Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bridesmaid sewing: V.1 - adventures in couture sewing

I feel like a fraud writing couture sewing - do real couture seamstress consider using the serger instead of binding seams? Or think that silk organza is a scratchy itchy seam binding? Or use plastic boning stitched into seams?!

Anyway, I started fitting and sewing the first practise run of the bridesmaid dresses. I'm using Simplicity 4070, its the only pattern I have with a lace overlay which means I don't need to draft anything.

I'm pretty much following the instructions out of the Bridal Couture book so cut everything with big wide seam allowances and marked the stitching lines with wax tracing paper.

I underlined the georgette with muslin which gave it a bit of body and let me catch stitch down the seam allowances. I wanted to add in boning and had a big roll of rigeline in my shelf - I used two strips on either side of each seam except for the very front seams where I only used one. Its smoothed out the bodice nicely. I left it too late to add channels so just stitched it into the seam allowances before they were catch stitched down.

It did originally make the bust seam sit out a bit too far but I found this awesome post on pattern review and went back and unpicked the boning and eased it in and now its sitting perfectly.

I planned on using silk organza to underline the lace but since this lace is fairly stable I didn't need to. This is my second version of the lace - the first I tried using silk organza to bind the seams but didn't like the look or feel so French seamed the lace and then made my own bias binding to finish the neck and armhole seams

Notes to self;
I eased in stay tape to the front top of the bodice but next time I need to be a bit more aggressive with the easing
Either add more boning or interface the underlining - Its not quite stiff enough.
Starch the hell out of the georgette!
Remove all the thread basting - yes it gets hidden but it just looks messy
Iron the rigeline flat first - its bowing the side seams out.

I've just pinned the skirt on here - I want to change the pleats to gathers (I figure it will be more flattering to C's pregnant belly).

I'm hoping to get the skirt finished and insert the zipper this weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bridesmaid dress sewing

My best friend is getting married in March next year, myself and her sister are the bridesmaids. We'd planned on getting a custom made dress from a website overseas but the good/bad news is her sister has just found out she's pregnant (that's good), which means with a changing shape the chance of the dress fitting properly is not likely as she'll be just over 8mths at the wedding (that's bad, lol).

So, I offered to make the dresses, which I'm actually excited about but have a big learning curve since I've very rarely sewn with lace or chiffon and have never fitted a pregnant belly before.

The current dress plan is a princess line bodice with a lace overlay and sleeves. The skirt will be a chiffon pleated one. I figure I'll make a couple of mock-ups, not only to check the fit but to play with the technique. I've got 2 of Claire Shaeffer's books (Couture sewing and Bridal Couture), so I'll be reading up on sewing with lace. Pattern wise, I have her Vogue 8943 which is different to how I want the dresses made but will give me a good idea on finish and overlay

Here's the inspiration photos, the skirt is like the top photo and then add sleeves like the second photo with the lace overlay only being on the bodice. It will have more of a scooped neckline at the front.

She would like buttons down the back like in this pic, I'm wondering if I make it like a placket that would hide the zipper, still have to play around with that idea though. It may be easier to add a side zipper and have the back non-functioning but geez I hate side zippers! I like the idea that the zipper would be completely hidden and potentially the skirt overlay and back buttons would be not attached to the dress underlay for a couple of inches on either side and then do up and cover the zipper....not sure if its possible of how hard it would be to finish it neatly.

I figure for C (the pregnant bridesmaid), I'll fit her a few weeks beforehand and make her dress with extra wide seam allowances and hem and then fit her properly the weekend before. I'm figuring that fitting a belly would be similar to an FBA? More length and width to fit over the bump?

If anyone has suggestions for books, patterns or blogs to check please let me know!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

McCalls 7199: Drape jacket

I am a sucker for a drapy knit cardi and McCalls really do seem to do the best ones. The sizing is pretty predictable though, I always have to size down a few sizes (I think I'm a 20 or a 22 on the size chart and I made a sz16 here), the arms are always too short and way too tight. There's something a little funky going on at the back of the armhole, I want to wash it a few times though and see if its the fabric being a bit stiff or if I need to trim some off next time.


  • Size 16
  • 2" FBA
  • 3" bicep width
  • 1" to arm length
  • 1" to armscye height
  • 1" back width
  • 1" to hips

I like the seam lines on the back especially and I really want to make a contrasting version eventually.

I read in the only review on patternreview that the weight of the facings dragged the top forward when wearing so I decided to leave the facings out and left the front edge unhemmed. This meant I stitched the back neck seam the other way from the instructions so the seam would be hidden

The fabric is a purple/grey ponte knit from Spotlight

I wore this to work this week and its one of those tops that looks so much nicer when you are moving around instead of standing still, it has great drape and I love the seam lines. I thought about making it look more fitted by taking it in at the back by adding a centre backs seam but I have been way over-fitting my clothes lately and need to just take a chill-pill and relax so I left it long and swingy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Closet Case Files: Blue gingers


Another pair of pull-on ginger jeans -

Same adjustments as last time, main difference is I found they were hitching up at the back knees a bit which was because I had shaped the outer leg on the back pattern piece and it must have added extra length so the back pattern piece was about 1" longer than the front causing the buckling. Since fixing that they are hanging a lot straighter now.

