Wednesday 31 July 2013

Vote for your favorite Hawthorn dress!

I am so happy! My Hawthorn dress made it under the first 20 dresses of the Colette sewing contest! Now it is open to the online community to vote for their favorite dress. They are all so pretty and I am sure it was hard for Sarai to choose! As there are so many lovely dresses, there will be a second voting round on Thursday.

Please check out the Colette website to vote for your favorite dress. If it is me :) then I would be super happy about your support. You will find me under elas adventures, which is the name of my Flickr website. Voting is open until today midnight Pacific.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Meet my Hawthorn Blouse!

I always wanted to have a blouse with a peplum, because they look so feminine. But somehow, I never bought one - which might be because I am not wearing trousers and because the skirts I am having don't really go with a peplum blouse. But having seen the Hawthorn pattern I knew time finally arrived :) And here she is, my newest addition to my wardrobe (and only blouse):

Let's talk about the fabric first! Coincidentally (are there any coincidences?), I had a beautiful liberty cotton lawn (copy print) in my stash. When I saw it at Goldhawk road, I had to have it even without having a project in mind. Luckily I bought 1.5 m and I had just enough for the blouse, yeah! For the collar and sleeve band I used some white leftover cotton lawn. The buttons I had in my stash - and as before with the Hawthorn Shirt Dress - they were the only ones I had enough from. I decided against a lining as I wanted to make a floaty, airy summer blouse. This time I also resisted to buy any matching lace for the hem.

Pattern alterations: Although I love my Hawthorne Shirt Dress, I knew that there was still some room for improvements. The main issues with it were: back and sleeves are to tight! The tight back was easy to change. I just added 3/8" in the shoulder area - which makes a big difference in comfort! As for the sleeves, it took me a while to address that problem. But thanks to my boyfriend (hey, I am the one who attended the fitting class!), I found a way. I just did a broad shoulder adjustment! Obviously, I didn't check the sew-along first to see if there were any recommendations, no I just added 1" at front and back armholes (at the shoulder semas) and used my french curve to shape the armhole. I also elongated the sleeve cap about 5/8" and - following the "Sew the perfect fit" Craftsy class by Lynda Maynard - did a cut on Gusset alteration to make the sleeves more comfy under the arms.

Neatly overlocked waist seam.
For a few weeks now, I am deeply in love with Peter Pan collars. But I hadn't found the time to make one  (and that although I have pinned loads of tutorial on Pinterest). So, the opportunity arose, to make one for the Hawthorn blouse. To change the collar, I only used my french curve. Aligning and moving it around until the collar had a shape that I liked :) When I stitched the collar pieces together, I used a 1/4" seam allowance only. So this time the collar fit perfectly and because I used the 1/4" only, it was even a bit bigger and more to my liking.

My modified Peter Pan collar and button detail.

I love that the collar is so round and smooth.
I prefer my clothes to be a bit longer and therefore cut the peplum a size 18 lengthwise. I also moved the waistline down 1" as it is a bit high on my Hawthorn Dress. Puh, looking at that long paragraph I actually made a lot of alterations!

Pattern instructions: I was flying when stitching this together! As I had a lot of practise having sewn the Shirt Dress, it really was super easy. Who needs instructions? 

Full back view.
What I like (or love): I love that I made a summary blouse. When wearing it I feel like on holidays :) The fabric is so thin and floaty. Also the pastel colours go so nice with the white collar and sleeve band (and my hair, hihi). My sleeves look/feel much better and I can stretch my arms without being afraid to break any seams :)

Summer time and the living is easy...
What I don't like: That I don't have a skirt that goes with the blouse! For the photos I was wearing trousers, but I rarely wear them in real live. I can imagine a simple A-line skirt would go nicely with it. I had a look at Megan Nielsens Kelly Skirt pattern and also at Colettes Beignet skirt. What do you think? Do you know any pattern that I could use?

Have I worn it? Yes. I wore it to work on Monday, even with a pair of trousers, wuhu. And it felt great!

Will I make it again? Definitively yes! I am already looking out for a light denim fabric to make the dress with long sleeves and plackets! I could also imagine to make another blouse, but than there are so many other patterns that I would love to sew. So much to sew, but so little time!

Sunday 21 July 2013

Hawthorn Shirt Dress - done!

