Victory Patterns Ava Dress


First up, you aren’t going to see this dress on my just yet because I screwed up. I’m not sure how I managed it but I managed to make it too small around the waist. It’ll do up but it is TIGHT and I don’t feel comfortable modelling it. I’d toiled it and checked and tweaked and carefully transferred back to the pattern but there we go. I also constructed the dress in a day so was rushing which may have also contributed to my idiot mistake. I’d intended to wear it to a black tie event that evening but ended up wearing my Vintage Vogue 2903. It’s an incentive to keep loosing weight though!

Despite all of that though I love this dress. A lot of love went into this dress before I even put scissors to cloth. The pattern was a gift from Sonja at Gingermakes. She surprised me with it after I organised the Sew Very Merry Christmas Swap as a thank you! Then Fleur helped me out by doing some shopping at Mood for the charmeuse and lace for me and then posting it to me here in the UK. The blue silk was an absolute score from a charity shop which involved begging a tiny swatch, buying a pack of matches to do a quick burn test in the car park and then handing over £40 and running off with nearly 5m of pure silk!

I pre-washed all the fabric by hand which was straight forward. The blue silk though shed dye like you wouldn’t believe. Even after three rinses dye was still leaching into the water so I just called it a day at that point. The soap was out of the fabric and I just made a mental note that this was never to be washed as a finished item as I’d run the risk of dying the charmeuse a weird grey colour!

The pattern its self was a pleasure to work with, I loved the little touch on the PDF showing you which sides of the paper to cut off. I did my usual FBA (as I do on everything!) and tweaked the shape of the darts a little as this gives me a better shape. I also extended the width of the dress across the sweetheart seam as I wanted a little more coverage there.

Ava 2

I underlined the lace yoke with the charmeuse as I need to wear a bra and wanted to be able to hide the straps completely. And let me tell you, that charmeuse is gorgeous against the skin. It’s like water through your hands, I’m a little bit in love with the stuff!  I simply basted the lace to the charmeuse in the seam allowance and then treated it as one piece of fabric.  I used a size 60 sharp for the entire construction to damage the fabric as little as possible.

Construction wise the only fiddly bit is the V at the centre of the sweetheart. It took a little bit of time to get that done neatly and if I hadn’t been time crunched I’m sure I’d have found it less vexing. Oh, not adding a lining and being a little less of a perfectionist might have helped as well!

Ava 1

As I mentioned, the main change I made was to add a lining to the dress. I used a navy cotton for the bodice and attached a skirt made of dress lining. I attached it at the same time as attaching the yoke, which was the major contributing factor to the headache with the sweetheart seam line.  As you can see though, if  wore this dress without a lining and was back lit, not a lot would be left to the imagination!

Other little touches were reinforcing the side seams and darts with strips of bias organza to give the seam a little more strength as the silk is old and I wanted to give it all the help I could.  I also finished the neck and armhole edges with bias silk charmeuse.  I attached it by machine and then whip stitched it down by hand.  The stitches are invisible from the right side as the lace hides them.  It gives a really clean edge and also stops any potential lace scratchiness.  Which to be honest wouldn’t be a problem as although synthetic, the lace drapes beautifully and is very soft.

And as for the fit.  Well, there were nearly tears.  It fits beautifully across the bust but the waist is just a tad tight.  I should have realised when I had to add pleats for the skirt section to fit the bodice but I just assumed that the combination of silk and bias had just caused it to stretch a lot.  The perils of rushing.  By the time I tried it on, I’d already serged the waist seam and it was half an hour before I needed to be out of the door.  So, whilst I can squeeze into this dress, it’s obvious that the waist is too small.  It is far from a wadder though and I hope to be able to wear it soon.

Thank you Sonja and Fleur for making this dress possible in the first place.  You (and the sewing community in general!) are awesome.

Dress No 2: Harry’s Dress

Oh dear, my blog post titles aren’t exactly poetic are they?  Plus I’ve named this dress ‘Harry’s Dress’ going against my whole can’t call a dress a male name in my last post.  Never mind, I’m allowed to change my mind, right?

But back to the dress.  It’s called Harry’s dress as many of you know because it was made for Harry’s christening.  I haven’t got any photos of the day though as I don’t like to publish photos of other people on the inter webs without talking to them about it first, so I took these photos at the same time as I photographed Mary’s dress.  Which is how I learnt how to get myself in and out of back zippers (hurrah!).

This dress nearly wasn’t made on time.  I had to reattach the lace appliqué on the front the morning of the christening as I’d sewn it on the night before whilst watching source code and it was seriously wonky.  Like the point at the bottom pointing at my right bust apex kinda wonky.  And the seam allowances on the armholes are STILL unfinished  and I’ll have to do them before washing it as it is filthy – wrangling several toddlers at a BBQ based party after the church service made that bit inevitable.

