Saturday, April 9, 2016

StyleArc Rosie and a Vintage Vogue Skirt

I'm back! It has not been a great month between posts... 

A couple of days after my last post my mother-in-law became suddenly very ill, to the point where she needed to miss one of her beloved early morning rowing sessions.  She still felt able to pick my son up after school, and to dash off to meet friends and see an opera concert, but in between those activities she lay on my couch (a shocking  first) and declined a cup of tea (unheard of!). Within the next couple of days she was in so much pain that she took a taxi to hospital where she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian / peritoneal cancer, and promptly had several rounds of chemotherapy scheduled to try to halt the cancer's progress.  Mr UpSewLate and his brothers alternated in staying with her day and night, at home and at hospital, but she was so weak from the "stomach bug" (her GP's diagnosis) she'd been enduring all through February that she didn't survive the first round. She was very brave and stoic, but it was a terrible shock - she was so active and bright, sociable and community-minded that we'd thought she'd live to be a hundred! She died peacefully with her three sons by her side, listening to some of her favourite music. We held the funeral and wake on her birthday last week, and the night before last we attended a beautiful farewell ceremony at her rowing club, with shared stories and message boats on the water. It's been an incredibly emotional month - there's a big gap in our lives now.  

So now you know... 

BUT I'm sure you're not here to read about my life, so let's move on to the much easier subject alluded to in this post's heading:  sewing, and two completed garments.

This post has been sitting in my "draft" folder all month, ready to publish. Here it is, as drafted back at the very start of March - and apologies in advance for the abrupt change in tone, but it was written before the month turned awful:

StyleArc Rosie and a Vintage Vogue Skirt

I have two Autumn garments for today's show and tell (blogging can feel like that, can't it!): a sleeveless StyleArc Rosie top and a vintage Vogue flared skirt in stretch cotton sateen. 


Yes, that's right, it's Autumn in Sydney, and yet on the day I took these photos the temperature was probably still hotter than peak of summer weather in many places. HOT and MUGGY! The hot weather (about 35 days in a row!) seems to have finally broken, but we'll have to wait and see...

Maybe the European-style 4 seasons don't really fit with our weather patterns though? The D'harawal country calendar looks a better fit to Sydney's weather, and it classes January to March as the hot and dry season.

I've had my eye on the StyleArc Rosie top for a long time - the pattern came out years ago - but Kristin's fitting woes with this pattern put me off.  Then I finally twigged that since we're very different shapes, the patterns that challenged us in fit would be very different too.  And it turns out that for me at least, the pattern is a winner.

In all these photos you'll see that the fit isn't perfect, but please bear in mind that I used very unforgiving fabrics for this version, which is really only a test garment.

The centre front panel is a cotton twill left over from my Blinder peplum top of a few years ago, and the rest of the fabric is a cheap cotton that I must have bought a long time ago, as it's not really suitable for clothes being stiff, rough to the touch and very crease-prone. 

I think at least some of the creases will disappear in a better fabric, and I'm hopeful that by adjusting the shoulder line and adding a little bust width in the princess seam I'll get rid of the creasing and pooling at the front underarms.

Here are the line drawings and tech drawings for the pattern - it's hard to see the design lines in my white fabric: 

The Rosie top goes together very, very quickly; it's just a matter of a couple of seams and a folded pleat in the back. with no darts or edge binding.  The pattern does suggest an opening in the centre back seam but I found I didn't need one - the top *just* fits on with a little contortion, and pulls over my larger than normal head easily.  I particularly like the shape of the neckline facing, which is quite deep in the back, the shaped front "skirt", and the panelling that would make this pattern great for mixing fabrics. I'm not so keen on the finish on the armhole - just turn and stitch - so I'll probably cut myself a deeper hem allowance here next time I make the top. 

I sewed the Rosie top in a straight size 10, as the size 10 looked to be a very good match to my current measurements (36", 30", 39") in StyleArc's size chart, and the overall fit seems good. StyleArc doesn't add much ease though, so if you wanted a looser top I'd recommend going up a size or two.

I'm looking forward to making this top again in better fabric - I've got some lovely pieces of silk organza that I think would look great mixed up with other fabrics, but I need to work out exactly which other fabrics :).  

