Maternity Wrap dress

Maternity clothes and corporate wear seem to be at the opposite extremes of the clothing spectrum but sometimes you just have to look the part even though you feel like a whale. Especially when starting a new job at 34 weeks pregnant! (I tend to make my life more complicated than it needs to be!).

After complaining to a friend about the lack of maternity wear options, she mentioned that her mom had made her some great dresses and offered me the pattern. Burda 5860 is a great pattern that looks like a wrap dress but it has a sneaky ‘safety’ feature in that the inner front piece is sewn into the side seam to avoid those awkward flashes in the wind! Brilliant!

The pattern is a maternity pattern (although the models on the cover hardly look pregnant at all!) but I’m hoping that I can continue to wear it as I get back to a normal size.

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The fabric is a poly knit with very bold geometric patterns. In the pattern placing and cutting, I tried desperately to align the big triangles down the bodice and skirt back. This was only partly successful because with limited fabric I had to shift things a bit off centre. Luckily the design isn’t totally symmetrical so you can’t really tell.  The fabric is quite slippery so pinning and cutting was a bit tricky and because I could only steal a few minutes at a time (mom of twins!), it felt like it took forever to get it finally cut out.

The dress came together easily enough. I used my overlocker for most of the seams and sewing machine with a double needle for the hem etc.  I was a little rushed (surprise suprise) so wasn’t as careful as I should’ve been with marking out sleeve vent locations and the waist band eyelet. In retrospect I should have taken the time to do it right, but it worked out all right!

Pattern: Burda 5860

Fabric: Poly knit. I think I got it from the Remnant Warehouse in Sydney but it’s been in the stash for a looong time.

Alterations: None

Do it again: Wrap dresses are always a win but I definitely don’t need another maternity one!

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A Danielle Dress for work

I’ve had my eye on Burda Style’s free Danielle dress pattern for years and it’s been on my sewing list for ages but I just never seemed to get around to it.

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Initially I had planned to make it for a wintery work dress but my timing was out so I made a sleeveless version that could be worn as the summer heats up.

I used some grey suiting that I had in my stash but decided that it needed some pizzaz to avoid being completely corporate and boring.  So got some gorgeous petrol green silk from the Tessuti remnants table that worked well made into the piping that I wanted to spice things up. I also had to obviously add arm facings as I left off the sleeves.

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The dress came together well EXCEPT for the enormous bust dart in the empire line bodice.  I could NOT get it to work.  I tried all sorts of tricks and resewed it about 5 times.  I read all sorts of posts about sewing big darts but nothing could stop the Madonna Cone Boobs look below. This was not the look I was going for and eventually gave up and used gathers instead.

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Maybe not quite as neat a finish and a little uneven but I was just relieved to be out of the dart sewing dabacle. Does anyone have any brilliant tips on sewing big empire line bust darts?  There is another dress with an Empire line that I’ve been fiddling with but the bust darts also have me stumped.

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I like how the dress turned out with the big tucks in the skirt front and I think the green piping is just what it needed to make it a little different. The square neckline is interesting – not something I’d normally go for – but it works well for this dress even though it means having to wear a very specific bra that doesn’t show in the corners of the neckline.

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Thanks for stopping by and PLEASE, if you have any good advice on big empire line bust darts, please pass it my way!

Pattern: Burdastyle Danielle dress

Fabric: Grey suiting from my stash. Originally from a second hand fabric market in Newtown. I think it’s a cotton poly blend – maybe some wool ?

Alterations: No sleeves and bust gathers rather than dart

Do it again: Maybe – once I’ve figured out the bust dart dilemma

The Bianca Skirt

The design for this skirt had been mulling around in my mind for a long time but I never took the time to actually make the first draft of a pattern. There were quite a few dodgy sketches (I’m no artist) but nothing any closer to an actual skirt. I wanted to start with a pencil skirt design and then have fun flare inserts on the side. I thought it would make a great wintery work skirt.

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When I finally started drawing out the pattern and creating a paper version, the funniest coincidence occurred: Randomly through work (remember I’m an engineer, NOT in the fashion world), I was briefly introduced to Bianca Spender, a top independent designer here in Sydney. This got me all excited about fashion and design (it doesn’t take much) so I raced off to her website to see what wondrous pieces were coming from her studio.  And lo and behold – the cover shot on the website showed the EXACT skirt that I was trying to create at home.  Of course Bianca’s version is WAY cooler than mine but I thought it was brilliant that I was thinking along the lines of the pro’s…and the skirt got its name.

