A Shirt Dress

The dress of the summer has been one I bought from Whistles on a cold grey day in April. It’s been worn with tights and a vest for cold days, leggings for slightly chilly days and just as it is on really hot days. It’s been to the office, up mountains, to dinner and everywhere inbetween.

This is a picture of us at Montserrat just outside Barcelona in 32 degree heat.

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The only problem with the dress has been that it was not made out of very good quality fabric – a viscose, polyamide mix according to the label. It’s very light and floaty but a bit itchy and has developed a shine in a couple of places.

There is only one answer to this and that is to copy it! Copying most of it was fairly straight forward but the front has big pockets sewn into the dart line, a placket and a deep pleat which made it a bit difficult to trace.

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Muslin number 1 had some strange pulls across the front. But muslin number 2 was almost perfect.  The linen came from Ditto fabrics. It looks white in the pictures but is actually silver. When it arrived it was very silver and Gill warned me that some would come off.   She was quite right and now it has a lovely slightly battered look that linen should have, rather than the full on bling it arrived as.

img_1977Of course now it is turning into Autumn I can’t see that I will wear this much before next year so I am busy making a second out of black pinstripe wool.

Have you ever copied a dress you love? Did it work out?

 

 

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Spiralising – Making up the Dress

If you followed my previous post you now have a pattern which looks like a long rhomboid with necklines and armholes at one end.  The long spiral seam is shown on the diagram below in red/mustard.  This is cut on the grain so there is no problem with it stretching as you cut the fabric.

 Drapey fabrics work best.  I have made spiral dresses out of viscose jersey, silk crepe de chine and polyester triple crepe. All worked well.  You will probably want to wear a slip underneath as lumps and bumps do tend to show up.  Stripy fabrics are lovely as the stripe will curve around your body, also if you have crosswise stripes on your fabric it is very easy to match up the seam line.  The stripes on my silk dress ran down the fabric so parallel to the seam, on my jersey dress they ran across the seam.

You will need a lot of fabric, I used 2.5m but it will depend on how long you have made your pattern.  You only use quite a narrow piece so, if you’re using wide fabric, you will probably find you have enough left over for another dress. Handy if you have an accident with your over-locker (don’t ask!).  I made a pair of sleeves and a pencil skirt with my left over red crepe and still had quite a bit of unused fabric at the end.

When you put the pattern on the fabric don’t forget that you have not included any seam allowances along your spiral  seam. You could add these to the pattern but I found it relatively simple to  just cut my dress 1.5 cm wider on both sides.

To make up, sew along the spiral seam matching the notches you included when you made up the pattern, then press and finish.  I used a french seam on the silk dress , overlocked the seam on jersey and an ordinary seam on the triple crepe – in other words it doesn’t really matter which sort of seam you use. After that sew the rest of the dress as you would any other i.e. sew the shoulders, finish the neck line, add sleeves if you are using them.

Bias fabric tends to stretch so I recommend you hang the dress in the wardrobe for a few days before you hem it.

I’d love to see any dresses you make using these instructions!

Spiralising – the Pattern

I’ve been promising you the instructions for making a spiral dress and here they are!  I was given these by my lovely friend Alice Prieur who teaches pattern cutting at Raystitch, she has give me persmission to write a post about the technique.

You can make Spiral Dresses out of any fabric – both jersey and woven – it just needs a bit of drape.  If you use a stripy fabric you will find the stripes spiral around your body but plain fabrics look good too.  You can add sleeves or leave without.

What you will need;

– A pattern with a neckline, armholes and shoulders that fits well and looks good on you.  The neckline needs to be large enough to fit over your head without any fastenings.  You could draft this or use your block if you have one.  If you are making a dress with sleeves you will need those too. Don’t worry about bust shaping you won’t be needing that.

– A very large piece of paper.  This needs to be slightly wider (2-3cm) than your hips and a bit longer than your finished dress after allowing for hems and seam allowances.  Spot and cross paper is ideal as it will help you get your grainlines and angles straight, but any paper will do

– A long ruler and something to measure a 45 degree angle. I have a pattern master but it’s  not essential to use one providing you are confident about drawing the pattern accurately

– A big space to work on!

– Your hip measurement, this is the only measurement you need but it’s vital you get this right as there is no room for fitting once the dress is cut out.

