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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Colourful Airelle

airelle1I bought this small piece of Liberty tana lawn (Garden Wonderland) a few months ago with the intention of making a blouse out of it. Then I changed my mind and decided to make a gathered skirt with a back elasticated waistband instead. I made a mess out of said gathered skirt (don’t ask!), and all I was left with were the front and back panels of the skirt, which luckily were juuuust enough for a blouse, so back to square one.

airelle4I decided to try the Deer&Doe Airelle blouse (if you clicked through those links: doesn’t one of the models look familiar? 😀 ) with the sleeve caps of the Réglisse dress, because that was all I could squeeze out of my skirt panels. I had to shorten the Réglisse sleeve caps for them to correspond to the armholes of the blouse, but style wise I think they suit the blouse very well.

airelle3I made a straight size 36, which fits pretty well I’d say. Had I cut the normal Airelle sleeves, I would have graded the shoulders up to a 38, but the sleeve caps allowed me to forgo that step.

airelle6It was a straightforward sew that didn’t take me more than two days from tracing the pattern to finishing the blouse, and God knows I’m a slow sewer! I finished the seams with my serger, which I’ve come to value more and more: it’s fast and easy, yet looks so professional.

airelle7My favourite part of the blouse has to be the collar: I can’t even begin to understand why so many people have sewn collarless Airelles, but different strokes for different folks… I appreciate the darts, too, which give such a flattering fit through the bodice.

airelle2It’s a nice little blouse that can be worn in a lot of different outfits. I have been wearing it both tucked in high-waisted skirts and untucked over jeans and, although I’m more used to my high-waisted skirts and think those kind of outfits are more my style, I couldn’t really tell which way I prefer it. By the way, those are Ginger jeans you see in some of the pictures, but more about them in a future blog post!

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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!

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Ouardia Blouse

Ouardia2I must have been 17 years old when I bought this vintage skirt at the flea market. It was the perfect hippie skirt, romantically grazing the floor with each step, and I adored its floral print, which reminded me of several Kabyle dresses my mother had passed on to me.

Flash forward a few years later, the skirt didn’t fit anymore, and I thought it would be nice to remake it into something else, such as a Kabyle dress, or more likely a blouse, depending on the amount of usable fabric. The only problem was, I was just a beginner sewer at the time and I didn’t feel up to the task yet, fearing to waste what felt like particularly precious fabric. So I unpicked the skirt, and I put the pieces at the bottom of my budding refashion pile.

Ouardia1When Thread&Needles announced a sewing contest around the theme of travel, I immediately thought of that old project of mine, thinking about my travel to Algeria when I was a little kid: I had gone with my brother to meet our family and discover the country, and I had been given the cutest little pink custom made Kabyle dress, which I had kept long after it had become too small, and later replaced with my mother’s floral print dresses.

I drafted my own pattern, i.e. I copied the dress that fits me best and just changed the underarm area a little bit so that I could wear the blouse without a tank underneath, and drafted a neckline facing instead of adding a self fabric yoke lining as in the dress I copied. I chose to make a blouse and not a dress both because I didn’t have enough fabric and because I liked the idea of a more casual version, worn with jeans or shorts in summer. I thought about adding the patch pockets because I had just enough fabric left that I didn’t want to waste, and I must say I think they look quite nice and they are also pretty useful!

Ouardia4The rickrack was sewn entirely by hand (I love how the pink stitches look against the black inside the blouse!). I wanted each zigzag to lay as smoothly as possible, which I didn’t think would be the case if I stitched only along the centre by machine. At first I intended to sew two parallel lines of rickrack, the pink one you see and a green one, but in the end I decided it would make the blouse too busy and chose to keep it subtler (as subtle as a floral blouse with butterfly sleeves and pink rickrack can be). I won’t lie to you, I was relieved to hand sew a little under six metres of rickrack instead of close to twelve…

Ouardia3I was afraid the blouse would be too short (due to fabric restraints), so I was also relieved when I tried it on and saw that it looked exactly how I had pictured it. Dare I say, even better, with the addition of the cute little patch pockets!

Sunny!

Sunny1Hello, it’s me again! Once more with two garments for the price of one, which makes a total of five garments in a week, gasp!

It’s been so long since I completed this skirt and top that I don’t even remember which came first… The only thing I remember is finishing them a few days apart and realising how perfect they went together.

Sunny2The skirt is my second iteration of Tilly’s Picnic Blanket Skirt. I can’t get enough gathered skirts; with or without buttons, I need them all. You wouldn’t believe how many pieces of fabric I have bought with a simple gathered skirt in mind (I think Mimolette is going to club me to death if she ever hears me answering ever again “Oh I don’t know, I was thinking a simple gathered skirt maybe?” to her asking me what I want to make with a fabric I like!).

