corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Not Sewing, Engineering!

Well hello there! Let’s hope the long wait for a new post was worth it…….

Firstly, you are going to try and follow A Train of Thought.

I have a wedding to go to in May and I have about one hundred dresses that I could wear. I checked through this blog for some existing candidates: I am also quite sure that when my S/S clothes come out of the attic there will be a few others to choose from that I have forgotten about!

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Each one is perfectly acceptable with a pair of high heels and a bit of lipstick. But it’s always nice to make a new one, isn’t it, especially for a grand occasion like a wedding?

And so the hunt began…….style, fabric, impact, era, comfort factor etc etc etc.

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I should add that the wedding ceremony will take place in Mussenden Temple, part of the National Trust property at Bishop’s Gate, followed by a reception in a restaurant on the beach. One half of the day is exclusive – the other half is surfer-dude.

After hours of arduous, but pleasantly so, researching I finally managed to narrow the selections down.

These are the shortlisted styles:

Slide2These are the shortlisted fabrics:

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There is a common thread (ha ha) in my chosen styles – asymmetrical, vintage looking, fitted bodice and straight-ish skirts with volume. Put all that together and you end up in Vivienne Westwood land.

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So now, we move on to actual making of the dress. No commercial patterns are available that resemble anything like these frocks [unless you can tell me differently and if you do I’ll really appreciate it] but what do I have in my book shelves, only the complete art of draping? (pic on right).9781780670935.in11

Hurrah! With a tonne of marking to do and the Easter holidays approaching, I ignored the marking, went to Asda and bought some flat white sheets as muslin for a couple of quid and studiously set to work finding grainlines, draping on Doris and having fun.

The Train of Thought has now reached a conclusion and turning that into a real thing now begins. The ‘muslin’ was going to be my pattern. I needed fabric for a toile. I found some cheap but very wide poly taffeta on My Fabrics, ordered 4m and twiddled my thumbs for a few days until it arrived. On our, now monthly, sewing away days, I packed up Doris, the ‘muslin’, the fabric, two pairs of sharp scissors and three million pins and headed to Castleward for a fab day of cutting and pinning and feedback and ideas, all accompanied with buns, cake and lots of chatter.

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There were a few issues: enough fabric for only one sleeve and no back! One sewing pal did point out that a back might be more important than sleeves. Having considered this, I do have to agree with her. The other major issue was that although pinning bits of fabric to a doll might produce ‘a dress’, as a real live person I cannot have pins in my tummy. This dress had to be constructed as a garment that could be put on and taken off. Hence, the engineering………

I’ll cut a very long story short; this project was quickly becoming an epic. With the little scraps left over, I did manage to cut two backs and pieced together enough to make another sleeve. There’s an invisible zip at centre back and that’s the entrance and egress.

This is probably not making any sense to you right now and I can fully understand that because it didn’t make any sense to me and I was there! The dress is actually two pieces because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out a way to join the very full, balloon hemmed side skirt to the rest of the dress.

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The principle dress has a half-circle skirt to one side, fitted back pieces with a zip, two (!) tucked 3/4 length sleeves, a large wrap bodice with lots of gathers that buttons all the way around the waist for a bit of figure enhancement and an added scarf-like collar.

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There was a lot of hand sewing too – a true couture dress. A one-off.

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Please don’t be concerned about the bandages on Doris – she is very old and needs a little patching now and again.

I had a test drive in it the other night to see if it would stand up to the rigours of eating and moving and to see if I could actually wear it instead of just standing still and upright. It passed all the tests. I do need a second pair of hands to get me into the dress which turned out to be not so much fun when I staggered home after midnight and couldn’t get out of it! In actual fact, this dress has a numerical set of instructions on how to get it on and you just reverse these to get out.

We had fun with shoes on the night though including a couple of pairs of VW’s. How appropriate.

OK, enough waffling, here’s the reason you came here today……..

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It was definitely an evolutionary project: the final version bears a remote resemblance to the original draping but has become a new creature in its own right.

Extra bustle options are still available

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The neckline might need a bit of extra work …

I might be wearing a pretty pink floral dress but this took a lot of brain power; 3D mental rotation and all that stuff late at night; design principles that I didn’t even know existed; many, many, many pin punctures in my hands, fingers and other body parts so don’t mess with me! This dress feels like armour.

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At this stage, I’ve spent so much of my time and effort planning and thinking and figuring and sewing and sewing that I don’t think I’ll be making a ‘real’ one. While this was supposed to be a test dress, it is perfectly serviceable, wearable and doesn’t wrinkle much. It also makes a luxurious swoosh sound as it moves.