Step 1 – draw two parallel lines the exact width of your hips apart. Then add a third line in the centre which is half way between the two.

Step 2 – copy your neckline and shoulders in, front on the left, back on the other.  You might need to add or remove a little from the arm holes at this stage so they fit between the lines.  The bottom of the armholes should meet in the middle.  Don’t forget to add in your notches

Draw a line across the bottom of the pattern where you want your dress to end adding a bit for a hem line.  You may find you need to adjust this when you sew up the dress.

  Step 3 – Draw a line at exactly 45 degrees from your front armhole across the pattern and down to the far side.  I started my line at the front sleeve notch on the armhole, but it doesn’t really matter where you start.  This will become your seam line so I suggest you sprinkle a few notches along it to help accurately sew it.

 Step 4 – cut along the diagonal line so you get what looks like two triangles with necklines and armholes at one end .  Then simply move the piece across to the right and paste the two long edges together to make a rhomboid.
If your diagonal does not meet exactly in the bottom right hand corner (which is
fairly normal) you might want to take a little of the bottom left and move it to the bottom right so the corners match up.

 

 

And that’s it, you now have your pattern! I will write a separate post about how to sew up.

 

Late addition to this post.  Hopefully you will have spotted that I haven’t added any seam allowances.  You can add them now or, do as I do, and add them in when you are cutting out the fabric

 

 

Spiral Party Dress

 

 Thank you all for your comments on my post about the red Spiral dress.  I am writing up the instructions for the pattern but in the mean time I have another spiral dress to show you.

 This was one of those projects that started well and then sat in the wardrobe “maturing” for a couple of years whilst I decided what to do about it.  FoIMG_1774rtunately my lovely friend Alice’s birthday party gave me the motivation and impetus to get it finished.

I used crepe de chine from Beckford Silk – silk is lovely to work with and this fabric is one of the best. As always spiral dresses take a lot of space to cut out. I had stiff knees when I’d finished as the only space big enough was my bed room floor.

I pinned the spiral seam wrong sides together, ran it through the overlocker, pressed it right sides together and sewed the seam to make a very neat and easy French seam.  Using the overlocker gives an even edge and ensures you don’t have any mishaps with the seam allowances.  I was worried that with such a long seam it would be easy to find I’d made a mistake and I didn’t fancy unpicking the silk.

After that it sat in the wardrobe, and then sat in the wardrobe some more.  The problem was that I could see it had potential but I wasn’t quite sure how to finish it.  I wanted to add sleeves but didn’t want to used the striped fabric.

IMG_1770Eventually inspiration struck and two days before the party I took out my stretch sleeve block and cut a pair of sleeves from some viscose jersey.  I then added a facing at the neckline and a couple of hours before the party a rolled hem.

I’ve avoided the trend for maxi dresses up to now as they tend to make me look a bit dumpy, but I am pleased with this one.  The bias cut is flattering and very comfortable to wear.

 

Spiralising


I’m told spiralised vegetables are all the rage.  I’ve gone one further and spiralised my dress.

The pattern started off as the ultimate shift dress, turning it into a spiral dress was very simple and didn’t take long. The biggest challenge was finding a big enough piece of paper and the space to cut it out. Sewing it up was very simple, no darts and no fastenings needed, just one very long seam which spirals around your body.  The clever bit is that the seam is actually cut on the straight and it’s only when you sew it together that you get the bias effect. I will give instructions in a future post, I warn you though spiral dresses are very addictive, once you’ve made one you won’t be able to stop!

This dress was made out of triple crepe. I’ve made a few dresses out of this recently, feeling very brave as I overcome my fear of man-made fabrics.  I think it’s something to do with my age, polyester in the ’80s was definitely something to avoid.  These days I find it useful to have dresses that pack down into my cycling bag and come out looking smart when I get to work.  I’m also pleased not to spend all my pocket money on dry cleaning.  I have lined the dress as the bias tends to cling, but a slip would have done the trick too. After making up the dress I let it hang in my wardrobe for a couple of weeks before I hemmed it and I found it interesting that the crepe stretched about 10cm whereas the lining didn’t stretch at all.  I’d read that this happens to bias cut fabric but hadn’t expected the effect to be so dramatic.

