Sewing For Samoa {Sew House Seven Tea House Dress}

webDSC_6875It occurred to me recently as I was lovingly admiring this dress in my cupboard, that I had actually never blogged it. It’s a really special dress for me and holds a little memory in every one of those sequins, I think.

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Created from one of my favourite patterns in the world, Sew House Seven’s Tea House Dress and sewn in a luxurious sequined silk chiffon from the Remnant Warehouse for my husband’s brother’s wedding in Samoa last November.

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Samoa in November (and really most of the year) is hot and humid. As Queenslanders, we are used to a bit of heat and humidity, but this is next level stuff. I knew I wanted a dress from a natural fibre, with beautiful drape and fabric that just offered something a tiny bit extra. Enter The Remnant Warehouse. They stock a huge variety of designer remnants so it’s the place I stalk online when I want something extra special.

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I cut my pieces very carefully and following some info I’d read online, started painstakingly removing sequins from the seam allowances. THIS. WAS. THE. WORST. It would have taken a year of unpicking in front of the tv each night. Further research online showed a few rebels that just sewed over the suckers. I held my breath and gave that a go and… nothing. Totally fine. No causalities (eyes or needles). These sequins were quite small and soft, as well as not too close together, so sewing over them was completely fine. Phew. Life saver. The cut ones are scratchy though, so I did french seams wherever possible and trimmed any rogue sequins out of the way.

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I stitched the hem of the dress and sleeves by hand because I didn’t want any stitching showing from the outside. It was totally worth taking the extra time and care. I did the same with the front and back facing pieces, after removing all the sequins from those so they weren’t rubbing against my skin. After initially thinking all those sequins were individually knotted, with trial and error I found the magic unraveling thread in each bunch. It was heaps of fun to pull it and watch gold sparkles fly around my lounge room (side note: what they say is true, 8 months on I’m still vacuuming those buggers up).

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I didn’t want to line the dress so I made a slip out of cream silk voile which worked really well. The sequins make the dress heavy though and you can see it’s a fair bit longer than my others in the sleeves and the actual length. I don’t mind at all though.

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I photographed the wedding, so it was important I was comfortable and could move around easily – hence the sandals too. But let’s be clear – if you ever see me wearing heels, chase me down and tackle me because I can guarantee it’s an imposter. I never put myself through that kind of torture.

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One of my husband’s lovely cousins grabbed the camera off me a few times through the day to make sure I was photographed too. It was very sweet and I’m so grateful to have these images. Note to self: phone does not belong in the pocket of this dress!

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In other news, my sister in law (to be, at that stage) asked if I’d make her a dress to wear to her reception. She pretty much had the same pre requisites as me, but wanted a sleeveless dress and something with a lot of skirt.

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She came over and we sat together in my sewing room, digging through my patterns. We settled on Simplicity 8013, which is a reissue of a 70s faux wrap dress. There is a massive 8 metres of rayon in this dress, it’s a huge fabric hog. The skirt is made up of big panels all gathered together and it’s so delightfully swishy and full. I fully lined the bodice to eliminate the facings and provide a bit more coverage because the fabric is so light.

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It was very nerve wracking sewing for someone else, especially someone with a body shape so different to mine, but it all worked out ok in the end. She looked so beautiful moving around the reception.

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PS I made the flower girl dresses too.

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And if you’ve made it this far, well done. Here’s a gratuitous selection of images from our stay. Yes, I made the boys’ shirts too. Ok, enough words.

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Phoning Home {Joan Dress}

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There really isn’t much of a reason to blog this, other than for documentation purposes because it’s such rare and amazing fabric.

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Recently my lovely friend Phoebe (Flaxen Vintage) messaged me to let me know she’d found ET sheets still in their original packaging and asked if I wanted her to grab them for me. Whoever had them obviously knew their value because they weren’t cheap, but c’mon, how could I pass up this opportunity? I answered in the affirmative in under 0.07 of a second.

