Friday, 30 August 2013

Maria's Dress - An Update.

This post is just a bit of a brag - Maria has been kind enough to take a few extra photos.

Apparently she felt she looked so good in her new dress, she needed to get a new hair cut. She tells me all she needs is 10 more. Luckily, she also says she wants to learn to sew. ;) She's written a bit for the blog for me:

Everyone who's seen me in my dress so far has been extremely complimentary. I'm not surprised! I absolutely love it. It's super comfortable, and while I always hold my stomach in, with this I can relax and still love my shape. I know I'm not the only one who has trouble getting off the hanger clothes. It just goes to show most of us are wearing ill-fitting garments. 

If you're reading this, you must try it for yourself - I know I'm going to start learning how now. How have I managed this far with an entire wardrobe of clothes that don't fit?

Monday, 26 August 2013

T-shirt dress - fitting the sleeve.


So last time I made the t-shirt dress, the sleeve which I used which was from the original copied shirt, minus the darts, came up a bit roomy. Fine, as it turned out, but I thought it would be nice to have a more close fitting option for future dress and shirt designs. So today I went to the trouble of fitting the sleeve.

Here's what I started with:

I drew in the seam lines, hemline and notches. I divided the sleeve into 6 parts vertically, because I will be contracting it horizontally. I put in 5 lines so that the difference is distributed fairly evenly across the sleeve.

I measured the seam lines on the t-shirt dress - the tank dress with the shoulder increased by 1.5 cm. I did this on a cut out with the extra added in, because I'm making another t-shirt dress at the moment.

So I found that the front to the halfway point needed to be 17cm. On the sleeve it was 20.5cm. So I needed to remove 3.5cm on that side.

The back needed to be 19.5cm, but was 21cm. So that measurement needed to be reduced by 1.5cm.

Because most of the difference was in the front, I took a bit out of the middle for the front as well. I drew all of these differences on the pattern piece so I would know where to cut and paste. I also checked the hemline and compared it to my bicep, to make sure it wouldn't be too tight.

 So then I cut....

And reassembled by gluing the pieces back together.

If you're wondering why the glue rather than sticky tape, it's so that I can iron the pattern piece later. You could use tape, but if you're going to fold it and put it in an envelope, then pull it out later and iron the creases flat, then I think glue is worth the bother.

Anyway. This is it.
So now it's smaller as desired, but of course the edge is a bit uneven.
So to fix that I brought out the french curve and smoothed it out.

I don't always use a felt tip (texta). When I did my classes we used a sharp mechanical pencil for accuracy, and lovely white bank paper which you could see through so you could match things up exactly. I would love to use that paper again, but I haven't any, and the pencil lines just weren't showing up in the photos. So that's why the thick markers.

Anyway, with the edge smoothed out, this is the finished pattern piece. I've also drawn in the new seam line.

Measured it, and it came out pretty much spot on, so I was pleased.

I used this pattern, with the hem raised a bit in my Wokingham dress. So I can confirm that it worked. When I get some green thread, I promise to add a picture of the basic t-shirt dress with this sleeve as well.

T-Shirt Dress Variation - The Wokingham Dress

For some time now, I have been pondering new styles for the basic t-shirt dress. Because I want to be able to throw something on in the morning without any further thought, and still look good. Because little sleeves work well for work days. Because they don't need ironing. Because I wanted a bit of a drafting challenge, not too much though.

Whilst perusing the interweb for inspiration, I came across this.
It's from a Russian pattern company and I've never ordered anything from them so I can't comment on whether they're any good. But they have a lot of nice styles on their website and I get my kicks out of examining such things.

The dress above was for a woven fabric, but I thought something similar in stretch fabric would work well. So I decided to make it. :)

To begin with, I started by copying out the tank / t-shirt pattern, including the extra 1.5 cm at the shoulder seam for a sleeve.

I used the lower neckline for the front which I last used here. I marked that in, but I also marked in a much higher neckline for the knot position.

I wanted to spread the pattern to create a gather, so I marked in my cutting lines:

And cut and spread the pattern, closing the bust dart.

Then I glued it onto some paper and drew in the new cutting line.

Sorted. Fingers crossed! So on to cutting out. Initially I had included an extra seam allowance thinking I would have two separate parts for the front. But I decided I didn't need that, and cut on the fold instead.

I slashed down to the lower neckline to create the knot.

 To make up, I sewed the back darts, and joined the new angled part of the neckline, leaving the slashed part open. I sewed front and back together, and tried it on for fit, using a scrap to tie the knot together. I discovered that I needed to tighten the front a bit - so that came off by angling the seam.

When that was sorted, I hemmed the slash. The neckline was finished along the top, but because of the weight it would need to carry, I reinforced it with a narrow piece of elastic from shoulder to shoulder.

I also added sleeves - which were the closer fitting sleeves, but raised by about 2 cm. When the dress was otherwise complete, I added a band (3.5 cm wide when finished) around the neckline to create the scrunchy bit.

Here is the final result, shown with flat shoes since I think this is something I will wear to work.


I am sucking my stomach in SO hard on that side on shot. There's a little more of me to love since my holiday. :)

This is the detail of the neckline:

I've decided to call this my Wokingham dress. Because in Wokingham (where we live) people seem to dress very well. Sometimes when we walk into town on a weekend I feel unprepared for the occasion. But today we went for lunch and I wore this. I didn't feel under dressed at all. Win. :)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The T-shirt Copy (part 2)

This is a follow up from the first t-shirt copy post.

I am not 100% happy with the fit on Maria's t-shirt. To the extent that it was the first thing that I thought about when I woke up. I know most people probably get up and have a cup of tea (coffee, whatever floats your boat) and maybe a stop at the bathroom before they get on with their day, but I am not those people. I am (apparently) a sewing junkie. I start the day by pulling out yesterday's patterns and frowning at them.

