Hazel Max: Balloons and Stripes

Upgrading patterns. GAH! WHY DO I HAVE TO DO IT????

Knit Colette patterns are in a size range of their own, which means very little to English people… what is 3XL? Is it 3 times as big as an extra large? Or three ‘sizes’ up? How big is a size? Who cares. I was happy with my Moneta pattern to not have to choose the biggest size on the pattern packet. That was very joyous. And apart from lengthening the bodice, no alterations were needed. The joy of knits! Woven Colette patterns are a different matter. They are gorgeous, but I’m bigger than the biggest size. But I wanted the lovely Hazel, the pattern said it was easy, and I thought I should have a bash at upgrading as it is a skill I am going to have to get used to. I seem to be one or two sizes bigger than the biggest size of all the patterns I covet. Ho hum, it’s just like shopping in high street stores all over again. I THOUGHT I WAS DONE WITH FEELING TOO BIG! BOO HOO.

Up up and away with my hot air balloons

Up up and away with my hot air balloons

Anyway, enough of my sob stories: I did make a pretty swish dress! This is actually my wearable muslin in cheapy polycotton, but I think I like it more than the proper version (more of which later). The fabric has lantern-like hot air balloons in jewel colours all over it, and its lovely. And though it was super starchy at first, it has softened really nicely after a couple of washes.

So how did I upgrade it? I did some maths. I worked out that the largest size (18) was two sizes too small at the bust, and three sizes too small at the waist. But as I was too scared to try and grade between sizes and also do a full bust adjustment on my imaginary new size lines, I just opted to upgrade by 3 sizes, or 6 centimetres all over. I figured I could bring the straps in towards my neck to deal with any over large bust issues and this would also deal with my narrow shoulders. Also, I am an F cup, and I had no idea how to do a full bust adjustment on a V shaped bodice, so I just went big all over. Which worked surprisingly well, in the main.

Upgradings

I love this dress, apart from the strange sticky out armpit bits. Something has gone wrong and weird with my upgrading of the facing and one of the bodice panels that means that I have a very gapey underarm. I should have taken a picture of this, but I have failed to. But needless to say, the bodice side under my arm seriously curves outwards, like a lipped bowl. I have made two of these dresses now, and can’t work out what I have done wrong. In both versions I took a lot of width out of the bodice panels either side of the zip, because I definitely did not need to upgrade three sizes in the top half of the bodice, so had to take fabric out of the first version, and amend the pattern piece for the second one, but this has not cured the gapey underarm problem.

Bits I took out

I think I need to go back to the drawing board with this one. The curves are in the wrong places because I took some fabric from the bodice. It might also be something to do with the fact I didn’t use much maths when upgrading the facing. I freestyled. OoooOOOooooHHH wavy lines……!

Swoosh!

In the first one, the bodice was a bit short, and to make it longer I had to attach the skirt below the point of the V. This looks fine, but isn’t proper. In the second one, I lengthened the bodice a bit which I thought was clever, because of the V. I realised I needed to make the V wider, to make it longer, though now I am writing this, that might explain my gapey armpits!! But how else would I make it longer without changing the angle of the v and messing up all of the other panels?!? Oh why oh why do I have to upgrade?!

Lengthening, or widening?

Anyway. I put in an invisible zip rather well I thought.

Nice zip, weird strap placement.

I shortened the straps to deal with my slopey shoulders by bringing them in at the back, forgetting about bra wearing. I like the way the straps look, but it needs a strapless bra. I’m really pleased with this frock, which was only ever meant to be a trial one. It’s partly my very apple shape, and partly my weird gather placement, but does make me look a little pregnant though…..

4 months gone?

So Hazel number 2 is a big circus tent. The fabric I bought to make it is fat red and white stripes because it says on the packet you can ‘play around with stripes’, and I thought, ‘cor, I like the sound of that’. The fabric is a thick cotton with a bit of stretch, and having made the polycotton one, I can see it’s a bit too heavy. And it was a bit annoying to work with. It was very solid, and rigid when interfaced, and it crumpled a lot, though wasn’t very easy to iron. The thickness of it also made the gapey underarm problem even more stark. Look at it! (This is before I top stitched, but still)

Facing trying to escape

I sorted out the straps issue so they now cover my bra straps (at the back at least)

straps

straps

And I got a really nice pointy V on the bodice. It’s a very va va voom style when you play with stripes!

V for victory

V for victory

I used some totally hideous but really soft cotton from a pot luck pack of remnants for the pockets. It has clocks on it and is really nineties, in a bad way.

Ugh

Ugh

I had a sad moment when I tried to trim a seam to remove some bulk, (just as I was about to finish the dress) and  instead ‘trimmed’ the actual dress leaving a big hole. AAARRRRRGGGGHHHH

MISERY

MISERY

I shouldn’t sew when I am tired and grumpy. More haste, less speed Sparkleneedles, pay attention. But a little darn, a little hem, and it was done. Ta da! The circus tent dress!

