Brainteaser: Vogue 1400

Making this dress was a learning experience. It looked straightforward on the pattern envelope: a cotton shirt dress with very little shaping, rated Easy. But look a little more closely. The chest pockets are not simple patch pockets; they have tiny little gussets. There’s a slightly fiddly shoulder cut-out feature, which you probably can’t see on the first couple of pictures. And to get the prescribed clean internal finish on the neckline facing involves turning under and stitching smoothly around some extremely curved edges. Getting a good outcome on this one doesn’t call for a lot of fitting expertise, but it requires great precision at all stages of cutting and sewing. I found it a moderately challenging project; more of an “Average” than an “Easy”.

Vogue 1400

Here’s the original envelope picture. I kind of wish I’d made mine in white too, although I know that in reality I wouldn’t wear it much if I had. A lot of the detail is lost in a darker fabric, particularly that beautifully shaped neckline facing. I top-stitched mine on the machine (the original is hand top-stitched with a running stitch) and it blends in a bit too much. I also considerably shortened the front and back slits to make my version bra-friendly. Sizing is consistent with other Vogue patterns: as usual I made one size down from the one the size chart suggested and added 5cm length.

Vogue 1400 envelope photo

The shoulders are surprising. The small cutout gives a very square shouldered effect, especially from the back, despite the actual shoulder seam being dropped. If I made this again I think I might pinch out a bit on the back shoulder to soften the line. On the other hand, it’s certainly a dramatic effect. And it’s a version of the current cold shoulder trend that I actually like, which is unusual.

Vogue 1400

Choosing interfacing for this was tricky. The shell fabric is a black cotton poplin shirting from Croft Mill. I interfaced with Vilene G700, a lightweight woven fusible, and I think even that is a touch too heavy. But on the other hand you need some structure around the cutouts and the splits. Self fabric interfacing might work well.

Getting a clean edge on the facing is a nightmare. I block fused it, which was probably my first mistake. The pattern has you turn and press a tiny little hem, trim it down even further, and then edgestitch it. I stitched a guideline along the foldline first which was a great help but it was still tricky to do on the interfaced fabric and I burnt my fingers a few times. I am wondering if the facing would be better made of two layers of shell fabric stitched together and then turned out. Or perhaps even the technique where you sew a layer of fusible interfacing to the facing with the non-glued side of the fusible to the right side of the fabric, turn out, and then fuse the two layers together.

The instructions for facing the cutout edge along the top of the sleeve were similarly fiddly, although there I’m not sure I can come up with any improvement other than binding the whole armscye seam, which is also a faff and means making bias binding from the shell fabric. However there was an awful lot of ‘sew a 1.5cm seam and now trim this edge down’ in the directions where it would have been simpler to just cut pieces out the right size to start with and instruct the maker to use a smaller seam allowance.

Vogue 1400

I sound pretty grumpy here but in fact this pattern was a good workout for the brain and I have worn the end result. It needs a wide contrasting belt to look good, which is faff, but I like all the pockets! I’m kind of tempted to try making it again just to try out my construction thoughts…if only I had the time.

Birthday dress: Vogue 1305

Vogue 1305 front

This is Vogue 1305, a dress that at first sight might seem hopelessly impractical. It’s floor length, with only one sleeve and an open back. But it’s made for knit fabric and with a little bit of tweaking I think there’s an interesting but wearable summer dress to be found here. Here’s the envelope photo (no link to Vogue because the pattern’s no longer on their site):
I checked out a few reviews before making this and I’m very glad I did! Thanks to Erica BunkerHelen Sadler, and The Mahogany Stylist for very useful information about this pattern.

It’s clear that it runs amazingly long. I normally add four inches to Vogue patterns and I didn’t add a thing to this; it’s still slightly too long for me. Other than in length it is unusually small. I normally make a 10 in Vogue; this is a straight 14 and it’s just right.


The shell fabric is a lovely viscose jersey from Croft Mill which was a birthday present. The lining is a black polyester mesh from Tissu Fabrics; no link because it was an end of roll. Matching coloured lining fabric would have been slightly better than black  because the dress is lined to the edge, but grey mesh wasn’t available.
So on to some details. The left side has a walking split. As drafted it’s very short which makes this practically a hobble skirt. I lengthened mine to just above the knee so I can walk comfortably.
There’s a tiny bit of lining peeking out at the left armscye despite understitching. I should have interfaced the seamline there and also around the neck.
I added pockets by creating a horizontal seam across the front and putting inseam pockets in there.

