Monday 16 October 2017

McCalls 7574 - Feel Me Upwards

I'd made my first version of the raglan dress M7574 just moments before A's velour, long sleeved top and immediately knew what I wanted to do with the rest of that velour. I wanted another dress just like the first, only tighter, and maybe shorter....

Then came the request from my mother in law and I cut her top out mindful that I needed to save enough for my dress. I did, and there's still a bit left over. Love a bit of cut-and-come-again fabric!

I toyed with the idea of sizing down but couldn't be bothered with tracing the pattern all over again. So I figured instead, if I leave the pockets off I can just run the side seams in until I'm happy.

I shortened the dress below the waist by 3" and then got a bit nervous about those side slits. I ended up sewing them further closed than the pattern indicates as I thought they might be scandalously high. I kind of wish I'd left them the full slit as they're not that high after all.

Similar to the two tops, I cut the fabric with the nap going upwards. Although I can see the argument against that for a dress as I wonder if it won't catch and wear out more when sitting down. Since I'm loving wearing this dress and probably will wear it until it's threadbare I hope someone will tell me when the backside gets a bit see through. My husband, however, is quite happy that this dress requires him to pat me upwards :)

I took the side seams in by about 3/4" between the bust and the hips. Not that you'd be able to tell. It's still a comfortably loose T-shirt dress. If you want a tight dress with this pattern you'll need to size down for sure.

What did make a nice difference was to do a swayback adjustment to the flat pattern before I cut the dress. I overlapped the pattern tissue by an arbitrary 1" as below:

It was a windy day and my 9 year old was operating the camera so the photos may not show it, but the back and the resultant hem line is definitely an improvement.

I think this fabric may have made the shoulder wrinkles even harder to resolve than the stable ponti of my first version. I tried edgestitching them after tinkering with the curve, but then I just shrugged (that didn't help the shoulder situation btw) and got over it.

In conversation with some sewing friends on the weekend I was asked about "dealing with velour". I confess I made no special concessions for this fabric. I used a lot of pins so the fabric didn't have much of an option to "walk" as the seams were sewn. Swapping the regular presser foot for a walking foot would be a wise move. You should probably do that when you sew velour. Me, I just shrugged and poured a glass of red.

Friday 13 October 2017

Tops, tops, tops.

Three tops to share which have been made some time over the last couple of months and not yet made it to the blog.

First up was a top for P who, with typical last minute timing, told me he needed a green top to wear to his lacrosse club team night.

This must date back to June as it was made just before his birthday stencilled t-shirt. Same pattern: the Oliver + S School Bus T-Shirt. Same size 8 with crazy amount added to the sleeve length. This time the sleeve length addition was limited by what was leftover of the green knit fabric from my Lisette dress. The solid green knit was in the stash and it's a great combination.

Then A needed a plain black long sleeved T-shirt for her school concert performance.

I had bought about 3 metres of this velour knit at ClearIt for just a few dollars a metre with no particular ideas in mind. I still can't decide if it's a very, very dark navy or a true black, but it fit the bill either way.

I decided to give the School Bus T-Shirt a bit of the Building Block Dress Book treatment:

Firstly I went for a gathered, puff sleeve. Here's a phone photo showing how the sleeve head of the standard T-shirt sleeve was altered

My notes say I gave it about a 2&1/2" spread, but you can see that's still fairly subtle as far as puffy, gathered sleeves go. Notes also say it's a size 6 School Bus T-Shirt with size 7 body length and an extra 3" of sleeve length. Ok, I probably overdid it on the sleeve length but I hate the way my kids outgrow their sleeves so quickly.

The velour was never going to work well for a neckband so I did a facing with a cutout. I've used a thin hair elastic as the loop and A chose the button from the left-over lonely buttons pile.

A couple of years ago now I wrote a tutorial for Oliver + S about how to do this to the Women's Metro T-shirt - I still wear my two versions of that top with the back neck cutouts all the time.

I was delighted when I looked up my own tutorial to see that I had done the calculations required to do the same adjustment to the kid's School Bus pattern. Thanks past me!

Then my mother in law spied A's top and said she's like one just like that too please. Well since I had just handed her a bag full of wool and some demands for knitwear I could hardly refuse. She turned up with a well loved Carla Zampatti velour top and requested one "just like that but without such long sleeves".

I pulled out my Metro T-Shirt pattern tracings and the XL seemed to perfectly fit the armscye and body lines. It was a good few inches longer in the body and had a different neckline but that was easily rectified.

