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Saturday, 11 June 2016

Romantic 1930s bias gown

Oh, la la!



Finally posting pics, you guys! I'm really proud of how this dress turned out!


I'm also proud of my hair! It's not perfect, but I did only have an hour and a half to do it. : /


I knew an open back would be my favorite part of this dress. And look at those waves!


I wanted this dress to be dramatic and romantic. I wish I could have justified using silk, but I needed more than 5 yards of fabric and I wasn't very confident that it would actually turn out! I would have hated to have spent all that money and ended up with a wadder.


I had a hell of a time picking the fabric, too. I don't usually wear colours this intense. This crepe-backed satin ended up being pretty easy to work with (I was shocked!) and I think the colour flatters me. I just wonder if this wasn't a common colour in the 1930s. I really wanted the dress to look like something that could have been worn in that time period.


All photos were taken by the awesome Brian Chambers at Sunnyside Beach in Toronto. From the early 20s to the mid-50s, Sunnyside was a happening recreational scene with a bathing pavilion (now it's a tacky restaurant) and an amusement park. There were concerts by Basie and Ellington. There was even a time when public transportation to Toronto's beaches was free!




Of course, then the city built a highway cutting off the beach from the rest of the city and ruined the whole thing. Thanks a lot post-WWII-development-boom. Oh, and then there was a huge sewage problem. That didn't help either.


Still a gorgeous spot to spend the evening and great for pictures!

Friday, 10 June 2016

More bias dress stuff! How I cut out the pattern

Hey guys, happy Friday!

Man, I learned so much making my bias gown (pictures are in the works. I can't wait to post them!) and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface! It really is so different from what I usually do. I got Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Schaeffer from the library and I just find couture stuff so intimidating!!!!

Something that really made an impact on me was her point about one major difference between couture and RTW or home sewing being that with couture techniques, its the seamlines that are marked, whereas with home and RTW sewing, the seam allowances are very precise and the seams are joined using the edge of the cut fabric as a guide.

That was when it really sank in that even the cutting-out part of the project would be completely out of my comfort zone! No kidding, I'm pretty sure this dress aged me about 10 years.

Full disclosure, I have no idea what the best strategy would have been. In a perfect world I would have draped the dress on a dress form and used the draped fabric to transfer to my dress fabric but that was definitely impossible, so I kind of improvised. Paper patterns all the way!

If you have a better technique please share it with me!! Otherwise, hopefully someone else will be able to put this process to use.


Here's what I did: cutting out a bias paper pattern.

1) I cut the pattern out of oak tag, excluding the seam allowances on the bias pieces (the back was on grain, so I kept the seam allowances and cut it out as usual).

2) I laid the fabric out face down on tracing paper, with everything squared up as precisely as possible. You can see below that I even taped the edges of the fabric to the paper to keep it from shifting.


3) I layed the oak tag pattern pieces out, carefully lined up on the bias, and traced them with a fabric marker. Make sure to do a test first to make sure it will come out without ruining your fabric!


4) Next I removed the oak tag pattern piece and pinned the fabric to the paper below. I made sure to place the pins within about an inch of the seam line. Remember, you're tracing the seam line and will be cutting the seam allowance freehand. Make sure your pins go through the paper, too!


5) Once you've finished tracing all your pieces, cut them out, giving yourself about an inch of seam allowance. Then thread trace the seam lines so they're visible on both sides. This is incredibly tedious. I did a little long-short-long-short pattern to make it pretty and so I could tell the difference between thread tracing and any basting I would do. Keep the fabric pinned to the paper if you want. I didn't need to because my fabric was actually pretty agreeable so I just kept it flat on the table. You might also want to have a stiff drink while you do this. And don't forget to use a separate thread for each edge. If you get to a corner, stitch a little bit past it and start again with a new thread, instead of trying to, like, go around the corner. See the pic below?



Oh, I probably should have mentioned at the beginning, this works best if you're hand stitching the seams. Which you are, right? Yeah, you might want to pour yourself another. Good luck!




Monday, 6 June 2016

Chambray shirtdress take 2

Hello friends! I'm taking a break from posting about my bias gown to share some pics of my second chambray dress.


Perfect for hanging out in the back yard! I love those long summer days.

The chambray I used is really nice and light, so I can wear it in hot weather and still have my shoulders and arms covered. I've reached an age where I'm pretty worried about sun protection.


I used my old frienemy, 042010 long sleeve blouse from BurdaStyle. I just extended it from the bottom hem to make it into a dress. The pattern actually comes with longer pattern pieces to make a shirt dress but I've made so many changes to the shirt pattern I was not about to start that shit over again. Nuh-uh.


