Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sewing a 60s Mod Dress

I recently used my Cashmerette Upton dress pattern for the first time in order to complete my Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge.

One of the big selling points of these patterns are the different cup sizes so you don't have to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA).  Last year I made the Washington using the larger cup size, but it didn't quite work for my figure, as I usually make use of the FBA to add extra to the front waist, making it better fit my belly.  Using their larger cup size, then grading at the waist, added the extra to the side which is not where I need it. So this time I decided to go back to the old method, choose a size based on high bust and then do an FBA.

The Upton is a bodice, band (at the high waist) and a skirt.  I was wanting to make a 60s style dress with an empire waist, and princess seam skirt, so I chose the panelled skirt option, knowing I'd have to slim them down a bit.  When I made the Washington, sizing advice from Jenny (at Cashmerette) indicated I should make the 18G/H.  For this Upton, I chose the 16C/D for reasons mentioned above.
Upton Dress
Photo courtesy of Cashmerette Patterns
I actually ended up doing two FBAs.  The first I took to the shoulder seam and tried to rotate the side dart around to the underbust, so there was only one dart.  It didn't quite fit how I wanted and was still a tiny bit too small.  I traced of the altered pattern I had and did a second FBA, this time to the armhole, and left the new side dart in place.  I think my boobs are a bit too big for just one dart.  This then fitted well.  I think the combination of shoulder and armhole points helped distribute the added fullness a bit better.  This can be done in one step by doing a Y-dart FBA.

First FBA with pivot at shoulder
Second FBA with pivot at underarm
Now that the bodice was done I had to attach the waistband and skirt.  Doing the bodice alterations as detailed above, meant that my front bodice was quite a lot wider at the waist seam than before.  Most FBA instructions tell you to angle the side seam back in again to take out this extra, but I need this extra for my belly.  What I did instead was to measure the seam line of the front bodice pattern and then compare it to the seam line of the front waistband piece.  My bodice measured almost exactly to a size 26 waistband, so that is was I used for the front waistband and skirt.  So now my dress was a size 16 bodice and skirt back, 16 with FBA bodice front and 26 skirt front.  Doing it this way means I have enough fabric to cover my belly and hang nicely, whilst maintaining the side seams in an appropriate spot.

After attaching the skirt to my bodice muslin, I needed just a little extra length right at the waist darts.  I unpicked the waistband seam and let it fall to it's natural resting place.  I needed an extra 1/2", just at that point.  So my bodice pattern now actually has a scoop down from CF, but when I'm wearing it, it looks level.  I think that's a really important concept to understand when learning pattern drafting/alterations.  It might look weird on paper, but if it looks right on the body, then that's what you need to do.

You can see how the bottom edge curves down from the CF
Next was the task of reshaping the skirt.  The Upton has quite a lovely flow to the panel skirt option, but I needed a more straight out/A-line shape to get my 60s look.  I'm not very confident at estimating things like this so I went looking for a guide.  I have Simplicity 3559 so I used the angle of the skirt panels in this against my Upton, but this pattern has a front, back and one side panel, whereas the Upton has front, side front, side back and back.  I wasn't really happy with the result, the skirt was still too "full".  By this stage I'd also run into my fabric problem as discussed here, so the whole lot got put in the corner for a time while I thought about what to do.



Then I went to a local destash market, hoping to find some new fabric (which I didn't), but instead I picked up some patterns, including Butterick 6186 (I had been admiring this pattern for a while anyway, so what a find!). This pattern was closer to the skirt shape that I wanted, and included the same panel arrangement as the Upton.  I redrew my Upton panels with the angles from B6186 and the skirt came out exactly how I wanted it.  What I found interesting was the first time I'd taken fullness off all skirt seams, but by following pattern B6186, I only changed the seams between front/side front and back/side back.  The side seams stayed the same shape.

So finally happy with the fit, I moved onto the final product!

On looking at these photos, I can see that the back is actually a little too small.  From the back view I can see the side seams, and the pockets feel a little too far back when I have my hands in them.

I think for the next one I will start with a size 18, and follow the same procedure as I did above for a better fit.

