Tuesday, 2 October 2012

It's a nice day for a white wedding.....friends wedding and Simplicity 2281

Simplicity 2281
OK, I am pretty sure my sewing machine is a Terminator or possibly a host for an alien species.  Am not sure who else may have experienced this twilight zonish behaviour, but now my sewing machine sews by itself......unexpectedly......careening off at a million miles an hour, bashing out a seam line of its own choosing.  All I can do is sit back, maybe waiting for it to speak up 'we mean you no harm, puny human' as it tries to stab me with the needle (not sure, but somehow I think my 'alien' machine would sound like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Marvin the martian).

Of course it could also be that the foot controller has gone kaput and possibly shorting out now and then but it did make for some contentious sewing for a while.  I could take the machine to the service agent - it is under warranty - but I have SO MUCH to sew.  So now the foot controller is unplugged and I am using the stop/start button on the machine to sew my creations (I imagine it is like trying to paint with your feet........).

So what was so important I couldn't give up my sewing machine for even a week........was excited to be making an evening dress to wear to a friends wedding.  To make sure I followed through on it, I made sure I told everyone that I was making my dress.......made for some nervous moments when 4 days out the dress in no way resembled a dress.

I decided on Simplicity 2281 - a Cynthia Rowley design.
Pattern 2281

Not to be confused with item 22281 Barbie make your own natural (oxymoron me thinks) beauty products on the Simplicity website -
Item 22281

I've read a lot of comments about the Cynthia Rowley patterns on patternreview and must admit it did sound like her designs were not 'flattering' to those of the pear shape persuasion.  But when I saw the cover photo for the dress C I  knew it would work.  Reasons why
  • I have narrow shoulders so the cut-away sleeves is a perfect way to give the illusion of wider shoulders.  Ladies with broader shoulders should consider dress B/A.
  • the high neckline and 'founcy' gathered effect is great for those with a small bust and/or if your decolletage is appearing a little weathered.  I think if you are a D cup and over you may wish to avoid this pattern entirely
  • the waist midriff is a good option for pear shape as it gives you opportunity to emphasise the waist before dealing with the downstairs area.
As per usual I went straight to patternreview for all the reviews.  Only 7 reviews done on this dress - but most either were highly recommending it or recommending with modifications.  Key points were
  • no surprise here, a lot of comments regarding the skirt and the frumpy gathering. 
  • the sleeves and sleeve placement was of concern.  Sleeves were dropping off on a lot of people
  • bodice vs midriff lengths.  A few people tinkered with the lengths to suit their body shape/heights.
  • bulky seams - consider your fabric type carefully.
Overall, fairly positive I say.  Going into it I knew there would need to be some 'adjustments' for my peculiarities in body geometry (narrow shoulders, short shoulders, sway back, narrow back, blah, blah, blah.....) but I could work with that.....

I made a mock up version of the bodice first in some cheap poly cotton - just to test out the proportions.  I used my bust measurement and waist measurement to go with a size 12.   After making the changes to the pattern pieces from this mock up version I tested the pattern out to make a wearable muslin.  Some final changes later and I was ready to make the proper dress.  A summary of my changes
  • Moved the bust darts out about 1".  My puppies are far, far apart....
  • Took about 1 " off the height off bodice front, bodice lining and bodice back.  Just be careful that the finished height of your bodice front and bodice lining are the same.
  • Reduced width of bodice back by 3/8" to account for narrow back.
  • Well over 1.5" taken out of sleeve length and even more out of the 'flutter' part of the sleeve.  The sleeves are definitely way too big unless you want off the shoulder.
  • I moved the location of the sleeves up by about 1/4" to compensate for my narrow shoulders
  • I reduced the midriff height by 1/2".
  • I removed another 5/8" from the side seams under the arms and tapered out to 1/2" from the side seam at the midriff.  I left the waist seam untouched. This gave more shaping to the upper body part of the dress.
  • I used a similar skirt pattern to one I used on the Collette Hazel pattern that I just completed - it uses pleats instead of gathering and has more of an A-line shape rather than tulip.
  • I didn't bother with the pockets - this was going to be an evening dress after all.
  • Does anyone else think the applique design on the midriff is a little naff??? Resisted the temptation and ditched the appliques.
my adjusted pattern pieces  - clockwise from top left: bodice front, bodice lining, sleeves, back

Now for the real dress.....

