Tailor made – dress form

Made to measure dress form neckline

It is quite a process to create a dress form that follows the contours of your body exactly. I have developed a fast and easy method that does not include duct tape or plaster casts.

Made to measure dressform

It is not for the feint hearted, to be faced with your body from the outside, all its lumps and bumps is quite distressing at first. Having been slim and lithe for most of my life, middle age is definitely spreading. However, once that shock is over, it gives an opportunity to really assess the body in terms of what I want to enhance and what I want to hide.

made to measure dress form

The dummy in this picture is not straight on mostly because I feel rather exposed showing this shape, but you get the drift. I do have some lovely fashion fabric to go over the dummy, but I find white is less distracting.

Made to measure arm hole

Having a dress form makes sewing so much easier, you can do alterations without stabbing yourself with pins, and given my sway back, I can ensure that the back sits perfectly.

The whole process took me approximately two days to do, but it is worthwhile… it really is key to getting good fitting garments.

 

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Burda Skirt 6834 – perfect for hourglass, curvy girls and sway backs!

 

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Home fires will be back on our screens soon – I love the show and quietly  coveted the beautifully fitted wool suits the ladies of the WI wore – so this was the inspiration behind this skirt. I wanted to challenge myself to make a really fitted garment without using stretch fabric.

I am an hourglass – while it might be the ideal body shape, it tests fitting skills to the max! Not only is there a 6 inch difference between my waist and hip measurement, but being short the height between waist and full hip is only 4 inches! If you think about an hourglass it is a rounded shape, so it not just goes in at the sides but also the front and back – so a sway back is part of the challenge (not to mention the rise of the middle aged tummy!).

 

If, like me, you are curvy, the traditional A line skirt ends up with huge deep darts at the back but the six piece skirt, like this pattern, offers more opportunity to accomodate the bulk over six seams – so this is an ideal pattern for curvy ladies!

As you can see from the toile the waist has to be reduced by quite a lot, but each seam can divide the overall reduction – giving a lot of opportunity to refine the shape.

I had to add a few inches at the hip – it is easy to do, just draw a straight of grain line in the centre of the pattern piece and add inches. As long as you do this inside the pattern lines you won’t alter any of the pattern edges so it should all line up.

Burda 6834 toile second fitting

The waistline of the second toile needed some adjustment but you can see that this pattern makes enhances curves! As I am fairly short, I decided to go for a slimmer flute at the bottom.

Burda 6834 skirt

I had this beautiful purple wool fabric in my stash – we are not into summer yet and wool is such a great fabric to wear – it seems to maintain an ambient temperature. I wanted this project to test my fitting abilities – and wool is the ideal choice because you can shape it so easily with steam.

 

The left hand picture shows the skirt seam before it is steamed – I used my dummy to maintain my shape as I gently held my steam iron about 4 inches away. Then using a pressing cloth to gently work from the seam outwards- look how beautifully the seam lays open – but also because you can stretch and shape the wool – it hugs the body nicely.

In order to avoid the ‘librarian’ look I wanted my skirt to be a bit edgy, so this embroidery design by urban threads was ideal. The top left is the design on white, but when I tried it as a sample on the fabric the black was not enough of a contrast to do the embroidery justice, so I used lime green!

Burda 6834 lining

My first lining fabric was a nightmare I chose it because it was fushia pink and made a great contrast but  it was way to flimsy and ended up fraying so I had to completely rip it out and re-do the lining. I had this lovely weighty oyster polyester silk which complemented the skirt nicely I decided to end the lining at the straight edge rather than the frill. I hand stitched it between the skirt facing, (while watching England play Wales in the Rugby) again on the tailor dummy to maintain the shape. Hand stitching gives you so much control – I am addicted to it. Years ago I avoided it – wrestling with my machine to get the fabric under the foot. Then unpicking it because the seam was off – now it is just a case of placing a stitch exactly where I want it and no unpicking!

