Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Minerva Bloggers Network - a Hacked Burda 122

Hello! Hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year. Personally, I'm kinda glad it's over and now I have time to get on with stuff I really want to do, like sewing! And for my first project of 2015, I decided to try something new, namely a Burda PDF download. I won't make you read through to the end to find out how whether I enjoyed it or not - I didn't.

This is the object of my frustration:

Modell 122 Burda Style 09/2014
That flouncey insert on the front looks really odd to me, but I liked the idea of it and so I decided to move it to the back. I'd done this before for my December Minerva project, which I was really happy with. With that in mind I thought this dress would be a walk in the park construction-wise:

My Christmas tartan skirt

But I started to get a bad feeling when it took a whole afternoon to cut out and adjust the pattern:

SOOO MANY PIECES! And why no seam allowances??!!??

Now this isn't my first experience with PDF patterns, but this is the most complicated and involved item I've worked on. I used the adjustments which had worked well on the skirt, namely lengthening the skirt section, and swapping the flounce to the back. Because the bodice was an unusual cut, I made a partial muslin of the top half to make sure it fit. Glad I did - I ended up adding about 1/2 " to one set of seams over the bust.

Then it was off to cut my fabric, which was a lovely black and gold houndstooth Bengaline from Minerva

I've never worked with this fabric before, but I liked how it's quite firm yet stretchy. The stretch was on the length of grain only, which means you have to be careful not to stretch seams that run vertically. It also needs quite a firm iron if you want seams to stay open flat. But the fabric was not the reason this project drove me crazy.

Here's how it came out:

(That's not my house by the way. It's the 100 Club, where we went the other night to see a friend's band play, and it seemed an ideal setting for blog photos)

The part that drove me crazy was the junction of seams from the lining and dress under the arms:

I lost track of how many times I unpicked and re-did this section. And forget about looking to the instructions for any help - 'minimal' is a generous description of the scant half side of paper which were labelled 'instuctions'. 

After loads of clipping and ironing and trimming, I eventually got this section to lay flat. I suppose I can't lay all the blame on Burda - this dress used a method of costruction I've rarely used, where you attach the lining to the dress at the neck and arms before sewing the side and back seams. Then you pull it all through to the back, and sew the side seams of the lining and dress all in one go. Most of my experience is with old patterns, using old fashioned facings around the arms and neck. I got in such a tangle with it all I actually had to walk away from it on several occasions.

But lets not dwell on the negative! Here are some other details:

 The curved seams at the front and back  are really well placed for any adjustments you may need to make. The dress is overall very figure hugging, so definitely check your measurements against the pattern if you do make it.

The flounce at the back works well with the rigidity of the fabric:

Apologies for the creases...

And finally, I finished the hem with bias binding made from the lining and stitched it directly to the body of the dress:

Hem details
 I can appreciate the popularity of using downloads for price - I think this one was under £4.00 - and I'm sure many sewists out there have succumbed to the immediacy of purchasing them with just the click of a button. But is all the extra work worth it? I've had great experiences with other PDF's, such as Capital Chic where there was obvious care and attention in the presentation and instructions. But this one left me annoyed, to the point where I can't help but remember this process whenever I wear this dress.

That's me not thinking of PDF's
And there you have it - see you soon!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - Christmas Tartan Skirt

Hello there! Well, winter is definitely here - all my gloves and scarves are out and in use, and the light fades at around 4.00 most days. There's a definite need for warm and woolly clothes. And with Christmas just around the corner, what better choice for a project for this time of year than a tartan woolen skirt. 

I found this brilliant wool fabric from Minerva, which was labelled as a 'coat dress weight'. For a moment I thought it may be too chunky for what I had in mind, but when it arrived I realized it was just right - not too heavy, but just that little bit thicker than your average fabric. I wanted a sort of pencil skirt, but with something different about it. I took inspiration from a lovely flouncy skirt that Ozzy Blackbeard had recently made, as well as the trend in the 40's and 50's for floating panels and swing coats and jackets, where fullness and movement were often at the back of the garment. 

I decided to use my own self drafted pencil skirt for the front half of the skirt, then combined it with this pattern from Burda for the back:

Modell 122 Burda Style 09/2014
I actually took the draped panel from the front of the dress, and shifted it to the back of my skirt.

And this is what I came up with:

I think this is the first time I've ever worked with a tartan or plaid. Whenever I've worked with any kind of repeating pattern like this, I usually find it's all about making choices as to which parts will match and which parts just won't, and how much effort you actually want to put in. As you can see from the picture above, I decided to concentrate on just making sure the horizontal lines were level, but there was no way the colours were going to meet up because of the nature of the tartan.

