Sunday, 27 February 2011

Vogue 1221 - DKNY tucked and draped dress!

When I mentioned (in this post) that I had purchased Vogue 1221 I have no doubt that some of you thought “hmmm I wonder if she’ll ever actually make that?” For which you can be forgiven because I have to confess that I thought the same myself, especially when I opened it up and took a look at the pattern pieces. However, I have surprised myself because I have actually made it and here it is!

This is probably the most complex dress that I have ever made. Here’s a reminder of the pattern envelope

And here is a photograph of one of the pattern pieces –

it’s the front bodice, front skirt and drape, which is all one piece. It comes together with a lot of fiendish tucks and pleats.

If you are, like me, not a very experienced sewist and you are contemplating making this dress, I can offer a few words of advice. I do think that you need to ensure that you get a pretty close fit, especially around the waist. The drape depends on this to ensure that it sits where it’s supposed to. If you (also like me) have to make quite a lot of fitting adjustments then you will probably need to make a muslin – it’s very difficult to judge how this dress is going to fit until quite a lot of the construction has been completed and, by then, it’s a bit late. When I made a muslin I discovered that I had to take the whole dress down one size – the original looked blah and saggy. I should also mention that I raised the neckline by about one inch. I didn’t absolutely have to, it wasn’t quite Burda ‘plunging’ but I feel more comfortable with a bit more coverage. In case you didn’t notice, I also added several inches to the length!

This may seem obvious but I should point out that it is definitely worth taking the time to mark and then sew all the pleats and tucks perfectly because it’s fairly vital that all the tucks come together exactly right and it makes it much easier to work out what attaches to what and where if they do. By the way, I followed the pattern instructions to the letter and, even though I couldn’t quite envisage how it was going to work, what do you know, it all turned out fine!

Choice of fabric is quite important. Personally I think that this dress needs something that is soft enough to drape nicely (I didn’t want the tucks of the skirt to poof out!). A very thick fabric will give you problems because there are times when you have to sew through a LOT of layers (for instance where you have to sew a binding piece to the tucks at the bottom of the upper front then sew that to the tucks at the top of the lower front ). However, you don’t want something that is very flimsy because this dress isn’t lined (normally I’m quite up to lining a dress even if the pattern doesn’t call for it but lining this would be pretty tricky to accomplish!). I made mine from a ponte de roma double knit fabric which I picked up very cheaply in a discount fabric store in London. Before making the dress I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to do a good job (especially as my last two projects have been fraught with problems!) so I was reluctant to risk wasting an expensive fabric but on reflection I think that this was probably a mistake. The fabric certainly works in terms of drape and thickness, and I like the colour a lot, but I think that having spent a fair bit of time and energy to make a ‘designer dress’ it would have made more sense to have made it in a really good quality fabric. So, that’s a lesson learnt!

Anyway, for your amusement here is a picture of the dress on a hanger.

Pretty weird looking, eh? If I had seen this in a store I probably would have passed it by. This is one of those dresses that doesn’t have a lot of hanger appeal but once you get your body inside it, and arrange the drape a bit, it seems to work.

So for my next project ……… something a bit easier I think!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Vogue 1203 - Tracy Reese skirt!

It seems that everything I sew at the moment is turning into a near disaster! However, I am really glad that I persevered with this Tracy Reese skirt – I absolutely love the finished product.

This is the pattern I used, Vogue 1203.

Before I show you the really nice thing about this skirt, let me mention my difficulties. This skirt has a raised waist so the waistband is shaped to conform to the body. It is cut so that the seam between the waistband and the skirt sits right on the waist and the waistband then becomes wider as it goes upwards towards the bust. Now, I have no doubt that the problem lies with my particular shape rather than the pattern, but once I had attached the waistband to the skirt and tried it on for fit, to my dismay, it was quite obvious that it just wasn’t going to work. Instead of following my shape, the waistband flared outwards like a kind of frill, there was no way that it was going to sit close to my body.

So, I ripped it off and threw it away. Instead I cut a new waistband but this time I made it a straight waistband, cut quite tightly to my waist measurement, which fits me much better but still keeps the raised waist style.

