New Trend pattern TPC26 plus tips for handling a tricky fabric.

Firstly, I probably need to give you a quick explanation of why I’m making a fancy frock during the lockdown because it must seem rather incongruous.

This is my first post as a Lamazi Fabrics blogger and before the Covid-19 pandemic reared it’s ugly head I had offered to make an outfit using a slightly ‘tricky’ fabric in order to share a few hints and tips for sewing with it. I selected the beautiful Tencel/Cupro ‘Bark’ fabric in Lavender because we were going to a wedding in late May which would be the perfect chance to make a something using this special fabric. Very sadly that wedding is now postponed indefinitely but I’m making the dress because I’ll still need something to wear when it’s rescheduled. 

The fabric has a lovely weight and handle which makes it drape really well. It’s has a bark-like finish and is different on each side, you could use this to your advantage if you want to create an interesting visual effect by having some pieces with one side out and some using the reverse side. 

I made life harder for myself by choosing the new Bias T-shirt Dress by Trend patterns (generously gifted to me by them) in which EVERY piece except the sleeves are singles and strange shapes which means you cut everything out on a single layer of fabric right side up (RSU). Unlike most patterns, when you are cutting pairs of parts you can usually flip a piece without too much difficulty, however if you do that for a piece which must be cut RSU you would have completely reversed the print/design to the wrong side when you try to sew it up. This Tencel/Cupro has a nice look whichever side you use but my advice is to be really careful on printed fabrics before reversing any piece labelled RSU. 

Next, when cutting slippery or fluid fabrics (unless you have a lovely big cutting table) you’ll need to handle them as little as possible (by which I mean pulling them about to get them into position) which might be easier said than done. I know that cutting out is most people’s least favourite part of sewing but it’s so important to take time and care at this stage. If you’re cutting out on a table with straight sides use the edges as a visual marker to get the end of your cloth at a right angle to start with, ensure the weft (across the fabric) is nice and straight as well as the warp, pull a few threads to find the grain if necessary. If you have more cloth than will fit on the table in one go you could try having the excess rolled on a cardboard tube if you have one to keep it under control rather than sliding off the table all the time. 

Because my pattern has large awkward-shaped pieces cut from a single layer I had no option but to cut out on the floor! This can be physically quite tiring so you might want to get help if you need to. This is slippy slidey fabric so an extra pair of hands could help you lay it up nice and straight, again, rolling the fabric onto a long cardboard tube would also help keep the fabric taut and straight as you lay it out on the floor. This is not a fabric to use weights and a rotary cutter on unless the whole lot fits onto a cutting board without disturbing the fabric, if you’re spending time laying up the fabric carefully so that the grain lines are straight in both (warp and weft) directions you can’t then mess it about shifting a cutting mat underneath it and the pattern pieces need to be secured in place with pins. Cut out carefully moving the pieces as little as possible and try to keep them flat after cutting until you’re ready to sew. All of this will help minimise the pieces stretching out of shape, especially as a lot of this pattern has seams running on a diagonal. 

I felt that the length of the dress would probably be too long for me so I took some of the length out of the skirt pieces before I cut them out in fabric.
I calculated that approximately 5 cms would be sufficient to take out of the length so first I drew a line at a right angle to the grainline, then a second line 5cms from the first.
I pinned each piece to it’s ‘partner’ so that I could see if it would still align correctly after I folded out the 5cms.
It was really just educated guesswork but, eventually, by folding out the 5cms horizontally from each panel I was reasonably confident it would be pretty close.
Why didn’t I just take it off the hem at the end? You could easily do that but because I had just 2.5m of fabric, which may not have been quite sufficient, I could not take that risk so I did it this way instead. It took longer but removed the element of uncertainty.
This is almost everything laid up on the floor, I cut a linen version at the same time which is what you can see on the top. Whilst a single layer is often a very economic way of cutting fabric it’s usually more time-consuming to cut out so I did the two at the same time which was slightly risky but it worked out.

Once I’ve finished cutting out it’s vital to transfer all notches and mark darts and a couple of pivot points so I use old-fashioned tailor’s tacks (obviously you can use a textile marker pen if you prefer, I often do but it’s a pale fabric and I didn’t want to risk any marks being left) It’s a habit of mine to keep all the pattern pieces attached by just a couple of pins to the fabric until I need it, so that I don’t them get muddled. These are curious-shaped pieces so the chance of having them the wrong way round could be quite high! Next I stay-stitched all the neck edges on the machine 5mm in, if you have a very loose weave fabric it would probably be sensible to stay-stitch the bottom edge of the front bodice piece to prevent stretching. If you’re using a particularly fine fabric like chiffon you should stabilise the neck, and any other seams which could stretch, by hand-stitching very narrow cotton tape or ribbon over the seam line on the wrong side of the fabric. When I worked for bridal designer David Fielden many years ago we would cut the selvedges off the silk habutai linings for the seamstresses to use on necklines.

There is just a little fraying on the cut edges which I overlocked singly as I went along, as per the pattern instructions. Whether you’re sewing or overlocking the fabric I strongly suggest you have the whole piece supported on the table in front of the machine rather than feeding up from your lap. This is to prevent the piece becoming stretched as you’re sewing and possibly causing it to become misshapen.

If you find, as I did, that there’s a slight discrepancy between two seams (assuming that it isn’t an error in cutting or adjustment of the pattern) then pin it with the excess on the underside so that when you sew the feed dogs will take up the ease.

You can see the lower layer is a little longer than the top one and by sewing it with this on the underside means the feed dogs should take up the excess.
After sewing but before pressing it looked like this.

