A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: dressmaker

I fell in love at the London Knitting and Stitching Show around a year ago. The second I saw Lauren from Guthrie and Ghani’s Kelly anorak, I was gone. I immediately bought the pattern, zip and some of the beautiful waxed cotton they had in stock.

I had this Liberty tana lawn in mind for the lining from early on in the process. I think it’s a cute print but since buying I’ve felt that it’s a bit twee for a dress (even for me). However, I think the cotton lawn below goes better with the main fabric so I will use that instead.

I felt a bit weird asking to have photos taken in someone else’s coat, but also necessary.

Lauren made the 6 and I initially thought that I would do the same even though my measurements are closer to the 12. I am going to compromise and go with the 10.

I can see that the fit of the 6 across the shoulders is good, which means that what I probably ought to do is a full bust adjustment (FBA). I was reading someone else’s blog post in which she mentioned not liking making FBAs. I thought that was silly until I realised that I am exactly the same. When I first bought my sewing machine, I was quite keen on the old FBA and made one on my Bettine dress pattern. Since then… nothing. I think part of it is the fact that none of my RTW clothes have FBAs and yet they fit fine. Although, realistically, whenever I buy a shirt I have a choice to get a size that fits in the shoulders but risks gaping at the bust, or is slightly large in the shoulders with less risk.

For me personally I think it relates to my perception of my body. I was quite a bit larger when I was in my late teens and early twenties. My bust was absolutely enormous- I wore G cup bras. Since losing weight a few years ago, my bust has reduced a lot in both back and cup size. This has been such a relief and a big part of the reason I feel so much happier and more comfortable in my body. So, to me, I don’t have an especially full bust anymore. At the same time, most clothing and pattern companies draft to a B or C cup, so an E cup certainly is still an outlier.

When I wiggled around in the jacket a bit more, it was clear that I would need a bit more room. You can see in the side photo especially that the fit isn’t quite right. I’m so glad I risked social awkwardness to get the pics! I will also need to lengthen the sleeves and shorten the body. I really like the length of my purple SuperDry raincoat, which is shorter than the Kelly.

I’m hoping that I can try to enjoy the process of making this jacket. I’ve commented before that this has been something I have always found difficult- I am very outcome-oriented. However, this jacket will require a lot of patience from me. I will need to do extra things that are not in the pattern booklet. I will probably need to learn from mistakes.

Lauren’s blog post contains a lot of helpful information. I had a few dilemmas about this project, like whether to line or underline, how much to shorten the body. I paid £10 for a 26″ zip but really I want this jacket to be around 24″ long. I’m reluctant to spoil the lovely zip by shortening it.

Eventually I decided against buying the lining expansion pack. The main reason I would have bought it would be to tidy up the guts of the jacket.

I was also a little heartbroken to see that Guthrie&Ghani are now stocking the waxed cotton in yellow. Owning a yellow rain jacket is a small dream of mine. It’s definitely in the back of my mind that I may make a second version… Perhaps with a simple cotton lining for warmer days.

After doing some prep in early January, including buying the technical fabric to quilt my lining, I hit a roadblock. I didn’t have any thread in the correct colour. My work finally took me near the Goldhawk Road and I was disappointed to see that the shop where I normally buy my notions was closed.

I remembered that some stalls in the market sell bits and pieces and I managed to find some thread that matched my lining fabric. I didn’t feel comfortable using this random non-branded thread for sewing the shell of the coat, so I will probably wait until I am in the Oxford Street area to visit John Lewis or Liberty. But at least I can now make a start on the lining.

It has just hit me- have I become a thread snob???

I popped to Liberty but forgot that they have gutted their haberdashery section. I will have to make a trip somewhere else before I can start sewing the main fabric.

I found some time to quilt my lining recently. I followed the directions in Lauren’s blog post (linked above). I will say that it was quite tricky to get the lining to sit flat on the insulation. I found it helpful to roll the fabric up as you can see in the timelapse below. It’s also important to press your fabric before putting it on the insulation.

As Lauren says, the quilting is a time-consuming process. It took me several hours. But I enjoyed it- it’s quite meditative.

I am now ready to cut out!

Costs

  • 2.3m waxed cotton from G&G £65.55
  • Liberty tana lawn £22.50 (I have a feeling I actually paid less since I bought 1.5m of this fabric, but I have no idea what I did with the receipt)
  • Pattern £16
  • Zip £10
  • Extra insulating material and snaps £30.60
  • Thread £3

Total £147.65

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Overall, I’m very happy with how my plain version of the Colette Macaron dress turned out.

