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:

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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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No Fabric…. 2 & 3

To cut a long story short and to skip to the chase I’ve made two more things without fabric.

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First up, cotton jersey leftover from Donna Karan dress. Enough for a T-shirt with sleeves or something longer without sleeves. Out came my old favouriteMerchant and Mills Bantam vest except this time I cut the vest in half and inserted a mid-riff band to make it into a dress.

A bit boring on its own and time to spare to sew without fabric, I beaded the neck and along the edge of an added pocket.

The beading took about 4 weeks! It’s dense and heavy; sparkly and shiney.

 

Needless to say, summer has long gone from our shores.

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The middle band had to cut on the cross grain due to fabric restrictions but I quite like the subtle change in tone between the blues.

 

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Next, is another favourite skirt from StyleArc – Zoe. Wears like a pencil skirt walks like an A-Line. Designed for wovens.

This up-to-the-minute longer-line pencil skirt incorporates clever design features to set this style apart. The darted back line finishes on the front and the front side seam moves towards the centre resulting in a slimming silhouette.

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This fabric is leftover from Vogue 1531.

And then I managed to pick up a long line cardigan in the sales that coordinates perfectly – much better in real life than in the photos.

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To sum up: I  finished a long awaiting linen dress, I’ve made a beaded sun-dress and a fully lined skirt – not bad for having no fabric!

Lessons to take away: buy for a project and maybe buy just a little more than you actually need so that you can add to the leftover pile and just look what can be made from that pile. However, use the leftovers, otherwise it will get out of hand!

The autumn/winter 2017 wardrobe has now thankfully arrived – albeit in kit form – plans and ideas to follow…………

 


30 Comments

No Fabric…..1

For a few weeks I didn’t have any fabric! OK, we all know that is a bare faced lie but really, all I had were offcuts, leftovers and scraps; no 2 or 3 metre lengths with which to create and sew. My money had all been spent on frivolous things like food and petrol and there wasn’t much to spare. However, with a need to sew I started delving into those leftovers…..so some posts coming soon on how you can sew without a fabric stash!

While riffling through the leftovers, for a piece large enough to place a paper pattern upon I found this – last seen in June 2014.

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To make sense of today’s post, you really should read this one first.

The plastic bag was emptied, all the pieces ironed and smoothed. A little bit of dedication, concentration and determination has now resulted in one finished dress that was started three years ago!

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Vogue Ralph Rucci 1381.

There was more thread, pattern pieces, basting, tacking, pressing, top stitching, understitching, quilting, cutting, clipping, trimming, hand sewing and machine sewing involved in this one dress than in a fully tailored jacket, waistcoat, trousers and coat combined!

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All the fit issues and reservations that I mentioned in June 2014 were largely ignored this time and I just went for a finished dress. While it’s not spectacular (despite all that work) it’s OK .  I lengthened mine (as usual) and raised the front gap and that’s all the alterations I did.

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The dress weighs a tonne! If I ever fall overboard while wearing this I’ll sink like a stone. In some places there are five layers of various fabrics and it’s fully lined; the linen wears really well, softening but not wrinkling too much. Although made in linen, this is not a summer dress but would ease the transition in early autumn / spring.

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The hem has a bias strip sewn to the edge, then pressed up and slip stitched. I think this gives a bit of weight to the skirt so that it hangs better. The belt is sewn to the dress on one side so that you don’t lose it. And those front pockets are the best ever.

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If you follow the instructions to the letter, then the pocket edges and neck facings would be finished with more bias strips. I’d had enough and the raw edges were serged. When it came to French tacking the lining to the skirt – that was one stitch too many and I called it a day.

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It’s finished and it’s been worn. I got compliments and pleasant comments and no one noticed the mis-matched zip, the gathers and wrinkling, the wobbly topstitching, the unsymmetrical quilting lines; or if they did, they never said. Can’t ask much more than that really.

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45 Comments

The Only Park Lane

DSCN7260A long, long time ago I bought a dress pattern from Merchant and Mills: the company started in 2010 and  I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I purchased the pattern not long afterwards. It is stored in a sturdy cardboard tube and the pattern pieces are equally sturdy manilla card that require weights and not pins to hold them to the fabric. It will last for years and years. I never made the dress. There were no pattern reviews, no Google images (apart from M&M’s, below); I was a little wary and then I lost the whole lot!

