Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mad Men Dress Challenge : Its Finished!!!

After possibly the biggest marathon sewing binge of my life, the Mad Men Dress is finished!

As we know from the last post, I started the weekend with the wool outer complete and a rather large amount of work ahead of me.

Excuse the mess...

Now this last Saturday I knew I was going to have extra time to sew, because my husband was attending his team's cricket grand final, then going out to either celebrate the win or drown the sorrows of the loss.  I would be going to pick him up at some point but I knew it was going to be late!

So first job was sewing the lining from that amazing magenta rayon.  This went together relatively easily apart from the underarm gussets.  They are not fun to do in this fabric...

Seriously, how fabulous is this colour!

Then I trimmed the facings with some bias tape, and sewed the lining and the facings to the wool outer.  Then came the arduous process of hand sewing the facings down to the lining, and the lining to the zipper.  And you know how much I love hand sewing.....

However, I thought I'd employ my new friend Wondertape!

I first saw this the other week over on Male Pattern Boldness (my favourite blog by the way) and I knew I had to have some.  Luckily I found a supplier in Australia that shipped it to me pretty damn quick!  I used it to put in a zipper on a top I was playing with and let me tell you its FAAAABULOUS.  It will change your life.

So anyway, I used it to secure the lining to the zipper tape so I could handsew it smoothly.

And as I thought it worked a treat!  I will be using this stuff all the time now... although probably more than I should considering how much it costs (AUD$8 a roll + shipping!!!).


Stella sleeps on...

Then I sewed bias tape to the wool hem, and turned it and hand stitched it to the lining.  More hand sewing!  Thank goodness for my headless helper and trash tv!

By this time it was dark outside, but considering I had no-one to look after but myself (and Stella - who I managed to feed at some point), I kept sewing.

Next job was the dickie, and this involved some thinking.  Now, to be the same as the reference dress, It should sit quite high, but still under the collarbone.  I know from past experience, that this isn't the best place to have a neckline for my figure.  So do I put it lower where I would like to wear it, or put it higher where it is on the reference dress???

Considering that the back neckline is different on the reference dress too (its up around the base of the neck, whereas mine dips to a V) I figured I could change this bit too - so I put it down where I wanted it.

It was right about now that I started to get super focussed / tired and therefore forgot to take photos of anything else I did... sorry!

Next, I made a 'belt' piece that gathered up at each seam or dart line.  I did this by making a hemmed long rectangle of the wool, pinning it to the dress and marking where to gather.  I then put a gather stitch at each of these points, pinned it back onto the dress and pulled the gathers - knotting off the threads so they wouldn't ungather them selves.  Then I took it back to the machine, stitched down the gathers so they would never ungather again, and turned the raw edge under where it met the zipper.  Then pinned it back to the dress and did yet more hand sewing to attach it to the dress.

It was about this time that I wondered why my husband hadn't called and I checked the time on my phone - 12.40am!!!!!!!

WHAAAAA!!!!   I had been sewing for about 14 hours!!!!!

I decided it was about time Steve came home so I headed off to get him and made it back to bed by 3am.

But of course I couldn't sleep in for thinking about getting this dress finished so I was back up again at 8am to finish it off.  I sewed in the cuffs, and made the bow for the front and finally I was finished!!!!

And here is my masterpiece!

This is the inside.  I love the way it looks good enough to wear this way around!

I have made a minor alteration to the cuffs since this was taken, 
but probably no-one but me will notice!

Here is a detail shot of the front where you can see the 
gathered 'belt' bit and the bow.

So now all that remains is to put it on and have someone take photos of me!  And given that it is autumn here I was hoping to have a coolish day where I could wear it to work.  Not so - its been 30+ celcius (so over 86 fahrenheit) since last Friday, with no cooler temps in sight!  Looks like I'll be putting it on briefly for photos only, so I don't sweat in it!

I personally am REALLY HAPPY with how this dress has turned out, even though its different in places to the reference dress.  The original pattern was simple and flattering and I'm now in love with wool crepe.  In fact I've got more coming so I can make another dress - I have a feeling wool crepe and this pattern are going to be a staple for me in the coming winter!

So what do you all think?  How have I gone?


Friday, March 22, 2013

Mad Men Dress Challenge : At the half way point

Hi all!

I meant to write this blog post sooner, but the week kind of got away from me.  That may have something to do with going to the Chris Isaak concert on Wednesday night....

Yes, we got this close
Too much champagne + too little sleep = shockingly late blog post (and a lot of other things besides!)

But we are here now!  Last weekend was really productive on the Mad Men Dress front.  I pretreated my fabric (Easy!  Read more about it here) and organised my pattern.  Oh lawd the pattern!

I chose a pattern out of Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.  Now, I haven't made anything out of this book before, or any other books like it.  Let me describe the process for you.  I will leave out the bit where you tear out your own hair...

