Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mad Men Dress

Betty is a hell of an inspiration for a lot of us, isn't she? Specially at the beginning of the series, still submerged in the 50s, with the American Look...because let's face it, those 50s dresses are eye candy for a sewist, aren't they? Crinolines, great silhouettes, structural rods, wonderful natural fibers dresses...
Gertie is such a sewist, and in her new book presentation, I peeped a sketch that hooked me. It is a Carolyn Schnurer red dress, a designer exemplifying the American look:

Isn't it just perfect?
On the other hand, I have been fantasizing with a red cherry fabric since I saw some in a street market in The Netherlands and I did not buy it. I have been dreaming about it for years! Finally I had a suitable project for it, so I bought it from the Fabric Godmother. It was very expensive, but the fabric is worth it: solid, good old cotton for a classic dress.
I had the clear idea of doing my own pattern. This is a tight design, and it had to be constructed to my exact measures and tastes. I consulted Armstrong book, and found a section  about strapless bodices. It has a bodice foundation that is exactly as the one I used in my previous project, with a dart under the bust that combines bust and waist darts (if you have the book at hand, it is on page 475). 

So, I followed the indications to make the necessary adjustments, added some halter straps, and made it into a muslin for a perfect fit. I only had to enlarge the bodice 2 cm at the waist, as for the rest it was so perfect it fitted me like a globe. So it was good to cut the fabric. I cut it double to use one as facing and lining.

Meanwhile I was planing my skirt... circle skirt? half circle? pleated? what kind of pleats? gathered? After cutting the bodice I had three skirt lengths left, so I sewed them together and finally decided to pleat it. I did some research about 50s pleated skirts, and chose box pleats, starting in the middle front and going around to the centre back. 
I applied fusible underlining to the whole bodice, stitching both bodices at the upper part and straps. After turning it over, I pressed and pressed and machine-stitched some channels for plastic rods at the sides and back panels.
Then I attached the pleated skirt to the bodice and machine stitched it closed. I put a long zipper at the centre back and finished the skirt: hem is rolled and machine topstitched.
I added the tulle crinoline I had from a previous dress, and the result is stunning, and yet wearable and comfortable enough to sit through a 5 hours family lunch, where I had massive success, hehe... one of my best projects, it is perfect and really special.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Menorca Dress

We sewers-bloggers always explain three processes when we report a new project:

  1.  How did we get the fabric
  2.  How did we make the pattern 
  3. How did we get the inspiration (which often comes along process 1 or/and 2) 
Well, this particular project was ignited by the fabric. I was on holiday in Menorca (wonderful, wonderful island), which is quite close to the place we live: inland Catalonia, we have planes in summer which fly straight there. We spent some days in Ciutadella and some more in Maó, and I explored the fabric shops in both of them. Curiously, all of them had some of the same stuff, you know, being an island... but I found one that was particularly well assorted and its owner very nice and knowing of her product. She understood my need for natural fibers at once and helped me find the perfect fabric: an embroidered white cotton. And it was the end of the bolt, so I got a very good price too!
It was only 1.2 x 1.15 m, and it had an alongside embroidered border that I wanted to save for the dress hem. 
The fabric brought the inspiration, I was not in Ibiza, but very close to it, and I had a small piece of white cotton, so I started to think about the dress I would make.
Back home I had this old summer dress, so old I only wear it around the house, comfy and becoming, so I decided to rub it off.
After rubbing off the bodice and having a fitting session with it, and saw it was small at my boobs (which I had compensated, 20 years before, by elongating the back???!!!) Curiously there was too much fabric in my upper chest, so I remembered Karen's words and decided to make a FBA, which worked wonders:

For the skirt of the dress, I folded the dress by the back zipper (its only seam all around), and after securing it with pins, I placed over the bias-folded fabric, and cut.

I saw the dress was resulting too sheer, so I ripped and old white cotton dress, and used the fabric for an underskirt, The bodice I made it double, using the inside one as facing.

For the bottom hem, I cut the embroidered detail to the thread's rim, ans stitched to the skirt bottom with an embroidered stitch my machine has:

The result is wonderful, I am really happy with it. Comfortable, cool and becoming to my summer tan.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Jersey Sundresses: Not One But Two

Together with the fabric for my Coco dress, I bought two more jerseys in Praha last year. After seeing that 1mx1.5m is not enough for sleeves or anything fancy, I decided to use them to make two sleeveless dresses for my summer travels. I just finished them on time to put them in my Menorca suitcase, but my camera broke in the plane just before landing, and I could not take one single picture with the dresses on in jaw-dropping beaches (<3 Menorca!)

