So you buy a length of fabric online. An enormous parcel arrives. You wrestle the contents into the washing machine, and hope the weight doesn’t overload it. The washed fabric takes over half a room while it dries, carefully arranged so as not to pull off grain. You get your pattern, cut out the pieces. The fabric is gone and all that’s left are some scraps and a tiny pile of cut pattern pieces a fraction of the size of what you started with. It can’t possibly be enough to cover a body. And yet it all works out in the end. It is a mystery.
Something I’ve wanted for a long time is a proper cutting table. At the moment I have two options. There’s the the dining table, which is too low for cutting standing up and not large enough for big pattern pieces. I also have a huge foldable cardboard cutting mat for the floor. The mat is a really good surface and has a printed grid which has proved surprisingly useful, but it’s hard on the knees.
But we have never had space at home for it, unless I got one of those foldaway ones and they cost something ridiculous. However we’ve just had a new kitchen. I swear I wasn’t thinking about dressmaking when we planned the layout, but look at this…
It’s the perfect height and plenty long enough; that’s most of the pattern pieces for a pair of jeans laid out there on wide fabric. Guess I don’t need a cutting table after all.
This dress is from the Drape Drape books by Hisako Sato: specifically Drape Drape 2 style number 11. It’s an unusual pattern even by Drape Drape standards: there is only one pattern piece for the whole dress and it’s absolutely gigantic. The logistics of cutting out such a style at home would normally put me right off, but I was looking out for an interesting breastfeeding-friendly pattern that I could make quickly from stash fabric, and this ticked all the boxes. The neckline falls well below the bra band: I’m planning to wear it with a tank top underneath.
It takes nearly two metres of extra wide (165cm) fabric. You also need to cut a rectangular strip of self-fabric to make a casing for the waist elastic and provide a couple of cuff pieces to finish off the sleeves. I have the Japanese language edition of the book and I know no Japanese so I can’t tell what the recommended fabrics for the style are. Going by the pictures the body is done in a very drapey knit; I’d guess a single knit; and the cuffs are some sort of sequinned stretch fabric. I used an extra wide lightweight viscose single knit from Tissu Fabrics that had been lying around in my stash for a couple of years. Amazingly it’s still available for sale here at the time of writing. The cuffs are a doubled piece of the body fabric.
The only place in the house where I could easily make room to spread enough fabric out was the conservatory, which has a tiled floor. Hard on the knees, although it was nice to have lots of light while cutting. I had to pin the pattern piece to the fabric before cutting. Normally I use weights not pins, but I didn’t have enough weights to hold the shifty fabric in place so it was pins or nothing. This wasn’t ideal as they left a few holes in the rather fragile fabric. Transferring the markings was a challenge too. I cut out right side up but needed to mark the waistline casing on the wrong side. I was a bit dubious about using dressmaker’s carbon paper over the hard tiles so I pinned along the casing lines as well as around the pattern edges and then after I’d cut around the edges I flipped the lot over and chalked along the pins marking the casing. I guess tailor tacks would have been a better option but I didn’t have sufficient patience for that!
Sewing was far easier than cutting out. You could easily sew this up in an evening although I did take a couple of shortcuts: it’s not hemmed yet and I skipped making the openings in the overarm seams because in my opinion that feature really reduces wearability.
And here it is. Dressform shots only because my baby has not yet arrived and the waist is not compatible with a bump.
It hasn’t come out how I expected. The first peculiar thing is that my version hangs completely differently than the one in the book. In the book version the skirt hangs evenly whereas mine’s really pulling to one side. My fabric has only one-way mechanical stretch which might explain this. Two-way stretch fabric with some lycra would probably have worked better.
The second odd thing is the sleeves. Now admittedly this is probably made worse by choosing insufficiently stretchy fabric, but the left sleeve is incredibly tight; I can’t raise my left arm above shoulder height. The first picture is the left sleeve and the second is the right. Hopefully you can see from the pics that the left sleeve is skinny and grows out of the waistline whereas the right sleeve is wider and starts higher up. It’s hard to say how much of a problem this is right now because it’ll fit me differently once the baby is here, but the sleeve lacks mobility even on the dressform so I’m not optimistic.
