Self drafted work trousers

This post has been a long time coming. As long term readers will know, one of my main fitting issues with clothing are my narrow hips and trousers are the item that reveals this issue this more than any other. Finding a good pair of rtw without any stretch is almost impossible and results in huffing and puffing while browsing in the shops. I realised that the only way out of this pattern was for me to draft my own and, in January, the stars aligned when a work trip was cancelled and I got the final spot on a trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch.

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Over four weeks we created our block, tested it, made any necessary changes, learnt how to insert a fly opening, and then drafted our first pattern. It took a few tweaks to perfect my block and I'm thrilled that it fits perfectly around my hips. For my pattern I wanted a fairly classic design that would fill a massive hole in my work wardrobe. This pair feature front darts, a fly opening, side pockets, a back yoke which includes in seam pockets and a narrow waistband closed by a popper. To keep the side pockets safely in place, I chose to use a pocket stay. Getting the stays and the fly to look very neat on the inside was a little bit of challenge to work out but it all worked out in the end. 

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Due to the classic design, I decided to keep the details to the minimum - just some top stitching on the back yoke. I wanted the gorgeous grey wool (bought from Goldhawk Road) to stand out. It is a lovely quality wool that is smooth and itch free, and easy to work with. It is fabulous to wear - comfortable yet stylish and perfect for work. 

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Now a sensible pair of trousers on the outside called for a party on the inside and I chose a cracker of a fabric for the pocket lining and stays. The pink and orange are as bright in real life and this cotton had been waiting patiently for its chance to shine. I love how the colours work with the grey and it makes me happy to know the colours are there. 

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I've worn these quite a lot over the past three weeks and I'm generally very happy with them. They are a little big around the waist and I think I can solve this by making the darts a little bigger. I'm looking forward to making more of these and to creating new designs - I just need to find the time to get back to pattern drafting. I have an experimental pair ready to toile to see if they are a good idea or not for me and I'm dreaming of shorts. How do you find making trousers? Have you drafted your own? 

Self drafted pencil skirt

I recently stated that I hoped pattern drafting would feature more this year. Well, there's nothing like starting as you mean to go on! Here's my first completely self drafted item. I drafted my cocktail dress on a course but this was completed without any guidance from a teacher. 

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I decided to start simply and tackle the pencil skirt that I wanted to create from the leftover fabric from my jewel jacket. Buoyed by the strong support for it, I pulled out Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich to create my skirt block. I was given the book about six months ago but it's the first time I've really looked at it. I've seen this book referenced quite a lot recently and it seems a good one to start your pattern drafting journey. 

The block was quite quick to create. I think it took me about 90 minutes with a quick toile to check the fit. Thankfully it fitted very well and I didn't need to make any alterations. 

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This pattern is a very simple one. It is essentially the block with a waistband and a vent. Keeping it simple was a good idea as it not only led to a quick win, therefore boosting my drafting confidence, but also gave me the classic style pencil skirt for the office that I had been wanting. I adore the shape of pencil skirts but struggled with RTW ones as fabric pools around my narrow hips. It feels great to have a one that fits very well. 

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The waistband was easy to draft. I traced off the top 5cm from the front and back blocks with the darts closed, creating three pieces that join together. Tracing from the top of the block ensured that the skirt sat at my natural waistline. Adding the vent to the shell was also fairly simple. 

I extended the hem line of the back block out by about 3cm and then drew a line up to where I wanted the vent to stop, allowing for a 45 degree line to join them. 

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I wanted to try a new technique and decided to create a lined vent. I used this tutorial by Sunni to draft the lining. I didn't get this quite right as there is some bulk at the top of the vent. It doesn't add strain to the seam line and I can sit comfortably so I'm not too bothered. I worried about using an invisible zip as I thought the fabric might be too thick but it has worked ok.

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While it isn't perfect, I love this skirt. This is mainly because it fits so well. It is also extremely comfortable when I'm sitting which is a major bonus. The one thing I would change is my choice of lining fabric which I picked up at the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham. While it is soft, has a good drape and is quite easy to handle, it is also incredibly static and sticks to my tights a little thus moving the vent into an odd shape at times. Annoying as static is, it won't stop me wearing this skirt and I suspect it will be in rotation fairly frequently but I will need to find some more tops to wear with it - it's a wardrobe orphan at the moment. I'll have to make sure I prioritise the tops over the other skirt ideas that are circulating in my mind now.  

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? 

Magpie outfits part 2

This is the final post about the magpie photo shoot I did recently. 

