corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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A/W 2017

All the leftovers from spring/summer are used up so it was time to buy some real fabric for the Autumn/Winter 2017 wardrobe. But what to buy? What should I make?

Enter Oska – my inspiration for this year. They are a German clothing company with real shops and online and I have fallen head over heels in love with their designs and styling. This is who I want to be this year…….

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Oska design on the basis of silhouette types:

A-silhouette – feminine, figure-flattering, subtly elegant
Box-silhouette – casual, comfortable and urban
H-Silhouette – reduced, purist and variable
O-silhouette – expressive, authentic and individual
V-silhouette – casual, relaxed and variable

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Clear simple shapes and choice materials stand for an unostentatious but unique look. It is a style, which does not disguise but brings out the personality and is at the same time casual and elegant.

I delved into the pattern stash and lo and behold, I already own a number of patterns that are suitable and others that will work, with a little tweaking.

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I ordered a lot of fabric from Fabworks (they really are delightful people to deal with)

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Mostly wools, tweeds, a bit of cotton jersey and some cotton shirting. And I think I’ll have to be buying more…..

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The style aesthetic can be summed up as:  loose, layered, cropped wide trousers, unstructured coats and jackets, simple white shirts and plain tops, coordinated.

We can call it art-teacher chic or restricted Lagenlook; but I want to make this style my own. Have I found it? My Style I mean. The elusive holy grail of the middle aged woman and the sewer…..

Time to get started and find out.

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The Last of the Donna Karans

When Vogue lost the licence to produce DKNY patterns, my little sewing world became yet another wee bit smaller. However, I did take advantage of a $4.99 sale earlier in the year and bought them all up – I’m only sorry I didn’t buy more designs when I had the chance…..

1489To be honest, I only bought this dress pattern because it was the last one and I never really intended to sew it up, rather to keep it as a collector’s item. A very good friend was having a birthday night out recently and I thought I should show my admiration for her by making an effort and dressing up – I was thinking of something a little unusual, special, dressy but not dressed up, if you know what I mean?

I reached for the sacrosanct V1489 (OOP), bought 4m of lapis blue cotton jersey from Fabworks and got mentally and physically prepared for gargantuan pattern pieces the size of Montana and three thousand tailor tacks (I’ve made DKNY before!). The sewing table was cleared of all debris and extraneous items; nine hundred needles were threaded ready for those crucial tacks, one deep breath, bit of yoga and meditation and I’m ready to go.

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Most pattern pieces in this pattern are cut on a single layer of fabric because it’s an asymmetrical dress and left and right are different – this makes cutting out only slightly easier. There are still three thousand tailor tacks to sew (well, in reality, about 12) but every one of them is important – so don’t scrimp. Best advice I can give is, if you have a mannequin, use it now: cut out, mark and pin on your own Doris so that you know what piece goes where and, more importantly, what side it should be on.

Cutting out and marking up all safely negotiated, the sewing is relatively simple. I do own an overlocker and it would be easy to construct the main body of the dress on such a machine, but the pattern instructions assume that the sewer does not have one and directs you to sew a double seam. I did this and still achieved a lovely, flat finished inside seam. Just remember to trim carefully after sewing the second row of stitching.

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The pattern includes a slip that the shell dress should be sewn to: this helps with the drape and fit and additionally provides an extra safety layer below a rather low front and back neck neckline and a high front split.

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Usually I cut a 14 in Vogue but with DKNY I’ve learned to cut a 12 due to use of stretch fabric and the pleats/drapes/gathers that add yet more ease. For the actual finished dress, my plan worked, except for the under slip! I should have cut a 14 for the slip because it is very, very fitted.

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Please excuse my blotchy legs – I have deliciously sweet blood that Donegal midges just could not resist. It’s not just my legs – my arms, feet, scalp, face, neck, back and any other easily accessible skin was subjected to intensive feeding in the last two days. I’m applying anti-itching/anaesthetic lotion.

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This is one really and truly fitted slip – mine’s that tight that it’s acting like a corset and I was somewhat concerned about undressing after a night out with the girls! The original photo from the catwalk shows the dress to be rather loose with no sight of the slip but I rather like my dress slightly more fitted.

