The aggravation dress

I’ve decided to try to reproduce the Vivienne Westwood wrap dress rather than using one of the Burda patterns for my next project – thanks for all the suggestions!

But in the meantime I have managed to finish my last project, the hoodie dress. This one has been nothing but aggravation. It started badly with my shrinking my original fashion fabric in the washing machine. I replaced it with some lovely black ponte knit from John Lewis. The ponte is made of viscose and melts if you press it on too high a heat. You can guess what happened. Suffice to say that I didn’t intend the dress to be quite this short.

The interesting detail on this pattern is that as the zipper is at the back and the neckline is very high there also has to be a zipper in the hood so you can get it over your head. I decided to make a feature of this and do exposed zips rather than the invisible ones the pattern suggested. It took me three goes to get the back zipper in without it going wavy. I seem to have completely lost my touch with zips lately. And the less said about the finish at the ends of the zips, the better. I decided to bind the neckline seam rather than use facings, and made a total hash of it. I’m pleased to find that you can’t see it at all in the pictures. I really need to practice binding seams.

The hood is nice and big though, and I added inseam pockets, which I managed to place too low.

They can’t all be successes but at least it’s wearable!

Pattern Choice

I’m still trying to make my mind up about what pattern to use for my Death Star fabric. The reason I was originally drawn to the fabric is that it reminded me of this Vivienne Westwood wrap dress, which I bought years ago and wore until it’s practically in rags. I couldn’t bear to throw it out so it’s sat in a drawer for a few years. I haven’t ironed it for the picture – I assure you it wasn’t quite this tatty when I put it away!

The print is fantastic, but I also really like the shape of this dress and the interesting collar detail. Although I don’t remember it being quite this tiny…I wonder if the ill-advised trip through the washing machine that made the dye run also made the fabric shrink. Here’s the Death Star fabric again for comparison. The spheres are about 5cm (2″) across.

A rummage through my collection of Burdas hasn’t turned anything quite like the Vivienne Westwood, but there are a few nice wrap dresses.

This is 134 from April 2011. Burda made it up in a floral silk batiste. I like that it has long sleeves and pockets, but it needs a huge amount of fabric. Assuming I can fit the pieces onto my yardage this is my current favourite.

This is 122 from October 2011. Again, nice long sleeves and a real 70s vibe which I think would go well with the print.

111 from October 2010. For some reason I am not as keen on the technical drawing as on the photo of the style in the magazine, where they’ve made the dress up in a large scale animal print. Not liking the technical drawing is probably a bad sign.

104 from September 2011. This was the cover dress, made up in animal-print chiffon. I’m not sure about the asymmetric sleeve detail at all, but the rest of the shape is nice and the sleeves can always be changed.

A little voice in my head is saying I could always make one of the Burda dresses and copy the Vivienne Westwood too if I bought a bit more fabric…

The power of making – V&A exhibition review

Last weekend I went to the V&A’s Power Of Making exhibition with my husband and mother-in-law. I hadn’t really read the blurb and guessed it would be all about handcrafts. We’d originally been intending to go to the much larger Postmoderism exhibition but didn’t have enough time for it, whereas Power of Making was nicely sized to fit in between lunch and meeting up with more family afterwards.

I was wrong about the handcrafts. There were quite a few handmade items in the show, but there was also a large section about 3D printing, and many of the objects on display clearly involved some industrial processes. In fact I’m still not entirely sure what the unifying theme of the exhibition was meant to be as everything in the V&A is some kind of ‘artefact’. If you want nature untouched by human hands you go down the road to the Natural History and Geology Museums. I think the best description of it was one on the exhibition website: just ‘a cabinet of curiosities’.

So what curiosities were there? There were three or four unusual bicycles, including one made from steam-shaped mahogany, and one entirely encrusted in Swarovski crystals. One thing that really sticks in my mind, just for the ‘ewww’ factor, is a cake made in the shape of a baby. It’s beautifully done with sculpted marzipan painted very realistically. And it still grosses me out slightly every time I think about it. At the highly practical end of the scale there were lovingly made non-art items such as a drystone wall, a flute, a saddle, and a government red box. (Did you know red boxes have the locks on the bottom so that ministers can’t walk off with them unlocked? Clever.)