My photos should make it clearer, a good press will help steam out some of the excess too. Also, to minimise the risk of making a shiny patch on the fabric make sure you use a pressing cloth, you can often buy silk organza ones although I have a piece of plain fine pure cotton lawn which I’ve overlocked around the edge. I use this when I’m pressing darts or turning points or corners out too.

To sew an invisible zip into the diagonal seam across the back I machined the seam closed but I used a long basting stitch just for the section where the zip will go. This stitching will be removed later.

Line up the teeth with the basted part of the seam, this has been lightly pressed open already.
Pin the zip tape to the seam allowance with the seam and teeth matching.
I prefer to tack the tape to the seam allowance at this point but you could use Wonder Tape if you have it.
Now I removed the basting stitches and sewed the zip in using an invisible zipper foot. The zip I was using was longer than I needed.
Make a new stopper for the zip by carefully sewing backwards and forwards a few times over the teeth, cut off the excess then secure each side of the tape to the seam allowance using a regular zip foot.

Once the zip was in and side seams sewn up I checked the fit on myself. I cut a UK 16 and overall I’m happy with the fit and apart from the length I made no alterations to the bodice. Because I made the linen version first I already knew that the shoulders were a bit too broad for me and the sleeves dangled too much off the crown of my arm. I calculated that I needed to remove approximately 3cms to lift them up to a slightly better position. I found I didn’t need to alter the sleeve head though, fortunately it still fitted into the armhole. Another thing I did decide at this point was that the sleeve needed ’something’ else so I mocked up some small pleats and pinned the sleeve into the armhole to try out the effect.

I mocked up some small pleats with the sleeve pinned into the armhole.
I drew some markings so that I could then transfer the pleats equally to both sleeves.
More old-fashioned tailor tacks to mark the pleats.
The pleats are equally divided across the centre line of the sleeve.

After making the pleats in the sleeves and sewing up the underarm seam I used a ‘pin hem’ to finish the edge. This is similar to a simple rolled hem but even narrower. Begin by stitching a turning of approx 1cm very close to the edge, trim this carefully  

Sewing a pin hem, this is useful technique well worth mastering because if you haven’t got a rolled hem foot which could do the job, this gives a beautiful hem finish to fine or delicate fabrics.
Finished pin hem on the sleeve
Because I’d made the pattern alterations to the skirt length I wasn’t surprised to find there was a slight discrepancy in levels at the hem. Using a long ruler I averaged out a new straight line and then pin-hemmed it.

I love the 1930s/40s vibe of this dress, the drapey qualities of the fabric enhance the bias lines of the skirt in particular. I really enjoyed the challenge of putting the dress together, there are no particularly difficult techniques as such but it’s an interesting puzzle which you’ll need to spend a little time concentrating on, you’ll be rewarded with a striking but really wearable dress.

Thank you to Trend Patterns for gifting me the pattern, there was no expectation to write a review. You can read my previous review of the Square Dress pattern here. The fabric was provided by Lamazi Fabrics in return for a review which is also published on their own website.

I hope you find some tips and advice in here that might be of use to you if you’re thinking of using a fabric that needs a bit more forward planning than you’re used to. Trend have created another beautiful pattern with stunning and unusual details but the pieces cleverly work with the grain of the fabric so that working with the bias cut is a lot easier than it usually is. They have been gradually increasing their size range too so the TPC26 comes in UK sizes 6-22.

Quite a long blog this time so thank you for reading this far and, until next time,

Happy Sewing

Sue

Testing the Regatta dress from Alice & Co

Alice & Co are a pattern company run by the mother-and-daughter team of designer, pattern cutter and sewing teacher Alice, and Lilia, who is a museum textile conservator for her ‘day job’. I saw they were requesting new testers for one of their latest patterns and, as I generally enjoy the process of testing and I’m happy to give my time to assist small indie companies when possible, I was pleased to be invited to help.

The Regatta is a summer dress featuring a neckline which pulls up with ribbon to tie on the shoulders, a gathered or pleated waist, patch pockets and a button-back closure.

I had some printed viscose fabric in my stash which my good friend Claire had given me a few months back and I was sure it would be ideal for this test version of Regatta. I think the dress will be great made in a wide variety of fabrics including chambray, cotton poplin, madras cotton check, seersucker or shirting, as well as eyelet or broderie anglaise, washed linen…I could go on!

This is a PDF pattern but unlike many which provide you with ALL the pattern pieces you might require, because of the simplicity of the skirt it only gives you pieces for front and back bodice plus a patch pocket. It needs a total of 8 pages printed in colour rather a selection of dotted/dashed lines. The skirt is merely three rectangles (front and two backs) so rather than waste paper it gives you guidelines to follow for cutting the skirt pieces ‘freehand’. This isn’t as daunting as it might sound, I used the full width of the fabric cut to my chosen length PLUS a hem and a top seam allowance and then the same again but cut into two equal pieces to form the backs.

The instruction booklet is written in a nice friendly chatty style which feels both informative and encouraging, I think the illustrations are well-drawn and clear too. I printed mine out in booklet format which is a good option if your printer will allow it, 3 pages printed on both sides which fold neatly into A5.

I opted to cut a size 16 according to my measurements from the chart but I would definitely come down at least a size for the next one. As the bodice needs to be lined anyway you could make up the lining as a toile to see if you need to make any adjustments and then use it in the dress. Depending on your fabric you could self-line it or, as I did, use a plain cotton. I also decided at this stage that I would line the skirt because my fabric is a bit sheer, plus it’s a floaty skirt so I don’t want any knicker-revealing moments on windy days!! [I made a simple A-line lining, not the full pleated skirt which would have been awfully bulky]

The bodice construction is simple [if you don’t like darts you won’t be a fan though, you’ll need to make 8!]