I also made the belt but didn’t wear it on the day.  I like the dress with and without, but I was feeling bloated on the day so went without.  The button at the back is a gorgeous turquoise glass with gold highlights.  I attached it to a plain button and fasten the belt through two button holes using the smaller button.  That way I can wash the belt and the glass button is safe.

Here’s the information:

The dress is a mash up of Colette’s Peony (the bodice) and Burda’s Jenny Pencil skirt.  I added a godet to the back of the skirt as the slit was a little too high for my taste and comfort level.

The fabric is a blue cotton sateen which I suspect is upholstery weight as it has some heft to it.  It was a score from eBay.  So including the cost of two patterns this dress came in at around £30, which is less than £15 for the materials.  The lace appliqué came from Mary not Martha, an Etsy seller and her shop is full of gorgeous appliqués.

I cut a 14 through the shoulders, grading to an 18 at the bust and grading the Jenny skirt to fit the bodice waist line.  I also added the godet and reinforced the godet and side seams using Liz’s tutorial.  Absolute gold if you want your pencil skirt with wiggle to be tough enough to go the distance!

As seems to be common I had to make a massive sway back adjustment out of the lower back.  (heh, just typing that has made me sit up straight!).  There was a fair amount of spare fabric there, but it seems to be a common issue and not something I generally have to deal with.  I also had to take some spare fabric out of the bust area by increasing the depth of the bust darts.  I should have really traced the 12 and done an FBA but I was time crunched and feeling a tad lazy.  I also lowered the neckline by about an inch as it felt too high to be comfortable for me.

For future incarnations I also need to shorten the bodice by about 1/2″ but this only became apparent after wearing the dress for a whole day.

Once again, Colette’s patterns were crystal clear and the Jenny skirt pattern pieces are so simple that I didn’t even refer the instructions.  It all came together quickly and easily.

So, the positives and negatives:  For some reason (possibly my redrafting of the neckline or the thickness of the fabric) I can’t get the shoulder seam/neck facing area to sit nicely.  It keeps creasing up and that’s after loads of grading, clipping and notching.  I also should have taken all your advice and made the short sleeves but I was worried with our nutty british weather that I’d be cold.  The sleeves are a bit too big and baggy really and need a bit more shape for me to really like them.

Part of me wishes that I’d stuck with my original plan of using the darker colour (and lighter weight) fabric as I’m not sold on this colour on me.  But the 3m of blue cost less than 1m of the teal, so the finances won out.  Either way, cotton sateen is a brilliant fabric for this dress – thank you for the advice Karen!

It’s not going to go into heavy rotation as it’s a bit too fancy for everyday wear, but it’s nice to have a ‘posh’ dress to turn to.  I don’t feel as good in this dress as I do in Mary’s dress and I think that shows.  Loosing a few more lbs may well help with feeling better in it.

On the positive it’s a gorgeous bodice and I like the Jenny skirt pattern.  I can see Peony’s being made for my professional wardrobe both with my Jenny variation and with the drafted full skirt by Colette.  I did miss having pockets!

So I shall echo the others who have made Peony before me – it’s a simple to make and versatile dress that can be easily dressed up or down with fabric choice and / or styling.  I also echo the call to make a toile before you cut into your fashion fabric due to the fabric pooling at the lower back.  Basically this dress combines some of my favourite details: bateau neckline, fitted bodice and pencil skirt.

A bit of saucy belt waving!

After all that, I really fancied some simple sewing, so I’ve made a border print dirndl skirt  that needs photographing.  From idea to finished in an evening – perfect low pressure sewing!

Next up, I’m joining Sunni’s 2in1 Simplicity 1880 sew along!  Plus a few more wardrobe basics as well.

Teal, Lace and Peony

What do you think of my plans for Colette Patterns’ Peony?

After your feedback when I asked what I should wear as a God Mother in June, a short sleeved Peony was the overwhelming winner.  I love the dark teal cotton sateen that I found at my local fabric store but have yet to buy.  I plan on changing the skirt to a pencil silhouette with a godet at the back edged with venice / guipure ivory lace.  I also want to put an ivory lace appliqué at the neckline.

What I can’t decide on is what to do about the belt.  Do I leave it completely?  Or do I make one in the same colour as the dress, or purple, or aqua or ivory like the lace?  I’m drawn to the purple or aqua at the moment – what do you think?

Congratulations William Arthur Philip Louis and Catherine Elizabeth!

How beautiful

Congratulations William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  And oh, that dress! by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

My favourite part is the way the lace framed her face as well as the buttons at the wrist and down her spine.  The way it draped and the folds into the train.  Completely timeless and elegant.  Just beautiful.  The tiara is the “something borrowed” from the Queen!  Prince William, when he finally dared to look, said to her “You look beautiful”.

They both look so happy too.  I wish them a long and happy future together.  It was so sweet when Kate asked William in the carriage outside the abbey “Are you happy?”.

Good Luck!