Monday, June 26, 2006

The Olivia Dress

Hi friends. I hope this finds you all well and happy.
Migraines haven't left me since last Wednesday... This, combined with an incredibly busy end of the year (which certainly doesn't help the migraines), and the worries I was mentioning a while ago (which haven't lessened), haven't helped me to be creative lately. Friends, I must also apologize for my lateness in answering emails, or for my spare comments on your blogs: on top of having very little spare time, I can't stay in front of a computer screen for long...

Fortunately for the cheerfulness of this blog, I still have several little things to show you: three dresses, gifties sent over the previous weeks, and my latest items for the Virades de l'Espoir sale.

Today, I wanted to show you the two dresses I made from a design which I decided to call the "Olivia Dress". Why so? Well, my friend Olivia from Normandy recently sent me some wonderful crinkled, slightly shiny, and of course blue fabric... And her fabric inspired me to make the following dress:
The Olivia Dress
Pattern: Newlook 6557 - view B

I apologize, as I know one gets a better idea when the garment is worn rather than on a dressform... But Seb is just as busy as I am. Apologies also for the poor light - the weekend has felt more like Autumn than Summer here.
I decided to fully line the bodice (with white cotton): I find this gives it more body than merely adding facings. I think I'll do that alteration often in the future.

I really like that design, and I immediately wanted to call this feminine, simple yet chic dress, la robe Olivia.
Actually, I liked that design so much that I used it again in the following days...
The second dress from that pattern is better adjusted, as New Look patterns - like Simplicity patterns - come out waaay larger than their sizing indicates (why can't they be more acurate?). Even using the smallest size in the envelope vs. the size my measurements pointed to, it turned out a little large.

I wore this dress at my sister's wedding. The first one looked too much like a bridemaid's dress, and that was certainly not the right look for the simplistic wedding my sister and BIL wished for. This is why I chose a white and blue flowery fabric that made the design look more informal.

My little sister took that picture in my parents' garden, on our older sister's wedding day.

Oh! And I almost forgot once again. When I was in Lille, I had my Petal Fairy framed. I wanted to wait to be in Lille because it was much less expensive there than in Paris! And I like the ladies in that framing store - that's also where I framed my paintings, when I used to paint.

I chose a double matting, and colours that brought out her wings (light grey and aubergine).

I wish you all a pleasant week!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tutorial: Making a Ruffle/Flounced Skirt

Here is how I make my ruffle skirts.

I usually make mine with 3 panels, but you can obviously change that number.
You'll only need 1 body measurement: your hips.

Upper panel:
Width: If you want your skirt to be flattering and not be bulging at the waist (who would want that, eh?), you'll have to add a minimal amount of ease to the upper panel. 7 cms seem a good amount.
My hips are 90 cm (=35"1/2). I always add 1.5 cm seam allowances (because the plate on my sewing machine has that guide, and this way I don't need to actually trace anything on the fabric! I just use that guide). 1.5 cm is 5/8" for you friends across the Atlantic.
Since you need to add a seam allowance to both sides of the panel, you'll add a total 3 centimetres to the panel's width.
So for me: 90cm + 3 cm seam allowances + 7 cm ease = 100 cm (39" 1/5).

Length: That will depend on your own height and preference. You'll have to add a 1.5-cm allowance to the panel bottom, and 3 cm to the top, to allow for the elastic casing.

Lower panels:
Make each panel 1.5 time wider than the previous one. Make them to desired length. You could make all the panels the same length, or make each panel a little longer than the previous one - like I did here:
Just another possibility would be to make a smaller flounce at the bottom, like here:

N.B.1: Be careful to cut the panels perfectly on grain. Respecting the grain of the fabric is the key to making a garment that will hang well on you.
N.B.2: Don't forget to prewash the fabric so it has shrunk before you sew it! Wash the fabric just as you plan to wash the finished garment.
N.B.3: unless you make a mini flounced skirt (or a skirt for a little girl!), the width of your fabric won't be sufficient for the lower panels (or even the upper panel). That means you'll just have to sew two half-widths together (don't forget to add seam allowances!) to create your panels. I find a skirt holds better with a seam on each side.
N.B.4: don't forget to serge or overcast the raw edges (with a zigzag or overcast stitch). Since the panels will be gathered, it seems easier to serge all the cut pieces before you start sewing them.

