Thursday, 29 April 2010
This is my first, and possibly only, entry to the Made by Rae Spring Top Week 2010 competition. I wanted to make lots of tops to enter, but somehow time has got away from me and my clothes-making ability (which is low) has meant that everything I've tried to do before this has gone wrong and I haven't been happy with the fit (there are three tops that, with a heavy heart, have been consigned to the Spring top graveyard). I have to say that my desire to give up and admit that I'm just not good at dressmaking has been strong...but stronger has been my wish to crack the clothes-making nut and become vaguely proficient - as I said to Mr Teacakes the other day, I feel like I want to immerse myself in dressmaking solidly for four or five months so that I can come out on the other side with the same sense of what may or may not work that now feels instinctive to me in other areas of sewing.
I had always thought it was fit that was most important with dressmaking, but I'm increasingly coming to realise that as well as fit, a bit part of the learning curve is choosing the right material. Last week I made a top that fitted perfectly and which had detailing on that I loved, but the print was so tiny and densely patterned that the yoke and pleats that I'd carefully created just faded away into the pattern, making the outline of the top the only noticeable thing...which was just wrong, wrong, wrong.
Another top I made a muslin of using an old duvet cover, which looked perfect...only when I translated it into what was to be the final top, the stiffer, starchier makeup of my chosen material made the overall fit smaller than intended and less forgiving and unsuitable for the style of material. I could go on with the other mistakes, but actually I'm realising that that's a post in itself, so for now I'll just show you the top that I'm really happy with.
I think that this is my first successful top and it fits in exactly the way that it fitted whilst only a vision in my head (the two things rarely marry up...but it's such an amazing feeling when they finally do!). Last week I tried to make a top from New Look pattern 6895 in a material that turned out to be too starchy...however, I really loved the ruffle and so yesterday I took out the pattern and reworked it to my own measurements using my bible: Cal Patch's Design-It-Yourself Clothes. I shortened the ruffle so that in inclement weather I can wear a cardigan without feeling like I have lots of padding going all around the neck, added a curved hem instead of one that goes straight across for a softer finish that feels more in keeping with the girlyness of the ruffle, added in light gathering at the back of the neck, took out the fastening as it slips easily over my head without one, and added in some bust darts and then made the whole thing a little smaller.
I am in love with the material which is some end of bolt Liberty lawn that I bought locally...I'd quite like a dress made from it too - something long and ankle-skimming. The combination of the dark navy and the mustard make me feel so happy - they are currently my favourite colour combination.
So anyway...next week the judging of Made by Rae's competition begins - each group of tops will be on Rae's site for just 24 hours, until they are taken down to make way for the next lot of entries...I wondered if you like my top...would you vote for me? (I'd be very grateful)**. Or perhaps you 've entered yourself? I'm loving looking through all the tops in the Spring Tops Flickr pool - so much inspiration and so many lovelies - I love that this has pushed so many of us into action when otherwise I might have put off making something for another couple of weeks (and perhaps started just as Autumn was upon us).
**UPDATED: It always helps to read the instructions properly, and I've now learnt that the judges pick their favourite fifty tops and only those tops are voted on...so my top may not end up being a possiblity to vote on...however, I've already picked my own favourites which I'm hoping go through and can't wait to do some voting myself, whether my top somehow makes it through to the final round or not!
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Back in March, possibly inspired by a shaft of sunlight that may have fleetingly appeared, I made a summer skirt. I drafted it using my beloved Design-It-Yourself Clothes Cal Patch book and based the design on a skirt that I already have. Using the 'slash-and-spread' method (where you draw out your pattern and make cuts up toward the top and then spread these pieces to give a fuller, wider sweep, which can be traced around to make a new pattern piece...in this case creating more of a circle skirt) the pattern came together easily and I was really pleased with the shape.
It is a perfect fit...so everything should be wonderful? But no. It made me realise how completely inappropriate quilting weight fabric is for dressmaking. I loathe the way that it lacks subtlety, lies in great unfloaty clumps, and suddenly looks to have such a coarse weave. Yes, that may seem a rather passionate attack on an unsuspecting piece of beautifully patterned material, but really, I had so many plans in my mind for different prints and they came crashing down so horribly when I realised that every single one of them would be unsuitable if my garments were to have the kind of drape that I hoped for. This shouldn't be so devastating, but how many of the big name designers produce a range of dress-weight fabrics, aside from the lovely Anna Maria Horner, with her dreamy voiles (which still haven't arrived here in the colourways that I want them in. Cheeringly though, some of the other Westminster designers will be printing on Anna's voile-weight fabric later in the year - hurrah!)? My local shops, whose quilting range has now reached quite magnificent heights (last week I walked in to see much of Tilda's latest range, as well even more Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner and other lovelies)...however, they don't seem to buy in quite such wonderful dress fabrics that are reasonably priced. Which is why last week I bought a couple of metres from their scrumptious selection of Liberty lawn (luckily I had gift vouchers, so my wallet only suffered a little). I'll let you know how that went in my next post.
But anyway...let's talk mannequins...to explain all the ins and outs of choosing a good one it may be necessary to give more information than you'd want (or than I'd choose to give) about my own figure...which is is where the 'Too much information' title of this post comes from. But I feel that with one wrongly-sized mannequin in the garage and another that has been extensively fine-tuned to get it to resemble myself, I've now learnt a few things about how to pick a good one or how to adjust it to better resemble oneself.
