Friday 21 December 2018

Redemption via the Carousel Dress

To get myself up from my foetal position in the corner of the sewing room after the disaster that was the Ottobre bermuda pants, there was only one possible siren call...

The lure of an Oliver + S pattern. And better still, one of the very few that I hadn't yet sewn.

This is the Carousel Dress. It's a simple dress that's nice and easy to sew but is deceptively well shaped. I'd never paid it a lot of attention as far as patterns go, but I can't begin to explain how good it looks on A. I kept finding myself exclaiming what an awesome little dress it was. The shape is just delightful.

She had been invited to a friend's birthday party that had a unicorn theme. I'd spied this fabric in Spotlight previously and when she said yes to a unicorn dress I raced back to get some. You see, she's going through a no dress phase. Her outfits are usually a pair of her brothers old jeans, a T-shirt and a check shirt around her waist. It's a real Seattle early 90s grunge look. Amusing on a 7 year old, sure, but I was pining for all those lonely unworn dresses.

I haven't photographed the fabric well here. It's a lightweight denim chambray with little unicorns (Ed: A tells me they are called "alicorns" as they are technically a winged unicorn not a regular land-lubber unicorn. Thanks kid.).

I made a straight size 7 - her measurements fit the size 7 perfectly with the exception of height which is much closer to an 8. I simply couldn't be bothered adding length, so it's size 7 unaltered. I was nervous about it being too big and baggy, or shapeless, but honestly, it has the loveliest fit though the chest that makes the A line flare of the dress really pleasant.

This is View A with the gathered skirt. I like the idea of sewing View B in a corduroy for winter, but as much as I keep looking adoringly at this dress, I'd be wise to wait and see how much wear it gets. I think she'd rather I sewed her jeggings and flannelette shirts (sigh).

I sometimes think I must sound like I have taken a big swig of the Kool Aid when it comes to Oliver + S. Then I tell myself that I can be objective, 'cause see, I haven't even sewn this pattern, or that one, as they don't appeal. Then I sew them and they're gorgeous and I fall in love with the simple lines, well drafted shape and lovely, enjoyable sewing instructions. So I admit, I'm a fan girl. :)

And since I needed a pick me up, I know I chose exactly the right pattern for the job.

Pattern: Oliver + S Carousel Dress, View A (check the errata if you have an original paper pattern like I do) 
Size: 7 , no mods
Fabric: Denim chambray from Spotlight
NB: View A is normally made in 2 different fabrics and the fabric requirements lists 1 yard for each. Using the same fabric for both, with this 145cm wide fabric, I think I only used just over 1 metre in total.
Notions: thread chain (busted already, grrr) and single button from stash.

Monday 17 December 2018

Great ideas poorly executed...

Little things can turn what should be an awesome project into something that's a bit meh...

Take my laundry skills for example. I found this bright white lycra with metallic rainbow print and thought it would make a cool leotard for A's gymnastics. I threw the new fabric in the wash with something much darker (stupid, yep) and it turned not exactly grey, but dull white.

A crazy print leotard that is less crazy by virtue of it being a bit grey and a bit faded (in trying to get the grey out) is just an ugly leotard IMO.

I also foolishly mis-remembered the seam allowances as being 1cm and didn't check the pattern. Of course they weren't. Jalie seam allowances are pretty much always 6mm for these type of patterns. So it's come out a touch small - which, when the off white fabric is stretched isn't doing it any favours. It's not see through thank heavens, just less flash than it should be.

The pattern, Jalie 3466 - Anne, has lots of bits where you can add colour blocking bands. I simply overlapped some of the front and back pattern pieces so I could cut them as single pieces, simplifying it all somewhat.

I put some gold flat piping in the front seams though, as I thought it was needing something to highlight the pattern lines.

The sleeve length was at her request as she stipulated elbow length. The pattern seems to have very long sleeves as when she tried the full length sleeve on without the cuffs that are intended to be added, they were already below her wrist.

As per her measurements, it's size L in width with the torso lengthened to size M. But for my seam allowance error I think it would be perfect.

It will be a fun pattern to use up solid colour lycra scraps and I'll definitely try it again. What to do with the rest of the tainted rainbow lycra is the question I just can't bear to think about.

