Do you remember the silk(y) fabric that I got for about £5 a few weeks ago? The one that I planned to turn into a kimono dress, inspired by a dress from the 70s? Long story short, I finished it, without a proper pattern but with hours spent just ripping seams. It was the most complicated piece to put together that I have ever made, and the one I will probably wear the least. It is beautiful to look at on the hanger though… Oh, and let me show you the first ever gif that I made to demonstrate the kimono sleeves in full swing. (You can find a great tutorial about making gifs in Photoshop in about 2 minutes here.) Sorry about the mess around me, this was supposed to be the test shoot before we go out, but I got annoyed with the Sunday audience on the street, and forgot to take the proper photos. Check out how stationary my hair is. NASA should examine it, ha!
After finishing yet another dress that has improved my sewing skills and would be perfect for a special occasion, I decided to focus on making everyday clothes for myself and not to buy anything new from now on. I am still working on laying down the rules and setting exceptions, but I am pretty determined to do this for at least a year, so watch this space!
Do you remember my friend, Kata, who I visited in Copenhagen in May? Well, while I was there she kind of asked me/I sort of offered to make her a bridesmaid dress for a wedding in July. It’s going to be a rather hipster wedding taking place in the countryside, with quite a few bridesmaids in all different kinds of dresses, but with similar headpieces, handmade by the bride. Everybody could pick their own dress, the only restriction is the colour: it has to be either blue or orange.
As we were looking for the dress for Kata, I realized that even though her usual style is rather global-laid back (she owns beautiful jewellery, scarves, and harem trousers from all over the world and pairs them with good quality modern basics), she was looking for a more traditional bridesmaid dress. I was thinking about making the backless dress I made last summer, but that needs to be fitted on several points of her body, and being thousands of miles away, it was out of question, with most patterns with a fitted bodice. This is why the convertible/infinity dress popped into my mind (apparently not only into my mind, as Etsy is full of infinity bridesmaid dresses).
All you need for that is the waist measurement and the height really (and it helps if you know how big a bust you are about to cover). So with this information, and help from the 4 most popular tutorials on Pinterest (Sew Like My Mom, Cut out + keep, Rostichery and Knuckle Salad), off I went for fabric hunting.
I was looking for a silky, 2 or 4 way stretch jersey fabric, that is not lycra and does not cost more than £3-5, as I needed about 4 metres of it. I sent Kata some pictures of the ones I found, and we both picked that cornflowerish/light blue. But when I returned to the shop I realized that it was more like a T-shirt matt jersey, a lot lighter than on picture and was not even cheap, so I decided to look for something on Ebay. I’m pretty sure that I found around 15 shades of blue silky jersey, but none of them were similar to the shade that I agreed on with Kata. Long story short, my fave fabric shop saved me, as I found two pieces (1.5 m and 2 metres long) of light blue 2 way stretch jersey in the mighty remnants box for £7 altogether. The colour is nice, although I’m afraid a little too light, but in terms of shinyness and the weight of fabric, this is pretty much what I was looking for.
The tutorials I found made the construction look a lot more tricky than it is, but they are helpful for your first attempt. It was done in about 1.5 hours, with cutting and sewing, although I did not hem the skirt, and I had to reinforce the seam, as probably because of tension issues there were some holes in the zig-zag stitching which was visible from the other side.
What didn’t work out quite as well as I wanted, is the (only) seam actually. Since there is no opening on the dress, the waistline needs to be stretchy enough to go over your top half, so you can’t sew a straight seam (am I right?), and as you can see my twin needle attempt on hemming the waist part was a failed one too, but the zig-zag stitch is not invisible in my case, making the dress a lot less elegant. I would also be happier if I could have found a nice way to hem it invisibly.
Apart from these hiccups, I tried the dress on (like a bad seamstress :p) to see if it works at all, and could not wipe the smile off my face. I would love to make myself a jumpsuit version, a black midi dress, something from those nude/soft pink fabrics I found and maybe a maxi one as well… I think it’s the most flattering, most versatile dress ever, and the short construction time makes it a dream!
I’ve read somewhere that you shouldn’t set the bar too high for yourself in sewing, as the failure can be so discouraging, that you might end up giving up on dressmaking altogether. Well, I guess this does not apply to me, as that’s actually how I got into this in the first place.
Two years ago I quit my job in a coffee shop and returned to Hungary to graduate. When I came back to London I realized that having a degree would not necessarily be any help in getting a job where you don’t have to stand all day, and my relationship ended that time too, so I got myself busy by planning a secret birthday party for my sister and moving back to Hungary to start a job. I wanted a big entrée, so I needed a special dress.
During the last moth before the move, I was working temporarily, and was sketching the ideal dress between completing coffee orders . There was a red Lanvin dress, that really caught my eye, and since I didn’t own anything red, I decided to go with the colour. I also wanted something classic and sexy, something I could dress up and wear casually too, something like the little black cocktail dress I bought on a Zara sale a few years ago, and I wear all the time.
I knew so little about sewing, that I fearlessly put together a fully lined backless dress with princess seams (copied the Zara dress’ pattern for the bodice), added cap sleeves, and a zipper opening at the back. I bought my sewing machine around Christmas the previous year, went for a 4 hour course (at the Thrifty Stitcher) to learn how to thread the machine, how to make basic stitches and made a pillow case the following spring, and made that dress at the end of that summer. Did I mention that all the pattern drafting, cutting and sewing was done in about 10 hours, right before I was heading to the airport to fly to Budapest. I can still remember that feeling of listening to jazz and fitting the toille (unbelievable, but I made one!) to my DIY dressmaker’s dummy, with puffy, tired eyes and a smile on my face as I was showing the results to my mum, and thinking that this is how I always wanted to feel. It did not get as much attention as I expected, as it wasn’t my birthday party you see…, but I felt like a million dollars wearing it!
