Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Made by Me: Ailakki Dress

I'm back finally, on what is the second hottest day of the year so far.  Finally summer has arrived in the UK, and already I'm moaning about it.  When I went out yesterday afternoon the thermometer in my car said it was 35 degrees centigrade... too hot for me!

But it gives me the perfect opportunity to wear my new dress. 

Wearing my new dress in the Cornish sun last week.

Just before I went on holiday I suddenly had an urgent desire for a denim pinafore type dress, one that could be worn over a t-shirt or alone - after the summer we'd had up until then I never thought I would actually be wearing it without a layer underneath, but there we go. 

I looked online, because I was going to buy one, but the one I really liked was sold out in my size.  However it had a bodice very similar the Named Patterns Ailakki jumpsuit.  I'd admired that pattern many times, but knew I'd never make it as a jumpsuit, not having the height or the figure I think it needs to pull it off successfully.  I'd never considered making it as a dress until now. 

I had a couple of metres of denim in my stash, so I promptly downloaded the pattern and set about making a toile of the bodice.  It's a good job I did, as I had to make loads of changes. 

Bodice alterations in progress.

I shortened the length of the bodice by almost 2 inches, just removing this amount completely from where the bodice attaches to the waistband, and also taking a good inch from the top of the shoulder straps on the back bodice.  Strangely the front bodice straps didn't need shortening.  Shortening the straps at the back meant that the armholes cut in too high under my arms, so I just re-traced the shape of them an inch lower on both back and front, tapering them in to match up with the cross neckline on the front. 

Ailakki dress back - when I'm wearing it my bra strap doesn't show.

The darts from the waistband up to the bust had to be widened to take in some gaping in the front armhole.  This alteration, together with shortening the bodice meant that the cutout disappeared from above the waist when I put everything together, but I'm not worried about that.  No one needs to see my untanned, untoned stomach!  You definitely need to be slim to get away with that. 

Ailakki bodice.

The final alteration I made was to deepen the waistband - I added about an inch and a half. 

Once the bodice was made I had to decide on a skirt style.  I procrastinated for a while, then decided on a Burdastyle pattern for a maxi skirt with a deep inverted pleat at the centre front and side pockets.  Cut to just below knee length it used every remaining scrap of fabric I had and is exactly what I wanted. 

I ended up topstitching the bodice so that I could permanently join the overlapping fronts together - I kept getting in a mess putting it on, and was also slightly worried about it moving and exposing things I didn't want exposed while I was wearing it. 

Topstitched bodice.

I'm really pleased with this dress and have already worn it a couple of times.  I'm going to dinner at a friends house on Friday evening and plan to wear it then as well if the weather holds.  I haven't actually tried it with a top on underneath yet, which is strange as that's how I'd envisaged wearing it when I started making it. 

I'd be tempted to make this again, I think it would look amazing as an evening dress with a long skirt, or as a classic with a twist little black dress.  I also think it would look lovely as a jumpsuit with wide legged trousers, but the slim legged look of the original pattern isn't really me much as I admire it on others.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Progress report

Back in January I wrote a post about my plans / goals for this year and as we're now almost halfway through 2016 (how scary is that?!) I thought I'd revisit my plans and see how I'm getting on. 

I had some sewing related goals, and non sewing related ones.  The sewing related ones were:

Gain new skills / improve existing skills

I've certainly done this.  I had the great pleasure of attending two classes with Alison Smith at her School of Sewing.  In my last two blog posts I shared my experiences at both these and I can safely say I learned loads.  I've been able to put some of the skills and techniques I picked up into practice already, with a couple of outfits I'm making for a friend.  I'll hopefully use them on some things for myself soon as well.

I've also done some more pattern drafting classes at Fabric HQ, and have just finished drafting and toiling a skirt pattern.  It's now ready to be made up so I will hopefully be sharing that with you soon as well.

Consider what I'm sewing

I haven't done quite so well here.  I set myself a list of things I wanted to make, and so far I don't think I've made any of them.  I bought denim for some jeans, but have used half of it making a denim skirt instead.  I think I'll still do the chambray pussy bow blouse, but the jumpsuit is unlikely to be made this year.  The jacket I might leave until Autumn, I do still fancy doing it. 

The non sewing related goals were to do with health and wellbeing.  The first was to improve my mental health.  This has been a bit mixed, I did really well for a while and actually felt better than I had for months, but the last few weeks I feel like I've slipped back a bit.  The frequency (or not) of my blog posts is a good indication of how I'm feeling mentally it seems. 

Things have been pretty stressful at work; following the restructure we had earlier this year we are very low on staff and struggling to recruit, so everyone is doing more than they normally would.  Two of my staff members have left and the remaining one is leaving four weeks today so unless we have at least one replacement by then I'm not sure what we're going to do. 

I've been really busy outside work as well, with teaching or attending sewing classes every weekend for the last month, and several more weeks to come, as well as making two outfits for a friend.  I realise that I've probably over committed myself and need to make sure in the future I give myself some free weekends. 

Also, the general state of the world gets me down.  So many awful things seem to happen, things that are completely out of my control and while they don't affect me directly, they do give me the feeling that this world is not a nice place any more.

I wanted to try and eat more healthily.  Again, this has been up and down.  I seem to veer between eating super healthily and shoving everything I can lay my hands on into my mouth.  I think this has a LOT to do with how I'm feeling mentally, and also - silly as it sounds - the weather.  What has happened to our summer this year?  It's non existent really and I don't want to eat salad when it's raining.  I want comfort food and something easy.  I also want comfort food when I'm feeling low.  Sadly I'm not one of those people that stops eating when I'm feeling below par mentally - I eat more, and then feel guilty about it, which of course makes me feel worse!