My skirt is made from cotton poly tartan left over from my MC pants with some navy cotton for the waist band.

IMG_6449In cutting out the pattern, I did try to think about how the pattern might align but with limited fabric there was only so much matching I could do. I had challenges figuring out how much flare I could get away with – I could’ve done with MUCH more based on what Bianca’s version looks like. Another challenge is that the flares end up on the bias so the hem line starts doing funny things – I don’t think I got this totally right but I might have to try to get a more even hem in a second version.  I also wonder whether it’s better to have a really narrow hem so that it hangs better through the flare rather than sticking out a bit.

IMG_6447I included an exposed zip and had to spend a bit of time and research figuring out the best way to do that.  Again I’m not sure I’ve got that down pat but at least I have one attempt under my belt.

IMG_6445Side seam patterns match!

I got a few wears of this skirt before it became way too hot to contemplate wearing such a wintery fabric.  I wonder if this would work in a summery fabric…?

Pattern: Self drafted ‘Bianca skirt’ pattern

Fabric: Cotton Poly Tartan from a Marrickville fabric store – leftovers from the MC pants

Alterations: This was a first version.  In subsequent versions I would make the flares MUCH more dramatic, maybe start them higher up the thigh and really try to get a bit more consistent on the pattern matching.  I would also like to figure out a solution to the uneven hem issue and try a smaller hem.

Do it again: Maybe another version next winter.  I could try a summery version but I’m not sold on the idea just yet 🙂

Thanks for joining me and if you have any insights into how I may solve some of my challenges, I’d love to hear from you. Well, I’d love to hear from you any way…

Message Tree Baby Quilt

DSCN2747For friends of ours’ new baby I attempted my first quilt.  I definitely don’t claim to be a quilter so this was quite an interesting undertaking.  But I kept it simple and quite enjoyed the journey.  I’m pretty happy with the outcome.

At the baby shower BBQ, I got their friends to write notes to the yet-to-arrive-baby or soon-to-be-parents on fabric leaves that I had pre-cut out.  I then assembled it at home.  The leaves and tree trunk fabric were bits from my scrap stash, the front is an old duvet cover and the backing, edge fabric and batting are from Remnant Warehouse.  I must say a huge thank you to the very helpful ladies at Remnant Warehouse who gave me a crash course in quilting while I was buying the fabric.

I first eassembled the layers (back fabric, batting and front fabric) careful to leave enough of an edge that I could cut off to straighten once it was all put together.  I stitched straight across in a hash pattern.  I first tried this with my machine but it started getting bunched up in places so I did quite a few of the stitch lines by hand.

Next I ironed applique interfacing (double sided) to the leaves and trunk and trimmed the edges. Then the big assembly came with putting the trunk and leaves onto the quilt and making sure I ironed them all securely in place. I kept the edges of the pieces raw and then straight stitched or zigzagged around each leaf and the tree trunk. The final step was putting the binding on.  I made 2.5 inch straight binding (doesn’t need to be on the bais because it’s going around a square!) and used a nifty technique to sew it on: fold the binding in half and sew the raw edge aligned with the raw edge of the quilt. Then fold the doubled up binding over the edge and stitch in the ditch to secure in place.

And ta dah!  my first quilt – a highly personalised message tree sending so much love and adoration to the new little one.

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Thanks for visiting and happy sewing!

Wedding Dress Wonder

After mentioning in my One Lovely Blog nomination that I had made my wedding dress and 4 bridesmaid’s dresses, I thought it only fair that I (finally) blog about this undertaking.

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The idea that I would make my own wedding dress had been brewing for a very long time.  It also didn’t help that my ‘fairy godmother’, who had made her wedding dress back in the ’80’s, told me earnestly that “a sewist MUST make her own wedding dress – it’s the greatest challenge of all.” Not one to give up on such a challenge, I stored that dare for the right time.  And sure enough that time arrived when in 2010 my (now) husband and I got engaged and we set a wedding date for March 2011. Having given myself a good 10 months, I figured that I had enough time to decide whether making my dress was in fact feasible and, if not, coming up with a plan B.

