Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ruby on the Pier

On Thursday we had a heatwave, and circumstances combined to enable me to get some photos of a little gem that I'd sewn a couple of months ago in the tail end of summer...

Ruby top in striped seersucker cotton

Weather? Check, 33C (91.4F) according to my car; rather warm for Autumn.
Photographer? Check, a son who was prepared to offer his skills with a smile :).
Location? Check, a photogenic pier in Walsh Bay, where we'd be meeting my daughter and a friend.

Location, location, location! 
My photographer

So, the gem in question is a Ruby top, sewn from a lightweight striped cotton seersucker that I'm certain I bought at Tessuti fabrics but that I can no longer see in their online fabric store. 

I loved the look of the Ruby top in Tessuti's photos, but when I looked at the printed pattern pieces the armholes seemed more cutaway than I wanted. What do I know though, right? I'm not a pattern drafter, and it's hard to judge how a flat piece of paper will translate to a fabric draped on the body - so of course I needed to sew one up!

I sewed it up - and what do you know, more cutaway than on Tessuti's photos!

Ruby top, front view

Aha, but it's not what you think...

My Ruby IS more cutaway than you'll see on Tessuti's website, but that's because in my haste to sew the top I didn't read the pattern instructions. My top has no self-binding on the armholes and neckline, and this extra strip of fabric on the openings obviously makes shoulder straps wider and arm and neck openings smaller.  The final look of the top is very pleasing in terms of pattern visualisation skill development (yay!), but not so pleasing when I realise I've sewn myself a more cutaway top than I should have. In practical terms it means I didn't need the keyhole back opening - the neckline became large enough for my head - and that the top was super easy to fully line.

Ruby top, side view

Easy to line? A lined Ruby?

The stripey seersucker was very thin and summery but too see-through by itself, so I lined it with a soft white cotton voile from my stash. Without the keyhole back opening and the bias strips on the openings, a bagged lining was very easy - I sewed up shoulder and side seams on the two tops separately, then sewed them right sides together at the neckline, trimmed seams, and turned right side out and pressed. I then pinned the bottom hems together at the back, then turned the top inside out again and pinned the bottom hems, then sewed them together nearly all the way around, leaving a small gap for turning the top the right side out again.  Because I'd only left a very small opening (the fabric is very lightweight so it doesn't need a big opening), when I pressed the top again I found I didn't need to sew up the small gap - absolutely no fabric is trying to stray out of the gap.

Ruby top, front / side view

This Ruby is also quite cropped compared to most. The finished length is about 56cm (22") from the shoulder seam in my size 8 top, whereas the standard top length is 63.5cm (25") in a standard size 10. I'm really happy with this length, but I do think hip length would be great in a more drapey fabric.

Ruby top, *nearly* back view

And having just had a browse over on the Netaporter site (I really should be browsing that site before sewing, right? So many inspiring garments...) it seems that both lengths are quite fashionable, and that there are lots of interesting variations to make to a Ruby top with side splits, contrast binding, gathering, pleats...

Helmut Lang

Isabel Marant

Yup, they're all basically Ruby tops!

I'll try to post again soon, and till then I hope you're having fun with your sewing!

- Gabrielle xx

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dress to Skirt - an Easy Refashion

I have such a hard time throwing out or even handing on clothes I've made *if* I love the fabric...

This particular dress had been hanging around for a lo-o-o-o-ng time, the cheery yellow fabric still making my heart sing but the crappy fit of the dress making me feel like such a poor sewist.  Over the past two years (gah! YES, it takes me that long to get around to simple alterations!) I've had a few goes at pinning the bodice to correct the fit on myself, but I simply haven't had the skills or patience to crack it, and of course I haven't been organised enough to get a fellow sewist's help. So finally last weekend, while my sewing mojo was running hot, I took to the dress with an unpicker and turned it into a skirt.

Sorry I look so unimpressed in most of these photos - it's hard to smile for the remote! Eventually my kids joined me outside and a smile started to appear... 

So as you've gathered, I made the original dress about two years ago. I sewed it from a combination of vintage Vogue 8811 for the skirt and modern Vogue 8815 for the top - and the two patterns didn't really come together very well for me. I made so many mistakes in making the dress - dodgy pattern hacking, a complete misunderstanding of grainline, poor fit -.but the fact that those mistakes now seem utterly obvious makes me glad; I must have improved over the years! 

The alteration was really easy once I got started, and it only took an afternoon and evening to get it all done, even with lots of interruptions for the usual family stuff (snacks, meals, cleaning up, calming people down... ).  

Here are the steps:

  • Unpicked the side seams and waist seams, as well as the visible hem stitching, and removed the vintage zip (and hey, unpicking is actually quite fun when you've got a sturdy fabric to work with!).
  • Re-sewed skirt side seams with a modern cream coloured invisible zip (I love invisible zips!) and a much wider seam allowance - the waist on this was always too big on me. When I originally sewed the dress I had the fabric selvedges showing on the skirt side seams, but I think that made it look quite clunky and home made.   

  • For a waistband I scrounged around in my notions drawer and found some petersham-like ribbon that came tied around a present last year. I think this sort of a non-waistband is also supposed to be flattering if, like me, you suffer from a short waist section - and it was quicker than making a waistband!

  • And then all that was left to do was a truckload of pressing and hemming. I knew if I didn't get the job done quickly it'd hang around for another few years, so the hem is just machine sewn. This time around I used a longer stitch length - about 3.0 - and sewed from the right side, like most people do most of the time! There are still puckers in there, though there are less than first time around, and they're concentrated in one side section on the front and another side section on the back - it seems obvious that the amount of puckering relates to the angle of the curve relative to the grainline, and with a wide skirt like this I think it's hard to avoid entirely. Having said that, if you have a method for avoiding puckering on a big curved hem I'd love to hear about it! The only one I can think of that would work with a machine stitched hem is to use a hem facing cut on the identical grain... 

If you look closely on the side seams you'll see there's still some puckering there too, though again, quite a bit less than first time around. This puckering belongs to "I thought I knew better than the pattern when I cut this skirt out but I didn't know much about grainline". I didn't have enough fabric for this dress, and I thought I was being clever by fitting the skirt pieces on the fabric at different angles to the grainline than the pattern indicated. Ha!

Yes, I did manage to get a whole dress out of the fabric when I probably should only have been able to get a skirt, but at each side seam I have one piece of fabric on the straight grain and one on the bias:

This skirt is not a work of perfection, but I'm not that fussy - I wear imperfect RTW, so why wouldn't I wear imperfect homemade garments? It's good enough for me!  These photos show how I think I'll wear the skirt to work - maybe with a cropped jacket on top. And as the weather starts to cool down I hope to wear it with this pale pink Undercover top (wow - I'm finally making garments that coordinate!).   

Now if you follow me on Instagram you'll know I was complaining last weekend that my blog-jo and photo-jo were both missing (yes, I've taken a while to report them as missing, but they left a few weeks ago, perhaps made nervous by the boldness of the Graphic Alert dress). And yet I blogged last week, and here I am blogging again! I was going to just wait for them to return but they've been gone so long that maybe they aren't coming back - maybe they've found a new home? - so I decided to press on without them! If writing cures writer's block, do you think blog posting cures blogger's block?

Thanks for reading this post :)

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

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