Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pattern drafting - week 3

Hmmm...where to begin? I have mixed feelings about the class tonight. I spent it making the toile of the bodice to check the fit. 

Here's a reminder of my working drawing. Can you see how many curved seam lines there are? Practically every one! Anyone who has sewn a princess seam knows they can take a while. Double that when you consider the curve of the back panels. I have never sewed a seam like it! 

My first ever dress design

The rest of it came together quite well and I was feeling pretty good about the overall shape. The rest of the class were finalising their patterns and cutting out their fabric but that was ok - patience was on my side tonight. And then I got to the fitting, ten minutes before the end of the class. 

Bodice toile front

As you can see from the picture above we have to make A LOT of alterations. Essentially we have to redraft the bodice. The front shield shape will disappear completely. Instead the seam from the top panels will meet in the middle under my bust, indicated by the pins across the front. We will draft new pieces for the bustier which potentially means putting pleats into chiffon (gulp!). There is some excess fabric that we pinched out which will be removed completely. It is too tight across my backside. The shoulder seams need to move forward a couple of millimeters and move in towards my neck more. This will ensure the puff sleeves will fit well. They are yet to be drafted. I walked away disappointed, made worse by the fact that I can't do anything until next week as my teacher needs to sit with me and talk me through the changes. 

Bodice toile back

For those of you that don't know me well, I always try to find the positives as it tends to make me feel better. So let's try that now: I love the panel seams at the back. I continue to learn about pattern drafting and will be able to test my new skills again next week. I'm learning about fit and how to make alterations in a better way than I have before. At the end of the course I will have a dress that I designed myself, drafted and made with my own hands and will hopefully be the best fitting item I own. I will be able to use this knowledge for future patterns. I have a fabulous, encouraging teacher who will help me get to the end, even if it is once the course ends. Heck, she even brought some fabric from her own stash for me to consider. I have to say, I'm becoming increasingly more tempted! If I can find the right lining I think I'll go with it. It has passed through every opinion test I have put it through so far. The colours come alive with a light colour under them - I tried it with cream earlier. 

Silk chiffon - possible fabric

So has that made me feel better? A bit but not a lot. It isn't watching everyone else move ahead. It isn't really the fact that I have to go back to the drawing board. I think it is that I had got my hopes up that I would cutting merrily away next week. Generally I don't have to make a huge number of alterations, I'm lucky that way. This is just a bit of a surprise after the amount I have invested it in already. It will pass and I'll make the most of the next class. Apologies, this is a raw post but I just need to get it out of my system...

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Pattern drafting - week 2

Thanks for the comments about my proposed design. The good news is I'll be making it with one adjustment. I needed to add an additional seam line down the front and under the bust. Not surprisingly this is one of the more complicated designs within the class but I've been reassured that we will succeed! 

The main focus of this session was to map the pattern out and then trace the pattern pieces from that map. From our sketch we mapped out the different seams we will need onto a diagram of the bodice block which had been extended to the knees. 

Extended block
The lower line of piece 1 is the additional seam

Mapping the front design took longer than the back. I'll have five unique pattern pieces for the front and two unique pieces for the back. I'll be adding godets to the front and back of the skirt, probably  six in total. On the front I took in the sleeve line by 2 cm (and remembered to make the same change to the back). With the help of a tape measure I settled on a 7cm strap across the from of my shoulders. From there I drew a curve from the inside line to a little above the waistline. The next seam was drawn from the lower part of the arm scythe to my under bust point. I had to eliminate the side dart at this point using a pivot technique similar to the one to move a dart. The side panel was next. I drew a curve from mid way on the outside line of the front dart to the hip line. I then graded the curve out to the inside line of the dart, thus eliminating it. The last pieces drawn in on the front was for the bustier and we eyeballed this! 

Bodice map front

The back in comparison was a breeze. I lowered the neckline and drew in the side panel from the arm scythe to the hip line eliminating the dart as I went. Hopefully you can see the details in the photos, the paper is a little shiny and the pencil marks are hard to see when photographed. 

Bodice map back

From here I lengthened the block by 65cm so it hit my knee which is where the skirt will sit when completed. 

After a break for a cup of tea I got to work on creating my pattern pieces. This involves tracing each individual piece from the main map. You can make your life easier by tracing over the seam lines in different coloured pens. This took a while as every time I lined up the dots and crosses on the paper it moved making tracing accurate pieces rather difficult! 

