Saturday, 22 April 2017

Acton Dress - In the Folds

The Acton Dress by In the Folds has an interesting design that appealed to me straight away. There are two versions, but the bodice and skirt can be interchanged to make four different possibilities. I initially decided to make View B as I liked the unique wrap-effect skirt that can be tied at the front or back. 

The Acton Dress - In the Folds
I chose this bold striped cotton that I bought at a recent Morrison sale. I did a full bust adjustment (FBA) on the bodice according to this helpful tutorial on the In the Folds blog. 

For the bodice I decided to place the side panel stripes vertically to avoid very obvious misaligned stripes from the front to the side. Initially I placed black stripes next to the front panel, but decided it looked weird, so recut the pieces to place white stripes next to the front panel. This also looked odd, so I took it apart and added black piping at the seamlines. At this point I began to regret the use of such bold stripes on a garment with many pieces!

When I was finally satisfied with the bodice I began the skirt. I then had another crisis when I tried on the unhemmed dress. I tied the skirt to the front and I tied it to the back. I did it again. Many times! I just wasn't sure that I liked it. The stripes on the fabric meant that there were too many lines for the lovely style lines of the dress to shine through. I decided to ask the wise sewing community on Instagram and posted the following picture:

meggipegI am in the middle of a sewing dilemma! I'm making the Acton dress, view B with the skirt side flaps, but I'm halfway through (no hem, no lining) and having a crisis about the flaps. I think the flaps tied in front might be too busy with the stripes. I like the look of the flaps tied at the back, but only from the front! Should I lose the flaps altogether? Help! 

The overwhelming response was to tie the flaps at the back or remove them altogether, with one (ex) friend suggesting that it looked like a boat cushion refashion!! I decided to soldier on and finish the dress, then make my decision. The main reason for dilly dallying was that cutting off the flaps would have meant mismatching stripes at the new side seams and I couldn't bear that.

Well you've no doubt noticed by now that the skirt does not have side flaps or ties. After many hours spent in front of the mirror, it suddenly dawned on me that if I cut off the flaps and moved the side seam very slightly around, the stripes might actually match. Hurrah! This was fiddly, but I had already embraced the fiddle that was this dress in these stripes, so I pushed on. It worked!

I like it much better now!

The racer back is cool and flattering, although I need to lower those bra straps a bit!

The side stripes match almost perfectly and I even added pockets. Well why not? Of course I did the pockets twice as the first time the stripes didn't match the skirt stripes and looked terrible!

But I got there in the end and now have a bold and (hopefully) beautiful dress to wear in the last days of summer. I'll just take care not to go on any boats!

I should mention that all these tribulations were the fault of me choosing bold fabric and then being fussy about the outcome. This is a lovely pattern and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Minttu Swing top - Named SS17 Playground Collection

The Minttu Swing top was the final pattern I tested from the new Named collection. This is a flattering design with a high neckline, cut-away armholes, side panels and a swing shape. It has a one-piece facing for a neat finish at the neckline and armholes.

I used a 100% cotton knit that I had dyed with indigo and that was left over from my Alabama Chanin dress, one of my favourite creations.

This is a quick and easy top to sew and I highly recommend it. It is very easy to wear and the style goes with many different 'bottom-half' garments. In these photos I'm wearing some StyleArc Elle pants. Yesterday I wore it with some loose Hudson Pants modified to be made with a woven fabric and I think it looked even better. You'll have to believe me, I've done my photo session!

I rarely wear anything with cut-away armholes, but actually I think they are more flattering to the arms than a simple sleeveless design. The attention is drawn away from the upper arms somehow. This is a definite win for keeping cool and looking...well, hot! OK, at least a few degrees warmer than usual.

The only issue with appearing to have amazing arms, is that normal bra straps show. I didn't have any racer-style bras, so quickly whizzed up a couple of Noelle bras - the free underwear pattern by Madalynne. I did an FBA on the Noelle pattern as it's really for smaller busted women. I can recommend the bra and knickers.

I am thrilled with this top and with my other Playground Collection items, the Maisa denim jacket and the Ansa dress and top. I think this is my favourite Named collection so far.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

One Year One Outfit 2016

I haven't talked much about the totally local outfit I made during the whole of 2016, but I have been beavering away and it is finally finished!

Now I have to admit here, that 'totally local' is not exactly an accurate description for this outfit. The challenge was to create an outfit that was completely sourced from naturally-occurring materials within a 500km radius of my location. As discussed last year, there are not a lot of dressmaking materials available around Perth, Western Australia except wool. I stuck to the rules last year, but rebelled this year and used a couple of imported products. I decided that having a wearable* almost-totally-local outfit made more sense than a totally local outfit that sat, unworn, in the cupboard. 

*I use the term 'wearable' somewhat loosely here!

This year's outfit includes a dress, a bag and some shoes. The bag and shoes are felted from Merino and Corriedale wool from West Australian sheep and are 100% locally sourced apart from the soles of the shoes, which I made from jute string imported from China. 

The dress is nuno felted with silk hankies and wool on silk. I had really wanted to try nuno felting and had intended to use local wool and imported silk and dye it with local plants. However, it turned out that locally sourced and dyed materials were going to make life as a newbie nuno felter too complicated, so I bought everything from Treetops Colour Harmonies. Treetops is the most glorious shop and all their silk and wool is carefully hand dyed in colours inspired by West Australian bushland and beaches. If you're going to deviate from totally local, this is the place to do it!