May I introduce: my finished Hawthorn Shirt Dress!

I am so happy with how it turned out. And, I am proud that I sewed a garment that was labelled "intermediate", yeah!

What I like: The contrast between the dress bodice and the purple sleeves and collar. I was at first not sure about this combination because I thought it would look like a waitress uniform. But now, I think it looks almost as if I am wearing a blouse under the dress - that was actually the effect I wanted :) I couldn't resist to stitch black lace trim on the hem (pic further down). Since I took up sewing I am always so tempted to add lace trim everywhere! The next garment will be without, promised!

The buttons I had in my stash and they were actually the only ones where I had enough from, so not really a choice here. They are a bit boring, but because of that go well with the busy fabric print.

I lined the bodice with cotton silk and overcasted the seams.
I finished all seams with an overcasting stitch of my sewing machine after having trimmed them down. They are all pressed towards the back. So, I did not follow the pattern instructions here who say to press the seams open, because I was told that open seams don't stay open after washing and you have to press them open every time. I don't like ironing that much... By the way, do I have to press darts every time after having washed the garment?

Me dancing ...
and swirling.
I couldn't be bothered to hand stitch the hem this time and my sewing machine actually came with a blind hem foot. So, time to try out something new! My stitches are not really blind - I can see some bigger ones on the outside and I also missed a few when trying to make my stitches smaller. I think I have to practise a lot more before I am able to stitch real blind stitches with that foot, but it is a beginning and much faster than hand stitching.

Pretty lace and can you spot the blind hem stitch.
That's how the hem stitch looks inside the dress.

Pattern instructions: The pattern instructions were easy to follow and I struggled only at one point: the collar. The collar is too short as you can see on the pic. When I noticed it, I got really really disappointed having thought that I made a mistake when adjusting the pattern pieces for my sloping shoulders. But as it turns out - it wasn't me (now I have the song from Shaggy "It wasn't me" in my head, bah). When comparing my pattern and the original one I saw that my alterations were right and also my seam allowances were as described (5/8"). After doing some research on the Colette Flickr group and looking at several photos and posts, I could see that everybody had the same problem. Only some people noticed because they made a muslin with collar before (obviously, I skipped that step). So, I went along with my slightly short collar, which still looks nice - and nobody will notice as long as I don't point on it :) (I am in the habit of doing it. My sis visited me for a few days and she was giving me compliments. And instead of saying thanks and closing my mouth, I said but ... here and here... mistakes. Uh, I have to work on that!)

The collar was supposed to be 5/8" longer.
But my collar fright was not over yet. This collar was the first one I ever made *proud* and although I put the interfaced piece (= upper collar) on top, you can see the seams that connects under and upper collar. But, having had a look into my sewing book (which I should have done before attaching the collar), I read that you can prevent that by understitching the seams to the under collar - I will remember that next time.

What I don't like: When I fitted the pattern, I fitted it a bit too tight over the back :( It is fine as long as I stand straight. but as soon as I bend forward or stretch my arms I am a little bit scared my seams will burst open. Also, you might have noticed the drag lines on my sleeves. The sleeve is not to tight, but I think the sleeve cap has to be moved lower - meaning my bodice shoulder has to be wider by one inch for the sleeves to sit properly (Does that make sense?). I also had to enlarge the armholes about half an inch because they are a bit to small. To do so, I just stitched another seam under the arm and trimmed some fabric off. That helped a lot for feeling more comfy but did not help with the drag lines..

Drag lines going under the arms.

Will I make it again: Yes! I have already started to make the blouse with the peplum. This time I will try to get a better fit for the sleeves and also make the back a bit broader. I am dreaming already about making a nice autumn/winter dress from this pattern. Maybe I could use a light denim and for the collar a floral print :)

Have I worn it: No, because we are having a heat wave in the UK and the cotton that I used is far to thick to be comfy for this weather. But as soon as it cools down, I will definitively wear it.

Saturday 20 July 2013

How to press a dart - a tutorial

I am sure most of you do know how to press a dart properly. But when I started to sew I did not know about it and would have never known the right way (is there one?) if I hadn't be shown. So, if you are just starting to sew this tutorial might be helpful for you.