Something else I can't bear to think about is a pair of Ottobre pants that need a major overhaul to be of any use to anyone (except a very heavily pregnant woman with the hips of a small boy - if that sounds like you, please apply in writing...)

These should have been so good:

The pattern is number 37: Forest Bermuda pants from Ottobre 3/2009. In typical Ottobre style there are no illustrations to accompany the sewing instructions, and infuriatingly the photos of the finished garments don't show what 's really happening at the waistband...

And one line drawing of what it might look like when finished....

I was on board with the idea of pants that were essentially pull on pants with a rib waistband and a mock jeans style outer that was relatively low slung.

And I really enjoyed sewing the cute welt back pockets. 

But I certainly wasn't expecting that to be a real functional zipper fly and waistband. How on earth then would the ribbing "open" up? More to the point, what was the point? Why not just have pull on pants that you, you know, pull on? I dutifully followed the zipper instructions and sewed my functional zipper fly then became completely baffled by the facing that the ribbing attaches to and how it should all work...

I searched the internet but couldn't find any mention of anyone having sewn this pattern. I scoured the Ottobre blog in the hope of more pictures or maybe even a tutorial. I also emailed them directly with a plea for help (sounds of crickets).

The sewing brains trust on Instagram was mostly out of ideas... Except for Inder who was quite sure the facing, which is seen in the picture above between the trousers and the ribbing, should be tucked inside the pants, pointing downwards.

And that kind of worked. The gap in the ribbing and the weird triangular hole in the facing made more sense when it was inverted the other way.

Only there were no clues as to what would keep the facing in place down there. It couldn't be stitched all the way around to the pants as that would close up every pocket and the facing is smaller than the pants at that point anyway. It seemed it could only be through the stitching on of the belt loops.

Here you can see some belt loop stitching holding the facing in place at a rather arbitrary height:

Eventually I figured I had got there. I had created some low slung, fully open-able rib waistband pants for the boy - obviously I wasn't going to use the phrase "maternity pants" but it's quite evident that's what the pattern was based on.

My only adjustment to the pattern, apart from possibly completely misunderstanding it and screwing it up in it's entirety, was to add a loop of waistband elastic inside the ribbing. Neither P nor I were convinced the ribbing would keep them up on it's own.

I was so excited for him to try them on... and then so deflated :(


The waistband is ridiculous. I know my kids are pretty normal sized, so it really must be the pattern*. No late term pregnancy, or giant tapeworm cyst is going to happen to the child of someone sewing from an Ottobre magazine so what on earth is expected to fill that waistband???!!

And the whole weight of the pants is hanging from those belt loop tacks so it just looks dreadful.

When I can muster the energy I will take the waistband off, thrown some darts in the back and take in the side seams, reduce the waistband then put it back on. It may be passable but gee what a turd of a project it turned out to be.

I put it in the naughty corner and did the sewing equivalent of washing my mouth to get ride of a bad taste - I sewed a lovely, new to me, Oliver + S pattern. Aaah. Much better.

*If you have sewn this pattern and I am completely wrong and bang out of line, please, please tell me.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Catching up and cotton sewing

Oh my. The year is fast disappearing and I have quiet a few projects that need to land on the blog before the year is out.

When I was meant to be sewing my Frocktails dress, I realised A was about to have her school sleepover and didn't have any pyjamas that fit her in a way that looked acceptable. Of course she had pyjamas that were perfectly comfortable to wear, but the legs were up around her knees... Time for something new.

Years ago I made her some pyjamas from a Japanese Sewing book called Girl's Life, and she had been super keen on the nightie. It was only in the bigger sizes, and so she had to wait.

Here it is in the smallest size (130cm). It's a good fit, although I could lower the armscye opening a little. The way to attach the trim at the sleeve confused me (again) and I studied the previous white pyjamas to try and get my head around it. It's very neat once you figure it out! I also found the plan for the pintucks confusing, again. It would be so much easier if they were marked on the pattern. It wastes lots of fabric to pleat first then cut, but if you cut first you need all those little dart legs for every pleat.

She's happy with it. The fabric was a deep stashed quilting cotton and I was glad to finally use it up. The yellow trim matches the tiny yellow centres on each pinwheel. Yes, I sewed ric rac into something. Shoot me now, right. I can't stand the stuff as a rule. But this did need something and I didn't have any lace of a good shade of blue.

