Joanna Dress

When I first saw the Lliria dress pattern, it was love at first sight. It has everything I like in a dress: the overall silhouette, the sleeves, the yoke, the gathers, I could go on… And when my friend Hibbis almost magically dug out not one but two 1,50 metre pieces of this lovely black and white floral viscose from a messy stand during our last visit to the Stoffenspektakel, I immediately saw it as the perfect fabric for my Lliria.

And it was. But man was it a pain to sew! I had already sewn with viscose, but never with such a shifty one, and paired with the curves of the Lliria dress, it was an absolute nightmare. The waistband in particular got so distorted that its two ends didn’t match at all once sewn up: I had to unpick and re-sew it, which was not fun at all, but I think worth it in the end. I also had to unpick and re-sew the hem a couple of times… and once more after my bike chewed up a piece of it during its first outing! 😱

The flat button is inside the waistband.

The buttons are vintage. They are the same I used on this blouse. And by “the same”, I mean five of them were stolen from said blouse. They were too perfect for this dress, and not that comfortable on the back of a blouse.

I’m really happy with the fit of the finished dress. I had to blend quite a few different sizes to get there: size 42 for the shoulders, 40 for the sleeves, 38 for the sleeve cuffs, 36 for the bust and waist and 42 for the skirt (with a size 48 length at first, but I had to chop off a few centimetres after the bike incident and I think I got back to the original 42 length). It’s kind of all over the place, but that’s what I thought would work after comparing the pattern pieces measurements to the measurements of well-fitting garments, and it did: it’s incredibly comfortable and I feel like a million bucks in it!

I also made a couple very small modifications to the pattern: I added side seam pockets and I interfaced both facings and sleeve cuffs. The only one of these changes I wouldn’t replicate on a future version is interfacing the skirt facings since it takes away some of the fluidity of the skirt. The rest I’m happy with.

Surprisingly, I’d say this is probably the most difficult pattern I’ve ever sewn, because of the type of fabric it requires coupled with the curved shape of some of the pieces, which made it impossible for me not to distort them despite all my precautions. But I’m sure it would have been much easier had I not used that particularly fickle fabric, or had I maybe thought to stabilise it with starch or something…

And the result is so worth it!

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Second Serving

Sencha2I sewed a Sencha blouse a little over two years ago, and although I loved the pattern and the look of the finished blouse, after some time I just couldn’t bear the synthetic quality of the fabric anymore. It was sweaty, unbreathable… made worse by the fact that I cycle everywhere, every day! So I ended up donating the blouse and vowed to make another one in a nobler fabric someday.

Sencha1After finishing my Edenham Chelsea dress, I wanted to use up the whole length of Liberty instead of putting it back in my stash for God knows how long. I hesitated between two of my favourite blouse patterns, Tilly’s Mimi and Colette’s Sencha, and the ridiculously small number of pattern pieces of the Sencha tipped the scales toward the latter.

Sencha4I remembered spending a lot of time on hand finishing for my first version of Sencha, because it was said to be impossible to use French seams due to the construction of the blouse, and I didn’t own a serger at the time. So this time I was about to gain a lot of time thanks to my serger, until I stumbled on this article that claimed it was entirely possible to French seam the whole Sencha blouse! I was both too lazy to change the serger thread to black and curious about testing this method, so I decided to try and use French seams instead of serging the blouse.

Sencha7And it worked, so many thanks to the author! 🙂 The only raw edge that was left was the bottom part of the sleeve hem, which I simply folded into a triangle and invisibly hand stitched like the rest of the sleeve hem.

I didn’t follow the instructions of the pattern for the back opening: I didn’t sew it right sides together as per the instructions, but folded and pressed it wrong sides together (with the seam allowances of the top part folded inside), then hand stitched the top part closed at the same time as the rest of the button band. I think that’s what I did on my first version, too.

Sencha6

Front and back

I’m delighted with the finishing of this blouse! I used black interfacing so it wouldn’t risk showing through and finished the facings with some narrow green bias tape I had in my stash.

The buttons I had to buy. I chose pale yellow ones that closely match the yellow flowers of the print and pop out against the black background.

