Cherbourg Dress

This dress started with the fabric. I bought it at Atelier Moondust during the sales and I immediately knew it would become a shirtdress. Unusually, I also immediately sewed the shirtdress in question. Not all fabrics can boast such a short stay in my stash!

I chose the Camí dress because it’s the most basic (in a good way!) shirtdress pattern I own. I knew I’d have to make some fitting adjustments though: my first Camí fits awfully at the neck and shoulders. Since I wasn’t really sure about how to fix that, I thought of comparing the pattern pieces to the one other pattern I’ve sewn that has a collar with a stand, the Cardamome dress. And then I thought, why not simply blend the collar and shoulders of the Cardamome pattern with the rest of the Camí? So that’s what I did. It was not the easiest to do because of the yoke of the Cardamome, but it did work: this version fits way better than the first one. It’s still not perfect, but it’s getting there. I might try a broad shoulder and/or back adjustment in the future, and maybe something for my sloping shoulders. And shortening the back bodice, too.

As you can tell from the pictures, I didn’t only make fitting adjustments; I also modified the opening: no more side zipper, but a full button band instead of the partial one of the original. It takes more time to put on or take off the dress, but I’m yet to get dressed or undressed in such a hurry that this poses a problem, and it’s also more comfortable to put on. And I love the look of the full button band so much!

Oooh, speaking of the buttons, aren’t they lovely? They are vintage and I got them at the last Lille Braderie. I was so happy to find such a perfect use for them!

Another change I made, which you can’t see in the pictures, is one I had also made on my first version, raising the too low pockets.

The only real problem of this dress is… the fabric! It’s the cutest with its adorable umbrellas and raindrops and everything, but man does it wrinkle, which makes it look a bit sloppy at the end of a day’s wear… Ah well, it won’t stop me from enjoying those little umbrellas!

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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!

Aux robes pareilles

I don’t know that my second version of such a simple pattern as the Moneta deserves a blog post of its own, but I really love this dress and I was wearing it when I thought about taking pictures for the blog, so here goes.

You may remember that I had to shorten the bodice of my first Moneta dress after completing it. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to alter the bodice pattern pieces, too. And, contrary to what I was forced to do on the first dress (since it was already cut and sewn), I didn’t simply cut off the bottom of the bodice pieces. I shortened them properly by slashing and closing, and I feel like this allows for a better fit at the waist than on the first version: the waist seam is now horizontal, even at the back, so no need for a swayback adjustment after all.

What may also have contributed to this more horizontal waist seam is the fact that I used my preferred method of gathering the skirt (the same as for a woven garment, with three basting rows, but adding clear elastic when attaching the skirt to the garment) instead of the recommended one.

If I did alter the bodice pattern pieces, I didn’t think of altering the skirt pattern pieces at the time. And I realised that right after having cut both skirt pieces, argh! I remember thinking that the length of the first dress was okay, but not perfect, and that on the next version I’d definitely add some length to the skirt to compensate for the length I had lost at the bodice. I could have kicked myself when I realised I had forgotten to do so! I made a very narrow hem to get as much length as I could out of my already cut skirt pieces, and I think that the length I got is more than okay, but I must remember to add a couple more centimetres to the next version in order to get to my perfect skirt length (63 centimetres — this one is 60 or 61).

Those 2-3 missing centimetres sure haven’t stopped that dress from becoming one of my favourite ones! Aren’t those cherries the cutest? I had made this beloved skirt a bit more than a year ago in a lovely cotton poplin, and when I found the exact same print but on jersey (at Herbert Textiel), I didn’t think twice and immediately ordered 2 metres for a Moneta dress.

It’s a white fabric with a dark print, so it does show a tiny bit of white at some seams (see the sleeve seam in the close-up picture below — note that you can always click on the images to make them bigger), but it’s nothing you notice unless you’re specifically looking for it.

What’s crazy is that, out of the two metres I had ordered, I managed to get this dress of course, but also a matching cardigan! I cut and sewed them both at the same time, which was really fun and gave me the impression of being incredibly productive! In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t intend to wear them together, nor to wear the cardigan with the matching poplin skirt!

