corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


41 Comments

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……


35 Comments

AUFO

Or – to add another acronym to the lexicon of sewing terms – Abandoned Un-Finished Object. I’m giving you the punchline at the beginning here.

You know when all of a sudden and out of the blue you need an item of clothing that you do not own but you really, really want to have and so you spend near 100% of your precious shopping time, planning time, thinking time etc etc to find perfection. NO? Just me?

Today the holy grail is……A lightweight summer raincoat/trench: sling on with jeans; slide on over cotton dresses; slip into for shower proofness with pencil skirts and pussy-bow blouses; leave lying in the car for emergencies or pack for weekends away for just in case; pull on regardless just to nip to the shops or just because.

I found one in M&S but it has too many buttons and too elaborate with belt and flaps and other stuff.

I found another in Dunnes which looked perfect from the front but hideous from the back with an long inverted pleat (swing-like) and slightly too dark a colour – I was aiming for stone/off-white/ivory).

Zara had some offerings too but nothing that floated my boat. While they are delicious coats they are just not what I had in mind.

What’s a girl to do? Get a sewing machine, some material, a pattern and a wee bit of time – that’s what.

I found Waffle Patterns and the Bamboo Straight cut coat. – Now this is perfection – it fits all my requirements for a summer trench – now all I have to do is find the perfect fabric. The pattern was purchased, printed and tiled (PDF) and we’re ready to go.bamboo_019_1024x1024

I headed off to Croftmill and purchased some stone coloured, light-weight cotton along with 3m of Barbour (no less) lining.

Over the first week of the Easter holidays, all was cut out and anticipation was high, very high….

And here we have my part in the perfect Trenchcoat downfall.

First advice I can offer you is to follow the instructions – I did not and thought I knew what I was doing and we all know how that goes…

Windowpane pockets with flaps are disasters. Lots of wrinkles, tucks and sloppy sewing – bad, bad, bad. And no amount of pressing is going to get that lot flat!

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The cotton that was in stash that was used as interfacing shows through; not really that noticeable but to me it is.

Not everything I cut out and sew is wearable. Wisdom in sewing is knowing when to persevere and when to give up. This is now an abandoned project and I’m moving on to something more inspiring, exciting, colourful and hopefully more successful.

Back to M&S me thinks. Buy a coat and replace all the buttons.

…..or Zara to buy a coat and then cut 12″ off the hem….

Or Dunnes and sew closed the back inverted pleat….

Yeah, go buy and dog and bark yourself!

 

 

 


25 Comments

Banana or Primrose?

The other day a very good friend and I were poking about the posh shops in Holywood (NI not US) and we had a short conversation as we perused the rails:

ME: “I’m going to make a pair of yellow jeans.”

” Not banana, I hope”

ME: ” Emmmm, ahh, yes……….” fading into silence as I see the pastels and shades of lemon hanging on the racks – Oops.8201tech-1

Soooo, anyway, I made the banana yellow jeans using a custom made pattern from Bootstrap in skinny jeans version: no need for fitting adjustments or anything else – just cut out and sew. Extra benefit with this fabric from MyFabrics is that it has a few % Lycra  included .

These were supposed to be worn with my (very expensive) silk top made to just simply match the single large flower motif and they did match perfectly but the constant echoing of ‘not banana?’ ‘not banana?’ kept resounding in my head.  ‘not banana?’

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Original patch with bleached jeans.

I relented….the finished banana jeans went into a bath of bleach for an hour or two – they were also subjected to a spray bleach treatment for a more random fading effect and ultimately – this is the result – with added personalised back pocket.

 

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Instead of the half-cold shoulder top as a topper which was a perfect yellow match  before the bleaching episode, that I had originally intended, I searched elsewhere for inspiration.

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Would have worked though, wouldn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I made a camisole instead in a delicious silk with a Jackson-like spatter design that will wear with absolutely anything. (Fabric from Sherwoods but I think they’ve sold out)

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The pattern is True Bias Ogden Cami and you really should add this to your pattern library – honestly. Plain and simple on the outside but with a half lining underneath. In my opinion a true classic. My back hemline dips longer than the front and I really don’t know if this is intentional or just my bad cutting.

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I had a little bit of a beginner’s issue in matching the lining to the outside [see under right-hand arm] but I truly appreciate something so straightforward to bring one back to earth and make you hone your skills again. See the gathers/pleats – that needs to be sorted out? They didn’t look too bad in the mirror but they’re really obvious in the photos.

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On the front lining I sewed in a strip of picot elastic just trying to keep my bits and pieces in place. It doesn’t really work and I’d suggest a strapless bra or flesh coloured if you don’t mind showing a bit of strap.

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Anyway – I’m glad I bleached the banana out because I bought a cheap cardi to perfectly match the not banana jeans.

 

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Now, off to sort out those wrinkles……

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56 Comments

Half a-Cold Shoulder

Like many of you when Vogue bring out their new season’s patterns coupled with a 4 day sale at $4.99 each  (cheaper if you’re in BMV Club) I just have to take advantage. My problem is that I buy the patterns I like and then procrastinate for months and months before I get round to actually sewing them which is usually the following season!

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For UK and EU customers – it always pays to purchase 3 patterns at a time: postage is $15 whether there’s 1, 2 or 3 in the parcel; 4 patterns and the postage goes up to $25.

DSCN6989This started as Vogue 1516 with some fabulous and expensive Italian printed silk chiffon from the hallowed Joel and Son. And just for the record, it was bought in a sale and probably a remnant, in case you thought I’d won the lottery. On a purple background, there’s red, yellow, pink and olive green – luscious.

