Thursday, 9 June 2016

Sewing With Chiffon

So it's been a while chaps...I apologise. I'd love to say its because I've been off gallavanting or sewing myself silly... but really I've been stressing. I'll do a post about the Bridesmaid dress saga soon...but I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it just yet. But I am NEARLY DONE!! So today I thought i'd briefly share with you just a couple of tips for sewing with chiffon.
So you're thinking of using chiffon for a project?
Tip Number One.  Don't. Use something that will be less slippery and not give you sleepless nights. Oh fine if you insist.
Tip Number Two. Use tissue paper when cutting out your pattern pieces. Lay tissue paper down, then the fabric, then another sheet on top. You can even cut on the fold and put a third piece between the layers, and it'll be just like cutting paper.
Tip Number Three. Pour yourself a large glass of wine.
Tip Number Four. Gelatine. This tip I found in the depths of the internet saved me.
Soak your pattern pieces in water. Make up a bowl of gelatine mixture with leaves or powder according to the packet instructions. Add your material to the bowl and leave it to soak for ten minutes (while you drink your wine). Squeeze out the gelatine water and leave it to completely dry. Now you can iron your chiffon and it sews just like a crisp cotton! It may look a bit streaky and odd, but after you've sewn all you need to, you can give the garment a handwash in the sink and the gelatine will come right out with a bit of washing powder.
Happy Sewing!
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Wedding Dress Progress...The Finishing Touches!

So…it’s finished! Honestly.
I’m going to wait to show you the final result until after the big day, when hopefully there may be at least one or two photos of me not pulling a photo face like Chandler from Friends. In the meantime, I’m going to share with you a few of the finishing touches of my dress, and what I learnt along the way.
My dress is pretty much a copy of a dress I tried on in Candy Anthony, a specialist 50’s/60’s wedding dress designer. The one I fell in love with had a polka dot bodice, with a scalloped lace trim. When I first started looking at materials, I naively hoped to find a similar fabric, before quickly realising for the edging to be curved and on both sides of the shoulders, it must have been made specifically for those pattern pieces. So taking the advice of someone in a Soho fabric store, I looked for a polka dot tulle fabric, then a scalloped lace trim embroidered onto a similar tulle fabric.
My polka dot (or flocked spot as it is apparently called) tulle is from the Silk Society in Berwick Street and was an eyewatering £66 a metre, luckily I got away with 0.75 of a metre and still have a little left over for something else…  The trim I searched high and low for something I liked and that was a similar colour and eventually found one in Fabricland for just £1 a metre. Which just shows you that the expensive Soho shops aren’t the only options for formal wear!
The trim actually looked like this originally…. And I just used the scalloped edge.
I realised in order for the edging to lay flat I was going to have to ‘cut and paste’ the scallops, so they would follow the curve. I put the dress on the mannequin and spent a great deal of time working out where to cut the trim and join another scallop. I wasn’t sure of the correct way around, but found it looked best with the trim on top and bodice overlay underneath.
I then sewed them on by hand within the thick embroidered edge of the scallops using a sort of back stitch with the small stitches on the front. To join two scalloped I used a whipstitch. After sewing along the entire neckline I used nail scissors to cut away the excess tulle from the trim and behind the trim, from the bodice overlay. When it came to the armholes I didn’t need to cut and paste the scallops so just used one long strip and joined at the underarm seam.
Considering I sortof made the technique up as I went along, as I couldn’t find anything useful on the net or my sewing books, I’m very happy with the result. I was worried it would be obvious, but after showing it to both my Mum and sister, neither had any idea until I pointed out the exact place where the scallops were joined.