Follow the instructions carefully for the ribbon channel openings, the diagrams will help if you’re not sure. Take care inserting the ribbons pieces at the back-cut the ribbon into one long piece for the front and two shorter pieces for the backs. You could possibly use wide elastic for this element instead if you want a different look, or make a self-fabric strip or what about using a vintage scarf even?

Once you’ve joined the outer fabric and linings together along the neck edges and armholes you’ll also need to understitch here as much as possible, to give it a nice crisp edge and stop it rolling. Just go carefully so as not to catch the fabric accidentally-you won’t be able to sew everything because it will be inaccessible in places. 

Next, when you sew the actual channels that the ribbons sit in, it might be wise to tack in position first, certainly mark the lines in some way-chalk, pencil, erasable marker-or if you have a quilting guide attachment for your machine use that. It looks like a piece of bent metal which slots in behind the foot of your machine. You can see it better in the photo although this was a different project. This enables you to follow a stitching line which is considerably further away than your usual seam allowance markings on the needle plate will allow. You’ll need to be most careful sewing the back channels because the ribbon is already in position so don’t sew through it by accident, it won’t gather up. Slot the ribbon through the front when you’ve sewn the front channel, or leave it until you’re ready to try the dress on and adjust the bows to your taste at the end.

using the quilting guide attachment to follow a wider width [this was on the Heron dress]

Making up the skirt is simple enough, don’t forget to interface the button-stand areas for stability. The pockets are positioned over the side seams but they could go directly on the front if you prefer.

I opted to use pleats on the skirt because I prefer how they look on me to gathers. I don’t have any sage advice or foolproof mathematical equation for working this out I’m afraid, I just pinned the skirt to the bodice at the side seams, CF and CB button-stand and then fiddled until I was happy with the pleats before stitching it on. There were lots of pins involved!  

lots of pins holding the pleats in position ready to sew.

If you aren’t lining the skirt then you can simply slip stitch the lining in place by hand as per the instructions. As I was lining the skirt too I cut, sewed and hemmed a simple A-line shape in plain cotton which I stitched to the bottom of the bodice lining, obviously it must have the gap at the back for the button opening. I simply caught this down behind the button-stand with a few hand stitches so it doesn’t flap about. So that it doesn’t ride up inside the dress I hand-sewed a few stitches at the side seams and CF where the seams meet to anchor them together loosely.

The lining looks like this inside, it doesn’t need to be the full length of the skirt although it could be if you want.

I used a nice deep hem of 5cms to give the skirt weight. I overlocked the edge and then used the blindhem stitch and foot to sew it up. As the hem is straight you could face it instead with bias binding or ribbon, or a contrast fabric for a different look, either machine top stitch or slip-hem in place by hand. The photos show the blindhem for my machine but most machine manuals will show you how to sew this-definitely practice to get it right as there is a knack to it.

I used 4 buttons on the bodice section and then 6 buttons on the skirt, evenly spaced so that there’s still a nice ‘split’ at the bottom. I have a ‘thing’ about button opening on skirts where the bottom button is too close to the hem, don’t ask me why, I just don’t find it aesthetically pleasing. For a novel detail I used red and blue thread to sew on the bodice buttons and ivory on the skirt. I also added a small hook and eye at the waist seam to take any strain off the button at this point. 

All that remains is to pop your dress on and pull up the ribbons to your desired amount and tie in a bow, trim the ends into neat Vs to stop them fraying. Once you’ve adjusted the gathers to your liking then pin and stitch in a few places as per the instructions to hold them in place evenly.  

I used green Grosgrain ribbon as a contrast to the otherwise nautical colours of my Regatta dress.

I just need to find a nice wide belt to finish it off I think although it works perfectly well without. My Regatta dress has already had two wears since I finished it and it’s quirky details make it stand out. It isn’t an ultra-quick make compared to some styles but it’s worth the effort and makes a charming and feminine summer dress. It would even work in more ’special’ type fabrics too, like panne velvet, Chantilly lace or crepe de chine for an evening or party dress.

Once again it’s been an interesting process to help test a pattern and Alice & Co were quick to respond to queries. Another reason I was keen to assist is because as a brand they are very supportive of the Sew Over 50 cause by reposting images shared by older makers using their patterns, and have generously provided prizes in our previous challenges.

So while the sun is out here in the UK this could be a nice addition to your summer/holiday wardrobe.

Until next time,

Happy sewing

Sue

Simple Sew Zoe dress hack

I haven’t written a Simple Sew blog post for a few months but now that Sam Sterken has taken over with the organisation whilst Gabby is having her maternity leave we’re up and running again.

I had a bit of an idea in my head of what I’d like to do using the Zoe pattern which I already had so I chose some medium-weight enzyme washed linen in dark turquoise generously provided for us once again by Doughty’s Fabrics. I was really pleased with it when it arrived as it wasn’t too droopy but not over-firm either. Incidentally, it’s been terrible to photograph accurately, the final outdoor photos are definitely the closest to the real thing [to see how I altered the Zoe neckline so it wasn’t so wide have a look at my previous blog post in early 2018)

I drew a few sketches of ideas which all involved using the top half of the Zoe-initially I was going to extend the sleeves with wide pleated frills and keep the dress straight but I went off that idea as I felt the fabric was too firm for how I wanted it, I thought it would definitely work well with a peg-top skirt instead however. I wanted a shape that wasn’t too voluminous at the hem and by using an inverted A-line shape I could add pleats at the top but keep the hemline slimmer.

