Sunday, 24 January 2016

Yellow is the new black

Yellow is the new black, and don’t try to convince me otherwise! I have such a crush on yellow, that I want to sew a yellow capsule wardrobe! Well, I may change my mind in spring, but at the moment yellow seem to be ruling my life. Now, that I have made it pretty clear, I call tell you the story of my velvet party dress.

To make this dress, the pattern calls for two-way stretch knits, sequin mesh or stretch velvet. Having previously sewed  a velvet dress for a work event, I knew I wanted to sew more with velvet, and the Vogue 1427 was perfect for this.  A perfect occasion to make a new dress was just around the corner: a corporate Christmas party.

I bought  this neon yellow velvet fabric and this cupro lining from the Joel & Son Fabrics online store. If  you are not familiar with this website, please go and have a look. It’s a real paradise for people who sew: they sell high-end fabric, keeping yourself from falling in love with it is impossible. Whenever I browse their website, I tend to lay my eye on fabrics with the highest price tag, but for once, the fabric I chose for this project was priced reasonably, and additionally, I only needed 1.5 metres for both fashion fabric and lining, which was plenty. My experience with their customer support was amazing: not only did they answer all my fabric related questions  very quickly, but, on top of that, I received my order within 2 working days.

This is my second time sewing with a Big 4 pattern. I am constantly put off by the incredible amount of ease, but also by the fact that they add seam allowances to their patterns. It’s not a big secret that most of the time I use BurdaStyle patterns, which exclude seam allowances. Even thinking about removing seam allowances, removing ease and adapting a Big 4 pattern to my measurements gives me headache. Despite all of the above, I decided to give it a go, because patterns for stretch fabric are more forgiving in terms of fit and require fewer alterations.

The V1427 pattern is a princess seam dress with pleated upper front. I checked the measurements of my previous princess seam dresses, and noticed that my Vogue size fell somewhere between a size 10 and 12 for the skirt and an 8 for the top. When looking closely at the pattern, I was dazzled by tons of markings: big and small circles, pleat lines with directional arrows, squares, notches, waistlines, centre front and back lines. For such a complex pattern it was essential to transfer the most important markings to the fabric, but also understand the logical order of assembling the pattern. When I worked with the fashion fabric, I transferred the most important markings using the coloured cotton basting thread, to keep it easy to understand which one was which.
It took me two evenings to solve the pattern puzzle. After putting the muslin together, the hem looked asymmetrical and it did not exactly resemble the dress on the pattern envelope. But when I re-read the instructions from the beginning to the end, everything became clearer: to create pleats on the upper part,  I had to stitch the lining to the fashion fabric in a certain way, so that the stitching line created a fold. I’ll try clarify what I did. The lining piece of the pattern is much shorter than the external fabric. By stitching the former to the latter, it moves up, therefore creating a fold.

Once I figured out the construction during the prototyping phase, sewing the real dress together was less scary! Creating folds, pleats and adding the boning was pretty straightforward. To keep the upper left part, the sleeveless part, close to the body without gaping, the instructions suggested adding a piece of elastic, to connect the centre front to the back centre, but when I did it, I was not completely satisfied with the stability level. Instead of elastic I applied a piece of the widest horsehair braid I could get in my haberdashery storage, approximately 5cm wide, and the end result was much more satisfying! Usually, we use horsehair braid to hem skirts, thus creating more structure, like I used on this skirt, a couple of years ago. This time, the horsehair braid kept my strapless side of the neckline from collapsing.

The only outcry came unexpectedly, last minute, when I was  attaching the zipper. Handbasted, it looked great! You can see it on the picture below. But when machine sewed, it went all over the place creating unwanted wrinkles and caused the back panels  to become uneven. I asked the online community via Instagram for help, and it arrived within minutes! Carmen from CarmencitaB, suggested interfacing the zipper area, which I had completely forgotten to do. Five minutes later, and you can see the difference!

It's still not 100% perfect, but well . . .

