Monday, 26 August 2013

Picnic Blanket Skirt

Remember these delicious handmade buttons I found a while ago?

Well, I was checking out the fabric shops in Leamington Spa when I came across the perfect fabric. Literally, perfect! See?
I wasn't planning to go so matchy matchy but it just seemed too much of a coincidence. It's a lightweight cotton, perhaps not quite as drapey as I'd like it to be for this skirt, but it's okay.

I decided to try out Tilly's Picnic Blanket Skirt, as it looked very simple and I've not done much gathering before so thought it would be a good little lesson in that respect. It also gave me a chance to practise some button holes, as I've only done a few before and struggled with placement, i.e. where the needle starts compared to where the buttonhole ends up! Think I nailed it though....

My lovely friend Ellen took this photo for me on a hay bale. As you do.
If you like the pattern, you can download it for FREE at Tilly's blog - it's not a pattern per se as the pieces are all rectangles, you just need to do a little measuring. 

Here it is:

I do find though that there is quite a lot of strain on the top button, which causes the two sides of the skirt tend to move into a V shape sometimes rather than sitting horizontally, so I'm planning to add another little secret button on the inside to try to keep it in place.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Gatsby Dress - Part 2

I am very proud to share with you (my current average 2 viewers, whoever you are) my finished Gatsby Dress!

It turns out that the fraying did cost a little more than I thought, and by the time I'd finished French seaming the sides I could barely get it on or off. However, I COULD get it on and off (just) which is the important thing, right?

So, here are some photos of me in my shiny new dress:

Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the back, but I found this one on Facebook (gotta love Facebook) and stole it. As you can see, the dress was a little tight just below the bust, causing the back to warp outwards, but I was told it wasn't too noticeable. 

The event itself was a wonderful evening - an award ceremony for a series of short films, adverts, window displays and seasonal menus all put together by local businesses in Warwick. Everyone made a real effort to dress up which was obviously fabulous - one lovely lady even wore her grandmothers original 1920's fringed dress and many more wore vintage brooches, shrugs or purses.

The best part of the evening though, was how many people complimented me on the dress, not knowing that I had made it myself. There is nothing in this world that makes me feel as good as answering that magic question "I love your dress, where did you get it?" with "Well actually I made this myself". I hope I never get bored of that feeling!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Gatsby Dress - Part 1

Something very exciting happened to me last week!

Next week here in Warwick is the first Food and Film Festival, which is very exciting in it's own right as it features a drive-in screening of Grease, as well as Cool Runnings served with jerk chicken and rum in coconuts, both of which I shall certainly be attending. Before it all kicks off on the weekend the organisers are hosting a special event at Warwick Castle. Which looks like this, by the way:

I know, right?

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what the event involves, but I'm led to believe it's a way to say thank you to the various sponsors/supporters/volunteers who have made the festival happen. 
Anyway, a friend of a friend is one of the organisers, and I've been invited to attend. And it's Gatsby themed. And it's in a castle. Obviously, I HAD to make a dress :D

I should point out at this stage that I have made a total of 2 dresses and 2 skirts (of which I will blog about shortly) previous to this project, so I am hardly an experienced seamstress. I've also never tried to drastically alter a pattern before but followed the instructions like a good little girl, learning new tricks along the way. So I thought, "hey, not only will I attempt to make a dress in under 2 weeks, but I think I'll design it from scratch too".

The whole reason I started sewing, like many people, was because I had ideas for clothes that no amount of shopping would ever find me. I want it in that colour, that length, with that type of sleeve and that kind of pattern, and I knew the only way to achieve that was to go DIY. So I did, and here we are, prematurely designing dresses before I know nearly enough about designing dresses!

But I can report that so far, it's going to plan!! :D

Here is the little sketch that I made within minutes of receiving the invite:

And amazingly, I've stuck to it perfectly. I wanted to make sure that the design was as simple as possible. I think I achieved this as I am making the dress in just two pieces. Boom!
Being a bit hasty I didn't think to look up how I should go about drafting a pattern, so I found a close fitting, non stretchy t-shirt without darts or princess seams or anything other than an untouched front and back piece. That went on the mannequin, the baking paper and the pins came out, I measured the length I wanted as well as my hips, and the next thing I knew I had a pattern draft. 

2 muslins later and a lot of tentatively cutting the back lower inch by inch I was happy with the dress and made the adjustments onto a paper pattern.

Saturday took me to Birmingham, where I knew I could pick up just about anything (cheaply) at the Rag Market. Which I'm pleased to say was a huge success, even though the staff at one of the stalls were useless and rather rude, they decided to accidentally give me half of my shopping for free, and since they were such a pain in my arse I decided to not correct them. Cheers guys! Another man was convinced that I couldn't make anything other than frilly knickers, let alone a dress, from 1m of fabric, but I told him I had done my measurements and I knew what I needed. (I was right, by the way ;) ) 

So I came home with this, and come Sunday I was ready to start! I decided that since the low back sits quite far from my actual back (I have that thing I think they call a sway back?) and because my lining is cheap and shiny, it might be a good idea to add a facing to the back section so that the cheap lining won't be too visible if the fabric turns outwards when it falls. This was a great idea in theory, but I forgot how see through my chiffon was, so actually it looks like this:

It doesn't bother me too much, but should I make the dress again I would try to find a way around it. Maybe I should also point out that previous to this project, I have never ever worked with chiffon before. Holy cow, is it difficult!? I have learned that pins are better than pattern weights baked beans tins. I have learnt that even then, somehow it still moves. And I've learned that it frays like CRAZY!!! 

So much so that having finally got the neckline and armholes finished, the side seams were so frayed I've lost over an inch on each side. This is not good. I don't have excess fabric. The dress needs to be worn in 3 days. What the hell do I do?

Well, I decided to baste the sides anyway, and try to get it over my head, then cry when it doesn't go over and start online shopping for a tacky flapper dress from River Island that I'd never be happy in .

People, it was a miracle. The dress just slipped gracefully over my head, and other than a little looseness under the arms (an easy fix) it fit perfectly, with a good amount of ease to spare. I don't know how this happened since I clearly lost so much to the fraying. I can only imagine all the mistakes I've made so far have warped the fabric a little looser! Anyway, I am not complaining. I am, however, SO relieved that I'm actually a little emotional about it. I genuinely thought that all my hard work so far would be thrown to the scrap fabric bag and I'd turn up in the same last minute shop bought dress as someone else (ugh!).

So that's it for tonight, I need to come away, calm down, and continue (and hopefully complete) tomorrow. 

Bonus photos:

Sorry Taz, is something else getting my attention?