And now for the skirt. The skirt comes from an 80s Vogue pattern, Vogue 1387, that I thought I'd used before - so many similar skirt patterns in my stash! - but which is actually a new one for me.  

The skirt is described as being a "bias, flared skirt, below mid-calf... waistband and side zipper" - in other words, your basic bias cut skirt.  It comes with a very loose, big shoulder jacket (zero appeal to me) and a loose short sleeved top that looks a bit like the Maria Denmark kimono tee in shape - though presumeably lots looser. 

I sewed this in a straight size 14, and left off my usual skirt lengthening as I had only just enough fabric to fit the original skirt length. Because I didn't add any width at the waist I have to wear this skirt at my natural waist rather than half way to my hips :(, and of course that also takes away some potential length. Those two facts mean my skirt isn't below calf length, but that's OK - I do prefer a longer skirt but some variety in the wardrobe is probably a good thing.   

Actually there wasn't quite enough fabric even for the original length - I had to cut the back skirt piece with a narrow triangle of fabric missing at the base of one of the side seams and then insert a similar triangle (matched on colours and grainline) to fill the gap.  Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the patch - I didn't get the chance to take many photos before a neighbour came out to see what I was doing, which of course meant the end of photo taking :(.   

Fitting this sort of skirt shouldn't be tricky, but I think I need to adjust the hip curve if I make this again - I've got some pooling at hip level on the side seams, as you can see in the next photo.  You can also see my cute blue buttons and a super-invisible zip, made more invisible by my camera's inability to cope with the whiteness of the white areas of fabric.

And here's the back view - not very exciting, and no, you can't see the patch:

I'm very happy to have another skirt in my wardrobe, even if it is currently on the tight side of fitting.

Happy sewing, and I wish you and your loved ones good health 

- Gabrielle x

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

StyleArc Edith Top

Sometimes it's about the destination rather than the journey, isn't it. 

Finished on Saturday, photographed on Sunday (a big thank you to my son!), worn on Monday...

I can't say I enjoyed sewing this little Edith top, but now the sewing's done I'm blanking out the irritating memories and introducing it to the rest of my wardrobe.

I wore this top to work on Monday, with black cigarette pants and a skinny shibori scarf, and getting changed after work I was frankly surprised at how well it also went with my crumpled old khaki shorts. I rather like it with jeans, and I reckon it's going to work with knee length straight or pencil skirts too.  Smart OR casual, breezy AND good with a jacket - yes, this is definitely going to be a wardrobe staple.

So the destination is a happy one - Edith has found a warm and loving home - but let me tell you about the journey and its irritations.

- - - - - - - -

First up, this is a StyleArc pattern, bought as a pdf through StyleArc's Etsy shop* at the same time as I bought the Ethel pants pattern.  I don't particularly enjoy sticky taping bits of paper together, but I'm not confident my size in StyleArc patterns is a constant, so it feels safer to get the 3 different sizes in one download than to pick a single size (and then wait for it to arrive in the mail from StyleArc in Melbourne).  I can see that StyleArc sells multi-sized printed patterns through Amazon, which looks like a great option, but I don't think they ship back to Australia (anyway, doing so would make me feel environmentally reckless).
* : that is not an affiliate link.  I can't be bothered with affiliate links so there are none on this blog.

StyleArc pdfs are pretty good as these things go - they're obviously professionally put together. On top of the usual technical drawings and instructions, this pattern included a test square, top tips for downloadable patterns, and a layout guide that showed how the pages should be stuck together.  The pattern pieces themselves were clean-looking with lots of details marked on them: seam allowances (which vary according to the seam), printed size, pattern piece name, direction of grainline and notches were all marked clearly. 

So far so good, and the next few steps were fine too.

StyleArc don't add extra ease to their patterns, so although I'm between a size 8 and a size 10 in their size guide, I decided to go with the size 10 to avoid making something that might potentially feel too snug (ha! done that before).

My fabric is a linen, as I'm sure you can see, and I think the top looks great in this fabric, but linen is not one of the recommended fabrics.  StyleArc suggests crepe, rayon, silk or voile, and while I imagine they'd be lovely to wear I think the details in this top could be very tricky to sew neatly in a drapey fabric.