Outfit two

This outfit was inspired by a sitting magpie. If you look at their folded wings they make a rather neat chevron and I wanted to capture that in this outfit.  The front of the bodice is made from three pieces. The top black section, made from the same poly satin as the other outfits, has shoulder darts. The top seam of the white chevron, also poly satin, is topstitched in place. The green layer, made from a scarf I found in a local charity shop, is also topstitched in place. The back is black with two darts. The bodice closes at the side with a zip. 

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The model would have short hair and I needed a high neckline. The original plan was to add a green trim around the neck but I couldn't find anything that matched well enough and I also worried about how the bodice would go over the models head! I raised the neckline substantially and put a zip into one of the shoulder seams. The sleeves are cute capped ones. 

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I wanted a skirt to match the bodice. I found a good quality pair of size 18 trousers in the charity shop and refashioned it into a skirt. I unpicked the inside seams and stitched them at the back after taking in about 3 inches. I decided to make a curved hem at the front to break up the solid colours and also to illustrate the magpie's tail. After a lot of pressing the curve did eventually lie flat. 

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This outfit was finished with a couple of necklaces and a pair of black heels. 

Outfit three

In many ways this outfit was the simplest. The model for this outfit was blonde and it was important that the colours amplified the hair style rather than took away from it. She also had short hair which meant I need to create a higher neckline. 

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The top is essentially a shirt pattern without the button holes. This wasn't the original idea which was a top with a turtle neck but that quickly became unachievable as I was using a woven fabric rather than a knit. I decided I needed a stand up collar instead and settled on a variation of the Mandarin collar. This changed the design of the top from a fitted bodice to a slightly looser shirt with a wide placket at the front. The collar, interfaced with a thick cotton to add stability, joins midway through the placket and overlaps slightly. The shirt closes with poppers. I'll admit that I completely improvised this pattern but somehow it worked out. 

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The sleeves are from the same pattern as the blue dress and again represent the wings of a magpie. They are more successful in this top as they are set into a full armscye.  The flash of purple comes a tassel made from medium thickness cord with white electrical tape wrapped around the ends. It was held into place with a large brooch. 

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I'm really pleased with how they all turned out. Would I do it again? Quite possibly. It was a lot of work but it was a chance to nudge my pattern drafting skills along. This is something I definitely need to find more time for. 

Magpie outfits part 1

I won't be giving away too many details of the overall collection but I promised details of the outfits I made for the shoot last week. The theme for the collection was Magpies, which I was quite excited about as it offers many options for shapes, colours and textures. The era of inspiration was Victorian Gothic which gave additional possibilities. 

I quickly sketched out six designs before meeting Andreea for a drink to decide on the styles and colours for each outfit. This was a very useful meeting as Andreea already had the hair styles in mind and knew which colour would suit which model. Each model would be predominantly in black with highlights of one particular colour - blue, purple or green. By the end of the evening I had three styles that were a mix of the six I started off with. 

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I knew from the start that I wanted to draft the patterns myself and used my block throughout. This would give me the push I needed to put into practice what I had learnt in the spring on my pattern drafting course and to learn more techniques. The other, probably more important, reason was to avoid any potential IP or copyright issues as the photos will be professional ones. 

So onto the individual outfits. I'll share one today (as the original post was loooong) and the other two later to save you going crossed eyed or just getting bored!  

Outfit one

The first outfit I started was the blue one, as it was the one I was most excited by. The model would have long hair which meant the neckline needed to be low, ideally to show of the collar bone to make sure the outfit did not compete with the hair. This outfit is the one where Victorian gothic is shown in full force. 

The bodice has princess seams at the front and the back. Drafting them was a new experience for me and I used this wonderful tutorial by Sunni. The pattern extends by a few inches around the shoulders and the seam line is on the outside of the arm. It has an invisible zip on the side which I put in by hand. The bodice is made from poly satin and the seam allowance has been overlocked as this stuff frays like you will not believe. 

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The sleeves are wide and represent the wings of the magpie. They are made from a poly chiffon. If you look carefully enough you can see how they join the bodice rather awkwardly in places. This is because I had trouble drafting a sleeve - it is much harder than I imagined it to be and I have a lot to learn. The cuffs are two standard rectangles, one from white poly satin and one from cobalt silk, folded in half and then stitched together. The sleeves are gathered at the cuffs. 

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The finishing touch to the bodice was this beautiful cobalt lace that I found on Etsy and had shipped all the way from California. I can recommend Suzi from MaryNotMartha, she answered my question about the colour and then processed my order quickly so it arrived in time. I tacked the lace by hand as stitching by machine would have hit several sequins and ruined the flowers. 