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Upon further contemplation, the price wasn’t too bad when you consider:

  • they were brand new in their 1982 packaging
  • 100% cotton
  • 60″ wide and however long a single sheet is
  • two flat sheets (no fitted)

In fact, it’s probably on par or better than what I pay for designer quilting cotton. Ok, slight shoppers guilt averted.

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Jks. I didn’t feel guilty at all.

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Since my Joan pattern is my current favourite dress pattern (it’s comfortable, it fits well, it has sleeves and a neckline that I love and it’s something I’m damn proud of), I knew that’s what I wanted these rad sheets to be turned into. But I wanted to take it a bit next level, maybe mezzanine, I don’t know. So I drafted a Peter Pan collar. To be honest, I wasn’t sure it would even look right with a boat neck, but it’s grown on me.

Full disclosure: I drafted matching navy sleeve cuffs too but felt they were too much so left them off. Maybe another time.

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And this is what might make this post vaguely useful to you, although there’s about a million collar drafting tutorials out there anyway. To draft the collar pieces, I taped the front and back bodice pieces at the shoulder, then taped it to much kitchen bench (to stop it moving) and traced the curve of the neckline. I made sure the front of the collar ended at the centre front and finished about 3cms before the centre back, leaving space for the zipper plus a bit extra. I just free handed the curve, but if I could find my french ruler I would have used that. Or you could maybe use a dinner plate or similar. I decided to make the back collar end at a point, just because. Then I added seam allowances (everywhere but the top) and hey presto – a collar!

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You’ll need to cut four collar pieces from your fabric and two of interfacing. Sew the collar pieces together precisely and carefully, trimming your seam allowances and clipping your curves so that every sits as nicely as it can. Use a chopstick to push out your corners so they’re nice and sharp. Then baste your collar pieces to your neckline (your centre front pieces will overlap slightly here but they need to) before sewing your facing (or lining) over the top. Flip your facing up and check that the centre front collar pieces meet, fix them if they need it. Clip and trim those new seam allowances carefully and understitch them to the facing pieces. When I first started sewing, I hated understitching and would ignore it because it seemed so pointless, but now I do it all the time – it makes such a difference! Do it. Then give everything a good press. This collar sits so nice and flat and I know it’s because I put in the extra effort to make it happen.

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I cut the front and back bodice pieces pretty carefully so I could get the most out of the large print. The front waist darts are hidden quite well in the tree trunks of the print and I managed to avoid full moon boob, so that’s a bonus. I aslo wanted a really full skirt on this one, so used the full width of the fabric front and back. That’s 120″ of fabric on my 32″ waist. For the first time ever I used three rows of gathering stitch and it was so worth it. I might even do that for all my gathered skirts from now on, it made such nice even gathers.

I feel so lucky to have scored this amazing fabric. It’s one of my favourite things ever.

 

 

 

 

“I’m not a solution to your problems. I’m another problem.” {Self Drafted Joan Dress}

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Today, my brain had had enough. Or not enough, depending on how you look at it. I’ve been madly cutting and sewing dresses for the shop, giving myself a *cough* motivating tight deadline so I can get this release done and have a break over Easter. But today I put myself a day behind. Today I decided to pick up a totally different project – one that had been giving me trouble for months. Today was the day to figure it all out and give myself a break from the monotony of cutting and sewing the same dress 24 times.

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Meet the Joan Dress. Named after my Nanny (Dad’s mum), not the Madmen character (but she was also very rad, so she gets a quote in the title of this post). I was determined to add the perfect new dress to my store. I was convinced the would have a simple, darted bodice and a gathered skirt with pockets. Sounds easy, right?

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I think the trouble was that I was thought I needed a dress with a lower neckline available in my shop. I do favour higher necklines and I know that’s not everyone’s jam. But after many attempts at tracing out the perfect bodice, sewing up muslins and then even a couple of entire dresses, I wasn’t happy. My heart wasn’t in it and the whole idea was shelved.

