My Deer and Doe Sureau ‘wearable muslins!’

I was lucky enough to be given the Deer and Doe Sureau dress pattern for Christmas, along with two metres of Liberty Mitsi Tana Lawn to make it with. With the arrival of Spring and the prospect of warmer weather it seemed like the perfect project.

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I have put a bit of weight on over Christmas (and beyond). I’m not exactly sure how much as I haven’t weighed myself in six months but my clothes are getting a little too snug around the waist. I struggle to get through winter and the prospect of dieting in January is just far too depressing so I have been binge watching Netflix and comfort eating (mainly chocolate) to get me through those last cold dark months.  Now Spring has arrived a switch has been flipped in my brain and I am now craving Olives and Beetroot so hopefully some of the extra padding might start to drop off!

The point is that I’ve been a little bit worried that any new clothes I make will end up being too small. I decided to do the sensible thing and retake all my measurements (honestly and without breathing in!) which I hadn’t actually done for two years!

I wasn’t going to cut straight in to the Liberty without first doing a trial run so I decided to use some drapey wine viscose twill from the stash. I thought I would do things properly this time and cut the bodice based on my high bust which came out at 44.  There was a two inch difference between this and my actual bust measurement so I did a 2 inch Full Bust Adjustment and graded out to a 46 at the waist. I also shortened the bodice by an inch. There are gathers down the front of the bodice which are joined on to a ‘faux’ button placket. I distributed my gathers evenly between the pattern markers. I also added another placket on the inside, sandwiching the raw edges to keep things tidy. The fabric was a bit fiddly to sew as it kept moving around (it was a bit like trying to tame an eel!) and it seemed to stretch out and grow with every seam I sewed. Once I’d sewn the shoulder seams I decided to try it on for size, it was huge, a good two inches either side on front and back. It was then that I realised that maybe I didn’t need a FBA because I hadn’t taken the button placket into account when I measured the bodice pieces! I had also significantly underestimated the amount of ease in the pattern. The unstable fabric choice didn’t help either (on a side note I have some of the same fabric in Aubergine to make an Aubepine just so I could say ‘Aubergine Aubepine!’ I’m having second thoughts now as the chances of getting those pintucks straight are headache inducing!)

I took the side seams in as best I could but had to start recutting the armsyches. I was at this point contemplating throwing it in the bin but decided to see it through to the bitter end. I tried it on once it was assembled and it was ‘wearable’ but looked a bit frumpy (like a charity shop find that was a couple of sizes too big) My solution to this was to chop 3 inches off the bottom (I have been spurred on to shorter lengths after my weekend Doris) which made it a bit better skirt wise. The bodice was still a bit too big and gave the distinct impression of saggy boobs. This was mainly due to the unnecessary FBA but the gathers and the drapey fabric really didn’t help. It’s wearablebut but proved that I have seriously overcompensated my fear of making it too small!

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After my first learning curve I decided to give it another go.  This time I chose a nice stable cotton.   I cut a 44 at the shoulders and graded out to a 46 at the bust and waist (this time I didn’t do a FBA) I also shortened the bodice again by an inch. The cotton was a lot easier to work with and it came together well. Another thing that bothered me about my first dress was the lack of pockets. The pattern has a 16 inch side zipper but I found that I could easily get in and out of my first dress with the zip pulled only 3 inches below the waist. I decided to fit a shorter zip and add side seam pockets below. I added a bit of a curve to the waist darts which has made a lot of difference to the underbust. I also concentrated the gathers higher up. The fit on this version was a lot better, the only mistake I made was forgetting to staystitch the neckline which has stretched out a bit. I also got a bit carried away with the hemming and it is possibly a little too short but it’s fine with tights. The stability of the fabric also highlighted that I don’t really need to shorten the bodice.

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So for the final version I am going to:

  • Cut staraight out of the packet! 44 shoulders and 46 bust and waist.
  • Shorten the side zip
  • Add side seam pockets
  • Move the gathers down a bit so they are in line with my bust apex
  • Curve the waist darts again, I’m amazed at the difference this made and I may start doing this with all waist darts in the future.
  • I want to add a little cuff to the sleeve, I like little cuffs!

I’m starting to realise that a lot of my blog posts seem to be chronicling all the mistakes I make along the way, I may have to change the name or tagline to ‘Helen’s catalogue of sewing errors’!

Hopefully the next post will be a perfect fitting liberty Sureau (fingers crossed!)