Speaking of fabric, I bought this lovely lightweight linen from The Fabric Store in Surry Hills, Sydney in one of their sales last year.  I wasn't planning on buying it, but then someone else brought the bolt to the counter and I realised I loved the colour (still do!), so I added enough for a little top to my purchases.

Onto the sewing. 

The first problem here was me. My eyes are getting old (well, I am too), and don't enjoy reading small print with minimal white space between the lines, so reading the instructions was not fun.

And everyone knows StyleArc's instructions are sparse, so no surprises there. Initially the sparseness  isn't a problem - interface a couple of key pieces, sew and press the bust darts, sew the pocket flaps (taking note that the small type says "pocket" and not "placket", because that would be confusing,,,), and finish off the pockets with top stitching as neat as you can manage.

Next up, assume the brace position. 

The next step is the one that made me put aside sewing this top for about a month.

Maybe oxygen would have helped me focus on the instructions, but the diagrams for the partial placket just confused me - I'm used to the shaded areas of the tech drawings in pattern instructions representing the right side of the fabric, but for StyleArc the shaded areas mean the wrong side. Ha!
Too confusing for late nights, and so I fell down the nightmarish rabbit hole of dodgy internet tutorials.

If you get stuck on the partial placket, can I strongly suggest you stay away from your computer at this point? The best thing to do - if you want to avoid learning how to sew a crooked faux partial placket on top of a child's t-shirt - is to furrow your brow, stick your fingers in your ears, take a deep gulp of air, and re-read, re-read, and re-read StyleArc's instructions and diagram as slowly as you can.

Eventually the placket instructions made sense and my own partial placket took shape. I don't think it's a good example of a placket, and I think the placket design and instructions could have been better - the way this placket is designed gives you a lot of bulk at the bottom of the placket where the left and right sides are both folded under, and I'm thinking perhaps it could have been drafted as a single strip with a double rather than quadruple layer of fabric at the bottom.

Oh and if you get the bright idea of slightly staggering the heights of the two placket pieces to avoid getting a big lump of fabric at the end of the placket, be aware that this will affect your neckline. Mine is now also staggered :).

It still works!

One thing I DO like about the placket is that it needs no buttons or buttonholes. At this point in the sewing, my brain thought "Thank #%^&!!" (yes, that is a direct quote) and I knocked out those horizontals across the placket very quickly, not even bothering to check the spacing or straightness.

And back to the collar; I should mention that it's drafted as two curved pieces with narrow seam allowances - absolutely do-able in linen with a hot iron and lots of care, but probably a real challenge in something drapey.  Sue Parrott made this top in a viscose challis last year, and she replaced the drafted collar pieces with a single wider strip of fabric cut on the bias and folded in half lengthwise - it looks good and sounds much more do-able than using two narrower, curved pieces of drapey fabric.

The second last step in sewing this top is attaching the hip bands, the under layer that sticks out below the top with what looks like a split at the sides.

I love the look of this detail - very RTW, I think - but the instructions are not especially clear here either   I overlocked the upper edges of the "hip bands" and the lower edge of the top. pressed a deep hem to the top (measured every couple of centimetres to keep it the same depth all round), then pinned the hem bands to the inside of the top.  I then measured the depth of the hip band all the way around the top to make sure it was consistent, especially near the side splits, and THEN stitched the layers together in the round with a little overlap between the front and back hip bands on the inside seams.

Once the hip bands are done you're nearly there - all you have left to do are the sleeves or armhole bindings.

StyleArc refers you to a double bind tutorial on their website to sew the binding to the armhole, and suggests you make a circle of the binding and attach it to the cicrle of the armhole. If your , but if your fabric is likely to have stretched out at all you can sew the binding in the flat and overlap the ends, or (if you planned ahead) you can sew the binding to the armholes before you sew the side seams of the top. Mine is sewed on with overlapped ends.

And that's it!

The Edith top pattern gave me a few headaches along the way, but in the end I have a top that I'm going to wear heaps. I do recommend the pattern because it makes for a lovely top, but it's definitely a pattern to take on when your head is clear and the lighting is good! 

Happy sewing

- Gabrielle xx
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