Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Butterfly ball Cashmerette Upton dress

Alternative title: the 40-darts project. More on that later, let's start at the beginning!
I've been wanting to recreate my all time favourite sundress for ages. Here it is, 25 years ago during a holiday in Germany.

Back then I used a Knipmode pattern. Sleeveless, scooped neckline, fit-and-flare. The fabric was black rayon with a lovely butterfly print.

Two years ago I found this Robert Kaufman cotton. Colourful butterflies with subtle golden details, even the selvedge was pretty.
I kept an eye out for a suitable pattern. The bodice had to be fitted, but I wanted to avoid princess seams for fear of beheading too many butterflies. When the Cashmerette Upton dress was launched it ticked all the boxes. And more, due to the different cup sizes!

Finding the right size was a bit of a challenge. The size charts indicated 1/4 inch of wearing ease at the bust. I don't know about you, but that didn't sound very comfortable to me. Instructions tell you if your full bust could fit into two sizes, choose the size closest to your waist. Nowadays there is no correlation between my waist size and the size of any other body parts but you have to start somewhere, right?

I started with a 20 E/F muslin and it looked horrible. Gaping neckline, wobbly armscyes, pulling at the bust and riding up at the front. All indicating that I should go down a size and up a cup size.

The second muslin (18 G/H) left me puzzled. The neckline was fine, the armscyes couldn't be better, the side seams were hanging straight, yet the overall look was off. What happened?
With my brain already switched to holiday mode it took me a few days away from the muslin to figure it out. I've known for a while now that generic FBA's don't work for me. More often than not it means adding fabric where I don't need it and vice versa, thus adding to the problem instead of solving it. Now what are the odds the built-in FBA of Cashmerette patterns would do the trick for me? Exactly!

I went back to the flat pattern and made some changes using the quadrant method from Joi Mahon's book Create the perfect fit. I shortened the bust darts so that they would end 2 inches away from the apex. I moved the underbust darts 1 inch outwards and shortened them as well. Muslin #3 looked good, except for the shape of the underbust darts. I changed them to a triangular shape and was ready to cut my fabric. The Upton bodice has 8 darts, so by this time I had already sewn 24 darts. Plus 8 for the final garment and 8 for the lining and you see why this was a 40 darts-project!

Next hurdle: I only had 3 meters of 110 cm wide fabric and I needed 4.10 m.  By comparing the cutting diagrams for various fabric widths I noticed folding out some of the pleat depth would enable me to cut the front skirt on fold and back skirt pieces next to each other. Suddenly I had enough fabric.

Still wide enough!

I lined the bodice with black cotton batiste. The skirt is unlined as per the pattern instructions and I finished the hemline with hand stitched satin bias tape.

Too pretty to keep to myself!

When the last stitch was done I put on the dress and...surprise! It was way too big at the waist. Apparently  making a muslin for the bodice and a quick quarter skirt to check length and pleat depth wasn't enough. The weight of the skirt changed the fit. Back to the sewing room as of course a well fitted waist is crucial to the success of the fit-and-flare style.

I'm pretty happy about the fit now. The only thing I will change next time is to remove another wedge from the upper back. It's my experience that Cashmerette patterns are wide at the upper back and short in the bodice. I already made adjustments but as you can see there's still extra fabric round the top of the zipper and the back neckline is not completely flat.

For the sake of a fair pattern review and for future reference I will distinguish different types of changes I've made.

Changes I always make:
-lowered the bust dart by 3/8 "
-3/8 " low neck base adjustment

Changes by personal preference:
-omitted the pockets (don't like pockets in a dress)
-added 4 inches to the length of the skirt (I like the proportions of the dress better this way)

Changes I always make for Cashmerette patterns:
-add one inch to the front and back bodice at lengthen/shorten line
-take a wedge out of the upper back

Changes I expect to make for all woven Cashmerette patterns:
-shorten the bust darts
-check the placement of other darts

Changes I made for construction:
-reinforced center back with a strip of fusible interfacing before installing the 22" invisible zipper
-instead of trimming 1/16" of the lining front and back bodices around the neckline and armholes I understitched and clipped all curved seams

Quite a list for a simple dress. Was it worth the trouble? Definitely!
When you ignore the changes I always make and the personal preferences all adjustments are quick and easy to make. What's more, drafting appears to be very consistent so you know what to expect.
And think of all adjustments I did NOT have to make!

For me this pattern is worth its weight in gold for the beautifully drafted armscyes alone. No gaping, no bra showing, yet absolutely not restrictive. Makes me look forward to the next Cashmerette release. Woven with sleeves? Yes, please!

This pattern will be put away till next spring, together with a piece of pink Liberty Carline. For now I'm going to wear this dress to the max as we have some glorious summer weather. At last!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Be careful what you wish for!

Last year, somewhere in the middle of series 3 of The Great British Sewing Bee, mr Foxgloves developed a sudden interest in the show. We watched the next episodes together, sometimes replaying a part or pausing for explanation of technical matters. This year we were going to watch all episodes together. Nice, isn't it?
Well, it looks like this plan is backfiring! Mr Foxgloves is now a self proclaimed expert and very opinionated about my sewing, tsssss.

