Sudley

Sudley dress

Megan Nielsen kindly sent me along one of her recent patterns, the Sudley dress, to try out. It was just the thing I needed at a time when my sewing time and motivation has been quite low: easy-peasy, fast, no fitting – from machine to body in a morning.

Sudley dress

It’s essentially a loose smock dress, but there are are a ton of options included in the pattern to make it very versatile. You can make an empire or drop waist dress or a blouse, with an optional peter pan collar and ties on the keyhole opening. Also it’s reversible so you can wear the keyhole in the front or back!

Sudley dress

I think it’s more ‘me’ the other way around, but I’d like to try this way with the collar attached. The bodice is self-lined making a neat finish on the neckline edge. The instructions include a full clean finish inside with the armsyce edges handstitched down, but I got lazy and overlocked them as one piece.

Sudley dress

I cut size small but with the bodice length of the biggest size, as empire line isn’t the best look on me. I ended up tapering in the waist a bit, mainly because I didn’t have enough fabric to do the skirt as patterned so just gathered up my fabric width. The fabric is a viscose from Walthamstow – either Textile Express or Man Outside Sainsburys, I can’t remember.

Sudley dress

This is a great little instant gratification project that’s a very useful wardrobe builder. It’s good with tights or without and is the kind of thing that’s so easy to pull on for work and be instantly dressed. Pretty sure I’ll be picking it up to use again – the blouse option will make a great woven tee basic. Thanks Megan for sending along the Sudley pattern!

Printing with Contrado

A bunch of us sewing bloggers took a trip to Harlesden last weekend, to check out Contrado‘s amazing mini printing empire.

contrado

Contrado started as a tiny family business called Bags of Love (which still runs, through a separate website), printing photos onto bags in the early days of the internet, and has grown year on year, expanding their range and bringing as much of the processes and production under one roof as possible. Now they have Contrado as a specialist arm focusing on fabric printing: they print onto over 75 substrates and have a loyal customer base in students, creatives and home sewers.

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After this company background from founder Chris Childs and a rundown of how the online design software works, we were let loose to upload our designs and send them to print.

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It was pretty exciting to see the orders come in live on the big screen. There’s some impressive software powering the company’s printing process (they employ seven engineers) which means that the layplans can be as efficient as possible, resulting in a minimum of wastage. They can also turn around orders in two days due to everything being automated as much as possible under the one roof. As a startup and tech nerd I found all this fascinating and inspiring.

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Then it was down to the printing room to see our designs come to life. Depending on the substrate, some fabrics are printed directly and some are printed onto huge transfers before being heat-bonded to the fabric.

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The we took a walk around the rest of the factory floor. They have in-house pattern cutters and sewists to make up a lot of the readymade garments they sell through sister company Bags of Love. Cue lots of cooing from the assembled sewing bloggers over the lovely industrial machines.

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Back to the printing room because our final fabrics were starting to be revealed!

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Here are the two fabrics I was lucky to get printed on the day, back at home and prewashed ready to sew. I gave myself no time at all to design anything fancy, so knocked these up in the morning before I left. The ditsy emoji-type print is on 190gsm cotton jersey and the blobby abstract one is on French crepe. I’m so thrilled with the fabrics, they’re without a doubt the nicest fabrics I’ve seen custom-printed and the substrates both have a fabulous handle and softness. I can’t wait to sew with them!

I’m also excited to see the next phase of Contrado because they have exciting plans to build a marketplace of user-submitted designs that you can order direct – if I knuckle down and design some prints with a bit more time I’d definitely put them up. For now though, Contrado‘s fabrics start at only around £14.50 a metre so if you’re in the market for printing unique fabrics in the UK I couldn’t recommend them more.

Thank you so much to Contrado for the tour and chance to sample the printing process, to Rachel and Kate at The Fold Line for organising the trip, and my fellow bloggers Marie, Janene, Jane, Elena and Charlotte for being excellent company.

V1501: black midi edition

Vogue 1501

Sometimes I swear to remake a pattern again and it doesn’t happen for a long time, if ever, but in the case of Vogue 1501 I had such a ~vision for a black midi version that I went out hunting for fabric to make it happen immediately, and spent last week sewing it up.