I threw in the chain stitched monogram and it was done, just in time for the sleepover. She promptly had a horrendous blood nose that night, and then as soon as it was washed, she cartwheeled in it and tore one of the armholes. That's repaired and it's back in rotation. Thank heavens for my rule of photos first.

The other bit of cotton sewing I did was to make Sal's version of the Tessuti Felicia Pinafore dress (first one here). Sal tried on mine and declared she loved it just as it was. I bit my tongue and tried not to point out what I saw as flaws in drape and shape..

So I made it exactly the same, which was super easy. This one I seemed to have a tiny bit more fabric and wouldn't have needed the minor bodice and skirt shortening, but I did them anyway so it would be as per the one she tried on. This fabric is also a cool print from Nerida Hansen. (link in previous blog post).

And she got one of Kylie and the Machine's awesome labels. Cause it's true: Sewing is the F'ing Best. I've passed on the pattern to her and hopefully she can make many, many more!

Thursday 15 November 2018

Frocktails 2018 - Butterick 5882: Sort of

Frocktails! The one time of the year when I ignore the kids and their demands for new stuff, food, shelter etc... When I ignore almost every other aspect of my life and sew something just for the heck of it.

My annual excursion into sewing what Closet Case Patterns and True Bias are calling Sew Frosting - the trivial, frivolous, fabulous icing on the cake kind of sewing. For me this dress is 100% frosting - and true to the cake analogy I was only happy to dabble with it once I knew I had my solid back up cake outfit seen here

I had a vision in my head of using a wax print to make a vintage rockabilly style dress. I live in an area that has seen a large wave of Sudanese migration and wax print is often seen on the streets - usually worn by gorgeous, tall, leggy, dark skinned Sudanese women. There's no way I could wear it in the traditional manner without it looking like cultural appropriation at best, or just plain awful at worst.

I needed to find a middle aged white lady way to wear my wax print :)

Enter Gertie's patterns for Butterick... B5882

The words that I fell hard for were "shelf bra". Could this finally be the pattern that gave me cleavage? In my imagination that bias band that became the shoulder straps would go under my boobs and lift them sky high....

Before we dive in to the story of woe that is B5882, let's have another peek at what I'm calling my final success. It's not a trick of light, there is almost cleavage, folks!

Are you already cleverer than I? Have you looked at the sketch on the right of the pattern envelope and realised that there is no lift in this pattern? It took me a muslin to work that out...

My first muslin: Size 12, almost exactly as per the pattern (I'd already added 1" length at the waist here). Great fitting bodice but what is with that bust seam line? The "shelf" bit hits right on the apex of my boobs. I thought that must be a fitting error, but when I went back to the pattern there was the nipple target thingy (you know the circle plus thing that indicates bust apex) right on the seam. Wha???

So half my boobs are submerged below the seam line and the euphemistically labelled "cups" are actually like little pleated lids on top. I don't want tit lids. I want cups damn you.

What if I hoick it right down at the front?...

Getting there but I now have dangerously little coverage and those tit lids are so flat that they don't curve with the fullness (yes that's tongue in cheek) of my bust.

And of course hoicking down the front does no favours to how the bodice fits. Check out the amount of front drop as evidenced by the wonky waistline

So, I thought I can work with this,...
I just need to give it the ol' Melbourne treatment and lower it, mate

So I scooped probably two inches out of the front pattern pieces just by taking a texta and drawing a line under my bust where I thought the seam should hit.

Maybe I was flattering myself, but Liz was my inspiration and I hoped it could work

There's lots of reviews of this pattern where others have either not minded or not noticed the semi-submerged boob issue. A few good souls have called it out for the weirdness that it is. I pored over lots of pattern reviews, including Gertie's own version and found that there was also a lot of discrepancy in how the band was intended to be worn.

I let Liz lead the way and had it turned up all the way around, which of course, if it's supporting your bust as a true shelf bra, is how it would have to be.

Muslin number 2. Lowered, but then I had to figure our how to create real cups. I've never made a bra before but I searched for some online images of bra patterns to get an indication of what shaped pieces constituted a bra cup. This Cloth Habit post was really helpful.