Vogue 1305 side

Here’s the right side with all that wonderful draping. Several reviewers mentioned that their drapes flattened out and they had to sew pleats into the side seam to get the correct effect. Mine fall the correct way naturally. I suspect the difference might be that I didn’t skip adding the lining, which gives the shell a bit of extra support because the lining and shell seam allowances get sewn together down the right side seam. I also fused a strip of interfacing down the centre front and centre back seam allowances to help support the weight of the drapes.

Vogue 1305 right side

The original style has a centre back opening that goes down to the hips. I shortened mine to just above bra band level.

The dress isn’t very forgiving when seen from the back. It really clings at the hips; I’m very glad I made my true size which has a small amount of positive ease there.  Even with that wiggle room it pays to choose undies carefully. I’ll admit it took a lot of trying to get a photo of the back I was happy to put on the Internet. Not that this will stop me wearing it.

Vogue 1305 back

The pattern claims that you can wear the dress in a second way by putting your head through the sleeve seam opening. In fact if you look up photos of the designer original (I’ve collected a few on my Pinterest board for the pattern here) it’s worn that way in some shots. And it’s true that you can wear it like that, but only if you don’t mind the world seeing an inappropriate amount of chest though the original head opening. It’s OK if I stand extremely still but I will not be wearing it in real life like I am in the picture below.

Vogue 1305 alternative neckline

The pattern itself was a lot of fun to sew. The lining is inserted by bagging out so there is no hand sewing in this dress other than attaching the button. I constructed it all on a regular sewing machine – I threaded up the overlocker but never felt the need to use it. The instructions were fairly easy to follow but it helped that I’d made this sort of thing before.
This definitely isn’t a good ‘first knit’ project because the pattern pieces are huge. They were pretty difficult to cut out because I only had space to do one at a time. It really was a case of cutting piece each in turn while praying Vogue’s layout was correct and I wouldn’t run out of fabric on the last piece. Adding the pocket seam made the cutting out easier by reducing the size of the front pieces. It did all work out in the end but it was much the hardest part of making the dress.

One problem I noticed about the pattern: there are incorrect bodice lengthen/shorten lines on some of the pieces in my copy. And most people will want to shorten this dress.

So what’s the verdict? I love how it looks. It’s not quite as easy to wear as I’d hoped; a few inches off the length would help. I certainly couldn’t wear this to work. I can see myself making a shorter version at some point though.

Vogue 1305 pockets

Probable failure: Vogue 1268

Not every sewing project works out well. Here is a recent failure: Vogue 1268 in green fake suede fabric. You might be thinking it’s pretty strange to make a long-sleeved, lined, polyester dress in summer and you’d be right. Not all stash-busting is a good idea. And that was only the first mistake.

V1268 is a Guy Laroche designer pattern that came out a few years ago. The envelope photo is below. It’s got an unusually baggy top half, and all the reviews of the pattern that I’ve found mention that the bodice runs very long. After reading the reviews I checked the back length on the pattern tissue. It has a handy marking to show how much blousing there’s meant to be, and it’s a very generous amount. If you remove the blousing allowance then the back length matches the Vogue measurement chart, to which I’d normally add 5cm, but given the reviewers’ comments I left the bodice length alone and added about 5cm to the skirt length instead. I also added side seam pockets, hem facings, and tweaked the lining pattern so I could do a bagged lining with the skirt lining completely attached to the hem and front facings. The original dress has a raw hem on the shell fabric and the lining is hemmed separately and attached to the dress at the front facings and waist seam. 

Here’s the back view. I didn’t do a good job on pressing the hem but let’s ignore that for now. There’s a bit of pulling at the back hip which I notice is present on Vogue’s model too. The waist is close-fitting. I made my usual size (for Vogue this is one size down from what the size chart indicates) and while it’s not uncomfortable there isn’t a lot of expansion room at the waist. I probably should have traced a size bigger. This seems to be happening more and more with Vogue for me despite checking the finished garment measurements before cutting. But overall the back isn’t bad.

But now look at it from the side. The right bodice front is much too long and sags unattractively over the waist seam. There is no sign of this in the pattern photo, but the model’s shoulders are amazingly square. Could there be shoulder pads in there? I could swear the pattern doesn’t mention them. It might explain why the sleeves are a bit longer on me than the model too.

I thought about trying to take up the extra length at the waist seam but the slanting shape of the right skirt front means this involves losing width in the wrap, and I really don’t like wrap dresses with a skimpy overlap. I finished the dress in the hope that it would be wearable in the end despite the bodice, but I’m pretty dubious now I’ve tried it on.
On the good side: my bagged lining worked perfectly. Behold the entirely machine-finished hem/facing/lining junction! And just ignore the lack of pressing.