Anyway, the really nice design element of this pattern -

It has an exposed zipper at the back. This was my first time attaching an exposed zipper so I followed the pattern instructions exactly and, whilst I won’t try and tell you that I did it perfectly, it hasn’t turned out too badly.

I don’t know what to tell you about the fabric because I am not quite certain what it is. It is definitely wool of some kind but it has a strange shiny backing which makes it a bit tricky to iron but does give the fabric body and stops it from getting too creased. The print is rather crazy bold and being short I shouldn’t really wear such large prints but I don’t care because I like it. I used a bemberg rayon for the lining.

I think that Tracy Reese is a brilliant designer, I love her RTW collections, and although this skirt is a relatively simple style it is very well cut – the princess seams curve around the hips nicely and then flare out just the right amount. For me, wearing a high waisted skirt does take a bit of getting used to, I usually wear my skirts cut below the waist and then they can be a bit more forgiving ease-wise. With this style you need to wear it so that it is a little snug. So, deep breath, stomach in ….

I won’t be eating too many donuts while wearing this skirt. Probably not a bad thing!

Have a great weekend everyone.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Finished at last - the 'Uptown/Downtown' dress

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on the HotPatterns ‘Uptown Downtown Knit Dress’.

As that was a couple of weeks ago some of you might have been wondering where it is – how long can a 'Beginner' knit dress take? Actually my lack of posting has more to do with extremely exasperating difficulties with our internet connections than anything else but hopefully, after seeking professional assistance, those problems have been resolved. That said, the Uptown Downtown dress also presented me with some frustrations. But, as you have been so patient with me, I can finally offer you not one but two versions of this dress.

This is the first one I made

I used an inexpensive novelty double knit, called ‘Requiem Tiger’ purchased from Vogue Fabrics (how I love those people!). Fabric limitations meant I had to make what is called on the pattern ‘elbow length’ sleeves but they are actually more like what I would call short sleeves. I also didn’t make the hem band – I just cut the skirt to the length I wanted it then turned up a hem. It’s a fun, casual dress, although the sleeves were a touch pouffier than I would have liked. All in all, though, I was pretty happy with this one so decided to plunge straight into another one.

It was the second version that had me climbing the walls! This is it

The fabric is, I think, some kind of cotton/spandex knit. I can’t remember where I purchased it but it’s been in my stash for a while. Anyway, whatever it is, it behaved very differently from the double knit used in my first version.

As soon as I attached the neckband I was unhappy – this time the neckline was so loose that it was actually dropping off my shoulders, quite unlike my first version. I tried to tell myself that I liked it that way but the truth was I didn’t and then my DH stepped in and said that it was no good, it would have to be redone. So, I had to rip out all the serger stitching and cut a new neck band. I cut this one a full two inches shorter which turned out to be about right – despite the time and effort spent I was glad that I reworked it.

My second problem came when attaching the sleeve bands. I had no difficulty with the short sleeves but with the long sleeve version the smaller cuff has to be stretched out an awful lot to attach it to the sleeve fabric. Because of my neckband trouble I decided that I was going to use my sewing machine, not my serger, to attach the cuffs so that I could rip out the stitches more easily if I wasn’t happy. It was just as well that I did because after two failed attempts I had to re-cut the cuffs about ¾” larger in order to get them on properly. Although my fabric was stretchy, it just didn’t stretch enough to make this easy.

Lastly, a word about the hem band. As many other people who have made this pattern have pointed out, if you want the hem band to gather the skirt in, like the picture on the pattern instructions, you will have to cut the hem band smaller than the pattern allows. For my version I had to cut a couple of inches off the width of the band just to get it so that the skirt was straight, you would need to cut quite a lot out of it to get a gathered effect.

So, if you are planning on making this dress I think you do need to be aware that results are going to vary depending on how soft and stretchy your fabric is and it’s not very easy to judge exactly how it’s going to turn out. In general I really like the designs that HotPatterns offers and the video tutorials on their site are wonderful. Despite the challenges this particular pattern posed I am not unhappy with the final results and, now that I have a better feel of how different fabrics would behave with this pattern, I might make it again but definitely not right now. Enough already with Uptown Downtown dresses!

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