Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Vintage Butterick 4379 - polka dot summer dress

I originally made this swinging sixties dress back in December last year. I wish I could say that it's been work frequently over the summer just past, but in reality the fit wasn't quite right and after just two wears it has been sitting in my "to-fix" pile for the last few months. I love the fabric and the dress so I got over my laziness and made myself fix it.

This is a 1966 pattern that has been in my stash a long time and I've wanted to make it for such a long time. The main feature of this pattern is the tie neckline, but it gave me all sorts of problems trying to get it comfortable. The neckline in the pattern is quite wide, as it has a fold over component:

The neckline is cut on the bias and I didn't quite have enough fabric to cut it out in piece, hence the unsightly seem down the centre front. The first time I sewed this I found it sat too high, just under my chin, so I ended up trimming 3cm off the top of the front of the dress so that it sat lower at front. And then it still felt too tight, so I redid the zipper so that it finished well below the neckband hoping that would fix it. It felt slightly better, but after wearing it twice it did feel too constrictive and it looked like I had no neck. The photos below are the original neckline:

So to fix this, I unpicked the neckline once again and cut off that extension tab. So now the band is narrower and it can be worn standing up, but I prefer to fold it over to retain the essence of the original look and to make it sit lower.

I also spread out the point where the back and front dresses are sewn into the neckline band - there's now a gap instead of them meeting at the neckband. Doing this doesn't seem to affect the fit or show off too much underarm flesh so I'm calling it a final fix. I am wearing a strapless bra here so the straps don't show - this dress may be from the sixties but I'm not about to go with the free love bra less look!

I didn't have enough fabric to pattern match which is why those dots are so very badly place at the centre back. I also used an invisible zipper instead of a lapped zipper because it's quicker and easier to install an invisible zip even if it's not authentic to the era.

The rest of the dress is pretty simple - it's an a-line shape with some gentle shaping darts front and back to give it a bit of shape.

The fabric helps too with the dress not looking too sack like - this is a nicely draping lightweight denim by Art Gallery fabrics that I bought from Selvage Fabrics last year. The polka dots is a nod to one of the dresses on the pattern envelope and I think it suits this style and era of the pattern perfectly.

Fingers crossed we have a  few more weeks of warmish weather so I can wear this again. The few times I wore it previously I got a lot of compliments on it, including from my friend's husband who is real blokey bloke so that was quite amazing!

polka dot dress in blue denim

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Style Arc Olivia: the jungle dress

The oppressive summer heat and humidity is continuing in these parts, so last week I made a quick and simple summer dress. This is the Style Arc Olivia, which I bought during the 50% Valentine's Day sale but have now only got around to using it.

image via Style Arc

The fabric I've used is a Cotton and Steel cotton called "Paradise Garden" that I won from Brave Fabrics in the Australian Sewing Guild Castaway to Couture competition I entered last year with this refashioned dress. This fabric has lovely colours that didn't fade at all after washing which is always a good start, but it might be a bit too thick for this style - versions made by other people in rayon and polyester seem to drape much better than my version.

I've only made separates by Style Arc before, so I wasn't sure how I would go in their dress sizes. I ended up cutting a size 6 for the bodice and a size 12 for the skirt which most closely matched my measurements. However, like some other bloggers who made this dress, I found the neckline to be too wide and too scooped. I have narrow rounded shoulders, and a flat chest so I should have fixed this before cutting out the pattern, but I did not.

It's not really obvious from this photo, but the neckline tended to fall off my shoulders and just had too much fabric across the front. So to do a quick and easy fix I literally lifted up that shoulders until the neckline was at a good point and the armhole wasn't too tight and then just sewed a new shoulder seam about 3.5cm down from the original, as you can see in the photo below.

This fixed the neckline a bit - it sits in a much better place on me but is still a little low for my liking. I don't need my bony and freckly decolletage out on display so I do prefer a little higher neckline.

