PJ Harvey inspired pattern hack

All of my recent makes have had musical ties - either made for a musician (more on that in a future blog post) or for me, with a musician in mind - and this one's something I've had saved up in my head for a while. It's a Kielo Wrap Dress pattern hack inspired by PJ Harvey's stage outfits for her latest round of shows - think black, navy, drape-y, layered, flowing fabrics. When we saw her earlier in the year, she was fab, but in all honesty, I spent her whole set distracted by thoughts of how I could recreate the dress she was wearing. This is what I came up with...

A Kielo Wrap Dress pattern hack!
And here's the inspiration for my slightly less 'stage-y' version...
PJ Harvey at Primavera Sound 2016
If you're a regular reader then you'll know that I've made the Named Clothing Kielo Wrap Dress many times - this one's my favourite! - so it made sense to use that as my TNT starting point. I altered the shape of the dress first to cut my base pattern, and then cut a second longer front and back piece to get the layered effect. This meant that my pattern pieces looked something like this:

Base and overlay pattern pieces - I also cut two waist ties (not pictured)
I skipped the back darts, and removed the big triangles that wrap around the waist - you can see them folded in on my pattern pieces - by straightening the side seams from the armhole downwards. The base dress is cut just above knee length (this was a bit of an accident as I wanted it slightly longer) and the overlay pieces are midi length, and slightly wider as I included an extra 1.5cm allowance for hemming the side seams.

Base pattern pieces
First up, I hemmed the sides of each overlay piece, as I wanted them to hang freely and separately during wear. This also means that I can style the dress differently - e.g. belt one overlay piece in and leave the other to hang loose - but more on that in a bit! I sewed the bust darts on both of the front pieces as normal. Then I basted the two back pieces and two front pieces together at the neck lines, shoulders and arm holes.

The finished side seams of the dress
I stitched the shoulder seams together, treating the basted base pieces and overlays as one. I sewed the side seams of the base dress, being careful only to catch the overlay sections in at the very top, just under the arm opening (see the picture above). The dress has waist ties inserted into the side seam like the regular Kielo does.

The finished dress, worn with the front overlay half tucked in the waist belt
I added a little extra to all of the edges when cutting as the Kielo has a small seam allowance (1cm) and I knew I'd be working with a bit of extra bulk due to the layers. I could only turn the neckline under once due to the bulk, but luckily my fabric didn't fray one bit. It's a black, poly/synthetic, slightly sheer, one way stretch, with a bit of a shine to it - the sort that fills me with dread after a difficult experience working with something similar when making the Driftless Cardigan. In the end I got on just fine using the finest needle I had and a walking foot.

Strange draping from the back seam, we'll call it a design feature...
I really love that the finished dress can be worn in so many different ways - something I hadn't really considered when working out the original concept. There's the fairly conservative day dress, the 'high fashion' tent, the 'little bit PJ Harvey/little bit Vivienne Westwood' look(s). There's also an ever-so-slightly 'Strictly Come Dancing' look when you wrap it some ways - I think this might be the sheen of the fabric, and yes, I'll probably be avoiding this look!

Just some of the ways the dress *could* be worn
I'm thinking of wearing it to a September wedding, which feels very prepared for me - I was sewing my Martha dress and culotte jumpsuit right up until the last minute for the other weddings I've already been to this year. It's also a good thing that I'm prepared for once, as I'm very lucky to be off to Chile with work this week, so I'll be spending a bit of time away from my machine (*sob*).

A windy outtake - I definitely has the desired movement!
I'd be interested to know which way people think the dress looks best! Please leave a comment and let me know :)

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Tilly and the Buttons Martha dress

I've already made one wedding outfit in the last month, so I'm glad I had time to squeeze another one in (the first make in my new sewing space!) to wear to my lovely friend Jennie's wedding at the weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting Lucy from Sew Essential back at the Big Simplicity Blog Meet, and she was kind enough to send me a copy of the Tilly and the Buttons Martha pattern and some of their gorgeous fabric - perfect for an *occasion* dress. 

Tilly and the Buttons Martha in John Kaldor Cassandra fabric from Sew Essential
They stock a huge range of beautifully patterned and drape-y fabrics (my favourite types - see them all here!) so it was difficult to choose just one, but this lush John Kaldor Cassandra crepe de chine definitely doesn't disappoint. 
Martha and John Kaldor fabric - best combination!
They have a great range of patterns to pick from too - from the 'big' pattern companies to some of the indies - so it was tough to choose a combo, but I was pleased when Lucy suggested that the John Kaldor fabric and Martha would work well together. When the Martha pattern was first released, I thought it wouldn't suit me, but I think the fabric gives it a slightly different edge - or at least makes it feel a bit more 'me'. I love the pattern packaging, and as ever with Tilly's patterns, I cannot fault the excellent instructions, tips and visuals. 
Just some of my pattern pieces ready for cutting!
I thought I'd have to do an FBA, but my measurements weren't wildly out of proportion - particularly when you take the finished garment measurements into account too. I went with a size 5 for the muslin, and the proportions sat really nicely everywhere, but just slightly too big, so for the final version, I cut my pattern pieces down to a straight size 4.  