A few days ago I was working on a cushion cover and I was pretty pleased with my pattern matching.

Can you spot the seam?

Enter *Paddy* Foxgloves. In his best Patrick Grant-voice: "I think I spot a liiiiiittle bit of unevenness there, but overall, a big well done!"
"O, and I forgot to mention you did a great job on that invisible zipper. No bubble at the end!"
Uhhh.... I used a regular zipper.
"No you didn't! I know what an invisible zipper looks like so you can't fool me!"

Spot the difference:

Well, okay. He's got the beard, the dreamy brown eyes, and on a good day he even has the dress sense. The backdrop may be a hint. One of these guys knows his haberdashery, one of them obviously doesn't. Yet.

I did mention the dress sense on a good day. Needless to say not all days are good days.
One day I found this in my sewing room:

The remains of mr F's favourite jeans

"Can you please mend this for me?"
Noooooo. What was he thinking?
"Maybe you can do something like they do in the Sewing Bee alterations challenge."

I offered to cut them off so he would have a shiny new pair of shorts.
"You're disappointing me, dear. That's not a very creative approach! You can make coats, and jackets, but you can't fix this?"
Now he had me cornered. He knows I can't say no to a challenge so that's how these beyond-repair-jeans ended on my sewing table. Not sure what to do with it, suggestions (especially creative(!) suggestions) are welcome. (I already told him that people are paying money for this fashionable distressed look, but he didn't buy it)

The cushion cover is finished. Now I'll struggle my way through 30 meters of curtain fabric and then I'm done with home dec sewing for a while.

Meanwhile Mr Foxgloves has redeemed himself by printing the pdf of my next project, the Cashmerette Upton dress. One more inappropriate remark about my sewing and I'll make him tape all 70 pages together. An allround sewing judge must be introduced to all the joys of sewing, right?

Friday, 15 July 2016

Review Knipmode August 2016 (and Knipmode July 2016's highlights)

The cover of Knipmode's August issue is all about sun and sea. Perhaps the endless weeks of heavy rainfall and the fact that I'm shivering in my long sleeved shirt right now isn't helping much but this theme feels a bit.... unseasonal? School's out for summer, holiday suitcases are already packed and summer sale started weeks ago. My overly ambitious summer sewing plans were made months ago!
Well, you can't judge a sewing magazine by its cover, right?

Surprise! No swimsuits, just one pair of shorts and also a bunch of long sleeved jackets, cardigans, dresses and sweaters! 

A black and white capsule collection consisting of dress #15 with interesting seam lines, a nicely shaped fitted dress (#24), skirt #13, loose and boxy top #8 and, not shown, cardigan #12 and trousers #11. Combining items from this capsule will make outfits suitable for all types of weather. 

It's easy to imagine the dress on the left worn with tights. Not sure about maxi dress #1 for summer. The model is showing a lot of leg when seated but the line drawing looks like an awful lot of fabric. It will make pretty autumn lounge wear though.

The 'Oh boy' collection mixes mini skirts and masculine blazers, bow blouses and oversized cardigans. Whoever did the text editing for the cover certainly put me on the wrong track!

A floral collection, love the neckline of the dress on the left!

Some of the patterns are now also shown by models wearing size 46 by request of many Knipmode readers. 

Overview of Knipmode 8/2016  pdf patterns

All in all there's nothing in this issue that will end up in my summer sewing queue, but it's not too bad either.

Last month I skipped the review of Knipmode July 2016. However, that issue contained two patterns deserving an honouroble mention.  For over a decade now Knipmode collaborates with Dutch designer Mart Visser.  Once in a while the Mart Visser original designer patterns make an appearance in the magazine. These are my most treasured issues as the design details are often intriguing and challenging. For the July issue he designed a party dress and a kaftan, both are available as pdf pattern on knipmode.nl in European sizes 34-54. Not as remarkable as some of his earlier evening wear patterns, but still really pretty!

Have a nice weekend!

Disclaimer: this review contains no affiliate links. I paid for my copy and all opinions are my own. Photocredits: Knipmode

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Silent stitching

Last month, on Father's Day, we lost my father-in-law. While the funeral arrangements were being made I decided to make a dress. Not that I needed the dress, I just needed the stitching.

It felt like the right thing to do. My father-in-law was a fan of handmade garments and he always encouraged me to sew. There was so much on my mind and I had trouble thinking straight. Whatever I was going to make needed to be simple and without fitting issues. There was no time for fabric shopping either so I was looking for a trusted pattern and fabric from the stash. I settled for a black double knit and V8379, a dress I could make on automatic pilot.

When I was sitting in my sewing room the only sound was coming from the birds in the tree next to the window. I hardly remember cutting, stitching or finishing the seams. Sewing helped, like it always does. By the time I was silently hand stitching the hem good memories started to replace the images of his difficult last weeks. My dress was finished in time for the funeral which took place one week before his 97th birthday. He will be missed dearly by all of us.

