Saturday, 31 October 2015

Everyone Should Have A Petticoat...

After trying on wedding dresses it was pretty clear I was going to need a petticoat, and a big one at that. Since I was already certain I would be making my dress...bridesmaid dresses....and a bunch of other stuff, I looked at buying one to save myself a job.
However they aren't cheap. Most I found were at least £50 and some over £100. I also didn't like that many seemed to do the first tier in cotton without much gathering, it made the fullness start too low down rather from straight away at the waist.
So I decided, why not have a go at making one. A practice run. I was planning on wearing my Betty dress to a late October wedding so thought a petticoat would give it a bit of oomph (and an added layer of warmth!)
After a bit of research I found the best tutorial was this one from Sugardale. The basic premise is to double the length of the fabric for each tier. So I did the bottom one at 8 yards, then 4, 2 and then my waist. To get a fuller petticoat, you need several layers, each with the three tiers.
I decided to make my petticoat out of navy coloured net and ribbon as it would match my Betty dress.
Also i'll let you in on a secret...I'm intending on having a navy petticoat under my wedding dress. It'll match the bridesmaids, be my something blue, and also just make it a little different from your standard white dress.
I used some stiff dress net fabric I bought from eBay and satin ribbon to bind the edges. As net doesn't fray I didn't really need to do French seams or cover the raw edges with ribbon as she does in the tutorial, but I decided to anyway as I like the fact all the raw edges are hidden away.
All in all I found this to be a dead easy project, it was just a bit time consuming measuring out, cutting and pinning when you're dealing with up to 8yards of fabric. I did decide at the last minute to add an under layer of cotton. I cut a piece 10 inches wider than my hips and gathered it to fit the waistband.
So you can see the savings I made by making one, here is my cost breakdown:
4 metres of dress net - £6.20
16m ribbon - £2.20
Twill tape - £1.85
Thread from stash.
Total cost - £10.65
If you have even basic sewing skills, and the time to do it, I'd definitely recommend making your own. You can choose the exact colour and length you want and save yourself money at the same time. And you really should get a petticoat. Everyone should. They are so much fun to dance float along when you walk, and they give you a stunning 50's silhouette. What's not to love.

I think for my wedding dress petticoat I will be looking at doing at least 3 layers, maybe 4 to get the full skirt effect!
Emily Kate

Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Swish-tastic Betty Dress

I've always been quite a fan of 50's silhouettes, but getting stuck into Mad Men recently has made me really fall in love with the style. A cinched in waist is pretty much flattering on anyone, and who doesn't love a swooshy skirt?!
So when I saw the new Betty dress at Sew Over It earlier this year I couldn't resist. I bought it on a bit of an impulse, (which is a rareity for me!) but after I'd finished my Vintage Shirt Dress, so I already knew how awesome Sew Over It patterns could be.
However I think my Vintage Shirt Dress is now relegated to second place in my favourites list...because I LOVE this dress. Everything about it is super stylish, but also fairly simple to achieve, from the V-neck back to the circle skirt.
I actually finished it way back in the summer, and decided to wear it to the second wedding we attended this October along with my Coco jacket.
The fabric is a beautiful red poppy print with a navy blue background. It's some kind of cotton/polyester blend, I got it for just £2.20 a metre from Walthamstow market.  
I found the instructions to be easy and straightforward...This was actually the first time I've done the all-in-one facing, after trying and failing once before. I have got considerably more experience now, but it's explained so clearly I think even a beginner shouldn't have many issues. I did stay stitch the neck and skirt edges to stop them stretching, but I think also using some stay tape in the neck edge seam allowance would help it to keep its shape better.
I'm actually wearing a petticoat I made under this dress, which will have it's own special post shortly. It helps to give it a bit more volume, especially with thin cotton as it does hang straight down otherwise. It also makes it SO MUCH FUN to wear. I spent most of the night of the wedding swishing it about whilst strutting my stuff on the dancefloor.

I cant wait to sew another of these up, I'm thinking a little wool number would be just the ticket for Christmas.
Emily Kate.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

A Coco Jacket

As if just making a dress for my friends wedding wasn't enough, I decided to make a little jacket too, as I have two Autumn weddings to attend in the space of 10 days.
I first discovered Schnittchen, a German pattern company, after seeing Rachel's version of the Coco over at House of Pinheiro. I put it on my list for Autumn/Winter sewing plans as I planned to make a wool version but it's not going to be particularly useful when it gets much more than nippy on the temperature scale.