The silk has large hand-painted watercolor-type flowers and I wanted a pattern that didn’t cut into them – so something simple. The Tom and Linda Platt pattern has a loose-fitting pullover top with side seam slits, topstitching, and three-quarter length bat-wing sleeves. I went for view A: where the front and back yoke extend into sleeves with slits. View A has sleeve slits from shoulder to end.

V1516Now, I say this started as V1516 and it did but a few “design” (Corecouture) alterations happened along the way…..partly because of fabric and partly just because….
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I’m not that keen on boat necklines for myself so the first thing I did was scoop the front neck. One issue creates another and the new scoop neckline creates a natural drop shoulder issue – bra straps on show! If you are content with this then there’s no issue at all. Hooray for being over 50!

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As always, I never seem to have enough fabric because sometimes I buy fabric and then decide what to make: I would strongly suggest that you decide what to make and then buy the fabric,  but anyways, the sleeves were elongated with deep cuffs – narrower and more fitting than a loose sleeve. Also it gives to option of wearing high towards elbow or low down to wrist.

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The silk chiffon is translucent and that’s part of it’s beauty however, I would always have to wear a cami underneath – is there an alternative?

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Yes. Buy a small length of coordinating plain silk chiffon and line the top. Due to the seam along the above-bust line this was the perfect location for a slip stitched red chiffon,  leaving gaps for the sleeves. It was cut long deliberately so that it hangs below the top and adds an extra dimension.

And it works a treat – no see-through but the top still retains the ethereal silk touch.

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The shell fabric was hemmed with a hand-rolled hem stitch and the lining was  finished with a deep hem, slip stitched in place.

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All internal seams are Frenched but there’s top stitching in yellow along the front and back yokes to emphasise the arm slits.

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I wasn’t that enamoured with total sleeve slits so these are shortened from shoulder to long cuff – there’s a bit of upper arm on show but not everything – bingo arms and lower arms are covered.

The neckline was also treated to some extra attention. I cut a bias strip of ivory silk organza and this became the facing (binding). Machine stitched first, then turned inside and top-stitched in place, it adds the perfect neck-line finish that’s almost invisible.

A wee bit of hand tacking (basting) really doesn’t go amiss here. If you are going to splurge on silk organza then my advice is to always choose ivory instead of white, it’s so much more versatile and will blend with many, many more colours.

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Silk chiffon shifts; sometimes it’s square and sometimes it’s wonky – learn to live with this quality. I really and truly measured the hemline but when wearing the top it moves and is organic – different hem lengths mean just that……

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And what do you do with those teeny tiny silk leftovers? Well you don’t throw them out that’s for sure; those poor silkworms had to spin for hours and hours – you utilise every inch…… Grab some cheap plastic/wooden bangles and wrap them in silk.

Fold the leftover fabric in two to hide the raw edges and wrap around and around, glue in place or stitch to secure. Always make three – two is not enough and four is too many.

This particular top may appear to be an orphan but wait…..there’s more to come and everything will fall into place (promise) …

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20 Comments

Every Quilt I’ve ever Made

Firstly, that title sounds like I’ve been making quilts for 100 years – I haven’t. It’s been two years.

Secondly,within 10 minutes of starting to patchwork and quilt I started to gather and collect all my scraps of fabric from every project. You know how that goes…….

Thirdly,  if you are a quilter you might want to look away now. This is not accurate block making nor a precise method of patchworking but it certainly uses up those scraps.

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So following Demented Fairy’s good advice, I sorted all the scraps into colour-ways and stuffed them into plastic freezer bags and stashed them away.

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However, fast running out of freezer bags and space I decided it was time to do something with all these scraps. Now, when sewing clothes, your scraps might be in the region of 0.5-1m. With patchworking, the scraps are 2″ -4″ and below!

So I delved in and dug out a bag: this one happens to be mostly orange.

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The scraps were then pressed, laid out for possible colour combination options with some being removed, then roughly sorted into shapes ready for sewing.

And start sewing random bits together……..1/4″ seam allowance and a pale grey thread.

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When it becomes too difficult to sew any more pieces, like the angle is too acute and there are no more straight edges, trim to make the patchwork squarish and carry on.

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I kept up this process until the block was close to 15″ or so. Pressed really well…….

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…..and then just picked another bag and started the process all over again, and again, and again. Then all of a sudden, I had 20 blocks! Each block was then trimmed to 14″ in a rare attempt to square things off. Can you spot the original start point in this block?

I bought some plain yellow (now I have scraps of yellow!) and made a quilt top with all these random blocks with 2″ yellow sashing – 4 X 5 blocks and big enough to lie atop a UK king-sized bed.

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In this quilt, there are fabrics left over from summer dresses, shirts, totes, skirts, scarves, wash/cosmetic bags and, of course, other quilts.

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So, I’m feeling quite pious at this point. I’ve put the otherwise useless scraps to good use and made a quilt top. But of course, that’s not the end of the quilt. It now needs wadding and a backing to make it complete. I went and bought some of my favourite fabrics by Kaffe Fassett for the backing (I now have scraps of backing).

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Fabulously bright and happy. The quilting of all layers includes wiggly lines on each block and straight line sewing along the sashing. It looks good from both sides.

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It’s teenage son’s girlfriend’s birthday in March so guess what’s she’s getting as a 20th birthday present? Which reminds me that teenage son will not be a teenager for very much longer – like where did those years go?

Every finished quilt needs a title and a label. This one is called “The Learning Years”. I have learnt so much about patchworking and quilting in the past two years and teenage son’s girlfriend is at university – so it’s a title that refers to both our journeys.

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Of course, there’ll always be more scraps………

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Bin ’em!