Saturday, 21 November 2015

Completed: Tanja Dress

Sometimes you get an idea of how a pattern should be made up, and you can't shake it. So it was with this dress. I came across the pattern on my new favourite blog: Noble and Daughter. I discovered Charlie's blog via Seamwork magazine, and have spent a good few happy evenings pouring over her back catalogue. I could happily wear every single thing she has sewn. And she has great hair! When I first saw her version of this dress, I thought it was a knit dress. Further reading established she actually made it in wool crepe, which is just beautiful.

The pattern is the Tanja Dress by German pattern company Schnittchen. I have heard of them before, but haven't been particularly drawn to any of their patterns. And to be honest, I'm not enamoured of the version on the pattern cover, which I don't think looks great. However, as I said, Charlie's version is beautifully made and fits perfectly. I was sold, and from nowhere the pattern jumped the queue right to the front. If you are unfamiliar, it's a "fancy dress" (their words!), with a tulip skirt with pleats, and either a cap or long sleeve. It has waist darts at front and back.

It's designed to be made up in wovens; they recommend cotton or wool with some body, presumably to preserve the tulip shape of the skirt. But I couldn't shake the knit idea, specifically ponte. My plan was to make it in a woven first, but I didn't have anything seasonally appropriate in my stash. I did, however have quite a lot of this purple ponte, which I bought in Mandors last Feb.

My measurements put me at a size 36 on the bust and hips and 38 on the waist, but because the fabric has stretch I sized down to the smallest size the 34. The picture on the pattern looks pretty roomy at the waist, and I knew I'd prefer it a bit more fitted.

Thoughts on the pattern:
Well... it was OK. The instructions were brief to say the least. The pattern level suggests Easy+, but the instructions were half a page of A4 with no diagrams. There was mention of a sewalong/tutorial on the website, but no direct link and I couldn't find it. The instructions themselves were pretty straightforward, and the dress was very intuitive to put together, so I didn't really use them, but a beginner would really struggle.

I bought the pattern on PDF, although a printed version is available. The pattern pieces are full size, rather than half, which is nice, but I'm not sure I understand why it's necessary, particularly when I then had to trace, as they were overlaid. I'd rather have half pattern pieces and not have to trace. There were also a few printed blank pages, which always annoys me, as they are never truly blank and so it's just a waste of paper. Some of the pattern markings were different to what I am used to, but they were all explained.

The construction would have been fairly straightforward but I made a few stupid mistakes. The ponte shifted around a bit during cutting meaning my pleat marks were off on the front skirt. I then realised I'd cut my back skirt piece too large. There must have been a fold in the fabric when I cut out. I know cutting flat is meant to result in a more economical use of fabric, but when your clear bit of living room floor isn't wide enough to accommodate a 170cm wide fabric, it just becomes problematic! I had to do a fair bit of unpicking as a result, which, in a lightening zigzag stitch was not fun.

I changed a few things to accommodate the knit fabric. I omitted the hem facing and instead just turned once and hemmed with a twin needle. I also omitted the bias facing at the neck, and again just turned and twin needled. The sleeve hem were meant to be turned twice by 1cm, so I cut off the first 1cm  to reduce bulk, and so it got the same turned once and twin needled treatment. I added clear elastic at the shoulders and waist to help support the weight of the fabric. Finally, I omitted the side zip, as I can get it on and off without. I used a lightening stretch stitch/twin needle throughout, and my walking foot on some bits. The edges were left raw.

The cap sleeves are really only half sleeves. I'm not sure if there is a technical term for this, but by that I mean that they don't fully enclose the arm. I find this difficult to explain so have a look at the techincal drawings above and the photo below. I have a RTW dress with sleeves like this which I love. My sleeve notches didn't match, but this could have been my markings - I didn't go back to check - so I used the shoulder seam one and ignored the others. The instructions had you finish the bottom half of the armscye with bias binding, but I opted to turn and twin needle. But this kind of presented a problem in that the top stitching was just going to kind of stop in the middle of nowhere. I chedked my RTW dress, but it has princess seams, so they top stitched to there. After a quick headscratch, I decided to continue the top stitching and curve it round to meet the top stitching on the sleeve hem. I'm quite pleased with it.

Thoughts on the dress:
I love it. Love love love love it! It has turned exactly as I envisioned in my head. I was concerned that it just might not work in a woven, particularly with the darts and pleats, but it does. Yes the darts could be a little sharper and the pleats a little more defined - the fabric doesn't press well - but actually I like the looseness of the pleats as they are. I'm really pleased with the finish. I took care to ensure my side seams matched and that the pleats were even. I love how the fabric hangs, I think it looks quite luxe, although it will be interesting to see how it washes and wears. I understand ponte is prone to pilling pretty badly.

Nice view up my nose, but it's the only photo where I actually look like I love this dress!
I adore the shape of both the bodice and the skirt. The skirt narrows quite dramatically towards the hem - in fact, uncut, the pattern piece looks like an A line skirt piece upside down. The bodice in particular is really flattering, and could be used with many other skirt shapes. The fit is good. There is a little bit of gaping at the back neck that I would address next time, but it's not bad enough for me to bother in this version. The waist is ever so slightly dropped. I have no idea if it's meant to be like that or not - it's hard to tell from the technical drawings, or the photo on the pattern, but Charlie's is also like that, and actually I like it that way, so I'm calling it a design feature, regardless.