The width of the bodice is still an issue though - I can easily pinch out a few centimetres at the centre front and if I make this again I will redraft the bodice to make it less wide at the bustline and with a higher neckline.

I also found this dress really long. My hem is about 10cm deep, even with reducing the overall length by increasing the shoulder seam. The waistline now sits at my natural waist because of the shoulder adjustment, which is fine for this style, although it would help if I wore my belt straight around the waist instead of crooked like I have in these photos!

So overall it's a simple sweet dress that I will make again, but with adjustments to the bodice and neckline. If you have a long torso and are blessed with an ample chest this may probably work for you straight out of the packet. Apart from that issue it's a really quick project and easy for the beginner even with the usual sparse Style Arc instructions.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Burda of the Month: 2/2018 #119 high waisted pencil skirt

pencil skirt in Outback Wife Gertrude Made fabric

I managed to finish February's Burda project in February, so yay for me! I skipped January for the time being because it has been far too hot around here to think about long sleeved dresses, but I will get onto it soon.

The February issue had quite a few nice patterns, but I decided to make the high waisted pencil skirt 2/2018 #119 to see me through the last few weeks of our summer. The jacket that goes with this skirt (in the photo below) is on my to do list for winter, possibly with a matching skirt in a nice tweed or boucle.

image via Burda Style

For this version though I've used a cotton barkcloth in a vibrant emerald green floral. You may recognise this fabric because it's very distinct - this is Elaine Orange from the Outback Wife range by Gertrude Made. I bought this last July from Selvage, and have been umming and aahing ever since trying to figure what to make with it because it was too lovely to use on any old project. This fabric has a rough textured look to it, but it's actually soft and wears really well - I took these photos after a long day in the office and the skirt isn't too rumpled.

The skirt is a pretty simple shape. It doesn't have a waistband, but has a band that wraps from the front dart around the side to the back dart and the raw ends of the band are enclosed in the dart. Whilst this is a nice design line, it made it fiddly to fit because to take in that side seam I had to take that band off to re-sew the side seam. And funnily enough in this print you can hardly see that panel at the waistband anyway!

Burda calls this skirt high waisted but I find it sits just slightly above my natural waist line, which does feel strange since I'm so used to wearing everything low slung. It does have the benefit of keeping your blouse tucked in though! Burda also describes this as narrowly cut, but I think the skirt could use a little more pegging to get the classic pencil skirt shape.

I do like the side and rear views of this skirt, I managed to get quite a neat fit and although I didn't attempt to pattern match due to a lack of fabric you can't notice it on the side and the back pattern somehow matches really well.

Fitting wise I made a size 40 at the waist grading out to a size 42 but found it slightly too big and ended up shaving a bit off. According to Burda's measurement chart these are the sizes for my measurements, but I do like a tighter fit in my clothes so perhaps that explains it. I also reduced the length by about 8cm which is standard actually since I'm normal sized and not a Burda model glamazon.

I happened to have an emerald green standard zipper in my stash at the correct length, so I sewed a hand picked zip instead of using an invisible zip. It turned out barely visible except for a few prick stitches in the yellow part, so I'm glad I went the frugal path and used what I had because it turned out just fine.

handpicked zipper

Overall I give this pattern the big thumbs up. The pattern is well drafted with all the seams lining up how they should and the instructions aren't too bad but since it's a simple skirt you don't really need them anyway. I can see this in a solid version that would make that side band at the waist more obvious, and a bit more pegging of the skirt it will be perfect.

In case you're wondering, the top is Burda 8/2015 #120 that I made back in March 2016, posted here.

And finally thank you to all those who have been commenting on my posts - for some reason my replies aren't showing up but I am definitely reading them. I may need to reinstall Disqus or look into some other commenting platform because I very much appreciate all those that take the time to read and comment.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Frocktails outfit! Burda of the month 10/2017 #109 and Style Arc Skye

Last Saturday night was another fabulous Sydney Frocktails, organised by the lovely Caz of Useful Box. Lots of ladies wearing beautiful frocks, drinks a plenty and a night out in the city sans husbands and kids - all the right ingredients for a great night!

