Sunday 17 January 2016

Frocktails 2016 - Vogue V1233 the lowdown

I made a fancy dress.

I wore it last night, in a room full of beautiful women, wearing beautiful fancy outfits, that they too, had made.

Edit: this is a long one. go get a cup of tea and settle in, or just skim through the pictures if you prefer :)

The event was Frocktails. As you can probably surmise, that's cocktails, in frocks. An incredible group of makers gathered to drink, nibble and talk fabrics and patterns into the wee hours. I had met only one person there in the flesh before, but in a room full of sewers you can never feel lonely, right?

Formal, fitted dresses was a whole new ballgame for me, but this was definitely the occasion to inspire me to give it a crack.

Enter Pamella Roland Vogue V 1233

Vogue 1233 link
I loved the big collar and safari suit vibe of this dress and knew it had to be made in some kind of tweedy beige fabric. The perfect fabric (and fancy lining) was found at The Fabric Store and just as I was wondering if I could do it, there was an email from Kate at Buttonmania to notify of her upcoming holiday and if any covered belt orders were required to get in quick.

Just like how paying for race entry used to make me ride the most technical mountain bike courses, when really, I'd felt like getting off and waiting in the car. I figured that by paying for Kate to make the belt I would be obliged to follow through and make the dress.

of course, she also had the most perfect buttons...

I've never been fond of yellow gold. I avoid gold jewellery and knew that I wasn't going to play up the goldness of the fabric. The fabric has both gold and silver metallic threads (more like thin tinsel strips really) through it and I wanted a button that was silver, with a bit of gold.

The sheaf of wheat and the word "country" was just icing on the cake! They are etched, reportedly from a famous German button house, and cost more per button than some garments I've made.

Kate also found the perfect buttons for the lower part of the dress. These are very flat and just a simple burnished silver.

The dress closes with a full button placket, but those buttons below the waist go into a hidden placket. It's neat and I'd never sewn this kind of placket before, but it's not entirely functional...

You see, the edge of that placket is just pressed, and if you sit down it opens up. I ended up handstitching the full length of the placket about a 1/4 inch from the edge. With the texture of my fabric it was easy to take just little pick stitches of the outer fabric and not have them show, but with a smoother fabric it could be problematic.

The ideal fabric for this dress would probably be something a bit stiffer too. I was worried that without some fitting and structure my fabric could easily look like old curtains. Kate suggested horsehair canvas and while I'd never done that before I figured this was the project to try it on. I shot off a few help me emails to those that I thought would be horsehair canvas dab hands. Turns out they're just naturally smooth, firm, gorgeous women whose dresses look like they're boned and supported, but aren't. Lucky ladies, huh.

I did what I usually do and made it up as I went along.

I guessed that including the horsehair in seams would be disastrous, so I cut all the bodice panels in horsehair without the seam allowance, then hand basted them to some thin cotton and underlined the dress panels.

It was starting to feel pretty hefty, a bit like Queen Victoria's corsets, and I watched the weather forecast nervously. A hot night would certainly require a plan B or I'd be fainting!

I dealt with the bust dart by cutting a wedge out of the horsehair, and sewing the dart into the underlining. I've since learned this is exactly what you're meant to do. How lucky is that!

I stopped the horsehair at hip height and then cut a facing shaped piece that was about 2" wide for the hem. That left the bottom part of the skirt unsupported and it looks a bit wavy and limp because of it. But really, this dress was becoming like a quilt!

Fitting the bodice wasn't too tricky, thank goodness. I made a few 1cm dart reductions to the pattern tissue to get rid of the fabric puddle just above my bust that I've noticed seems to be my trouble spot.

The only other bodice adjustment was the centre back neck. I shaved off 1cm width at the top of the centre seam, tapering out over about 8cm, and then after I'd attached the collar I still had a little horizontal wrinkle. I unpicked about 10cm of collar, hoicked the centre neck up into the collar by a centimetre or so and then restitched the collar.

Thankfully, all the rest of the bodice seams required no adjustments at all.


But then came the sleeves. The sleeves as per the pattern are just wrong. They are too full, too high and too short to look anything like the picture on the pattern cover. Sadly I hadn't paid attention to that when I cut the muslin and it was only after I'd set one sleeve in that I realised how horrid they were.

On the left is the original pattern sleeve. On the right I've pinned out width - 1cm at the top of the sleeve cap and about 3cm at the hem. I baulked and only removed 2cm at the hem in the end, but I should have stuck with the pinned version.

I ripped out that first sleeve and recut them. I added horsehair into the sleeves initially, but that just seemed to exacerbate the gathering and warping rather than making them flatter as I'd hoped. I took the sleeve off again, removed the horsehair and went for round three. By this time I was wishing my second cut had included more length. They need to be a good few centimetres longer on me, but as you can see from my face above I was getting kinda grumpy, the shoulder was fraying more and more with every attempt, and the third sleeve attempt was going to be the last no matter what.

This was my altered sleeve pattern piece:

With that compromise, the dress was done.

On a makers high, I decided I needed a brown clutch that would match my shoes.

I'd never sewn leather before either, but if you read my blog, or have even read this far into this one post, you know what happened next.

A $25 gift voucher from a friend (for The Fabric Store) bought me exactly the right amount of leather, some lovely gold fabric for piping and the inner yoke and a zipper. With 30 cents to spare!