Vogue 1501

To be honest I was just setting out to copy the Klein dress from the pattern designer Rachel Comey’s ready to wear line. (Apparently I even copied the shoes, ha ha.) I made a few fitting and stylistic tweaks to the pattern as follows:

  • Added 6 inches to the length of the skirt plus knee-high side seam splits.
  • Gathered rather than pleated the front skirt and bodice into the waistband
  • Graded out the back side seams to adjust for the tight fit across the bum in my first one
  • Rounded out the bottom edges of the bodice for a different look (and hemmed it using bias strips)

Vogue 1501
Vogue 1501

The fabric is black ‘powder touch’ polyester from The Textile Centre in Walthamstow. The pattern does work well in a crisp cotton like i used last time but I think it’s especially nice in something drapier.

Vogue 1501

Despite being a bit out there for my usual style (I’ve never owned a dress practically ankle length long) I bloody love this dress and feel really comfortable in it. I feel like it will join the ranks of things I’ll reach for on those ‘I’ve got nothing to wear’ days, and the poly fabric will make it really easy to care for.

Jumpsuiting for joy

Spring has sprung in London! It may well be temporary as most British weather is, but it’s delightful while it lasts. I always find it so much easier to dress when the weather is nice, and to be freed from the annoyance of layers and tights.

We’re also a week into Me-Made May of course. I’m not doing it ‘officially’ this year but it’s always a nice excuse to take stock of my handmade wardrobe, make a conscious effort to get me-mades in rotation, and to share some daily outfits. I’m putting the odd one up on Instagram and might do another update here later in the month. Here’s a slice of last week’s outfits:

Me-made May week 1

Clockwise from top: Roberts dungarees, new jumpsuit (see below!), Adele dress and Maya hack dress. And urm, the same Clarks shoes every day – I need to buy more shoes. And no, I don’t give up the black in the spring…

Jumpsuit

Here’s a closer look at the new jumpsuit. It’s fair to say by this point that I’m jumpsuit crazy. I think I wear them more than both dresses and jeans by this point, which will probably get borne out in my #MMM photos. So comfy! So practical and cycle-friendly! So quick to get dressed! And they’re fast and fun to sew to boot.

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I used Butterick 6312, grabbed during a Jaycotts pattern sale binge a couple weeks ago. It’s about as basic as a jumpsuit can get: very wide and unfitted, cropped to calf, side seam pockets, and to be worn with an optional belt. The pattern pieces look terrifyingly like a clown suit, but once it’s made up in a soft fabric and belted, it’s secret-pyjama dreams come true.

Jumpsuit

The fabric is an indian handblocked cotton that I bought from IndianStores on Etsy. You may recall I have an Alder dress in the blue colourway: it’s so supersoft and lovely both to work with and to wear. If you’re intro handblocked prints and khadi cottons you should definitely check out that store.

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It took about 45 minutes to sew, especially since I dipped the back into a deep V and realised I could get it on and off without needing to add the centre back zip. The neckline is finished with self-bias and I French seamed the centre front-to-back seam to get a nice finish on the points of the Vs. After wearing it for a day I found the loose neckline slips around a bit, so I might go back and add a strap to the back neckline to keep it in place.

Jumpsuit

It’s described as very oversized so I cut a small graded to medium around the hip, but next time I’d consider cutting XS/S as it’s still too big around the shoulder. Not perfect in terms of fit, but fun and easy to wear on a sunny day.

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Vogue 1501

I’ve been going through a sewing slump this month. The willingness is there, but the time and decision-making is not. I’ve been buying up a few springlike fabrics and patterns to try to kickstart some motivation, and a recent Jaycotts sale landed me with the lovely new season Vogue 1501 amongst others. I plucked it out this weekend, and it totally worked: this was a heap of fun to make and sew and I have a nice new spring wardrobe garment ready to go.

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V1501 is a Rachel Comey designer pattern. Here’s the pattern art (which is apparently usually one of the actual RTW dresses from the designer’s line) and another similar dress currently on sale at rachelcomey.com (now I want an ankle-length black version, stat). Similar to my last finished garment it’s an illusion top-and-skirt style, with the bodice only joined to the skirt at the front waistband.

Vogue 1501

I didn’t toile because the pattern pieces looked about right: I cut a size 12 from shoulder to waist and 14 in the skirt, and tucked 3/4″ out of the bodice length. The key fitting point to get right is the waistband really as the bust and hips are loose. The fastening is an invisible zip at the centre back waist plus a button loop at the back neck.

Vogue 1501

I can’t get over how good the fit is through the shoulder/upper chest/back with no adjusting: this never happens to me in Big 4s! Are the designer patterns cut to a different block? However it’s a little tight through the bum: darted back skirts never do that well on me.

