Apples and Roses

Last November, I was contacted by Nadja from Schnittchen. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in sewing one of their paper patterns for free. I had never tried a Schnittchen pattern before, so I was curious and went and took a look at what they had on offer. I didn’t want to try a pattern just because it was free; I wanted to try a pattern I would have bought myself. I saw a lot of things I liked, but the style of most of the patterns was still more modern than what I usually wear. The Zoe dress on the other hand seemed like something I would have bought with my own money: fit and flare silhouette, very high waist*, peter pan collar, pin tucks, cute sleeves… Need I say more?

*I’d say between high waist and Empire line.

Bodice and skirt pin tucks.

I debated using this rose and apple print from my stash or buying a solid colour fabric that would bring out the pin tucks better, but in the end I preferred using what I had on hand. Besides, I thought the dress might look pretty cute in that print! I had originally bought it from Stragier, on the same day as this other cotton print, because at €15 a metre they seemed like bargains in contrast with what you can usually find there (to give you an idea if you don’t know Stragier, Liberty tana lawn is by far one of their least expensive fabrics! 😱).

I didn’t make a muslin, but I did try on the basted bodice before sewing it for real. The only fit modification I made was rising the darts a touch. And I have to say I’m quite impressed with the fit of the dress! The bodice, sleeves and waistband are a size 36, the skirt a size 40.

Other than the small fit modification I’ve just mentioned, another minor change I made was adding side seam pockets. FYI, I placed the top of the pockets 7 cm below the bottom of the waistband.

I also added two decorative buttons at the neckline: I couldn’t find any markings for the placement of the collar, so I looked at the close-up pictures on the Schnittchen website and tried to keep the same distance between the two front ends of my collar as in that picture, but mine seem to have ended up a bit too far from each other and because of that the area looked strangely empty. Hence, two red buttons (from my stash – no idea where they came from, but if I had to guess I’d say my mother reclaimed them from an old garment) to fill that space. I think it’s one of those happy accidents because I love those buttons on the dress! Monsieur is less enthused: he doesn’t understand the need for buttons where there’s no opening. I myself have no problem with purely decorative buttons, as you may have gathered by now if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.

My last tiny deviation from the pattern concerns the zipper, which I chose to hand-pick. I could tell you that I wanted to get all couture or something, but I favour honesty over glamour so I must confess that I opted for the method that allowed me to sew from my couch! 😀 I also appreciate the control hand-picking a zipper gives you in comparison to inserting it by machine.

Sorry about the wrinkled skirt and sleeves: I had been wearing the dress all day before taking the pictures.

I haven’t found a lot of pictures of the Zoe dress on the net, and I actually haven’t found any apart from the technical drawing that showed its short-sleeved version (not even on the Schnittchen website), which is the version I chose to make. So I was bummed when I first tried on the dress with the sleeves, because I was expecting something else, something more like the sleeves of these two dresses, with gathers on top. I also found the Zoe sleeves aesthetically too long. But they were very comfortable, and I thought, why not try wearing the dress for a day first and then see whether I’m disappointed just because I was expecting something else or because I really don’t like the sleeves and should maybe shorten them? I’ve been wearing the dress a lot already, especially considering I finished it two weeks ago, and I can’t even see what the problem was anymore! As a matter of fact, the dress literally hasn’t seen the inside of my wardrobe yet!

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Polka Dots Again!

cami1Why did I wait so long to sew my first shirtdress?! I’ve been collecting patterns, fabrics and inspiration for years, but so many projects, so little time, such a slow seamstress, you know how it works…

Anyway, here is my first shirtdress then! The pattern is Pauline Alice’s Camí dress. This version is actually a wearable toile: I used some very inexpensive cotton (the same as this one and this one but in a smaller scale) which had a few flaws so that it wouldn’t bother me too much if things didn’t pan out. The buttons are vintage, from my mother’s stash.

cami2I first cut a size 36 bodice with 38 shoulders, but it was way too tight so I sized up to a 38 with 40 shoulders. It’s still not a good fit at the shoulders nor at the collar, which sometimes hangs a bit funny, but it’s passable. I wonder if lengthening the collar stand buttonhole a touch could not solve part of the problem. At the moment this button is not perfectly in line with the rest of the buttons/buttonholes as it should be, and this makes the collar tighter than intended. Not truly uncomfortable, but less comfortable than the collar of my Cardamome.