Quite recently I relocated The Park Lane and just happened to have a very fine windowpane wool that didn’t have a pattern partner, so the two were paired together.

The dress is simplicity itself: sheath style, shaped shoulders that elongate into short sleeves, funnel neck and comes with a tie belt, in-seam pockets. I don’t do belts on loose dresses as they create folds and gathers on my considerable sway back and looks terrible – belt was ditched. I ditched the pockets too because this fabric is practically transparent and the black lines of the window panes showed through to the right side.

 

However, without a belt the dress was even looser and, quite honestly, shapeless. There are two little dart/pleats at centre front which are relatively pointless – I added three more on each front, total of 8.

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I get to keep the shift style but with the extra pleats I get a bit of shaping at the waist and creates some construction interest too.

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I like this dress. It’s not weird, far-out dressing, just a classic shape with a wee bit of unusual that might make someone look twice – in a nice way!

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I have a small dilemma that you, dear readers, can help and advise on. I made the dress straight from the pattern and this is the length (which I personally like).

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Here it is pinned about 6″ shorter.

Which looks better?

It is difficult to raise one’s arms as the whole dress lifts up; I’m not planning on cleaning out the high kitchen cupboards so it’s not that much of a problem.

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I went with matching the horizontal windowpanes. They match up (mostly) at centre back and side seams.

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Merchant and Mills no longer sell this pattern and I’m truly wondering if this is the only one ever made – please let me know if you’ve made it too or know somebody who has.

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Should I sew another one?

 

 


36 Comments

Sea of Silk

DSCN7240Look – photographic evidence that sometimes, just sometimes, the sun does shine in all its glory here.

More blue and I really mean true, royal, luscious, rich, deep, drown-in, indulgent blue crepe de chine. Thank you very much to those of you who commented out loud (or silently) that this is a good colour for me.

A bit (mind you, quite a bit) of silk crepe de chine was left over from the Donna Karan slip and of course, just absolutely and categorically,  had to be put to use.

Apparently, the dress I’m wearing today is the most popular pattern from Vogue this summer and here’s me, who thinks I’m above following fashion trends, but still apparently fell unconsciously into the trap….mind you, every version I’ve seen of this dress looks so unique that it would be difficult to say that they’re all from the same pattern.

 

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Vogue 9253 – sort of a caftan dress but better: kimono cut on sleeves, high waist with ties, pleats rather than darts at front but darts at back, very deep V neckline, centre back zip, huge in-seam side pockets, any length you desire. My pattern description, not Vogue’s. 

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Let’s start with what I didn’t do: centre zip was eliminated – more on this later; only one pocket added; deep V neckline not so deep.

What I did do: trimmed the neck edge with some cotton jersey instead of a narrow hem; raised V neck with some hand stitches; shortened the waist ties made in same cotton jersey; pocket opening/closure instead of zip; length of finished dress was determined by amount of available fabric and not the pattern skirt length.

There was no way on earth that I was going to put a zip into this ethereal silk but the waistline is somewhat fitted and really did need to be opened for dressing and undressing situations. Problem……..

Problem solved: the two pocket pieces were sewn top to top, trimmed down and sewn in the side seams as usual but all the way up to underarm.

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The side seam and pockets were then sewn, creating a very large ‘pleat’; the pocket is the pocket and the above bit becomes a gusset.

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A very useful hook and eye were then sewn to the waist seam to close the pleat, a bit of smoothing of the pocket to the inside and now I can get in and out of my dress without a zip. And if I hadn’t shown you this, you’d never know it was there.

I started one of those Instagram thingies. I’m not very good at it and am always forgetting to take photos along the way and any I have taken I haven’t added #.  Anyway, if you’d like to follow a very erratic and learner then here’s the name – ruthforrester.corecouture

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If you’ve made this dress or are about to make it, McCalls are running a V9253 competition mccallpatterncompany Announcing the #v9253 contest! Featuring the hot dress pattern of the season. You could win $100 worth of fabric from @stylishfabric & $100 worth of new patterns! The competition is WORLDWIDE!

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I probably won’t be entering the contest as most entries are made in fabulous prints or stripes but we all want new patterns and fabric, right?