Anyway, I managed to trace all seven pieces before the end of the class. We were encouraged to name each piece but I couldn't work out what to call some of them so went with numbers, unoriginal but effective! My homework was to add the 1.5cm seam allowance (because I would forgot to include this when I cut the fabric) and to cut out the pieces. 

As you can see my sewing space is in our table in the lounge

I can't wait to see how this works out. I'll be making a toile of the bodice in the next class to check the fit is ok. This means I'll be watching my classmates move ahead with cutting and sewing but I feel this is important - I would rather end up with a dress that I can wear at the end so patience will be required. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A sneak preview

I'm off to my second lesson of the pattern drafting course tomorrow evening. If you're interested in hearing how I get on, I'll do a post at the weekend. 

I previously mentioned that I chose a Zac Posen dress as my inspiration. I spotted it while looking at his Spring 2013 collection. I wanted to make something slightly complicated in the lesson with teacher support so I could make something of similar difficulty, or more, at home. Here is the dress:

Zac Posen
Original found here
I love the silhouette and the flow of the skirt. The bustier detail is wonderful and I'm intrigued by the sleeves. The contrasting patterns on the panels and their sharp lines are what really makes it for me. Given that I only have six weeks in the class, that the idea is to have a completed dress by the end of it and the fact that I have never drafted a pattern in my life I realise that this would be beyond my capabilities. I have simplified it quite a bit while keeping some of the details. I haven't yet shared this with my teacher so some of what you will see may change. Please also forgive my sketching - drawing is not one of my talents!

My first ever dress design

I wanted to keep the silhouette as much as possible and some of the sharp lines so panels are a must. There will be a contrast one of either side. Additional panels (number to be determined) will be added to the skirt. I'll also keep the bustier. The sleeves on the original are knotted, which would drive me crazy, so I've opted for a cuff to help keep the poufy effect, they will be gathered at the top. The original has a circular back cutout which I'll be skipping completely. It will close with a centre back zip. 

The panels, bustier and sleeves will be made from a contrasting fabric. I haven't yet bought any as I wanted to wait for the class to work out how much I would need. I'll be going on Friday and have a few ideas in mind but again, that may change tomorrow. I want to avoid black and white (I'll only mess it up!).  Suggestions gratefully received! 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Me Made May 13 and Fancy Dress

This will be a short post today. I have finally come out the other side of craziness at work which was the lead up to two events in two days, both of which had an African them and both went really well. I did managed to keep up Me Made May but I didn't get a photos of each day.

May 15th

My first repeat item. I wore my Laurel top to work but didn't get a photo.

May 16th

Vogue 1089

I went for my only red dress. It is Vogue 1089, made from a medium weight cotton with machine embroidered flowers in the same colour. I love the way wearing red makes me feel which is why I'm surprised I don't have anymore of it in my wardrobe.

May 17th

Again, I didn't get a photo but I wore my Reglisse. This was the day of the first event - you'll see what I got up to a little further down. 

May 18th

Grey Ginger

Second event of the week! I volunteered for the registration desk and had to look after the VVIP (not a typo) lunch so I needed something smart. I went for my third Ginger skirt which is made from a heavy grey fabric. I'm not exactly sure what it is but it frays like nothing else I have ever bought! But the pattern on it is lovely! 

And the best part of these events? I got to dress up in Nigerian traditional dress! Before I saw the dress I was worried that they would push me fully out of my comfort zone with  hair wrapped in fabric and big bold colours that I couldn't pull off. Turns out I didn't need to worry! I have no idea whether this is actually traditional though but it was great to wear it for six hours! It also fitted reasonably well, except it was slightly small around my bust but I don't think anyone noticed. 

Nigerian Dress

Yes, it is African wax print and I have to say I am now tempted to get some! And I learnt that I can wear a collar and do frills but I'm not sure I would wear them together again...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pattern drafting

Work continues to be crazy and my time and energy for doing something creative this week has been sapped. Luckily I started a pattern drafting course last night named Vintage Frocks run by Pinworks, the learning arm of Darn It and Stitch. I walked away from it feeling more energised, having completely forgotten about work because my brain had to work in ways it has not for a long time!

The course takes place every Wednesday evening for six weeks for three hours. The idea is that we will have a fully finished dress at the end of it of our own design that fits us perfectly. I have a dress in mind, one by Zac Posen, but it is far too complicated for a first attempt and the time scale that we have. I'll be working on the design this week for homework - yes, we have homework! This is the first time that I have seen a REALLY expensive dress and thought that I could make a version of it. 