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Two more Kitschy Coo Lady skaters

I made these Kitschy Coo Lady skaters a few weeks ago but have only just got around to blogging them. I’ve worn my other two so much that I figured a couple more would be a good idea. The one obvious thing missing from my wardrobe was the apparent staple of the Twentieth Century: the Little Black Dress.

‘Perhaps more than any other piece of clothing, the little black dress is, women have been told, the essential, the one that will take you practically anywhere. And perhaps more than any other designer, Coco Chanel was the one who made it ubiquitous.’

(A Short History of the Little Black Dress by Maura Fritz)

Hmmm, to be honest the thought of sewing a plain black dress was not very inspiring so I decided to sew another one at the same time with a more ‘interesting’ fabric choice. When I was ordering my black Ponte (from the textile centre) I had a quick look at some of their prints. I’d had my eye on this blue and white splodgy flower print for a while and decided to finally take the plunge.

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As I said in my last post I have trouble gauging scale when buying online and this print was a prime example, I’d thought that the flowers would be a couple of inches wide but when it finally arrived they were rather bigger than expected! The colours were also graduated being darker blue towards the bottom and fading more to white along the top, I preferred the darker blue so had a fiddle around with the pattern pieces and managed to cut the skirt and bodice from the darker areas and just used the lighter parts on the arms.

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I made these exactly the same as my other Lady Skaters, cutting a size 6 and shortening the bodice by two inches. They were sewn mostly on my overlocker, I just twin needled the neckline, hem and sleeves. I made full length sleeves for both of these but omitted the cuffs.

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So has the little black dress been as useful as expected? In a word, no! I think I’ve worn it twice so far, both times layered up with a cardigan and scarf. It looks fine and I can see the versatility but I didn’t really ‘enjoy’ wearing it and I’ve realised that I much prefer some colour!

There is a standing joke about sewists being drawn to all things bright and beautiful but there is good reason for it; they are fun to wear, a way of expression, something different that you’d struggle to find on the high street. I know I could go into any shop and find a multitude of black dresses but a blue and white splodgy one with a massive flower in the middle?

It’s reminded me why I went back to sewing in the first place, I would know exactly what I wanted but then spend ages going from shop to shop trying to find the holy grail of clothing which only seemed to exist in my own mind!  Sewing has enabled me to create these things myself, clothes I actually want to wear, that are an extension of who I am and essentially clothes that make me happy! So I will continue to follow my heart when it comes to buying fabric, if it makes me smile when it’s on the bolt it’s likely to make me smile when I wear it!

How much does what you wear influence your mood?

A Paisley Weekend Doris Dress

A couple of weeks ago Jeanette from Lazyseamstress asked if I’d like to test her first pattern. It’s a Raglan Sleeved Dress (with the option for a sweater) and true to Jeanettes style has a distinct vintage feel to it.

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The dress is called the Weekend Doris Dress, it’s designed to be comfortable to wear pottering about at the weekend while still channelling the style of Doris Day!

I impulsively took a gamble on this navy and white Paisley Ponte from the Textile Centre on ebay. I buy most of my Ponte from them and it’s always good quality and very reasonably priced. The problem I have with buying online is not being able to translate scale (even if there’s a ruler for comparison) so it’s always a surprise when it pops through the post. I was really lucky this time as the paisley turned out to be perfect for the dress.

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After a bit of shuffling around with the pattern pieces I managed to get the stripe running up the centre front, centre back and down each sleeve. I didn’t have quite enough fabric to match the pockets completely but they are near enough for me.

The dress comes together really quickly, there are only six seams to sew plus the pockets, neckband and cuffs so it’s great for instant sewification. The sleeve head makes for an interesting detail as it comes to a point where it meets the neckline, I would imagine this would work really well with colour blocking.

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I think Jeanette has translated her love of vintage really well with the Doris, there’s definitely a sixties feel to it. I really love the pockets, they extend all the way around to the side seams, great for carrying around all the essentials. One thing to point out is that it is quite short, I’m short and it is short on me but it’s fine with tights or leggings (and there’s how to lengthen the pattern in the instructions) Although it’s a departure from my usual style I do really like the length, I may have to try shortening my hemlines in future!

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I’m really happy with how it’s turned out, it’s the perfect dress to wear at the weekend. I was re-watching Mad Men when I made it and must admit to feeling a bit like (a shorter, older, rounder) Megan Draper wearing it. I’m trying to resist the American tan tights and white go-go boots though!