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A bodice like this one could only have a particular partner. It was screaming out for a full circle skirt that hit the floor. Drafting the pattern for this was the quickest part in creating the skirt even though I was fighting with tracing paper as my table isn't big enough to fit the pattern piece on. Ideally I would have cut the skirt on the fold but that just wasn't going to happen. If I couldn't fit the piece on my table, there was no way the fabric would be wide enough to be on the fold. I had to cut out the four pieces in the hall. 

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It is finished with a rectangular waist band and closed with an invisible zip. The seams are overlocked and this is the main reason why all three outfits ate over 500m of black thread! The bottom hem was overlocked twice to give a false rolled hem. I knew that this hem would be problematic on set and it was. There was an inch and half difference in some places which led to a re-hem before the shoot started. I tried on the skirt prior to the shoot and realised at once that it needed some support. A friend came to the rescue with a knee length petticoat. It worked very well.

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The outfit was finished off with a black beaded necklace and a large glossy blue ring but unfortunately I didn't get photos of the accessories. 

Secret project revealed

You'll never guess what I did today. I attended a photo shoot for the latest hair collection designed by my hairdresser. I wasn't there to observe but to provide the outfits!

The story started t wo months ago when Andreea came to cut my hair. Within 10 minutes of entering our flat she had asked me to create the outfits for her next photo shoot. I couldn't turn down this opportunity and agreed as soon as I saw the brief - Magpies. I'll save the actual details of the outfits and their inspiration for another post but I wanted to share with you some of the behind the scenes photos I took. 

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The whole process, from beginning to end, was new to me. I haven't designed any item of clothing to a brief before, made items for people I haven't met until the day they wear them, nor been on set for a shoot. There were times when I thought I had taken on too much (especially as work has exploded over the last three weeks) but overall it was a very rewarding experience. 

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All three outfits are very simple in style which was great as I drafted most of them using my block and making changes were necessary. I even managed a refashion. The hardest part was trying to figure out how much bigger I should make the outfits - what if they were too small? I would have been mortified but luckily they all fitted quite well. One bodice was too big at the back but a safety pin took care of that. The only other change I had to make was to the hem of a very full circle skirt, you can see me pinning the hem in place here. During the actual shoot I had to make sure that the outfits looked the way I wanted. I spent a lot of time slightly altering how the bodices sat to smooth out ripples or make sure a key detail was proudly on display. It felt strange nipping onto the set between photos to do this. After nearly six hours we had enough photos to call it a day! While it was tiring, I'm really glad I did it as it was great fun. 

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It will be sometime before we have the finished photos but I'll make sure I share them with you when they are available. 

Completed: The summer cocktail dress

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I started a pattern drafting course earlier in the year. Three months ago I walked into my first session wondering whether my inspiration dress could be turned into a real one, made to measure, just for me. 

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I had never drafted a pattern before so the first three lessons or so were a learning curve for me. I learnt how to take a picture and add it to my block. This 2D image then became separate pattern pieces, which is a wonderful experience when you have created them yourself. A few modifications were needed and then I set about the complex construction. I won't go into details but you find them all in previous posts. Last night I added the final stitch. 

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Never one to shy away from a challenge, I honestly thought, at times, I had bit off too much with this dress. I don't think any item has taken me so long to finish nor has one demanded so much emotional investment. The construction was a little like a love-hate relationship. There were days when I adored it, days when I couldn't get excited about it. Posting about it made the process a little easier as the comments left were encouraging. I last left you at the terrifying stage of cutting the chiffon for the godets. Eventually they decided to cooperate although tears were nearly shed and I did need some expert help in getting the point right on the centre front one. Inserting godets into a seam is much easier, so much so that I added an extra one to the centre back seam. 

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The dress has an invisible zip which I put in by hand. It is fastened at the top with a hook and eye. The bustier needed an extra layer on chiffon at the top to hide the fact that both sides had stretched. I also noticed that it wasn't big enough to cover my bra - not a look I was going for! The sleeves weren't as difficult as I expected them to be. I did have help putting them in but I added the cuff independently. The band on the right arm is a little tight but I do have room to move and didn't think it justified unpicking. I have to say I've had my fill of unpicking silk! 