Schnittchen patterns are really reasonably priced with PDFs around 5-6 euros. Their patterns are quite folksy and loose fitting whilst still being uber stylish. The fabric I chose was a dark blue/navy boiled wool, with a polyester micofibre satin-like lining in a sort of mint green shade.
Now I contemplated not writing about my Coco jacket since I didn't manage to actually complete it according to the pattern. Its labelled as easy, which I would agree with, right up until it comes to attaching the lining. I've never done a bagged lining before which I why I think I had so many issues. I found the instructions to be seriously lacking when it came to the last couple of steps. I attached the two hems, but I couldn't work out how to deal with the difference in hem lengths without having a gap in my stitching. I googled and looked everywhere I could think but I still couldn't understand how to sort this out!
Me being me, I was struggling with this at 1am on Thursday, the night before we were travelling to Somerset for a wedding. In the end I gave up, went to bed, and ended up stitching the hem on my mums old machine the next evening. I then turned it right side out and slip stitched the hole left in each corner by had. You wouldn't notice unless you knew what you were looking for, but I'm still frustrated I was beaten by it which hasn't happened before.
So if you have a foolproof, clear tutorial for doing a bagged lining, please let me know!!!

When I was perusing the Schnittchen website more recently I noticed the Luciana dress. I love the fitted waistline with the V-neck so it's definitely going in my plans for next summer. I often find that a lot of dress patterns can be pretty similar so its great to see one a little different.
Please tell me I need to smile more when I'm taking photos... but this is what happens then. Crazy loon face.
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

An Elisalex Dress

I've been planning this Elisalex dress for months it seems, thinking it would be the perfect wedding guest dress. Also I thought an added bonus that I'd have nice photos, because everyone takes lots of photos at a wedding right?! Of the bride and groom. So of course I didn't take any of myself in my dress, and had to resort to my usual spot in front of the hedge...

I actually ended up finishing this the night before said wedding, at my parents house. It was really finished almost a week before, but I couldn't decide on the length of the skirt or sleeves so kept putting it off. I then decided to hand sew the hems which meant I didn't really need my machine and could wait until I was back in Somerset so I could concentrate on my Coco jacket (which was finished the morning of the wedding).
I can't be the only one who sets myself ridiculous sewing challenges surely? I thrive off a tight schedule though...when I've nothing to sew for in particular things get put off. Don't worry though Mum I promise I probably won't do that with my wedding dress.
So... to the dress. The fabric I used was upholstery weight cotton, curtain fabric from here. I used a white cotton lawn for the bodice lining and decided to underline the skirt with it too, to make it softer against the skin and as it had a loose weave.
I was a little bit worried I would look like a curtain...I mean there are birdcages on it after all. But if I did no one told me, and the fabric has really grown on me. I did attempt a bit of pattern matching on the princess seams, which didn't work brilliantly... and the back seam, which really did! I found the pattern to be pretty simple, no techniques I hadn't done before. Set-in sleeves are a pain, but otherwise it was a breeze.
The fit I'm reasonably happy with, I cut a size UK 14/ US 10, but took a lot of the length off the skirt. I took a few inches off before I cut out, and then another two as it was still past my knees, which I didn't think flattered me at all. The bodice fit is really good, although I'm not sure if its a bit wide at the shoulders or just meant to sit like that. I can't really wear a bra with straps as you could see them poking out all the time.
I have to say I wasn't sure about the style of the skirt on me, I was worrying it made my hips/bum look huge when I looked in the mirror. However looking at photos I think it is actually quite flattering as it makes your waist appear smaller. It's also nice to have a different style skirt, as all my dresses seem to be gathered or pleated.
What have you been struggling to finish in time?
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

