Thursday, 31 July 2014

Another post, another cocktail dress

I assure you readers, my life is really not fancy enough to warrant two consecutive cocktail dresses, but you never know when Don rolls in drunk on Scotch and expects me to seal the deal with Burger Chef. Don, you know I’m veggie!!!

A while back, my boss informed me that I had an industry awards event to attend. Wait. What? Cue, I have nothing to wear panic. At the same time I was due to think about a July make for the Minerva Blogger Network, so I decided to marriage the two and make a little cocktail dress using some gorgeous lace I had been hoarding in my stash from Minerva.

I always wanted this lace to have a chic life, transformed into some sort of slim fitting evening wear with sheer lace features on the arms. Racking my brains for the pattern I decided on Vogue 8766. You may recognise this from the Great British Sewing Bee when Ann made a very elegant navy lace version in one of the final rounds.

For my version I used Minerva’s super cool mesh lace. It appealed to me as it made me remember Michelle in Project Runway Season 11, when she painted a kind of sooty, Manhattan-inspired ombre effect on some wool, which turned into a big full skirt. Although pretty, this lace has a more contemporary, edgy look to it and I love the combination of traditional lace with the almost paint-splattered effect.

For the pattern I made a muslin cutting the size 10 for bodice and grading out to the 12 on the skirt. The fit was spot on and I didn’t have to tweak anything. Thank you Vogue!

The pattern itself is really straightforward, however, you may want to take extra steps in the construction process. If you’re using a combo of lace and lining (also provided by Minerva) as I have you’ll want to tack the bodice fabric and lining together so they are treated as one piece. To do this, tack around the edges and then a couple of lines down each bodice front. This helps to keep everything stable when it comes to pinning and sewing your darts.

When it comes to machining, the lining provides enough support to use a straight stitch. However, any stitching on purely lace should use a narrow zig zag.

The skirt, is treated as two separate pieces as you want the lining to hang free from the lace and also to be able to hem it. I let my lining hem sit flush with the raw edge of the lace (no need to hem this mesh lace). I tried shortening the lining but I didn’t like the effect.

I used French Seams throughout to finish the dress (including waist seam), working with a 5/8” SA. So that’s a 3/8” seam trimmed and then stitched at ¼”.

This guy didn't care that I was in a middle of an important photo shoot!

The sleeves have a nice dart feature on the cap, giving a little height and structure. I would imagine on a firmer lace, they would sit even more proud, but you can still see the effect here.

Personally, I found the size 10 sleeves far too wide for my liking. For this sort of look, I like a very slim fitted sleeve. It looks younger and more chic. With the sleeve folded in half, I simply measured 1 ¼” in at the sleeve hem and then using a ruler, pinned a line to the edge of the armhole. I then cut this straight with my rotary cutter. The mesh lace has enough stretch in it for you to be able to get it over your hand. I finished the sleeve seam with a French seam as seen here.

I used a regular zipper for the dress and chose to handsew it in. I prefer using a prickstitch as it’s nice and hidden, and gives you more control with the lace.

I felt really good in this dress and completely unique. I even got a lovely compliment from my MD’s wife who was really surprised that I had made the dress myself. Win! It’s definitely going to be a wedding/cocktail dress staple in my wardrobe!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

How do you like this martini, Mr Bond?

As you all know, Sally from Charity Shop Chic launched her own pattern line last month called Capital Chic. If you haven't checked out the unique and very fashionable range, first...why not? And second, get over there now!

I was lucky enough to be asked to test the gorgeous and super sexy Martini cocktail dress. Available in two versions, the Martini is very on trend featuring a crop top and high-waisted skirt that can either be made as separates or cleverly joined together. I opted for the joined version and here's how it turned out!

Now...I know you might be recognising this fabric as the very same fabric featured in the Capital Chic collection, well, um...uh....I have no excuse, it is the same. Why fix it if it ain't broken?! I saw this fabric at a sneaky preview of the collection and fell in love. It's a super cool, textured curtain fabric from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham. And I know how much Don loves me in a pair of curtains!

The thicker fabric actually provides the perfect amount of structure for creating the cropped bodice, which is designed to stand away from the body. It not only sews and presses like a dream but also helps the skirt to truly skim over those curves.

Sizing wise, I made the bodice and skirt in a 12 widening slightly at the hips. I really like how fitted the dress is supposed to be - so bear this in mind when making yours. If you prefer a looser fit, size up or make a muslin to see what suits you best.

The pattern instructions are nice and clear with helpful diagrams along the way. There are some great techniques for intermediate sewers who like the extra challenge in their sewing, including a lined vent, french seams, using the bodice lining to face the armholes and neckline, invisible zipper and boning (optional).

So, Mr Bond, what do you think?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Gillian Dress: McCalls 6696 sequel

They say most sequels are never as good as the first film, with exception to the Godfather 2...obviously. So, does the same apply to repeated sewing makes of the same pattern? I think, with the help of the outstanding McCalls 6696, I may have made a Godfather 2. But, the vote is of course yours dear readers *scratches face, ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They'll tell you I know how to return a favor.

It's no secret that I love the McCalls shirt dress (6696). I first made it last year to wear on a date with Elvis at Sun Studios. Ever since, it's been the pattern I heartily recommend and praise. With zero alterations (I can make a size 10 straight out of the packet with no fuss) it makes sewing up a shirt dress a breeze, and so I have been eager to make a sequel.

This time around I opted for the straight skirt version, which omits the belt loops, and has short sleeves and pockets. I wanted a more classic shirt that would be suitable for perching on the edge of a desk while I write down Don's lunch order, or out for a sunny stroll in Greenwich. And what better fabric to do the job, but glorious chambray.

I bought this chambray in Toronto last summer while fabric shopping with my TO girls (Catja, Andrea, Sara and Gillian). Both Gillian and I bought some of this fabric, so I have named my dress in tribute to her. Gillian is one of the sweetest fellow sewers I have ever met, which makes a cool, easy and cute shirt dress seem pretty apt for such an equally cool gal.

The only alteration I made to this pattern was the gathering on the back bodice. I didn't mind it on my pleated skirt version, but for the straight skirt style I chose to omit the gathering. I did this by removing the gathering allowance and using the new line as the fold. As you'll see I had a brain fart and forgot the bottom of the back bodice has a greater gathered allowance. Doh! So, there is still some gathering there but I do like it and it's definitely less poofy than before.

Thanks to an overwhelming vote on Instagram, I used white thread for topstitching my yoke seams. However, after some deliberation I chose not to topstitch the collar. I've left this plain and prefer the finish.

The buttons are my favourite detail. I managed to find white rubber buttons in Kleins, Soho. They are really unusual and bendy, and because they are made of rubber, they have a nice 'grip' on the fabric.

Otherwise, the make was pretty much the same as my Sun Studios version. I overlocked all seams apart from the waistband and yoke, which are faced with the same fabric.

I really love this dress, it washes great and feels lovely to wear. It's already had a few outings including a Mexican feast in Toronto - seemed fitting that the chambray got to return home in shirt dress glory!

So, what do you think? Can I persuade you to jump on the McCalls 6696 train and start an epidemic of shirt dresses?