There are other good things about this make. The sleeves went in easily, which was good because the fake suede does not like to be eased, and they are comfortable to wear with a good range of motion. I like the cuffs too. In fact if I’d shortened the bodice front on the pattern in advance I think I’d be really pleased with the result. 

I’m going to hang onto the dress until the autumn as I don’t think I’ll know how truly wearable it is until cold weather comes along. My hopes are not high but perhaps the magic wardrobe will transform it in the next few months.

Third time’s the charm: Drape Drape 2 no 6 Pattern drape dress

Drape drape 2 no 6

The Drape Drape pattern books are very hit or miss for me. The things I’ve made from them either get worn to death or else never leave the wardrobe. This dress is an adaptation of style number 6 from Drape Drape 2. It’s my third try at this particular pattern and I think this one is going in the firm favourites category. The first two versions, eh, not so much.

The sample in the book is sleeveless, very short, and made in a striped knit. My first version followed it exactly, even down to the striped fabric, and can be seen here. I like the photos we took of it but I never wore it. Too short and too fussy.

Version 2 came about last year when I was very pregnant and trying to make clothes suitable for after the birth. The deep cowl neckline looked perfect for breastfeeding; all I needed to do was lengthen the skirt and add sleeves and pockets. The pockets were easy to do: put a horizontal seam across the skirt front and stick inseam pockets in there.  The sleeves were a bit harder because the original has very cut in armscyes and the shoulder seam is set backwards, so they required some adjusting. I dug out my copy of McCalls 2401, a simple closefitting dress with long sleeves, laid it over the Drape Drape pattern, and traced off a combination which had the McCalls armscye and shoulder seam but everything else from Drape Drape.

I sewed version 2 up in a peacock blue polyester doubleknit I’d had lying around in the stash for years. It took an amazing three metres of wide fabric what with the sleeves and the cowl.

The end result wasn’t good. I’d somehow managed to put the pocket seam far too low in the skirt and make the skirt too long as well. I’d also forgotten that the McCall’s pattern was originally designed for woven fabrics, so the shoulders and sleeve came out huge when made in a knit. I was short on time, so I made it wearable by inserting a casing and elastic at the original hip level and using that to hitch the skirt up so the pockets were at a reasonable height. It got me through the first few months but I wasn’t happy with it (and no photos, sorry!)

Convinced there was a great dress in there somewhere I had another go. This time I used Winifred Aldrich’s closefitting knit block for the shoulders, armscyes and sleeves. I moved the pockets up and shortened the skirt. Another length of polyester doubleknit came out of deep stash; a dark grey found on Derby market many years ago. And this time it came out as I’d imagined it.

Drape drape 2 no 6

The only thing I’m not so keen on is the back view, which is very plain.

Drape drape 2 no 6
But the cowl hangs nicely in this knit and it’s very warm to wear.

Drape drape 2 no 6

Can’t see me making another one of these. It’s a fabric hog and also very distinctive; who needs two? But I love the one I’ve got.
Drape drape 2 no 6

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In two minds: Drape Drape 2 No 11 one piece dress

Drape drape 2 no 11 bodice closeup

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.

Drape Drape 2 no 11 front
Drape drape 2 no 11 back

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.

Left:

Drape Drape 2 no 11 left sleeve

Right:

Drape Drape 2 no 11 right sleeve

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.

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Stylearc Toni take two

Stylearc Toni 3/4 view

I don’t repeat patterns very often, but my first Stylearc Toni dress has been such a favourite that I made another. It isn’t a maternity style but it’s roomy enough to work over a bump without too much distortion. I’m trying to make regular patterns with plenty of room on them rather than maternity ones in the hope that they’ll still look OK after the baby arrives.

My original version was made up straight out of the packet but this time I made a few changes. The first dress is a bad length for me: it ends at the widest part of my leg which means I can’t take long strides because the dress is very narrow at the hem and it catches on my calves. That was my fault for not bothering to add any extra length to the pattern. I normally need to add 2-4 inches to dresses. This one’s supposed to end at the bottom of the calf so it probably needed four inches adding if not more. I was a bit short of fabric for the second version, so instead of lengthening it to the intended proportion I shortened it by four inches so it ends just below my knee. I’m really pleased with the way that’s come out. It’s comfortable to walk in and it’s more flattering than my previous version.