The pattern for the dresses is a variation off my CocoDress pattern, following the instructions in Aldrich's book for the Stretch Dress on pages 166, 167. I did not make the front panels though, neither the waist shaping.

With this project and the previous one, I used the lazy ass method: I cut the fabric two cm from the paper pattern, and sewed it 2cm from the edge. I had modified the skirt to perfection with the Coco, so here it was perfect at first trial.

To sew the seams with a jersey fabric like this, I use a zigzag stitch with very very small width, it seems a straight line to the eye, but it has got elasticity. Next to this stitching line, I zigzag again with wide stitches, and cut the seam allowance just after the zigzag to imitate the overlock. Finally I press the small seam allowance to the side.

For the bottom hem, armsythes, and neck line, I simply rolled the seam allowances inwards twice (1cm each roll), pinned it and machine stitched them with the double needle. The result is perfect.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Coco Dress Knockoff

Tilly is an inspiration to us sewers, and her patterns are a success around the world. Specially the Coco Dress, a design for jersey fabric, an easy project for beginners that results in a very versatile, comfortable and becoming dress. 
Inspired by it, I decided to make my own pattern using Aldrich's book and its Close Fitting Bodice Block for Less Flexible Jersey fabrics, pages 164, 165. I already used this pattern in two previous projects: Liberty Wool Dress and the Black Lace Back Dress. Making your own paper patterns might seem arduous work, but it saves you money and time, specially when you use the same block again and again.
I bought the jersey stripped fabric in a Praha shop last summer, but I only bought 1 metre x 1,5 m wide and I could not make the sleeves out of it. I was lucky to have a purple jersey in my stash, and the contrasting sleeves make the dress more lively and fun (Phew!!)
I observed Tilly's Coco closely and tried to imitate the evasé line of the skirt. Parting from the waist of the pattern, I drew an opening line (10 cm at the bottom) and a curved hem line. I also added a boat neck line, which I redid after fitting the actual dress. 
And that's it. Easy peasey! I own no serger, So I zigzaged all the seam allowances and cut them at 0.5 cm, to try to imitate the serger (this is an imitation game, hahaha!)
The dress bottom and sleeve hems were rolled and machine-stitched with a double needle. And the neck as well. I used different width double needles. 0.6 cm for bottom hem and sleeves, 0.4 cm for the neck.
The result is brilliant. I planned to include pockets in contrasting fabric (=sleeves) to complete the dress and although my stylist said no, I still have doubts. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Liberty Dress

This project was inspired by its fabric (2m x 1.35m), of course. Karen in her blog explained about Liberty Tara Lawn cottons and I decided that I absolutely needed a dress made of it for my holiday this summer. I ordered from Liberty's and it cost me 80 Euros with shipping costs, but it is a wonderful fabric. The only drawback is that some patterns, like this one, are in fact repetitions of a small illustration, and the overall effect  is a little bit weird, so be careful to see the whole picture before you decide among the mountain of possible patterns they offer. Everything Karen said is true: it is a very thin fabric but it does not show though. It is a sweet cotton, wonderful to work with, and it barely wrinkles. I think it is completely worth it.
I was in love with this pattern at first sight, and I thought it would render beautifully with my Liberty cotton. It is from Patrones magazine, which we can buy in Catalunya. I am lucky enough to have it in the library bus that visits us every month.
I copied the pattern to the muslin, which was necessary in this case: expensive fabric+ new pattern. In the first fitting I saw that I need to lengthen the waist and modify the pattern for large bust. I followed the instructions in Armstrong's book:

The modification was successful. In the past, I would have used a bigger size, or added some fabric at the side seams or even in the back zipper (OMG!!!), wherever I could get some extra space for my big boobs, haha... but of course that means you loose the equilibrium and right proportions in the rest of the bodice.

Another process I learned along this project (man, I am on fire!!) was the invisible zipper application. I only had to buy a special leg for the sewing machine and watch a video in the net. That simple. Problem is, my zipper is not invisible at all. I think it is even beautiful in this design, but I really have to know how to make it disappear.


