Friday, 20 January 2017

Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book Corduroy Dress

For my first sewing project of the new year, I decided to finally make something from Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. The book's been sitting waiting on my shelves pretty much since it was released (I was never going to resist a book full of pretty dresses for long!), so I'm not quite sure how it took me so long to get around to making one of the projects, but thankfully I got there in the end.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the book, it features 23 different dress projects with the added bonus that all the bodices, skirts etc. are interchangeable so you can mix and match to suit your taste. My dress is heavily based on the Cherry Corduroy Dress from the book, which uses the princess seam bodice, basic 3/4 sleeve and all-around pleated skirt, but for my version I switched that skirt for the side-pleated skirt. The dress in the book also has a grosgrain ribbon and bow sewn around the waistline, which I omitted. It's the kind of detail that I love on paper and on other people, but always feel slightly self-conscious about wearing myself for some reason.

The process of sewing this dress had a bit of a frustrating start. I made a toile of the bodice based on my measurements and the size chart, but it turned out so small that I couldn't even do it up - in no small part because the sleeves were so constricting that I couldn't reach the zip properly. I went up a size and made another toile, which technically just about fit but only if I didn't really want to move. Not very practical! So I went up another size and finally had a nicely fitting bodice. I've since looked online and I'm definitely not the only one who's had this problem, but I've also seen people saying they got a really good fit with no adjustments - maybe it depends on what size you are or something? Anyway, I'd definitely make a toile if you're sewing a dress from this book.

Once I had my overall size sorted, I made a couple of length adjustments. I added a 1.5 inches to the bodice, which is fairly standard for me, and I also added an inch to the sleeve. Unsurprisingly, I didn't bother hemming the sleeve on my toile and without a hem it was just the length I wanted the sleeve to be, so I added extra for a hem.

I had the opposite problem with the skirt - it came out really long! I chopped 2 inches off the bottom and then also did a 2 inch hem, and it now sits at knee length. Considering that I'm somewhere around 5 ft 8", that's not normal for me - I think the only time when I've had to shorten a skirt before was when I was using a vintage pattern.

Having sorted out the sizing, actually sewing the dress was nice and simple. The instructions accompanying each individual project are fairly brief, with references back to the basic sewing instructions sections at the start of the book for further details. I'm fairly familiar with sewing dresses by now, so the only detailed instructions I looked at were the ones for the lapped zip just as a refresher (it's been ages since I sewed one!).

The instructions both for the individual dress and the general sewing guidelines were clear and easy to understand as far as I could see, although I did notice a couple of typos. Generally nothing too serious, but worth keeping an eye out for (e.g. at one point 1/2" was converted into metric as 6mm, which could cause problems if you were using just the metric measurements).

The fabric I used is a lovely needlecord from My Fabrics. I love the turquoise colour - perfect for brightening up grey January days. And who doesn't love a spotty dress (there are spots there I promise, they're just so small they're difficult to see in these photos).

I'm glad I persevered with getting the bodice to fit because I'm really pleased with how my dress turned out. And the bonus of the book format is that now I've got the bodice right, I can combine it with all the different sleeves and skirts to make a whole range of dresses. Do you have Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book too? Have you made anything from it yet?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater #1

In between Christmas and New Year I took advantage of a break in all the celebrations and family fun to return to my sewing machine and stitch up the Sew House Seven Toaster sweater. I'd had the pattern and fabric sitting patiently waiting for me for the whole of December while I was creating all my Christmas presents, so I was glad to finally have some time to sew for me.

 The Toaster sweaters are two fairly different high neck tops that are perfect for keeping warm at this time of year. I made #1, which is closer fitting and has "raglan sleeves, a wide waistband, a loose turtleneck, long cuffs and falls between the high and low hip". 

Sweater #2 is much looser fitting and, while I've seen some lovely versions online, I know it's just not my personal style. I think because the styles are quite different it's a really good idea that the option is available to buy the PDF patterns individually, because I imagine there are quite a few people like me who know they wouldn't make one of the two sweaters.

I didn't make any fit changes to the pattern apart from making a size M, whereas I should be a L according to the size chart. Based on the finished garment measurements, I thought the smaller size would give me a fit closer to what I was looking for. 

I didn't have any suitable fabric to make a toile to check, but I did compare the pattern pieces to my traced pieces for the Seamwork Astoria. That showed me that the sweater definitely shouldn't end up being too small, so I went ahead and cut out the size M. Happily my slight gamble worked, and I'm pleased with the fit.

The fabric I used is some lovely brushed French terry from Dragonfly Fabrics. It's a really great quality, and gorgeous to wear. It's not super warm, but it was warm enough that I didn't get cold when taking these photos even though I've only got a short-sleeved cotton dress on underneath. 

A slight word of warning if you're considering this fabric - the brushed inside shed quite a lot after prewashing. I don't think it's had a negative effect on the fabric itself (it steel feels nicely snuggly), but I did have to spend quite a while hoovering little bits of pink fleece up from round my sewing table after I'd finished making it, and the bodice of my dress had a pink haze all over it when I took the sweater off at the end of the day. I think (hope!) it's one of those fabrics that will just shed after the first wash and then will be fine afterwards - we'll have to see! As it stands, it wouldn't put me off buying one of the other colours (I'm very tempted!), I'd just be expecting all the shedding next time.

The pattern is fairly quick to make - I think the actual sewing only took me a couple of hours. The instructions were all clear and easy to follow. I omitted the suggested topstitching, partly because it wasn't the look I wanted this time but also in no small part because I was impatient and wanted to get finished!

I was also glad that the long cuffs and wide waistband mean there's no need for hemming. This is always welcome news to me, because hems are the one area where my machine can occasionally cause problems when it comes to sewing knits.

I'm really pleased with how my Toaster sweater turned out, and I'd definitely make the pattern again. It's a good shape for wearing with all my full skirted dresses, and is a comfy but presentable way to keep warm. What more could you want for these chilly January days?!