Sunny3So when looking for something to sew with the remnants of the skirt I sewed for my friend’s birthday (am I the best friend ever or what, sewing her a skirt only two years after her birthday?!), I didn’t dither and went for, well, a gathered skirt. With buttons, because I had spotted these cute ones at Tissus Passion and I was so happy to have found an excuse to buy them.

Sunny6While we’re on the subject of buttons, I got the impression that, after a couple of months of wearing and subsequent washing, they had started to fade a little bit. I compared them with a spare one to be sure I wasn’t seeing things, and indeed, as you can see in the picture above, they are a shade clearer. Fortunately, the fabric (which I bought in Paris about four years ago) seems to stand up better to repeated washing.

Sunny4I like the skirt a lot, but it’s the knitted top I’m most proud of, because it is my own pattern (details on Ravelry)! I had a clear idea of what I wanted it to look like and I made the pattern up as I went. The only radical difference between the finished top and what I had in mind is that I initially intended for the Swiss dot stitch to run on the whole sweater. But when I reached the part where I knit in the round, I realised this stitch couldn’t really be knit in the round. So I had to make a choice between seaming up the top afterwards, or knitting in the round with another stitch. I thought these garter stitch stripes looked cute with the dots, so I chose to go on knitting in the round with this stitch.

Sunny5The yarn is Catania and I loved knitting with it. I did freak out when steam blocking the sweater though: with the heat, the yarn changed in texture and got very stiff and started feeling sort of brittle. Luckily, the change was only temporary and everything got back to normal as soon as the yarn cooled down.

I have worn this skirt and top a lot since I finished them four months ago, together and separately. The skirt is especially versatile: with its colourful flowers on a black background, it lends itself to being worn with or without tights, both in summer and winter appropriate outfits!

Jolie Mimi

Mimi2Out of my backlog of garments to be blogged, this blouse is a definite favourite! Before I forget, sorry about the print, you can’t make out any details in the pictures because of it… But I promise, the cute collar is there and so are the lovely sleeve pleats!

Mimi4The pattern is Tilly’s Mimi Blouse, which I had been meaning to sew ever since I first saw it. I even had the perfect fabric in mind, a gorgeous vintage pink rayon, but it was too precious to risk ruining it with an ill-fitting pattern, so I decided to make a test version in a less special fabric first.

Mimi5Not that I don’t like the fabric I used, a very soft cotton, light but not too stiff: it’s actually pretty perfect for this blouse and I still love tiny flower prints and could wear some every day; it’s just less unique and irreplaceable than the vintage rayon. Even as a test, unless it was a muslin destined to be ripped apart (yeah, like I ever make those…), I wouldn’t waste my sewing time and energy with a fabric I didn’t truly like and want to wear.

Mimi6I was especially wary of the size I chose to make: I was in-between sizes, and looking at the finished garment measurements, I felt it would be best to go down a size to avoid feeling swamped by a too-large blouse, but I also feared the smaller size I cut would be too restrictive. But it isn’t! And I really like the closer fit. I like this blouse so much, as a matter of fact, that I don’t even want to sew the “final” rayon version anymore, at least not for now; this version feels like the final one…

Mimi7All the seams are French seams, and the facing and sleeve hem edges are finished with a narrow bias tape. I like pretty insides so much! And since this was supposed to be a test version, I wanted to be able to give it away in case it didn’t fit without being ashamed of subpar finishing techniques.

Mimi1Luckily, the test was conclusive, so the pretty insides are for me! I’ve been loving wearing this blouse with my red Chardon and navy Hetty every time the weather has allowed it. I took a picture of the blouse untucked for documentary purposes, but I don’t think I’ll ever wear it that way, at least not with that kind of high-waisted skirt. I might wear it untucked with trousers or shorts though, if I had any… What the heck is still keeping me from sewing myself some trousers, that is the question!

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Dahlia Top

Eucalypt6I sewed something – I repeat – I SEWED SOMETHING!!!

So I started this Eucalypt tank ages ago, in June to be precise, just before I sewed this dress. But my poor choice of bias tape had me think I had ruined everything and the tank was not worth finishing.

Eucalypt1I don’t know the composition of the fabric (I got it at a fabric swap), but I’m pretty sure it’s a natural fibre seeing how nicely it presses and how soft it feels against the skin. And what I’m absolutely sure of is that it’s very lightweight, so I shouldn’t have used that awful stiff store-bought bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline, what was I thinking?!

Eucalypt2The neckline especially was looking as if it was trying to escape as far away from my body as possible, ugh! I tried to arrange things as much as I could by pressing the heck out of that neckline tape, but I was not convinced by the result, so I hung the unfinished tank on a hanger and proceeded to give it the side eye every time I passed it in the next three months.

But last weekend, desperate to sew but feeling hampered by the unusual number of UFOs hanging in my sewing space, I thought I should finish this tank (it was only missing its bottom hem) and, worse comes to worst, wear it as a pyjama top.

