Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Colour-blocked Françoise dress

I mentioned in my last post that I'd been trying to stick to my own sewing plan instead of getting distracted by challenges and sewalongs, well here I am again failing to do that and jumping on the sewing bandwagon of a shiny new pattern! Here's my Tilly & The Buttons Françoise dress...

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't instantly convinced that Françoise would be for me when Tilly released it - I generally prefer fit and flare styles and I'm never really sure whether shift dresses particularly suit me and my pear-shaped frame. But then I saw versions start to pop up around the blogosphere and I realised that the French darts gave the dress a flattering shape around the waist that would probably work for me, and it's always good to step out of your comfort zone every now and then (and, let's face it, Tilly's contest was also quite a good incentive!) so I decided to give it a go. Spoiler alert: I'm really glad I did!

In terms of size, I used a size 5 for the bust and waist, and graded out to a 6 at the hips. I also added quite a bit of length - about 1.5 inches in the bodice section (a standard adjustment for me) and 4 inches in the skirt because I don't feel massively comfortable in mini dresses and prefer skirts to hit nearer to knee length.

There's also the obvious slight change I made of adding the colour-blocked sections at the hem and cuffs. For the skirt hem, I just decided how big I wanted the contrast section to be (4 inches plus the hem allowance in case you're wondering) and marked that onto my pattern piece, cut the main colour at this length and used the bottom section of the pattern piece to draw out the piece for the contrast hem (with seam allowances added to both the main and contrast colour sections).

For the cuffs, I drafted pieces that extended from the sleeve, cut 2 for each sleeve which I then joined together along the bottom edge to form the bottom of the cuff, before joining the cuffs on to the sleeve. I'm probably not doing a very good job of explaining that am I? It's essentially the same method that I was familiar with from making my Cami dress, which you can see in a tutorial here, but omitting the extra opening on the cuff. Hopefully that makes more sense now, if not let me know!

In terms of fabric, as one of Tilly's suggestions was double knit, I decided to use two different colours (navy and turquoise) of Romanit jersey (which I'm pretty sure is also known as ponte) from myfabrics. I think it was a good choice to make, as it's given me a dress that's super comfy and nice and cosy for this time of year, and there's the added bonus that you might have noticed in the photo above that I didn't need to put the zip in because it pulls on easily as it is - never a bad thing! And that helped to make this a pretty speedy dress to put together.

The fabric feels nice to wear and was generally OK to sew with, but it doesn't press that well so it did cause a couple of problems in some areas, mainly in the collar. I originally intended to swap the collar for a Peter Pan one (just because I love Peter Pan collars), but the fact that the fabric didn't press well meant that it just came out looking a mess. Thankfully the pointed collar from the pattern turned out much nicer!

All the layers of fabric that I ended up with around the neckline after adding the collar and facings were also quite bulky and the facing didn't want to turn in and lie flat even after understitching - I should possibly have used a thinner fabric for the facing really but I didn't have anything suitable. Steaming solved some of the problem, and after I'd done that, I secured the facing in place by stitching in the ditch down the sleeve and shoulder seams for a centimetre or two under the collar. Possibly not technically the right solution, but it worked so it's fine by me.

Overall, Françoise is a really great little dress. As you'd expect from Tilly's patterns, the instructions seem really clear and thorough (I say seem, because I mainly used the photos to see what I should be doing and just skim read the instructions), so it would be a good option for beginners but is still a fun pattern if you've got a bit more experience. I'm really pleased I chose to make it in a knit, because I feel like it looks quite smart but at the same time it's SO comfy. Being honest, it's never going to completely cure me of my love for fitted bodies and twirly skirts, but I can definitely see myself making more versions of the Françoise in the future. I'm on the lookout for a pretty patterned double knit for my next version - has anyone seen any? Although that will have to wait until after I've finished quite a few secret projects - is anyone else up to their elbows in making Christmas presents at the moment or it is just me?!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Pauline Alice Cami & the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses

While I love a sewing challenge or sewalong, I've been trying to stick to my own (admittedly very vague) sewing plan recently without getting distracted by other temptations, but when I saw that Mary from Idle Fancy was hosting the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses I knew I wanted to join in as I'd been thinking of sewing myself a shirtdress for a while. I'd been admiring Mary's various iterations of McCall's 6696, but you'll probably notice that what I have to show you today is not that pattern. You see, I'd had my eye on the Pauline Alice Cami dress for a while, and I thought I'd prefer a shirtdress that only buttons halfway, so that's what I went with.

The Cami is a lovely pattern featuring a fitted button-front bodice (which also has a side zip) with a classic shirt collar, full gathered skirt, pockets and two different sleeve options (the 3/4 cuffed sleeve that I made or short sleeves).

Cami is rated 2 out of 3 for difficulty, which I think is probably accurate. Obviously a shirtdress has certain features such as a button band and collar which make it a little more tricky than a basic dress, but the most complicated bit about sewing Cami for me was entirely self-inflicted - my fabric choice. Not that there's anything wrong with the fabric itself, quite the contrary (it's a lovely cosy brushed cotton from Calico Laine), but trying to match up the tartan/plaid/check pattern on all the various pieces that a shirtdress entails did cause me a bit of a headache, and I think it probably took me about three times longer than usual to cut this dress out because I was being so careful about what I cut where! I also found that the layers of material where shifting a bit as I sewed, so I quickly hand basted most of the seams before sewing them, which helped keep things lined up nicely.

I'm glad I took the extra time to make sure everything lined up as I think it makes a massive difference on a project like this and I'm really happy with the end result. On that note, excuse any wrinkles in the photo above - I realised I'd forgotten to take any back shots when taking the rest of the photos but I'm pretty pleased with how the back collar lines up with the back bodice so I had to take this photo when I'd already been wearing the dress for most of the day.

In terms of fit, I made a straight size 44, which is the largest size in the pattern - so not it's not the biggest size range. It fits me nicely, with just the right amount of ease in the bodice for my liking. I don't like shirts or shirtdresses to be too tight or I get paranoid about gaping between the buttons, but I have no worries about that here.

I did add quite a bit of length to the pattern - about 1.5 inches in the bodice and 3 inches in the skirt, which isn't a massive surprise because Pauline Alice patterns are designed for an average height of 5 ft 5, and I'm 3-4 inches taller than that and have to lengthen almost all bodices. As I'd added extra length in the bodice, I also needed to adjust the button placement, and actually ended up adding in an extra button as that was the spacing that seemed best for me.

I toyed with various different button ideas, and spent quite a while one Saturday afternoon sat on the floor of my local wool shop comparing how different blue, red, white and green buttons of varying sizes looked on an offcut of my material, but in the end I opted for some small, plain navy buttons from my stash - sometimes simple is best, don't you think?

I really enjoyed sewing Cami - yes, I may have regretted my fabric choice slightly when I was in the middle of all the pattern matching, but the dress itself sewed up really nicely and the instructions are thorough, clear and easy to follow - and there's a great sewalong if you need a helping hand with any of the steps (I got a bit confused about how the collar was meant to be attached, but a quick consultation of the sewalong soon cleared that up). I think the finished result looks quite professional too, which is always nice!

I'm really pleased with how this one turned out, it was definitely worth the effort I put into the pattern-matching and the dress feels lovely to wear. Plus as an added bonus, it seems that there's a lot of tartan/plaid in the shops at the moment so I may have accidentally sewn something 'fashionable' as well as it being something I like! Now that Mary's extended the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses until January, I'm quite tempted to try to sew another Cami. Will you be joining in with the challenge?