corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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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……


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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35 Comments

Before it’s Too Late

As part of Catch-up Blogging, I have to show these trousers now before they fall out of season. They’re made with a navy wool tweed (admittedly a light tweed) but are really for winter wear. I’ve had the fabric for quite a while now and was intending to sew a smart pencil skirt at some time in the distant past, but there you go – no skirt but trousers. Do you often do that? Buy fabric with one plan in mind, only to change later.

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The pattern is Vogue 1508: Zandra Rhodes design. Simple straight legs, elasticated waist but with some added “Corecouture” bits and piecimgres-1es. The envelope photo shows the trousers as narrow legged but in reality mine are neither wide nor narrow – sort of in between.

I’ve made them before in a heavy tweed and was very pleased with fit and style.

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The Alterations

Firstly, mine are cropped. I do like a cropped trouser and with only 1m of fabric there had to beimgres-2 some concessions made somewhere. I know that some of you are not fans of cropped trousers and I am conscious that sometimes they look like they were made with too little fabric so I made a little feature out of the shortness. The hems are curved at the outside seams. I took the idea from vintage Vogue 1522 , Perry Ellis design – so a little 1980s vintage touch and emphasises that the cropped length was intentional.

Curved seams are never easy to sew. I used some bias tape to help keep the roundness and pressed like a mad woman. Sew the bias tape to the hem, clip if necessary: fold to the inside right along the edge, pin and press; topstitch in place and press again. It also helps to do this before you sew the trouser legs together at the inside seams so that you are working flat. Just leave a wee bit of bias tape hanging at each side to be slipped stitched over the hem of the inside seam.

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Trousers without pockets are pretty useless. Mostly I use my pockets for posing and not really for holding things but to me, they are essential part of a garment. I made single welt, slightly angled front pockets. See here for how to…..

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I didn’t line these ones but wear my trouser-petticoat underneath. These are brilliant; can be worn under any trousers that don’t have lining, including RTW, and fulfil the functions of all the benefits of lining – reducing creasing, preventing sagging at bum and knees, helps the hang of the fabric and an extra layer for warmth on colder days.

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All you have to do is use some good quality lining (mine are cotton/silk blend), use any old trouser pattern – no pockets, waistband or anything and if they are a bit loose that’s OK. Sew some elastic to the waist, overlock or hem the ends and you have a very useful trouser-petticoat.

But of course, as versatile as a pair of navy trousers are, it’s always best to sew a coordinating top – remember – outfits, not orphans – ONO!

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Nothing new here I’m afraid. Back to Vogue 1247 (OOP) and possibly the best pattern ever drafted with a bit of remnant viscose jersey picked up for a fiver at the Spinning imgresWheel in Belfast.

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It drapes beautifully and with those colours of blues, red-orange and white can be worn with a wealth of others. Not many alterations done here apart from lengthing the sleeves by simply cutting long and leaving off the cuff. The interesting piecing at the front is lost in the fabric pattern but it really does help with shape and drape.

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I might have added an inch or two to the length but it’s been so long ago that I can’t remember rightly. I was probably just using as much fabric as I could. By the way, I didn’t French the seams, the at-the-moment very well behaved overlocker did that bit for me. I’ve probably just put a curse on it now………

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Now I am well aware that my photography is pretty crap and I am not photogenic but could I just point out – primarily to those sewing bloggers who have a trillion ads on their pages – just because you’ve taken the photographs doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Front, back and sides are usually enough. It’s like writing an essay that just repeats itself, there’s nothing new added. Just saying………

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Hello to all new followers, you are very welcome and I’m quite surprised that as I haven’t posted in a month or so that you still think it’s worthwhile to add this blog to your feed. I am truly appreciative. Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments, even if they’re not related to my current sewing projects.

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Until the next Catch-up Blog……….

 


19 Comments

Re-Entry

Many of my blogging buddies seem to be taking sabbaticals – as I apparently have too – although not intentionally. Things just get in the way. I’ve been sewing and making, just not taking photos, posing, showing and telling. As the Easter holidays are fast approaching I should have more spare time and I’ll try to make more of an effort; attempting to match my blogging with my sewing.

I’ll start with a nice little simple  jumper (UK), sweater (US) – did I get that right? A gentle slide back into blogging. A useful top layer on chillier days and summer evenings.

