Monday, 21 November 2011

A rose is a rose, is a rose, is a rose - Vogue 1230

Yeah sure, roses are pretty; they smell good and they make for good perfume. But after making this dress, my favourite rose ... is made out of cotton. Cotton with a shiny lame blend to be precise.

I bought this shiny smack-you-in-the-face red while honeymooning in Hawaii (along with a good many other fabrics!) and the moment I saw it I started fantasising about it's possibilities in dress form. Even though I was sitting on beaches with the love of my life, lathered in inappropriate amounts of sunscreen (my skin aint getting any younger!) with Janome safely far away at home in Melbourne, Australia ... I could not switch my sewing brain off. In fact, relaxing on the sand sipping mojitos and making sandcastles (it's a hard life) actually increased my drive for creativity. What idea started forming in my mind as I stared at this shiny red cotton fabric? Roses. Of course. I must be a marketers dream, I have such mainstream associations. I knew I wanted to make a dress for my good friends wedding coming up early December, and thought that a cute cocktail dress with this fabric should fit the bill perfectly. So I started going through the catalogue in my mind of what I wanted the dress to look like and I knew I wanted to make the bodice using a pattern I'd played with before, Vogue 1230.

Looks a bit different huh! Especially in the lilac colour. I'd used the bodice before on my red lace Michelle my belle dress and I loved the flattering pleats on the bodice and the round neck line on the front and the back of the bodice. It's also a more conservative neckline and gives a more 'church' cleavage, versus the 'hello I'm female' neckline, which I have to admit, I'm a tad partial to. (Guilty!) So the only part of this pattern that I used is the bodice and I made my own sleeves (clearly) and skirt. I cut the bodice 1.5cm below the waist point on the pattern, which added the seam allowance and then joined it to my skirt that I'd made with my own pattern, which meant that I now how a waist seam.

What's nice about the neckline with the pleats is it gives a really pretty shape, but doesn't take away from the feature which is the sleeves. I didn't want to make the dress too busy.

You know, every day my brain starts thinking overtime of new design ideas and ways to chop and change a pattern. I'm constantly thinking of how I can make something look classic, but with a twist. The thing about trying out new things, is that most of it is in your head and until you try it you don't know if it's going to work or not. A LOT of things that I've translated from my brain onto fabric ends up being a massive fail. I have sad, sad piles of UFO's (un finished objects) lying (squashed unceremoniously) dejectedly in my over crowded closet. That's why it's so nice when an idea you have cooking in your brain actually WORKS!

I have to admit it readers, I am in LOVE with how this turned out! I'd been working on (speaking of sewing fails) a skirt made up in white silk dupion with the same concept as the sleeves but on a massive scale, and as beautiful as it looked on Diana my maniquin, it sadly made me look like an over fed chicken. I haven't given up on it yet, I will do something with it I swear! I was soooo disappointed when the skirt didn't turn out, and I couldn't get it off my mind. So I had the ah-ha moment when I had the idea of using this look not on the skirt but on the sleeves, to make it look sort of like roses! Oh boy that got me excited. I'm sure somewhere far away in my sewing room, my Janome started flashing on and off repeatedly in anticipation. Bless. Here's a photo of the chicken skirt if you're curious  - don't laugh!

You see, there's always something to learn from every sewing experience, so I'm glad I put all the effort into this half finished skirt. Though it took many hours and over seven metres of silk dupion, and I'm not going to even tell you how much that cost me cause it makes me break out into a sweat just thinking about it.

Let's move on.

I made the same adjustments with the bodice of this dress as I did with the other version. I shortened the bodice by a few cm's  - my usual as I'm short bodiced, and because I have a smaller back, I removed area from the shoulder blades area by creating a small dart on the back pattern pieces. My Doctor husband tells me that bone at the shoulder blades is called the 'Scapula(e).' I told my husband I'm pretty sure the correct medical term is 'chicken wings.' The jury is still out on who is correct ...

The result of removing that area gives the back neck more of a slightly squarer result, but I still think it looks good and at least this way my sleeves won't keep sliding down my shoulders.