First panel & casing:
Sew the first panel's sides together. Press the seam(s) open.

Make the casing on the upper edge of the upper panel: turn under half a cm or so, press to mark the fold. Then turn under another 1 cm, press to mark the fold. Pin-baste the casing as you press. Stitch close to the lower fold, leaving an opening to put the elastic in. Insert a 1-cm (or narrower) elastic into the casing (using a saftey pin or, in my case, one of those big, long needles knitters use to weave their loose ends).
Slip this panel on to decide on the elastic's length. Pin the elastic to desired length, overlapping the elastic ends, and take the panel off (take care not to prick yourself with that pin!)
Stitch the elastic closed with a wide zigzag stitch. (I stitch several times to make sure that seam is strong).
Stitch the casing's opening closed.
To prevent the elastic from rolling on itself inside the casing, tack it to each side with a tiny seam perpendicular to the elastic.

Lower panels:
Sew the panels' sides together. Press the seams open.

Gathering the lower panels

Now for the tricky part: gathering the lower panels.
I use the basting stitch method explained here, in the "Gathering your Ruffle" part, towards the middle of the page.
NB: since the panels are so wide, I advise you to divide your width into 2 or (better) 4 even sections, and to sew basting lines for each section: this will prevent the thread from breaking when you gather the fabric. Use STRONG bobbin thread here - nothing is more frustrating than having to unpick those basting lines and restitch them when one of them breaks.
Gather the fabric evenly until the upper edge is the same width as the upper panel's bottom edge.
The next part in that page, "Attaching your Gathered Ruffle", also explains you how to sew a lower panel to an upper panel.

Don't forget to press each seam as you go. Pressing each seam properly is essential in garment sewing and helps to achieve a professional result. Pressing is not ironing: press the iron down on each seam, but do not slide it back and forth. I first press each seam as stitched, then I press it open.

Hemming the lower edge:
Turn under 0.5 cm, then turn under again. Press to mark the fold. Pin-baste as you press. Sew with a straight stitch.

You're done!
Now put on the skirt, make a hat to match, and go enjoy the sun.

Essaouira, Morocco, April 2006.

Hat was made using the Wild Ginger's Wild Things! free software.

I hope this inspires you to make a skirt or two - or more!
I hope these explanations are clear enough - if not, please do ask me to clarify and I'll edit this post.

I would love to hear from you if you use those directions to make a skirt:
That would be the nicest way to thank me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Spring has come

Hello friends
It is more than time I showed you the little skirts I made over the last two Sundays...
The first one was made on the day before I met Shashi: I was hoping to wear it in Shashi's honour, but it finally rained too much to be wearing a skirt.

That skirt is incredibly simple: it is only made of two pieces cut in the bias, and has an elastic waist. I couldn't resist trimming the hem with lace...

And I sewed, trimmed and serged the second one last Sunday, in just one hour (since the pattern was all ready):
This picture was taken earlier this week at 7 pm, on the Canal Saint-Martin, ten minutes from our place. Yep, Spring has finally reached Paris! And we are taking long walks in the evenings, as often as we can.
(I know I need white shoes, but I couldn't find any in my size (US size 5 - UK size 3,5 I think) anywhere in the dozens of shoe shops around our place. Am I really such a dwarf? You see what I mean, now Jenna?)
I bought the fabric with Shashi on May 29th: 5 euros for two metres, and I have enough left for a dress. That skirt cost me a total 3 euros at most.
Here's a first WIP picture of Celtic Summer:

This is the back of her dress. I finally chose to go with the fabric that Carol sent me for my Birthday, rather than the Country Stitch Eden fabric: the colours are the same really, but those in Carol's fabric are more muted and soft - Seb and I felt it would be better to have a less "busy" choice for Celtic Summer. Now that I have started and stitched 3 different shades on the fabric, I am really very happy with that choice. What a wonderful present you made me, Carol!
Oh, and I have two dress projects:

New Look 6459
I chose the design that is worn by the model; I finished tracing the pattern and cutting the fabric for this one (which is by far the least interesting part for me), and I hope to sew it up this weekend. The fabric is the same as the the blue skirt above.

And then I plan to make this one:

New Look 6557
It'll be cut in a pretty blue fabric that a French friend sent me. Looks like I'll be wearing blue all summer.
I hope you are all having a beautiful and sunny day.