I went with option 4

I tried on one of my existing Zoes (I’ve made 3) so I could assess what length I wanted the top section, and took an arbitrary measurement of 34cms from the centre of the front neckline to where I wanted the waist, which is slightly higher than my natural waistline. As the Zoe has centre front and back seams I then measured from the top edge down to the point where I wanted the waist seam and drew a line at a right angle on the pattern across from that point. I took that line across to the side seam but at the point where the line met the side seam I made it a right angle, which creates a very slight curve on the line. Because the back neck sits a little higher than the front I matched the side seams to one another first and created a similar line across to meet the centre back seam. [It’s important that these lines are at a right angle where they meet at the side seams because otherwise you would have a slight V shape rather than a smooth line from front to back] 

I already have a skirt pattern that I’d drafted last year for a similar peg-top shape, I’d used it gathered though and I wanted pleats on the new dress. Initially I attempted to work out how to get 3 even sized pleats by folding and refolding the paper but I couldn’t quite get it. In the end I decided to cut the pieces in fabric as they were-with a slight modification for the front skirt as that piece was quite different-and then I’d work out the pleats once I was ready to attach the bodice and skirt together.

I cut all the bodice/sleeve/neck facings and assembled the bodice first. I’ve found that it’s easier to sew up the shoulders and attach the neck facings as described in the instructions but then attach the sleeves with the bodice open flat before sewing the side seams rather than in the round. The photos should help make this method quite clear. I added rows of contrast triple straight stitch to various seams as I went including around the neck [I used the quilting guide which came with my machine to do this accurately]

the sleeve is pinned on with the bodice opened out flat
the seam is pressed towards the sleeve
then the sleeve is pressed up towards the shoulder
the underarm seam is sewn up, overlocked together and then the sleeve is folded up again and top stitched into position.
On the outside I used the quilting guide on my machine to sew 4cms away from the finished edge of the neck.
top stitching on the neck edge.
the finished bodice

Next I cut the front and back skirts from the remaining fabric, plus I also cut two pairs of pockets for the side seams using the cardboard template I’ve made. [Just choose a pocket pattern that suits the size and shape that you mostly use to go in side seams and then make a cardboard version, mark the grainline and then all you need to do in future is place it on your fabric and draw around it with a pencil or chalk, it saves a paper piece getting scrappier and scrappier with constant use.]

card pocket template
the back and front skirt sections, the back is placed again the selvedge and the front extends all the way to the fold, I didn’t cut down the righthand side of the pattern as it looks here.

I made up the front and back skirt sections, adding the pockets to the side seams, then top stitched the CF seams as before, I didn’t top stitch the CB seam at this stage as I wanted to be able to sew in a continuous line with no breaks and I couldn’t achieve this until the hem was turned up too. Incidentally, as many of the seams were going to be pressed open inside the dress I overlocked the edges of most of them first then sewed the seam and pressed open. 

Next I pinned on the skirt starting by matching the centre front, back and side seams. Because I had no other markings now I played around with different positions for the pleats until I happy with how they looked. This will vary according to what size you’ve cut the waist but for mine I settled on 10cms each side of the CF seam for the first pleat and then the second and third pleats were a further 4 cms away from the previous one. I checked all the measurements to ensure that they were each symmetrical and well-balanced before I sewed it all together, overlocked to neaten and added another row of top stitching to the waist. 

Initially I tried to work out using my existing skirt pattern where the pleats would go but I couldn’t quite get my head around it so I chose to try it freehand in the fabric which, in the end, was a lot better.
the pins mark where I would match the pleats to the bottom of the bodice.
finished pleats!

This just left the hem length to check, I had opted for quite a long skirt length because I wanted the dress to be a fairly loose throw-on shape but not too baggy or undefined. I was happy with the length I’d plumped for so I used the triple straight stitch once again around the bottom and then down the CB seam, creating an angled line to define the facing which finished the slit opening. 

I’m not always super-happy with everything I make (and in truth I’ve positioned the pockets a little bit low in this dress) but I can’t wait to wear this dress during the summer! I’ve only ever worn my previous Zoes with long-sleeved tops layered underneath in chilly weather so it’s a bit of a revelation to realise that the sleeves are the perfect length for a summer dress. I think the skirt shape is more interesting than just a gathered dirndl and the lime-green contrast topstitching is a bit of fun. The linen is a great weight for this too, it will be crumply but that’s part of the charm of linen fabric…I think I may have to make more of this frock!

Until next time,

Happy sewing

Sue

My first Sew Me Sunshine fabric review.

When Harriet asked me if I’d contribute a blog post for Sew Me Sunshine I was excited and very happy to help. After I’d had a good look at all their lovely fabrics I settled on the pink colour-way of the Gemma viscose/linen mix, it’s such a pretty shade with a magnolia flower print. When the fabric arrived Harriet has included a helpful card with full fabric details including fibre composition details plus width and quantity purchased. There’s a space to note if you pre-wash or not before it goes in the stash or straight to use.

The print is quite wide spaced and one-way [actually there are one set of flowers which run in one direction and another set which go the opposite way] so it’s worth bearing this in mind with pattern placement, and all your pieces should be positioned one way or the other.

I decided to make a Maven patterns French Dart shift dress which I’ve made twice before because it’s a lovely simple shape with no fastenings which makes it quite quick to make, three sleeve options, side seam pockets and an elegant roll collar.  

Because of the positioning of the print I opted to have the smaller flowers running down the centre rather than the large blooms which would have resulted in a more wasteful lay plan. As I had enough fabric I opted for the long sleeved version which I’ve made both times previously, the gathers at the cuff are so pretty. I cut the sleeves so that similar flowers are on a level with the dress front.