So as yet I don’t know if this is going to be a wearable dress or not. It was fun to make and I’m glad I finally found something to do with the fabric, but I may have to file this in the ‘failed experiments’ pile. Drape Drape often works out like that for me. I have made up a few different ones and they either become huge favourites or never get worn at all. Oddly enough, I’ve even had one pattern turn out both ways when made up in different fabrics. I’ll try to come back with a wearability update on this one at some point.
This was my first version of Burda 106-04-2014. No sooner than it was finished I started working on a second one and took the opportunity to tweak the pattern a little. The version above isn’t bad, but the sleeves are a little constricting and I felt I could do with a bit more room in the bust. I don’t know you’re meant to do a full bust adjustment on this sort of pattern but here’s what I’ve done. The picture below is the front pattern piece, which is cut on the fold.
In the pictures below red areas are bits I’ve added and blue is where I have taken away. I slid a chunk of the front out sideways to give a bit more bust room, and reduced the shoulder width so that the shoulder seam would be sitting on my shoulder point rather than slightly over it.
Those two changes affected the length of the armscye so I had to make the sleeve wider to match. No bad thing as the original sleeves felt slightly tight; I’d been planning to flatten the sleeve cap anyway.
That’s it for fitting alterations, but the fabric I’m using is slightly transparent and so I also needed to do something about the neckline finish. The original design has a skinny back neck facing which is a single interfaced layer, overlocked on the outer edge. That clearly isn’t going to look good in a sheer fabric. Also the facing didn’t behave well on the first version and had to be top-stitched down to keep it in place.
I did a bit of snoop shopping to see how this sort of thing would be handled in ready to wear clothes. I found very few summer dresses with facings. Most were lined. A few, mainly in casual fabrics, had the neckline seam covered with a strip of binding. The ones which did have facings all had a centre back zip with the facings sewn to the zip tape to hold them down. The facings themselves were invariably much wider than those on the Burda design.
I didn’t fancy trying to bind the neckline seam in slippery silk, and I had nothing to line the dress with, so I had to stick with a facing. Although the original design has no centre back seam I had already had to add one because of a shortage of fabric, so I figured I could sew the facing to the seam allowances on that or stitch in the ditch to hold it in place. To try to make it look nicer I made the facings much wider around the neck than the original and cut two copies of each piece. Those then get sewn right sides together at the outer edge and turned out to give a facing with slightly more body than a single layer and a very clean finish to the edge.
And here’s what it looks like. Acceptable if not brilliant, and probably the best I could manage with lightweight silk. It is not well-pressed for excellent reasons I shall go into in my next post, and I should have done a french seam on the centre back but life’s too short. It’s wearable and the facings stay put and that’ll do.
Next up, modelled finished object pictures.
So I said I’d make my sister a dress for her birthday. I did this last year and I think it was a success. It was the first time I’d ever made anything for someone else so we picked a knit dress pattern that has lots of good reviews online and I’d already made up once before for myself.
So this year I offered to do it again. My sister had expressed a liking for Vogue 2218 the previous year so when I saw it in an out of print pattern sale last summer I snapped it up. This is a bit more challenging. It’s a two piece woven dress: a pencil skirt with darts and sleeveless princess seamed top. The cover photo has it made up in a windowpane check suiting which looks very elegant. I found fabric with a faint blue windowpane check. I made a muslin and we fitted it over Christmas. I made all the adjustments on the pattern. Nothing left to do but a little bit of sewing, right?
Clearly it’s been too long since I last sewed anything with a pattern that needed matching. I’d forgotten just what it involves! It’s also been a loooong time since I inserted a zip. I even had to look up how to finish a bodice with a back zip and a lining. And what possessed me to suggest a pattern with not one but two invisible zips and two hems? My sewing skills have had a bit of an unexpected workout over this one.
I can’t show the finished outfit because my sister hasn’t got it yet, but here are a few progress shots.
I love the way this wool fabric takes chalk. Marking was never so easy. The grey strips on the edges are interfacing. The fabric’s very unstable so I fused interfacing to all the seamlines to give myself a chance to match the stripes.
As well as the blue windowpane check there’s another set of more subtle stripes to be matched. This photo was taken with flash so they stand out a lot more than they do in natural light. Cutting this fabric out accurately required lots of daylight!