It is now resting disassembled in my scrap fabric box, as after taking 2 proper dressmaking courses last year, I just couldn’t bear to look at the inside of it. Apparently the one thing I didn’t care/know about was the seam allowance and the importance of seam finishes at the time. I guess this is why I’m obsessed with how my garments look from the both sides now.
Having finished the kimono dress (which I can’t wait to show you!) that was built in a similarly instinctive method, without a real pattern, but to a much better quality, I think my advice is to feel free to set the bar high, and aim to do the best work you can with your current abilities. In return you will not only learn tons by making mistakes (because you will make mistakes, I can promise that), but will also find out what techniques you don’t know of. What’s the worst that can happen anyway? If you screw up something big time, you can always make a patchwork of that amazing fabric, no?
(Sorry about the image quality, they were taken before I learned that Photoshop won’t make a nice picture out of a rubbish photo.)
Image source: Red Lanvin dress, all other images are mine
My name is Etemi, and I am addicted to buying fabric remnants. I guess the first step on the road to healing is admitting that you have a problem, right? So there is this shop where I buy fabric most of the time, called Rolls and Rems, and they have this box right in front of the door. It’s an evil trap, and works brilliantly, as for the second time this Saturday, I went in to buy something specific, couldn’t find it, but came home with two pieces of remnants. A few weeks ago I spent my last couple of pounds on the silky fabric from the previous post and about 2 metres of white crepe. I’m not sure what works on me, not having to make the big decision of getting some fabric cut, or that it’s an exclusive offer as it is cheaper than normally or that it’s the last chance to buy it, but it sure does, every single time. So here is the progress on the printed silk from the previous post that I scored for about £5.
First I wanted to make a maxi dress out of it, but I wear maxi dresses for comfort, which could hardly be achieved with this material and print. So I looked further and found this Issa dress.In order to make something similar, I started looking for tutorials on how to make a proper kimono, and found this image below. It’s a photo from Vogue, July 1970 of Candice Bergen in a cut panne velvet kimono dress designed by Bill Blass.“A dress for utterly luxurious evenings at home, wrapped with a high obi sash, long sleeves slipping, dipping from the arm like folding wings,” was Vogue’s description. I like the Issa dress, but this is just stunning. I found the Kimono drafting instructions I needed -and would highly recommend. on Taeliac’s site, and off I went to cut the fabric. So the top is going to look like a kimono, with the sleeves and standing collar, and it will end in a knee length skirt with a non-removable belt just under the bust.
I am not sure if it is real silk, since I did not buy it off the roll, but the fabric is a nightmare to cut and pin and sew. Since it slides easily, I pinned every 2 centimetres at first, but if a pin is not sharp enough, it tends to pull the thread from it, you see. I’ve only realized that I could have matched the pattern while cutting it out, after I’ve sewn it together. I’ve attempted to match it afterwards, but next time the back pieces will be cut from one piece for sure. After wrestling with the dress for about 4 hours, and unpicking two 40 cm long seams 7(!!!) times, I can’t even be bothered any more, when I see a loose thread from the fabric. Since I don’t have a pattern for the bottom half of the skirt I am pretty much improvising on the go, and luckily it’s been working (slowly) so far. I’m doing French seams wherever I can, and hand-stitched the collar, which was actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I’m just about to attach the back panel of the skirt, then I need to finish up the sleeves, insert the invisible zip, sew the side seams and hem the fabulously-looking-but-where-will-it-be-worn dress. It really is almost finished.
Lately I’ve discovered a few traits and habits that I inherited from my Dad, other than the habit of not finishing things we start. Like this sewing thing. He is just as obsessed about woodworking right now, watching videos for hours of a man cutting wood with different machines, as I am about dressmaking. He has always been like that, but only now I can see this connection. And then there is the journaling. It turned out that keeping a journal runs in the family, as my late Grandfather used to have them, my Dad has precious little books for phone numbers, calculations and notes to himself, and I started keeping one 5 years ago too. I bought the first one when I moved to London for the first 7 months, and from then on, buying a fresh, new notebook was the highlight of my Decembers. Honestly, some of them are more than half empty, like the Moleskin London edition, but the rest work as the most helpful self-help books I could ever read. Whenever I feel empty, bored or tired of life in general I just open one up and read through how I saw my life at certain times. It helps putting my current struggles into a different point of view, and reminds me that if nothing else can help, time solves absolutely everything. This is why I’m so worried that I’ve neglected the writing habit this year, even though so many important things happened to me already. In a bid to inspire my journal writing (and try my hand at quilting again), I decided to make a patchwork cover for my 2013 notebook. I drafted the pattern on an A4 paper, numbered the pieces and wrote the colours on them, cut them out, added seam allowance on the fabric, and started sewing the blocks together. It has pocket on the inside and a little pen holder. It would have turned out neater if I didn’t pick the
bloody green stretch velvet fabric, as even though it looks awesome (since it’s velvet!!!!:)), it pulled the other fabrics, and seriously misbehaved… Apart from that, it was done in a few hours from planning to squeezing the journal into it, and it looks like a magician’s little exercise book from Harry Potter, so I am quite pleased.
Apart from making something absolutely useless, I’ve started sewing a dress as well. More on this tomorrow!