Because the fabric is quite loosely-woven and a linen mix it tends to fray a bit you’ll need to be aware of this. Making a style with lots of gathers may not be wise because it will start to come apart eventually the more you pull the gathers up-the cuffs on this dress were fine as it’s fairly short. The fabric would look lovely in pleats or folds too.

the gathered cuff has a pretty binding

The fabric sews up beautifully, it isn’t overly drapey but it’s nicely fluid and responds well to pressing although like most linen, and linen/mix, there is noticeable but not excessive creasing-this is one of the features of the fabric and you have to accept that as part of it, it isn’t a fault. You could also use it for loose-fitting shirts or trousers, for example the Zadie jumpsuit from Paper Theory would look gorgeous in it or what about the Tilly and the Buttons Seren dress, nothing too tight-fitting though as it will crease badly or ‘seat’. You can always add a soft cotton lawn lining to a fabric like this which might help, this particular fabric isn’t sheer though so you can’t really see through it.

The structure of the fabric lends itself to the roll-neck collar and this one doesn’t have any interfacing in it, it stands well on its own.

I’m really happy with the finished dress, it’s very feminine and in a very unpredictable British climate I think it will be ideal on cooler warm days (does that make sense!?) I’ll wear it with tights in the autumn. Incidentally, I hand finished the hem so that the stitches are invisible, you could machine it up though.

We went to a wedding at Hatfield House just after I finished the dress so what better opportunity to wear it and stand in front of some of the most beautiful wisteria. What you can’t see is the long-sleeved thermal top I’m wearing underneath because it was actually freeeezing cold and I was determined not to wear a coat over the top!
We’re always entertaining wedding guests!
In the beautiful Old Palace Garden, it’s evening now so it was getting a bit dark for decent photos really.

Thank you Harriet for providing me with the fabric and the opportunity to write about it-it also comes in a pale blue colour-way too which is equally lovely if pink isn’t your thing. 

Until next time,

Happy Sewing,

Sue


Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

The last few weeks on the blog have been very much about Sew Over 50 which has all been very exciting but that has meant that I haven’t had as much time to write about the other things which interest me a lot.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m really interested in the history of fashion and so visiting exhibitions of clothing from across the decades, or even centuries, is something I love to do. Living where I do I’m fortunate to be well placed to get into central London in less than an hour making most galleries and museums very accessible.

London’s blockbuster fashion exhibition this spring is Dior: Designer of Dreams which opened at the beginning of February in the V&A in South Kensington and it is such a beautiful show with literally hundreds of outfits on display. It’s being staged in their newest space, the Sainsbury Wing, which is underground but doesn’t feel remotely subterranean when you’re in it. Each room is different and begins with the single most famous outfit of all, the Bar suit from the first ‘New Look’ collection of February 1947. Nearby are other interpretations of it by the designers who followed Dior himself as head of the house which he created.

Bar suit February 1947

The show is thematic rather than chronological which personally I think makes it more coherent, not less. Whilst each designer has brought their own aesthetic to the label there is an element of timelessness about many of the creations. [It’s quite a fun game to see if you can work out which era a gown comes from, I was wrong a number of times, sometimes I went modern and they were from the 50’s and other times the opposite was true] The show takes you through a series of rooms which contain gowns of every shape and hue. Early on you come across the gown created for Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday ball in 1951. She and her mother continued to be Dior fans even after Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, she herself has only ever worn British designers since.

The rooms are cleverly arranged because you move from one to the next and they all feel quite spacious and different to the previous one, some have dark backgrounds whilst others are light and airy. Some gowns are behind glass but many are not so you can get a good view of the exquisite workmanship and skills that have gone into each of them.

When he was alive Christian Dior made full use of the allure of Hollywood film stars to promote his collections and he dressed many leading ladies including Rita Hayworth and Jane Russell, their shapely figures were perfect for showing off his womanly designs. In fact Coco Chanel was very critical of his New Look because she saw it as a step backwards for women in terms of having to wear restrictive garments like corsets again, this coming after the relative freedom she had created with her boyish shapes in the pre-war years.

The pastel colours in the next room are beautifully lit and there are gowns by many of the designers who have come after Christian himself including the 21 year old prodigy Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. I loved this room…

Moving on from this room to the next there is a marked contrast with the gowns or ensembles being influenced by or referencing travel around the world. Several of John Galliano’s most fantastical creations are here alongside more wearable dresses by the other designers.

At various points there are also smaller cabinets and display cases containing other items of interest including beautiful perfume bottles, and photographs from Christian Dior’s beloved garden.

It might not look like it but this is dress is only about 30cms high
a perfect miniature dress embellished with flowers
A Raf Simons gown in front of a Christian Dior original
the setting in this room is stunning with thousands of papercut flowers and petals cascading from the ceiling
Lily of the Valley were one of Christian Dior’s favourite flowers and they featured regularly in his collections.

I actually wish that perfume had been wafted into this room to enhance the beautiful ambience…a hint of Miss Dior perhaps (named for his sister Catherine) or the scent of lily of the valley from Diorissimo?

The talents of all the Creative Directors are show-cased in the next room starting with Yves Saint Laurent’s brief tenure (he left to do his National Service in the army) Marc Bohan who served for the longest time and is still alive at the age of 93. After him came Italian Gianfranco Ferre followed by the notorious and flamboyant Gibraltarian John Galliano. When his reign ended abruptly under a cloud he was eventually followed by Belgian Raf Simons, and finally the first woman to hold the role, Italian Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Raf Simons
I love this pleated skirt by Raf Simons
This could only be John Galliano in his pomp
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s ‘Tarot’ coat looks as if it has been made from pieces of Medieval ecclesiastical embroidery

The next room is of particular interest to keen dressmakers because it is entirely filled with toiles of gowns, jackets and ensembles. It’s snowy whiteness is a stark contrast to all the bright colours and embellishment in the previous rooms and it heightens the drama of the superlative cutting and construction skills of the all-too-often unsung atelier staff or ‘petit mains’ as they are usually known. These are where the ideas are tried out, where the unusual cut of a sleeve is experimented with, or a dart on a collar attempted. It doesn’t waste costly and precious fabric and it helps visualise unusual proportions or new concepts. These toiles are about way more than just checking the fit on a garment.