Also, after completion I noticed the bodice shaping (darts etc) was too low at the front.  I don't know if I wore a different bra during fitting (I don't *think* I did) or what happened, but pulling up the front at the shoulders resolved this.  Unfortunately it meant that the front waist band  and hem is no longer parallel with the floor, but it is an okay compromise.  It's only noticeable when you're looking at it from side view.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge


Last year Mrs Hughes (Tanya) introduced the Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge. The idea being to take a photo of your Grandma (or other female relative, or any historical photo of a female) and recreate the dress.

For last year's challenge, I tried to copy this dress of my Nanna. Being a very different body type it was a bit of a challenge but I think I did well.

Problem is that I haven't worn it since taking the photo. This time of year is getting cold in Melbourne, then once the weather warmed up I always felt the dress was too dressy to wear anywhere that I go. It has hung in my wardrobe and now the weather is cold again.

For this year's challenge, I decided that I wanted to make something more wearable with my current lifestyle. The day the challenge began, my mother arrived from interstate with a box full of family photos.  After narrowing it down to a half dozen, I settled on this one of my mother with her first car.
Left: my recreation, Right: my mother is 1969
Obviously with this photo, there was going to be a lot of “inspired by” rather than a direct copy. I was hoping to use fabric from my stash, so my mum and I sat together looking through my options and together chose this purple floral. It's not something that she particularly had as a dress at that time but is something that she likes and possibly would have chosen. 

I looked online at pattern ideas, trying to decide on style lines etc. I wanted the empire waist and decided on princess seams in the skirt.  Of course vintage patterns are hard to come by, even harder in plus size. I settled on trying out my unused Cashmerette Upton dress pattern.  It has the empire waist and a princess seam skirt, although a little more full than desired.  You can read more about my dress alterations and sewing process in this blog post.

Upon finalising my muslin, I went to get my chosen fabric only to discover that there wasn't as much as I thought, and even then I'd underestimated how much I was going to need.

What to do?? I really didn't want to have to buy more fabric and even if I did buy more, a quick internet search didn't bring up anything that suited me and the project.

Scrolling through my fabric database, I eventually decided on a change of direction.  I'd seen this comic book print last year, and wanted to make a jacket but then realised the scale of the print was too big for the pattern I had in mind. I still loved it so bought some anyway, as you do!


I had enough for this dress, even allowing for careful pattern placement so it was a go. I decided my project would become an “artistic interpretation” rather than a recreation.



So I'm calling this my Roy Lichtenstein 60s dress (thanks to my niece for the "artist tip").
And this is basically my first car too.  I didn't get my licence until 6 years ago, and this is the first car we have bought since then.  I got to choose the features I wanted (out of what suited our needs and was available second hand), and most importantly the colour!!  Not actually my dream colour, but again out of what was available, this was my first choice.



Whilst it probably won't get worn any time soon, because the weather has turned, I'm looking forward to an opportunity to show this one off!  Now I think I might start brainstorming next year's 'grandma dress' so I'm not as rushed last minute as I was this year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Baa Baa Blue Sheep, Have You Any Pyjamas?

My little boy needed new pyjamas, as all growing boys ALWAYS do.


After tracing off the pattern for him, I decided I would try to make a matching pair for his favourite toy, which is a "sitting" blue sheep called Baa.  But what to do for a pattern?

His pyjamas were made from the Sew A Little Seam Holiday Night PJs. I used this pattern last winter for his pjs and knew I liked it.  I wanted a similar style for Baa so went pattern hunting.  Of course not being a standard toy, I couldn't easily find a pattern that would fit straight away.  After measuring and comparing to patterns designed for Build-a-Bear, and subsequent paths that Google lead me on, I realised that Cabbage Patch Kid patterns might come close.

I have Butterick 5902, which included a front buttoning, collared shirt, so that seemed like a good place to start.  The shirt has kimono sleeves (cut in one with the body) which are a bit flared at the end. The pattern was designed to have the sleeves gathered at the cuffs, so I guess this gave it a more puffed look.  I straightened the sleeves out slightly at the top, and more so at the underarm.  I was a bit worried about their Y shape, but decided to leave it as it would provide room for movement.  I also shortened the sleeves a little after holding it up against Baa to check.