IMG_1304

Ta da!

Ta da!

And that’s me and my upgraded Hazels done. Even though I need to work out the underarm gape/escaping facing problem, I won’t make any more for a while as summer is pretty much over and these are very summery dresses. Mind you…. I can always wear them with cardigans……

Winter Sun

Winter Sun?

Have you had any upgrading trials or triumphs?

Advertisements

Sewing with friends: two Monetas and a Boob Tube Thing.

I started my odyssey into sewing with a friend, and then that friend went and moved to Abderdeen. My upstairs neighbour Elona can take all the credit for helping me overcome the initial panic I felt  when I opened a dress pattern and didn’t understand a thing and wanted to throw my sewing machine out of the window. THANK GOD FOR ELONA. She taught me some simple sewing techniques like zig zagging hems and the point of interfacing and not throwing sewing machines out of the window, told me to choose a simpler pattern, and my sewing obsession was born. We did some sewing together which was great fun, and then she moved and I was bereft. We still chat sewing on WhatsApp though, and are planning on working our way through all the patterns from the amazing Tilly and the Buttons book, though will have to upgrade them, sigh. Anyhoo, I have been sewing toute seul since then, and though I really do enjoy it, and will write later about how restful and mindful and utterly absorbing it is, sometimes it is nice to be a bit less solo and to talk a bit. You know, be a bit less obsessive, a bit more social.

So I was delighted when my childhood friend Heather said she wanted to come up and sew with me for a weekend. Heather has a sewing machine and did some quite fancy sewing as a teenager, but hasn’t done any for ages and wanted to start again. I told her to bring three metres of cotton and we would go through my enormous and still expanding pattern collection and choose one she liked. She then said she would like to try her hand at a jersey dress, and so Moneta which I had recently conquered,  was agreed on. A few days before she came to stay, I found out why she was keen on jersey: she is newly pregnant, and needs expansion room! AWESOME!

So Heather arrived with the most gorgeous teal double knit jersey and we got down to sewing straight away. Heather’s sewing skills were quickly dusted off, and she was a total whizz. The Moneta came together like dream.

Here is Heather proudly modelling the bodice as a weird bolero

Here is Heather proudly modelling the bodice as a weird bolero

We graded up the dress a size at the waist for expansion room, but I think we should possibly have done two sizes. It was a hard choice between wanting to make something that looks nice straight away, and something that will be wearable for longer than a month. But it is one that will still be wearable post baby, so I think is ultimately a good thing, even if it will have to be put aside fairly soon. I also forgot that you use a twin needle from the right side, so we have a rather jazzy reverse twin-needle hemline finish, but it looks just fine.

And look, look, how very beautiful she looks in it!!

What a total dreamboat

What a total dreamboat

And then, I had planned on making my own, but thought it would be a bit rude to have a friend up from the south coast to have them sit around watching me sew in silence, so I did a few bits while Heather was not using the machine, and then we stopped to see a friend and eat roast chicken and crumble. The next morning we had planned on going swimming in the lido, but it was a bit grey and we had eaten a lot of chicken, so decided to do more sewing instead. Heather said she had seen some online tutorials for breastfeeding scarves, and they seemed too simple to be true. So we used this tutorial and after some humming and hawing, realised you do just make a giant loop. I dug out the remains of my ludicrously ostentatious but very soft and drapey giant pillowcase fabric and away we went! Heather doubled the fabric over to make it show a right side however it was draped as it had a very visible wrong side, and ta da! here we are……

  

What an awesome thing! And the scarf is pretty cool too. LOLOLOLOLOL.

After I bid Heather farewell I sat down like any self respecting totally obsessed new sewist would and finished off my own Moneta. I was making the sleeveless lined, collared version, and I DID NOT READ THE INSTRUCTIONS PROPERLY. Having only lined two dresses before at this stage and didn’t realise that sewing the lining to each outer piece was not the way forward. It did lead to nice armhole edges, but also to SO MUCH LUMPS! Look!

 

OH DEAR

OH DEAR

 

Not right

Not right

It was one time when the fabric being so flimsy and cheap was a bonus though, as it was still wearable with that bulk. Anything thicker would have been a disaster. I know I should have unpicked it and done it properly, but I was too impatient to see my nautical Moneta. So I ploughed on, and the flimsy jersey drove me round the bend……

Aargh so curly!

Aargh so curly!

But I succeeded. Here is me wearing it the night I made it……

TA DA!

TA DA!

LOOK! I made a collar!

LOOK! I made a collar!

I’m so pleased with it, and have worn it a lot. The fabric is excellent huh? It came from MyFabrics, but I warn you,is very thin, and pilled and bobbled almost straight away, which makes me a bit sad, but mainly this dress, thick seams and all, makes me extremely happy.