I had some fabric from a previous buying expedition at Spotlight - a shiny stripey fabric (that's as much technical info that I have on the fabric) that was half price (yeah!).   I knew that I wanted a contrast fabric for the midriff of the dress so I made a quick dash to Lincraft and the only fabric in the blue I wanted was a fabric called Cupro.  I like to call it Crappo - slippery, slidey, horrible fabric - I cut the midriff pieces out 3 times and none came out looking like the pattern piece - you wanted a rectangle piece of fabric?, how about an oval wavy shape instead...ugh!.  I ended up applying the interfacing to the fabric first to 'stiffen' it and then cut out the pattern.  I soaked some other fabric in a gelatin solution and then dryed it, so that I had some chance of cutting out the bias tape for the neckline ties. 

Finished the dress last Thursday, wedding was down at Agnes Water (beautiful beaches) on Saturday.  Last minute mad dash to the shops on Saturday yielded a pair of shoes that matched the dress and I was set to go.  Evening was lovely, had a great time with friends and was nice to see another part of the Capricorn Coast.  

Final Dress.

Back to the dress, while I loved the end result there are a few construction traps/follies that I found a long the way
  • The lining attachment makes for a very neat effect on the inside of the dress but I found it a huge pain when trying to 'tweak' the fit and adjust the seam widths.
  • Didn't like the gathering of the bodice front.  You must be able to take PhD classes in how to 'gather' properly because I am sure my attempts at gathering look like a two year old has just smooshed the bits of fabric together.  I was tempted to try and pleat rather than gather but I ran out of time.
  • I would also ditch the gathering of the back bodice and possibly add in a dart instead.
  • I understitch the arm pieces on the back (or as much as you can understitch).  You understitch the front, it makes sense to also do the back.
  • The instructions are not great if you are making dress C or D as the drawings follow the sleeve and necklines of dress A and B.  Getting the neckline binding attached to the front and back pieces takes a bit of trial and error. 
  • I am not 100% sure but think the instructions are wrong at step 23.  I think you need to sew the opposite side seam (the LEFT seam) on the midriff lining that you did on the midriff front so that you get the right orientation when you attach the lining.   
  • It may be worthwhile considering a lining for your skirt - that way you can also avoid having to do any hand sewing of the midriff lining to the waist seam.

wishing I'd bought a blue zipper - couldn't be bothered to redo the zipper - oh well :)
and finally, happy snap of the special occasion.

So dress in summary

Pattern:           Simplicity 2281
Fabric:             Shiny, pretty fabric (maybe a silky satin) and some blue cupro
Instructions:   Was slighly disappointed with them 
                         I used the Colette tutorial for inserting invisible zippers
                         The pattern diagrams are really just for dress A and B which can be confusing
                         when doing the neckline on dress C/D.
                         Interesting lining technique.
Modifications: Too many to mention again.  See above. 
                         Main changes were around the sleeve dimensions and location.  I think the
                          model in the pattern cover must be 8 feet tall. 
                         Highly recommend you use another skirt pattern.
Conclusion:    Would recommend this dress to pear shaped ladies and if you have narrow
                          It is a very pretty dress that would be nice for a night out. 
                         I wouldn't mind modifying the pattern into a top/blouse instead. 
                         Agnes Waters is a lovely place to visit on the capricorn coast if you happen to
                         be in the area!
                         Brought the happy dance back out.

I will leave you with Loki the helper deciding he was soooo over sewing time and really wanted cuddle time

Blog Title Reference:  White Wedding by Billy Idol

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Playing with the Queen of Darts, knowing it aint really smart...Colette Hazel vs the B cup.

Since I started sewing this year I've had my eye on the Colette patterns.  Not sure what it was - possibly the good reviews they got, the cute booklet packaging they come in, the names they give their patterns or the soothing seafoamy green/blue colour of their website.  Either way I knew I wanted to sew one of these patterns and it was the Hazel that I decided to cut my teeth on.  Finally with spring hitting the southern hemisphere a unique summery dress was in order and Hazel has that in spades. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Why don't you come with me, on a magic carpet ride

I'm pretty sure I've made a carpet bag (hence the Steppenwolf title).   I've been looking at the bag for the last week and it finally hit me what it resembles yesterday.  Its big, roomy and slouchy and has a woolly outer layer.   Of course that's not how the project started out.....