I splashed a wee bit of extra cash on some silk crepe de chine for the slip (also from Fabworks).  In my defence, it was a perfect colour match for the cotton jersey shell fabric and it’s luxurious against the body. It has managed to hold the dart stitches despite of my best efforts to tear them apart with indulgent dinners and perhaps one or three cocktails. However, I didn’t sew the dress to the slip as it was just too tight to comfortably pull on. So I have a separate slip with a wrap dress on top. It works for me.

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Sewing notes and minor alterations:

Lengthened slip by 4″, merely for modesty’s sake and decorum.

Did not add a snap fastener to the front side closure as per instructions as I didn’t think this would hold fast against the onslaught of my current diet and stomach. I adapted this to a long loop with a toggle-style button that will provide extra ease and flexibility around the mid-front while providing a stylish, yet secure closure.

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I also raised this closure to waist level. The original pattern is for the closure to be about 5″ lower – somewhere  around hip height (one of those tailor tacks, if it hasn’t fallen out by this stage).  The offset closure creates the asymmetrical hemline (as seen in the photos) but I was totally prepared to forego this look in place of a dress that stayed closed.

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Ultimately, I totally adore this dress. The fitted slip keeps me feeling secure, while the draped, crossover neckline at front and back and the front split can drape and gape as much as they want without any personal embarrassment to me whatsoever.

Because I work hard and am (usually) really nice to other people I treated myself to a matching DKNY handbag (in the sales, of course) …..

Other completed versions of this dress that you might like to see are:

Pomona with a beautiful chartreuse version.

Mousseline in totally Greek goddess vibe and shows the original front wrap placement

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I’ve just completed a marathon photoshoot today: this was Blue, next time will be Green, specifically the Burda peasant blouse showing my special adaptations and additions. Then, we’ll do the monochrome – black and white. So there are at least another three blog posts this summer.

So stay tuned by friends – much more to come…..

As always, truly grateful thanks for all encouragement, enthusiasm and engagement with my sewing and sewing exploits on this blog.

 

 


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Start Living…

“Let’s start living and dressing like every day is an occasion because it is!”          Julia Alarcon. Lialia

I have a true friend whose life has been turned upside down recently: she is remarkable; she is shining and glowing; she is optimistic, strong and positive; she is discovering her true self and loving what she finds and I like it too. I’m so glad I know her. She’s not suffering so why should I fret about a half made rain coat?

So, in a new positive and optimistic frame of mind I made a dress – a fierce blue dress mind you. An opportunity to hone those sewing skills, slow down a little and enjoy the process, take your time, do it right and end up with an ISFO (impressive successful finished object).

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I subscribe to Vogue patterns and was email bombarded recently by images of Julia Alarcon’s Lialia V1531. If you too received the emails, then you’ll know what I mean; I succumbed and after the disaster of the trench coat I was looking forward to a successful make.

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Got the pattern – needed fabric. Off to ClothSpot for some poly crepe which is the most perfect fabric for this pattern. I chose a violet-blue, sort of a bluebell blue – touching on forget-me-nots – it’s a super fabric, drapey and robust but watch out for the fraying and plucking. There’s loads of other colours available and I’m so tempted…..so tempted..

The dress itself is a gorgeous, simple, close fitting dress with drama – a very deep cowl at front and totally backless. This is not your everyday, wear to the office dress but boy, it packs some punch.

Princess seamed bodice, a 4 gore back skirt mirrored by a centre seam in the front skirt and side seams, there are lots of places for perfect fitting opportunities. I cut a 12 and literally sewed up as seen. It is a close fitting dress (at least mine is) ………..hold those tummies in, go to the gym three times a week (and NOT to the bar) and don’t breathe!

The dress has a self-lined bodice and a separate lined skirt. This means that if your stitching at neck or armholes is less than perfect, it doesn’t matter too much as it’s the same fabric on show.

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I read reviews of the pattern and everyone seemed to have trouble attaching the dress to the lining. I did too… There are alternative ways to sew the two together and previous sewers did what we all would do in the same situation, just figure out a working solution. The big problem with this dress is the cowl neck which is sewn on early in the construction as it takes up 360 degrees and prevents any turning out at all.

