kato Cat decided that silk makes an excellent bed).

    The next nightmare was darts, I hate darts at the best of times, this wasn't the best of times.  They came out OK in the end though.

    Nightmare number 3 - the zip.  I was a bit nervous about tacking the bit where the zip was to go, I thought it might ruin the delicate fabric when I ripped the tacking stitches out. I foolishly sewed the zip in by just pinning it into place, it looked dreadful.  So then I had to rip loads of stitches out anyway removing the terrible zip.  At this point the lazy bugger in me decided that actually the neckhole was quite generous and that I could get the dress on over my head.  So I just sewed the back up.  If I had known I was going to do that I'd have just cut the whole back piece on the fold and saved myself A LOT of heartache.

    Next up - facing on the ends of the sleeves, bit peculiar I thought, but I went with it.  I'd also put interfacing on the facing, with the benefit of hindsight the interfacing was too thick for silk and I should have used a lighter-weight one.  Once sewn onto the end of the sleeve it made the end of the sleeve look so reinforced that I might as well have just sewn a hoop in the end of the sleeve like an old fashioned hoop-skirt.  So I took the facing off and decided to just hem the sleeves.

    At this point I may have had my ONLY bright idea - BIAS BINDING.  I had to refresh my memory about bias binding having only ever used it once in the past, but I found THIS marvellous tutorial - thanks Angry Chicken!  (I liked the idea of a 'No Swearing' tutorial, but it could be interpreted two ways - as either a tutorial in how to apply bias binding without swearing yourself, or as a tutorial in which the tutor swears a lot - in a punky kind of way)  Bias binding saved my life, it provided a neat way of hemming both the sleeves and the bottom of the dress and actually looked kind of nice too.


    (I also found THIS marvellous post-punk song by accident.  It has nothing to do with sewing).

    So to the actual fitting of the dress.  I made a HUGE mistake here - I forgot the AAA (Added Arse Allowance).  Whilst most parts of a 1960s 34" bust dress fit me just fine I have to admit that I am more well-equipped in the bottom department than those ladies must have been.  It should be ingrained in me by now that even if I can't be bothered to measure myself and the pattern and make the relevant adjustments  - I should at least 'go large' in the hip area when cutting out my pattern pieces.  Maybe "Will measure self against pattern" should have been my New Year's sewing resolution, but it's one of those things like doing a 48-hour patch test before dyeing my hair - life just seems too short!  My mistake - the dress only JUST fits over the hips and consequently seems a bit loose everywhere else.  It may fit me on that magical day in the future when I drop a stone, or I may just use it as a nightdress as the silk does at least feel lovely even if it doesn't look it.



    So I think I'll have to chalk this one up to experience.  I've learned a lot from my mistakes, but I'm bloody glad that I didn't pay £30 a metre for the fabric!

Offcuts of silk also make fine silk scarves for dandy felines!



    Apologies for the silly poses - it makes the dress look a bit better!
    Silly poses make it look better


Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Next Project

Finally the time has come to attempt Vogue 2245.


Isn't it beautiful?  I'm going to attempt a mock-up in cheap fabric first and see how I get on.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Retail Therapy - Jane Austen Style

At lunchtime I announced to my colleagues that I needed to pop out and buy some ribbon.  This sounded like such a ridiculously old-fashioned, feminine pastime that I found myself falling into the character of a Jane Austen heroine.  Buying ribbon, it seemed to me, was a pretty exciting event for a young woman in Georgian England.  There seemed to be precious little else that one could buy in a village shop that might come close to a treat or indulgence.  No made-to-measure clothing, no make-up (just for strumpets presumably), no 'Good Morrow' magazine.  My over-active imagination began to picture young women's bedroom cupboards stuffed with many-coloured ribbons as some sort of mania took hold, as the desire for excitement led them to purchase yet more and more ribbons - or maybe the hard stuff - rick-rack?  lace trim?

On my lunchtime excursion I also went to Boots to pick up a prescription. I imagine that your Regency heroine might also have popped into the apothecary for a preparation for Dyspepsia, but this hardly seems like cause for excitement.  Maybe she could have purchased some rose-water, probably the closest she was allowed to perfume, which I'm guessing was probably only for afore-mentioned strumpets, actresses and the French.

No wonder women used to go around having the vapours any time that anything slightly shocking happened (or was that the Victorians?).  Living life at that sort of pace is bound to take it's toll.

Is that the time?  I must fly - this bonnet won't trim itself you know!


Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Great Pattern Caper

I have some beautiful Liberty silk (made all the more beautiful by the fact that I bought it at a Liberty warehouse sale for a bargainous £5 per metre), which has lain untouched for about a year now, so I decided to use it to make a dress to wear to a friend's 40th birthday party later this month.  I was searching the various boxes in my spare room for a suitable pattern, when it occurred to me that there had to be an easier way and that perhaps my husband's suggestion of photographing all my dress patterns was not such a barmy one after all.  My reasoning was that I could tag the pictures with keywords such as 'princess seams', 'colourblock' or 'bow' (more on bows later) as well as the sizes and brand of the patterns and thus make finding the perfect pattern a much quicker job than getting out all the patterns in the boxes to sort through them on the living room floor (the spare room doesn't have any floor to speak of, just piles of junk with narrow avenues between them).  The Great Pattern Cataloguing Caper begun!

I photographed 200 patterns, which seems like such a ridiculously round number that it was Sod's law that I would find two more lurking at the back of the cupboard as soon as I was done!  This was one of the most constructive weekends I've had in years.