Vertical lines: Vogue 1390 finished

Vogue 1390 front view full length

This is my version of Vogue 1390, a Sandra Betzina Today’s Fit pattern. I say ‘my version’ because while I didn’t alter the design I made a lot of changes to the method of construction. But the style lines are what really count and the reason why this pattern’s been on my to-sew list ever since it came out. Here’s the line art:

Vogue 1390 line art

I combined the colour blocking, lining, and neckline of view A with the tucked front panel of view B. My tucks are more numerous and narrower than the those in the pattern. They were such an effort to sew they got their own post. But apart from the tucks the dress comes together very quickly indeed because there are no closures.

The shell fabrics are a medium weight linen/cotton blend from Truro Fabrics in black and charcoal. The lining is a fairly heavyweight black acetate/viscose satin from The Lining Company that I had left over from another project. There’s no interfacing other than around the pocket edges.

I think the line art misses one minor aspect of the style: the bottom bands look rectangular in the drawing but the pattern pieces narrow slightly towards the hem, giving the dress a very subtle egg shape. It’s just about visible in the picture below. I like the effect; it adds a little extra interest while still being very wearable.

Vogue 1390 front view

The back of my dress is very plain. I very much admire Angela’s lovely version of this pattern at Collected yarns which has tucks on the back too, but I haven’t the patience to make two tucked panels.

Vogue 1390 back view

I added very tiny horizontal pockets in the side panels. I would have liked them bigger, but the width of the side panel limits them. I made them just deep enough to hold my phone; any deeper and small items would slip down beyond the reach of my fingers. With 20/20 hindsight it might have been better to add larger vertical pockets in the side panel seam but I was worried they might sag and spoil the line.

Vogue 1390 side view

So what did I change in the construction?

The pattern as designed uses an unusual method where each side panel is cut twice and the two parts seamed together at the bottom edge. The front and back hem bands are cut double with a foldline at the bottom edge. They are attached to the front and back panels and those units are then seamed to the side panels. As everything is already finished at the bottom edge by this stage there is no need to construct a hem. As a confirmed hater of hemming I completely approve of this method, but I also had doubts about my ability to join the panels accurately enough to avoid a step at the panel seams. I was also worried the seam allowances might poke out at the hem as there would be nothing covering them.

I ended up using a much more traditional construction with single layer side and hem panels and deep facings around the bottom edge. The dress lining is bagged: attached to the yoke facings and armscyes according to the pattern instructions, but then machined to the hem facings via a gap left in one of lining seams, which is subsequently top-stitched shut. The armscyes are finished with bias strips which are top-stitched down. Facings would have been possible there too but the top-stitching doesn’t show much in these colours. There isn’t a single hand-stitch in this dress.

Vogue 1390 front view

As usual with Vogue I made one size smaller than the size chart suggested. That normally works out fine but on this one I could do with a bit more ease at the bust. If I make it again I’ll go up a size or do a full bust adjustment; Today’s Fit is sized for a more straight up and down figure than Misses so it’s my own fault for not checking the chart more carefully before picking a size. I didn’t make any fitting changes to the pattern other than adding my usual two inches to the length above the waist.

I am very happy with this dress. The design is beautiful and it was fun to sew. Might be a while before I make anything else with tucks though.

Tucks, pleats, and Vogue 1390

Vogue 1390 has been in my pattern stash and lurking on my to-sew list for a while. I particularly like the tucked front panel of view B.

Vogue 1390 line art

When I finally came to take the pattern out of its envelope to trace it I was surprised to find that the front panel wasn’t quite as I’d remembered it. The image I had was of fairly narrow tucks with gaps between them. In fact the fold of one tuck lies on top of the stitching line of the next and they are very wide: each tuck takes up 13.5cm of fabric leading to a finished width of 4.5cm. They are also described throughout the pattern instructions as ‘pleats’ although the envelope says ‘tucks’. After some dithering I decided to adjust the pattern to have the smaller tucks with gaps I’d imagined. This used less fabric, but meant sewing a lot more tucks.

I started out by trying to make an accurate pattern piece for my version but soon realised that turn of cloth might be a problem: if each tuck takes up even a tiny fraction more or less fabric than I had allowed for then the panel would come out much too narrow or too wide once the error had been multipled by 14 tucks. Finally I cut a centre panel piece that was as wide as I’d calculated plus quite a bit extra, and just started making tucks from the centre until I got to about the right width. My tucks take up 3cm of fabric each, with a finished width of 1cm, and have a 1cm gap between them. It was not a quick process, especially as I was trying to be extremely accurate!

The long metal ruler was a great help, not least for checking the panel wasn’t pulled off grain when I laid it down to mark each tuck.

Straightening V1390 tucked panel

Measuring position of next tuck

Tucks need the foldline to be marked from the right side. I used black chalk in the hope that it wouldn’t show much if it didn’t brush off the fabric easily, but I still ended up washing the panel at the end to get all the chalk out. And the black dust made a terrible mess on my hands and the ironing board.
Chalked tuck position

Folding tuck and checking depth

Sewing tuck

Finished tuck

When I’d made enough tucks I laid the centre panel on top of the two panels it attaches to and compared with the lining pattern pieces to make sure I’d overlapped them at the right place to get the correct total width. Once adjusted for width I sewed on the side panels very close to the last tuck seam.

Tucked panel with sides attached

I realise now there was a good visual reason for the wider tucks in the pattern in that the width balances the untucked side panels better. But I’m committed now so we’ll see how it looks when the dress is made up. That might yet take a while. Better hope I still like the style as much when it’s finally done.