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Until this beautiful Cotton and Steel fabric was delivered a few days ago. I received it for winning their #cottonandsteelcloset comp on Instagram last month and it’s so lovely. I knew what it had to be – a classic boat necked tea dress with half sleeves. There was no doubt about it. While I love a bit of colour these days, I wore a lot of black for a long time and this feels like home to me. The little gold moons and stars are superb.

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Which prompted me to dig potential Joan out of the naughty corner and start afresh. A boat neck it had to be. But a pattern drafter I ain’t. I ended up using a mash of 4 different vintage patterns to get this one right. Different armsyce, dart placements and necklines all helped me find that elusive look I was after. So simple, yet so hard to create all on my own.

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It’s done though. A few more little tweaks and then I can grade the sizes. Still lots to do, but the hardest part is done. And I have a pretty new dress too.

 

That 80s Dress With The Ruffles {Vintage Simplicity 5884}

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If you follow me on Insta, you would have noticed that I’ve been getting into a bit of pants (sorry UK friends – trouser) sewing lately. I bought the Jedediah Pants pattern by Thread Theory and figured I’d start with sewing pants for my husband since he’s a bit less curvy than me. He’s actually the complete opposite of me – tall, angular and mostly straight lines. I made one muslin, a couple of changes and bam – now he has three pairs of pants (which I’ll blog when I can photograph them all on his person). Did I get cocky? Yes. I moved onto Closet Case Patterns Morgan Jeans for me. Oh man, what a steep and painful learning curve. Long story short – even after two muslins I can’t get any semblance of fit.

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So what’s a girl to do to come back from such a knock to the ego? She bloody digs through her gifted vintage pattern stash and finds something to reassure herself that she can actually sew. An elastic waist almost guarantees that baby will fit.

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I’ll admit I did hesitate. I mean, look at it in all its 1983 glory. It could be amazing or really, really bad. There is no middle ground with a pattern like this.

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Did I sew that sucker anyway? Of course! I do love me a frill and they are bang on trend right now. Not that I’m a huge follower of trends, but frills man – so fun.

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I sewed this one out of a super light and floaty Lizzy House double gauze (I bought mine locally and I’m not sure it’s even available anymore). If you’ve never used double gauze before, let me try and describe it for you. It’s a bit like a Labrador puppy (stay with me) – soft as hell, cute as a button but does like to roll over on itself and misbehave in a ridiculous manner. Plus it sheds like crazy. It needs a firm but gentle hand or it will end you (or itself when it throws itself under the overlocker blade – fabric, not puppy – the puppy analogy ended).

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I think after the ruffles and the forgiving waist, the coolest part of this pattern is the rad way the back is finished. On modern patterns with the keyhole back, I’ve only ever seen them finished by slashing the back and wrestling with a very narrow seam allowance to stitch down either side. This way is so much neater and easier! You sew the facing around the neckline and then stitch down the back to a point (through the back and facing) and back up. Then you slash between your two stitching lines to get the back opening. It’s super cool (and I might have been living under a rock but I’ve never seen it before). I do find I learn new techniques from vintage patterns.

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To be honest though, I really wasn’t sure how this would turn out until the very end. I’d decided to attempt sleeves because I really do prefer them, but I knew those puffy delights on the pattern weren’t for me. I decided to make them but leave off the gathering into the cuff on the bottom – I figured they’d be more like flutter sleeves that way. ALMOST RIGHT KATIE. But I forgot one thing – the metric shit tonne of ease in the sleeve caps. OMG. It was like gathering another skirt. Those babies stood out all on their own with structure never seen before in double gauze, no doubt. Those sleeves were turfed into the bin, I dug out the sleeve pattern pieces and traced it again, this time taking a couple of wedges out of the cap. Not technically correct I’m sure, but it worked very well.

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Feeling pretty damn pleased at my problem solving skills, I tried the dress on before hemming. Oh wow, I nearly cried – frump city. The skirt hit me between the shin and ankle and was very very ‘sister wife’ looking. I had nothing to lose, so I cut 15cms off the bottom, hemmed it and tried it on with a belt. YASSSSSS. It was just as I’d hoped. It’s truly amazing what a hem and a belt can achieve.

