Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Zebra Wrap Top

After a couple of longer, harder projects, I wanted a really simple project to work on, a palate cleanser if you will.

I decided to pull out this piece of zebra print knit french terry.  I think I picked this up at the end of last winter, but it was too late in the season to make it up.  Its a beautiful fleecy fabric on the outside, terry on the inside and has a faint sparkle in the black of the zebra stripe, what more could you ask for?

As far as patterns go I decided to go back to an old self drafted pattern for a wrap top.  I drafted this pattern probably two years ago and made this gray top at that time.  It wasn't perfect but it had potential.  In the last two years I've thought about remaking it any number of times but for one reason or another never got around to it.

Today I finally decided to go for it.  I made a few minor changes to the pattern.  I added about 1/4" to each of the side seams and the seams of the arms, and modified the shape of the neckline a smidge, to get the wrap to sit better.

This was a really simple make.  All seams were done on the serger. 

The neckline was finished with a band that was serged on and then top stitched in place. The hems were all finished by turning twice and then using a fancy stretch stitch to top stitch in place.

I'm really happy with the way this turned out and I'll be using this pattern again I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wool Plaid Claire Dress

During one of my recent trips to Fabric Place Basement I found this piece of fabric in the remnants bin for $2.99/yard. 

As it was in the remnants bin there was no way to tell what the fabric content is, so once I got it home I did a burn test.  As I expected it was rather inconclusive.  My best guess is that it is a blend of wool and some sort of polyester.  It's quite scatchy but very warm.

I originally planned to make a coat out if it, but I've had enough of coats for a while, so I decided that it would make a nice winter dress.

My first thought was of a plaid shirt dress.  I looked at using the Cashmerette Harrison shirt, but realised that with all the princess seams it would have been a pain to pattern match.  Then I looked at the Grainline Archer, but that has no darts and I figured that it'd just be tent like on me.  I decided that I wanted something with french darts as they tend to be less noticeable in a plaid shirt so I started looking at the pattern I used for this shirt....but I never made a real pattern for that and as I looked at what I had I realised that I already had a pattern that I liked that had french darts, the Pattern Review Claire dress. It has the collar and yoke like a flannelette shirt, with an easy to wear wrap front.  Perfect.

I made a few changes to the pattern again after my last attempt.    The first thing I did was to split the front pattern piece at the waist line so I could work on the bodice and skirt separately.  I started work on the bodice. I wanted to grade up to a size 16 as my last Claire dress in a woven fabric was a touch small, but the sizing bundle changes at 14 so I only had sizes 00 to 14.  Instead I just added 1/4" to the bodice side seams.  I retained the 1/2" shortening of the torso about halfway down the armhole, but I removed the extra 1/2" the I originally took off at the shorten lengthen line.  I also made a slight change to the neckline at the front.  The bulge that allows for easing over the breasts was way too high for my body so I moved that down and added a bit of extra width across the front as well.

I'm really happy with how the front neckline sits now.

Next I modified the dart placement a bit.  Again the bust point was too high for me so I lowered that and then had to change the angle of the dart to match.  The dart now goes right into the waistband.

I also made the slit that the tie passes through above the waist this time rather than below as I found that that effected the way the dress sat.

The only other change I made was cosmetic.  I wanted to yoke to be cut on the bias and I wanted it to be a bit more prominent so I extended the yoke down about an inch at both back and front.

I also cut the neck bands on the bias, although I think I could have done with a bit better pattern placement. 

As the material was really scratchy I knew I wanted to fully line the dress.  I used a black poly fabric that I had in stash.   It's seriously slippery stuff and was a pain to sew, but it feels nice against the skin.

Unfortunately I ran out of lining material halfway through the skirt. I made it work as best as I could, but the front of the overlap isn't entirely covered.  That's OK, the part that's inside  against my skin is covered just not the part that goes over the top.

The layer that I'm holding up is the one that isn't fully covered by lining.
For the skirt, I used the front panel from view A, the slimline, but angled the center front out rather than having it straight up and down.  

Unfortunately I made a mistake when cutting out the pieces so in order to get the pattern matching right I had to move the side seams about a 1/2"towards the  front of the body.  In the end that turned out good as it makes the pockets more comfortable.

For the back of the skirt I used a full width of the fabric and pleated it.  I love a good kilt and wanted to make a nod to it in this dress but didn't want to fully pleat the skirt, that's way too much fabric around my waist.  I ended up taking a couple of pleats out at the side back just to slim down the look a bit as well.

The sleeves were per the Claire pattern this time - they worked beautifully and really sit very nicely.  I didn't bother pattern matching them with the rest of the dress, but they ended up aligning pretty well anyway.

Obviously I added pockets to the skirt.   Did I manage to get any photos without my hands in my pockets?

The final thing was to figure out the length I wanted.  I ended up going for just above the knee which was about 4 inches off the length of the skirt as drafted.  That's pretty standard for 5'1" me.

I love this dress.  Its warm, it's comfortable to wear and I think I got the fit pretty much spot on this time - a win all around.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Refashioners Contest 2017 - Suits You!