I traced the original Carla Zampatti T-shirts neckline then added the Metro T-Shirt below that. The neck is quite a bit higher at the front but is then turned over for a simple 1cm folded over hem and twin needle stitched down.

The body and sleeves are exactly as per the Metro T-Shirt. The sleeves are plenty long, even on me, but still measured a good inch shorter than the original top.

While the kids had happily told their granny I would make her a top, they'd neglected to mention the overarching rule that it would have to be modelled for a photo. Here she is, with P, being a good sport and wearing her Zampatti knock-off.

I'd already cut A's top with the velour nap running upwards (looks lusher but you have to pat upwards!) and I was surprised to find that that was the same way that the designer label velour top was cut. So Granny's top is also cut with the nap running up.

Almost immediately I'd finished cutting, I received an email alert from Marcy Tilton that they had a big stock of designer knit velour landing. The only trick to sewing velour, they said, was to always cut with the nap running down to avoid it getting snagged on chairs etc.

Meh, rules schmools.

After the School Concert was over and the requirement for a "plain" black top had been fulfilled, we got out the bling!

I've had this iron on transfer of diamantes from ClearIt for so long now, just waiting for a"plain black top" to put it on. It cost all of 50 cents and I now wish I'd bought a dozen of them. I was worried it would be hard to use, then worried it wouldn't stick to the velour. Tosh.

It was simply a matter of peeling off the paper backing, placing the transparent film with the diamantes sticky side down on the fabric, covering it with an ironing cloth, then heating the beejezus out of it. There were only two jewels in the centre of the bow that didn't stick first time and I replaced the stencil and ironed again. I'm happy to say it has already been through the wash twice (inside out) and is looking like it will last perfectly. Should have bought a hiundred of them.

This is now one of my favourite all time makes for the girl. Amazing how a simple T-shirt can look when you zoosh up the design lines, use some lush fabric and then stick some jewels on it!

If you follow me on Instagram you already know who scored the rest of that 3m cut of velour.... I'll show you the results of that next time.

Monday 9 October 2017

McCalls 7574 - The Hairy Green Clam Dress

You know how this story goes, you need fabric A so you go shopping. While looking for fabric A, you find fabric B and then have to track down the perfect pattern to use up fabric B. Admit it, it's a familiar story, right?

I found this amazing, thick, spongey, crazy (for me) print, ponte knit at Rathdowne Fabrics and instantly wanted a raglan sleeve T-shirt dress.

The pattern I fell hard for is McCalls M7574 by Melissa Watson. It's a raglan sleeve with a high, square raglan line instead of the usual straight slope from neck to armpit. Best seen on the line drawings here:

Those sharp curves of the raglan sleeve are tricky to sew, but for me, by far the hardest part was trying to get the shoulders to fit well.

But hang on...

Before you even cut a fabric like this you have to carefully consider what part of the print is going to land where. I figured I couldn't control every print/anatomy interface but the one thing I decided to focus on was avoiding another "Map of Tassie" incident.

So, the options for what would land right on what certain Wellness Bloggers might gaggingly call my hoohaa or yoni*, came down to these three:

From Left to Right above, the options were: 1: Jewellery Box (nice, kinda apt hey), 2: Kissy Lips (uhm... no.) or 3: Hairy Green Clam (OK, this one cracked me up and has remained my pet name for the dress, but I wisely chose against it).

With the jewellery box lined up with my neatly marked pattern tissue (no, you're not seeing how I drew on it), the rest was up to fate. Thankfully I didn't get kissy lips on my tits but that was really just sheer luck.

I measured at size 14 and thought briefly about sizing down, but the pattern said "close fitting" and I believed it. I did put my big sewing girl pants on and try the tissue fitting technique outlined in the pattern (it's a Palmer Pletsch after all), only I used my traced interfacing instead of the pattern tissue.

That kind of got me nowhere as the half pattern seemed quite small and only just came to my midline, and the sleeves seemed relatively tight. How can you tissue fit a knit dress? I guess only if the dress has positive ease and I thought that "close fitting" indicated otherwise. So I went with the straight size 14, and then fiddled, and fiddled, and fiddled with those shoulder seams...

The raglan bit was fine, it was trying to get the shoulder seam to not pucker that was so difficult. I put it on inside out and sewed quite a few passes on each sleeve smoothing out and taking little bits out of the squareness of the shoulder seam each time.