I used an invisible zipper to close the dress, and fully lined the bodice and skirt, but not the sleeves. I also added a line of red lace to the lining hem, which is becoming a bit of standard for all my dresses at the moment.

Now for my favourite part the sleeves! I cut out two sleeves and gathered them at the top so that they would fit the arm hole perfectly. I added rows of raw edged fabric to give it a bit of a rough-ish look. I cut it on the bias though to stop it from fraying.

I'm really into textured 3D looks at the moment, and I really think this sleeve effect looks like a whole bunch of roses, especially in this striking red.

Each sleeve has about a 1/4 of a metre sewn onto it, bringing the sleeve to life. I love how when I lay the dress down, it looks like there are invisible arms inside, the sleeves stay up! It's alliiiiivve!

Interested in making these rose sleeves yourself? Keep an eye on my blog, in the next few weeks I'll be putting up a tutorial showing how I made them. Guess what - it involves no hand stitching! Seriously!

In conclusion, I'm so happy with how the dress turned out and I'm looking forward to wearing it to my good friends wedding. Looks like it's colour appropriate for Christmas functions this year too! Yay!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Cotton Candy - Vogue 1176

I've had the vogue pattern V1176 by designer Michael Kors in my stash for some time and it seemed to always eye me down every time I walked into my sewing room. I'm pretty sure my pattern collection comes to life when they think no one's around. (Or maybe my excessive coffee drinking has finally taken a toll on my sanity.) This pattern design has such a sweet look that it gives me a tooth ache just thinking about it! 

What's not to love about this pattern! It has a vintage look with a very Mad Men feel to it, and let's be honest I'm a sucker for a pretty bow. It wasn't until I bought this fabulous pink cotton/lame blend fabric while on honeymoon in Hawaii (yes sewers my poor darling husband had to wait around for me in a fabric store on our romantic get away) that things starting cooking in my mind. Why not over indulge the sweetness of this pattern and make it pink!(and shiny!!) And so it began.

Vogue  1176

I have to admit, I love it! There's something incredibly fun about wearing a dress that is incredibly girly. I just couldn't help but give my hips a little extra swing when wearing this dress around town and amping it up with red lipstick!

I've seen this dress in both dark colours and prints and they all look fabulous. But what I love about this light cotton candy coloured fabric is that it really brings out the subtle detail in the pleats across the bust and the pretty bow. If you look at the model on the front of the pattern cover, it's pretty hard to see those gorgeous details that Mr. Kors has spent time creating!

Now because the combination of pink, bows and shiny fabric are clearly not sickly sweet enough *cough* I decided to add one more touch and add some gorgeous white lace trim to the bow and skirt. I think this little detail on the bow and the hem gives the dress just that extra little something to steer it away from the boring category which straight colour fabrics can sometimes run the risk of falling into.

You know the great thing about adding the lace trim just above the edge of the hem is ... you don't have to hand stitch a blind hem! That's right, you can CHEAT! And I'm all about cheating, as long as it doesn't compromise the quality of the garment.

Here's how I cheated:
I overlocked (serged) the raw edge of my skirt and then ironed my hem into place. On the good side of the fabric, I felt around for my overlocked edge and pinned the lace trip directly above it. I then sewed straight down the centre of lace trim, which also secured the hem into place!

I matched my thread with the pink fabric which blended easily so that you can barely see the stitching line.

And because I sewed through the centre of the lace, and thus the centre of the serged edge, the stitching line is barely visible on the inside of the skirt as well! Love it!

I also added the lace trim to the inside hem of the skirt lining, cause as people have always told us from birth, it's what's on the inside that counts. Though us sewers know it's both!

Now for the alterations.
Oh boy.
I read a few reviews of this dress on other blogs and on Pattern Review and every one said the same thing; the sizing on the bodice was all over the shop. The bodice was crazy big, or rather the front bodice pieces were too wide - more on that in a sec. As for the skirt proportions, I must confessed I used my own skirt pattern because when a girl with ample hips finds a pattern that works for her lower half, it's a good idea to stick with it.

If you are going to attempt this pattern and you don't want to be disappointed with the results, make yourself a muslin first, you won't be sorry!