The construction of the Martha dress is fun, and straightforward. It's a bit more of a meaty project - there's quite a bit of stay stitching and lots of seams to tidy up - but it's worth investing the extra time for the lovely finish. I think it would also be a great project for building confidence with certain techniques if you're fairly new to sewing. I still lack a certain amount of confidence in my fitting skills - I had 'the fear' it would be too small - so made a few fit adjustments during the make to give me a bit more leeway:

- Used a 1cm seam allowance at the side seams

- Sewed the zip in with the zip tapes lining right up with the edge of the CB 
- And the 'post adjustments' adjustment: Took a chunk out at the waist side seam for a slightly closer fit
A beautiful flowing bias-cut skirt
One really nice design feature of the Martha pattern is the bias-cut skirt, something I've never done before, but a welcome challenge - particularly challenging in the sense that I was cutting out in fairly compromised space! It really does make for an amazing flowing skirt, which particularly in this fabric, has the best drape! I'm also keen to highlight that Martha totally works for those of us who are a bit fuller in the bust too. I was scared I'd look 'all boob' as there's quite a lot going on up top, but the paneling is so delicate and seems less severe than a traditional princess seam or heavily darted garment.
One minor slip up with the iron...
The fabric is slightly lighter in weight than I'd anticipated, and the right side has a slight shine to it which has the potential to be slippy, but luckily it isn't! It was lovely to work with, and sewed up great using regular machine settings and a fine needle - the print is a dream too! A word of caution though... watch your iron settings. I forgot I'd been ironing denim on a really high heat earlier in the day, and accidentally frazzled one of the panels of my very delicate skirt. After a bit of swearing and lots of unpicking, I replaced the whole panel and learnt my lesson - cool iron all the way!

Thankfully everything else was smooth sewing. Good grading and understitching at the neckline/collar really made all the difference with how the dress sits - there's a lot of bulk up there! I decided on my sleeve length at the very end - they were cut at the long length, but I ended up going for a length somewhere in the middle. Tilly also provides the best tip in her instructions: apply a small strip of interfacing to either side of the centre back if your fabric is lightweight, to give stability when inserting the zip. It worked wonders! 
Back detail
So with neat zip and nice matching collar tops, I just had to add the final touch of a little sparkly button. I even managed to find some ribbon in my stash that was a perfect colour-match to use for the button loop.
Thanks, as ever, go to Chris for taking lovely photos
Word got around the wedding that I'd made my own dress and I was the recipient of some lovely comments, as well as some looks of shock and near disbelief (I still find it funny people are so surprised that someone could make their own clothes!). I'm so so proud of it, and it felt fab to wear - plus it's always good to know that you won't accidentally turn up in the same thing as someone else! Thanks again to Sew Essential for the supplies!

In other news, I'm in the market for my first ever overlocker! I'll be starting the hunt at Sew Essential (they stock a range of machines and overlockers too) but if anyone has a model they could recommend please let me know!

Stay in touch!

By Hand London Flora/Culotte mash up

It's my birthday! I saw in the early hours of the day at a wedding, wearing what I think may be my finest ever sew - a culotte jumpsuit - and luckily managed to get some pictures of it too. This has been in the pipeline for a little while now, so I'm thrilled that it a) worked out, b) I had an occassion to wear it, and c) I get to share it with you guys!

B6178 meets Flora!
Clearly ecstatic about the freedom for weird dance moves!
I made it using a mash up of two patterns - the By Hand London Flora bodice, and the B6178 Culottes, which I've been singing the praises of for the last couple of months (and blogged about here). I've had the Flora pattern for nearly 2 years now, but I've always put off making it for the fear of having an ordeal with the fit adjustments. After making a couple of pairs of B6178s and absolutely loving them, I realised that they'd look amazing together if I could make it work. This, coupled with the slight pressure of an impending wedding - one of my resolutions was to sew my own dress for wedding attire - was the push I needed to get fitting. It's not quite a dress I know, but I wanted something a bit different, and in my head, in this totally fitted the bill.

Working out the fit adjustments on the bust
Gigantic darts on my muslin!
First up was the - dreaded - fitting. I needn't fear the FBA, but there's just something about committing to it that makes me nervous. Anyway, the BHL site has the best FBA tutorial for version B of the Flora bodice. I made up the adjusted version and it was nearly spot on. I just had to take a centimetre out of the centre front as everything was all a bit too far out. I made up one other muslin  - a big deal for me considering it's usually very rare that I even make one - just to be sure I had the fit right, and then cut straight into my final fabric.