I actually started this dress before the other chambray shirtdress but I had given up because I thought that this one was going to be too small in the hips. I tried it on once I sewed up the side seams and thought it wasn't going to fit and just gave up. I must have been on drugs or something. I tried it again a few weeks later and now I'm so happy with it!


My friend Gus came by to say hello and help with some weeding. He's a good boy!



I love that I can link to my pinterest boards! Here's my inspiration board for this dress. I guess I still haven't nailed the cool-casual accessorizing. Need some wedge espadrilles, sun hat, bracelets and a leather purse. And longer legs!







Saturday, 4 June 2016

What's a great dress without the perfect hair?

Guys, my dress is smashing! I can't wait to post pics, but while those are in the works I want to share with you the journey I've been on to achieve the perfect hair.

In my research for the dress, I fell in love with the illustrations on the pattern envelopes I was seeing online. So elegant!



I liked the finger wave and I knew I wanted the back up off my neck, to maximize the drama of the open back.

I did briefly consider the poodle updo, but I worried that it might look a little more I Love Lucy than I really wanted.


Maybe next time ; p

In the end, though, I really did want to try some finger waves and a faux bob. possibly influenced by all the Downton Abbey I've been watching lately (I know DA is the wrong era but there are definitely some style elements that lasted into the mid-thirties, which is what I was going for).

I really had no idea where to start so I got on Pinterest and Youtube and just started trying things!


Heh. I heat set pin curls, then used a brush, comb, fingers and clips to set the waves.



Hmmm... not quite right.





Closer! I experimented with different curl patterns (like how I segmented my hair for curling and what direction I curled it in). The waves were still a little looser than I wanted here, though. I was using my 1" curling iron. Also the back looks like barf. It's really hard to get it nice when I can't see what I'm doing!!!




Even closer! My friend helped me track down a 1/2" curling iron on a trading network. You can see the waves are much tighter and more defined with the smaller curls. It's starting to look more and more like the pattern illustrations! The back was still pretty messy at this point but I eventually got it under control when I realized that I only really needed finger waves in the front, so I didn't have to curl things as tightly in the back as the front. It made it a lot easier to gather it all into a chignon at the base of the skull.

Downside of using the 1/2" curling iron, thought, is that it takes, like, hours to curl my hair with it, since I have to work in such small sections!


I can't wait to show you the final version! You can check out all the tutorials I used on the Pinterest board.




(Edited to fix link to Pinterest board)

Thursday, 19 May 2016

bias dress progress

Okay so I'm all gung-ho about the bias dress so last week I whipped up a muslin of Vera Venus' Little Bias Dress. With less-than wonderful results..





Eeeeeewwwwww.

As I feared, this cut and silhouette don't work for me! Maybe I could have played around with the fit to make the proportions more flattering but I just have the feeling that this is not the right look for a small-chested woman. I also have kind of, like, low hips, I guess? Anyway the high waist is just making my middle look suuuuuuuper long. Not what I'm going for!

Making this muslin also made me realize that I have to work with the streatch of the bias instead of against it. With all of my experience cutting garments on the straight grain, I had the mindset that I had to limit the stretching of the garment until sewn. I sandwiched the fabric in paper to cut out and even stay-stitched and sewed it up with the paper on. What a waste of paper! Since sewing it up and reading more, I've learned my lesson. I'll loosely baste the seams and let it hang before sewing the final dress.

So with the design of the dress up in the air I turned to pinterest for more style ideas. Specifically looking for dresses that hit at the true waist (almost always a good look for me).

McCall 8521. 1930's Vintage Sewing Pattern.  Keyhole back with loose top and figure skimming skirt.  Belted.  #vinsinn  #1930svintage  www.vinsinn.com:

Yummy! I love the drape-y, Grecian vibe!

30s evening gown stripe plaid? blue bias cut draping long dress low back color illustration vintage fashion McCall 7892 | ca. 1934 Ladies' & Misses' Evening Dress:

Another one of my favorites. Look at that glamorous back neckline! I'm also going to try to steal the bow idea. Hopefully, the trailing tails of the bow will cover any weirdness from having a side zipper.

Not too sure how the shoulders of this one stay on, with the cowl in front and the low V in back. Maybe there is some inner structure or underpinning keeping it in place?

I've started drafting the bodice much like this second pic. It's also been a little tricky trying to figure out how to finish the edges on the bodice. Then I realized that with a cowl I can self/face the entire thing! Right? And the back will be cut on grain, so I can use the usual facings and it will be a bit more secure and hopefully stay on!