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I was so damn pleased with my frilly 80s secret pjs, that I went up to my sewing room and grabbed this beautiful nautical print from The Material Girl that I’ve been saving for something special.

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Isn’t it amazing? Bearded sailor, pretzel rope – what’s not to love? I only had 2m so had to forgo my precious sleeves. If it comes to it, I can wear a cardi or a fitted t shirt underneath.

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I sized down for this one as the gauze one is slightly blouse-y and because I was using a quilting weight (although incredibly soft for qc) cotton this time, I thought it would be better a bit smaller. Also that clever back facing wants to flip on this version, so I’ve stitched it down.

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I love this dress so much that you might just see its friends appear in the shop eventually…

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Merry Christmas {Vintage Simplicity 9008 in Outback Wife fabric}

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If you sew, you probably know about Outback Wife, the range of barkcloth designed by Cathi of Gertrude Made. If you don’t, I’ve blogged about it before here. Want some? I scored mine from Voodoo Rabbit in Brisbane, but be warned, it sells out damn fast.

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This particular range of barkcloth is 100% cotton, made in Japan and feels amazing. How special is this red colourway? It’s the perfect Christmas palette really, without screaming Christmas – because you can bet I’ll be wearing this baby all year round. I’ve loved this one since I first spied it on Instagram months ago. I didn’t have it pegged for a Christmas dress, but I just happened to see that Voodoo Rabbit added it to their shop a few nights ago and petrified that it would sell out, I made sure I bought some. As it turned out, it arrived super quickly and I couldn’t wait to turn it into a dress.

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I decided on the Gunne Sax dress that I’ve made three times recently. I know. But it is quite an easy sew and fits well. There was no way I was risking a new pattern on this fabric. This time though, I swapped the huge paneled skirt for a more simple circle skirt – it uses less fabric and I also didn’t want to cut through the print. I know that’s weird, especially for me and especially with a floral (I’m generally not into them), but look how pretttttttty it is.

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I used a vintage zipper from my stash and popped some pearl buttons on the front. They are dual purpose and help keep the front facing in place. This time it wanted to keep flipping up, which might just be the nature of the fabric. Ooh and I swapped the tie straps for slightly wider regular straps. I interfaced them this time too because the barkcloth seems to stretch out a little bit.

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I’ll be wearing this beauty tomorrow when I hang out with my family on the river, as is our tradition. We’ll arrive at about 7am, have bacon and eggs on one of the BBQs down there, swim, drink cold brew coffee, laugh, eat some more and then head home for a bit of a nap by about 11am. Then in the afternoon we’ll head to my parents place for a late lunch/early dinner that will consist of seafood, ham and salad. I’ve made Malteser cheesecake for dessert. It’s far too hot here to eat a traditional Christmas dinner. How do you do Christmas in your part of the world?

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Thank you for your comments, love and support, beautiful people. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and safe New Year. See you again soon.

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That 70s Dress With The Shoulder Ties {Style 2667}

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The other day I ran an Instagram poll to decide which dress I should sew next.

Style 2079

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or Style 2667.

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How good are Style patterns? I’ve made a few now, love them. They seem to have gone the way of the dodo, which is a shame.

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Anyway, Style 2667 was the winner of the instagram poll. But I ignored that and cut out both anyway. I made 2079 first and then whipped up 2667 yesterday. It was a super fast sew. Just front and back bodices pieces, front and back facing pieces and the skirt pieces. I ended up using plain circle skirt pieces though because the ones included in the pattern have gathers too and I really didn’t have enough fabric for all that frou frou.

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It didn’t fit as well straight out of the envelope as 2079, but I will forgive it. The bust darts are suuuuuuper long (you can see that in the pattern illustration) but the bodice was also too long for me. Which meant tying the straps up higher on my shoulders – in turn raising those bust darts way up over my boobs. So I managed to drop them about 1.5 inches (the darts, not the boobs). That will do for now, although it’s giving me some weird armscye issues. Nevermind, fixable for next time.