Another finishing touch I’ve used for the first time is a horsehair braid hem, also called a crinoline hem. It was suggested to me by my seamstress friend, and gives the hem a lovely full look and structure to the bottom. The crinoline I used was from Hemline which comes in a pack of 2” wide by 3m long, and I used 2 packs to get all the way around my 29” skirt.
It’s incredibly simple to do actually, just sew to the right side of your skirt using a ¼” seam allowance, then fold to the inside, which encloses the raw edge. I used a gathering stitch on the other edge and used it to help manipulate the braid to stay flat on the other side, then catchstitch the edge to the main fabric by hand. This worked for me, using a textured fabric like dupioni silk, but with a lighter, smooth fabric it might be better to underline first so the stitches don’t show though.  
Here are a couple of articles I found incredibly helpful and have pictures too!
I love the look this hem technique provides, and it was surprisingly easy, so I will definitely be using it on the bridesmaids dresses, and any circle skirts I do in the future!
Emily Kate.

Friday, 29 April 2016

A Handpicked Lapped Zipper

A handpicked lapped zip, with added button loop closure. Now as complicated as that sounds, it really is probably easier to do than say!
This is the closure used on most wedding dresses, if they don’t have a corset back. It gives an inconspicuous finish, whilst also making a decorative feature of the seam.
I had always intended to do a lapped zip for my dress, but it got steadily more complicated as I decided to add covered buttons and loops. The back neckline already brings the attention to the centre back seam, so I thought why not really make it a feature!
I have little experience with lapped zips, but after doing this one they will definitely be my go to option. Invisible zips are usually called for in most patterns, but I find them fiddly and they can be a right pain to do up. Doing a handpicked lapped zip is not much different except the last step is completed by hand with a prick stitch. Now I’m not going to explain a lapped zip, as there are plenty of tutorials out there…. So here are the ones I found most useful.
As you can see..(or hopefully not see!) using a prick stitch means the line of stitching that creates the lap is very almost invisible, particularly in a textured fabric like silk dupion.
When it came to adding buttons and loops… no amount of googling would yield much in the way of useful information, so here are a few of the most useful bits I gleaned through books, the web and a seamstress friend.
  • The loops will go on the right side of the zip, when looking at it. This felt the wrong way to me, but you want the lapped part of the zipper to be kept flat, so putting the loops on the other side and buttons on the lap pulls it over and flush against the body.
  • Use elastic loops. I had looked at silk loops, but without stretch they would be more difficult to do up, and wouldn’t pull the lapped part of the zipper over as the elastic ones do.
  • The loop tape has to be added before sewing in the zip. Prepare the seams, sew in or iron on your interfacing and then press the seam allowance in on each side. Place the loop tape on the underside of the right hand side of the seam with the loops poking out behind the fold. Tack it in, then pin and sew in the zip. So the loop tape is sandwiched between the main fabric and the zip. It can be quite an effort to sew over that many layers though.
  • The lining is not involved in the zip process at all, until the end when I slip stitched it down to the back of the zip, trimming down the lapped side first.
I bought my loop tape from an eBay seller for just a couple of quid. The buttons I splashed out on and ordered from Mine are 11mm handwoven dupion covered, almost an exact match to my main fabric, but they also cover buttons in your specific fabric if you send them some.
So there you have it, hopefully I’ve been a small help if you decide to do a handpicked lapped zip with added buttons and loops, or at the very least not confused you further!
I’m going to do another post to outline the other finishing touches of my dress, such as the hem and the scallop lace edging, so stay tuned for that…
Emily Kate.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Dip-Dye Lilou for a 'Do