For sewists there were two particularly interesting exhibits. The first is a system for making spray-on clothes, and the second is a full length black leather evening dress covered in what must be tens of thousands of sharp pins. They were described as ‘dressmaker pins’ but they’re more the size of macramé pins. Not the sort of thing you could wear on the tube; in fact not the sort of thing you could wear at all, but utterly spectacular.

So it’s not the best exhibition at the V&A I have ever seen, but it’s so eclectic it has something for most people. There were lots of other weird and wonderful things I could mention, including a giant gorilla made from coat-hanger wire and an L-shaped briefcase. There were a lot of people there with their kids. I think it’s worth a look if you’re in the area. I’m still hoping to make it to Postmodernism at some point too.

Death Star fabric

I’m still procrastinating about cutting out my hoodie dress. So with the project queue piling up again, what better time to acquire yet more fabric?

This is Liberty’s Emilia de Poret fabric.

I’ve been dithering over this since first seeing it when visiting Liberty with Elizabeth and co. This weekend I finally made up my mind to buy it. Good thing I did, because the lady who cut it for me told me there has been a bit of a run on it lately. Apparently people have been coming into the shop and asking for this particular design, so it must have been in a magazine or on TV. Does anyone know where?

The pattern is supposed to resemble glitterballs or microphone heads. But it reminds me more of the Death Star, especially in the grey colourway.

I’m planning to make a wrap dress out of it, but haven’t settled on a pattern. My collection of Burdas is coming into its own here. I’ve only been buying it a year or two and there are five or six possible patterns. Decisions, decisions.

Longest pattern instructions ever

Great excitement the other day as my new Vogue patterns arrived. I managed to restrict myself to four this time: three from the new collection and one older Chado Ralph Rucci design, Vogue 1107. I picked the Rucci because I’ve made two of his other patterns and loved them both. This one’s not quite my style but it looks like an interesting sew.

I had a quick look at the instruction sheets when it arrived. Five sheets (just for the English instructions; there’s another page for French). One hundred and seven steps. Some of the steps are teaching you basic macramé to make the belt but they also skip over making bound buttonholes in about two stages. I think this one is going to make Vogue 1073 and Vogue 1239 look like a walk in the park. Each of those took about a month to sew. Maybe I’ll save this one for the Christmas holidays!

The incredible shrinking fabric

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments about Vogue 1073! The weather in the UK has started to get autumnal, so it should be getting some wear pretty soon.

My next project’s got off to a rather unfortunate start. I am going to make a simple hoodie dress based on this pattern.

I had two metres of a really nice doubleknit in my stash. It was green on one side and black on the other, and really soft. I put it in the washing machine. As you will have guessed, it shrunk. But I’ve never seen shrinkage like this. It’s just over half the length it started off at. The width is also greatly reduced. The green side is strangely felted in little patches, and the black side now resembles bouclé. Or possibly solidified lava.

I kind of like the effect on the black side, but there’s not enough fabric left to do a lot with and the shape is very distorted. I might just get a top out of it if I’m careful! All’s well that ends well though. I got a very nice ponte knit from John Lewis to replace it.

Winter white – Vogue 1073 pictures at last

I finally got some pictures of my finished Vogue 1073 on me. It’s been a long slog to get here! I hope it wasn’t boring. It was a lot of fun to make but I haven’t talked about anything else for about a month.

The construction of this dress is quite unusual. There are no side seams on the bottom piece so that the pintucks can wrap all the way round uninterrupted. Most of the shaping in the bodice is carefully hidden under the tucks.

This closer back view shows about the only really visible seams – and there are still some darts on the shoulders under those tucks.

The braid gives the hem a lot of body. I imagine it’s a similar effect to finishing a hem with horsehair. I was originally thinking of leaving the braid off because I wasn’t sure it goes with the style of the dress but I’m glad I kept it.

Anyway, one last picture which kind of shows the cuffs. I love all the little details on this dress. And that’s it! Thanks so much to all of you who have been following along and encouraging me with this project. I’m so pleased with the results.