Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Great British Sewing Bee Challenge


Sewers, you have a week to make a garment inspired by the current series of The Great British Sewing Bee.”

So were the words of Marianna from Sew2Pro last Tuesday.

I LOVE the GBSB. I watched every episode of the first series on You Tube with pure glee and bliss and excitement and roller coaster emotions. Reality TV at its best! Hang on - there's a second series??? And there have already been seven episodes??? Let's just say that several hours over the next three days were spent very happily ensconced in front of the BBC on my computer.  Tip: if you are outside the UK, you can watch the BBC by installing this add-on from Media hint which works on Chrome and Firefox. The episodes will be available until 15th April and the final is tonight!! Get watching people!

So, after emerging, bleary-eyed from watching the first seven episodes (I loved every minute), I started considering Marianna's challenge.

I decided to include several things in my challenge:

- a time limit;
- use fabric from my haberdashery stash;
- use as many techniques from the series as possible in my one garment.

After perusing my stash (that took some time in itself), I decided to use stretch fabric (episode 3) to make a wrap dress (episode 3) and do some pattern matching (episode 2). Marianna kindly provided the link to some of the patterns used in the series and I downloaded the wrap dress. Some detective work revealed that the pattern was actually Butterick 5454.

Butterick 5454
I decided to use some stretch fabric with diagonal stripes for my dress and to cut it in a clever way so that the stripes criss-crossed elegantly and flatteringly at the front and met in a very aesthetically pleasing diamond at the back. No worries mate.

So, with the pattern printed and glued together, I set myself three hours for the challenge.

I think I am a pretty fast sewer. There were no instructions and I knew the pattern matching would prolong the cutting out process, but I thought three hours was doable. Ha! Little did I know....

Dramatic TV moment 1: The pattern matching was a nightmare. 'Like a TOTAL nightmare' as my son would say. I cut each pattern piece from a single layer then flipped that piece to match the pattern and have the stripes going in the opposite direction. But where was the opposite direction? The diagonal stripes meant that each piece had to be flipped 90 degrees, not 180 as I first thought. Oh dear. Knowing that stretch fabric needs to have the greatest stretch going around the body, this was a bit of a spanner in the works. However, after a quick stretch test, I decided that this fabric was of similar stretch up and down as it was side to side, so I just went for it.

I had to cut each piece as I went, rather than being able to lay all the pieces out on the fabric first. I had quite a large piece of fabric ($2 from the op shop - score!) so I thought it would be fine, despite cutting a couple of pieces the wrong way round and having to recut them.

I was wrong.

Dramatic TV moment 2 (head in hands, horrorstruck): The above picture shows the back skirt piece not fitting on my remaining piece of fabric. OK. Recover. Not to worry, I'll just put in a stripe matching patch and no one will ever know...

It took over an hour to cut out all my pieces except the sleeves and the waist tie. I was careful to match the stripes and orient them in the desired direction. I thought I'd got that right.

I thought I had, but I hadn't.

I pressed on. Having that timer running was way more stressful that I expected. The pressure on the actual GBSB must have been so intense.

I started sewing the bodice first. The back was looking good. The front was looking bad. How did the stripes end up in the same freaking direction when I was so careful cutting the pieces?

Then, with little time left, I sewed the skirt. Again, the back was the only reasonable section.

Before I knew it, there was only one minute to go! Very dramatic TV moment.

One minute to go!!!!!
I forced myself to step away from the machine and put the dress on the mannequin.

The bodice and the skirt were still two separate pieces. The edges of the skirt were unfinished, the sleeves and waist tie were not even cut out.

I saw Patrick and May approaching and hid the offending pins.

Fortunately Patrick and May allowed me to go away and finish the dress before they did their final assessment.

I was ready to run fast and far in the opposite direction, tossing the wrap dress in the nearest bin on my way past.