I think I first discovered Named back in early spring thanks to House of Pinheiro, a big fan of their patterns. The Ailakki jumpsuit jumped out at me straightaway (pun not intended...!) as it was such a unique, modern style. I put off buying it for a while because it was listed as advanced, and I'm still wary of assuming I'm an advanced sewer just yet...!
Anyway when the summer rolled around and I had more time on my hands, I added it to my huge list of sewing plans for my holiday, which I did actually get through in the end!
I thought it would be a great holiday item, but didn't really think through the fact the fabric suggested is medium weight cotton or linen, and its quite a close fitting garment. Fast forward a few weeks and in 38 degree heat in Vienna it didn't seem quite such a good idea! The temperature dropped right down in our last few days though so it did get an outing when we took a random train trip to the city of Sopron, in Hungary.
The fabric I went for is a bluish grey linen something from The Man Outside Sainsbury's, with some specks of blue and black thread in it. I bought it on the day I saw Karen from Did You Make That? in Walthamstow Market. I was totally star-struck!
So to the pattern.... I did a muslin for once to check the fit of the bodice, pretty important with such a different shape. The fit was a bit loose, so I took some of the length out of the straps. It was gaping around the bust so I took a bit of fabric out of the bust, converting the excess into the darts. The hole created at the waist was also too big and in danger of revealing my bra, so I widened the bodice on each side to make the gap narrower. The trousers part fit very well, but I like mine quite skinny, so I tapered the shape more at the lower leg.
The instructions were really very straightforward, and I think this pattern is really more of an intermediate one. The only issues I had was making sure I had the bodice placed right when I was sewing the side seams and straps, I got in a right pickle a couple of times.
And the verdict?
I love the style, and I think its a great fit... when I'm standing up. When I sit down, the bodice can feel a bit tight around the upper chest, and the gap at the waist can gape and show my bra. So it needs a fair bit of rearranging. I could wear a best top underneath, but I think that might ruin the point of the garment a bit.
 I would certainly use the pattern again though, and recommend it to others. I'm not sure how many jumpsuits one needs in a closet, but I think the pattern trousers would be a good block to use for a more standard bodice one too, and I've even seen some awesome dress versions online.

Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Operation Wedding Dress - Stage 2

After a month or so of constant Pinteresting... Step two of Operation Wedding dress was to decide on the design and pattern of my dress by going dress shopping.
I've known for a couple of years that i'd like a short 50's style wedding dress. I love the fitted waist but big skirt style of the era, and I know its something that suits me. I was also fairly adamant I didn't want a strapless dress and thought that i'd go for a boatneck style, or something with sleeves. But everyone of my friends who is getting married said 'you never end up with what you thought you wanted' ...and I was surprised by some of the things I discovered!
The main aims for wedding dress shopping were...
To check a shorter dress would work on my figure
To convince my mum that it should be a short dress
To take a sneaky peak at how some of the dresses are constructed...i.e lace overlays etc.

And here's a few picks of me pulling funny faces in some of the dresses at the last shop...(none of these were my favourite...)

I chose 3 wedding dress shops, one independent British designer specializing in 50s and 60s gowns, one standard bridal shop, and another (cheaper) shop with only short dresses. Whilst I didn't get the 'suck-in-breath' 'WOW' reactions you often see on 'Say Yes to the Dress', by far the best reaction to a dress from me and my Mum and sister was one of the first I tried on in the independent designer, Candy Anthony. Any doubts I had about a short dress were well and truly blown away, and the surprise winner of the day?.... polka dots.
Their service was amazing, it was the only place I was actually given (honest) advice on what they thought suited me and their dresses are SO PRETTY. If I change my mind tomorrow about making my dress I wouldn't hesitate to get my favourite dress there (not to mention the fact it'd be made in the UK rather than a Chinese factory...)
I did try on a series of longer dresses at the next shop, but whilst they were beautiful and some even suited me just fine, they didn't feel very me. I know it's the biggest day of your life and the one day most people want to be dressed as they never have before; but I felt strongly that I wanted something I could dance in. And that wasn't too far removed from the sort of dress I usually wear. A huge dress you have to lift up to walk and a train several feet behind you, just isn't my bag. Besides given I'd like to get some photos taken in a field, and it's me, the chances of a dress being covered in cow pat and cake by end of the day seemed much higher if there was much more of it.
But don't worry, that's not to say there won't be plenty of pouffe in my dress. I discovered I liked a full skirt with a big petticoat underneath, the bigger the better. I also found that whilst I liked boatneck style dresses, it didn't feel 'weddingy' enough to have a dress that was mostly a white version of what is in my wardrobe. So the winner was a strapless silk tea-length dress with a full petticoat underneath, with an overlaid dress that had scallop edge polka dot on the bodice with cap sleeves and plain tulle for the circle skirt. The plan is to try and recreate that!
Originally when I thought i'd make a boatneck style, I was planning on using Vogue 8729 and shortening it. However now I've decided the base dress will be strapless, I intend to use Simplicity 4070, perhaps switching the skirt for a circle one. The overlay dress will be a circle skirt, and the bodice I think I'll attempt to draft myself.

I've looked at buying a petticoat, but they tend to cost so much that I think if there's time i'll make my own. There's a few great tutorials out there... this one in particular, and I'm going to make a practice one in a few weeks to go under my Betty dress for a wedding.

So stay tuned for the next wedding dress post... which will finally have some actual sewing in it!

Emily Kate.