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Hemming isn't the part of sewing I enjoy the most and I had two hems to do. The lining is a double folded hem and ends higher than the chiffon. The chiffon is finished with a double zig zag stitch. I went all the way round with a zig zag and started again, all the way round, for a second time. Apparently this was one way of finishing a seam before over lockers entered the stage. This hem is small but it feels sturdy and provides a little bit of definition at the bottom. 

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I learnt a lot throughout this process. I can now draft a basic pattern. I know nifty tricks for gathering, getting rid of those pesky stitches that are missed and form little loops on your fabric and how to add godets. I know to pull back a little from such a complex idea the next time I do a course although some complexity is good! Fitting during the construction is a very good idea, I just need to remember that for future projects. Silk chiffon is a wonderful fabric but a nightmare to work with. It will be a while before I contemplate using it again. But the biggest thing I have learnt is that patience is your best friend in sewing (although the seam ripper could plausibly argue its worthiness for this prize). There were many times when I wanted to rush forward but I knew it wouldn't look right or it would damage the fabric. I did unpick the pieces I wasn't happy with, I wouldn't have done in many of my previous makes. You also cannot beat being taught by someone with many years experience. Special thanks have to go to Chris for getting me to the finish line. She went above and beyond the boundaries of the course.  

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Overall I am very happy with this dress even though it is very different to what I would normally wear. It is much more feminine than most of my dresses. The colours are not my normal colours and it is taking a while to get used to them. Would I make it again? Yes, but with changes. I would probably change the fabric, and maybe play around with the skirt a little. It is great that I can now take a item and recreate my own version. In case you're wondering, I saved myself over £3000 by making my version! Yet another reason why I love stitching! 

Pattern drafting - week 7

First of all, I wanted to thank you all for the nice comments about my Sorbettos. You guys are great! 

I hope you haven't forgotten about this dress! We had an extra session last night above the shop at Darn It and Stitch. While it was absolutely sweltering, progress was made. Before the session I had managed to get the darts in on the front. This was tricky as they needed to merge with the curved seam line of the side panels. Plenty of basting later and this is the result. At that point I hoped that the silk lining wouldn't stretch again. 

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Well that was wishful thinking! Let's talk about the bustier now, we will get to the stretching again soon. I also put this together before the class. The bustier is, quite frankly, the most fiddly thing I have put together. Ever. It was fun though as I only had the toile that my teacher created to work from. I unpicked one side to find out how it was constructed and then used that as my pattern. The other side was left in case I needed it as a reference. Somehow I managed to stitch everything together on the wrong side which meant a LOT of unpicking. I can now honestly say that I hate unpicking chiffon, it takes so long as the potential for holes is extremely high.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get the pleats in place and stitch them in so I left them overnight. I found myself thinking carefully about the construction while trying to drift off to sleep and hit upon it. This is the only good part about having very noisy neighbours at midnight! I just pinned the pleats in place and hand stitched them with a running stitch from the back, keeping the thread hidden under the top layer. It took an hour to do this but I was pleased with the result. Now, can you see the problem with it in the photo below?

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Yep, the right side (left in the photo) had stretched at the top. A fitting in the class showed this. I couldn't face unpicking it again so my teacher opened up the side and clipped the seam (I may have forgotten to do that) which worked perfectly. We also had to reposition the centre seam. What did this mean? Yes, more unpicking! The lower two pleats moved in the alteration but I finally got them to match reasonably well. 

From here I moved on to adding the bias tape to the neckline. Again this took a while as the chiffon likes to move but they are both in now, with the help of a catch stitch. I love the fact that you can hardly see it in the photo.

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Now the really exciting part. I basted the neckline and bustier to the front. That's it, I now have a dress! Here's a sneak preview. 

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I also got the pattern for my sleeves which was incredible to watch. My teacher had pulled a pattern out of thin air for another member earlier in the class. It did feel like magic, or perhaps that was the heat getting to us. This was used as the basis for mine. We have added some puff to them and they will be gathered at the top and bottom. These, installing the zip as well as fitting and perhaps stitching the bustier in place, is my homework for the weekend. Good job I'm not back at work until Tuesday!

Pattern drafting - week 6

I'm late in posting this as it took a while to figure out how to share the massive amount of progress with you. Do you remember that I said I had a feeling that as soon as I started stitching the pieces together it would come together very quickly? Well, it has! 

But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's back up to where I left off in week 5. Before we do, I apologise that this is a text heavy and photo light post - I just didn't think to take photos during this session but have tried to replicate where possible. 

I drafted the mini flared skirt. To do this, you need to trace the section of the block that forms the lower part of the dress and draw up three lines, equal distance apart, and then cut those lines to just before the top of the paper. You then spread the pieces by the amount you want the skirt to flare, in my case I add about 7cm between each strip. 