The fabric is a lovely stretchy reversible denim from Rathdowne fabrics, with blue on the top and black underneath. Thread is Guttermann  #392 upholstery thread and the rivets are ones from etsy

I saved a blog post from a while ago by meggipeg - I really liked her jeans and the quilting on them so in tribute to them (which sounds so much nicer than saying I completely copied her!!) I quilted a section on my back pockets, using some scraps I had of fleece to beef them up with. I thought about using batting but figured the fleece wouldn't shed or unravel

I read another post the other day from notes of a mad housewife about sewing the back crotch seam up so the seam is exactly in the centre of the pants, not to the side like it is if you flat fell or even faux flat fell the seam. I tried the first method with the zig zag and it worked really well, I should have trimmed down my seam allowance from 5/8" to 3/8" though (I get a bit mixed up with the whole imperial measurement thing sometimes!) and next time I think I'll run a line of basting stiches along the fold lines as I found it a bit hard to measure it exactly evenly when you fold it over.

Gotta love an elastic waistband!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Grainline Studio 16001: Cascade Coat take 2

Its hard to show how much I love this coat in photos - I made it a couple of months ago and have been wearing it non-stop (apologies for the cat hair all over it, as soon as I put it down the cat is on it sleeping!)

I learnt a fair bit making the first version and therefore changed a few things on this version. The adjustments are the same;

  • I made View A with the hood
  • Size 14 through the shoulders graded to a sz 16 at the hips
  • Narrowed the shoulders by a further 1/2"
  • Added front princess seams from Simplicity 2446 with the equivalent of a 1.5" FBA
  • Changed the armscye  by also using S2446
  • Added to the upper sleeve width and to the sleeve cap (approx. 2" to each)
  • Wide back adjustment 1.5"
  • Added a centre back seam
  • Interfaced the fronts

  • Plus;
  • Took out some size of the hood (next time I'll be making it smaller again)
  • Added about 3" in length to the body and about 1.5" to the sleeves
  •  Catch-stitched down all the hem facings, I found on the first version they tend to flip out and not sit right, so I catch-stitched these down and then hand stitched down the hems on the sleeves and body. Its makes for a lot nicer coat to wear and didn't really take any more time.

  • I used a heavier poly coating this time and the coat sewed up so much nicer and is a lot nicer to wear too. The hood doesn't drag it back as much and its just so more wearable.

    I made my own toggles again, the half circle toggles are a lot harder to sew on so I made these into a triangle shape. I made my own leather cording too, just by cutting strips, doubling them over and stitching. I used pre-cut leather strings last time and I found they have stretched out a lot and they don't have the heft and secure feeling that these do.

    I used a brass zipper I salvaged out of a jacket from the op-shop (the same jacket I used to harvest all the leather from for the toggles)

    Lining is a green rayon from Great Nan-in law's stash. I used plain black for the hood and pocket linings incase it shows.

    This has been my main jacket so far this winter, and I bought some really nice plaid wool blend coating from Lincraft for next years version!

    Wednesday, September 2, 2015

    Recycle Runway Challenge: Part 3 - Runway

    This is Part 3 (Part 1, Part 2)

    My daughter agreed to be my model, we went with dark stockings and Doc Martens to finish off the outfit. I did her makeup and hair (I back-combed and teased her fringe up following the tutorial here)

    They had a proper photographer, unfortunately the next two photos are the only ones they got of Amber (and I have no idea what's happening with her face in the last one, she looks kind of terrified!), but you can see the lighting and the runway - they projected our starting garments up on the back wall while our models were walking


    Overall thoughts; I found the challenge really fun, a nice break from normal sewing. I'm not sure if I would enter again, the night went forever (5hours standing the whole time) plus Amber said she wouldn't model for me again (same reason, the whole night just dragged on).

    I didn't place, as far as I can tell the judges wanted the outfits turned completely upside down, ie - jackets into skirts, jeans into tops.

    If you are interested, the library posted all the outfits on their facebook page

    Time to get back to some normal sewing!!

    Friday, August 21, 2015

    Recycle Runway Challenge - Part 2: Refashion - Blazer

    This post follows on from part 1

    The Blazer;
    Jacket - Before

    Jacket - After

    I've been a bit obsessed with antique military style jackets, but haven't been able to justify making one yet so this seemed like a good excuse to play with the idea.

    I cut off about 6" in length and removed the lining. Fitted it by taking in the side seams and princess seams which also narrowed the shoulders. Straightened the front of the jacket by removing the lapels and added a button band. Shaped the hem to add the points and used red felt to overlay the collar and the sleeves. Added shoulder epaulets made from the welt pockets and red piping to the hem.

    I managed to cover the old buttonholes up on the front with braid but you can see where I zig-zagged them closed on the inside.

    I used a hem facing - seemed the easiest way to finish off the shaped hem and then I handstitched down the lining.

    The chinese knots are made from braid which was fused then hand stitched to the front of the jacket. The buttons were from my stash.

    I was really impressed with the shoulders and sleeve cap supports inside the jacket - I've been annoyed at how mine have been collapsing and after looking at this I have been way undersupporting the sleeve cap. This had a layer of horsehair (or hessian?) and then another layer of a thick wool felt that was doubled over and stitched to the shoulder pad.

    The front button band was too thick to try and sew buttonholes so I use press studs. Mine have always looked crappy but this time I followed this video of Susan Khaljie's, I used 2 strands of upholstery thread which had been waxed and they turned out pretty damn good if I do say so myself!

    The only thing I wish I'd done differently is make this to fit me, not the daughter!