The sleeves a seamed in the middle and were perfect at first fitting. Good! I love perfect sleeve caps. I had some doubts with the flounces at the sleeves, design wise, but my image advisor said they were nice, and in fact I think they add some movement and life to the design.

I also took special care with the neck. I applied some fusible interlining to the facing, and machine stitched it to the right side of the dress, following the interlining as a guide. I trimmed carefully the hem to 0,5 cm and cut slashing lines to the stitches. Then I pressed it upwards and stitched the facing to the hem allowance. When I turned it down, the curve of the neck was just perfect. I secured it to the dress with a picking stitch.

I have some doubts about the inferior flounce. Although I like it being almost invisible, as an extension of the skirt, it is more visible in the magazine design. This might be due first to the different hemming method. I simply zig-zagged the bottom of the dress and left it raw, instead of making a small double folded hem which would have added flare to the flounce. 

I decided to encase all the seam allowances in themselves and topstitch them, since the thread is invisible in this pattern. That makes the dress perfect outside and inside, and easier to iron after washes.

I premiered it for a special occasion and received several compliments, both for the dress and for the fabric. I felt like a princes with that light and beautiful fabric flying around me, and after a long day of working with kids, sitting with them on my lap, the dress had barely a wrinkle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Lately I've been sewing t-shirts for me and my boy.
I had purchased several jerseys, organic some of them, and decided to start making them and try to figure out what is the best neck procedure.
For me, I have been using my Universal T-shirt pattern, which I took form a Patrones magazine some years ago, and used a zillion times. For Carlos I used the rub off method to copy his favourite long-sleeved t-shirt.

Striped viscose jersey bought in Here I used my classic neck procedure: put a bias band around the neck, right to right side, machine stitch it, turn it towards the inside folding it in itself and sanwiching the little seam allowance. Then, I handsewed it with an invisible backstitch. Pretty good method for dressy t-shirts.

Black organich cotton from Ecological Textiles. Same procedure, but here I applied the bias strip on the worng side, turned it towards the front and machine stitch it with the double needle. Pretty good, but not perfect, it gaps a little.

This is some cheap knit I had in my statsh since last year. I don't like growing a big stash, so let's clean it up! For the neck, I applied a bias strip right to right, turned it to the inside, hold in in place with pins and finish with the double needle. It also gaps, so I start hating the double needle for necks, as I suspected it pulls the fabric.

Organic cotton from Only organic: soft and nice to the touch. This was a mistake in my order, so I decided to make the best off it. I bought some ellasticated lace and applied it in the sleeves, simply sewing it together, cutting it around its flowers and machine sewing it on the cotton. I used a double needle machine straight stitch forthe sleeves and body bottoms. 

 As for the neck, I decided to make a V-shaped neck with organic black cotton. First you machine sew  a V shape in the middle of  a 5 cm wide bias strip. Press it flat and apply it to the t-shirt's neck as if sandwiching it. Baste it and the machine sew it with the double needle. Pretty good if not for the double needle with black contrasting thread. If looked closely, it is not too straight. But still pretty good look!
Here I made some more research in the net, and I found an evidence that made me feel like and idiot: the neck strip has to be shorter than the t-shirt neck to avoid gaping!!! Of course!! How could I not see it for myself?! A blogger said 90% is a good rate, I think it could be even less, but one can pull the strip as you apply in over the t-shirt, and feel the right stretch. I started to apply this trick on this v-neck and it was wonderfully flat around my neck. EUREKA!  

I like the laced sleeves so well that I decided to make another version, and leave the lace alone to make it sheer. I used organic black cotton for the body. 

Here I applied my newfound trick to my classical neck method. Bias strip, right on right, turned towards the inside and hand sew it with an invisible back-stitch. The final result is almost perfect, but this time I cut the neck's shpae over the manequin, and the shape is too narrow in the front. I make a note of testing the shape over me before sewing it, because the manequin pull the fabric a little and the result is not the same.

Finally a couple of long-sleeved t-shirts for my man. Both are organic cotton (from sources mentioned above). In the black one I used my neck method but I did not stretch the bias strip and it is not tight enough. In the second I used the method most comercial t-shirts use: cut a strip 90 % shorter that the neck, apply it right to right, doubled in itserf,  turn it upwards, press, and machine stitch it with the double needle (which does not stretch the fabric after all). The result is quite good for sporty t-shirts.