Today I bought a large bunch of Dad's favourite flowers. He used to grow them on his allotment. Thinking about the gardening lessons he taught me over the years and looking at the sunflowers is cheering me up. And although we are still busy emptying the house I will try to start sewing again soon. Cause it helps.

Friday, 10 June 2016

A floral v-neck Concord tee

It's the time of year when my lunch break sewing is often replaced by lunch break mowing. So here I am in my summer habitat. In the ongoing battle between garden and sewing room the score must be something like Foxgloves:20 vs Thimbles:1. It's a lucky coincidence that the garments I wear while gardening are not very time consuming to make! Enter my third Cashmerette Concord t-shirt.

Ha! Does that happen to you too? I swear I changed my unsightly garden shoes for matchy matchy ones in an attempt to look presentable!


The fabric is a very soft cotton jersey with a leopard meets roses print on a light grey background. I made view B with the v-neck and elbow length sleeves. I like it when my v-necks form a defined v and I noticed that the sample v-neck Concords had a tendency to show a more rounded shape. I could think of a variety of causes and decided to tackle them one by one.

-Shoulder seams: the seams are so narrow compared to the total back width, they need all the help they can get to stay in shape. I stabilized them even more than I did for the scoop neck tees.
- Back neckline: to prevent gaping at the back I took out a some of the width.
- Neckband: I changed the original overlapping neckband for a mitered v. When there's strain on the overlap (and there certainly is strain on the point of the v with larger cup sizes) the overlap can easily spread out of shape.

Quite happy with the front! Maybe I'll scoop out the back neckline a bit more next time. There's not much more to tell that I haven't told yet in the posts about Concord #1 and Concord #2 so I'll make room for my favourite furry photobomber who claims her minute of blog fame.

Well, didn't we all want the be the star on our 4th birthday? Go on, shine!

I hope I can find time to sew a few summer dresses soon. I'm working on a wrap dress, have plans for a maxi dress and there's a pretty butterfly print waiting to become a sundress. The weird thing is those sundresses will only get sewn during rainy weekends.... Be careful what you wish for?

I hope you'll all have a wonderful weekend with plenty of time for your favourite pastimes!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A sporty Concord tee

Just a quick post to show another Cashmerette Concord T-shirt. I needed a new shirt for the gym and since my wearable Concord muslin gets a lot of wear I thought I'd give the longer version a try.  

Concord tech drawing

Scooped neckline, mid length sleeves with tabs, curved hemline. In addition to the shoulder adjustment I made for the muslin I took out an extra 3/8" halfway between center back and shoulder on each side of the back neckline to fix a bit of gaping. The neckband was cut on the cross grain.
The fabric is a cotton jersey, bought last autumn with a Plantain in mind. 

The sleeves were a bit short on me, next time I'll lengthen them so that I can make decent hems that don't roll every time I bend my arms. I just forgot to add the usual inch for my long arms.
Eventually I didn't use the tabs. There's enough going on with this print, and I liked the look of the sleeves as they are.

The curved hem is finished with facings. The pattern instructions tell you to finish the hem and topstitch the facings before closing the side seams, I prefer to do it the other way around. Close the side seams, stitch the facings together at the side seams and attach them in the round, then make a continuous row of topstitching.

There's something about this shirt  that doesn't feel completely right and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Should I take it in at waist and hips?

Or perhaps shorten it?

Or just leave it as it is and wear it for my weekly workout?

I'd really like to hear your opinions!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Review Knipmode June 2016

Is it me, or are pattern magazine release dates moved forwards? On May 7th the June issue of Knipmode entered my mailbox. Not complaining! It's all about summer dresses and it's making it hard to stick to my plans to make more separates. 

Pattern overview Knipmode 6/2016

Bright colours, lovely necklines, nice seaming details. Yellow dress #8 has interesting neckline features at the back and green dress #7 may look simple at first sight but it has good fitting options.

Asymmetric dress #11 is pattern of the week, which means there's a discount offer for the pdf . I like the style, but I'm not sure how the asymmetric princess seams will work. Will they twist? It will be interesting to see this dress made up!

Knit dresses #1 to 5 are variations on the same pattern. Lots of mix&match options, and all views come in one pdf. I really like the maxi dress for warm summer days in the garden.

You can't go wrong with a lace dress for summer, or a top with lace inserts.

Maxi dress #13 has an open back with twisted ties, lovely if you can afford to go braless!
Just like in last month's special the patterns in this picture are shown in both size 36 and size 46.

So far so good. But.....alarm bells going off!

Look at the upper right corner of the front page! The June issue says 'Patterns in sizes 34 to 54' while previous front pages mentioned 'All patterns in sizes 34 to 54'. 
A small but significant difference.
It came as an unpleasant surprise for a lot of Knipmode readers when the pretty lingerie collection, used as a teaser in the preview, was only available in a very limited size range.

None of these patterns are available in size 34 or above 46, in fact only those readers with either size 40 or 42 can make both slips as well as the slip dress without having to grade up or down. (Not discussing the bras, as cup sizes vary so much). I sincerely hope this is not a forebode of changing policies regarding sizing!

Disclaimer: this review contains no affiliate links. I paid for my copy and all opinions are my own.