I considered my options. Did I have time to go fabric shopping and start again? I pondered some more and then an amazing thing happened. Project Runway's Tim Gunn murmured in my ear: "Make it work".

Gathering my dregs of enthusiasm for this project I picked up my dress and my timer and forced myself to continue.

It took me another 2 hours and 43 minutes to finally finish.

"The first thing I notice" said May "is that the stripes are all running in the same direction at the front...

...but in four different directions at the back"

"Completely intentional" I lied.

"The pattern matching is not bad in places" said Patrick.

"I love you Patrick" said I.

"And the top-stitching with the twin needle is handled quite well" added May.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Things were looking quite good. Until...

"Oh dear" said May, "what is this seam here? Has a patch been added at the back of the skirt???

"Oh help!"

"Meggipeg, you are the weakest link. Goodbye."

Well, it's definitely not my finest piece of sewing, or my favourite piece of fabric, but I did challenge myself and, despite some stressful moments, I had a lot of fun with this sew.

Is it wearable? Let's see.

It fits.

The back is pretty cool (can you see the patch?).

It could be worse. Actually, I really like this pattern and I challenge myself to get some really lovely stretch fabric (NOT striped) and make it properly next time. In three hours.

Betcha I can.

PS. Thank you to Marianna for a really fun competition.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Palm fronds and Laurel

A summery day always feels better in a summery dress and what better than one printed with palm fronds to lighten the spirit?

Colette pattern information
This is my second version of the Colette Laurel dress and I'm every bit as happy with the pattern as I was the first time I made it.

The fabric is a border-print, polyester remnant from Textile Traders that cost me $2. I've had it for quite a while and have held it up while peering in the mirror countless times trying to decide what to make. I know, big decision after such a financial outlay, but surely any piece of fabric should be treated with respect and consideration!

I couldn't be happier with the choice to make a Laurel. It's simple so the fabric can shine, but the cut looks stylish and classic.

 I made a few changes to the pattern: the neckline was lowered quite a bit; the bust darts were also lowered, but perhaps need to go lower still (or else I need to hoist up my bra straps); the side seams were taken in tapering from the waist to approximately 4cm in at the hem; the length was increased by about 5cm and finished with a very narrow hem (and it's still short!); and flutter sleeves were added.

The sleeves were a bit of an afterthought. I made them very simply using the scrap of fabric left over from cutting the neckline of the back dress piece. The back pattern piece had been placed against the edge of the fabric before cutting leaving a semi-circular scrap. I cut three more identical pieces, sewed each pair together along the curved edge and attached them to the arm holes (no gathers). The entire arm hole edge was then finished with bias binding and top stitched to match the neckline. I think it balances the dress quite nicely. I also like the hemline of the dress, which is slightly curved and lower at the back (this is unchanged from the original pattern).

 I didn't have much fabric to work with but, learning from past mistakes, I tried to place the front and back so the print was in a flattering place.

I think it worked out pretty well.

I wore this last weekend when we walked by the Swan River near Perth City. You can see the progress of Elizabeth Quay in the background to the right of me. This huge development is underway to dig out a large area of land, flood the area with water and make an upmarket cafe, restaurant, hotel and ferry district on the waterfront. Watch out Sydney Harbour!!

 Let's hope autumn stays lovely and sunny so I can wear this a few more times.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Faux wrap skirt - Burdastyle 07/2013 #111

I do love getting my Burdastyle magazines in the post every month (thank you to my lovely family for this birthday present last year), but I have to do a bit of seasonal adjustment. That's not the statistical kind, but the practical kind where I sit in shorts and a t-shirt flipping through the latest issue and store away winter coat patterns in my memory to make in a few months' time. Same goes for the summer patterns and I've just got round to making this skirt that I've had in mind since the Australian winter last year.

Burdastyle 07/2013 #111
 It's a simple skirt with a faux wrap and a little tie at the side waist. It is available for download from Burdastyle. I like the casual style and practicality of this skirt.

