Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Ivy Dress or the First World problem

If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably aware of my mini speed sewing drama, which turned out rather well: I made a dress for more or less 10 hours.

Two weeks ago, out of the blue, I decided to make a dress on the evening, preceding a business trip. When I came home from work that day, I realized that I have, ‘obviously’, nothing to wear and I desperately needed to make this Ivy Dress from the winter issue of La Maison Victor. I knew that I would never finish the dress before my flight, but I was determined to, at least, make a muslin. In any case, this dress has only four seams, so making a muslin would not take me tons of time. When I looked in a mirror, wearing the first muslin version, I immediately loved the nice opening on the back and elegant design lines, and my determination to finish the dress increased. Since the fabric for the first muslin was stiff, the dress did not look super flattering on me: you can clearly see this from this picture. Besides that, you have probably noticed multiple wrinkles around the armscyes. The fabric for the second toile was a remaining piece of lightweight muslin and, after all the necessary alterations were made, looked much nicer.
Muslin #1
Muslin #2
Once I finished with the adjustments on the second muslin and transferred them into the paper pattern, I hurried to check my stash and picked a piece of charcoal velvet, which I bought  last year in London, in one of the shops on Goldhawk Road. I have been keeping this fabric to make a pair of trousers. Sorry trousers. ..

Muslin and patternmaking aside, the sewing part turned out to be the most challenging, because

  1. The velvet is quite tricky, when it comes to cutting and sewing, especially, if it’s  silk velvet.
  2. My walking foot broke a few weeks ago, when I was finishing the belt of my latest coat. The fabric, folded in three, was too thick for my poor walking foot to handle.

You can imagine me, desperate to make the dress, half-way through the process, with my flight leaving within 18 hours, still not packed. Mess and distress! I threw opened the balcony door, took a few deep breaths of the chilly night air, and began to calm down. I decided that it would not be the end of the world if I could not finish the dress, I would wear something else or put the dress on with unfinished edges.

To sew the dress together, I used nylon thread, which is the best for knits or any stretch fabric. First, I serged all the edges, to stop them from unraveling and make them look ‘nice’ in case I would not have time to finish all seams. Then, I sewed in organza stays to the neckline and shoulder seams, to prevent the fabric from stretching in these areas. After that, I sewed the shoulder and side seams together and attached the hook. Bingo! A this stage, I would be able to wear the dress! To finish the neckline, I folded the fabric under the wrong side twice, 0.5cm each time. Because my velvet was extremely slippery, I did not trust the pins: I basted each fold by hand, before securing them with the sewing machine. To finish the armscyes, I attached some fuschia bias tape, so it would play a role of a stay and an adornment, in case somebody would peeck inside my armpits ;)

All the processes outlined above, minus adding the bias tape to the armscyes, took me 6.5 hours, from 18:00 until 00:30. I had to wait until the next morning to finish the armholes and hem the dress, and I was in such a hurry, that I messed up and re-stitched the hem three times. You can clearly see that it is super wonky, uneven and uncool, but nobody noticed!

A conclusion of this story: we can do amazing things when under pressure. We think and act quicker, more structured even. In all honesty, I am not sure this dress could look better,  if I had had more time to sew it. Well, maybe the hem. Nevertheless, I will try to avoid similar situations in the future.

And now, that I’ve got a bit of a taste for velvet, I am working on another velvet outfit for a corporate Christmas party! Stay tuned!  

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A Floor-Duster wrap coat or a Windling's coat :)

In one of my posts, I talked about trends and how long it tends to take me to adopt one. This year, though, one of the hot trends has coincided with a hot dream of mine: a floor-duster wrap coat. Since my late teens, I have been dreaming about a long, almost floor-length, wrap coat, which would envelope me like a cocoon. No fasteners, no buttons, just an oversized coat with a belt. Oh, and a pair of pockets! Is there anything better than feeling comfortable and warm on a cold day? Maybe the addition of a cup of hot chocolate/tea/coffee/whiskey/Bloody Mary (replace with your favourite drink)

Last year, when I lived in London, during one of my raids of the Berwick street’s fabric shops, I saw a bolt of double side wool, which completely blew my mind. The right side contained fibres some of which were only partly woven into the fabric, and they created a super cool and edgy look. The other side was absolutely smooth and I loved the proper look of it, compared to the crazy right side. The moment I saw the fabric, my imagination had pictured the wrap coat of my dreams. Unfortunately,  the coat did not happen immediately after the purchase, because I moved to Ireland, and then many things happened, and then the fabric ended up somewhere in the middle of my gargantuan stash. This fabric was re-discovered during my move to a new apartment and I decided to use it as soon as an opportunity presented itself.

I am using the pattern from the January BurdaStyle issue. Although it is featured as a long coat with contrast binding, I omitted the binding, lengthened the coat by as much as my fabric allowance let me. Reading the pattern reviews, I knew that it included huge seam allowances, but I wanted to keep it oversized, as a fashion statement. So I cut a size 38 without adding seam allowances(don’t forget that Burda patterns do not include them). I did not want to add any lining. As simple as that.

One thing, which surprised me was a very high vent placement, but the realization why it was so came only after I cut and basted the coat together. With the end of autumn and its crispy mornings, I find this coat cozy, even though it's not tailored, and makes me look like a wildling. The trends may come and go, but this coat will remain with me for a while.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

In love with the Lola dress

It took me a few years to get a hold of this pattern, a few months to get the right fabric, a couple of evenings to sew it, but only a moment to fall in love with the Lola dress. It’s like a long awaited baby, or rather, an overdue one, because it seems like every single seamstress has already made at least one!

When Irish mornings started becoming colder and crisper, I began to create my winter sewing list. Which garment would fill a gap in my wardrobe, where I did not see any apparent gaps? A sweater dress, said an inner voice from somewhere deep inside me. Immediately, two patterns came to my mind: the Jasper sweater and the Lola dress. The former has been saved for November, when I’ll need to protect my neck from the wind, but the latter was printed and assembled on the same day.

Even though, I bought the pattern a while ago, I refused to make it using regular knit fabric: my imagination pictured an unusual fabric in order for this dress to stand out. I spotted the perfect fabric in one of the amazing shops in Paris, during a sewing meet up with Kirsty, Jo, Lisa and Ninie last January. The shop owner described it as cotton with some stretch; no more, no less. From the right side, this fabric is industrially pressed so that it creates a honeycomb/smoked effect, which made it particularly attractive.

There are so many people who have reviewed this pattern, that I knew the exact alterations I had to make before even cutting the pattern. I ended up sewing a size 4, taking some fabric from the back princess seams and increasing the armscye circumference by 1 cm, which I think I will enlarge by one more centimetre for my next Lola. I was aware that the dress would require some lengthening, but I did not have enough fabric; therefore it’s a mini dress. Since I did not have any ribbing, I decided to skip the neckline hemming, but when I posted a picture of it on Instagram, gaping horribly, the sewcialist community disapproved. Using the leftover scraps from the fabric, I made a neckline binding, which created a lovelier finish to the dress. I also decided to leave a rib knit hem out, keeping the skirt bell shaped, thus easy for cycling.

Like everybody who has ever expressed their opinion about this dress online, I would recommend you get the pattern straight away! It’s comfortable, practical, versatile and amazingly simple (in a good way)! I have never received so many compliments on a handmade garment, like I’ve got for  the Lola dress has. Many girls in the office asked whether I bought it at COS :) Needless to say, this is my most praised and loved garment and a new TNT (Tried and True pattern).