Vogue 1501

I made a few small stylistic tweaks:
· Removed the deep inverted pleat on the centre of the front skirt; instead cut the pattern piece on the fold on the pleat line. Not a fan of masses of volume around my middle.
· Took 4″ off the skirt length
· The shoulders have a strange ‘gusset’ piece to add height, into which you’re supposed to slip a shoulder pad. The American footballer vibe is not my thing, so I sewed the gusset in flat instead for a tiny cap sleeve effect.

Vogue 1501

The construction reminded me of my beloved Vogue 1395: nothing overly taxing or tricky, but some satisfyingly fiddly little steps to work through. Zen sewing at its best. I put my trust in the instructions, which were mostly pretty good, though I found it a bit weird that you get directions to French seam the skirt pockets but no clue on how to finish the rest of the skirt side seams. So I had to hastily overlock them afterwards.

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I especially appreciated the all-in-one facing unit to finish the neck and arms being sewn in my preferred way, which takes longer but gets a really lovely smooth result.

Vogue 1501

This fabric has been kicking around in my stash for ages; it’s a lightweight cotton from The Man Outside Sainsburys in Walthamstow and was a good match for the pattern. (I hear tell there’s another Walthamstow meetup next weekend so I’m looking forward to seeing what TMOS has in store these days.) I definitely want a solid version in black or navy next to try and emulate the lovely RTW version above.

Trompe-l’oeil

Adele dress

Meet my newest little black number…

Adele dress

Surprise! It looks like a cropped top and skirt but it’s actually a one-piece dress.

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It’s my take on the Adèle pattern by Anne Durrieu, an impulse purchase as soon as I saw it on Julie’s Instagram feed. I’ve been wanting to self-draft this sort of dress for ages but never got round to it, so for a £6.50 PDF I thought I’d take a punt on an unknown-to-me French company. Anne Durrieu seems to make and sell rtw clothing as well as selling the patterns to DIY them, and this is their second dress pattern release.

Adele dress

For a dress that looks quite clean and simple there’s a lot going on. The skirt attaches to the bodice lining only, leaving the swingy outer bodice loose over the top. The outer bodice is joined to the lining at the neck and both are attached together at the armsyce. The back of the outer bodice has a slightly curved hem and buttons up the back. There’s bust darts in the lining, pleats and darts in the skirt, and there’s an invisible zip in the underlayers to fasten it. If that sounds pretty complex… it was, ha ha. Now factor in that the instructions only come in French!

Adele dress

The diagrams weren’t that helpful and Google translate did not prove insightful, so I was on my own with the construction really. I tried as much as possible to reverse-engineer it ahead of time but my unpicker still took quite the workout: I think the waist seam came out four times before I got it right. The lining acts as a semi-lining and semi-underlining, leading to even more ‘which is the right side?!’ confusion and unpicking.

Adele dress
Adele dress

The good news is it fitted nicely off the bat. I can typically tell now if I’m going to have to alter the fit just from looking at the bodice pattern piece, which is handy. The neckline and sleeves in particular are a nice shape and very comfortable. I cut size 40 graded to 42 but ended up taking it in a bit at the waist and hip so might go for a 38-40 next time.

Adele dress

The main fabric is a fairly thick and spongy seersucker from Ditto with a woven-in stripe, and the lining is a black cotton sheeting. I picked easy to work with fabrics to mitigate the tricky construction, but I do think something a touch lighter and drapier would work better. It’s a bit heavy for spring.

Adele dress

I should add that even though the basic fit and style were good, I did make quite a few major and minor alterations as I went along sewing this, which include:
– shortening the sleeves and leaving off the pleat at the hem;
– shortening the back of the overlay by about 1″
– doing a normal placket/buttons on the back overlay instead of the suggested elastic loops and facing
– moving the invisible zip to the side seam instead of centre back…
– …which involved redrafting the skirt, because the side seams of the skirt and lining are designed to not match up. I made the front skirt narrower and redrafted the pleats and darts to suit.
– took about 3″ length off the skirt

Adele dress

If I were to make this again it’d go much faster now I’ve wrapped my head round the construction! Despite what seemed like a lot of fiddling to make it work, I’d still recommend the Adèle pattern if you like the style and feel like a challenge because it’s a neat little 25-page PDF and seems to be well-drafted. I fancy one in a jersey knit with an elasticated waist, and I can see it in a more spring-appropriate colourful rayon print too.