The most important things you need are an iron and a tailors ham. A tailors ham is just a fabric tube that is filled with saw dust. You can either buy one or make one yourself. You can find a great tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons here. I have to admit, that I bought mine because the tight stuffing scared me off (and that although I have tons of pet litter from my guinea pigs that I could use). The ham is important because you are going to press a curvy and shaped area and you can find a similar shaped area on your tailors ham - so perfect for pressing! If you do not have the budget to get a tailors ham you can also tightly roll a bath towel to a sausage and use that (that's what I did in the beginning).

So let's start to press you dart (you will need a lot of steam and if you have a delicate fabric a pressing cloth):

1. Press your dart flat, making sure you do not press the dart point – you don’t want any creases here!

2. Place the fabric right side down on your tailors ham, finding an area that resembles the shape of your dart. 

3. Press the fabric around the dart point flat.

4. Place the fabric wrong side down on the tailors ham thereby smoothing the dart toward the centre back or front (for waist darts) or up (bust darts) with your iron. Avoid pressing over the dart fold as this might leave an imprint on your fabric.

5. Carefully press the fabric around your dart point and leave the fabric to cool before handling.

It is important to leave the fabric to cool completely, because otherwise it will loose the shape you just pressed into it.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Hawthorne sew-along: fabric choice and pattern alterations

Have you started to sew your Hawthorne shirt dress? Which fabric did you choose and have you made any alterations to the pattern?

I am using two cotton fabrics: a purple poplin and the other one? I am not sure, it might be a quilting cotton because it is a bit stiff and quite thick! I know the pattern recommendations say to stay away from quilting cottons because they don't drape nicely but I just love the fabric pattern (also I bought the fabric in a dress fabric shop - so it should be for dress making, right?). I love all the beautiful ladies in their purple dresses, the Eiffel Tower, shoes, handbags and doggies. The fabric is kind of me :) so I HAVE to use it. I also got some black lace trim for the hem from Shepherds Bush Market and found some shirt buttons in my stash. To line the bodice I am going to use white cotton silk.

Now let's talk about the changes I made to get a proper fit.

According to my high bust measurement, I am smaller than size 0 and my waist measurements gave me size 4. So, I traced size 0 for the bust and then graded up to size 4 starting under the armhole and finishing at the waist. As I knew already (from my Palmer/Pletsch fitting class) that I have sloping shoulders, I applied my usual changes immediately to the shoulder seams: I took out 3/8" from the front and added these at the back. I also adjusted for my sway back and folded out 1/2" in the centre back tapering to nothing towards the seam. When I tried on the tissue, the fit looked nice. So, I went ahead and cut the calico muslin - which is unfortunately stiff but was the only fabric I had to hand - and pinned it all together.

As you can see in the pic, there was too much fabric on the bust (kind of expected as Colette patterns are cup C and I am only A) and also a massive fold on my back - both I didn't spot when trying on the tissue. I pinned these out and measured the excess fabric to know how much to remove from the pattern.

Pinned out fabric at the bust
Pinned out fabric at back

On the pattern, I did a small bust adjustment by overlapping the tissue at the apex by 3/8" and I also made a narrow back adjustment.

Narrow and sway back adjustment

I then changed my muslin (luckily I could use my old one, as I had to make it smaller) and tried on again. The muslin fitted snugly and I went ahead to cut out my fashion fabric. Lazy me didn't make a muslin for the collar and sleeves here because I thought that will fit :P The cutting and marking took me half a day, as I am not the fastest in cutting out (and I also had to trace all my pattern pieces and make changes to collar and facings) and there were many pattern pieces.

I am looking forward to hear about your fabric choices and the alterations you made!

Friday 12 July 2013

Polka Dot Sorbetto

Finally, I have the time to tell you about my Polka Dot Sorbetto. Chances are high that you have seen it already on Flickr in my photo stream. Nonetheless, keep reading because in this post I will give some construction details!

First of all, I used the same fabric as for my Picnic Blanket Skirt because I had just enough left to squeeze out the Sorbetto. I was told the fabric is 100% linen, but I got doubts when cutting because it was slippery - a lot! The bow is made of quilting cotton and the nice little flower buttons I had in my stash.