cami3The rest of the dress fits well (I lowered the waist darts by 2 cm), contrary to what some of these pictures, taken after a day of wear, would have you believe. The waist could maybe stand to be taken in a tiny bit? I’m not sure. The shoulders fit better (and the collar points hang better, too) when the collar is open, but I always wear it closed, so that’s not a satisfactory solution. This has not stopped me from wearing the dress a lot, especially since I usually pair it with a cardigan! Still, I really must learn to fit my (giant?!) shoulders!

cami4I didn’t use the skirt that is included in the pattern but cut twice the whole width of the 150 cm wide fabric x (60 cm + waist seam allowance + wide hem) for an extra full skirt! I also added a buttoned breast pocket (inspired by Annie Coton’s Camí and using Pauline Alice’s optional breast pocket template).

A lot of reviews of the pattern complain about too low pockets, and rightly so. I personally used Clémence’s nifty tutorial (in French, but she links to this one in English) to raise them and couple the left one with the invisible zip instead of placing it right under the zip.

cami7

Pocket AND invisible zip!

Another small complaint I have, which I haven’t read about anywhere, is the lack of precision of the pattern: a grainline arrow that isn’t parallel with the button placket by a couple millimetres (unless that’s intended?), shoulder and side seams that aren’t the exact same length on the front and back pieces (and yes, I triple checked, my tracing isn’t to blame)… Nothing serious, but it does make it look a little bit amateur, and I prefer it when things are more rigorous. I don’t remember encountering the same kind of issues making my Quart coat, so I’ll chalk that up to the Camí being Pauline Alice’s first pattern.

cami6I’d really like solving my shoulder fitting problem on this pattern, so I do intend to sew it again, but first I want to try the other shirtdress patterns I have in my stash, so it may take a while before I revisit this one!

Just you wait until I find my TNT pattern and the shirtdress might become the new gathered skirt!

cami5

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Gingerly Yours

ginger34Can you believe I have spent the last two years without a pair of jeans, or without a pair of trousers for that matter?! The only thing resembling trousers in my wardrobe were these 3/4-length jeans, only wearable in summer. The rest of the time: not a single pair!

I’m more of a skirt/dress wearing kind of woman (duh!), but still, no pair at all had started to get a little tiresome. I’ll choose a skirt/dress over a pair of jeans 99% of the time, but I’ve come to realise I need jeans for the remaining percent. I mean, how stupid did I look hiking in a dress and tights last winter? 😀

gingerprofilThe reason I spent so much time without a somewhat essential piece of wardrobe is that well-fitting trousers are close to impossible to find in shops for me: there is a 36 cm difference between my hips and waist, which means that shop-bought trousers that fit my waist will never (and I mean never) go past my hips, and the ones that go past my hips will inevitably gape at the waist. The best I could aim for were ones that didn’t gape so much that they were completely unwearable, but really, I have actually never owned a pair of perfectly fitting trousers. The ones I’ve linked to in the first paragraph were one of my best fitting pairs, yet they gaped enough at the back that I always needed to cover the waist.

gingerfaceBy the way, I’d like to stress the fact that I’m not complaining about my body shape, but about the fact that I couldn’t find trousers that fit that shape. I’m insisting because absolutely every time I have happened to talk about the objective size difference between my hips and waist, there have been people to tell me that I should not be saying that, that I’m not fat and God knows what, as if simply acknowledging (and, let me insist again, not complaining about) a particularity of my body was the same as criticising that body. We all have different bodies, there’s nothing negative in identifying what makes ours different from the accepted norm. Also, people automatically jumping to the conclusion that wide hips = negative kind of puzzles me, but whatever.