My supplies were silk hankies, silk georgette fabric and superfine Merino wool tops in the colours 'Chinchilla'. I had never worked with silk hankies before and was quite surprised to find that they were not the nose-blowing variety, but squares of fine silk fibres, each stretched from a single silkworm cocoon. It felt very special to work with these little wonders of nature.

The dress was made during a three day nuno felting workshop with Nancy Ballesteros at the Feltwest studio. The course was absolutely brilliant and I learnt so many new techniques. Nuno felting a fitted garment with silk hankies is a long and involved process. It begins as a pattern that would fit a giant and is worked and washed and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed until finally it fits a real person. Despite having three full days to make this, in the last hour or so I was actually running back and forth from the sink to the table to the rubbing boards in a manner reminiscent of Project Runway or Masterchef!

My design for all three of my items was based on an abstract flower design I saw in the book '500 Felt Objects' by Nathalie Mornu, which was kindly lent to me by Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn. I used the colours of the wool and silk hankies to vary the colours of the flowers and to highlight the edges and centres against the background. The flowers were placed close together at the neckline and bodice, for strength and modesty, and further apart towards the hemline. I am wearing a flesh-coloured slip under the dress.

The front and back of the dress were made separately and fitted during the felting process. Areas of the dress, such as the armholes, were shrunk with further felting so they were fitted and not gaping.

The dress was then sewn together with silk strips to create a decorative seam. The hem was hand rolled and stitched.

The bag is completely felted from local wool in white and brown and incorporates the same abstract flower design as the dress. I made the bag at another fabulous Feltwest course run by Sue Eslick. I attended the course with Sue from Fadanista, who is always great fun and has made a breathtaking totally local dress and accessories that you must see.

The bag was made in the round as one piece with a plastic 'resist' in the middle to stop the front and back felting together. You can see here that I went to considerable effort to dye some of my wool with locally sourced indigo. This is a bit of a sore point as the indigo nearly all washed out during the felting process!

An inordinate amount of rubbing and shaping followed before the bags were sufficiently felted and strong. Here Sue was laughing as my indigo dye ran out all over my shoes. Little did she know that my bag was watching her every move!

Encouraged by my newfound resist felting expertise (!), I attempted the shoes on my own! To make the template, I drew around my foot and measured the width at the widest point. This measurement, 9.6cm, was divided by three giving 3.2cm. I then added 3.2cm all around the foot drawing to allow for the wool shrinkage and foot shape. The left and right templates were made from thin packaging foam sheets covered with duct tape.

Rub a dub dub...

Once the felting was done, I cut a foothole in the top. I thought I'd made it in the right place, but I ended up having to patch the heel as it was too low.

The sole was made with a plaited strip of jute string that I placed on a template of my foot, sewed together and stitched to the shoe with local wool.

So there we are!

I have an outfit that is only partly local. However, every inch of it was planned and designed and made lovingly agonisingly by hand in a process that was exhilarating and difficult and immensely satisfying.

So, the big question now is will I wear it? Well, I can happily report that I have already done so! I wore the dress to a wonderful get together of the Perth Sewcialists late last year. The Sewcialists, as always, were very kind and complimentary of the dress and much patting of the fabric took place. I call that a win for One Year One Outfit!

Huge thanks must go to Nicki of This is Moonlight for conceiving this idea of nature and sustainability and facilitating the meeting of wonderful, like-minded people. She will be doing a round up of the participants soon and has made an exquisite hand woven coatigan. Thank you also to Carolyn, for the fun get togethers, for encouraging me to keep creating my outfit and for her (very kind) enthusiasm about my shoes! Her outfit is the most beautiful knitted dress and hat, dyed with local plants. You must see it. Thank you also to Sue for the laughs, the inspiration and being my partner in crime at the workshops. If you didn't click on her gorgeous doily dress earlier in the post, do it now. My outfit from last year can be found here.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Ansa Butterfly Sleeve Dress - Named SS17 Playground Collection

The Ansa Butterfly Sleeve Dress was the second pattern I tested from the new Playground Collection by Named. This is a lovely design with and interesting front yoke and pleats to create soft shaping at the waist.

Ansa Butterfly Sleeve Dress - Named
The pattern also includes a top with the same yoke and sleeve design and a loose, flowing shape.

I made the dress from some very lightweight cotton that I think came from Potter Textiles. The dress isn't lined so this fabric is possibly the tiniest bit lightweight for the pattern. However, with the loose sleeves and gently fitted design, it's very comfortable and cool to wear in our hot weather. When making this I used 126cm of 140cm wide fabric (pattern states 135cm of 150cm wide).

I used navy bias binding to highlight the shaped seam above the bust and the neckline. 

The back closes with an invisible zip and fits really well thanks to the long darts.

The Ansa top has no zip and just pulls on over the head.

I chose white cotton Broderie Anglaise fabric and underlined all but the sleeves with white voile. I used white piping at the front and back yoke seams. For this I used 120cm of 140cm wide fabric (pattern states 135cm of 150cm wide).

I really like this top and have worn it quite a few times. It is perfect for looking a bit dressed up, but still casual and summery. I would like to make this from drapier fabric to see how it looks.

 I made no changes to the original patterns for the dress and top, other than adding piping to the back yoke seam of the top. I love both these patterns and they fit perfectly into my casual summer lifestyle.


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