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And still wearable. I think as time goes on, I just get more and more fussy about fit issues that wouldn’t have even blipped on my radar in the past.  A while ago I was picking apart fit problems on something I’d made and someone commented to me that it’s something we’d accept in RTW and she was right. We are far harder on our own sews than something we’d pick up in a shop.

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So I’m happy. Pretty dresses and full skirts make me feel good. French bulldog printed fabric also pleases me. This one is designed by Christopher Thompson for Riley Blake and I bought it here. The facings and pockets are just plain pink lawn.

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Ed snagged a shirt out of it too (it’s a Tadah Troop Shirt). He calls it his Sid Shirt.

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Sid doesn’t really approve, but then he doesn’t approve of much these days.

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That 90s Dress That’s Not Really A Dress {Style 2079}

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The year was 1991.

Katie was 10 years old.

Terminator 2 and Silence of the Lambs came out (I didn’t see them until years later, obviously).

Style 2079 was also released.

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Fast forward to 1996. Katie was now 15. Oh yes, things were getting serious. The movie The Craft was released. Angsty Katie loved it so much she bought the soundtrack. Cue Morrissey banging on about how soon is now.

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Make the leap to 2017. Emo Katie is now 36 years old with a husband, two kids and a dog and lives in the burbs. And yet, when Dear Stella released this print she jumped on it as quickly as humanly possible. Because emo Katie still loves The Craft and all things 90s. Who doesn’t, come on.

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Ok, I’ve finished referring to myself in the third person now. How good is this print though? Love it so hard.

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This one is a risk though, let’s be honest. It had the potential to be very, very bad. The print saves it though, I think. It brings a pretty modern twist to a 90s shape. Plus, I have seen this style kicking around a bit in RTW these days. It’s trying to come back, along with those high waisted jeans that the gang from Friends wore.

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In case it’s not apparent from the pics, I made the culottes version of the pattern. Which means I have to strip to pee. Worth it. I can’t believe how well it fits straight out of the envelope. Will I make it again? Maybe. I’ll probably give the dress version a go.

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‘You see I’ve already waited too long and all my hope is gone…’

Is it in your head now? I hope so, it’s in mine.

 

Another Gunne Sax {Simplicity 9008}

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As soon as I finished the first version, I cut out another from this rad rainbow border print. I managed to use up most of the 6 yards I had. Such a fabric hungry dress. I couldn’t help it though, that silhouette is pretty amazing.

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I tried my best to line up the panels, but they aren’t perfect. Luckily the skirt is so full that it isn’t super noticeable.

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I won’t blather on about this one since I literally just made another one the same.

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The only changes this time were omitting the sash and adding horsehair braid into the hem. Which is a really easy way to finish never ending circle skirt hems. Apparently I can’t stitch straight though.

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It’s been a bit of a day. My little old Bernette wasn’t sewing well yesterday and because she’s never skipped a beat, I assumed it was the end. Turns out I was right and my sewing machine repair guy confirmed that for me today.

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So this dress was sewn mostly on my vintage Janome, which goes really well to be honest. She isn’t a fan of knits though. Now I have the fun job of trying to decide what will replace my faithful little Bernette. She was only a cheapy but she will be missed.

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There ain’t nothing like a rainbow dress to cheer you up though right? The boys told me this was their new favourite and I should definitely wear it on Christmas day. I think I will, kiddos.

 

 

 

That 70s Dress That’s A Gunne Freaking Sax {Vintage Simplicity 9008}

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If you’re all like ‘WTF is a Gunne Sax, ya big weirdo?!’ it’s totally fine. Here’s a bit of info –  basically it’s a clothing  label that was successful in the 1970s and known for its prairie, Victorian and Edwardian styled designs. Gunne Sax only came to my attention recently when I watched the Netflix series ‘Girlboss’, which is based on Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography and tells the story of how she started selling vintage clothing on ebay.