I almost forgot that it wasn’t included in the pattern, but the peter pan collar was drafted the first time I made the blouse, following Gertie’s tutorial (also in her book).

Sencha5I sewed the same size as the first time but I think the fit is better on this one, because I didn’t sew the side seams as high up as the first time. I stopped at the bottom of the sleeve hem instead of at the pattern marking. I didn’t feel constricted in my first version, but it does look better from the back!

It’s rare that I don’t have anything to nitpick on something I’ve made, but this is one of those occurrences where I don’t have anything negative to say about the finished garment! A fabric I love, a pattern I love with bonus peter pan collar — what’s not to like?

Sencha3

Edenham Chelsea

Chelsea2I initially finished this dress on Christmas Eve, but since I had had to rush, I was not entirely happy with it. It was okay for a family Christmas supper, but I intended to wear it beyond that night, so I knew I had to change some details or I would not want to wear it for everyday life. So what was supposed to be my last project of 2015 became the first of 2016!

Chelsea1The first thing that did not satisfy me were the buttons. I realised at the very end that I did not have any that were suitable. I have a lot of buttons that I’ve gathered from here and there, yet never seem to find what I need for a specific project and most of the time have to buy some new ones instead. The only series of minimum three black buttons in my stash were too small, and I also thought they didn’t go with the style of the dress. I used them anyway because they were all I had, but I knew there was a good chance they were just a temporary solution. I also sewed them through both layers of the button band for lack of time, and although it was possible to get the dress on, it was not very convenient either. And the last straw, I had sewed them unevenly!

Chelsea3

Yay pockets!

I bought prettier buttons (at Veritas – smaller versions of the ones I put on this cardigan) and attached snaps to the button band. I had chosen snaps for this dress and have found them to be very practical, so I am now a snap convert for this type of dress.

While I was at it, I also rearranged part of the gathering. A small pleat had formed at centre front (you can sort of make it out in this picture) that made my eye twitch, so I unpicked and restitched a few centimetres.

Chelsea6But the worst thing was, the dress was way too short! Once again, alright for Christmas supper, all wrong for everyday life… There was not even enough length folded in the hem, so I could not get away with just letting out a few centimetres. I had to resort to adding a piece of fabric as an afterthought, and hated the effect… until I had the idea of covering the joint with some lace from my stash that I hand sewed in place.

Chelsea7The piece I added to gain some length (about 7 cm – the original length was 1 cm above the lace!) is in fact the pattern piece of the contrast band of the other version of the pattern, which I folded in two lengthwise to cover the pinked seams of that section. The rest of the dress is serged, but I had changed the thread to white for the yoke and I was too lazy to change it again. But I think the result looks quite nice now! The lace does a great job of covering the seam and I simply love how it looks. A very happy accident.

Chelsea4The main fabric is Edenham Liberty tana lawn. I cannot justify paying full price for Liberty, so I usually buy it either on sale or off eBay, where you can find quite a few good deals. The contrast fabric is a remnant of honeycomb stretch cotton (the same I used for the collars, plural, of this dress). The stretch factor bothered me a little bit, but I liked how opaque it was for a white fabric so that’s what I chose in the end. And with such a light fabric as this Liberty, there’s actually no real risk of the yoke getting distorted, which was what I feared. While we’re on the subject of Liberty, can someone explain to me how come I seem to be the only one whose Liberty wrinkles? I always read about how wonderfully soft it is and how vibrant the colours are, both of which are true and the reasons why I buy it in the first place… and how it doesn’t even wrinkle and, well, mine does! 😀 Not awfully, but still, it’s a cotton after all!

Chelsea5The pattern is the Chelsea dress by Christine Haynes. I sewed a size 4, the same as for my Emery, and didn’t bother with a muslin because I never bother with a muslin I knew this would be a forgiving fit. Except for the fact that I lengthened the dress and added snaps instead of buttonholes, I didn’t make any modifications.

It was an easy dress to sew and it’s an easy dress to wear, now that I’ve lengthened it. I just throw on my black Zinnia cardigan and I’m in a cute and comfortable outfit, with matching buttons!

Chelsea