And having the following conversation with Jon:

      Me: Someone in France looked at my blog.

      Jon: That's cool. The French know a thing or two about fitting.

      Me: Oh crap. They do, don't they? I have to make the t-shirt again.

It's tempting to make a new one, and edit my first post and pretend like my pattern worked perfectly the first time. But it didn't. I'm pretty decent at this sewing thing, but I'm only getting any good by accepting that often the things you try and make fail. My measure of progress is that a) I seem to have a better success rate than I used to. b) My version of 'fail' has shifted slightly, and current failures now look like former successes. Because I've learned through all those stuff ups. Since I want to encourage others to give it a shot, I am putting the fail up too. Embrace the mistakes and stick with it.

So I pulled out the patterns I made, and made the following alterations, based on the darts we draped while Maria was here.

We found that we could comfortably take out quite a bit below the bust - 2cm and 1.5cm on each side when I pinned it. So I went with 1.5cm on each. Rather than making a dart, I pulled this out from the sides.

 I've drawn it on and highlighted it in the hopes that this will make it stand out. Do you like my scissors? I've lost my proper paper scissors, and I am using the kind intended for kids. They're horrible.
But that's not the point. I drew the line in from the fullness of the bust, through to its whole 1.5cm at the underbust, and then slightly less than 1.5 at the waist, because we want it to pull in under the bust and then keep that smooth line over the waist. I also trimmed a fraction off the hip, because I added a smudge too much before, and at the shoulders because they needed to sit in a little.

I made the same change on the back shoulder.
And cut that all out.
And this is the difference. The one on the left is the first version. On the right (with eyes closed!) is the improved fit. The shoulders are better, and the drape around the middle is better as well.

Updated version on the left here - again, better drape around the middle.

It's taken a while to get the photos. But I am very happy with that tiny revision.

         Maria: You know, it just goes to show that it's not the size, and its not the kind of fabric its made from. It's the shapes. I was worried this fabric was too thin, and that it would cling. But it doesn't!
And a final before and after - the original shirt and the latest version.

Maria's Happy Dress

When I first recruited Maria for this project, we went shopping for fabric.
I had been invested in the idea of using stretch fabric. But then Maria fell in love with a poly-cotton print. So we got that too.

Sometimes when I get something nice, I'm tempted to save it for a 'special' occasion. For the record, that is a stupid plan. Because it will sit there for years and you may never get to it. Sometimes I have soooo many things I want to do next, that I can't choose one.

I decided today was the day to make this happen.

I didn't quite know what we bought this for, and I don't think Maria quite knew what she wanted. But she did give me a dress/top to copy which she liked. So I thought I would start there.

There are a few different ways to copy clothes. On this occasion, I went with dressmakers carbon paper and a tracing wheel.

  I got mine at Fabric Land for £2.55. I believe it is also available at John Lewis for about 3 times as much. Either way though, it's worth it. You can use it over and over again for heaps of stuff.

This method wouldn't work for every garment - if it's too thick or if the fabric is easily damaged I would take a different approach. But this was a simple dress, so it seemed the fastest way.

You lay your paper down, then your carbon paper (tip - make sure you put the coloured side down, otherwise it will print on your garment!) and then you lay the garment over the top of that, with the panel / piece you want to copy laid out flat in the centre. If this means squidging the other bits around so they are creased that's completely ok. You copy one part at a time. You might be able to see in this picture that the centre panel is flat, but the side panels are puckering to achieve that.

Once you have your piece laid out flat, possibly with a weight on it to stop if from moving, you roll the little wheel along each seam line.

When you remove the piece, assuming you did put the carbon paper the right way around, you will have a dotty line which is your seam line. Too easy!

From there, for a direct copy, you add on seam allowances and cut it out. Repeat that for each part of the garment.

Now, for a direct copy, that would be the end of it. But I wasn't making a direct copy, so some changes had to be made. I increased the length to make a full dress rather than a hip length top.

We also needed some serious alteration around the bust. This dress is probably suited to a B cup, which Maria doesn't have. Getting something to fit around the bust has always been a big problem (ahem).
I added a little extra around the princess line seam.

As soon as she tried it on, we revised the required alteration. By a lot.
I cut the dress under the bust to make an empire line seam, and then after a couple of trials, made a princess line bodice.

It took a whole day to do this, but the results were absolutely worthwhile. I was going to talk about how I did it - but there's something else I want to discuss instead.

What I enjoyed most about this process (and I really did have an absolute blast!) other than being able to play life-size dress ups, was the apparent revelations for Maria. She always struggles to find clothes that fit, and hates clothes shopping as a result. But for this project, she was dancing happily and swishing her skirt in delight each time she tried it on.

Maria:  This dress actually makes it look like I have a nice figure.
Me:  That *is* your figure.

We talked a lot about fit, and compromises we make when we have to buy clothes, and the fact that they don't fit - and the problem isn't our bodies but the fact that those clothes aren't made for us. But I don't think I grasped how demoralisng that bad fit can be. Having the ability to create something made for you is an incredibly liberating and empowering skill set.

Maria (while dancing in her dress): I've just realised why you always look so nice in the dresses you wear... I *like* my tummy in this. I'm not even holding it in, and it looks good!

Maria took her dress home on a hanger, dancing it all the way, and talking about other things that could be done, or that she now wanted to design. It was a complete and sudden turn-around from the perspective she held a month ago - that she wasn't really into clothes. She felt pretty. And I felt damn good that I had helped her feel pretty. I had only intended to make a dress. I had no idea how awesome this was going to turn out.

Maria: I haven't stood in front of a mirror for this long in ages.

Granted, I can still see 3 or 4 things about this design that I would like to tweak. But I'm happy to call it a win.