 

I love my fancy machine stitches and never find much use for them – so it was nice to use a patterned stitch at the edge of the lining.(top right)  I made little chain tacks using in soft cotton Perle it holds the lining in place but allows for some movement. I also embroidered a tiny loop for my top closure using buttonhole stitch – my hand embroidery skills come in useful! It is these tiny details that give me such satisfaction. I don’t want my sewing to be the same as a shop bought skirt – I want it to be better! These details have mostly disappeared as clothing is made as fast and as cheaply as possible.

I love my skirt – it was a painstaking effort in all it took me three weekends to make but it was worth it. The lining slips around beautifully and it is so warm and figure hugging – I could never buy the same fit, I am just too oddly shaped!

The fitting took a lot of time but that was the challenge of this exercise and I have my toile to make more skirts!

I would recommend this pattern – its the first time I used a Burda pattern – having learned a few couture techniques I thought wrongly that Burda patterns did not include a seam allowance, but they have changed.  I think Burda have some great styles and the instructions are straight forward, although I have to admit, I didn’t follow them!

ttfn x

 

 

 

 

 

How to introduce Vintage elements to modern dressmaking patterns

1930's style

I posted this dress previously it is one of my favourites however many of the original patterns are long gone, and while pattern companies do sell ‘vintage’ patterns I have struggled to find patterns that incorporate elements that for me lift a garment out of the ordinary and into the fabulous.



Butterick B6168 Front Illustration

I saw this pattern on the Butterick website and thought it would make a great starting point to pay homage to the Vintage Dress.

Pattern adaptation Vintage Style

I think we appear to have lost our skills on how to enhance a figure, if you notice the gathering under the midriff section it is really adding bulk even if you have a flat tummy all that fabric would bulge out and is not flattering.  Scroll back up to the original dress and the use of pleats has added interest without bulking up at the front, a perfect hideaway for a little rounded tummy.

Butterick B6168 Technical drawing 1

I am big busted so I shall have to have excess fabric  in the bodice – I like the idea of the gathered smocking just above the midriff. If I choose to do this it might be easy simply to adapt the fabric allowance for pleats here and change it to a gathered section however, I am not sure how it would work with the cross over. Only time and my Toile will tell.

The final element I will change is the cap sleeve – I would like a full sleeve that finishes just above the elbow. Sleeve variations were around in the 1930s but I know that the full sleeve is a signature detail of Vintage style, so I want to incorporate it into my dress.

Proposed changes

I am not going to replicate the smocking on the upper bodice and sleeves or the yoke details of the vintage dress because I am busty and it would make the bodice rather fussy. I will see if I want to add the round embellishments when I have made the dress.

back soon …

Pattern Adjustment – increasing/decreasing the pattern at the hip / waist.

It is easy to add a few inches to a skirt or dress pattern – especially around the hip area. This pattern illustration is from the Simplicity Sewing book published in 1940! You can see by the right hand of the illustration the garment will wrinkle across the hip or waistline where the fabric is being stretched to fit.

Adding fabric for hips

As much as you might fear cutting into your pattern, this pattern adjustment will make the pattern work for your body shape – If you really struggle to get snipping with your scissors, you can always copy the pattern onto cross and dot paper – and keep the original.

So here is what you do.

Adding fabric for hips 1

2a pattern before adaptation

added seam allowance

2 b pattern after adaptation. Marked in section is filled with additional paper.

Cut down the front and back pieces from the hem to the neckline – then pivot the pattern apart into an inverted ‘v’. It helps if the top gap is small so that the pattern hinges.

Move the pieces apart far enough so that you have the extra space where needed along the hipline  (the dotted line on this pattern)-

Make sure your hip/waist measurement includes seam allowances and 1 cm for ease.

Fill in the gap with paper or discarded tissue from the pattern.

Because you have altered the patten within the pattern outline, the original design will flow correctly.

If you need to decrease the measurements, simply cross over the two edges you snipped with your scissors, by the amount you need to reduce the pattern by.