I started with Vogue 9193 Marcy Tilton top and pants and a soft wool mix from Sherwood p1030377Fabrics in a very delicate shell pink (it comes in pale blue too). The knitted fabric has a lace-like quality. Easy pattern with cut on sleeves, scooped neck and loose fitting. Each pattern piece is cut on a single layer because of the slanted hemline, so pin everything on before cutting just in case……..

V9193I only cut out the top sections of the pattern, not the bottom bits with the pocket and lengthened one side to 22″ and the other to 26″ for an asymmetrical hemline.

The edges are finished with the selvedge for a neatness.

I added one patch pocket on the longer side just because.

There was a leftover piece of the knit fabric and I’ve been seeing a lot of poncho/shrug things in the shops. On closer inspection, these are a bit of fabric folded over with a seam at one shoulder and a hole for the head. Easy-peasy.

I took my bit of fabric, folded it, seamed the open edge, overlocked the long edges, found a button that matched and stitched this mid way.DSCN6967

I have two openings in my version of the poncho/shrug and can wear it diagonally over my jumper to offset the asymmetry and add an extra layer. One hole for my head , the other for my arm.

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But the little add-on can be worn as a hood or as a draped scarf – very versatile.

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Worn today with a pair of burgundy wool Clovers, from Colette this shade of pink seems to go with practically every other colour. It’s almost a neutral.

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There you are – a soft re-entry back to blogging with a soft and easy jumper.

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16 Comments

Sucker for Sales 2

And here we are again…… fabric sales purchases and what to do with them. This time it’s a fluffy, soft knit made with a remarkable combination of fibres such as cashmere, mohair, a bit of silk and a few sparkly threads and from – yeah, you know where – Joel and Son…..a cut length of 1.5m.

The fabric is sort of like a boiled wool; it’s a knit, like a proper knit with no fraying but softer with a right and wrong side. It’s primarily grey (my favourite) but has tones of violet/lilac – more of a heathered look that is not readily recognisable in my crappy photographs. The inside is sparkly and I suppose could have been used the other way round for evening wear. I choose day wear. Believe me, this is a complicated fabric.

I pressurised myself into making something that warranted the price: not sure I achieved that goal but I did get a very serviceable skirt and top: that can be worn together and also separately which stretches the serviceability.

Skirt pattern is Vogue, Katherine Tilton 8837 (OOP). This skirt has four seams with a hip yoke, elasticated waist(!) and curved hemline with small splits. The instructions are for lapped over side seams but I ignored that bit.

Easy to sew up and easy to wear. I serged the seams for extra strength as it’s a pull on skirt and it looks nice in the inside too.

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The top pattern is based on Burda 0521012 /101, cut short due to fabric limitations and whatever serviceable piece was leftover was used as a pocket.

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I had a bad experience with this dress pattern previously but I’m learning to love it and see the potential in many other ways apart from a sack-like shift dress.

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I just used the selvedge edge of the fabric as the top’s hem. The deep V neckline was stabilised with some black satin ribbon to keep it from stretching any further. It is not a top to wear on its own….

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This little outfit has a relaxed, yet ‘pulled together’ look, I think. The skirt is very comfortable and worn with the top, it creates an outfit. Best worn with a white shirt underneath for contrast and to break up the solid grey. Perfect for wearing under a coat as it keeps me warm without creating bulk.

It may not be the most flattering combination for my body, but sometimes (often) practicality and comfort are the priorities.

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So, elasticated waists in trousers was first and now in skirts! The real benefit of elasticated waists is that you can wear either the trousers or the skirt high up at actual waist level or pulled slightly down to hips, which changes the length.

The other day, one of my students asked if she could ‘touch’ my skirt – such is the tactile, fluffy and comforting appeal of this fabric – just like being wrapped in soft, delicious natural fibres. I let her……..

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Well, the winter holidays are finished – back to work tomorrow and half-way through the academic year. Marking papers will intensify from now on and hence, sewing time is reduced. Blogging will also therefore be restricted but I’ll do my best, after all, sewing keeps me grounded, sane and clothed!

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I often think that I could survive wonderfully on permanent holiday – like retired – but I am actually looking forward to going back to work. I love my job, I’m lucky. I like the routine, the pressures and even the stress – it pushes and challenges me. Sewing is my escape. Without the constraints of employment I don’t think sewing would mean as much to me as it currently does. We are constantly learning about ourselves – see Felicia’s honest assessment of herself, her 2016 review of sewing and her developing style to get you thinking……..