Original shirt pattern underneath with my altered version on top

After sewing the shoulder seams, I tried it on and marked the hem line for the sleeves.  I also decided to create a hi-low hem for the shirt because of Baa's sitting shape.  There was just too much fabric on the front, but the back still needed the coverage.

That sorted out the top pattern and it was just a case of putting it together as per the instructions.

For the pants, I started with the free Hospital Attire pattern from Bear Wear Patterns, which I had found and printed for my daughter the other week because she wanted to make clothes for her Big Ted (yet to happen).  Going by overall measurements, I decided the 15"-16" size was the way to go, but because this pattern was drafted for a standing bear and Baa was sitting, I did a rather large back crotch adjustment, as shown here by the white line.  After sewing them up the basics and trying them on, I needed to shorten the legs, but the crotch/waist was fine.

Lengthened back crotch to account for sitting position
After sewing them up the basics and trying them on, I needed to shorten the legs, but the crotch/waist was fine.


I had a fleeting thought of making a matching dog coat for his little puppy as well (his other favourite toy), but put the thought aside for later.  Of course upon being excited about matching pyjamas for Baa, I was promptly told that he needed matching pjs for Puppy too!!   Guess what's on the cutting table tonight.     *EDIT: Puppy pjs are HERE*


Monday, April 2, 2018

Girls in Science

Someone online alerted me to the She Blinded me with Science lab coat pattern that Lee & Pearl were offering free to mailing list subscribers.

With a daughter who wants to be an astronomer when she grows up, I just HAD to make it. 

Problem was, the pattern is for 18" dolls such as American Girl which, as I've previously mentioned, is a slightly different size/shape to the Journey Girl my daughter (and I) have.

Basically the patterns are too wide. Knowing this, I decided to cut the pattern out of fabric and go from there, I can always trim it down, and there is always more fabric for such a small project.


After cutting out the pieces, I laid them over the doll, and decided to take out 1/4" on each side, front and back. I took it through the middle of the shoulder right down to the hem, to maintain the side and armhole shaping. For this pattern, that meant adjusting the back, front and yoke pieces. It is a fiddly little fold. In future I think I might just cut and overlap because it will probably be easier.
1/4" total taken out of back yoke piece.
I cut on the fold so only adjusted one side of the pattern piece, but you'd need to adjust both sides if you were cutting flat.
Adjustment made to front piece
I think that worked well for this pattern, but the Elsa dress I made also seemed wide in the neck, so I need more testing before declaring it a cure-all.

Once I attached the sleeve (using the flat method) I tried it on my doll and decided the sleeves were going to be too long. They needed shortening by 1/4" as well. Being the lazy sewist I am, I just turned it up that much extra because I'd already finished the edges and didn't want to cut and re-overlock (I think I'd already changed back to black thread). Next time I should actually shorten the sleeve properly before cutting the fabric.

Sewed up the side seams and I was basically done!  I decided to do proper buttons and buttonholes on this because it's easier with the front opening and I'm sure it will sometimes be worn open, plus I think this looks better than false buttons with snaps underneath.
I really loved using this pattern.  The instructions are excellent and the pattern includes so much detail, which I forgot to take photos of, like a tab on the back waist and the perfectly proportioned pockets.

This gives me so much confidence to try converting other American Girl patterns to fit Journey Girls.


Once I had finished the coat, I had the urge to make a Rocky Horror costume to go underneath... but that ones definitely going to be for MY doll, not my daughters!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Because I'm an Over-Achiever


I can't remember when my daughter started asking for a school uniform for her Journey Girl but I always intend to make one.  This is my daughter's school dress:




My previously mention problems with patterns for the dolls meant I'd been putting this off. I had a blue check cotton in my stash which I'd intended to use even though it wasn't really similar, but then I was op-shopping and found a cotton that was almost exactly the right check pattern!!

Left is fabric from my stash I'd planned to use, right is my excellent op-shop find!