Stylearc Toni front view

The fabric is a lightweight viscose woven from Macculloch and Wallis. Right now it’s still available here. It drapes very nicely, which is good for the style, but I used very lightweight interfacing on the collar to go with the fabric and that was a mistake as it’s come out a bit too floppy. This is the same fabric I used the pink colourway of for my first Vogue 1482 dress. It is very comfortable to wear and although it’s lightweight it’s relatively easy to sew.

I lost the pocket piece from the original pattern and had to make a new one. Unfortunately I didn’t make it quite deep enough to be perfect. But any pockets are better than none. The position of the pocket is better on this version because I took out some of the length from the top half of the pattern, raising the pockets up a couple of inches.

Stylearc toni side view

Here’s the back view. Last time I said that the centre back seam could be eliminated, but I’m glad I kept it. I had trouble fitting the collar to the neckline on this version – I probably stretched the neckline out while handling – and having the seam allowed me to fix the mismatch by taking the dress in a little at the top of the centre back.

Stylearc toni back view

Clio made the great suggestion of adding a zip to the centre front seam for breast-feeding access. I increased the seam allowance on the centre front seam to half an inch (or 1.2cm; it was 1cm originally) and interfaced the seamlines to make inserting the zip easier. I also removed the seam allowance from what was originally the centre front seam of the neck facing pieces so I could use the all-machine method of applying facings to the top of the zip and neckline from Kathleen Fasanella’s centered zip tutorial.

Here’s a closeup of the zip, which also shows the collar worn down rather than up.

Stylearc Toni close up

An unexpected bonus: because the only black invisible zip I had on hand was a 24″ one I can put the dress on by stepping into it rather than pulling it over my head.

Since we took these pictures the weather in the UK has turned autumnal and I’ve been wearing this dress with leggings and my grey boiled wool kimono jacket. I’m hoping it will keep going all winter with enough layers. I can even see me making a third version of this one day; I’d like to try it in something really crisp like a cotton poplin to see what happens to those drapes.

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Vogue 1482 purple

Purple peril – Vogue 1482 again

Vogue 1482 purple 3/4 view

I liked my pink Vogue 1482 dress so much I made a second version. This one’s made up from a deep purple crepe de chine from Macculloch and Wallis. It’s a fibre blend I’ve not come across before: 20% silk and 80% acetate. Macculloch and Wallis describe it as having a very matt finish but I think that must mean by comparison to other crepe de chines. It’s not as shiny as a satin but it definitely has a bit of a sheen to it. It also creases as soon as you look at it. I ironed the dress before we took these pictures so you’re seeing it at its best here. The good news is that the creases will drop out on their own if the dress is hung up for a few hours so ironing isn’t strictly compulsory.

I had horrible doubts while sewing this as to whether the fabric was really suitable for the outside of a garment or should be kept for lining (the Selfish Seamstress’s epic rant on the subject has stuck with me) but it seems to have come out OK. And the fabric’s very pleasant to wear and wasn’t any more difficult to sew than any very lightweight fabric.

I cut this one out by laying the pattern on the fabric, chalking around the pattern pieces, and then removing the pattern and cutting along the chalk line. I find this method works better for me on very lightweight fabrics than trying to cut out around the pattern while it’s still on the fabric, which just leads to lots of messy jagged edges.

I used a self-fabric covered button for the back closure. There’s something strangely satisfying about making those up, although I suspect it would rapidly get boring if a garment needed lots of them. Just as with the pink version I had to make the self fabric loop for the back closure much skinnier than the pattern directs. I also meant to shorten the split this time, but forgot. Oh well.

Vogue 1482 back view

The long bias seam across the front has not come out brilliantly on this version. It looks fine when laid flat but there’s quite a bit of rippling when I’m wearing the dress as you can see in the picture below. With 20/20 hindsight it might have been better to stabilize the bias edges with some very lightweight interfacing and sew a conventional seam there rather than the French seam the pattern instructions use. And actually the seam doesn’t need to be on the bias; what I really like about this pattern is the overall shape of it and the pocket, and the pocket could just as well go in a horizontal seam. The seam doesn’t incorporate shaping so would be easy to change. I’d be inclined to make it slightly curved rather than dead straight across if I did change it as I think that would look more flattering.

Vogue 1482 showing bias seam

This version has the same pattern adjustments as the pink one: it’s the size medium with two inches length added at the hem and two inches added on the sleeves, split evenly between the cuff and the sleeve piece. This is a size bigger than I normally make in Vogue but my usual length adjustments. The exact choice of size in this style makes very little difference as it fits where it touches and nowhere else. Perfect for hot weather. I’m also hoping I might be able to keep it going a bit with leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt underneath when the summer finally ends because I love the colour.

Vogue 1482 purple back view