When it came to finding an outfit for my hen do, (shower/bachelorette for all you U.S. readers!) I'd already had an idea of what I might make for a while. I've been to a couple where the bride-to-be often wears white and what with my recent obsession for a dip-dye job, I thought a white dress with a graduated dip-dye bottom would do nicely.
I've already made Tilly's Lilou dress from Love at First Stitch twice before, my last version becoming one of my favourite dresses. Given that I had slightly more important dresses to be making, using a pattern I'd already made before seemed like a good call. I actually made the dress in just a day, spurred on by the fact my mum commented 'You can't possibly make a dress in time for Friday!' (when it was only Wednesday) If you ever want me to do something, just tell me it can't be done in time. I love working under pressure.
The fabric I used is a white cotton sateen with a slight stretch, with a cotton lawn lining for the bodice. The sateen was a good choice giving the pleats a good drape, but also solid enough to not need an underlining or lining, even in white.
I made the same adjustments I made previously, shortening the straps but this time remembering to also trim down the armscye, as my last one is a little snug there. My Love at First Stitch book had actually been put in storage in a loft somewhere, possibly even in Wales, so I had to rely on my (terrible) memory. There was a small hairy moment when I sewed up the side seams before attaching
the lining, but then it all came back to me and I managed pretty well. The pleats I did by checking against my original Lilou, but looking at the pattern I'm not actually convinced I did them right the first time! They look just fine though, and fit within the waistline.
When it came to the dyeing, after the success of my maxi skirt, I had expected it to be dead easy. If only! As the sateen was thicker, the dye didn't seem to spread around the fabric as it had with a thin cotton and I neglected to make sure it got in all the folds of the fabric, as you can see from the picture. I also jumped the gun a little, putting the dress into the bowl before the dye had fully dissolved. This resulted in some tiny purple dots of dye in places which although I thought had ruined the dress at first, actually look almost intentional now.
I managed to get dye on the top half of the dress in the process while washing it out too, meaning it was now navy blue >>>to baby blue. I was pretty darn close to giving up when I saw some bleach out of the corner of my eye and thought 'What's the worst it can do?'. I used a separate bowl and dipped the "white" section of the dress into watered down bleach, and within seconds it was back to a brilliant white. Crisis averted.
So I'm afraid the photos really don't do this dress justice...the light was a bit bright. The colour at the bottom is much more graduated than it appears!
Emily Kate.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Wedding Dress Progress...Nearly There!

Since the wedding is really creeping up on us now…I’ve had to really pull my finger out and get on with my dress. And actually… it’s finished! Well the dress is, and the petticoat is very nearly. What I’m going to share with you today though is actually the stage it was at a few weeks ago, before the big move.
After spending a few weeks just cutting out fabric, the actual sewing was all done in a few short weeks. I used the tissue paper method to cut out the habitai silk lining, laying one layer of paper on my wooden floor, then the fabric, then another on top. I avoided cutting pieces on the fold where possible, but for the circle skirt my floor just wouldn’t have coped with the size of it had I traced the whole front piece out. So I added yet another layer of paper between the fold of the fabric so it didn’t slip. When it came to the dupioni silk, as it’s a much more stable, medium weight fabric I found I could just cut it easily without needing anything to stabilize it. I did buy myself a brand new pair of Fiskars shears at the start of the process as my cheap John Lewis pair are seriously blunt nowadays. I also used silk pins and tried to stay within seam allowances.
When it came to the tulle for the skirt, I didn’t use tissue paper within the seams as I demonstrated here for the polka dot bodice, mainly as it would have taken forever, and there was less need to be so precise on a loose skirt. I decided to do a double layer tulle skirt, so the skirt section has 4 layers in total, not including the petticoat!
When it came to the zip, I was unsure of what to do about the tulle layers. I figured I didn’t want to sew it together with the dupioni silk and have it stick out oddly below the zipper, but sewing the whole seam together would mean the tulle would be less floaty and free at the back. Without the help of a seamstress friend I’m not sure what I would have done, as no amount of googling helped. She recommended just sewing the tulle (each layer separate) below the zipper, and leaving it open above. I left it free at the seam allowance of the waist seam, trimmed the seam allowance down along the zipper and then hand stitched the top edge of the skirt into the waist seam of the main fabric after I had finished the zip. I’m really not sure that’s how the professionals exactly finish it off, but as tulle doesn’t fray it works just fine and allows you to keep the floaty effect of the tulle overlay.
For the zip, I did a handpicked, lapped zip with loop tape added to one side. You have no idea how proud of myself I am for that..and it looks pretty good! I find zips a pain to do on a machine anyway when you have layers of heavy fabric, so doing it by hand was actually much easier.
As this is getting a bit long...I’ve decided to do a separate post on the zip saga in a little more detail, as I found several articles a great help. I was surprised though at the lack of information online on putting in loops and buttons.
So there we have it… progress really has been made. Honest.
This will be the last photo I share of the whole dress until the big day though, as I want to share it with all the finishing touches!
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Some Sleevless Wenona's