After reading many other warnings about the bodice sizing I decided to make my muslin a size smaller than I normally do, so I cut out a size ten.  I'm normally about a 12 in the bodice and a 10 on the waist. After creating the muslin for the bodice I lay the width of the waist on to the waist of my fall-back skirt pattern, which has a waist of about size 10 and scratched my head. What I noticed is that from the side seams to the centre back, the skirt and the bodice matched, but it was the front bodice that was flapping around like a fish! Ah-ha!

I ended up reducing the side seam on bodice piece 1, 2 and 3 by four cm's in total; that's two cm's off on both sides of the bodice front, with no changes needed to be made on the bodice back sections! Finally the side and centre back seams of the bodice and skirt matched. Yay!

The other alteration I made was the length of the shoulder straps and the process of attaching them to the back of the skirt. Firstly, I'm a short bodiced gal, so I'm pretty much always shortening the bodice by my average three cm's. This time instead I just shortened the straps by three cm's instead of the bodice which made it a lot easier. The high neckline of the dress meant that nothing started gaping.

The change I made to the construction of the straps was to machine sew the back of the shoulder straps in place before adding the lining. The pattern instructions would have you stitch them down after you've attached the lining making the bottoms of the straps visible on the inside! This just won't do!
I suppose they've dont it this way so you have more flexibility in unpicking the straps and adjusting the length if you're not happy with the length, but I think if you make a good muslin first, you should be able to work out the appropriate length from the muslin.

So, before I attached the lining to the dress at the neckline, I machine sewed the straps securely into place.  The length of the strap is not as long as the length of the whole neckline, so you can see the fabric curl up on the sides when it lays flat. It just means pinning and sewing the lining onto the front and back neck feels a little bit more 3D but the cleaner end result with the bottoms of the straps tucked in is worth it.

Apart from the fitting issues of the bodice, and my slight construction variation, this pattern was quite a pleasure to make! The instructions were refreshing very clear and well explained and the order of construction flowed instinctively. I also love how the dress is fully lined and with a side invisible zip to give the dress an extra couture touch.

I had every intention of making a belt to go with the dress, as the pattern does include instructions, but after adding the lace trim I didn't think it really needed it.

Almost forgot; here's a few back views of the dress!

In conclusion, I love this simple but sweet design and how well (I hope!) it mixed with the pink shiny fabric and the lace. The colour reminds me of Cotton Candy, or Fairy Floss as we call it here in Australia, and so I couldn't resist using cotton candy in the photos! A big thank you to my very patient and talented husband who let me employ his time and skills for these photos that you see. 

This dress is already one of my favourite dresses, and it's timeless-ness will make it appropriate for years to come. If you've been thinking about giving this pattern a try, do it!

... and yes your suspicions are correct, there is no longer any cotton candy left in the house ... it may or may not have been all eaten ... by myself.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Granny Smith

I made this dress in a hurry two days before the wedding. I had purchased the fabric and the lace a few months back and ideas for what I could do with it had been brewing in my subconscious for a while. Once a defined idea popped into my head, no pending wedding could hold me down; I had to make it!

The dress is made with green cotton that I purchased from The Fabric Store and trimmed with some lovely delicate white lace which makes the dress, well, pretty! I added the lace around the neckline and arm holes which I top stitched into place, and I also featured it on the pleats at the bottom of the skirt.

You can see echoes of the Tessuti Awards dress in this number, which evidently I haven't yet got out of my system. There are just so many glorious things you can do with pleats! Just like my Tessuti Awards dress I made a long row of pleats, but instead of making five rows on the skirt I kept it simple and sweet with just one row along the hem of the skirt.

I sewed down one long strip of the lace just above the hem of the pleat fabric before I made the pleats. I really like how it turned out! The lace is such a pretty little detail, and the white really works with the green.

From these photos you'll notice two new things that I brought back with me from my honey moon in Hawaii; these gorgeous heels which are my new favourites, and ... wait for it ... a tan! My skin has taken on vampire-like qualities since I was practically an infant and I no longer look like just two eyes balls and hair when I stand in front of a white wall.

This dress is perfect for spring/summer, and the colour makes me think of fresh green granny smith apples! I think this dress is going to get a work out this season!