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I might or might not wear this to the wedding. I might just pick one from last year, then again, there’s another month to go before the actual event – time enough yet……

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Zippy

Here’s how another One Thing can lead to another, which can lead to many more…..I just love the trail of thoughts and ideas and discovering where they all end up. Starting points……

Mags sent me to Croftmill for grey ponte at £7.00 p/m: Elaine sent me to Kaliyana for asymmetrical zip jacket and the Anti-Suit: one of the lovely ladies from our Sewing Away Day donated a fine grey spotted cotton jersey: Julie wore a jacket on the same day that had droopy back pockets and was so casually impressive and understated that I want one: Anne showed the most beautiful Chanel suit this week: many, many other blog active sewers have been showing and telling their cropped/wide leg/trousers/culottes. I put in the hours of planning, cutting and sewing.  Armed with a bag of assorted open ended plastic zips, some almost-matching thread, some patterns and a bit of flexible time – this is the result from my too short half-term break.

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Many patterns were gathered, edited and then finally selected to the finalists – Vogue 8641 five easy pieces, Vogue 1550 Paco Peralta, Vogue 8559 Marcy Tilton, self-drafted Three Bears T.

I’ll start with the jacket as it is a wee bit impressive, even if I have say so myself because there’s no one else writing this. We’ll call it an idea in progress.

Start with Marcy Tilton’s 8559 (OOP) cardigan-wrap top; no side seams and cut on the fold, no back seam either. A waterfall front, centre back seamed collar and shoulder seams. Clever pattern placement can easily incorporate selvedge edges too, although using the dark grey ponte fraying isn’t an issue and raw edges are abundantly on view. I added a whopping 9″ to the length, then got to work on adding zips!

Three zips on either side. Hopefully they form some sort of design feature on their own but they are also functional – an infinity jacket? I had to press gang Doris into modelling today because, quite honestly I couldn’t have been bothered. Hopefully you’ll understand why in a just a moment.

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Left open and unzipped, the zips provide a bit of weight to help the fabric drape (ha – I like to believe this is similar to Chanel’s chain on the bottom of a jacket – dream on….).

Zip 1 – short centre fronts. Zip 2 – bottom right edge matching with a right hand side princess seam location. Zip 3 – 45 degrees on right hand side and shoulder width on left.

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All the zips zip into one another; that is, zip 1 will zip into zip 2; zip 2 will zip into zip 3 and so on. This multitude of zips allows for a multitude of closure options; exaggeration of the draped front and hemline, cowl necklines, loose or square body shape.

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Zip 3 zipping into zip 3 pulls and is quite difficult to do up so I might have to rethink the position of these ones. However, I can close zip 1 with zip 2 or zip 3 for yet more variations.

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If zips do not provide enough variations for your taste, then add a sewn brooch to merely clip various points of the jacket closed to suit your mood and the weather conditions.

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But wait, that’s not all. Being very impressed with Julie’s jacket, I added a deep strip of leftover fabric to the back and sides of the jacket matching the raw edges to provide those covetous voluminous back pockets and I also managed to get two at the fronts too. They will be very handy to hold emergency rations such as Kendall Cake and Mars Bars.

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And because this ‘pocket’ band is on a different grain there is a gentle shading that I always find attractive in unique clothes. Other waste selvedge cut offs were added to the sleeves as mock cuffs, adding weight and extra finishing.

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I did experience the dreaded jersey wobble – which could be an acronym from suburban New York for cellulite but I mean the stitching of a zip to stretch fabric. Is there a remedy? I know I could have added interfacing but this is an unlined jacket and visual evidence of reinforcing would be unacceptable. All suggestions welcome for both problems……….DSCN7564

The tunic top was quickly made from the donated cotton jersey in Vogue 1550. There’s nothing fancy or notable about this, apart from the fact that IT IS Paco Peralta. I didn’t add the signature inserts but did manage to do admirable mitred corners on the side drape points.

The pale grey ponte was put into use as a pull on pair of trousers from Vogue 8641 (OOP). Again, not too much to declare about these apart from adding two, shaped patched pockets on the front and cropped, more because of fabric restrictions than trends.

Finally, I just had to make use of the leftovers and cutoffs and managed to sew a Three Bears T (see link above) that became more of a sweatshirt. It has two layers below the bust seam that allows for minor variations of styling. There’s a few raw edge seams to follow the theme, such as cuffs, hems and bust line.

I don’t like the matchy-matchy trousers and top – too much like PJs. It looks much better with a dark grey bottom and believe me, I have many dark grey trousers to wear with this.

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So, there you have it – four pieces that became an outfit and what’s better, they can all be worn with existing wardrobe items that hopefully coincide with Oska and Kaliyana aesthetics.

This has got me thinking of joining SWAP this year although I am late to the party. My primary colours being grey and adding highlights of whatever colour I like because grey is such a neutral. Is there a colour that does not wear well with grey?

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This style of dressing is definitely not form fitting, no pencil skirts or slim-line trousers here but so comfortable, transitional and, dare I say it, unique?

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I mean, how many of your jackets have back pockets?

Now, in which pocket did I put that Mars Bar?


26 Comments

Patternless Skirt

As part of our sewing day away the ladies all brought fabric, patterns and notions for the donate-swap table. As I don’t have much of a stash, I had to dive deep into the blanket box to see what lengths and leftovers were lurking there. I came up with a few serviceable pieces, one of them being this, which actually stayed home with me.