The faux wrap is also handy if there's a gust of wind - it's always a bonus not to flash one's knickers.

I used this drapey, herringbone print fabric that was an op shop find. It's one of those prints that you don't want to focus on too closely as it makes your eyes go funny. A bit like this:

Hopefully no one feels drunk looking at my latest creation!

This skirt was simple to sew. It's basically a wide tube that is folded in near one side and tied to create the wrap effect. I found that my fabric caused the fold to slip down as I wore the skirt so I added a line of stitching on the waistband to hold the fold in place while making sure I could still get the skirt over my hips. I cut my usual size 38, which was fine, but I ended up taking in the side seam near the wrap as it seemed to hang at a strange angle. It's fine now. That meant I lost one pocket, but side seam pockets are awkward and not very useful in my opinion anyway.

 So that's it. I love getting something made that's been in my mind for so long and I'm very happy with this light and flippy little skirt. The top is self drafted.

By the way, if anyone in Australia is thinking of subscribing to Burdastyle, I ordered mine through Newsstand in the UK. It ended up costing around AU$160 for the year (approx $13/issue). I get each monthly issue at the beginning of that month, which certainly beats finding a local newsagent who actually stocks the magazine, waiting months for each issue to come in, fighting other sewers for copies and paying $17 for the privilege. I looked at lots of suppliers worldwide and Newsstand seemed to be by far the cheapest for Aussie subscribers. If you find it cheaper, I'd love to know.

UPDATE: thank you to Kristy (see comment below) for the tip that she orders the magazine through Burdastyle for $118 (to Australia). I can't believe I didn't find that bargain myself!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Making my second Elegant Escape

When I saw that Pattern Review were having a contest called 'Inspired by the Movies', I immediately thought of this dress pattern. The pattern is the sheath dress worn by Romy Scneider in the movie 'La Piscine'. It is called the 'Elegant Escape' dress and is available to download in size M from Savage Coco Patterns for only 99c. What are you waiting for?!

Here is my inspiration picture:


I have made this dress once before and I always get compliments when I wear it. This time I wanted a different look so I made a few small changes.

I accentuated the lovely topstitching detail by doing it all by hand in thick thread. This took a while and I did redo several areas to get it as straight as possible. I actually like the slightly imperfect hand-sewn look. I also made the front pockets into proper welt pockets instead of faux pockets and I added two long darts to the back of the dress, either side of the centre back seam.

The fabric is a fairly lightweight stretch woven in navy from Textile Traders. I chose it so it would look classic but also be practical for my lifestyle with two energetic boys!

The dress is not difficult to make and I enjoyed taking the time with the topstitching.

It was very difficult to emulate Romy Schneider's pose for the photo, but I did my best!

I'm outta here - elegantly of course!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Colette Laurel

As previously mentioned, I recently won three Colette patterns - yay! I've already made the Iris shorts and now, the Laurel dress.

This pattern is just my cup of tea: cute; comfortable; flattering; and versatile. It's also easy to sew.

 I made some minor alterations, which were to lower the neckline, open up the lower armhole, omit the zip and lengthen the dress with a hem band and piping to match the bias binding on the neckline and armholes.

Next time I make this I will also lower the bust darts.

The fabric looks like denim, but is actually a medium-weight upholstery fabric. It doesn't crease, which is great, but you can see that the lower edge of the hem band is stubbornly not holding its crisp fold.

I made white bias binding and folded it evenly over the front and back of the neckline and armholes to give a bit of contrast.

The 'piping' is the same bias binding just folded lengthwise and stitched in place with the hem band.

I tried to convince my BFF that she also needed a Laurel, but she prefers her bikini. However, she did put some laurel leaves in her hair as a show of support.

I love this pattern and I plan to make it in many incarnations.

These photos are taken in the historic (for Australia) port town of Fremantle, Western Australia and feature a convict jail, the Roundhouse, in the background of the second picture.
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