It went from this, to this to this.

And nothing worked. I followed the instructions, sewed and when it came to turn right sides out, it was impossible.

Conventional dressmaking dicates that to attach a lining, you turn the dress inside out, match the seams, sew and then turn right way out. And this is what the rather scant instructions state you should do. I followed this but it didn’t work.

So, I  stood on one leg and tried to turn the whole lot right sides out – No.

I threw it in a corner and hoped it would figure itself out: that somehow miraculously all would be well without any intervention from me at all – No, hardly surprising really.

I employed the services of shamans and wickens but that didn’t work either.

It took me two days to figure it out – all that mental rotation and geometry is exhausting and took up an inordinate amount of wine – but here’s how to do it. This will probably only make sense to you if you too are struggling to attach the lining as per the pattern instructions.

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As usual, in the end, it’s relatively straightforward and while not difficult, just a wee bit ackward.

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I lengthened my skirt by 3″ and with a 1.5″ hem it just about hits my knee. I’m 5’6″ so not very tall, just normal.

I adore the large drapey cowl. There’s an option for a drawstring thingy in the cowl but I left this out. The instructions also advise Hong Konging the seam in the cowl with lining fabric. Again I didn’t do this and made a flat felled seam instead which is so much neater and works equally well right side or wrong side out. According to Vogue it can be styled in lots of different ways but in end I just like it as it is.

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Dramatic as the front cowl is – the real action is at the back – or rather the lack thereof:

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Completely backless, this dress either requires a specialist bra or none at all. I was expecting the ‘hole’ to gape but it sits very comfortably and flat.

There’s a short invisible zip at centre back with a very important hook and eye – it’s this little unimposing notion that keeps the back fitted to the body, so don’t skip it and get it in the right position for perfect finishing.

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I hardly ever show my upper arms and have rarely displayed my bare back. It’s an unusual look and might take a little getting used to. I have hundreds of moles, every one a potential cancer site and I’m slightly self-conscious of them, added to which I already have scars from melanoma surgery. Usually, I’m not bothered as I don’t ever see my own back, let alone show it off, so except for these photos I didn’t really know what I looked like from this perspective.

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This is not a straightforward or simple make, despite the simplicity and clean lines of the finished garment. Vogue have rated it as Average but I’d tend to nudge it towards the Difficult rating.

Best advice I can offer if you intend making this beautiful dress –

  • Don’t turn off your iron – pressing is critical.
  • Be bold clipping the seam allowances
  • Keep old fashioned needles threaded – when the going gets tough sew by hand.
  • Take your time, seam ripper always within easy reach
  • Follow the instructions for order of construction.

Maybe every sewing project should begin with a positive state of mind……


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The Adventures of the Six Napoleons

“It’s the Napoleon bust business again,” said Lestrade. “You seemed interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought perhaps you would be glad to be present now that the affair has taken a very much graver turn.”


It’s the finale of the Six Napoleon dress challenge, set by (used to be sewing friend) Marianna of Sew2Pro. About six of us intrepid and quite possibly over-confident sewers decided to take on Sew2Pro’s challenge to make a Six Napoleon dress. None of us challengers met the first deadline of Bastille Day and I have to admit that I was one of those who requested an extension. But here it is, in all it’s Great British Sewing Bee scrappy state – my interpretation and version of Dogstar’s Six Napoleon dress……

It might look OK but truly believe me, the insides and the finish is crap (that’s an official technical sewing term just in case you are unaware of it).

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The bodice is Alabama Chanin’d down one side only with reverse applique. The skirt is 4m of a fine jersey mesh pleated and sewn to the bodice. There’s a white half circle underskirt  which I left on show at the shortest part of the skirt. All fabrics are from Fabworks.

Styling accessories include opera length fingerless gloves and a plaited neckband with intertwined pearls. My nod to the black pearl of the Borgias.

DSCN6538 The hem of the skirt is faced with a 4″ band of red jersey and (lazy girl) just serged the edge. The red peeks out as the skirt drapes and moves.

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The good news, I suppose, is that I can actually get into the dress and it fits well. I am not proud of this dress – well maybe just a wee bit pleased that I got it started, figured out, finished and worn.