Eucalypt3I didn’t bother finding/making lightweight bias tape for the hem (ruined for ruined…) and used the same stiff bias tape I had used for the neckline, only in a different colour because I had no more white bias tape in my stash and I didn’t feel like going out and buying some more. So the hem tape is lilac while the rest of the bias tape is white, so what?

Eucalypt5Not only is the stiff bias tape much less of a problem at the hem than at the neckline, but I also pressed the neckline again (and again!) and finally got a decent result! It’s still far from perfect of course, but it’s now inconspicuous enough that you don’t notice there’s anything wrong with the neckline unless looking for it specifically.

Eucalypt4The armholes are still gaping a little, depending on the way I’m holding my arms (see the first picture of this article), but once again, I don’t know who’s going to notice that when I’m wearing the top. So I’m definitely glad I finished it; it would have been a shame wasting that beautiful piece of fabric, even if I got it for free!

And I can see a lot of Eucalypt tanks in my future! If not for my stupid mistake, it was a very nice pattern to work with. It’s simple but not simplistic and it could look smashingly different depending on what fabric you use or what detail you add.

A Week Of Hats: Y’a d’la joie

YaDlaJoie1Remember the old hat covered in dust (and other things much worse than dust!)? Once cleaned and treated with stiffener, the straw looks totally different: stiffer of course, but also less grey and much glossier.

YaDlaJoie2I dreamed of a hat of this shape for my collection because to me there’s no shape more typical of the 1940s than a hat that forms that kind of aureole framing the face, and I was lucky enough to find the brim block I needed at school.

YaDlaJoie3The hat is made of two pieces, the brim in that aureole shape and the crown shaped using only the top of a simple round block as it’s not deep at all. It was not easy getting the two parts to conform to each other afterwards, but I did manage it in the end. It was also not easy sewing anything to that straw, be it the flowers all around the crown or the petersham ribbon inside the hat. I could not stop the thread from getting caught on every irregularity of the straw and consequently forming annoying knots all the time.

YaDlaJoie4But the important is, the hat once more looks like what I had in mind, so it doesn’t matter if the realisation was a bit tedious at times. I also love the effect of the flowers, even though they cost me an arm and a leg! They were actually one of the rare things I had to buy for my collection, so the contrast was even more glaring since most of the hats cost me about €1 each in material (that’s if I’m not including the time it took me to get the materials in a usable state of course).

YaDlaJoie5Once again there are no pictures of the inside of the hat, but there’s a brown petersham ribbon as a sweatband, and both millinery elastic and a comb for the hat to securely stay on the head as it’s a bit heavier than the other ones.

YaDlaJoie6The name is another song (this is the least kitschy video I found of this song, imagine the other ones!) by Charles Trenet, which I think matches the exuberant character of the hat. I want to have an old-fashioned colourful picnic in that hat!

Marcianita Dress

Viviane1Oooh, shiny! Maybe too much? And also too puffy? That’s what I thought when I sewed the yoke on and saw it on the dress for the first time, especially after my boyfriend saw it too and started singing this (warning: that link makes noise!) and joking about how funny it was that I was going to a 1920s party with a futuristic costume.

Viviane2But as I said yesterday, even though it’s a bit kitschy, I actually like the end result and I’ve worn it a few times already on days when I wanted to be comfortable yet put together, so I call it a success! It’s not perfectly comfortable, the armholes are a touch too tight (and they have a tendency to wrinkle after I wear the dress for some time), but it’s subtle enough that I don’t really think about it while wearing the dress.

Also, the fabric I used (a silk voile I bought for a song!) is so lightweight that the slightest gust of wind makes the skirt portion fly out and reveal, well, everything under it, oops! Let’s just say there have been a few instances when I was grateful I was wearing opaque tights.

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I don’t really know what is happening there. Is that my Marcianita pose?

The pattern (Viviane by République du Chiffon) is a pdf you have to assemble and trace, which doesn’t bother me too much as I trace all my patterns, and at least this means you don’t have to print and assemble too many sheets of paper, but it was a MAJOR pain assembling those sheets as none of them did match! I had to “gather” the paper in many places so that all the lines would remotely correspond to each other, not a pleasant experience. Other than that the pattern was ok and the instructions were clear, though if you ever make it I would advise drafting a facing for the lower part of the yoke to get a rounder and more even edge: if you follow the instructions for that part like I did and just turn the edge under, it’s pretty much near impossible to get a smooth result, especially with a lamé like I used.

Viviane4Oh yes, and I know I’m really slow, but I was surprised at the time it took me to sew the dress compared to how easy it looks, but this may have to do with me using French seams and adding side-seam pockets, or just being even slower than I thought I was… About the pockets, I added them in the skirt part and I was afraid they would be too low, but I don’t need to perform contortions to put my tissues in there or take them out and my hands are in my pockets in most of the pictures I took, so I guess they must be in the right place.

So all in all, this was not the perfect project I hoped it would be, but it’s still a nice dress and I would not rule out making it again with a few modifications now that it’s already been traced.

PS My blog is one year old today!!! Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

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