I fashioned a cup similar to those in the link above, then draped my fabric onto a padded, strapless bra and pinned it in place to get the pleated outer cups.

I narrowed the straps from the original pattern and then cut only the section that was to go under and around the bust on the bias. You can just see the join where the bias cut bust part meets the straight-grain cut shoulder strap. The pattern has you cut the whole thing on the bias and other pattern reviews had already pointed out that that leads to the straps stretching out.

Here you can see my self drafted cups and the weirdly shaped, self drafted pleated cup piece underneath.

By now I was completely ignoring the pattern, so I invented my own way of giving the whole thing enough support. I handsewed horsehair braid onto the seam allowances of the bust seams, then stitched Rigolene boning to the front seams, and constructed a little harbour bridge of support. There is also a bent, formed piece of Rigolene sewn into the seam allowance under the bust where the bodice and the cups are joined.

It turns out you really can just make this shit up and it works. I never would have imagined!

Then I had a crisis of confidence about the skirt. I loved the way the wax print looked without any seam lines. The way it shone a little and swished as it moved. It has a really nice, crisp hand that makes it just perfect for a cocktail dress, or a seventies maxi dress....

I had been super careful to cut my bodice so that the front seams, centre back seam, and side back seams were all pretty much invisible as far as pattern matching went.

The idea of chopping the skirt into six bias cut sections and throwing pattern matching to the wind filled me with horror. But you know I did, so let's see that six panelled skirt twirl!

I went backwards and forwards on the skirt. I traced off no less than three different seventies patterns for their maxi skirt, before finally going to back to Gertie..

... and discovering it didn't fit on my fabric!

I had heaps of this fabric, but the print has such distinct bands of stripes that it would never have worked to cut panels up side down, or at staggered heights on the fabric. Every panel had to be cut with the centre bottom at the same height on the fabric. And suddenly my "heaps" was not enough.

That little hiccup at least hardened my resolve to make the Gertie skirt be the one I used (stubbornness being my middle name) and I shaved 3/4" of the bottom width of each skirt panel, tapering out to nothing by about two thirds of the way up the side of the panel.

I swapped out the lapped zipper for an invisible zip and lined the whole thing in a lovely bright grass green acetate lining.

Here's the only view of the back which my poor posture in the picture makes it look like I'm busting out of the seams - I didn't feel I was...

Now, I had my wax print rockabilly cocktail dress and I was ready for Frocktails. I couldn't work out what to do with my hair that would be quick and easy and so I made a little version of our Frocktails logo as a hair ornament

A friend had lent me her Silhouette Cameo stencil cutter - my gosh they're fun. I cut the Frocktails cocktail lady logo in two pieces of Kraft-Tex washable paper and then glued them together with a bit of my green lining fabric in between.

My hand bag for the night - which I can't tell you anything more about yet, was also brown Kraft-Tex. I'm really excited to share this with you, but it has to remain secret a bit longer (eeep!)

My co-organiser of Frocktails, Lisa, blew me out of the water with her dress - completely designed by her, from the fabric design and printing to the pattern drafting - all to match her crazy good Karl Lagerfeld shoes. How's that for Sew Frosting!

We sucked at synchronised twirling! :)

But I think we threw a pretty good cocktail party.

And now that I've finished ranting about the sucky pattern I'll close out with more pictures from Melbourne Frocktails 2018!

Prize Giveaways
First guest to turn up has to pose with the organisers. Thanks Lexie!

Finally meeting Sew This Pattern Annie - and look she's wearing green
Hang on, everyone is wearing green! :)
Lisa got a Silhouette Cameo cut logo hair thingy too!

Giving more stuff away thanks to our sponsors
And then I came home, completely smashed, washed my face and went to bed.

Pattern: Mostly B5882 but with the whole upper front completely redrafted. Proceed with caution.
Size: 12
Fabric: Vlisco wax print (from the stash via Brave Fabrics online shop - now closed) and acetate lining from Fabric Deluxe
Notions: invisible zip and Kraft-Tex hair accessory and bag.
Katie helped me with a 10 minute hair do and my face is entirely thanks to the MAC cosmetics counter at David Jones because I absolutely know my limits!