It's that time of year again.  Time for the Refashioner's Contest, hosted by Portia over on

The theme for this year is Suits You!  The challenge  - Use a suit (or two or three) and refashion it into something else.

As per usual with these contests my first thought is always - Holy Crap what am I going to do with that! So I let the theme marinate in the back of my mind for while - checking out all the inspiration posts every morning.  Every time I thought about the suit challenge I came back to the same basic idea - what is it that I like about suits? -- the material.  I love the wool fabric, I love the pin stripes etc so this gave me the idea that I wanted to make something showcasing suit fabrics.

 But where do I get my fabric? I don't have any suits that I was willing to cut up - and I assumed that my husband didn't want me cutting up his good suits (In fact when he saw the finished product and I told him it was made out of suits his reaction was "I hope you didn't use my suits", so I started trawling the local second hand stores.  Most of the places around here only had suit coats - and they were $9.99 each.  I knew I wanted a couple of different coats/fabrics and that I wasn't willing to spend all that much on this project so I kept moving on - and then one day I decided to drop into the St Vincent DePaul store and found that they were having a sale - anything with a blue or green tag was 99c.  I headed for the rack of suit coats - yep, some of them had blue and green tags on them.  That's what I was looking for.  So I pulled out all the appropriately marked coats and pants and started going through them looking specifically for different fabrics that went well together. 

I ended up with a navy blue with a white pin stripe coat. 

A black with white pin stripe coat,

a charcoal grey (almost black) with faint herringbone pattern coat,

And a pair of light grey pants. 

$3.96 and I had the beginnings of my suit refashion.

Next I had to figure out what I was going to make.  I think in my mind I decided pretty early on that my garment was going to be a coat so I sat down and started sketching.  I came up with a couple of different ideas making features out of different parts of the suits but nothing really grabbed me.  Then one day this post turned up in my feed.  The Dog Bed Dress by Handmade by Caroline.  I love this dress - the style lines are fantastic (and the fact its made out of dog bed material just makes it even better).  I was really inspired by all the different shapes and lines made by this dress and wanted to see what I could do applying that basic concept to a coat.

And so my design slowly took shape.  I sketched out a basic coat shape and then divided it into sections, I then assigned each piece a colour based on the fabrics I had (I had to do a bit of switching around once I took my coats apart and found out how much material of each kind I had).

OK I have fabric I have the design now to make a pattern.

I started with the Burda asymmetrical funnel neck jacket as that had the neckline that I was looking for.  I took each of the pattern pieces and split it based on my sketch, moving the darts around as required to get the fit I wanted.

I made a muslin with whatever fabrics I could find lying around and had to make a few adjustments around my hips.  Even with my modifications its still a tad tight around the hips and over my butt.

After taking a short break to participate in the first two rounds of the pattern review sewing bee I decided it was about time to get started for real.  I started taking my coats apart.  The first thing I did was to check the fabric labels.  I probably should have done that earlier, but you was all about the colours.  Turns out only two of my four pieces are actually wool - the black and the charcoal.  The grey is actually a polyester, the blue had no tags at all.  I also realised just how much difference there was in weights of the four fabrics.  But that's ok, I figured I'd just interface the ones that were lighter.

It took me an entire day, at least 8 hours, to take apart my coats and cut them up into all the pieces I needed, then another couple of hours to interface them as required. Some pieces had interfacing already applied, some required 1 layer of interfacing, some two to try and get all the weights to balance out.

I sewed all the pieces together, pressing each seam open and top stitching on either side of the seam to hold the seam allowances in place.

You can see here that I had to add extra interfacing to a couple of pieces to get the weights correct.
I then had to go back and stick all my pieces back together to make a pattern for the lining.  The material that I used for the lining is a beautiful multi-coloured Rayon.  I've used this fabric before - once as lining for a pair of wool pants, and once as a shirt.  I felt like the suit materials, whilst beautiful were a bit subdued for my tastes and wanted the inside at least to be really bright.

I also used the lining pattern to cut out an interlining in warm and natural batting. 

I trimmed the interlining around the neck and just hand basted it to the collar seam allowance but otherwise it is free inside the lining.  The lining is sewn to the suit fabric around the collar and then I bagged the lining to the bottom of the suit coat.

 and the front is finished with a simple zipper.

zipper insertion at neckline

finishing of front edge below zipper
There is a notch at the center back and the lining is hand stitched to the fashion fabric around the raw edges.

I finished the sleeves using the existing sleeve hem from the charcoal grey suit with its four buttons.

Inside the sleeve I turned the lining fabric over the end of the interlining and machine stitched it in place.

I also used a couple of other features from the suits.

I used the pockets from the black pin stripe suit as pockets in the front of the coat.

flaps out

flaps in
I used the back welt pockets from the gray pants as an embellishment on the top of the sleeve.

I had planned to reuse all the padding in the chest and shoulder region, but the pattern that I used for the shoulders looked better without any padding in it.  It was like it was designed to slope straight into the sleeve, so I left that out in the end.

Overall I really love this coat.  I feel like I stayed true to the original suits whilst making something that I will definitely wear.  Thank you Portia for once again helping me step outside of my comfort zone.