Last night we began by taking a series of measurements, more measurements than I have ever taken before. What struck me at this point is just how much my shape can change in a few days. The measurements I sent across before the class were accurate except for my waist, which has always been my problem area. I tend to fluctuate a lot but didn't realise just how much until it is put into numbers. I don't dwell on it but I do find it interesting to get items to fit at times. 

Original back block
Back Block

From the measurements we chose our standard size basic block and tailored it to our individual measurements. I had a few minor tweaks across the shoulder. If you squint at the pictures you can just see that I graded out a bit. I also needed to extend the shoulder dart meaning the front contort dart moved down slightly. So far, so good. And then I got to the waist measurement and that completely confused me! Against the size chart I had to add a good deal in this area but when it came to drawing in the dart on the block I had to take away. Can you see the confusion for someone who has not done this before? What I didn't realise is that the chart measurements are without the width of the dart. Once I figured that out, with Adam's help once I got home, I got it. For me, the darts at the back are narrower than the ones at the front as this is, and I quote, "where you need more fabric". I love the frankness that was delivered with!  

Original front block
Front Block

Once we had our basic blocks tailored we learnt to pivot the dart on the front. I had never moved a dart before and the thought of it conjured up all sorts of thoughts about it being a complicated process. Turns out it isn't. As long as you remember where to stop tracing before pivoting you're fine! You can see on the photo above where I redrew the line to move the dart to be under the bust. You need to mark where the top right line is on the shoulder dart on to the paper you are tracing, hold a pencil at the point near the bust and then pivot the paper to the right until the left line of the dart reaches the mark of the right. You can then draw in the dart under the bust and draw the outline of the pattern by finding the middle. Does that make sense? It is actually harder to write than to demonstrate. 

Pivoted dart
Front block with moved dart

So this is where we left it. As I said at the beginning, I'm now off to finalise the design so I can I can begin to create the pattern next week. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Me Made May 13 - Week 2

Work has been a bit crazy this week and I found it rather draining but I did manage to keep up my pledge to MMM. I also had a great tonic in a weekend away and managed to pack appropriately for the challenge and reach five me made items this week. This is a slightly longer post that includes some items from last week. You'll notice that I have swapped some photos again as I don't like the ones I uploaded to Flickr! 

May 6th


My Reglisse dress. I won't bore you with the details again but I still love it! 

May 7th

Aubergine Ginger

My aubergine Ginger skirt. This one is slightly longer than the purply pink once. It is finished with two trims of pink bias. The zip went in well. It is made from medium-heavy cotton with flat felled seams. 

May 8th

Flowery Alma blouse front

My flowery Alma. Details here

May 9th

Green Taffy

Green Taffy from the Colette book. I love this pattern and when I found some green silk in a shop on Goldhawk Road I knew it would be perfect! I'm reasonably happy with the fit although the neck is a little too wide. I finished it with a pink trim made from an old bed cover. I need to redo the trim as it is coming away in places. French seams throughout. 

May 10th

McCall's 2401

McCall's 2401. Please excuse the cheesy grin - it was Friday and I was leaving work early which made me very happy! Huge thanks to everyone who made suggestions on what to do with this dress. I tried it with the belt and felt some shape come to it. I then took off 2.5 inches from the length so it hits above my knee. I feel sooooo much better in it. I need to find a better belt (this one is old and starting to fall apart) and perhaps play around with the sleeves a bit to see if I can make it even better. Either way I'm less likely to pass over it now - yay! 

May 11th

Laurel top

I realised last week that I didn't have a good number of tops that match my separates. As I was browsing online fabric shops I found this Liberty Lawn from Fabrics Galore and had to buy it. Four days later I had this top. 

This is the Laurel with a bit of length added. I wasn't sure about the original sleeves, I thought the fabric needed something a little more delicate so I opted for the sleeves from the Alma. They turned out beautifully, if a little like wings. I completed this top on Thursday evening. Work had got to me that day and I had A LOT of almost angry energy that had to be channeled into something creative and productive. Not too bad a result I think! 

May 12th

Lady Grey

I travelled back to Oxford today and it was a little windy! My trusty Lady Grey kept me warm. 