Even though I have loads of outfits already in my wardrobe that I could have worn, of course I had to make a new one. In a fit of efficiency I combined by Burda of the month project for last November with a bit of stash busting to come up with this outfit:

copper top and black pleated skirt

The top is Style Arc 'Skye' and the skirt is Burda 10/2017 #109 which is the cover pattern for that month:

The skirt is a pretty easy project to sew although there are quite a few pattern pieces to it. You just need to piece the yoke pieces together and sew those to the main skirt pieces and then it's just a matter of sewing it up as a normal skirt so it didn't really take too much longer.

The fabric I've used is a raw silk I bought in Cambodia or Laos (can't quite recall) way back in 2008 when I travelled there in my pre children days. It was rather cheap so I have several metres in a few colours that I've never really found anything to make with it. It's a bit thin but stiff at the same time and the black is a bit of a faded black colour.

It looks like Burda have used a jacquard fabric with quite some body for their version, and I was hoping that my stiff fabric would work just the same at making those pleats stand out.After pressing the skirt though it's turned out rather flat.

And I'm just not sure that a pleated skirt is the most flattering cut for a heavy pear shape, even with the flat fitted portion over the hips. I think this skirt accentuates the heaviness of the bottom half of my body.

copper top and black silk skirt

The back of the skirt is a plain a-line skirt, which reduces bulk there, and the lining is also an aline skirt shape. Please excuse my posture in the photo below, I don't know what I was doing but it looks terrible!

I've made this Style Arc top several times now and I still love it. It's a simple shape but it has nice curves and is a very quick sew. The fabric I've made this version from is a metallic woven fabric in a copper colour that I bought from the Remnant Warehouse last year:

The fabric frayed like crazy so I had to overlock every edge, and it didn't really hold a press very well either so the seams look a bit puffy but I think a sparkly fabric pairs well with a simple pattern. The fabric is also quite stiff, so when it was tucked in it was quite bulky which you can see in the photo below :

The top also didn't stay tucked in either, so even though I prefer the look of it tucked in to the skirt I ended up wearing it loose. I have lengthened the front by 3cm so that I don't have any bare flesh showing at the side slits which is my usual adjustment for this pattern and usually sits in the right spot but looks a smidgen too long with this skirt:

Although the fabric wouldn't press that well it certainly did wrinkly around the bottom where it was tucked in - typical! The back neckline is a simple slit opening that I held closed with a hook and eye instead of the recommended loop and button.

So my verdict on these patterns: the skirt is great pattern because it looks exactly as the pattern picture and was an easy sew, but I think it's a frumpy look on a pear shaped body. So I give it a pass for me, but it would look great on other body types, especially in a lofty jacquard or brocade in a fabulous print like Burda has used. The Style Arc Skye top remains a favourite but I will pair it with a more fitted skirt or slim fitting pants so that I can wear it out because it's too bunchy to wear tucked in.

And yes your eyes aren't deceiving you - my hair is now a brighter shade of red! I used a home dye kit on a whim because I was a bit bored with my hair but I didn't want to cut it shorter. I feel like a teenager again with crazy bright hair and it's certainly getting lots of comments but it's only hair - it'll fade soon enough.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Burda of the month: 5/2017 #111 layered dress

I'm still playing catch up with my 2017 Burda of the month projects, and I'm so glad I've made this one because it has turned out so well. This is 5/2017 #111, which is a simple sheath dress with an interesting layered front:

image via Burda Style

I chose to make my dress from a black and white plaid fabric that I bought a while ago from The Remnant Warehouse. It has a slight amount of stretch which was a godsend because this dress turned out very form fitting! I put the two bodice layers on the bias in opposite directions to make them stand out more but that bottom layer is mostly covered up by the top layer and only a corner of it is visible:

Once I figured the pattern out this was a really simple dress but I did struggle to work out the front section until I went back to the pattern layout and discovered that you need to cut out two front bodice linings. Essentially one bodice lining is sewn to the skirt fabric and forms the bottom layer,  the two bodice pieces are place on top and sewed at the neckline and side seams, and the second bodice lining is sewn as a traditional lining that encloses the raw seams.