Pattern of the year – the last make of 2011

Happy New Year! I’m actually writing this post on December 31st. Come Sunday morning I expect to be lying in bed nursing a small hangover after our traditional New Years Eve barbeque. It’s the only night of the year I manage to stay up late any more.

The dress above is my last make of 2011, Vogue 1220 in grey cotton sateen. I made it once already in navy blue sateen and it came out scandalously short. Despite the lack of length I have worn it a lot, always combined with very thick tights. The blue version also needs a slip because the sateen sticks to tights and wrinkles at the slightest excuse.

The grey version has another two inches of length added to the bodice over my usual two, making four in all, which brings it to about the right length. It is lined in black cupro.

Lining was pretty easy because the dress is finished with facings all the way round. I cut out the main pattern pieces in the lining fabric (leaving off the foldback self-facing on the front pieces) and made them up in the same way as the dress but without the front pleats to give a bit of ease. Then I pinned the lining inside the dress shell and and finished the facings over the top of it. I had to invisibly hem the lining to the dress around the neck to make it stay put there. I didn’t line the sleeves. I basted the lining to the dress at the armsyce and finished the armsyce with the overlocker after setting in the sleeves.

The buttons nearly caused this dress not to get finished at all. I marked the button placement incorrectly and didn’t notice until I’d sewn five of them on. Sewing on buttons is absolutely my least favourite sewing activity. But here they are, all attached in the right places at last.

This is my pattern of the year, narrowly beating Vogue 1239. It’s comfortable, flattering, and it has pockets. I’ve liked every version I’ve seen made up and there are a lot of them out there. Come on Vogue, give us another one like this in 2012!

Disaster is narrowly averted

Thanks everyone for the comments on the Westwood skirt knockoff! Emily H. mentioned a pleated skirt from the August Burda. There are two in that issue and strangely enough one of them was what I was already planning to sew next. I want to sew the other one too but I don’t have any suitable fabric for it yet and I’ll have to grade it, so that’s a way off.

Here’s the technical drawing of the one I’m doing now.

I am making this in a beautiful 100% wool blue and black tonic suiting from Textile King, which is on Berwick Street in London. I really didn’t want to risk washing it so I tried pre-shrinking using a method I found on the Internet. You wash a big sheet and while it’s still wet lay it out flat. Lay the fabric flat on top, and roll the two together. Pop the lot into a bin liner, tie it closed, leave for a few days, then remove and iron the fabric. It worked pretty well for this fabric. It certainly shrunk a bit and it also got softer. When I bought it the fabric had a rather scratchy feel and that’s gone completely. I will definitely use this method again when sewing with wool, although next time I’ll use a towel rather than a sheet as it might crease the fabric a bit less. I’m not a great fan of ironing.

Here’s the fabric. It’s more of a royal blue than the periwinkle shade it’s come out as in the photo.

So where does the disaster come in? The pattern calls for 1.55m of 140cm wide fabric, not that I bothered to check this in advance because everyone knows a tiny little skirt takes less than a metre, right? Wrong. Not when it has pleats and is self-lined.

My piece started out 150cm wide and probably a bit over 1.5m long so I thought I had plenty. The fabric was cut very off-grain, so I probably lost 5-10cm length in straightening that up. I don’t know how much it shrank when I wet it because I didn’t measure, but some. Then I added 5cm to the length of the skirt when I traced the pattern. This becomes 10cm in terms of fabric because the skirt pieces are all cut double with the hem on a fold, another thing I didn’t really think about in advance.

So after I’d cut all the skirt panels I didn’t have enough fabric left for the four yoke pieces. This was a new experience because normally I buy far too much fabric and have large bits left over. Eventually, after much rearranging, I managed to squeeze all the pieces out of the remaining fabric by cutting the inside back yoke out upside down. That’s bad on shiny fabric as the shine might be directional, but it’s the inside piece so it won’t show. And I have marked it very carefully with my new favourite gadget, the chalk wheel. So all was not lost but you can bet I’m going to check the yardage in advance next time.

underlining pleats

I hadn’t made any progress on my Burda pleated summer dress for a week because of a streaming cold. I’d got as far as setting up the machine and then cutting the underlining I’d belatedly realised was needed, but hadn’t actually sewn a stitch of the dress. So today I made an effort to get started.

Sewing the darts went fine, and then I realised that making pleats in underlined fabric was going to be somewhat tricky. Luckily both my fashion fabric and underlining are cotton, and so don’t shift around too much, but still more than enough to cause problems. My sewing books didn’t have anything to say about this, so in the end I basted the layers together down the centre of the inside portion of each pleat, working from the centre out to try to avoid wrinkles.

That seemed to work pretty well and my pleats came out nicely. However when I joined the pleated centre front of the dress to the side fronts I discovered another problem – I’d obviously marked up my underlining incorrectly on one side and the whole thing was asymmetic. You make a pleat at the join by sewing the two pieces together both at the normal 1.5cm seam allowance and again much further in, and my leftmost pleat was noticeably narrower than all the others. Cue muttering, seam ripping, and basting the offending pleat back together by eye.

Apart from that it’s looking pretty good so far (the photo isn’t great, unfortunately)

I love the nice little rows of folds on the inside of the pleats.

I’m lining it so the next stage is to construct the lining and then sew them together at the neck and arms. My lining fabric is flimsy china silk which promises to be…interesting to sew with. Although as it’s so fine I should be able to get away with turning it out through the very narrow shoulder tunnels which will give me a much better finish than my previous version of this dress. Fingers crossed.