A couple of months ago I purchased the Japanese book 'Carry Me' which has some beautifully crafted bags in it that apparently us mere mortals could attempt to make.  I was sold on the first bag on the list....the Boston Bag.  A wool tweed bag which had class, sophistication and has only two main pattern pieces.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Don't you look back, Don't you look back....

I made it.  I got through July in almost one piece.  I may be slightly pasty faced from a complete lack of sun (or at least as pasty faced as some one with an olive complexion can get....its more a jaundiced looking yellow), chocolate consumption may have exceeded an all time record even for me (is anyone else campaigning for chocolate eating as the next olympic sport?), and there may have been a few tears and mental health days along the way but we finally got through the commissioning of the new stage of our alumina refinery.  The excitement has died down and life will hopefully return to some sense of normalacy.

But before I lock July up and throw away the key, I have to admit it wasn't all work.  I did slip in one sewing project along the way and it literally took the whole month to do.   Now what project could I have possibly picked to do in July.  Well of course being smack bang in the middle of winter here in the southern hemisphere I naturally picked my next project to be.......

a winter coat, I hear your ask.....nope.

how about a maxi dress, that could be weather appropriate.........no, not this time

or could it have possibly been some tracksuit pants, that could be warm and comfy........well no didn't make those either.

No, instead I chose to make a pair of shorts......a pair of short shorts......Kwik Sew 3854 to be precise.  In hindsight I have no idea why I picked this pattern or why I chose to do something that I knew would be very hard for me to do in a month where there was a good chance of me going slightly bananas from work.  But none the less, I have made a pair of shorts.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Open your eyes and look at the day, You'll see things in a different way.

I figure its only a matter of time before I win lotto - sure the odds of me flying solo to the moon and back in a Chanel couture spacesuit might be just slightly more favourable, but I need that little glimmer of hope that the 1 in 100 million chance provides in distracting me from the current state of my working life!  We are currently in the process of commissioning a new stage of alumina production at our refinery which is both exciting, demanding and stressfull all roled up into one super cramped shoulder muscle.  Chocolate consumption in the Capricorn region has increased exponentially in response.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions...or not!

Disaster struck last week when my computer video card decided to lay down on the job and die a noisy but non visual death.  I am of course blaming the cats for this - a couple of days of slightly cold weather and voompa, there goes the winter coat that they shed everywhere and that naturally finds its way into the computer and kaput...there goes the video card.

However, you can still sew without a computer and this week, in fact the month of June, is all about the birthdays...my nieces that is.  I have a little niece Penny turning 3 in the middle of June and my little niece and gorgeous muse Audrey turns 2 at the end of June.   So naturally they are going to get their very own "Aunty Pammysarry Couture Collection" (feel free to interchange the word Couture with Rustically Homemade)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

"Think it will work? It'll take a miracle" Miracle Max not available for Simplicity 2892.

My sewing journey is going on 4 months old and I can feel my sewing skills toolkit get satisfyingly bigger as each project is completed....turn the machine on - tick, sew a straight seam - tick, unpick said straight steam that really wasn't straight - tick, learn to read a pattern - tick, sew a zipper in - tick, learn to use bias binding - tick. 

A lot of the skills I've picked up is due to the wonderful community of sewers that are out in all corners of the globe and who are willing to share.  But this week it wasn't a sewing skill I learnt but more a philosophical set of lessons.....something I can imagine Mr Miagi saying to Daniel-San if it was the Janome Kid, or Yoda to Luke if it was Sew Wars......
  • Know your body shape and know what style and colours are most flattering for you before you commit to a pattern.  Don't get sucked into the pattern cover or think I could make it work if I just change this - there are thousands of patterns out there and guaranteed there is a better pattern for you.
  • That being said if you embark on a project - don't give up and throw it in the bin.  There are always options for a garment even if it means unpicking it and setting the fabric aside for another project.
  • Mums are the greatest!!  Don't go it alone - if you get stuck ask your Mum, friends, random stranger in the street for ideas.
So I think you are getting the picture about this weeks project.  It was Simplicity 2892 and it just didn't work for me.  The back story to this is I have this gorgeous piece of charmeuse fabric that I want to make into a top - so I am trialing different top patterns to see which one wins the grand prize of being made up in the special shiny fabric.  Simplicity 2892 is the first one I tried and I decided on View C because I liked the idea of a defined waistband. 