Anyway, can you see a difference between the first photo and the third? Hopefully not too much, as in the first photo the skirt is being modelled by me and in the second it is being worn by my new (well, it was a birthday present in early March) mannequin. I'm really happy with her...she isn't the vintage mannequin that I had dreamt of but was chosen with the realisation that one fitting my strange dimensions may not actually exist in such a form and so this is the next best thing (there is over 10" difference between my waist and hip measurement...so despite the fact that neither measurement is large...it does give an imbalanced figure...and again, I have very small ribcage, but then a fairly normal size bust...which gives an odd measurement that no bra manufacturer caters for and certainly no vintage dressform maker seemed to think existed). The mannequin that I chose in the end is a Petite Adjustoform and its range of sizes covers my measurements perfectly...but not without a bit of trial and error.
I altered this dress when I bought it a couple of years ago and it fits perfectly on me, although is in danger of being on the small side after a few more chocolates than necessary and so to find that it fitted my mannequin in the same way, was all the confirmation I needed to launch into dressmaking proper (or not). So, despite the fact that this mannequin doesn't have the extra lumpy, bumpy, squashy bits that pad out my figure, for dressmaking purposes it works.I think I've blogged about this before, but while I'm running through all things mannequin that I've learnt, it's worth saying that the problem with my old mannequin was her bust...I think her size ranged from 32" upwards, but despite the fact that I'm not by any means flat-chested, my smaller ribcage meant that this extra couple of inches made a huge difference when it came to dressmaking...in that I couldn't get most of my existing clothes on her without risking damaging the seams (because how big the bust is also seems to affect how big the shoulders and arm caps are on a mannequin too). So, if you're in-between sizes, I'd always go for the smaller mannequin and then recreate the bust area by using a padded bra.
I'd initially spent a lot of time researching making my own mannequin from parcel tape...however, for several reasons (as well as it being ugly) after talking it through with the wise owl that is my mother, I thought better of it. A parcel tape body double is non-adjustable and so any weight gain or loss renders that mannequin useless...additionally it can only be used to make clothes for myself. The mannequin that I've chosen covers a wide range of sizes and so can be used for both me and my sister and in a year or two for Zebra-girl as well. Finally, I knew that the extra inch or so create by the layers of tape would bother me...so my option was to make a papertape dressform, fill it and use the inner form that this created....the thought of the Plaster of Paris and everything possibly going wrong put me off this idea.
So when she's not wearing mid-construction summer tops (as she has been this week), she finds herself wearing my kimono, which used to hang from the picture rail above (because oddly, I don't wear it very much, I just like looking at).
Please do tell me all about how your own dressmaking adventures are progressing - last time I posted about making clothes (which seems a while ago now) so many of you chipped in with your own comments and recommendations and links to what you were up to in this area, and I'd love to hear more. If, like me, you have an insatiable desire for all things dressmakery these are the blogs that I'm loving:
Aux Petits Oiseaux
The Philosophy of Lists
Enjoy...and please do leave your own links to more dressmaking loveliness.
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
UPDATED: Sadly, The Liberty Rose Trust seems to have closed. However, if you know of somewhere that needs them, then you're welcome to use this tutorial to make wiggly bags. Please be aware though, that different hospitals require different sizes of wiggly bag.
Last month one of the lovely readers of my blog wrote to me and told me about some 'wiggly bags' that she was hoping to make for the Liberty Rose Trust and asked my advice about colours as she was having problems visualising what would work well. I'd actually never heard of Wiggly Bags, but following the link that she sent, found that they are bags that children undergoing treatment for cancer use to hold their central line, which will be with them throughout their treatment to give medicines and take blood (thus avoiding the need for needles). So that the line (that's the 'wiggly') doesn't get dirty or pulled while playing each child needs a wiggly bag to keep it in. Sarah Hill (Director of Family Support at the Liberty Rose Trust) told me that a child will often have their line with them on a constant basis for around 18 months and so the wiggly bag that holds it will become a big part of their daily life and the child will often become very attached to it. The bags are needed for children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers and so there's a call for bags bearing pictures of animals, fairies, dinosaurs, rockets...but there's also a real need for bags that teenagers will be happy to wear.
So anyway, back to the reader who wrote to me...I could see exactly why she was having problems visualising the Wiggly Bag as although the Liberty Rose Trust have a pattern piece and instructions for how to make one, they don't currently have on their site a picture of the finished bag or any step photos...which is tricky if you are a visual person. So, with the Liberty Rose Trust's permission, I've written up a step-by-step photo tutorial based on their original pattern piece in the hope that it might make it even easier for other sewers to help. They can take as long or as little time to make as you can spare...they can be embellished with appliques or made from patchwork, or they can just be made from one simple fabric piece as shown in this tutorial (the latter means that you can whip up around 3 bags in an hour). Please remember though:
- The bag will be washed every 2/3 days, which means that all wiggly bags need to be made from cotton.
- The drawstring must be made of soft tape (not ribbon, as that can be scratchy against the skin).
- The tape must be 1 metre long so that the ends can be cut to size to suit the height of the child wearing the Wiggly Bag.
- A variety of bags are needed for boys, girls, toddlers, children and teenagers.
- You can find a downloadable PDF including the Liberty Rose Trust pattern piece and this photo tutorial at the bottom of this post, which can be downloaded to your computer and printed out.
- This tutorial covers the basics in the hope that beginner sewers won't be put off.