A pretty good fit for the first muslin
I used this lovely black and white polka dot crepe that I made the Nita Wrap Skirt in. I bought 4metres ages ago for a project that never saw the light of day, and I'm finally glad to have found the perfect use for it - a bold silhouette calls for a bold fabric right? I even had enough to fully line the bodice in it too - the stuff of luxury! The only thing I should've given a bit more consideration to was the placement of the spots. There was no way I was going to attempt pattern matching, but although I matched the selveedges, I seem to have cut the fabric with the spots running at a twisty angle. I'm hoping the spot placement looks fairly random despite the definite squiffy angles.

Used making my own outfit as an excuse to buy sparkly new shoes!
I was lucky that the bodice and culottes matched up pretty well with very few adjustments. I moved the front darts slightly, but in hindsight I didn't even need to do this, as the culottes are ease stitched into the waistband/bodice, so there's a bit of wiggle room. I used a 22" invisible zip straight up the back, and handstitched the lining in on the inside, and taa daaaa! It's done (phew!) but it really was a seriously enjoyable make!

Back view
Happier than I look!
I'm not saying it's quite my finest technical sew, but I couldn't be prouder of the ideas, the pattern mash up and how it came together, and getting the fit just right - I love it, and it's a dream to wear. It's even more of a dream to wear with these sparkly shoes I got in Zara - making your own wedding attire totally justifies a new shoe purchase right? I've since seen a pattern that's probably a quicker way to make a similar one (the New Look 6446 - Erica Bunker made a fab version) but I'm glad I pushed myself with this one, and finally made up the Flora bodice! I think there'll be many more of these (Floras and Flora/culotte jumpsuits) to come :)

Here are a couple more pictures from the beautiful wedding we went to (congratulations Helen and Shaun!)

I have another 3 weddings to go before the season's out, and I'm really excited about making my dress for the next one after being sent a parcel of beautiful fabric from Sew Essential. Updates on that one very soon!

Is anyone else planning to sew their wedding outfits this year?

Stay in touch!

Turia dungaree dress #2

Hola! I've just returned from a recent trip to Barcelona where I managed to get some lovely sunny snaps of my second, (new and improved with adjustments) Pauline Alice Turia Dungaree Dress. I must say this about nearly every make, but it's definitely my new favourite. I think this one is very deserving of it's place on a pedestal for the sheer amount of effort that went into making it.

2nd Turia Dungaree Dress
I already sung the pattern's praises the first time round, and now I knew what to expect, it felt easier to put a bit more planning and effort into the finish of the garment. First up, I knew I wanted a slightly heavier denim in black. Quality black denim was surprisingly hard to come by! I finally found this mid-heavy weight denim in Fabworks - but I've also been informed by the lovely Sew Essential team that they stock black denim too! The weight is perfect, and holds it's shape much better during wear (creases above only the result of the flight to Barcelona!!)

Finishing the pocket edges
I think I was feeling brave/inspired in the wake of The Big Simplicity Blog Meet, so I went for contrast topstitching on the pockets and top of the bib - in what I can only describe as 'Doc Marten yellow'. I even bought proper topstitching thread, which it turns out, requires a larger needle (which I used) or preferably a special topstitching needle (if you've got one) and an increased stitch length. You can sort of tell I was a bit nervous at getting the 2 rows of stitching neat and parallel in parts, but I'm super proud of the effort! I think the little wobbles add a certain charm :)

Pre-buttons and buckles
I used bias binding where needed to conceal the raw edges on the inside pockets and back - the main edge is machine stitched and then I hand stitched it in place on the inside. I blindly put all faith in the instructions with my first pair, which frayed like mad in the wash on the bits where there weren't explicit directions to finish the raw edge. Ah what a thing hindsight is... It took a bit of time to do, but I'm SO pleased with the finish.

Back view

- I adjusted the positioning of the back pockets - I thought they were too high and too far apart last time - which has worked out pretty well. Note: topstitch detailing on them too - I was really starting to enjoy it by this point!

- I sewed the back straps in slightly angled towards the direction they go during wear. I suspected this might improve the fit after making my last pair and it really did the trick - thanks Jo for letting me know that it worked for hers and giving me the confidence to try it!

Final picture - just ready to head in for day 1 of Primavera!
And then it was just the buttons and buckles to add - both from Green Grizzly again. I sewed the buckles in place rather than knotting the straps this time, as I thought it more suited the 'neat' finish I was going for.

Finished with buckles and buttons!
I have some pretty big makes on my 'to-sew' pile, and a house move on the cards for June, but when I finally get chance, I'd love to hack the pattern to make a long button down version like this one from Monki.
A very hackable option for the Turia Pattern
Thanks again Pauline Alice for my perfect summer pattern! (which will probably see me into autumn and winter too).

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