Friday, 8 May 2009

I made another dress! Actually I got a bit carried away trying to finish it over the bank holiday weekend, going to have to be more sensible in the future. Sewing's not exactly the most sociable hobby...

This time I went for Vogue V8446, though I see if I had actually checked Pattern Review beforehand I might have had an idea of what to watch out for, oh well. To start with I got fed up with the pattern because all the pleats were so tedious to mark out, fold and baste. But they did work nicely once the pieces started getting sewn together.

Though it was marked as "very easy", apparently Vogue has a different opinion from mine as to what this entails! I had to learn three new things: understitching, slip-stitching and easestitching. Understitching is very confusingly named, since it's sewn as a topstitch... Pretty straight-forward once I'd done a bit of googling. Slip-stitch was a bit more complicated. I know it's naive, but it hadn't occurred to me that once I had a sewing machine that I'd need to do any hand sewing! Even the fact that basting is by hand seemed pretty novel. Anyway, I spent some time trying to work out how slip-stitch works, until I came across this great video. I can't see how this matches up with other descriptions I found, but it definitely worked - it's a pretty fun stitch! And it did make the inside of the lining look very smart. I also had a bit of trouble with easestitch until I worked out that you're only supposed to pull on the bobbin-originating thread, then it was great.

I made the size 6, but I was quite alarmed to find halfway through that the waist was surprisingly tight. It ended up being just right, but despite trying to hold it up on myself to assess fit at various points, once I'd "finished" sewing the whole thing, including the zip, it turned out that the back was a couple of inches too big - the same problem the woman on Pattern Review had. So I ripped out most of the zip stitching and tapered the seam in from the top, but I was a bit lazy and didn't unpick as much as I should have, nor was I particularly careful in lining the fabric up again afterwards, so the zip bulges out a bit halfway down (not shown). Shame, since it would have been quite neat otherwise!

After sorting that out, I tried it on again only to decide that the straps/shoulder sections were too long, making the front baggy (I definitely have a new appreciation for the concept of making toiles). Maybe I have a short torso? So I cut open my lovely understitched armhole edges, removed some of the fabric, shaped and pinned the edges again, and repositioned the straps. I didn't want to spoil Vogue's hard work in making sure all the seams were hidden, so I used my new slip-stitching skills to make the new seams!

I know hand sewing is time-consuming and pretty tedious sometimes, but it's so much less stressful than machine sewing for me! Hehe, and my understitching looks all over the place in that picture.

Pretty, but not exactly the most flattering of dresses... There's a lot of fabric around the waist, and it's not very fitted around the bust or hips. Maybe better with the sash as well?

Yep, better! Of course the weather has turned rubbish now, back to more usual spring temperatures, so who knows when I'll get to wear it. But it's very summery, nice and full, and just right for running around in the park. Wheeeee

Thursday, 30 April 2009

So, my first piece of clothing! My plan was (and is) to start with the most basic things possible, then start moving up through the difficulty levels, so I went looking through the pattern books for something straightforward looking. I went for New Look 6377, view D.

Then I spent a while walking round in circles at my local haberdashery/fabric shop before deciding to go for a black cotton moleskin, on the basis that cotton is pretty easy. My usual style is to wear quite plain clothes with block colours, and luckily for me these fabrics are apparently much easier to sew than fabric with prints or patterns on! Then I chose some purple ribbon for the edging - there's not much choice in 5cm ribbons anyway...

This was my first time that I remember using a pattern, but I think I must have sewn things from one with my mum when I was younger. I spent a while trying to work out what on earth the sizings were on about. So the back of the packet has a size chart, where I came out as between an 8 and a 10 based on measurements. Pretty much all my clothes are 6 (yeah, fast metabolism) so I thought this was odd - but then the measurements of the actual potential finished item printed on the pattern pieces bore no resemblance to the packet sizes, and I was back at a 6 again.

Finished dress:
I'm no fan of ironing.

Thing I learned: keep trying on what you're making to make sure it is the right size! Once I had sewn the whole bodice with lining to the skirt, I tried it on properly and discovered that the bust bit was bizarrely pointy where the darts finished. So I had to open it up and sort that out. Apparently straight lines for that is not the best.

Then, when I was going to put the zip in at the end, I found out that the bodice was way too big! I ended up just taking it in down the back seam in a lazy way, with a couple of inches taken in at the waist and tapering up to the top. But then I overcompensated, and the final thing is a bit too tight around the ribs. So either the measurements on the pattern were off, or I have no idea how much ease is needed (likely), or how a couple of inches more translates to actual bagginess (also likely).

I also didn't realise until I'd finished the dress and had been actually wearing it around that because I had to take it in unexpectedly at the back, the halter straps are in the wrong place and are too far towards my shoulders. This has the side effect of stopping the front lie properly flat sometimes, like when I had my coat on top.

Another thing I learned: look more carefully at the pattern picture next time. This dress, despite being halterneck, is very modest in terms of torso coverage. In fact before I hemmed it, when it was still below my knee, I looked like a nun. There is a full inch of fabric above where my bra stops; maybe this style would suit larger busts better? If I made it again I'd make the bustline lower.

The moleskin was quite thick for it as well, there was a lot of fabric around the top where the ribbon goes.
I wanted to wear it even without moving the straps because I'll be blonde again soon! Despite all my quibbles, I'm pretty pleased with myself. All my workmates were impressed too, hopefully I can outdo myself next time!
Blog! I decided to start this as I was finishing my first fully-made-by-me garment. I'm hoping it will be a place for me to note down what worked and what didn't, what mistakes to avoid, how the pattern worked, and generally chart my progress from sewing noob to someone who vaguely knows what they're doing.

To be fair, I've known how to hand sew for a long time, and have played with my mum's sewing machine a few times so I'm not really starting from scratch. I know what a complete noob looks like because I'm going out with one (he was confused by the fact that there are two threads, the turning wheel, the pedal, how the fabric moves...).

In fact I just remembered, the only prize I ever won at school was a prize for needlework in year 7. Got to be a good start!