I'm in danger of rambling on forever about this, so I'll wrap this up now.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Completed: Cotton + Steel Inari Dress

I genuinely am a fan of Autumn. Not in a "squeee pumpkin spice latte" kind of way (I've never had one, but they sound disgusting. I'm a black Americano kind of person), but I love the change of seasons, the colours, ankle boots and the fact that tights mean I no longer need to shave my legs every day. I do not like the lack of light. It affects my mood, and it limits my ability to take blog photos.

Which is my explanation for the fact that my new favourite ever garment has taken so long to make it to the blog.

Awful, awful indoor photos with terrible, terrible lighting BUT thanks to Franca, I finally have a tripod! Also, I genuinely have no idea what's going on with my legs in all of these photos!
This was a fabric driven make. The fabric is yet more Cotton + Steel rayon challis, this time from the spring collection. I wasn't totally blown away by the prints this time around, but I loved the painterly aspect of these stripes. The print is also available in the cotton substrate, and in more colours, and I wish these colours had been available in the rayon. Look at that citron colour - beautiful!

This time I decided to buy enough to make something decent - rather than yet another simple dartless loose fittging top. I bought 2m from Miss Matatabi, as it's cheaper to buy it there, including postage from Japan, than buying it in the UK.

Once I had the fabric, I deliberated I while. I did think about a pleated or gathered skirt for a while. It then was going to be an Alder or a Biscayne, and for a while I considered a Biscayne dress hack. But there have been some really lovely versions of the Inari dress by Named on the interwebs, which slowly won me over. So instead of a simple dartless loose fitting top, I've made a simple dartless, loose fitting dress...

But, but, but! Isn't this lovely? The drafting is impeccable. I'm sure you will have come across this pattern before, but for those of you who haven't, this is a subtly cocoon shaped dress which sounds awful, but is actually very lovely.  I generally have a preference for balancing out volume; loose fitting tops with skinny jeans or trousers, or full skirts with a skinnier fit top. As a result, I was a little concerned that the silhouette might not work on me, however that shaped side seam which curves forward, results in an optical illusion of far less width at the bottom, which removes the sack-like feel. The vents and the high-low hem also provide some interest to an otherwise very plain dress.

Hi-lo hem and vent
I did my best at pattern matching, but with the inconsistent stripe width and the slippery fabric, success was variable, even with my walking foot and many pins. I'm not overly bothered though. Even with stripe matching, I was able to get this dress from a little more than a metre, leaving me enough fabric to make something else!

Stripe matching at the side seam
This is actually my second Named pattern. The first was the Alexandria Peg Trousers, which were not a success, I think partly because they are too big. This time around, I went with my gut and cut the smaller size. My bust measurement put me in a size 38 (same size I made for the trousers) but the finished garment measurements showed there was plenty of ease in the 36. The dress is meant to be oversized, but I wanted it slightly more fitted in the shoulders, like the Scout tee. So I used the Scout pattern as a comparison for the shoulders, and the 36 matched most closely.

The fit in general is fine, however I have some reservations about the sleeve. The armscye is quite long and low, which has the effect of feeling like the sleeves are clamping my arms to my side. Due to the ease, I have full arm movement, but the shoulders ride up if I put my arms out to the side. I am aware that I cut a size smaller than recommended, however I don't feel this is the cause. After a quick conversation with Cassandra of The Stitchery about it, we both agreed it was the armscye shape that was to blame. When I make this again, I think I will switch out the armscye and sleeve for that of the Scout, although I will keep the length and the cuff which I like.

Before sewing a pattern I tend to google image it, particularly if I'm unsure about fabric type or fit. When I googled the Inari, I found this lovely version in wool. I particularly loved the little touch of neon thread details and so shamelessly copied them for my version. In my head this would be a fabulous contrast against the black and white, but in reality you can't really see it's there! Never mind.

I did attempt to use my overlocker on this project, but it seems to be broken. It will not form a thread chain no matter how carefully I thread it. It might need to go into the repair shop, but I will try Google and Youtube first. Instead, I did a mixture of zigzag and pinking shears to finish the seams on the dress. Unfortunately this hasn't worked well. After a first wash, the pinking has frayed badly, and the zig zagging looks pretty raggedy too. On the insides this isn't such a problem, but the side seams are visible at the vent. I'm sure it's something that no one else will notice, but it bothers me.

The pinked facing after one wash.
The neckline is finished with a facing, which isn't my preference, but I do like the clean look on the outside. So far its staying in place, but as this as the area I pinked, I will need to go back and refinish the edge differently in such a way that won't reduce the width further!

That facing after 2 washes! I really need to fix that!
My only gripe with this dress, other than the poor finishing, is the lack of pockets. I guess I could have incorporated them into the side seams, but it feels like that would detract from the shape of the dress. I will just have to cope without them. Other than that, I love this dress. It's brilliantly comfortable, but also feels quite dressy. In this type of fabric I think it could work well as a "going out" dress, but it equally works for casual and work. It's not hugely season-appropriate, but I can layer it up, and that hasn't stopped me from wearing it. In fact, so far I've worn it to a sewing meet up at Kelvingrove museum, a Halloween party*, to work, to the opera and for dinner and karaoke! How's that for hard working? I think there may be more of these in my future!

Recent meet up at the Kelvingrove in Glasgow
 *the Halloween "party" consisted of the 4 of us, lasted half an hour and Baby Boy was scared of the pumpkin, and cried the whole time. He looked pretty cute though!

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