I feel slightly strange wearing this dress as I made it mid calf length, most of my dresses and skirts are knee length. The longer length takes some getting used to, and it definitely needs heels to set it off.

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Woven leggings

 

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Woven jacquard leggings and Cos wool dress

This is a story about some trousers I made, using a pattern I traced, from some trousers I bought, after reading a blog post. I then decided they were too wintery for spring weather and didn’t wear them.  This weekend we are in Stockholm for a pre-Christmas break and so their time has come!

About a year ago That’s Not My Age wrote a blog post about leggings and mentioned Winser London.  When I looked at their Website I found that in addition to the ordinary leggings they did something called a Woven legging. Clearly I had to have a pair!  Actually they were so fabulous I had to have two! They are made out of a fabric that looks like twill but has a lot of stretch (strangely all lengthwise none widthwise). They are high waisted and very flattering, also just as comfortable as leggings should be. Somewhere between a trouser and and a legging but definitely not a jegging!

At about the same time I noticed Dragonfly Fabrics were offering this Stretch jacquard fabric which I thought would look great in a pair of trousers.  The odd thing about this fabric is that the stretch is all  along the selvedge not across the grain, perfect for a pair of rubbed off woven leggings.


I’m not sure I got the pattern exactly right, the originals have darts at the back set at an unusual angle and this coupled with the elasticated waistband made it a bit difficult to see exactly how much fabric I needed at the waist.   After a bit of guess work and playing around with the darts I don’t think I have made too bad a fist of it.

These are every bit as comfortable as the originals. I love the subtle pattern of the jacquard (and are you impressed with the pattern matching?) which gives them just the right amount of glamour.


Do you wear leggings? Have you ever rubbed off a garment from something you love?

Pattern Puzzle Continued

Thank you Studio Faro for the comments you made on my last post regarding the curved seam draped dress.  Spurred on by your encouragement I have made another toile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA First of all though I should show you the back of the dress.  This is made with my usual block which gives a good fit.  The fabric I used is a very lightweight cotton (from Ikea), much lighter than the usual calico.  I haven’t made the alteration to the central seam as yet.  Also I haven’t added the back vent. This photo was taken with toile 2 (from my previous post)

I started again with the front of the dress and redrafted the curve to end higher on my hip. I also dropped my arm hole by 1.5cm but didn’t add the cap sleeves.  I am never sure that cap sleeves suit me and I will probably wear this dress with a jumper underneath so I think a sleeveless style will be more flattering.

Toile 3

Toile 3

You will see that the dress itself it much more flattering, I have managed to get rid of the excess at the waist and the pleats are more evenly spread. The armholes still need some work though!  The front here is attached to original back with the cap sleeves so it will look a bit odd.  I probably need to make the curve of the armhole a bit deeper and shorten the shoulder seams.

Pattern Puzzle

Are you followers of Studio Faro’s Pattern Puzzles?  I stumbled across them on the internet a few weeks ago and have become completely obsessed. Anita is very generous is sharing her knowledge and manages to explain the most complex patterns in the simplest manner.

Curved Seam Dress from Anita McAdam© of Studio Faro.

Recently she feature this curved seam dress and I immediately decided that I needed to make one using my block.

Drafting the pattern took a couple of hours but the toile was very quick to sew up.

Toile no. 1

Toile no. 1

This was toile number 1.  I’m was quite pleased with it.  The pleats on the upper section work well and the neckline is good.  However, I did think I could do better, and in particular decided to move the pleats on the lower section as it all looks a bit long and boring in the centre

Toile no. 2

So, this is toile number 2.  The back and upper front are the same as the  original toile.  The lower section is the same except I have added a new pleat towards the top and removed the very bottom pleat. I have also sewn the pleats downwards rather than upwards, I’ll probably change the direction on the upper pleats in a finished dress too, stops them from becoming crumb catchers!

This is better but I am still not sure.  Perhaps my curved seam could do with ending up a few inches higher. I also feel it’s a bit lose around my waist – I may try just pulling it in a bit at the side seams.  I also want to rethink those capped sleeves and lower the arm holes a bit further.

I have some lovely red stretch crepe from Dragonfly Fabrics which is just crying out to be made into a flatter in dress.  What do you think, am I just being too pernickety about my toile and should recognise that calico will never be a flattering fabric?  Or do you think I should have another go and make a third toile?

 

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?