Things have been a bit quiet on the blogging front at the moment i'm afraid...due to a pretty big upheaval in the Makes household. We've moved! It had been on the cards for a while, but still nothing quite prepares you for the stress and amount of time it takes to pack up your life and transport it across the country.
This wasn't a 'just-down-the-road' move, no we've upped sticks entirely and moved back to our home county of Somerset. Which I was gleefully told by my mother is now quite a 'trendy' place to live. We wanted a less stressful way of life, and to be able to afford to live in more than a shoebox. Although London has many perks...those aren't some of them.
Anyway, what I have to share with you today is actually a make I did around 9 months ago, so I shall  have to see what I can remember about it! This shirt is probably up there with one of my most worn makes, as it's a firm favourite of both mine and Mr-soon-to-be-Makes.
I bought the Wenona shirt pattern from Named Patterns, as I had been hankering after a shirt dress for years. It fitted the bill and was a very versatile pattern, with a shirt and dress version, and the option to include pleats. It's the first Named pattern I've used, and although I found tracing out the pieces to be a pain, the instructions are precise and straightforward.
My shirt dress was a great success, so I immediately began thinking of other versions I could make. I love sleeveless shirts in the summer as they can easily be dressed up or down so decided to make the next one without sleeves. I decided to include the pleats too, and although it took me rather a long time (and several bits of scrap paper) to work out how they had to be folded, I'm pleased with the result.
The Wenona is quite a loose fitting shirt, even after using a smaller size on the recommendation of another blogger. For my first denim dress, it worked perfectly with a belt to pull it in at the waist. However the white sleeveless version feels rather too baggy and occasionally unflattering as I made no alterations. When it came to my second sleeveless version in a blue and white check, I took in a couple of inches of fabric at the side seams. I also cut some fabric out from around the armholes to give it more of a intended sleeveless shape, rather than just looking like I had just forgotten to stitch them in....!
This version feels much more stylish and flattering, and goes well with skinny jeans, or with a full skirt like the Hollyburn. Mr soon-to-be-Makes even refers to it as my 'Audrey' shirt as he thinks it has quite a 50's feel to it. My favourite things about this pattern have to be the collar point at the back and the little pleat. This certainly won't be my last version....
Emily Kate.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Tips for Sewing with Tulle

Rather excitingly...this post means that my dress has come quite a way since my last progress report and infact, the end is in sight! Now don't worry, I've not sewn one wedding dress and suddenly become a tulle sewing expert extraordinaire. I don't claim to know anything about sewing with tulle really, these are just some things I discovered along the way that really helped me, and even a couple specific to polka dot tulle.
Tulle Sewing tips
Add a piece of tape to the bottom of your presser foot to stop the tulle snagging on the foot. You can also use clear tape to hold pattern pieces together to sew.
Sew slowly and don't back tack at the start or end of a seam as it can easily end up a mess. Leave the threads long and double knot.
Pin tissue paper to the underside of the seam. It makes it much easier to pin as they won't fall straight out, and easier to sew. I thought it may be difficult to pull out afterwards so was very wary about doing this but it was pretty easy, if a little time consuming at times.
When sewing the polka dot tulle I had to think a bit more when it came to the darts. I avoided sewing through the dots where possible, particularly near the tip of the dart, instead sewing just around them. This would obviously be more or less difficult depending on the size of the dots. 
I trimmed all seams, including darts to around 1/8th of an inch so the seam allowance would be barely visible. Where a line of stitching went through a polka dot I cut around the dot and pressed it flat under the seam.  
Happy tulle sewing!
Emily Kate.