The pattern was one I already had;

Straight Stitch Society - In a Clutch
To make it more formal I wanted to set the zipper lower into the bag. The modification was just to cut the lining the same as the outer bag and a second set of yokes, then sew the zipper in between the two

The lining bag, with the bottom left open for turning, was then put over the outer bag, right sides together and the top edges sewn. However that was a lot of layers of thick leather and the whole thing became a twisted mess and there was no way I could neatly edgestitch the whole circumference.

Adding magnetic snaps into the inner yoke before sewing the lining closed allowed me to neaten it up enough to pass for a respectable clutch in a dark room.

I don't usually wear any makeup, and I was perfectly prepared to accept that as a dark art which I had neither the tools nor expertise to master. I went into the city and had my eyes done at MAC. I took the fabric with me and some images from the web and the lovely young woman instantly got my silver/gold/bronze idea.

Sometimes it pays to have your eyes shut in photos!
Katie did my hair for me and I was delighted with what felt like my everyday ponytail, but had quite a bit of added glamour. Thanks!

I had a wonderful time. I met so many amazing women. Sometimes I looked so long and hard at their dress I forgot to make a note of who the woman wearing it was. Other times I got so engrossed in conversation with a new friend that I forgot to clock what she was wearing.

I'm looking forward to the official photographers photos and the who's who list of Frocktailers. Meanwhile, a million thanks to Kat and the team behind organising Melbourne Frocktail 2016

Dress pattern: Pamella Roland Vogue V1233
Fabric: Silk/cotton/metallic tweed and acetate lining from The Fabric Store
Belt and buttons: Covered belt and buttons from Buttonmania
Size: 16
Alterations I made: as detailed above
Alterations I wished I'd made: 2" more skirt length - it should be just below the knee and I never thought for a minute I was tall enough (5'7") to need to add length. Muslin the full thing next time dummy.
Extra length on the sleeves.
Again?: Not like this, cause how many safari cocktail frocks can a girl have. BUT, imagine the bodice, with an invisible zipper up the back, front seam closed and a scooped neck, or Peter Pan type collar. Maybe sleeveless. I think I have my perfect dress bodice. 
Clutch pattern: In a Clutch Cosmetic Case
Fabric: Leather, actetate lining and gold voile from The Fabric Store. Thread and snaps from Leffler Leather
Modifications: recessed the zip into the bag for a more formal look

I'm off on holiday tomorrow. Taking the road bike (kids' bikes and Flipper's mountain bike) and the family off to the mountains for a week. Please excuse my silence. xx

Saturday 2 January 2016

That's that and what next

Wow, I've just had a look through my photos for the year and I've counted one hundred and five sewn garments. Considering I've counted pyjamas as only 1, and I do keep on making pyjamas, there's probably half a dozen more...

I'm not going to rehash everything here, and it's hard to do a winners and losers post when you sew for small kids. Who's opinion matters more? theirs or mine? I'm running with mine when it comes to the idea and the fun of making it, and theirs only if they're enjoying wearing it. So, every kid's garment was a winner!

I do always like to put together some collage photos of my Oliver + S sewing, so I can litter some pictures throughout my ramblings...

What about me? Well, a lot was sewn. Not everything was successful, but considering that I am dressed every. single. day. in something I've made then one of two things must be true: I'm dressed really badly, or I'm beginning to get around the idea of sewing for myself. Possibly both are true at once. I'll keep working on it. :)

What's on the plans for 2016? Let's start with P. I've just handed his School Days Coat down to his nephew, so he'll need a new winter coat. Undoubtedly there will be more navy school pants/shorts throughout the year. First up though, I found a boys euro style swim trunk pattern in an old issue of Ottobre which I'll try to get around to before summer is over.

And A? Well, she is about to outgrow the first of the Oliver + S patterns which only go up to size 5. There's a couple that I really want to revisit before bidding them farewell. She needs navy skirts for starting school and could do with some shorts. Odds are I'll sew pretty dresses too! I also bought an insane costume pattern that I'd like to make her for her birthday. We'll see how time allows for that plan....

For Flipper I really must make the shorts I've been mulling over for years. I have two pants patterns from Thread Theory and it's just a matter of finding the exact, correct weight of fabric, then adding all the cargo elements and tabs that he likes. I reckon I can nail it, if only I could be motivated to bother. Sorry, honey, you may get bumped to the back of the queue again.

For me? Well, as I'm typing I really should be working on my frocktails dress. Then, if time allows I've decided I need to make my own leather clutch bag to go with it. I'd love to squeeze in a summer knit dress or two and then I've been buying coat patterns like nobody's business. I love winter dressing and I've certainly been more successful in my winter sewing, so here's holding out for colder weather dressing.

And for everyone else? Well I can never resist making gifts. I love Sanae and Ute's valentine exchange and hope to be apart of that again. I've really enjoyed learning some cross stitch, and now macrame, so I'll be inflicting that on anyone who cares to be a recipient. I'm sure I'll sew for kid's gifts as well. Of course I'm also still planning to sew things for my monthly Oliver + S blog guest posts. Not much of an idea yet as to where that will take me this year.

For the blog I need to get around to adding the free cycle bootie tutorial and pattern that is more than 18 months over due now. The blog remains a place to document what I've made and as much as I wish my IT guru would build me my own domain, I'm happy to keep this an ad free, simple place to babble on, an on, and on...

So that's 2016 looking every bit as manic on the making front as 2015 was.

Yee ha. Saddle up!! I love having you along for the ride.
Shelley xx