But when does one enter crazy cherry lady territory? I mean, people (okay, students 😉 ) have already started asking questions, and they haven’t even seen the cardigan yet, nor the three other cherry fabrics I still have in my stash!

Retro Stripes

Nine months ago, when I had just made this dress, I wasn’t sure I’d wear it a ton. I loved the fabric (still do), but the shape was just not ideal on me. I felt like it hit a weird spot between lose in some places and tight in other places. And I liked it from the front, but I was bothered by the fabric pooling at the back. I also didn’t want to add darts to a T-shirt dress, so I decided to wear it anyway.

It has not become my favourite dress, but it has become one of my most worn garments nonetheless. Especially in the summer, when the weather’s warm enough to wear it without tights: it’s my go-to dress for lazy summer days. I also wear it in winter, with tights and a cardigan (usually this one), so it really is a year round dress. And I don’t ever think about its imperfect fit when I wear it.

To make it I used Sewaholic’s Renfrew top, which I simply lengthened. Now I know not to do that again. I also shortened the sleeves, got rid of the sleeve bands and made my own, much narrower, neckband. All hems were serged, then turned and topstitched with a double needle. Since I was using white thread, I made sure that the topstitching fell on white stripes. I didn’t topstitch the seam allowances of the neckband down.

The fabric once again came from the Stoffenspektakel. It has a lovely texture that sort of reminds me of vintage crochet; I love it!

I don’t have a lot more to say about that dress which is essentially a T-shirt (and I think my sixth version of the Renfrew pattern) so I’ll leave it at that. See you next week!

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.

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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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With a Cherry on Top

Cherry1Hello! It’s been awhile hasn’t it?

Here is the last garment I sewed, a Sewaholic Saltspring dress! The fabric is a lovely rayon I bought from Goldhawk Road during a day trip to London with Mimolette last March. It’s not as drapey as the pattern recommends and actually looks more like a very lightweight cotton, but I think it works pretty well for this dress nonetheless. And it was suprisingly nice to work with, too, since it behaves like cotton. The only downside is that I need to press the dress after hanging it to dry or it looks a little bit crumpled and sloppy. Fortunately, it doesn’t wrinkle too much when I wear it, just when I wash it.

Cherry2I love love love the finished dress! And I also loved working with the pattern, which I found very well thought-out. I now understand why everyone kept raving about the shorter lining that helps keeping the blousing in place: it really does its job! I French seamed the skirt seams, and the bodice construction (at least without a zipper) encloses all raw seams, so the inside looks very neat. Also, thumbs up for the sew-along method for turning the straps right side out with a bobby pin: so easy, worked like a charm!

Cherry4It’s an easy pattern as is, but I made it even easier by omitting the zipper. I didn’t like the look of the partially open back of the original version, and I had read that one could put on the dress without a zipper, so that was a no-brainer.

To eliminate the zipper, I cut the back skirt on the fold instead of in two pieces. I could have done the same for the back bodice, but I didn’t think of that before I had already cut it in two pieces, so I just seamed it shut. This accidental back seam turned out quite handy to differentiate the front from the back when I’m getting dressed!

Cherry5Another modification I made was to sew an in-between version of the skirt, lengthwise. I added 20 cm to the shorter version, because I wanted my dress to have a late 70s, early 80s flair.

Cherry6You may have noticed that I’m wearing a cherry necklace in the pictures. When I finished the dress, I felt like it demanded to be worn with a cherry necklace, so I obliged and made one, since I didn’t own any! I’m fairly chuffed with the result, which I intended on wearing only with this dress, but have actually been wearing with an unexpected amount of outfits! The cherries and leaf are polymer clay and the stems pliable jewellery wire.

Cherry3This exact outfit has been my favourite one this summer. It’s a shame it’s not the kind of dress I can see myself wearing with tights and cardigans to transition it to fall, but at least I’ll be looking forward to wearing it again next summer!

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

Checkmate Dress

PiedDePoule1When I saw this dress in the September 2012 issue of BurdaStyle, I immediately fell for it and kept an eye open for a suitable fabric. I found what I thought was the perfect fabric about two years ago at the Stoffenspektakel, but I had so many other projects in mind that this one, like many others, got pushed back to end of the queue.