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Navy distressed wool pinstripe from The Cloth House, London; the bulk of the fabric having been used to make culottes a few years back.

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Enough to make a pencil skirt, roughly 50″ X 25″ (127 x 64cm). So the fabric was wrapped around Doris while I went off to locate a suitable pattern. However, I looked at the draping on the mannequin and thought – that looks interesting as it is – let’s make a skirt without a pattern. I mean it’s only leftover fabric anyway that had been long forgotten, nothing to lose.

Here’s how to make a skirt without a pattern. It helps if you have a mannequin but if you don’t then just use yourself and get a little help from someone with the pinning for darts.

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This will be a lined wrap skirt with an asymmetrical hemline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pin the fabric to the mannequin, overlapping the fronts at an angle. Pinch out the excess at the back to make two darts and do the same at the sides. Four small darts for shaping.

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Cut a waistband facing (I used another fabric) the same width of the ‘skirt’ and sew to the top edge. Cut the lining a little smaller than the skirt’s width and sew to the facing and the two sides, leaving the hem open.

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Turn to the right side and press well, especially down the short edges. As the lining is smaller the edges should turn under neatly.

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Fold up the raw edge of the hem lining a little higher than the skirt hem and sew.

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The lining is not edge to edge therefore and should not be seen from the outside. You may have to make a few folds/pleats in the lining to make it fit within the confines of the skirt.

Make a buttonhole on the right hand side at hip and sew a button to the left side. This will hold the skirt up.

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Recently I bought a few zips from Minerva and there was this brilliant deal for £1 – a bag full of assorted zips. Most are open ended chunky plastic type zips. I took a black one of these and sewed it to the wrap edge of the skirt.

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No attempt to hide the zip was made because it’s a design feature! This keeps the wrap wrapped.

When you look at a piece of fabric and think it’s not worth keeping – think again.

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30 Comments

Border Debate

Blah…blah…blah ….That’s all we hear on the news these days, what with Brexit, border polls, import/export and other stuff – what will happen to the border between Northern Ireland (UK) and Southern Ireland (EU)? At the moment, there isn’t a border, we just drive along a road and all of a sudden the road signs are ringed in green and the speed limit is in KPH instead of MPH.

I’m not here to discuss political borders but border print fabric – much less contentious and infinitely more colorful.

I purchased two panels of border print polys from some or other ebay shop and they just lay about the sewing room for ages while I waited for inspiration to hit. Eventually I just took the scissors and cut….

First up is Fave top (another freebie) in a huge blue flower border print. This pattern is designed for stretch knits but even as there’s no stretch in my fabric it sews up fine because the top is so loose. If using a woven, just cut a little more generously and/or reduce the seam allowances.

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Most important measurement with a woven is the sleeve hem, so take note and make this a little wider than normal.

On my left it’s all white and on my right it’s all swirly blue flowers.

 

Next, a straight up and down halter neck holiday dress for sultry evenings on a location much closer to the equator than where I am presently; cocktail in hand, gentle waves in an azure blue ocean quietly breaking on white sandy beaches with a full moon and no mosquitoes – Yeah, like my life is like that!

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There’s no pattern with this one – here’s how you too can sew this up in about 1 hour and stun your friends and relatives with Cote d’Azur style in the Irish summer rain.

  1. Find border print fabric in a suitable weight and drape – rayon, poly, silk etc.
  2. Measure the widest part of your body (hips) and purchase enough width of fabric to go around plus about 4″ (10cm) minimum wearing ease and don’t forget about seam allowances.DSCN7114
  3. Cut fabric into two rectangles – front and back.
  4. Sew sides seams up to a comfortable underarm wearing position (mine is a tad high, so take care). Leave 6″ (15cm) open at the hem for two side splits to allow for walking.DSCN7115
  5. Shape the neck, front and back, from the underarm by cutting triangles off. The angle and size of these triangles will determine the ‘coverage’ at front and back. Cut with care first and then gradually increase the angle as you become bolder.
  6. If you feel it’s necessary, add a couple of bust darts for better fit.
  7. Turn under a narrow hem at the sides and sew. Make a channel at the top edge of the necks. But do it neater than I did!DSCN7215
  8. Purchase, source or re-purpose a necklace that is about 18″ (45cm) in length. DSCN7216
  9. Thread this through the neckline channels and secure the chain in place with a few hand tacks. Some minor adjustments may be needed to ensure even gathers at the neck edge. I have some to do yet……Make sure you leave the clasp easily accessible. This is your means of getting in and out of the dress.DSCN7218
  10. Hem, if you want or just leave the selvedge edge (as I did).
  11. Style and wear as desired.

This can truly be one of those day-to-night dresses. With a belt, the dress can be hoiked up to any length, the top draped over and may even resemble a skirt and top…….

Sewn in a finer fabric and with possibly a bit more width, it would also make a perfect pool cover-up so you can go and fetch those cocktails in style.

So there you have it – dress and jewellry all in one and in under one hour!

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Happy summer sewing people – may the sun shine on your beautiful clothes.

Are you thinking of next season’s sewing yet?

 


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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