Moving next through a narrow space displaying hundreds of magazine covers over the decades featuring Dior fashions old and new on one side, and a glass cabinet on the other side containing many shoes, bags, scarves, jewellery and other accessories and miniature versions of gowns and ensembles perfect in every detail like the full-size originals.

And finally you arrive at the best room of all. I had no idea what was coming so to round the corner and emerge into a huge ballroom space with lighting, music and special effects was breathtaking to say the least. There are literally dozens of gowns to look at, including three iterations of the J’Adore gowns worn by Charlize Theron in the perfume adverts.

J’Adore gowns
gowns worn by Lupito Nyong’o and Nicole Kidman.

You need to spend as long as you can in this room to fully experience it, there are places to sit too so you can rest and take it all in.

There’s only one more gown to see before you leave and it’s set between mirrors so you get the sense that there are many dresses, not just one.

The final gown was created by Maria Grazia Chiuri and it harks back to Christian Dior right at the beginning. It is soft and feminine and it references the New Look with its full pleated skirt and elegant lines. It could be from 1947 but it is very much of the now.

I absolutely love this exhibition! I’ve been able to go twice so far, as well as attend a talk between exhibition curator Oriale Cullen and Harper’s Bazaar editor Justine Picardie. As I keep mentioning in other posts, I’ve had such good value from my Membership of the V&A and this year will be no different. In April a retrospective of the work of Mary Quant also opens too. I purchased my own membership and all views expressed here are entirely my own.

You have until July 14th to see this exhibition and if you have any chance of being in London I urge you to try and get a ticket. I believe there are 500 additional tickets available every day but they sell out very quickly, check the website for updates would be my suggestion. I hope I’ve been able to give those of you who can’t get to London a small taste of the show, and for those of you who hope to get here my photos in no way do it justice and you’ve definitely got a lot to look forward to!

Until next time,

Sue

Making Burda 6914

I’ve recently realised that Burda 6914 has become a bit of a favourite as I’ve just made it for the fourth time so I thought I’d write a quick review of it here. It has 3 variations; sleeveless cocoon dress with hem darts, cocoon dress with a hem band and short sleeves, and a sleeveless top. They all feature the double pleat at the neckline and a visible bias binding neck finish. There’s no zip, it just goes over your head.

I got my copy quite some time ago with Sew Magazine but it’s still available to buy . My first version was the dress with darts at the hem and I added the sleeves. I had some wintery fabric of unknown origin or fibres in a dogtooth check so I didn’t want the short sleeves. The sleeves have 2 external darts which is an interesting feature but I wanted them longer so I increased the pattern to below elbow length simply by continuing the seam lines down to the length I wanted (sorry, it was ages ago and I didn’t take a photo at the time) make sure that the 2 seams are the same length as each other, it will gradually increase the width the longer they get. I then created new darts on the outside to absorb the fullness I had added, 5 in total.

IMG_3637
the finished external pleats

The dress goes together very quickly, make the pleats in the front, join the shoulders, add the binding watch the instructions here as you’re told to trim the neck edge before adding the binding. 

fullsizeoutput_2888
With a striking design like a dogtooth check the bias binding at the neck will add a nice touch.

fullsizeoutput_2886
I’ve added pockets (of course) which aren’t part of the pattern. The darts at the hem are quite diddy but they give the skirt a nice shape. It’s been one of my favourite winter dresses.

Following the success of this dress I made another a few months later in a striped poly crepe from somewhere or other.

IMG_4978
I added pockets again but as a single layer that was stitched directly to the front. 

IMG_4982

IMG_4980
I cut the sleeves on the cross grain so that the stripes were diagonal.

IMG_4984
I love how the binding looks on this one but it does make your eyes go funny!

I liked this dress but I didn’t like how it looked on me. The sleeves made my arms look chunky and somehow the length didn’t feel right either-odd, because I didn’t do anything different to the pink/black dress. I wore it once and then it languished in the wardrobe for ages. Eventually I unpicked the sleeve darts and re-hemmed them and I cut off some of the skirt to the bottom of the pockets. I thought about unpicking the pockets too but that might have left holes in the front plus it would be quite a bit more work.

IMG_6508
I’m wearing the top with my Megan Nielsen Ash jeans.

fullsizeoutput_288c
Much happier with this! I made a split hem detail and the sleeves are so much better.

Version 3 was made with 1 metre of viscose fabric which had been donated by Stoff & Stil in the second Sewing Weekender goody bags. Because it was 150cms wide I managed to get a top with short straight sleeves to which I added a short frill.

I hemmed the frill using the rolled hem on my overlocker so that it lost barely any fabric. The neck has a button and loop closure.

The latest version is made in a lovely 100% organic cotton lawn which I bought on impulse at the Sewisfaction Big Summer Stitch Up in July. I’d earmarked it for yet another Camber but changed my mind.

IMG_8172
I tried out the ‘fork’ pleating method on the sleeve hems this time. I made a long strip of fabric gleaned from the leftovers and neatened them first with a rolled hem finish again. It’s a really simple method and I don’t know why I haven’t used it before. I think some people use the fork to create the pleat first and which they pin in place before sewing but I did it directly in the machine, just needing to be very careful that the needle didn’t hit the fork!! In truth the strip I made wasn’t quite long enough and I ought to have added a bit more but I’d already hemmed it and couldn’t be bothered. It just meant I had to juggle the pleats a bit to get them relatively even, it really isn’t that noticeable (I hope) If you’re good at maths you might be able to work out the ratios for this….I’m not and I didn’t… 

IMG_8179
I used two buttons in similar colours to the print, one on top of the other. I always make a hand-sewn loop, it’s usually the last thing and I find it quite a soothing, peaceful way to finish a make.