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Obviously though, by the time 1979 had rolled around (the year Simplicity 9008 was published), there was less lace and high collars and more of the above. Apparently the designer had moved towards creating dresses with prom dress features. Still, I was kind of taken by this baby when I found her in my vintage stash yesterday. It was originally given to me in about 6 boxes of vintage patterns which is why my memory of it is a touch hazy.

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So I was digging through my vintage pattern stash, wanting to make something different and found this one right at the bottom. That 50s shape spoke to me – the full skirt and that collar are beautiful. I very rarely wear dresses without sleeves, but I’m making an exception for this one. Plus I thought it might be cute with a little tshirt underneath or I can always wear a little wrap top over it.

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Deciding on fabric was hard. I wanted something I wasn’t hugely attached to as this would basically be a muslin – one I hoped would be wearable, but considering the grading up I had to do, I was unsure. I hate wasting fabric but I also hate spending hours sewing without being able to wear the finished product. Another thing – it’s bloody massive. I had 4m of the bear cotton/linen and I only just managed to tetris the dress out of it (I did use plain black lawn for the facings). Being directional obviously added to the challenge. The fabric was originally intended for dresses to sell, but after I washed it the black faded really unevenly and I didn’t really want to pass that on to paying customers. So in the end it was perfect for my sorta muslin.

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See that skirt? There’s eleven panels in that sucker. Thirty pattern pieces in total. Thirty-four if you count the pockets. I think it’s fuller than a normal circle skirt, my petticoat barely makes a difference.

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I didn’t change a whole lot beyond grading it up. I just followed the pattern pieces of a princess seamed dress that fits me well and it worked pretty successfully. Once I’d redrawn the bodice pieces, I lined them up to see how much I had to add to the skirt pieces (not much surprisingly, although the 3cms added to the bodice is spread pretty thinly over all those skirt panels).

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Redrawing the bodice pieces meant also redrawing the collar and facing pieces and I ended up slightly off with my collar pieces unfortunately. They just don’t quite reach in the centre. Not a big deal though and I’ll correct that for next time.

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Next time? Oh yeah. It’s taking all I have not to make another one of these ASAP.

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That 60s Dress With The Metal Zip {Vintage McCalls 9083}

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Have I told you before that my mum is a legend? My mum is a legend. Last week I received a very excited phone call from her because she found a few things at an op shop that she knew I’d love. Two of them were these barkcloth (I think) table cloths. Both in excellent nick and around 1m x 1m. One looked like it had never been used, one slightly used. Not a huge difference in colour between them both though.

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My ma knows me well, so of course they became mine. I had planned on making a full gathered skirt with them, but decided to see if I could stretch it to a dress instead. It was time to make something a bit different. I dug through that lovely vintage stash that was given to me a while back and came up with McCalls 9083, a dress pattern from 1967.

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I did make some pretty significant changes to the pattern. First and foremost, my bust is nowhere in the vicinity of 34 inches, so some grading up had to happen. Then a 2 inch full bust adjustment on top of that. I am so glad I did too, because it fits like a glove. FBAs are magic, 10/10 do recommend. I use this tutorial to do mine. I lowered the neckline slightly too, because that sucker is high.

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I slashed and spread the skirt, eliminating the darts and making it more A line in shape. It’s a bit of a weird feeling for me because I am so used to wearing very full skirts. I feel a little bit naked, which is ridiculous.

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I decided on patch pockets because I had a feeling side seam pockets might stick out a bit on this style of skirt.

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I had planned to use an invisible zip, but it turned out I didn’t have one long enough in my stash. Then I remembered I had a pretty long thrifted metal one hiding somewhere, so I dug it out. I think the metal is way cooler and gives all that floral a little bit of an edge.

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The bodice is lined in black lawn and yeah, I probably should have used black thread but I wasn’t sure whether to match the lining or the zip. So the zip it was.

Peace, love and tablecloth dresses.