It felt good to be able to use my skills to make the changes I wanted to this dress. I did look for some guidance on line, but when I couldn’t find anything about altering the pattern, I decided to go my own way. I was aware that my sewing improved a lot over the past couple of years, but I don’t consider myself an especially advanced sewist. I had a lot of help with my most complex projects, including the only thing I have ever lined properly (my coat). However, I definitely have picked up tips and tricks from Julie that helped me.

That being said, the guts of the dress turned out to be a bit of a mess. Even though it felt good to follow my own instincts when it came to the lining, this remains something I am not experienced at doing. Next time I want to line a garment, I will follow a proper tutorial.

I kind of went halfway in between lining and underlining the dress, when I probably should have just stuck with one method. Another problem was the fiasco with the skirt (described in my last post, which has a lot more details about what I did). I had already used a French seam (definitely incorrect in this situation) on the side with the zip. I decided to slightly fudge the redo of the seam, which doesn’t affect the outside but looks like a dog’s dinner inside.

On the plus side, I have been reminded that a lining (however inexpertly installed) makes a garment feel so much more luxurious. This dress feels much more ‘proper’ than any of the ones I have made before.

I haven’t covered up the waistband seams yet. At some point I plan to slip-stitch some ribbon over the whole waistband area. But I decided to leave it for now. If the lining overall had been more successful, I would care more about how the inside looks. Life just feels too short at the moment. I’m not one of those people (yet) who needs the wrong side of their makes to be as beautiful as the right side.

While I was making this dress, it occurred to me that sewing is a form of 3D puzzle. I am generally a bit bemused by adults doing things like Lego, but dressmaking really does use a similar skillset- lots of spatial problem-solving. Spatial awareness is definitely a weakness of mine, though it’s improved in leaps and bounds during my adulthood. It feels pretty good to exercise those muscles.

Coming in at under £35, this dress is one of my cheaper makes. The viscose was quite inexpensive even though it seems like nice quality to me. I suppose it is quite thin. I don’t understand fabric costings at all! I feel like this is the kind of dress that would sell for £60-70 in Oliver Bonas.


I’m in two minds about continuing with my WiP Wednesday posts, but I do find them to be a useful space to keep notes about different projects. After a lot of research, I bought the Southport dress pattern. We had a very warm couple of weeks, and I realised that I’m lacking in summer clothing. I want to finally use one of my pieces of Liberty fabric for this dress, so I decided to make a toile of the bodice.

It seemed a bit of a shame to use this lovely mustard fabric just for a toile, but I had a very small remnant and it’s cotton, so I couldn’t really picture a good use for it.

I omitted the button band from the bodice- in similar RTW dresses, the buttons gape. Also, I am making this version in a print.  I think the buttons would either get lost, or distract from how nice the fabric itself is.

My neckline wasn’t very flat on my toile. Fortunately I decided to read a tutorial about bias binding necklines, and realised that I had misunderstood the directions when making my toile. This misreading meant that I skipped under-stitching the binding. I’m hoping that this step, plus following some of the other tips in the tutorial, will make my final neckline beautifully flat.

Notes for the next iteration:

  • Size 8 fit is ok
  • Remove length from the back bodice (I will do this by cutting it straight rather than on a curve)
  • Move bust darts down by 1cm and out by 1cm (position of size 18 dart)
  • I also took a teeny wedge out of the neckline
  • 1m is plenty for my size in the shorter length

I get why pattern companies do it, but I must say that the massive overestimation of fabric requirements in almost every pattern I’ve used is a real bugbear of mine. Every time I plan a project, I have to scour blogs to get a sense of the true fabric requirement. Stated yardage often isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Aside from the cost of fabric (Liberty tana lawn is over £20/m, though I got this for half price) I absolutely hate wasting things. I also don’t like having fabric lying around, either in half-metres that are hard to use, or in prints where I would not really want two matching garments. This is why I always state how much fabric I use, as my placement is generally much more efficient than the guides given in the pattern.

My second attempt at the neckline still stands up slightly. I wonder if this is because the binding I used is a heavier cotton than the main fabric. I might try making my own bias strip if I try this pattern again. I decided to use French seams on the bodice. It suddenly occurred to me that not only does it look better, it uses much less thread and is probably comparable time-wise to using my overcasting foot.

Pattern: Southport dress by True Bias

Fabric: 1m Liberty tana lawn