Inside the front cover of the book is an envelope that contains 5 big pieces of paper that are all folded up neatly.  These five pages are printed on both sides and contain every pattern piece needed for the patterns in the book.  All the pattern pieces randomly overlap each other and some go across two pieces of paper.  Also, they are all multi-sized, so each pattern piece has 6 or 7 outlines (one for each size).  Sounding like a nightmare yet???

And this one is an easy one!

You have to trace these onto pattern paper to make up the pattern you can use.

All I can say is that I'm REALLY HAPPY that this dress only has five pattern pieces (centre front, side front, back and two facings) cause tracing this thing nearly did my head in.  To be honest, it kind of puts me off sewing anything else from the book (any thing else more complicated anyway).

After the drudgery of tracing the pattern pieces I really couldn't bring myself to sew a muslin, so I went straight for the wool crepe and crossed my fingers.

But wait!  I tell a lie.

I did cut the top half of the centre front out of some crappy fabric so I could make the adjustments to it that I needed.  The original centre front looks like this:

And I obviously need a different shape to the front with my dress, so I attacked it with the scissors and ended up with this:

Much more like what I need!  I adjusted the paper pattern, made a new front facing and then went at the wool crepe.

And can I say that I am a convert.  I love wool crepe!  Oh so lovely to sew with HOWEVER god help you if you need to unpick anything.  You will NEVER find the stitches!

The dress came together really easily - even doing underarm gussets for the first time was simple.  Although I will admit I had to google for some more detailed instructions.  It led me to a post on Gertie's blog that contained much more information and showed photos - lifesaver!

By the end of the day I had this, which I am calling the wool outer of the dress:

 Please excuse the mess!

AND IT FITS!  Always a bit of a nightmare when you make something new without making a muslin...

So this weekend I will be making the lining and the detail pieces and putting it all together!  Its been so easy so far I'm waiting for something to go wrong!!!

Enjoy your weekends lovelies!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Mad Men Dress Challenge : Pre-treating Wool Crepe

This post has been prompted by Mimi Habibi over on my Facebook page.  Thanks Mimi!

Mimi asked how I intended on preparing the wool crepe for sewing.  And to be honest I hadn't thought about it much.  I wasn't going to be washing the finished dress in the washing machine so I thought I might not do anything.  It wasn't until I saw Gertie's note on her pattern saying "make sure to steam your wool to shrink before sewing" that I realised I needed to do anything.

You see I've never worked will wool crepe before, and didn't think about how much give it has.  And if you think about it, you need it to start in its shrunk position so that your garment will give when you wear it, like good denim does.

So I did a bit of a google, and it seems there are five different methods:
  • The Drycleaning Method
  • The London Shrink
  • The Towel and Dryer Method
  • Handheld Steamer Method
  • Press Steamer Method

1. The Drycleaning Method
Its as easy as taking your fabric to the drycleaners and asking them to steam press it.  I did see in a few places that not all drycleaners do this any more, so I suppose you'd need to ask first, and obviously, this method costs.

2. The London Shrink
How do these things get their names???  This one has you either wetting the yardage, or wetting a sheet, then rolling the yardage up in a sheet and allowing it to rest overnight or longer until its mostly dry (which as you can imagine, could take some time), then unrolling it and letting it dry the rest of the way.

3. The Towel and Dryer Method
This one has you serge/overlock or zigzag the raw edges of the yardage then thoroughly wetting some thick towels with HOT water until they are very wet but not dripping.  You then put the towels and the fabric in the dryer on a high setting for about 40 minutes or so, then lay the fabric flat until cool.

4. Handheld Steamer Method
This one uses a commercial steamer or a garment steamer, and basically you hang the fabric and steam every inch of it with the garment steamer.  One article I read said to repeat this process twice.

5. Press Steamer Method
This seems very involved.  You need cotton press cloths and lots of water and basically you cover your yardage with the press cloth and then iron it until the wet cloth is dry.  But that doesn't mean move the iron around over the top of the cloth, that means placing the iron in one spot and moving it to the next position only when the press cloth is mostly dry.  Then, you can't move the fabric for at least two minutes to allow it to cool.  This sounds like it would take
F  O  R  E  V  E  R....

So after some reading and some thinking (and probably a stiff drink before I start), I'm going to use the Towel and Dryer method.  I read forum posts here where it worked, and here where it didn't...


Well I had my stiff drink and threw the wool crepe and two very hot (ouch!) very wet towels in the dryer.  I left it for 45 minutes, basically because I forgot to set a timer, got it out and let it cool over the bannister in my stairwell.  This is what it looks like now:

Exactly what it looked like when I put it in.  Granted, in some places it appears to be a bit thicker, and from what I read this is an indication that parts of it have been felted.  But once they were ironed they appeared just like the rest of the fabric...  So I think it worked!  Hooray!!

So given this experience, I would recommend this method to anyone wanting to pre-treat their wool crepe.  It was easy, and it didn't cost anything, and I didn't have to buy a fancy machine, and it didn't take up all of my time.

Has anyone else pre-treated wool crepe?


Friday, March 15, 2013

Giveaway Skirts : Wrapped and Ready to Go!

Well last night I finally got the Giveaway Skirts finished for Shannon and Leah!