After the bodice is sewn the rest is just a standard sheath dress. I tried really hard to get the plaids to match since the white lines were screamingly obvious on the black fabric and I think I succeeded. I did have to shift the darts at the back slightly to make sure they were in the black section and not on a white line so they aren't symmetrical but at least the vertical lines match up at the back waist seam, and the horizontal lines match up at the side seams.

I've made my usual size 34 at the bust, grading out to a 36 at the waist and a 40 at the hips and the fit is very snug. The dress is fine because it has that bit of stretch, but I used a non-stretch lining that I had to let out at the side seams as far as it would go because it was too tight. If I make this again I probably would size up from the waist down so I don't feel the need to suck my stomach in all day!

Overall I think this is a great pattern - a simple shape with a point of difference. It would look great both in a solid fabric or with a print fabric for the bodice, or even colour blocking for the different pieces. The shoulder darts are great for fitting to avoid that gaping that I sometimes get in dresses due to my narrow shoulders, and I always prefer a dress with a waist seam because it's easier to fix a sway back. So I highly recommend this pattern, and I think I will make it again.....one day, when my to do list is a bit shorter!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Vintage Simplicity 8682: summer dress in a jiffy!

Apologies for all readers in the Northern Hemisphere, but here in Australia we are still sweltering through summer. It has been extremely hot and humid and will probably be really warm for at least another month or more, so it's a perfect time to whip out a new summer dress.

I used a vintage Simplicity pattern that has been in my stash for a long time, picked up in an op shop a long time ago. The pattern cover promises that this is an easy cut and easy sew Jiffy dress and it certainly was! I washed the fabric, hung it out to dry in the sunshine, cut it out and sewed it all in the SAME day!

The fabric I've used is such a fun print. It's a Sevenberry print that I bought from No Chintz of all places, last year during their sale (No Chintz is a decorater/upholstery shop). It's a substantial cotton drill so it didn't need any lining, and it doesn't have much drape which suits the a-line style of the dress. Even after washing and line drying it didn't lose any of it's vibrant colour, and it was a dream to sew and press.

The dress is quite a simple shape, but the curved French darts on the front and two vertical fish eye darts in the back give enough shaping that it doesn't look like a potato sack. I didn't even do a sway back adjustment yet look at the nice fit I achieved in the back:

I didn't make too many changes to the pattern: I added 1.5cm to the sides below the waist line to make sure the dress was roomy around my wide hips and took it in by about 1.5cm above the wais tat the side seams to make it fit better across the bust. It all seemed to balance out in the end! I also reduced the length by about 5cm and used an invisible zip because I find them faster than a lapped or centred zip.

I did lower that neckline slightly though at the front because it's quite a high jewel neckline and felt a little uncomfortable against my neck. Even lowering it at the front by almost 2cm you can see it still sits quite high:

The only change I would make for the next time I make this dress (and there will be a next time since it was so fast, easy and well fitting) is to convert the neckline and armhole facings into a single facing. You can see in the photo below that there isn't much gap between them, and I had to hand stitch the facings down to stop them flipping out. It's a pretty simple matter to do an all in one facing and makes it possible to cleanly finish the neckline and armhole as well.

And I hope you're all enjoying the change of scenery in my blog photos - I took the kids to Shark Beach at Nielsen Park which is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park in Sydney's east today and made my daughter take some photos for me. This is such a lovely harbour beach, with only gentle waves, white sand, clear water and the CBD as backdrop. Despite it's name, there were no sharks today and there is a shark netted area to swim in anyway! Ferries passing by, a rock shelf to explore and a great cafe for lunch - it has it all (except for ample parking, you need to get here early).