IMG_8180
There’s an option for a double binding at the neck which I used this time. I think I like it but it doesn’t sit flat like the usual method.

IMG_8181IMG_8182fullsizeoutput_28a7

IMG_8185
It has a pretty hand-painted look to the design, the background colour is a little more Eau-de-Nil than it looks here. 

fullsizeoutput_28a8

Knowing me this probably still isn’t the last of Burda 6914. One thing I keep forgetting is that there’s slightly too much ease in the sleeve head and I have to adjust the armhole so just watch out for this.

Have you got a favourite quick pattern that you go back to time and again? This isn’t a taxing make and there are times when I think I should push myself more with more complex makes but this is a satisfying garment to wear which is why I keep returning to it.

Until next time,

Happy Sewing

Sue 

a TR pattern cutting taster class

In my previous post I talked about my visit to the Fashion Technology Academy  for their first ‘Behind the Seams’ blogger event and in this one I’m talking about the other part of our visit which was a taster session of TR (Transformational Reconstruction) pattern cutting with the brilliant Claudette Joseph.

TR is a technique that has been developed by Shingo Sato, a Japanese designer who at one time worked for the late Azzedine Alaia. He creates fantastical garments that are both extraordinary and beautiful tromp l’oeil. When I was at college this technique didn’t really exist, the only way to create similar garments with such dramatic elements was to ‘model’ it on the stand in fabric and then create flat patterns from that. Shingo has developed a way to make these patterns now using a 2D method and he travels the world teaching it at very in-demand workshops.

IMG_5195

Claudette Joseph is a 5 times Master and the leading UK exponent of the technique so have a 2 hour session from her was a real privilege.

IMG_5174
Claudette showing us some of her samples

First of all she explained more about the technique and then she showed us some of her amazing samples, these are just a few of them and they are mind-blowing!

fullsizeoutput_22f1IMG_5190IMG_5194

and a few more….

IMG_5198

It doesn’t just have to be bodices either, these sleeves are typical too…

Claudette patiently showed us how to create a beautiful spiral-pleated effect on half a front bodice. IMG_5209IMG_5208

IMG_5210
concentrating….

fullsizeoutput_22f7
Mine and Emily’s finished patterns

I enjoyed this part of our visit so much, it really got my creative juices flowing. It’s a technique that you have to concentrate fully on as there’s plenty of room for error, we all felt doubtful as we went along and were convinced it was all going wrong! In truth, you are only likely to see examples of TR on high end couture and bespoke garments, probably evening or wedding gowns in particular, but simplified versions of it would look beautiful on more affordable garments.

After I got home I cut my pattern in fabric and put it together to see how it might look.

IMG_5230
This is what the pattern looks like when it’s opened out flat.

IMG_5249IMG_5250IMG_5251

IMG_5252
on the inside, this could be covered by a support fabric and would certainly be lined.

IMG_5253
the sample doesn’t fit Doris because she isn’t the right size but you get the idea. The hole is probably a bit bigger than it should be so I must have made a mistake somewhere in the process, the folds should close up a bit more than that although a lining behind it would prevent the wearer from exposing herself!

I want to thank Claudette for her patience and for sharing her knowledge with us, I’d definitely like to do one of her 2 day workshops sometime later in the year. If you’re intrigued to try TR then you can check the website for details of future workshops.

Our day finally ended with us very generously being given 4m of fabric to take away, as well as a box of Moon threads from William Gee-thank you.IMG_5225

We all had a brilliant day and if you’re looking for somewhere to study the fashion industry this could be a great alternative to college or Uni.

Happy sewing

Sue

all photos are my own or sourced from Google.

Anneka tunic by Simple Sew patterns

IMG_4519

I chose the Anneka tunic as my first proper Simple Sew blogger make because I like the front and back box pleat detail and I do like a nice pinafore! It’s one of those styles that you could make in a warm fabric for winter like tweed or corduroy, or in a summer-weight linen or cotton drill perhaps. I have a not-insubstantial stash of fabric that I’ve accumulated over a long period but there wasn’t quite enough of any of the three pieces I wanted use which was so annoying. What I could have done was leave out the box pleats but then it wouldn’t still be the pattern I chose in the first place so there was nothing for it, I had to buy more fabric.

I took myself up to Walthamstow market where the famous Man Outside Sainsbury’s came up trumps with some lovely cloth. If you’re close enough to London he’s well worth a look [Saturdays he’s outside Sainsbury’s and Tuesday and Thursday he’s outside Lloyds/HSBC] I think a lot of his stock is ex-designer fabrics so you can often find some gems. It was fairly quiet when I arrived-it’s worth getting there early before the market starts to get crowded later on-so I had a good look round. I spotted a few possibles but then he drew my attention to some lovely wool which turned out to be Harris tweed. I bought some of the check, and I fell for a beautiful plain red too.

IMG_4554
It might not be much to look at but he has some great fabrics.

IMG_4556
checked Harris tweed and a lovely silky lining

Once I got home I decided to make the Anneka in the red [laziness really, I wouldn’t need to pattern match anything!] The pattern instructions remind you to launder your fabric but because this is wool I’ll have to dry clean it whenever it needs it.

IMG_4555
the Harris tweed symbol

Because I’m super-stingy on fabric quantities in order to cut both front and back on a fold I had to fold the tweed slightly off the norm and not following the lay plan which is more wasteful, the photo below explains that a bit clearer hopefully.

fullsizeoutput_2165
Both selvedges are folded into the centre but slightly more than half way each, hence the strange way it looks here. Each selvedge was folded by about 42cms towards the centre which means there’s an area of overlap. The front and the back pieces interlock with one another and the pocket and bias binding fit into other areas.