More to come as I get closer!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Unbiased?

Hey, guys, can we talk about bias cut garments? I must have one and it's really taking me outside of my comfort zone!


I play in a big band (it's a 19-piece jazz orchestra that plays classic swing tunes of the big-band era). Every few months we put on a show with some swing dancers and other local groups (vintage societies, etc). It's SO much fun to have people lindy hop to our music. It's what the music was written for, after all!



I really love that so many of the dancers make the effort to dress up in sweet, period-appropriate outfits. Everyone looks so good in their pearls and little white gloves! So far I've gotten by on cobbling together looks using clothes that I already had but it's been a dream of mine to make something specific to wear for these events.

How much would I slay in this?

The guys in the band all wear tuxes and I want to wear something equally as formal, as well as era-appropriate. For months I've thought about trying to make a classic 50s era frock. I love this look and it's a flattering shape on me. I think one of the reasons that I never pulled the trigger, though, was that I knew that it wouldn't really be the right look for the time-period of the music.

I could so rock this.

Oh, and I also tend to spend most of my free time leading up to a show practicing, which doesn't leave much time for sewing! This show I'm in better shape, playing-wise, so I can dedicate time to making a dress.

I combed through Pinterest, vintage sewing blogs and Google image and finally faced that fact that the only real option is to make a bias cut gown. I guess I had never really thought about bias cut garments but now the thought of making one has sunk it's teeth into my imagination and won't let go!




So glamorous!

I'm dreaming of gorgeous drape, luscious satins and flowing godets. Meanwhile, my sewing skills have been left in the dust! I've spent a lot of time working on tailoring and shirtmaking techniques and I'm starting to feel like these skills are really developing for me! I was less intimidated by these techniques but couture dressmaking just seems much more out of reach. Working with delicate, difficult fabrics and techniques that take decades to master, if you can even find instructions.

So I've reserved some books out of my public library: Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer and Bias-cut Dressmaking by Gillian Holman. Hopefully I can cobble together enough knowledge to make something wearable!

Oh, and then we'll come to the issue of whether or not it's flattering on me. But that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Seriously, though, what did ladies wear in the 30s if they had a bad figure? Bias cut shows no mercy.

...And what underwear did they wear? I need to know, people!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Style ease life

Yaaaaaaas!


Friends, here are my photos of the giant oversized Chambray shirt-dress! I'm wearing it as a shirt because it's still chilly and it might actually be a bit short to wear as a dress. I'll have to see how I feel once the weather heats up!


This week I attended the Alan Baker Memorial Lecture "From Dinos to DNA" at the ROM. Very interesting stuff, though some of it was over my head. And of course there was a reception afterward! The ROM really is an exceptional building, on top of being a great and engaging museum. So glad we were able to snap some pics there!



As I said in my last post, I used the BurdaStyle Boyfriend Shirt. I don't know about you but I always wish BurdaStyle would provide more information and pics of their patterns! So I'm going to try to include in this post some of the information at I would want to know if I was shopping this pattern.



I used size 40, which was the middle of the size range available for this pattern. My measurements are 34-26-39 with a height of 5'4". According to the size chart the size 40 is drafted for someone with measurements: 36-29-38 and the garment's finished measurements are 49-46.5-51.5. So much ease! These measurements are pretty rough, though. It's hard to accurately measure such a gigantic garment!

Feeling my little booties!

Oh, I should also mention that once the shirt was finished I just sewed down two tucks - one on each side seam to take in about 5 inches. I found that when I wore it with a belt the bottom hem would kinda flare and these tucks fixed that. The shirt is so big the tucks just get lost amongst all that fabric! See on the side there?


This pattern also includes the BurdaStyle Safari Jacket, so I used the longer pattern pieces to make the dress (I shaped the hem like the shirt but used the length from the jacket). I didn't make any other changes to the pattern and it sewed up quick and easy. I follow almost all the techniques in DPC's Shirtmaking, so I was thrilled that the arm-body seam matched up perfectly for a flat construction. It drives me crazy how many shirt patterns have sleeves that are meant to be set in.


I did make a little mistake in that I cut the collar and collar stand too short. I measured before I cut out, but when I went to sew it together, it was all wrong. I ended up just re-cutting the whole thing.


And, of course, what's a trip to the ROM without a nightcap at the Museum Tavern? This place is so gorgeous and they have delicious cocktails. The style really knocks my socks off! The whole bar top was copper (it matched the copper cups).



As always, credit for the great pics goes to the fantastic Brian Chambers. Thank you Brian!