Phew! That's quite a few items there. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Completed: Reglisse

How many of you have seen the Spring-Summer collection from Deer & Doe? When they came out I knew that I would soon be the owner of the Reglisse and it would become one of the yet to be named patterns in my 20:20 challenge. I was drawn to the elegance of it on the model and figured it would be a perfect summer dress. A few weeks later I was in Masons, a local fabric shop, looking for fabric specific to a future project when I saw a girl drape a medium weight cotton over her arm. Have you have had that moment when you go "I HAVE to buy that?!" Well, that is what happened and I decided to pair that fabric with the pattern. Yes, it is blue but it has small white spots on it! They don't come out well in the photos so you'll need to believe me they are there. I need to double check my numbers but I'm pretty certain that I will soon have to leave the blue and pink fabric alone!


I couldn't wait for the sewalong and jumped straight in. The pattern is wonderful and it is straightforward to make. The bodice is cut on the bias and it has an elastic waistband. I always tend to read the instructions, even if I don't follow them when actually sewing. They are clear although I seem to have missed the line where it tells you to stitch the sides of the bodice together... The skirt is flared and gobbles up fabric. The pattern calls for 3m of 150cm wide fabric if you want to include the collar. I only had 3m at 115cm so sacrificed the collar but managed to squeeze out the rest of the dress with some creative layouts before cutting. I even managed to get the 4m of bias tape out of it!


I graded out from the bust to the waist and then in again to the hips - my standard alterations. I made a toile for the bodice and it fitted perfectly. The bust darts are exactly in place and the length of the bodice hits perfectly at my natural waist. Even the length is where I wanted it to be. It is the first pattern in a long time where the fitting felt effortless. 


The cotton was also a breeze to work with it. It hardly moved when prepared for stitching at the machine and stayed in place after just one press. Making the bias tape was extremely easy as a result which was great as pinning it and sewing it onto the skirt felt like an age. It also encloses the neckline. That is when I realised just how flared the skirt is. It also helped for a very tidy finish on the inside. I used French seams where possible and overlocked the rest - they are probably the neatest finished seams I have produced to date. 


How do I feel about this dress? I absolutely adore it, as those I have spoken to since its completion can testify! I love everything about it, the fabric, the cut, the skirt, the sleeves. Need I go on? It will work well with my pink or white cardigans and a red one, when I finally get round to finding one. I can wear it with a belt or not. I wore it for a warm but slightly breezy afternoon in the park yesterday and stayed reasonably cool. There is a minor issue with it though and that is with the skirt. If you're not careful a gust of wind will reveal everything under it so I'll probably have to invest in a slip to keep my dignity! Having said that, it will take an effort not to wear it everyday and I can see me making a few more of these. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Me Made May '13 Round up

Before I start I wanted to say thank you for all the helpful comments on my last post. I've yet to try them out but will do soon. 

Around the blogsphere Me Made May round ups are starting to take place so I thought it was time for my first. My pledge was to wear something made by me for five days a week, to make two new items and repair at least one. I have just finished a new project but you will need to wait until the middle of the week for more on it. Before I start with my items, have you seen the Flickr group yet? SO MANY people and SO MANY amazing outfits. It is taking up a lot of my time working through the photos but I just can't help myself! 

Day 1
Purply pink Ginger

I wore one of my Ginger skirts. I love this pattern, it is so comfortable and really flattering. I don't normally like high waisted skits or trousers but this one changed my mind. Although as you can see from the photo I am unlikely to show off the waistband (some kind of weird hangup about my stomach that I am working on!) I'm not sure what the fabric is, it is a mix. The pink is definitely elastic but what the purple is, I have no idea! I made it with flat felled seams. 

Day 2
Pink flower Alma

My first Alma. I generally make a toile of everything I wear because something is normally slightly off. But not so with the Alma and this has become a wearable toile and a staple in my wardrobe. The fabric is left over from a dress I made a few years ago but couldn't wear (I didn't really know what I was doing then!). The zip isn't right but it is under my arm so no one can tell! There is photographic evidence of me in this but the photo is awful so you'll have to make do with seeing it on the hanger! 

Day 3

Submarine Mathilde

The theme for this Friday was water. I had the perfect plan of going to the canal near work and persuading a colleague to take a photo and then I realised I had the day off. So my Mathilde came to the rescue. Submarines and seaweed was the closest I was going to get! 

If you're taking part, how are you getting on?


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