Playing with my stretch block

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been in need of instant gratification recently so I have been playing with my stretch block.  Having a stretch block is wonderful, I can use it for an infinite number of designs, all of which only take a couple of hours to make.  My stretch block came from some pattern making classes I took at Raystitch with the lovely Alice.  I can’t recommend these classes enough as Alice is a great teacher who makes it all look very easy and gives you lots of inspiration and encouragement (also plies you with wine and cake which makes the sewing much easier).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a simple dress which is smart enough for work but fun enough for play.  Stretch dresses are an absolute godsend to those of us who cycle to work as they fold up next to nothing in a pannier and come out looking fresh and new.

There is nothing complicated about this dress, the front and back are straight from my block, which has darts, to give it a great fit.  The collar I stole from the Renfrew pattern, I love large collars and this one is fabulous, the only quibble I have is that because the inner and outer collar are made from the same pattern piece the seam around the outer edge of the collar falls to the outside.  If I were to make it again I’d make the under collar slightly smaller to ensure the seam is kept nicely hidden away.

The fabric is called Les Branches and came from Dragonfly.  I had one of those late night buying sessions which lead the next morning to a lot of guilt, and worry that I might have ordered something not very nice.  Fortunately both pieces of fabric (I also ordered some Campan jersey) turned out to be lovely.

I only ordered 1.5m and I was pleased that I managed to get all the pieces cut with next to no spare fabric (really I was struggling to find a scrap big enough to run some test stitches over).

I was so keen to get it made I just ran it through the overlocker without basting it first and as a result it is slightly better fitted than I had meant it to be.  Naughty Jane! Always baste first so you can check the fit.  Fortunately stretch fabrics are very forgiving.

The hems were finished by running them through the overlocker, then turning them up once and sewing around with a twin needle.

Probably two hours from start to finish – that’s pretty instant in my book – taking the train into town, browsing the shops and doing lots of trying on would have taken longer.

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Experimenting with the Spiral Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a muslin made with my spiral dress pattern – I knocked it up to check the fit works with a woven as well as a jersey fabric.  The answer is yes! although I probably need to make the neckline and armholes slightly deeper.  On this picture you can clearly see the long, single seam line the starts in the top left armhole runs around my body and comes back to the front at about knee level. Marianna, Ruth you are right to compare this to a toilet roll!

Whilst trawling through the internet I found this Rick Owens dress which I suspect is made in a very similar way.

I feel a party dress coming on, know where can I find a nice piece of silk?

Lola Dress

ImageThis is the Lola Dress from Victory Patterns. I made it a few weeks ago with some grey sweatshirting from Cloth House in Berwick Street. I’m not actually completely enamoured of it, the style is a bit odd, the upper bodice wants to be a fitted dress but below it has these enormous pockets that give it a very casual look.  What I wanted was a very casual sweatshirt type dress and I am not sure this is actually it.  Having said that I have worn it a lot, mainly to do housework, gardening and general slouching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do quite like the pockets, particularly from the back, but Hugo says they make me look like a bag lady.  I think this was the look I was trying (and failing) to get

I also feel the length is a bit strange, it could do with being a tunic rather than a dress.

Have you tried this pattern? Where you happy with the results?

Spiral Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn instant dress this week made using my stretch block!

I was reading my blogs the other day and came across Alice & Co in the South Pacific. Warning clicking this link will make you green with envy!  About half way down the post there is a picture of Alice in a spiral dress which immediately got me thinking about how I could make such a thing.  Fortunately Alice is a friend and very kindly gave me the secrets of how to cut the pattern.  It’s actually made from one piece of fabric which is cut on the straight grain but, cleverly, once you sew the one long seam that runs around your body, you end up with a dress that sits on the bias.

As the technique is Alice’s I won’t divulge how you make the pattern here but it really is extremely clever and hopefully you will agree that it makes a very flattering dress.  The pattern took me quite a while to draw up, mainly because it’s on such a big piece of paper and I didn’t have a table big enough to fit it all on.  Also I was trying to be as accurate as possible with my lines and angles so I could get the stripes to spiral around and meet up in the right place.

There is no room for adjustment once you have cut the fabric out  so I made this one out of some extremely cheap jersey I bought from Tia Knight.  Cutting the dress out was very trying!  The viscose jersey moved at the slightest opportunity and all the edges curled like mad.  I also discovered that the stripes were not at right angles to the selvedge – I think jersey is often made in a tube and then cut open, I suspect that the cutter didn’t take the care they should have to ensure that it was straight.  It probably took me three hours to cut the whole thing out.

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Yes there is a seam there!

The pattern piece is a bit less than 3m long and about 70cm wide. In theory a 3m length of jersey which is 150cm wide should give you enough for two dresses – if you wanted to have two dresses and if your fabric was cut so the grain was straight.

Having spent so long cutting the fabric out, I then took about half an hour to hand baste the long seam so I could be certain that all the stripes matched up. I am pleased that taking the effort to do this paid off – even I can’t see the seam in the picture above but it is there!

It took me less than 10 minutes to run through the overlocker and hey presto I had a dress! Just goes to show  that taking the time to do things properly at an early stage really pays off.