Monday 22 May 2017

New Look Fireworks Dress

I've had a picture of this dress in my head for ages, ever since seeing Rosa's beautiful floral dress last summer. I really liked the wrap front bodice and the way the dress looked so casually chic. The wrap bodice was from New Look 6123 which is now out of print, but I was lucky enough to track a copy down on eBay. I also had the perfect fabric in mind - a firework print Liberty Tana lawn.

The pattern has two different skirt options, both of which were a bit too formal for the kind of easy, summer dress I had in mind, so I substituted the skirt from another New Look pattern (6557) instead. The skirt is a half circle which I slimmed down by reducing the curve by 8cms and chopping 14cms off the midi length. The result is more of a quarter circle, not too full but still with a decent amount of swish. New Look patterns are generally a pretty good match for my body shape, but I still needed to make a few changes to get the fit I wanted.

My dress is View A with a quarter circle skirt

This particular pattern is cut quite generously at the bust (possibly because of the wrap style) but has very little ease at the waist. I ended up cutting a 12 at the bust and shoulders, grading to a 14 at the waist and lengthened the bodice by 1.5cm. I also took a 2cm triangular shaped wedge from the centre back pieces as the back neckline noticeably gaped on my muslin. Next time I'll raise the height of the front neckline as it's currently a bit plunging!

Construction wise, this was a reasonably straight forward pattern to sew up, though not necessarily a quick one. The bodice has really pretty pleats and gathers on one side, which took me a couple of goes and quite a bit of unpicking to get exactly how I wanted. The skirt waistline also ended up a little larger than the bodice waistline so I added two tiny tucks, which are barely noticeable amidst all the fireworks. The cap sleeves are self faced, the same as the sleeves on my Etta dress, in this case they're finished with an overlocker rather than bias binding. Not as neat looking on the inside, but sooo much quicker!

I contacted Rosa before starting work on the dress as I was worried about the bias cut front edges stretching out of shape. Her advice was to staystitch as per the instructions and use a strong interfacing. I used Washable Supersoft from English Couture - a medium weight interfacing with a soft finish - and it didn't do too bad a job. It doesn't sit as flat as I'd like, so I think it must still have stretched a tiny bit during construction. I also reinforced the centre back edges with strips of interfacing to prevent the fabric puckering when I inserted the invisible zip. With hindsight, I wish I'd lined the skirt section as it's a bit transparent by itself, easily sorted by wearing a slip though.

The Liberty lawn I used is very lightweight and floaty, but I still think it's a good match for this pattern. The colours in the print are a really lovely combination and I like the fact that it doesn't look like a typical Liberty design. The fireworks look like some kind of exotic flowers, reminiscent of 1930s and possibly 1970s prints. This will be such a nice dress for summer - casual enough to wear at home with flip flops and easily glammed up when required. I'm so pleased with it.

As I mentioned earlier, New Look 6123 is now out of print, but if you like the look of a wrap front dress, I've managed to find a few other patterns for wovens that look promising. These are: Sew Over It Eve dress, Vogue 9251, Vogue 8784, McCall's 6959 and Butterick 5898. Or if you have any other pattern recommendations, please share them in the comments. x

Friday 12 May 2017

Sewing and Running

After publishing this post at the beginning of the year, it was interesting to discover that there are so many of you who sew and run. This post is a bit of an update on both. Sewing has been pretty much a constant in my life since I first learnt as an adult eight years ago (I was also taught at school, but never encouraged). The timing was perfect as it gave me the focus I needed to stop me dwelling too much on having a disabled child. Sewing is what has kept me sane and happy ever since. 

That all went out of the window a couple of months ago unfortunately, when the challenges at home just became overwhelming. I tried to take my mind off things by sewing but I couldn't concentrate. The more mistakes I made, the more stressed I felt, it was dreadful. When I did eventually have something finished to blog about, I had no energy to write about it and certainly couldn't bring myself to plaster a smile on my face and photograph it. So I made the decision to take a short break from sewing and blogging.

In the meantime I went running. Three times a week without fail I was out there, pounding the pavements and parks of Ealing, sometimes on my own, sometimes with my lovely running group. Being outdoors and doing physical exercise really helped - exercise endorphins do work wonders. I know lots of people run with headphones, but I never have, it was just me and my whirring thoughts. I found the repetition of running quite meditative - a bit like the sound of a sewing machine - I'm sure there's a parallel there somewhere! After each run I felt so much better, my head was clearer and things were more in perspective. 

My second pair of trainers, still box fresh!
Within a few weeks I was sewing and blogging again, perhaps not quite as prolific as before, but definitely back on the horse. Still sewing. And still running. Running will never replace sewing in my life, but it can certainly complement it, and I like how the two can now go hand in hand. And the good news is that all that practice improved my running - I'm now able to run 10K!!! I still find this amazing, considering I couldn't run 10 metres six months ago. My next challenge will be on 17th June - I'll be running my first 10K race to support Charlie's special needs school. It's a wonderful school and they've been so supportive to us, I'd love to raise some money to help Charlie and the other amazing children who attend. If you're feeling generous and have a pound or two to spare, you can donate here. Any sponsorship will be very gratefully received.

With some members of my fab running group 
I have to admit, I'm nervous about this race, which is daft as I know I can run the distance. The thing is, I haven't taken part in any organised sporting event since leaving school, which was over 30 years ago... so let's just say I'm a bit out of practice! My darling sister-in-law recently ran her first 10K race in Australia and said whenever she felt like giving up, she thought of Charlie and carried on. I'm going to use the same tactics. Wish me luck! x

Friday 5 May 2017

Tilly and the Buttons Etta Dress

This is the new Etta Dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons: a drop dead gorgeous wiggle dress, super fitted and super slinky. I was one of the pattern testers, which doesn't automatically guarantee I'm going to like a pattern, but in this case it was exactly my style and I totally fell for it!  Etta is shaped with darts to the waist, bust and shoulders, with a choice of sleeves (capped or three-quarter length) and back necklines (high or V-backed). There's also an optional collar or faux pockets. In an ideal world I'd have chosen the collared version but didn't have enough fabric, so mine is a simple V-backed style with cap sleeves.

As soon as I saw the brief I knew exactly which fabric I was going to use: a barkcloth-style cotton from Fabrics Galore that I snapped up at the Knitting & Stitching Show last year. Fiona from Diary of a Chain Stitcher also bought some and made her stunning Big Vintage Sewalong dress from it. The fabric has an unusual springy texture and a slight stretch, making it perfect for this very fitted pattern. Stitches do completely disappear into the fabric though, which is great if you want to hide a line of stitching, but not so good if you want to show off design details. The darts don't really show up on any of my photos, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they're there! If you look closely you can just about make out the back shoulder darts in the picture below. 

The cap sleeves are self lined and finished with bias binding. I must admit this was a bit of a fiddly technique, but worth it I think for the lovely neat finish on the inside. 

Luckily, my fabric wasn't a directional print so I was able to squeeze the bodice, skirt and sleeve pieces out of 1.5 metres. The facings and bias binding were made from dotted chambray left over from this top

There have been a few changes made to the pattern since the testing process so I won't go into great detail about the construction. However, to give you a rough idea of size, my dress is a size 4 at the bust and a size 3 at the waist and hips, with the skirt length shortened by two inches. The skirt is designed to hit the bottom of the knee.

This is the perfect pattern to use for a special occasion dress. It's very flattering and you'll look effortlessly elegant and chic sipping a martini. If you have a wedding to attend this summer, or just need a new cocktail dress, you're sorted! x

The Etta pattern was given to me free of charge for pattern testing. All views my own. 


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