Admittedly there were many flashing warning lights going off with this pattern.  The very round neckline, the lack of sleeves and the blousiness (aka degree-of-pregnancy effect) and that was just from the picture on the front.   Did I pay attention to any of this.....obviously not.  Instead I focused on the glowing reviews at Patternreview.com.  Only a couple of negative comments about the length of the top which I figured was no biggie for someone as shortwaisted as me.

Construction started well  I used a modifed back pattern from the top I made using Simplicity 3750 which does a crude 'WBA' (weird back adjustment).  The pleats were wrangled into place with confidence.  Binding the armholes was a cinch and while the neck facing does sit a little funny (most likely a slight misalignment from the pleating) it wasn't something a nice hot iron couldn't tame into submission.
Neck facing - aka the skate ramp.

The problem came with the band.  I made an assumption based on the line drawing of the pattern that the band sat below the waist possibly just above the hips.  I shaped my band accordingly and even changed the straight edge to a sloped edge to compensate for my pear shape.  On trying the final product on I realised my error from the amount of skin being flashed by the side slit above the band.  It dawned on me then that the top is meant to really blouse over the band so that you don't see any skin through the side slit and most of the band is covered up.  Which means the band has to sit on the waist.   Which means unless I want to go all Kath and Kim and bare my middle aged midriff the only way to wear this top is with a high waisted pant/skirt.  Also, as I had sized the band for my wider hips it was now too large to sit on the waist.....gah.
When you compare both bodice and band patterns it is blatently obvious where the band has to sit..doh!
Where band is meant to sit...I wore it with a dress...enough said.

Back to the sewing machine....take 2.  I am not working the high waisted look so I shortened the slit on the side so less skin would show when I wore the top.  The end result I think photographed well but it was uncomfortable to wear and wouldn't sit in place.  Everytime I sat down the band would just ride up my back.  I figured out this was because the band was trying to sit in no-mans land between the waist and the hips....it never was going to work like that.

Forcing band to sit just below the waist...looks OK...but high risk of skin exposure from riding up
Ready to consign it to the bin I had an online video chat with my Mum on Mothers Day.  Showing her the top she made a suggestion to remove the band completley and come up with an alternative finish to the bottom of the top.  Long story slightly shorter - I ended up making a casing for a tie and added some additional fabric below to make it sit comfortably at hip height.  Its not perfect but it is certainly wearable.
Adjustable tie means I can change where the top sits to increase or decrease the blousiness of it.

BUT...that being said, round necklines do not suit me and sleeveless does not suit me.  And while I briefly thought "maybe I could just make the neckline more angular and add sleeves from another pattern" I quickly realised thats a lot of effort when there are better patterns just crying out for a short, pear shaped, shortwaisted, sway backed, small busted, narrow shouldered, square faced person like myself to just give them a go!  So I will not be visiting this pattern again any time soon.

And now to throw up the white flag for help - seeking advice from fellow sewers.  Out of this weeks dramas I have 3 questions.
  • Does anyone have a favourite go-to top pattern that they use that would be suitable for a pear shaped person and ideally a V-neck or boat neck style?
  • Do you have a recommended book/website for making pattern adjustments particularly around the shoulders?
  • Is there a trick to make a tie casing?  I admit I butchered this one up and no you won't be seeing any photos of the inside of this top!

So in summary
Pattern:             Simplicity 2892
Fabric:              A lisette cotton from spotlight - really light
                         I used leftover red cotton fabric for the tie/band
Instructions:     Actually really good by Simplicity except I think there could have been more detail
                         on sizing the band (maybe they could have put a waistline line on the band so its
                          obvious where it would sit)
Modifications:  I shortended the top slit at the back considerably.  I didn't need it that long and it
                         looked funny.
                         I replaced the band with a constrast casing and fabric tie at the side and additional
                         main fabric for the bottom hem.
                         I used flat elastic rather than cord elastic because my needle wouldn't go
                        through the cord elastic.
Total Cost:      Cotton was fairly cheap from spotlight and I used under a meter so would guess all
                        up it cost me $10
Happy Dance on Completion:   No....lets just leave it at that.

Title Reference:  The Princess Bride, by: William Goldman