I managed to match up the check across the zips and most of the seams.
And I even managed to get fairly square corners at the ends of the zips.
But my next project is so going to be a knit dress.
Thanks so much for all the really positive feedback about my colour-blocked dress. It’s definitely growing on me but I think the solid versions of that pattern are still my favourites. I have my planned stripey version cut out now, so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out by comparison.
I don’t know about you, but while I can sew by artifical light I really need daylight for cutting out fabric. And the nights in the UK are really drawing in so the only chance I get to cut out is at the weekend now. And as making enough room to cut out fabric involves rearranging the entire living room, I thought I’d try cutting out more than one thing for a change.
That’s four dresses, all of which I’ve made before. Burda 116-08-2011 in red and again in navy, a stripey Vogue 1250, and the stripey version of the colour-blocked dress, which is Burda 117-02-2012. I normally only cut one garment at a time because my cut fabric pieces either crease horribly or go missing as soon as I turn my back on them. All of these projects are quick enough that the pieces won’t be hanging around for long enough for anything bad to happen; that’s the plan anyway.
Remember this peacock feather print fabric? I’ve spent a lot of time staring at it over the last few days, trying to work out the best way to make a dress out of it. I swear I will be seeing peacock feather eyes in my sleep tonight.
I was originally attracted to the print by the very strong lines of mirror symmetry, which run along the crossgrain. The fabric selvedges are along the top and bottom of the picture below. I thought at first the print had repeats both vertically and horizonally. However if you look closely it turns out that the two rows of red medallion motifs in the picture are not identical, although you have to go a little way down from the motif to see the difference. Compare the six green eyes below each red circle. The ones from the top row are larger and spaced slightly differently to those in the middle row. So this is a frieze print rather than a wallpaper print.
(Image heavily manipulated in an attempt to get consistent contrast throughout)
The dress pattern I’m using is Burda 111-03-2010. I picked it because the front and back skirts and the bodice back are all cut on the fold, which interrupts the print as little as possible.
But how to place the pattern on the fabric? I wasn’t sure where to put the bold motifs. I tried sketching the dress on my croquis in the GIMP and laying that over my photos of the fabric. Here are two versions, one with a red medallion at the waist and one with the pink feather motif centred on the skirt front. I prefer the version on the right with the brighter colours are in the centre; it seems to highlight the symmetry of the design.
Of course cutting it out was a bit more complicated because I had to think about pattern placement on the sleeves as well as the skirt. Here’s what I ended up with (colours slightly enhanced).
I put the red medallions on the sleeves at the front. I’m hoping they’ll give an effect a bit like butterfly wings.
On the back I wanted the eye to be drawn to the top of the dress rather than my backside so I put the pink feathers on the bodice back and the red medallion just below the bodice seam; it should land on the small of the back.
The pattern won’t match up at all along the seams but it’s a busy enough print that it won’t matter, I hope.
So I guess the first attempt at trousers is officially a success! Thanks for all the kind comments. I wore them to work this week – always a good test – and they were pretty comfortable but I realised I’d ideally like the waist a bit lower and the legs longer. Now as I don’t wear trousers much I wasn’t going to rush out and look for fabric for a second pair. But I was sorting my stash looking for things to potentially swap at Claire’s Walthamstow meetup next week and found some silver-painted denim. And I’ve always had a bit of a thing about silver trousers. My inspiration folder contains a large section of images of shiny trousers, including Balenciaga’s notorious C-3PO leggings. Here’s a few.
I’ve never actually owned a pair of silver trousers, so I squeezed the Burda trouser pattern onto the silver denim and cut it out again. This is all a bit of a gamble. The silver denim has no stretch, unlike the black stuff I used last time, and the painting is a bit uneven in tone which could lead to some unfortunate contrast effects at the seams. I didn’t have enough of the fabric left to have any useful choice over how I laid the pieces out so I’m just going with what I’ve got. If they don’t work out they can at least be used for dressing up as a droid. Wish me luck.
Thank-you all so much for the nice comments on my last post about Vogue 1220. I can report it stands up to wearing at work pretty well.