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This challenge turned out to be much more difficult than any of us thought. A little bit of tedium was creeping in.

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When did I wear this dress?

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In the kitchen of course! I made a chicken curry for dinner although I did remove the gloves for that part. Then reclined on the sofa to watch the Olympic weightlifting on TV. A totally fascinating sport – a mix of strength, concentration, psychological mind games and sheer impressiveness.

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And Marianna – maybe the next time you set a challenge it could be a shift dress………….?

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“Well, well, we can’t expect to have it all our own way, Watson,” he said, at last. “We must come back in the afternoon if Mr. Harding will not be here until then. I am, as you have no doubt surmised, endeavouring to trace these busts to their source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar which may account for their remarkable fate.”

The Adventures of the Six Napoleons by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

 


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Holiday Holiday Holiday Top

Nearly four weeks….but I’m back!

I had yet another birthday and took a Ford Mustang (the only one in Northern Ireland) out for a spin up the motorway. I can’t tell you exactly how fast I drove but…..very.

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It makes me look young and slim doesn’t it? Unfortunately there’s a 12 month waiting list and with a price tag bigger than what we paid for our house, it doesn’t look like I’ll own one soon. Wearing Jungle January’s snow leopard coat – black and white always goes with red.

The exam marking is drawing to a close and becoming manageable, so thoughts are turning more and more to my first love – sewing. Me DS

Let me introduce you to a new-to-me pattern company – The Maker’s Atelier. Based in England, Frances Tobin produces some beautiful classic pieces – think Merchant and Mills without the arty bit. Not cheap and only on paper but neat little envelopes tied with string and they possess an enduring quality.

I’ve started with the Holiday Top – relaxed, boxy with a couple of options.

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All you need is thread; no zips, buttons, hooks or eyes, not even interfacing. There are little details like the hemline splits and the soft fold-over collar is both classic and casual.

The pattern comes with separate pieces for long and short sleeves: collar or hood.

Stocked up on linen from Fabworks, I started with the short sleeved shirt in the eternal-go-with-anything off-white.

I loved this so much, I carried on and currently now have another three.

Lime green – hood, drawstring made with self fabric

 

Inky indigo – long sleeved, collar

 

Lime green – mid sleeved, collar and patch pockets

As with most Internet fabric purchases you have to buy whole meters, so with the leftovers (about .75m each)  and the machine threaded in the right colour, I also got a simple white tie-neck top and an indigo vest with arty pleats and asymmetrical hemline.

Bonus, bonus.

Worn with the Holiday Tops are my custom fit Bootstrap Skinny jeans – currently at two pairs. Type in your (true and honest) measurements, get your PDF, print, cut out: sew without measuring, trying on or anything and wonders of absolute wonders – a perfectly fitting pair of jeans! Oh, I did my usual 1.5-2″ reduction in the back thigh length to eliminate baggy back thighs – did it work? Did it? It always does.

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This first pair (blue) I sewed with traditional 5/8″ seam allowances, then I read the instructions and there’s a 1cm allowance! So the ‘good’ fit, just might have been a too tight fit…….They are made in a heavy linen-look weave cotton with absolutely no stretch whatsoever. The colour is lovely though, not denim, not royal blue but tending more towards Forget-me-Not blue. From Ray Stitch.

These are not low-rise jeans, mine go all the way up to my waist and a perfect fit they are there too – no gaping or tightness – I don’t even have to lie down on the bed with a shoestring to get the zip up. The second pair were sewn with 1cm seams and are a little looser in that I can get them off without having to turn them outside out over my ankles. I did crop the length a bit for a summer-look but sure, it’s easy to lengthen the next pair.

The second pair are made with cotton twill, again from Fabworks ( I wonder if do they do loyalty cards?). It’s called Hashtag but I opted for the reverse grid side. I did try to get the horizontal stripes to match across the seams but did not achieve a uniform result: sometimes they match sometimes they don’t………

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Photobombed by a husband and a suitcase – he’s not leaving, it’s son arriving…….

The payments are being deposited from the marking – so time to start planning, prepping and purchasing for my Six Napoleon dress.