Because it’s wool I wanted to line the dress so I cut that too but it doesn’t need the pleats. Simply place the front and back pieces onto the fold of the lining but without the whole box pleat, you could keep a little of it if you wish though. I actually made a seam in the centre back by using the selvedge simply to save a bit more fabric. I cut some for the pockets too, the photo below should help. The pocket lining is cut smaller than the tweed, minus the fold at the top.

When it comes to construction the first thing to do is make the pockets. I wanted to line the pockets so I used the lining I’d cut to bag them out instead of pressing the edges under as per the instructions.

IMG_0009
One habit that may not have occurred to you to do is a practice called ‘chaining on’ which basically means instead of taking each part that you sew out from under the presser foot and then inserting the next piece, instead, lift the presser foot and pull the sewn piece out of the way slightly and then put the next piece underneath and continue to sew.  Obviously you still backstitch at the start and finish as normal but this can be a big time, and thread, saver. Making a pair of pockets is a good example of this.

IMG_0010
Stitch the lining to the top of the pocket and press the seam towards the lining.

fullsizeoutput_216e
Fold in half and stitch leaving a gap at the bottom.

fullsizeoutput_216f
Trim the corners

fullsizeoutput_2172
Turn through and press, the gap at the bottom will get stitched up when you sew the pocket onto the dress.

Sew the pockets onto the dress-I moved mine slightly further apart than the tailor tacks because I thought they looked a bit close together (they could possibly move down a bit too, particularly if you’re tall with long arms!). Before I sewed them on though I thought I’d try out one of the fancy stitches my new machine does. I settled on a sort of wave which looks quite nice.

You could choose to embellish the pocket top edge using braid or ribbon for example, or you could fold the top so that it’s on the outside instead, as a wide band, and top stitch it down. Or you could make the pockets in a contrast fabric.

Once the pockets are on you can make the pleats in the front and back. Making the actual pleat is fine but getting it nice and central and even on wool needs a little bit of effort. I made a row of tailor tacks down the CF and CB lines so that I could ‘squash’ the pleat flat and know that I had them central all the way down. If you look at these photos you can see how I pinned through the the tailor tacks to the CF and CB seams underneath. Once I was happy they were accurate I basted the pleats down the edges through all the layers to stop them moving about.

 

IMG_4625
Once I was happy with the pleat positioning I top stitched it down in the centre like this. This isn’t part of the pattern instructions [although stitching across the top of the pleat is] but I think it’s quite an important step as it keeps the pleat permanently in position.
Because I’m using pure wool fabric I can use lots of steam, this really helps the pleats stay in place and can be useful in shrinking out excess and any stretched parts elsewhere too. Make sure you use a pressing cloth though so that you don’t get shiny marks on the fabric.  

IMG_4562
I left the basting in position until I’d completely finished the dress. This is before I’d put the lining in and the binding around the neck.

Sew the shoulders and side seams next, I made the lining up to this point too and, after neatening the seams, stitched it inside the tweed with wrong sides together.

The instructions allow for ready-made bias binding so you could choose a matching colour, or a contrast, or make your own as I did.

This was a slightly risky strategy because the tweed is fairly thick but I decided to give it a try. I made about 1.5m of bias which I pressed under by one centimetre on just one edge using my homemade crease-pressing guide. It’s just a piece of cardboard with centimetres drawn on in 5mm increments.

fullsizeoutput_2177
Yes I have written ‘hem guide’ on it so that I don’t chuck it away accidentally thinking it’s just a piece of card!

Once the binding was pressed I pinned and stitched it to the inside edge of the neck and armholes. This is because I wanted it to come to the outside and then topstitch it down for a visible and decorative finish.

IMG_4577
Sewing the binding to the inside so that it flips to the outside when it’s finished.

IMG_4578
After stitching the binding on I trimmed the seam down slightly [I ‘graded’ it which means that I trimmed the layers by slightly different amounts which should help prevent there being a bulky lump when you’re dealing with thicker fabrics.] Next I under-stitched the binding close to the seam, which is what you can see here.
Now carefully pin and tack the binding down around the neck and armhole edges, try and do this as evenly as possible because it will be completely visible. It’s worth taking your time. Topstitch it down close to the folded edge

fullsizeoutput_21b0
The binding is visible on the outside instead of being hidden inside as usual so take your time with the preparation and topstitching.

If you’re a bit stuck with the binding there’s tutorial on the Simple Sew website which should help, just click on my link.

Finally, finish your hem. This time I decided to use some grosgrain ribbon over the raw edge to stop any chance of it fraying-as you can see I had just enough!!

IMG_4579
The narrowest of narrow margins!

fullsizeoutput_21c9
First machine the tape or binding on the lower edge then turn the hem up as usual and stitch in position.

The lining should be shorter than the main fabric by a couple of centimetres, I did this at the cutting out stage.

fullsizeoutput_2164
Yay, a sunny day to take pictures

IMG_4609IMG_4606IMG_4603fullsizeoutput_2163

Overall I’m happy with my first Anneka, I might cut the next one a bit shorter though. This version is nice and cosy and the lining will help it to keep it’s shape. If you’re using pure wool for skirts, dresses or trousers it’s definitely an idea to line it to prevent it ‘seating’ or going baggy. I’m wearing it with a RTW top but a shirt or blouse would like nice too. In spite of the absence of darts and a zip this one wasn’t particularly quick to make because of all the care I had to take with the fabric and various techniques but a slow-sew can be really satisfying if you’ve got the time.

Until next time,

Happy sewing

Sue