30 juli 2019

Business In The Front, Party In The Back!

I actually had the fabric (and the idea) for this dress around for a long time. And then I got a new tattoo that would make this dress idea even better and decided to get started! This was an adventure in pattern drafting that ended really well, and I had a lot of fun figuring out construction!

Looks pretty basic so far, right? Sleeveless bodice, waistband, gathered rectangles for a skirt? I drafted the bodice myself, but this isn't all that adventurous, right?

BAM! It's a mullet dress. I wanted to make a bra-friendly cut out in the back so I got out the block I drafted a while ago and tried to figure it out. The block has high necklines, but I marked a few key points when I made it (the lowest points in the front and back before underwear becomes visible) and those turned out pretty helpful. I wanted the back to look a bit like a bow, so I figured it would be the easiest to rotate the back waist dart to the center back seam and turn it into gathers!

The bodice is fully lined, which was the hardest part to figure out (because I wanted a clean finish on the waistband as well). In the end I left the gathered edges open and stitched those together last, since they were going to be covered up with the little tab anyway. That little tab isn't just decorative by the way! Instead of stitching it closed I added a snap fastener and now I can loop it around my bra band to keep things in place. It's a bit fiddly but it works very well! I loved the idea of this back cutout before I got this really cute bat from Lozzybones but now it just makes it ten times better. I'm not sure if you can see it in this picture but HIS FACE.

I wanted an invisible zipper on the side (so the back would look as clean as possible) but I also wanted pockets! I had done this combination of a zipper/inseam pocket before but I rarely sew side zippers so it had been a while. I followed a tutorial online and it turned out fine, not my neatest sewing ever but it'll probably be better the next time!

I'm not sure if my way of finishing the insides was the most logical one, but it worked! There was some hand stitching involved to attach the inside waistband and the lining to the zipper, and I really enjoyed trying to figure it out. That's the thing with drafting your own patterns: you have no instructions to go on, and once you veer away from basic things it's not like you can rely on instructions for similar garments!

This turned out as a perfect little summer dress! I haven't made a quilting cotton dress in a while, and don't really have that kind of fabric in my stash anymore, but I'm happy I could turn this into something that still feels very 'me'.

26 juli 2019

The Quest For Underthings

I dipped my toes into bra-making a while ago, and made a few very successful Watson bras. After this I tried the Harriet, and after a few attempts I managed to make one that fit fairly well, but it wasn't exactly right yet... I didn't feel confident enough to keep tweaking the pattern, so I put the whole project to the side for a while. My underwear drawer was starting to look pretty sad and worn out though (and I couldn't really justify buying new bras with a box full of supplies at the ready) so when Emerald Erin released the Black Beauty bra I didn't really hesitate!

It took some work, and I should revisit this pattern at a later date and work on it some more, but for now I ended up with three brand new and wearable bras! I did make a few changes, as you might be able to see. My first version fit fine in terms of cup volume, but the horizontal seam really didn't work on me- the combination of a seam that didn't stretch and a lightweight cup fabric that still had some give led to some weird bumps. I turned the horizontal seam into a vertical one (aligning the starting point with the power bar) and this solved that issue.

My other main problem was the straps: I loved the idea of the double straps made from the fold-over elastic, but the reality is that my skin is pretty sensitive and the thin elastic straps just felt scratchy. instead I turned the fold-over elastic into a little loop and attached a normal strap. Maybe not as pretty, but way more wearable for me!

I used mostly stash materials for this, including the last scraps of my precious birthday bee tulle. Emerald Erin actually had bra kits with this exact fabric, but I had it already! I am going to fray check the hell out of those bees though, one or two were starting to unravel on the dress I made and I don't want that to happen to this bra!

My first version was more of a toile: I had a piece of this tulle around and wouldn't really mind if it didn't turn out great. I saw it as a chance to test out techniques before cutting into the precious stuff. Another change that I made was to line the entire bra. The version I made is for non-stretch fabrics so it could be fine with one layer, but the thought of an unlined tulle seam going straight across my nipple is a big fat nope from me. I cut all the cup and bridge pieces from a very thin bra tulle, assembled the pieces separately and then basted the cups together before finishing/inserting them. It looks super clean and because the bra tulle is so sheer it still looks very lightweight.

My second version is made using some stretchy mesh with flocked dots that I had lying around for a while. I used the same method for lining (which was an absolute necessity with the stretchy outer fabric) and used some glorious velvet fold-over elastic and strapping that I got from the new Small Bobbins webshop (check her out if you're in Belgium and want to sew lingerie: she has really cool stuff and the shipping is reasonable for once!). This one is super comfortable, I can see it become a favourite. The only downside is that the combo of stretchy outer/non-stretch inner makes for some wrinkling here and there.

I actually made my bee version twice. The first one had this gold fold-over elastic that looked really cool but was an absolute bitch to work with (it was super lightweight and just stretched/warped/wiggled all over the place). It looked fine from a distance but up close the top of the cups was gaping and the whole thing looked messy. So I did it again with matte black elastic, and all was well.

I like the shape these have, so I'll probably keep working with this pattern. The three bras that I made are wearable and very welcome in my wardrobe, but I feel there's room for improvement! The main thing is that the bridge doesn't lie as flat against my chest as it should. I was thinking of narrowing it a smidge and adding a bit of width to the cup at the center front. Not much, just enough to give it more room to curve towards my sternum. But that's for a later date. I kind of want to sew some heavyweight denim now.