It was an interesting exercise as, had you asked me at the start, I would have thought I had pretty square shoulders but evidently not. I also found that my right shoulder seemed shorter/slopier than my left. It got to the point where I would have preferred to do an hour of one arm deltoid exercises in the gym than do one more adjustment to the dress, so I called it good enough and quit.

After I finished I took the centre back seam in by almost an inch from about my bra line down to my butt. Those horizontal folds still persist a bit and I knew that really I had to buck up and start doing proper sway back adjustments to flat patterns from the start. Next time, I promise :)

The high/low shirt tail style hem is really nice and I'm pretty enamoured of that side slit :)

Once those tricky, opposing curve raglan seams are sewn the whole dress comes together pretty quickly and I'd say it's a definite winner - just be prepared to have all your misconceptions of your awesome shoulders shattered. There are lots of fitting tips for this pattern and nice diagrams of the raglan sleeve sewing on the Palmer Pletsch blog here.

Oh, and just to make it the perfect every day kind of knit dress there are pockets!

Pattern: McCalls M7574
NB: I'm pretty sure there's an error in the pattern. The front sleeve notches do not line up at all. If you start pinning from the front underarm seam you only get about an inch and a half in, and then the notches are almost a full inch apart. I pinned to a point equidistant between the mismatched notches and then started the clipping/easing of the opposing curves from there. The back sleeve notches line up perfectly. 
Size: 14
Modifications: Centre back seam reduction thorugh waist, shoulder fiddling
Fabric: Ponte knit from Rathdowne Fabrics

* For a brilliant ob/gyn's smackdown of Gwyneth and her pathologising of your vagina, please read Dr Jen Gunter's blog

Tuesday 3 October 2017


You know the best thing about sewing? You can take pretty much any stoopid idea and run with it. And you know the best thing about kids? They're so often completely on board with it.

Cue the Leopard Leotard!*
* I know, it's probably Cheetah print not Leopard but let's not let facts stand in the way of a good alliteration, hey?!

Forgive me if I get a bit self indulgent with this blog post, but this seriously cracks me up. This shit here is exactly why I make stuff.

So, a cheetah print skinsuit needs a back story, you say? Ok, here goes:

This year, A has started doing gymnastics one night a week after school. At the end of each term they have a dress-up theme for the last class of the term. I've made her two leotards so far (here and here), but haven't been up to speed on the last week of term thing. At least not until this term.

So there we were, busy as all get out, nearing the end of the school term and I spotted the poster announcing a "Wild Animal" theme for the end of term....

That dangerous little light in the back of brain flicked on. I had the fabric. I had at least a day or two spare. This could be done, and damn if it wouldn't be hilariously cute. OK, there's no stopping me now.

First task was convincing P, who had technically been the one to spot, and grab, this fabric remnant from Nick Ciancio's sewing machine repair shop, to let his little sister have it. His plans for it, I kid you not, had been a skin tight, one sleeved, off the shoulder top. As much as I would love to indulge his Bowie-esque fashion sense I did convince him to wait until he was invited to a George Of The Jungle themed birthday party. That had yet to happen. The fabric was going to be A's....

The pattern choice was a no brainer. It had to be Jalie 3135, the full skinsuit with hood version. I'd previously made a short sleeve, short leg, collared version for P as swimwear and I love the fit and cut of the pattern. For A, I traced her size, J, and added 1" in torso length.

I wish I'd added a bit of sleeve length, but since she immediately put it on and refused to take it off I never did get to hem the sleeves and legs anyway. They're a bit short even without hems, but heck it's a costume leotard.

The face mask dates back to when P dressed as a cheetah to go to the theatre.

From the oddly shaped remnant of fabric I managed to cut everything with just a single bit of piecing of the centre hood panel and the zipper shield. The leftover scraps would have barely covered an A4 page. For just the price of an invisible zip it was a very satisfying exercise.

And, did I say already how much it makes me laugh?...

The same evening that A had her final gymnastics class of the term, P had his school concert performance. We had to rush home from gymnastics, eat dinner, get changed and race off to the school concert. Only A didn't want to get changed. She wanted to stay in her big cat skinsuit. Sure, fine by me. (pick your battles parents, pick your battles)

But what we didn't count on was that there were at least two school classes who were performing that night with a jungle animal theme, and as soon as we arrived teachers descended on A and tried to whisk her backstage to prepare. On no less than three separate occasions she was steered towards the backstage area and we had to explain, numerous times, that she was an audience member....

....who just happened to be wearing a cheetah skinsuit. The teachers smiled. They got it.