It was a lovely and pattern to follow, but I was making 4 skirts at once in a production line type process, so it took longer than it would if you were just doing one.  And the reason I did four was I did one for myself (of course!) and one for a friend for their birthday.

And while my friend's and mine aren't finished yet (sigh!) Shannon and Leah's skirts will be on their way to them in the mail later today!  Hooray!!

And I asked them both if they minded if I blogged about their finished skirts, and they didn't mind so....

Shannon's Shoe Skirt

 Leah's Cherry Skirt

After I tied them on my headless helper to take photos I realised that they really needed buttons to prevent 'Marilyn Moments', so I then set about doing that.  I put 5 buttons down the front of each skirt - here are the buttons I chose:

I was particularly excited about the pink ones - they are reproduction confetti lucite ones... I may have purchased quite a few of them...

Then this morning I packaged them up to be put into the post later on today - keep your eyes out girls!

PS.  How awesome is my sticky tape dispenser!!!

And now the way is cleared for a weekend of Mad Men dressmaking!  More updates on that next week.

Have you got a productive and fun weekend planned?


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mad Men Dress Challenge : Thank Goodness for Gertie!

First up, I must apologise for not posting last week.  All I had to show you was the giveaway skirts (which are painfully close to being finished) and I really don't want to show them to you until Shannon and Leah send me their photos.  And I still don't have a sewn item to show you this week.

On the weekend I had a self imposed sewing holiday as two of my close friends came to visit from Sydney.  We had a fun afternoon, then a sunset picnic of Moet and cheese listening to Neil Young playing a live concert on the property next door.  Following that we rocked up (very late!) to a friend's 40th birthday party at another friends house.  And this friend MAKES HATS and she has hundreds of them in a special hat room!!!  The girls and I spent about 2 hours trying all the hats on.  It made for a very fabulous night!

This is us at about 1am, and these are our favourite hats

So no sewing, but I did get some time to do some thinking, and that's where the title of this post comes in.

I've been thinking about having to draft a pattern for this dress, and how I really wanted to take the easy way out and follow someone elses pattern.  I have a heap of things on my plate at the moment and just didn't think I could commit enough headspace to the project to draft a pattern, but I didn't want to pull out.

So I sat down with a cup of tea and some of my sewing books, and whilst flicking through Gerties New Book for Better Sewing:

Which you can buy here
And you can read her blog here

I found this dress:

It is perfect - even has those underarm gusset things to make the kimono sleeves close fitting!!!  AND it will be easily adjustable to look like the Mad Men dress I chose!  I felt so much more relaxed at this point, you have no idea!  And to top it all off, Gertie's lovely green dress is sewn from WOOL CREPE!  Admittedly, her's is double wool crepe, but at least I was on the right track with my fabric purchase!

So, thank goodness for Gertie!!!

Also, going back to my previous post about which fabric to choose from the ones I found online, I purchased three of them : The New York skyline, the leopard print satin charmeuse, and the silk plaid.  Two of these have arrived:

The New York skyline

The silk plaid

And while I really like the silk plaid with the wool, there was only a fat quarter of it so squeezing what I want to get out of it might be tricky.  On the other hand, the New York skyline is DIVINE!  The colours tone perfectly with the wool, and if I pick where I cut my pieces from it looks abstract and not like a city skyline at all.  However, I will reserve my judgement until the leopard satin charmeuse arrives IF it makes it here by my deadline.  I want to have this dress complete by the end of March.

Oh, and I picked something totally over the top for my lining:

No one is going to see it, so why can't it be a bold bright magenta rayon?  I also thought that this would be a nice lining given that this will be a winter dress.

So, what do you think of my choices?  And has anyone sewn anything from Gertie's book yet?  This will be my first project.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Mad Men Dress Challenge : Help me make a decision...

Now that the fabulous wool crepe has arrived, I need your help making a decision on the fabric for the dickie and the cuffs.  Here is the wool crepe so you know the colour:

And here is a reminder of the dress I'm making:

My wool crepe is a bit more 'royal blue' than Joan's dress which is more 'french blue' to me, but anyway!

I've found the following fabrics that I think might work for the dickie and cuffs.  I know they are no where near identical but you've got to work with what you can find right?

First up is this cotton print of the New York skyline.  I know it looks dreadfully modern, but the colours and the shapes do mimic the fabric on Joan's dress - and Mad Men is set in New York...

Second is this poly satin.  I don't have much to say to justify this one, other than the colours are kinda pretty...

Thirdly is this satin charmeuse.  Nothing like the original fabric, but its a blue and green toned leopard print... and who doesn't love a bit of leopard print!

Lastly is this silk charmeuse.  Its also nothing like the original fabric on Joan's dress, but to me it has a very 1950s kind of look, and I think it would work well...

So help.  I can't make a decision.  Should I buy:
a) New York cotton
b) Dotty poly satin
c) Leopard satin charmeuse
d) Plaid silk charmeuse

I'm leaning heavily towards d but also like a... help!!!