So, sorry to end this post on a less than cheerful note.  If I'd have written it a month or two ago the general tone would have been far more positive.   I'm hoping that in another six months I will be able to report far more positively on all my goals. 

Did you set yourself any goals at the beginning of this year?  How have you got on with them?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Couture Dress

Last week I told you all about the Tailored Jacket class I attended recently at Alison Smith's School of Sewing.  Today I'm going to share my experience of the Couture Dress class I went on a couple of weeks later.

I decided to make Simplicity 2404, a pattern that I've had for ages but never got round to making.  I think it might be out of print now, as I couldn't find it in Simplicity's online catalogue.  I added cap sleeves, or "flanges" as the pattern calls them from Simplicity 1156.

The class teaches you couture techniques, including hand finishing, and you are encouraged to use "special" fabrics.  You don't have to of course, but I changed my original plan of using a navy broderie angliase underlined with a coloured lining, to using this gorgeous shot silk taffeta.  I'd originally bought the taffeta to go under the broderie angliase.

As before, we spent a long time cutting out our fabric and preparing the pieces.  My bodice is underlined with silk taffeta and the skirt with cotton voile.  The underlining is hand basted to the fashion fabric within the seam allowances.

Hand basting the underlining in place.

I then learned to make balanced darts in the skirt pieces.  I think they're my new favourite thing!

Darts marked with tailors tacks - I learned to do these properly too!

Step one of a balanced dart - apply a folded strip of fashion fabric behind the dart position.

Stitching the balanced dart.

Completed balanced dart with "balance" fabric pressed the opposite way to the dart and clipped open to lie flat.

There was lots of hand sewing, which was actually very relaxing.  The opening for the concealed zip was stabilised with strips of silk organza which are hand applied.

Hand applied silk organza to zip opening.

The hem of the dress was hand sewn, taking tiny stitches into just the cotton voile underlining so that nothing shows from the outside. 

Invisibly hand stitching the hem.

The lining was then hand sewn down to the turned up hem of the fashion fabric, so that everything was completely enclosed and no raw edges or seams are on display. 

In progress shot - although it looks finished, I still had the hems to do at this stage.

I haven't had a chance to wear the finished dress yet - I'm waiting for an invitation to somewhere special - but it feels fabulous on.  The silk is so lightweight even with the underlining and the dress feels so comfortable. 

I can't wait to wear it!  I'll have to get my husband to take me out for a fancy meal somewhere, or cocktails!

Simplicity 2404 bodice close up.

As before I totally loved learning from Alison.  I've already put some of the skills I learned on both classes into practice as I'm making an outfit for a friend to wear to Ascot. 

I'm also hoping to go back to the School of Sewing for another class later in the year.  I have to say, I'm totally hooked on doing things properly now!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Doing things properly with Alison Smith

Hello.  Yes, it is me (I know, I sound like an Adele song!), I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. 

I'm still here and I'm definitely still sewing.  Sewing properly at that!

Over the last few weeks I've had the pleasure of attending two workshops with Alison Smith at her School of Sewing in Ashby-de-la-Zouch.   The first one I attended towards the end of April was her three day Tailored Jacket class and a couple of weeks later I went back to do another three day class, the Couture Dress.

During my first three days I made this jacket.

It's a Burdastyle pattern - Shawl Collar Blazer 12/2011 #121- and that double collar was a pain the you know where!  I don't think I'd ever have understood the directions on my own, but Alison sorted it all out for me.  She read through them, said "well, I think I know what they mean, but I wouldn't do it like that" and proceeded to explain exactly how I needed to do it.  As you can see, her method worked perfectly. 

I learnt so much during the three days.  Firstly I couldn't believe the preparation that went into our jackets.  I spent the whole of the first day just cutting out fabric and interfacing and fusing the interfacing to the fabric.  I now desperately want a steam press to fuse all my interfacing in the future. 

Front of jacket - shoulder piece made from bias cut hair canvas held in place with fusible interfacing.

Front of jacket - complete with all interfacing.  Front and collar are interfaced separately, and the collar roll line is also taped to help it fall correctly.
The back pieces were interfaced with a lighter weight fusible interfacing, with just the shoulders and underarm having the heavier weight added.

After spending my first evening in the hotel cutting out my lining pieces on day two I was able to start sewing.

Homework on the hotel room floor.

One of the first things I had to do was make the pockets, with welts and flaps.  Alison talked me through the potentially scary process, and I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be.  I made two lovely pockets, with fancy lining to the pocket flaps.

Pocket in progress.

Completed pocket.

Fancy pocket flap - I love this lining fabric.

Once we'd sorted out the confusing instructions for the collar, the rest of the construction went quite smoothly.  By the start of day three I'd got a completed jacket body, without sleeves or lining.

Jacket in progress.

The sleeves had fluffy domette added to the heads to give a nice smooth finish and were carefully eased into the body of the jacket. 

Fluffy domette sleeve head and ease stitching.
I almost completed the jacket in the three days we had - all I had left to do when I got home was complete the hems to the sleeve and body lining, which took an evenings very pleasant hand sewing.

I had a brilliant time on this class.  Alison is a wonderful teacher, passing on her vast knowledge clearly.  As I've already mentioned I learned huge amounts and can't wait to put everything into practice on another jacket in the near future.  I'm not sure I'll be tackling the collar on this one again though, much as I love it.

I'm fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to attend these classes - they're not cheap, particularly when you take into account overnight accommodation as well, but to my mind the two I attended were worth every penny.  I'm already saving up for more!

Next time I'll tell you all about the dress I made on my second class.