I used the famous Sorbetto pattern from Colette as a template and made some changes to it:
  • removed the pleat from the front
  • added sleeves (free pattern found here) and to make things more complicated I gathered them (a lovely tutorial can be found here)
  • made a button-up version with buttons at the back
  • lengthened it by 3.5"
I used pattern size 0 and had to grade down to size 4 towards the waist. Other than that, I only had to move the bust dart down as it was pointing above my apex. That's it, no SBA or narrow back adjustment, yeah. Ah, forgot, I made a sway back adjustment!

For the button stand I added 1 1/4" (button stand) plus 5/8" (seam allowance) fabric to the center back. I made this changes on the tissue first. I also cut 1 1/4" x back length of light weight fusible interfacing to stabilize the button stand (on both sides).

This was the first time, that I used my sewing machine to sew on the buttons! There were so many that I couldn't be bothered to sew them all on by hand. I knew that I had a foot to stitch on buttons, but had never tried it before. And guess what, it is super easy and even better super fast!

It was also the first time that I tried to make my own continuous bias tape. And to my shame, I failed. I followed the tutorial from Colette and everything went great up to the point when I had to cut and found out that my tape width was not even! As I had run out of fabric and also had no bias tape around (and I really wanted to wear the top the next day), I had no choice other than to use the "bias tape" I had. Luckily, I didn't need much - just for the neckline - and I managed to sew it on. Sleeves and hem I finished with a rolled hem - thanks to my rolled hem sewing foot.

Just to add some cuteness to the front, I added a little bow tie that I made of quilting cotton following a tutorial from the Colette sewing book.

I will definitively make this pattern again. I am not sure if I am going to make the same version so. I would love to make a Sorbetto with a peplum and Peter Pan collar!

What about you? I would love to hear if you made any Sorbettos. Have you made any alterations or did you keep the original version?

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Pattern fitting, Part 2

This week I had my second and last class in fitting and sewing the Perfect Shift Dress with Mandy from Fit2Sew. My homework was to sew the waist and bust darts and when doing so, I realised they looked awful. My mistake was that at the points my darts stopped too suddenly and were not straight but curved. So we corrected that and Mandy showed me how to properly press a dart – there are so many steps to it!

Then we pinned the dress together for a final fitting and realised that the left side of my body is smaller than the right one. So we adjusted that by pinning out more fabric on the left side. Also, there was slightly too much fabric on my back. But we were able to adjust that by redrawing the sleeve seams. Then it was finally time to sew the dress together at side and shoulder seams, which was quickly done. Even quicker was to finish the seams with the overlocker (did I say already that I want one for Christmas?).

Next I stitched the neckline facing on and then it was sleeve setting time. How long did it take me? Two hours maybe? It was really frustrating! The first sleeve went in without to many problems (which might be because Mandy pinned half of it) and the second one was just a nightmare. I pinned and pinned, stitched it together, ripped out the stitches, pinned again, stitched, ripped and then Mandy took over and fixed it. I might have gotten there eventually by myself but not during class time. I think it actually might be a good idea to pin only one sleeve per day. Are you good with pinning sleeves? Is it normal that it is quite frustrating? And most important, will I get better with practise?

Class was over and the only task I had left was hand sewing. I have to admit that my hand sewing skills are non-existent. That’s why I love my sewing machine, right?! So the task ahead was to sew the hem, finish the zipper opening and attach hook and eye. Mandy estimated it would take me about 1 hour (she did not know about my poor hand sewing skills) and so, when I arrived home (after 8 hours of sewing) I started to catch stitch my hem because I really wanted to wear that dress the next day.  One and a half hours later I finished the zipper opening, had a shower, went to bed – with my sewing – and attached the hook and eye. Problem was, the hook and eye were to loose. Tired and defeated I finally fell asleep just to wake up the next morning at 5 am to rip out the stitches around hook and eye and put it together properly. One final ironing session and I could wear the dress to work, yeah! 

Here are some photos showing the lining (ignore the creases please, I was sitting all day in it):

At work I proudly presented my dress and bathed in compliments, hihi. I am so happy with the result and I am sure I will make the dress again maybe this time with a collar! I love my fabric and I love that I have interlined it - it is so nice to feel the silk on the skin (this is my first silky garment ever). The dress is perfect for the hot summer weather and will also go well with leggings and bolero at cooler days.

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