I did do the obligatory traipsing off to dress designers to try on incredible gowns and learned very quickly that

A. the type of dress that I wanted was pretty simple and probably something I could try my hand at

B. the cost of having a dress made was ludicrous

C. the off-the-shelf dresses that I tried just didn’t do it for me.

And so I set about designing and mocking up The Big Dress.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI tried some ideas out on paper (I am NO artist so excuse the sketch) and realised that a basic boned panel dress was the starting point with the interesting bits overlaid on top.  I found a pattern for a typical strapless cocktail dress (wish I could remember what pattern it was!) and then adapted it to make it long, with a train and to fit me like a glove. At the time of all this I was taking sewing classes and my dear teacher was very patient and encouring in coaxing me through these initial stages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first version was done in blue (cheap!) cotton as the first toile and pattern.  Once I was happy with the fit, I took the whole thing apart and used this as the pattern for the real thing.  I made a number of neckline adjustments and had always thought I would have straps…those disappeared the night before the wedding!  In the back of this picture you can also see the little ol’ Elna that I made most of the dress(es) with!  She was a trooper.  My dahling husband did organise an early wedding present of a brand new Elna sewing machine so the final touches were done on the new one.

Version 2 (which I unfortunately don’t have a picture of) was in a green satin with a brown overlay (just for fun) to get an idea of how the fabrics worked together and iron out any problems with the fit and construction. I’m glad I went to the trouble of taking this step because there were indeed some issues.  The fabric pulled horribly around the boning and it just looked unprofessional.  I was getting dispondent at this point and went to try on more store-made dresses.  But after consulting with a family friend dressmaker – so grateful for the generosity of so many sewers – I got better interfacing, tried 3 different boning methods and finally came up with something I could move forward with.  I then made a version 3 which was just the bodice to check the boning and rouching.

Finally it was time for the real deal.  The main part of the dress was made with duchess satin and was fully lined and boned.  The overlay is a very stretchy mesh that has a beautiful drape to it. It took me a long time and trips to MANY fabric stores to find the right colour and texture that I wanted. In order to get the rouching right, I pinned and tacked it in place when the dress was on the dress-maker’s doll.  Since this couldn’t be done at home for fear of then fiance seeing the Big Dress, I enlisted the help of a friend (and fellow sewist) to set up in their dining room for a while!

The finishing touches were to add the lace embellishments to the top and other parts of the dress – all sewn on by hand.

bride beforeThe final outcome was not the world’s most perfect wedding dress but it was perfect for me – it fitted me and I felt so proud to walk down the aisle in my own creation.

_MG_4152I also made a little shoulder throw complete with feathered edges and our initials embroidered into it.  But it was SOOOO hot on the day that I took one photo with it and then it was forgotten.

_M090166The bridesmaids dresses were easier in some regards (I was using a pattern I knew and liked) but more difficult in other regards (I was making dresses for other people – none of whom were living in my city at the time!).  Our wedding was a colourful affair so the bridesmaid’s dresses had to have colour.  I decided to go with two different shades of brown/nutmeg with our four bright colours in each of the dresses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese dresses were also my first experience of making piping which was easier than I had anticipated.  Tacking the tulle for the petticoats was a huge undertaking and I enlisted the help of my very dedicated mother-in-law who painstakingly hand sewed two lines of stitching on all the strips of tulle!  Three of the dresses turned out pretty well but the one I just couldn’t get the fit right and by the time all the girls were in town I had very little time.  So again I called for help and a super seamstress granny of a friend stepped up to the plate and did a stellar job in tweaking the fit.

IMG_2846The dresses were a fun, colourful addition to the wedding.

All in all the epic wedding sew-a-thon was quite a success.  It was not without it’s drama…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA..DO NOT press satin with a hot iron!!… or it’s last minute fixes…

_M090105…getting sewn into my dress to hide the back of the strapless bra!… but the overall effect was great and it was a fabulous fun day to be remembered by all.  Not to be outdone by all the sewing happening in my bedroom, my mother, a self-proclaimed NON-sewer of note, hand made about 200m of bunting in our wedding colours.  It was incredible and so festive!

_MG_3757Nice work mom!  We still bring out the flags for special occasions.

drivewayThanks for joining me on that trip down memory lane 🙂