Centre back seam close up
But one thing I did do to make life easier (or maybe because sometimes I'm just really lazy) was to leave out side seams altogether:

No side seams!
 Because the skirt was straight up and down at the sides with no flare, I was able to overlap the pattern pieces at the side and cut the skirt in one piece. There's just a seam at the centre back and darts at the tops of the sides where the front and back pieces curved. No side seams meant I was able to cut down on the amount of pattern matching I had to do - yay!

I also decided to match the waistband where I could at the centre front. What the pattern decided to do after that I left up to fate!:

Centre front waist band
The fabric is pretty soft, not too itchy, but I lined it to avoid any of that scratchiness:

And that's my Christmas tartan skirt, which I think will be perfect for Christmas day. I've already practised eating in it, and can report it can handle quite large amounts of food, so all's good there! 

See you soon!

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Suit (of Sorts...)

Believe it or not, I'm a responsible person at work, in charge of 11 people and all of their training, payroll, issues, etc. For years, I've been able to get away with not dressing like a grown up. Skirts with a cardigan and the odd dress have been fine but recently I've been sifting through my work clothes and I think they need a bit of attention. So for this project I thought I'd break my own personal rules and make a (sorta) suit for work. 

It's a combination of patterns - for the top I used this bolero from Vogue 8721, which is fast becoming an old-standby:

I used the bolero on the bottom right

Then I used the skirt from this pattern, a 1970's does the 1940's Simplicity 6110:

I made the skirt with the pockets, but I love all the styling on this pattern - I might have to make everything!

I used some black twill that I picked up at Fabricland in Bristol. (Which by the way was great - check it out if you're ever in the Bristol area.) Not sure what it's made from, I think it's a wool and poly mix, but the weight and drape was perfect for this project.

We're currently experiencing cold but these photos were taken a few weeks ago when it was unusually warm:

It looks like a pretty simple project, and it should have been if I hadn't put my self-drafted bolero lining together wrong way round, and then stretched the right front facing out of shape. This made the jacket sit all wobbly on one side, but was fixed with a lot of unpicking and re-cutting of the lining and facing, and some sneaky piecing together.

Inside view of the bolero - you can just see a sneaky seam on the lower right of the photo where I had to piece a replacement facing together.
The curves at the front wouldn't stay 'sharp' when I ironed them; I was already hugely frustrated by this outfit, so I decided to use spray starch on them. The directions on the can says not to use it on dark fabrics, but I tested it and it seemed fine. Result - lovely front curves! (sounds a bit rude...)

What's so great about the skirt is the pockets, which are usually filled with scraps of scribbled on paper at the end of a days work:

I've been a bit slow at posting recently, so this outfit has already had a few outings at work. It's my new favourite work outfit! It sounds odd, but there's something about having a matching ensemble which makes me feel 'grown up'. Maybe suits aren't such a bad thing after all...

See you soon!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - Animal Print's a Basic, Isn't it?

Hello! After a month off, I'm back with Minerva - I've missed it! I've decided to start off with something completely different for me - a batwing jersey dress, made from stretch fabric. The main reason for such a departure was to get to grips with my new  Singer overlocker, which I bought for the bargain price of £129 from Lidl. (For non-European readers, Lidl is a chain of bargain supermarkets from Germany, who also have themed offers once a week - anything from garden furniture, to tools, or even toys).

My new overlocker!

For the pattern, I used this brilliant tutorial from Mollytov - go check it out, because it's so easy!
I pretty much copied all the measurements outright; the only changes I made were to the length of the skirt, which I just added a couple of inches to.

And for this foray into jersey I decided to use this stunner from Minerva :

Black and gold snake print jersey from Minerva
This fabric is out of this world! What you can't really see in the photo is the extra layer of sheen on top of the print that gives the fabric a life of it's own. I love, love, LOVE animal print, to the point where I consider it a basic. It isn't really apparent on this blog, but I have leopard skirts, jackets, dresses, tights, and even underwear. So I thought it was about time I introduced a bit of animal! 

And here it is:

I've been sewing for 30+ years, but I've managed to avoid jersey and overlocking all this time, except for the odd project here and there. Despite endless testing and fiddling, I'm still not sure I really know what I'm doing with the stitches and the tension, but as a first project it's not bad. 

Close up of the overlocked seam I used - is this right?

Close up of neckline
And of course I couldn't resist the pulling a few disco moves in this outfit:

 And that's it! If you like what you see, be sure you check out Minerva's website.

See you soon!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Nicole Needles!

Amazing what you can achieve with bits and pieces you have knocking around the house......