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I cut this out and added it to the bottom of the lining. This lead to my first fitting and the good news is it fits, including over my hips, which is great as this is the area we were most worried about. 

Construction then commenced in ernest. I stitched the chiffon together at the centre back, stopping midway to allow for the zip and then stitched the side seams. The chiffon was pinned and basted to the lining and moved onto a body form. While it looked great, we realised that the lining had stretched a little in places, mainly under the bust. 

At this point, the top front bodice sections, the ones that had previously been underline, were added to see if it would bring some stability. I basted them into place and then tried it on. The fit is pretty close. There was too much fabric at the back, I have a slight sway back, not severe enough to normally make changes but it was noticeable here so we marked a new centre back line. The length was too much for me. Generally I don't wear dresses that fall below my knees, I can't really explain why but it is something to do with the feel, but this one felt different. My teacher then sat on the floor with her rulers and marked where the hem will be on the chiffon and then again on the lining, this one is higher as we need to add the skirt. It felt like a proper fitting session! Normally I don't hem this way as I find it really difficult to do all by myself. 

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We took scissors to the new hems. The skirt was removed and the new hem lines on both the lining and the chiffon was cut, you can see the amount removed above. It felt so wrong but so right to do this. Anyone else get this feeling when you hack your items once you have sewn it together? By this time it home time and I walked away with a long list of things to do at home. 

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From the photo you can see that we are stabilising and finishing the seams on the neckline using bias tape. We decided to add darts to the front, just under the bust. This will be really difficult as I have to merge them with the curved seam line to make sure I don't lose the shaping. I also need to reattach the skirt, prepare the bustier and get ready for adding the godets, if I get chance. The last bit is what worries me most as this means we're getting ready to put up to six slashes into the dress, eek! 

Technically the course has ended now but we'll be organising a few more sessions as most of us didn't finish. I have to say it was a little tough drafting a pattern and completing the dress in six weeks, perhaps that is why we didn't finish. But I've had a great time and it isn't a problem going to extra sessions. Hopefully it won't be too long before I can share the finished dress with you but I can't add the godets to the skirt, draft the sleeves and stitch in the bustier until these sessions start. 

Pattern drafting - week 5

I feel like progress is finally being made! I walked into the class with the dress practically as I had left it last week, in pieces and without the lining being cut out, as I didn't get chance over the weekend to baste everything together. That's not quite true, I did manage to underline the top front pieces. They are the only pieces being underlined. I'm not sure why but I'm enjoying watching this process unfold and hope for that lightbulb moment. But does anyone know why you would underline just two pieces and not the rest? 

Last night I cut out the lining and was rather relieved that I didn't do it at home as I learnt a nifty trick. The top layer of silk chiffon will be made of the many pieces and thus have a number of seam lines. The silk lining, however, will have less seams but keep the same shape. How? We laid the pattern pieces together and pinned them along the seam lines and then cut out. This makes for a lot smoother and more comfortable lining! I also shortened the length as we will be making a slightly flared skirt to go at the bottom. 

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I stitched the side seams using a small zig zag stitch as there is some stretch in the silk. I then put this aside and basted the chiffon together. This took a while as the fabric is slippery and trying to match notches (or balance marks, I also learned) at the edges isn't so straightforward. After much pinning with my new silk pins (they come highly recommended) I eventually had the pieces held securely in place. 

Then the fun really began. I used an overlocker for the first time! I had been waiting to try one for a long time. The lining edges were fraying very badly and overlocking seemed to be the most logical way to finish the seams. I watched a quick demonstration and then had a go with the other seam. I have to say, my seam wasn't as neat as the other but it wasn't bad for a first go! And it is something that I definitely want to try again. It seems that I will at some point soon as I had to test the thread colour for overlocking the chiffon. Did anyone else raise an eyebrow at this? Turns out it works fine! 

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I have another long weekend (hooray!) I will be stitching up the chiffon and need to draft the pattern for the flared skirt and cut that out in the lining. I'll also be going on my first blogger meet up in Birmingham which I'm really looking forward to. I've been wanting to go on one since seeing the epic London meet up! 

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! 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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...

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. 

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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! 

Summer cocktail dress week 2 2.jpeg

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. 

Summer cocktail dress week 2 3.jpeg

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. 

Pattern cutting.jpg

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. 

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:

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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!

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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! 

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. 

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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!  

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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. 

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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.