After watching the How to Make Dolls Clothes Class on Craftsy, I decided to attack the school dress project, with the help if this book that I bought ages ago:


In the Craftsy class, Joan teaches you how to make a sloper for your doll.  With this as a base, I used the A-line dress pattern included in the book, merging sizes to get the best fit. To work out the pleats and yoke etc, I traced off a copy if the front and back and then worked on measurements based on  the same ratio as the real uniform.  I just worked rough ratios such as 1/3 full length measurement etc.  I drafted mock cuffs on the sleeves, and a collar.  A quick google search showed me how to make the front placket (I used the 2 piece placket instructions). The sleeve pattern ended up a little smaller than the armscye, so I just made it a bit bigger and gathered rather trying to make it fit perfectly.

This is the basic A-line dress front piece with markings for front placket size and front pleat location and size

To make the black trim on the collar, I cut bias binding in half and top stitched it along the folded edge, with the raw edge against the raw edge of the white. This was then enclosed when I attached the collar facing and bagged out.  For the cuffs I attached it the same, but then folded over and top stitched to the sleeve.


Black trim attached to the (ill-fitting) collar piece
After that effort, my collar piece didn't fit the dress!! So I grabbed the collar from the lab coat I was making at the same time (blog post coming here!), and it seemed to fit better, so I cut new collar and off we went again.



I decided on snaps with decorative buttons, rather than buttons and buttonholes, basically because I got lazy.  I also made her "school knickers" to match the ones I made my daughter.


Unfortunately once I'd got it together, I hadn't made the front opening quite big enough and it's very snug getting on and off, but my daughter got it off without help so it can't be too bad.



This is one of these projects where I even impressed myself with how awesome it came out. Of course when she took her doll to school the next day, I noticed the error I had made by not cutting the front placket and back belt on the bias. Oh well, "next time"....

I guess now I have to knit her a school cardigan in the right colour.  Here, she's wearing a cardigan my Nanna knitted for my Cabbage Patch Kid in my school uniform colour (over 30 years ago).

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Pants Maketh the Man

Heading into autumn, my little man needed some cotton pants. It's starting to be cool in the morning but warms up later, so still to soon for trackies or jeans.

I made lots of cotton shorts for summer. They are cute and functional, but a little plain. I wanted to make it a bit more interesting with pants. Plus as he gets a little older, he can make use of pockets!

I went to Pinterest for inspiration and found these



Left is a free pattern from ikat bag. I'd made this once before as a test run, but it doesn't fit my chubba bubba that well becausae there isn't a lot of crotch curve.  So I traced out the crotch from the shorts pattern I'd been using, because I knew it fitted well.  Other than this, I made it as per the pattern, but I didn't have enough of the print to make the waistband so used plain black.  They are meant to be 3/4 length when rolled on up, but on my little shorty, they're almost full length, so they wont be rolled down until he grows some more!


The centre pair was a free pattern from Compagnie M. but it's no longer offered so I just worked out something myself.  I started with Kwiksew 4080 because he's currently wearing a pair of pants I made from this and they fit well.  Which is actually surprising because he's 1" taller and several kg heavier than the 'measurements' for the largest size.  Oh, well, you  make what fits, regardless of the number on it.

I'm not sure what the original version was inside, but my version is a false opening at the front.  It's is a real flap, but underneath the left and right front are joined together, so I just sewed the decorative buttons on through all layers.  This does mean that the pockets are technically one big pocket across the front but my boy is only just working out pockets so I'm not sure he'll realise any time soon.  I used the flat from from the original pattern as my guide for the pockets, but I probably could have put them closer to the centre.

He hasn't worn these yet so I don't have an 'action' shot

The pair on the right appears on the  Made by Rae blog, and inspired me to do the same.  I used the same Kwiksew pattern above and just made it up as a full elastic waist rather than with a flat front.  Then added the side panel, including pockets.  So simple!  And after wearing both these and the black ones, this seems to be the best pocket style for his age.  He had great fun putting "lego" (actually lego style blocks that are erasers) in them.


I think I need to work on my 'action shot' photography skills..... but it's so hard to get an almost 3 year old to stand still and/or do what you want for photography purposes.

With what he already has in his drawers, this should see him through the in-between weather, so now I need to start thinking about warm pants for the cold weather, and apparently winter PJs too because these kids just keep growing...


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