To make my outfit stand out, I adorned my head with a vintage hat, bought in Chicago a few years back. I decided to replace the original black netting (since it contained at least 1000 and one holes). I purchased a metre of  yellow veiling from a cute craft shop in Cork, Vibes & Scribes, to make a new one. 

I wore the dress to a Christmas party, and I have to say, that out of about 2000 people there I was the only one wearing yellow! Isn’t it cool? Black blends with everything around, bring in some colour! Are you into any particular colour at the moment? Have you made your party dress?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

How my clothes age: Part II

Happy New Year everyone! 

Last spring, I reflected on how my clothes age and the important lessons I’ve learnt from looking at my older hand-made garments. From my personal observations, as well as from the comments on the previous post, it was clear that a long-lasting garment tends to be a combination of good quality fabric, materials and some good sewing techniques

Although winter has already arrived in Ireland, my mind is still in summer, dreaming about not having to wear coat, gloves and heavy shows. Luckily, the Southern Hemisphere has now entered the warmest season of the year, so us, blog readers, can still enjoy the playful summer garments, which are appearing on the blogs of our fellow seamstresses from the other side of the world. With summer on my mind, I’d like to show you a few summer favourites of mine and tell their ageing story.

My favourite garment to date is this funky Louis Vuitton dress, which I made two years ago and have literally worn to pieces! When I bought the fabric in one of the shops in the New York Garment district, the salesperson told me this fabric was genuine Louis Vuitton. I was not quite convinced at the time, and my gut feeling was right, because during one of the fabric shop raids in Paris, I stumbled across the actual LV fabric from the very collection I loved so much. Well, the nature of fabric was not the issue, but its texture: this fabric was synthetic and frayed like crazy which did not stop me from from wearing the dress. As you can see from the picture of the unravelled fibres, I tried to sew it by hand to hide the untangled threads, I could to stop the process. In addition to the fraying, I washed this dress in the washing machine did not help. Having said that, there are many synthetic fibres out there, which can resist washing machines and do not fray. In my case, it was just an unfortunate coincidence, for which I blame only myself: I wanted to buy this fabric so badly! I should have been less greedy and wait for the right fabric to come along. With all of the online/offline shops out there, I would have found similar piece of fabric!  

This Jessica dress #1 gets a lot of wear and washing too! Despite also being made from synthetic fibres and being washed multiple times, it has resisted all the hardship. The thread choice was the only problem I had with this dress. Originally, I used polyester thread, but when I cycling a while in it, the hem and side seams tore apart, because the thread does not have elasticity of knit fabric. To remedy this, I restitched most of the seams with resilon thread. It’s 100% nylon and it works like magic with knit fabric. When I had just started sewing with knits and turned to the online community for advice, I discovered, that many bloggers use polyester thread, so did I for a while and continue to do so, occasionally. There is nothing wrong with sewing knits with polyester, but broken thread is a recurrent issue. Personally, I’ve found, that having several bobbins of nylon thread with the most popular colours, will bring absolutely no harm not to a seamstress’ budget, nor to the storage space. If you have sewing knits, which type of thread do you use, girls and boys?

Lastly, I wanted to show you my Lily dress, the most resistant to time and wear. I cycle in it and wash it, but it still looks as good as new! Without applying any fancy sewing techniques, the success of the Lily dress lies in a fortunate choice of fabric. Do you like Nani Iro? Me too! That’s why I used their wonderful Pocho fabric for this sun dress and have never regretted it since. Even if most of the Nani Iro textiles measure 106 cm in width, the exceptional quality and originality of prints win! You can check my hand-made collection of clothes made from NaniIro fabric: all of them are loved and frequently worn.

As you can all imagine, my philosophy in relation to making clothes remains unchanged: nothing can beat quality, and even little things, like thread, can bring a garment’s quality to whole new level Do you know this expression, saying that the person greedy pays twice? I think, I’m going to make another Louis Vuitton dress, but probably from a non-Louis Vuitton fabric this time ;)