Pattern Hack: The Allie top

It is no secret that us sewing bloggers are busy people, especially those who have taken the plunge and released patterns. I have enjoying watching the all the recent new ones. Today I want to talk about one in particular: the Allie dress from Hannah at Made With Hugs and Kisses. Inspired by the Notebook, Hannah created Allie and being the generous soul she is, she has made her freely available for anyone to sew! Now, we all love free patterns don't we?!

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Before we get onto my version (which the eagled eyed will notice is not a dress!), I need to start with a confession. When I first saw Allie I was delighted for Hannah and thought the dress was extremely cute and full of lovely details - shirring at the back, halter neck, gathering at the front of the bodice, patch pockets for the skirt and no end of potential colour combinations. And there's where my interest stopped. While this dress would be fun to plan and make, I just couldn't think of a time when I would wear it as it isn't my style. My interest was piqued again when Hannah contacted me to see if I would be interested in sewing the dress. I downloaded the pattern to take a look at the pieces. The gathering at the front really appealed to me and before I knew it, a summer top had formed in my mind. I asked Hannah if she would mind a pattern hack and was told to "go wild". Wild this may not be, but here is my Allie top. 

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Starting with a toile of the original bodice, I realised I needed to make a few changes. Luckily it fitted perfectly at the bust. I removed a centimetre from the front waistband before extending it to finish at my hips. On the back, I removed about 5cm from the shirring panel and extended the waistband to finish at the same length as the front. Determined to practice some of my newly learnt pattern cutting skills, I drafted a front and back yoke. The back was relatively simple with the main decisions being how wide I wanted the shoulder seam to be and how low the neckline should be. The front took a little longer to draft and I discovered that I shouldn't try pattern drafting when very tired as I make the same silly mistakes over and over again especially over the shape of the neckline and where to place the centre front. However, I eventually got there and remembered to start the centre front of the yoke at the top notch marking the gathering on the bodice. I even remembered to true my seam lines before cutting out.

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As this top is meant to fill a gap in my summer wardrobe, I chose a cotton batik and a poly sheer fabric, both from A One Fabrics on Goldhawk Road. I love the moody background of the batik and the contrast of the bright pattern which repeats throughout. I decided to go with a sheer fabric for the yoke to break up the mass of colour - even using a solid colour would have been too much.  The sheer fabric is a bit of a surprise. It is very forgiving with snags disappearing almost as quickly as they were pulled.  

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The construction of the bodice is quick and simple. Hannah's instructions for the dress are clear and follow a logical order. Obviously I didn't include the shirring which will add some time and I can't speak for attaching the skirt but I'm sure the process is just as simple and clear. I took my time attaching the front yoke to the gathers as it gets a little tricky here - it is too easy to end up with a gap in your stitches and that is not a flattering look! The majority of seams are overlocked, except the shoulders which are French seams. Can we talk about baby hems for a moment please? I was stumped for a while on how to finish the neckline and arm holes in this sheer fabric. After some quick research I decided on baby hems. I used a very narrow zigzag stitch (width: 2, length: 0.7) on my machine as I haven't fully worked out how to use my overlocker for hemming. I folded the fabric at the stitching line and then put it slowly through the machine to ensure an even hem. This took forever but it was worth it. I love how neat and delicate they look. Trimming the excess fabric very close to the stitching is slightly terrifying though! I took a short cut on the narrow 6mm hem, deciding to machine stitch it. 

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I'm pretty pleased with how this tops fits, it is easy to pull on and off without the need for any closures. However, I haven't quite got the front yoke right. There is a little too much fabric there and it ripples obviously at times. If I decide to make this top again, I'll need to revisit that part. The baby hems are a little rough on the skin but a couple of washes should soften them.

This is my first real attempt at a pattern hack and I enjoyed the process. I've already been looking for others that I can tweak. Do you often see the potential for a pattern hack? And have you popped over to Hannah's blog to take a more in depth look at Allie as she was originally designed? 

Completed: Pretty in Peacock dress

A short while ago the generous people at Minerva asked if I wanted some fabric. I took a look at their collection and my heart leapt when I saw this beautiful peacock cotton lawn and said yes please. I knew immediately which dress I would make.

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It was fun to work with a vintage pattern and I will definitely try it again. I had to grade up the pattern by three sizes. This was my first attempt and I was guided this fantastic tutorial from Casey. Turns out it was not as difficult as I expected. I don't think I slashed the original size in quite the right places so something to work on next time. 

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I made a toile of the dress so I could check the size but also to work through the instructions in case there were any difficult parts. The construction is actually pretty simple but there are quite a few steps. I quickly realised that the key to success with this pattern is the preparation, namely transferring the markings from the pattern to the fabric. There are so many stitching lines, tuck lines, darts, pleats and button holes to mark. I must have spent an hour making dozens and dozens of tailors tacks. 

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I wanted to a blue stripe for the buttonholes, like the original pattern drawing, and figured that this would be straightforward as it looks like two pattern pieces. It isn't. I solved this by chopping the pattern at the tuck line closest to the edge of the pattern and added seam allowance. You can't see the join as that seam is at the bottom of the tuck. Can you see how well the blue matches the eye of the peacock feathers? Whoever picked this out at Minerva did a fantastic job! 

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With autumn approaching I wanted a dress that I could wear over the next few months and therefore decided to underline the dress using the medium weight white cotton I had left over in my stash. Together, the fabrics were wonderful to work with and pressed brilliantly. It was such a nice change after the silk chiffon. I used the blue cotton to bind the seams and think it gives a neat look on the inside. I didn't measure how much bias tape I made but it was a lot! 

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The trickiest part of making this was the button holes. For some reason my machine made four beautifully and then threw an absolute fit for the others. After testing, and checking for lint or stray thread and still not getting anywhere, I turned them upside down. I now have as many button holes as needed but the last two aren't great, at least the buttons cover most of them. 

Of course, this dress is not complete without a bow at the top and a belt. I made sure I had enough blue cotton to make them both before I whizzed up the bias tape. There was no way I would be missing out on them. Can you guess whose tutorial I used to make the belt? Of course, it's Tilly's!

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I absolutely love this dress although I probably spend too much time admiring the print! I'm really pleased I bought the pattern and included it as part of my challenge (number 12 now completed). It is getting its first public outing tomorrow at a work event.