But this September, when I “needed” a dress for an upcoming party, this pattern seemed like the perfect choice.

PiedDePoule3I used black wool (from La maison des tissus) instead of the recommended leather for the pockets because I wanted the dress to be machine washable, and I didn’t bind the collar (I traced a facing instead). I also changed the back neckline for that of this top, which, in hindsight, was kind of a stupid idea: who wants to bare so much skin when wearing a thick wool winter dress?

I didn’t insert a zipper and the dress pulls on over the head easily. The idea of inserting a zipper on that b**** of a fabric was giving me nightmares, so I was relieved to have the possibility to skip this step! The fabric was the only difficulty I faced during the making of this dress, but without my serger, I simply don’t think I could have handled it! I literally breathed a sigh of relief once every edge of the dress was finished.

PiedDePoule4Sadly, I do not like the finished dress as much as I thought I would. It looks great on my dress form, but not so much on me… I cut a 36 for the bust/waist and graded to a 38 for the hips, when my hip measurement puts me in a size 40! With the fit and flare styles I mostly sew, I can usually get away with cutting the same size for the hips as for the bust and the waist, but I miscalculated the ease on this one, and as a result the dress feels a little bit tight at the hips. And with that fabric from hell, there’s no way I could let the seams out to gain a size. It’s such a shame, because I love the fit of those French darts!

PiedDePoule5

The dress and sleeve hems were serged, then turned and invisibly hand sewn.

This didn’t stop me from wearing it for two nights out, but now it’s waiting in storage while I figure out whether I’ll wear it again as a dress, shorten it to make a top, or donate it.

Ah well, at least now that the pattern has been traced, I can make another version, in my true size this time!

PiedDePoule2

Little House on the Emery

Emery1What better way to (re)start catching up with my backlog of unblogged garments than with one of my favourite ones?

This is a Christine Haynes Emery dress (size 4), made with lovely quilting cotton I bought (heavily discounted!) from Fabric Rehab. I lined the bodice with some lilac cotton I had lying in my stash.

Emery6I substituted a simple gathered skirt for the skirt of the pattern. I finished the dress fourteen weeks ago (thanks, Instagram!), so I don’t exactly remember why. Probably good old laziness… I remember thinking “yay, I’ll be able to tear the fabric for the skirt!” and then being disillusioned when realising that the fabric was printed a tiny bit off grain, just enough that it was impossible to keep the rows of houses of the print in line with the torn edges. So I had to cut along said rows of houses instead of perfectly on grain to make sure that the houses wouldn’t hang askew on the finished skirt.

Emery3Other than that, this was a pretty straightforward dress to make. However, as with absolutely every single sewing project of mine, there was a moment right near the end when I persuaded myself that it was going to be a dud (it’s a sickness, really!): this time I focused on the imperfect print matching at the back. I didn’t even try keeping whole houses on the skirt for lack of fabric, and weirdly this didn’t bother me at all, but I did try it on the back bodice and the almost but not quite entire houses running along the (hand-picked) zipper annoyed me so much that I couldn’t see anything else anymore. But as usual, after letting things settle for a while and especially after wearing the dress, I can barely see what was upsetting me so much at the time!

Emery4Now that I have been wearing the dress for a while, the only thing I might change for a future version would be to maybe shorten the bodice (or just the back bodice?) by a centimetre or two for an even better fit. The waist is also a little bit wider than I would have chosen, but this makes for a more comfortable dress, so I don’t think I would change that after all. I like my high-waisted skirts to have zero ease at the waist because otherwise they don’t stay put and among other things don’t look as nice with cropped tops as a result, but with a dress there’s no risk of the skirt part moving around since it is held in place by the bodice.

Emery2I’ll be back very soon to try and show you the rest of what I made… before the end of the year! Yes, I am so hopelessly rigid that, save for ones I would complete at the very end of the year, I just can’t start 2016 without having blogged all of my 2015 makes! Or maybe I am just looking for an incentive to start blogging regularly again? 😉

Emery5