I even got my husband to take some proper blog style pictures at last!

Collar: I'm so proud as you can see

Collar: I’m so proud as you can see

I'm sideways!

I’m sideways!

So bloggy!

So bloggy!

The African Wax Print Busty Glory

Sorry for the huge gap between posts: I have been doing a lot of weekend breaks wearing all the new clothes I have been making. I have also been completely forgetting to take any nice pictures of me wearing them out and about in the magic hour of sunset (I am listening to your advice Ms Cashmerette!), so this post will yet again have pictures taken inside my messy flat.

It will also not have pictures of me wearing it out and about because quite frankly, it is a bit indecent. What is it about Plus Size patterns that seems to dictate that they have a preposterously low neckline?? I am all for showing off your assets, but I’m not at all for walking around with your tits hanging RIGHT OUT. Oh well, even though it’s basically unwearable (it’s also really tight around my tummy so I can’t breathe in it) , I am really proud of it.

Why, you ask, would I be proud of a dress I can’t wear??? The answer my friend, is because it looks like this:

African wax print cotton sundress

Oh but it’s so special

It would look better on me but it would be indecent and I wouldn’t be able to breathe and would fall over. So here it is looking a bit funny on a hanger. But you get the jist, right?

It’s a Butterick ‘Fast and Easy’ (ho ho, as if!) B5317 by someone called Maggy London. I don’t know who Ms London is, but I thought this looked like a nice frock. And it is. So much so that I patently ignored the fact that the measurements for the largest size were about 6 inches too small all over.  I am still experiencing some real cognitive dissonance with the difference between ready to wear clothing sizes and pattern sizing. I am an RTW UK size 20-22 (I’m pretty tall so people are often surprised when I tell them this ‘giant’ size, sigh) so even though I had taken my measurements and they were considerably bigger than the pattern size 22 which was the biggest size: ‘I’ll fit in to it’:  I told myself. I was smug in the knowledge that I was going to do a full bust adjustment on this one, ignoring the fact that I was not going to do some kind of ‘full tummy adjustment’ too that would allow me to breathe. Ho Hum!

I had the best African wax print fabric in two patterns from this place and I knew the dress was going to be either a complete disaster or pretty fancy because I was trying new things. They were:

1: Using really rigid wax print cotton (lovely)

2: Putting in a zip (pretty ok)

3: Putting in pleats (so pleasing)

4: Lining that mofo! (Oh yeah!)

5: Using my new tracing wheel and paper. (phwoar)

6: Doing a full bust adjustment (success!)

7: Doing a narrow shoulder adjustment (fail)

These are all fairly basic things but new for me.

Look: here are my tools:

Learning that these exist has changed my (sewing) life

Learning that these exist has changed my (sewing) life

And here is my really snazzy full bust adjustment learnt from Colette. I also tried doing a narrow shoulder adjustment but all it seemed to do was make my straps way too thin and and angle of the neckline more rectangular than curved. If anyone could tell me what I did wrong, I would be most grateful. Perhaps you can only do NSA’s on dresses with sleeves? HALP! The FBA was a triumph though. I used the lining piece as a sort of muslin, and it just didn’t fit in its first incarnation. I made it again with the FBA’d pattern piece and it was perfect. I am delighted by this. It’s just a shame that my delight blinded me to seeing how low cut it was and I didn’t raise the neckline a bit too. Ho hum. Baby steps.

My first Full Bust Adjustment

My first Full Bust Adjustment

I didn’t have the right size invisible zip so used a too small visible one:

close up of zip

Le zip

Yes, it’s all a bit wonky, but I have only ever put one zip in anything before, and that was an invisible one, so this was all new. AND I SURVIVED! It works! Praise the lord of zips!

I also learnt about pattern placement and pleats. I thought I had worked it all out so my swallows would show nicely on my pleats. This is what the piece originally intended to be the front of the skirt turned out like:

Hmmmmmm

Hmmmmmm

However, the side where I didn’t attempt to be good at pattern placement turned out like this, and swiftly became the front of the skirt. Ridiculously lucky, non?

Hooray!

Hooray!

So there we go. I made a dress that I need to wear a vest underneath to make decent and that I can’t breathe in. I swore I would no longer have ‘incentive dresses’ for when I am thinner, but this is staying in my wardrobe on the offchance that I lose some weight without dieting and can breathe in it, and can also find a suitable vest top to go under it that doesn’t look weird.

And look! Contrast pockets!

Ooooooooooo

Ooooooooooo

I will make this dress again for sure, with an upgraded tummy area for putting oxygen in, a higher neckline and hopefully a narrow shoulder adjustment that moves the straps in nearer my neck as opposed to just really thinning them. If anyone can advise me on this I would be most grateful!

20140902_204646