Now that’s off my chest, let’s talk about MY FIRST EVER PAIR OF WELL FITTING JEANS! 😀

gingerface2When the Closet Case Ginger jeans first came out, like a lot of people I was kind of tempted, but also kind of intimidated. What worried me was the fitting part. I remembered from the Clover-craze a few years ago that trousers seemed an absolute nightmare to fit, and I wasn’t feeling up to the task. Still, when the Ginger pattern was on sale and I found the perfect dark stretch denim (for €3! – and it is surprisingly good quality!) at Tissus Passion, I gave in. And finally, a few months later, I mustered up the courage and started cutting. What was the worst that could happen after all? Wasting less than €6 of fabric? Spoiler alert: I didn’t waste a single cent!

gingerdosIn a bout of mad optimism, I opted for the high-rise skinny version. I had never in my life even tried on a pair of skinny jeans, but I thought, there’s always a first, and I was curious… My fabric is pretty stretchy, so I went down to a size 10 in the hips instead of what should have been a 12. Also, I didn’t dare grading up or down too many sizes and the jeans are not supposed to fall at the natural waist but a little bit lower, which is why I chose a size 8 for the waist instead of a 4.

So at first I simply graded from a size 8 waist to a size 10 hips, and I tried on the basted jeans (without waistband) as advised in the sewalong and in the eBook. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the fit was already quite good! I just needed to take a wedge out at the back yoke. And before finishing the jeans for real, I tried on the waistband and simply cut off the excess after attaching it to the jeans. Right below are my modified pattern pieces for reference (click on the image to enlarge): in red are the changes I made before even cutting the pattern (i.e. simply grading between a size 8 and a size 10) and in green (only on the yoke piece) the wedge I took out after trying on the basted jeans (the broken line is the seam line, the solid one adds a 5/8” seam allowance). I didn’t transfer the changes I made to the waistband piece, but this will be easy to measure on the finished jeans before I remake a pair. Do not pay attention to any orange marks on the pattern pieces; these are just traces left by the tailor’s chalk.

gingermodifsI mentioned above that I used Heather Lou’s Sewing Your Own Jeans eBook. It was nice having all the info in one place, as well as some additional information that wasn’t included in the sewalong, but what I found most useful is all available for free in the sewalong. So if you need even more hand-holding than in the sewalong, I’d recommend it as it’s so well thought out, but if you don’t, well, it’s far from mandatory to get a nice looking pair of jeans.

And the pattern itself is so impressive! I have read here and there that the fly front zipper insertion method alone made it worth a buy (or a peek at the sewalong! 😉 ) and it’s true, really; I defy you to fail your zipper insertion following this method. But the rest of the pattern is so worth it, too. Everything is so well explained and carefully thought out, I think even a confident beginner could take it one step at a time and get more than satisfying results in the end.

gingerdetails2As you may have understood by now, I am positively ecstatic about my Ginger jeans. There are a few small details I’d like to improve on for a future version (I’d like my topstitching and bar tacks to be more regular next time – I hope not to sew the next pair on the same low range plastic sewing machine though, so this should be achievable! 😀 – and I’d also maybe lengthen the legs a little bit and move the pockets a tiny bit more towards the centre, which are pretty simple changes), but they look so much better than what I had imagined! And they are so comfortable (as proven here)! I love the comfort of the high waist (hitting me around the belly button) and the pocket stay does its job in keeping everything in place: it’s so nice not having to adjust the pockets in place every time you put on the jeans.

gingerdetails1I used some Liberty tana lawn remnants (from this dress and this blouse) to line the pockets and waistband. I chose gold topstitching thread and copper coloured button and rivets for a classic jeans look.

I also made the Breton top I am wearing in the pictures. It’s a Sewaholic Renfrew I modified slightly: I changed the shape of the neckline and I simply turned and stitched it instead of adding a neckband; I also omitted the sleeve and hem bands, lengthened the sleeves and added slits at the sides of the bottom hem. What really makes the top is the fabric, of course. I bought it online from Un chat sur un fil, but it was at least two years ago and I don’t think they have it in stock anymore. It’s 100% cotton, quite thick and it doesn’t have a lot of stretch for a knit. It has pilled a little bit around the spot where the shoulder strap of my bag rubs, but nothing anyone but me is going to notice, I think. I still have enough fabric to make another tee, so when this one bites the dust I can make its clone, phew!

gingerdos2Now can I get back to waxing poetic about the jeans? Just kidding, I’m already embarrassed enough at the sheer length of this post! Please cut me some slack: I MADE JEANS!

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