What I’m doing at the moment is making a kimono for my mother. I’ve made kimonos before. The one the one I posted about last year was made from a patterned fabric but I made no effort to match the pattern or worry about which way up it went, and the other couple I’ve done were solid colours. My mother has picked some lovely dark blue and gold Chinese-style brocade with dragons on it and I decided to put some effort into laying it out to best effect.
Here’s the fabric design. I’ve darkened the picture so that the design shows more clearly, but the base colour is really a midnight blue rather than black. The medallion-like motifs are about three inches across and turn out to be curled-up dragons when you look closely, so the whole design is made of dragons and little clouds.
Warning: geekery ahead. At first sight the design looks as if it has a fairly small pattern repeat, something like the cell I’ve drawn below. I assumed the design was ‘one-way’ and had a good look at the curled-up dragons to see which way up they should be placed.
But when I looked more closely I saw that half the curled-up dragons are upside down. The pattern repeat is twice as large as I thought. Whichever way up the fabric is used, half of all the dragons will be upside-down. I’ve drawn the real pattern repeat below. It’s actually rectangular but I must have taken the original picture on the skew.
At this point I thought that the design had two-fold rotational symmetry – in other words you could turn it upside-down and it wouldn’t make a difference – and I started trying to figure out its wallpaper group. It’s possible to classify 2D repeating patterns, such as those on wallpaper and fabric, into exactly seventeen distinct types. I thought I had one of the five types with two-fold rotations. Once you know what rotations there are you start looking for reflections to narrow it down to the exact type. There clearly aren’t any ordinary reflections in the pattern, so I started looking for glide reflections. Then I spotted the clouds. Have a look at the two I’ve circled below, which are next to what appear to be otherwise identical (apart from rotation) dragon motifs. The two clouds are different! The smaller cloud only appears in one orientation within the design, so it is a one-way pattern after all. It’s the simplest of the wallpaper groups, called p1. Once I started looking for it I found a few of the other cloud-like motifs were strictly one-way as well.
It still doesn’t really matter which way up this particular design is placed as long as it is consistent. I put the centre back on one of the vertical lines of medallions, and then tried to lay the rest out so that the pattern matches at the side and sleeve seams as well as possible. I don’t think I’ve done a completely perfect job on the matching, but the fronts and back will demonstrably be the same way up even if you have to squint at the small clouds to tell. I would never have noticed something like that before I started sewing. I’d like to find some wearable fabrics with more elbaorate wallpaper groups.
Thanks everyone for the encouraging and helpful suggestions about my cutting mistake. Alas it’s too late for that dress, which went in the bin shortly after I discovered my mistake, but it’s all good advice to remember for next time.
So I finally cut the Liberty fabric. Although to be perfectly accurate, what actually happened was that I laid out the pattern pieces on the Liberty fabric and then suddenly found all sorts of things that Had To Be Done around the house before I could go and start cutting out. After the horrible mistake I made with the test run fabric I was more than a little nervous about cutting into the good stuff.
But it is done now, and the picture above is the little pile of scraps I have left. Is it possible that for once I bought the correct amount of fabric, you ask? Well no. There’s an uncut metre and a half left over too, but I didn’t photograph that. At least if I go wrong I’ll be able to recut a piece or two this time.
The little pile of scraps will go in the bin once the project is finished, unless there any pieces large enough to be of use to my mother, who quilts. But I find it quite useful to keep the bits around for a while to test things out on. This particular project calls for buttonholes, never my favourite thing to sew, so I think the scrap pile is going to see quite a bit of use.
One of the buttonholes is a little bit unusual – at least I’ve not noticed this particular finish before. The project is a copy of a wrap dress I own, and the buttonholes are for the ties to pass through rather than actual buttons. The buttonhole at the waistline is placed in an area of the garment that’s just a single layer of fashion fabric. The buttonhole therefore requires quite a bit of reinforcing. On the original dress a small rectangle of fashion fabric has been top stitched to the back of the buttonhole area with its edges neatly tucked under. It’s very nicely done. Here’s the view from the inside of the dress.
You can’t see from this picture but it looks as the short edges of the patch were folded under first and pressed, then the long edges. I’m not sure if it’s been interfaced or not. I shall have to make a couple of samples out of my scraps and see what works best. Wish me luck.