12 juli 2019

There's A Rat On My Left Shoulder

I made this dress a while ago, but only just got around to photographing it! I came across this pattern when I was making a wrap dress for my mother and used it as a starting point (changing it almost completely, the only parts left of the original were the bodice and the sleeve head). After this I decided to make the real deal for myself!

This is the Highlands Wrap Dress by Allie Olson, made in a linen-viscose mix that I dyed burdgundy (it started out as off white!). I've experimented with dyeing fabrics recently, and so far it's always been successful. It's a great thing to do when you like the texture of a fabric, but not the colour!

I really enjoyed sewing this pattern. The instructions make for a very clean and neat finish, but it's still easy to follow. I had made a muslin for my mother's dress based on this pattern and it fit her really well from the start, so I took the risk and didn't muslin my version (my mother and I are kind of similar in size and shape). It's maybe a smidge too big, but nothing too bad.

I followed the instructions to the letter, except for the finishing of the facings. There is some hand embroidery on the shoulder of this dress, which was done before the pattern piece was cut out or stitched together, and I didn't want any visible topstitching to interfere with that. So instead of topstitching all around the neckline and armholes I sewed the facings down with a blind stitch, and finished the hem in the same way. That hem is where I hit my only snafu by the way, and it's only due to me being an idiot: I had seen in the finished measurements that the pattern was drafted for someone quite a bit taller than me, but somehow thought it would still be fine (on a full length maxi dress). So I went ahead and hemmed the thing with gorgeous mitered corners and some more hand sewing, and of course it was too long. I put it away for a while, then gathered the courage to unpick everything and shorten it.

The real star of this dress is of course the embroidery! I knew I wanted to add some before I started making it, but wasn't sure about what. Then the elections happened in Belgium and it suddenly became really clear that I needed a rat on my left shoulder. This probably won't really make any sense to readers outside of Belgium, but this rat here isn't going to roll up anything!

I traced my pattern piece onto a piece of paper to sketch the rat, and then used yellow carbon paper to put it onto the fabric. I had cut out most of the pattern piece but left a piece of fabric around the area where it would be embroidered, so I could put it in a hoop. I did the majority of the rat like this and then added the tail once the shoulder seam was sewn. It was a really easy way to add something to a solid dress!

I like this dress on me and it will get worn, but I did notice it's not very bike-friendly. We went to a bit of wood nearby to take these pictures and I had to hold the dress closed with one hand to keep things decent. It's not a problem when I'm walking, but I do ride my bike almost every day so I probably won't make another one for this reason. So if you don't frequently ride a bike, don't hesitate to give this pattern a go!

03 juli 2019

I'm Going On An Adventure!

So I'll need a nice backpack!

Not really. But I wanted to make a backpack for a while. I'd been looking at patterns, but everything I found looked very... homemade? I wanted something really sturdy and functional, something I could really carry around all day, even with my terrible shoulders. There are some patterns for roll-top backpacks out there but I don't really like the look of those. I toyed with the idea of drafting my own but got a bit overwhelmed with having to figure the whole construction out and sourcing the materials as well. Then I stumbled upon Niizo bags. They had patterns for bags that looked very professional, and they sold kits that included everything! I thought it wouldn't hurt to have some extra handholding when dipping my toes into something new, so I bought the Be Strong backpack kit in black. And here it is:

I was pretty impressed with the kit when it arrived. Everything was nicely packaged and labeled, so there was no confusion. I had already downloaded and printed the pattern, and cut everything out in one evening. The instructions tell you to mind your fabric layout since the quantity you get is only just enough, and they were definitely right! I cut everything on a single layer and paid very close attention to how many pieces I needed of each pattern piece. I did goof up once when I forgot to cut a second lining piece for the body of the bag, but that was easily remedied by piecing two pieces together.

This whole thing came together much quicker than expected! I basically put it together in two afternoons/evenings. I did follow the instructions word for word. Bag construction is really new for me and while the techniques themselves are not complicated I had to pay close attention so things didn't go together the wrong way! The finish on this bag is pretty impressive. It's fully lined (with loads of interior pockets) and the only seam that's on show is enclosed in a binding (which I attached by hand because the thought of putting the whole thing under the machine again and stitching that binding neatly was too much)

Hanne took some nice action shots for me. So much action.

I was a bit worried about how my sewing machine would handle the heavy canvas, but it wasn't that big of a deal. There was a bit of protest on the very bulky parts, but I didn't break a single needle! The trickiest bit was sewing the body of the bag together, when the entire thing has to move underneath the machine. The canvas was so easy to work with, it's a waxed fabric so you can actually finger press it in place and it holds a crease so well.

I made one change to the bag, as you can see here. The kit came with a red and white polka dot fabric as a contrast for the bottom of the straps and the inside of the pocket flaps, but that didn't really feel like 'me'. So instead I dug out this kitten print canvas I once got in Leipzig and used that instead! If I'd make this again (probably not anytime soon) I would either use a matching fabric for the bottom of the straps or make the top pattern piece a bit wider so the contrast edges don't really show, but that's just me being nitpicky.

My favourite part might just be the back. The foam makes it nice and sturdy and very professional looking, and the small zipper pocket in the side is so handy and neat-looking.

I took this bag with me on a daytrip to Amsterdam and it did great! I'm curious to see how it will hold up, but I'm having high hopes!