Love Sewing Magazine Ruby Dress Pattern Review

 

 

 


04-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-010

 

 This ‘Sew Simple’ pattern came with Love Sewing Magazine – called the Ruby Dress

I thought it looked lovely – it is reminiscent of the 1950’s – a very flattering style, good for pear shapes or hourglass because the full skirt covers hips and thighs and focusses attention onto a small waistline which are the assets of a pear and hourglass shape.

07-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-002

There were a couple of adaptations I wanted to make to the pattern:

 

Replace the centre Zip in the back to a concealed zip in the side seam.

11-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-006I traced off the back pattern piece, using cross and dot paper.

I removed the seam allowance in the centre; because I have narrow shoulders pinched out a dart so that it narrowed the back slightly towards the top.

I drafted a mirror image to create one pattern piece that would not have to be cut on the fold. When you cut on the fold it is easy for the fabric to slip slightly out of grain – this can affect the fit and drape of the dress.

Increase bust allowance for a fuller bust

13-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-008

I am a 34 G bust – so I had to adapt the pattern to allow an extra 2inches at the bust line but 34 is very narrow, so I needed to bring the pattern in at the back and shoulders.

Once again I traced off the front bodice and hit a problem – the bust point was not indicated on the pattern. So I had to find my own bust point – you do this by laying the pattern piece across your body, mark the peak of the bust as a big dot. Then cut out the side dart and move it down so it is pointing at the dot. (I had to move the dart down about 2 inches)

I made a quick toile and found that I could just increase the side seam by 1inch, and move the bottom seam by an 1inch – it would give me that extra room.

10-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-005I also checked the measurement across the back – being narrow shouldered I needed to take another 1/2 inch out of the v at the back. I also skimmed an inch from the shoulder seam so it would finish at my shoulder.

Because of my large bust, I had to pinch out about a 1/2 inch dart at the neckline. I also altered the neckline so that it would sit just on my collarbone using a french curve to round it off.

Even though I am inserting a side zip, I did not need to add any further seam allowances as there would be sufficient room to insert the zip along the side seam.

I drafted new pattern pieces with these changes – these could be used to make more dresses without the need to go over the fitting again.

Lengthen the skirt length

I added approximately 3 inches to the bottom of the skirt, so that it would sit just below the knee instead of just above.

I added a cap sleeve – in keeping with the fifties style.

02-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-001

 

My Fabric choice

I had two lovely pieces of curtain fabric to work with from a local curtain shop. The spring linen was a remnant of 3 metres for £5. The silky satin lining was a pale green 5 metres £7 which was an absolute bargain.

I wanted to line this dress and the weight of the satin would help the garment flow easily as well as protecting me from the sharpness of the zip. In essence it means you make two dresses, but it feels luxurious to wear.

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I believe the finishing of a dress makes a huge difference between the high street – it is what makes dressmaking so wonderful. Most clothing is so cheap that the design details are the way they reduce costs. I aim to sew garments that I could never afford to buy, not just for the customised fit but the small details you get with high end, great pattern matching, bra clips, lining attachments – details you will find in couture houses.

I made the lining dress first so that I was able to check the measurements again – before I worked on my outer fabric.

 

 

The challenging areas on this pattern are the neckline and the deep v at the back.

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In order to give more stability – after stitching the lining and bodice pieces together I ran some hemming web between the two layers and ironed in place. This created a beautiful crisp finish to the edge and also stabilised the v at the back.


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Its a great idea to attach the lining to the zip flap – I used my normal zip foot as it allows you to sew close to the zip edge.

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I loved the pattern of this pretty spring fabric, but the darts at the front of the dress made it look a bit odd, so I appliquéd a couple of flowers over the seam so that it looked better.

14-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-011

I increased the skirt a little to add fullness and my ruffler foot made the regular pleats a doddle.

On reflection, I think I might make the next one more of a circle skirt without pleating.

16-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-014

 

This pattern was very easy to work with – although I did not follow the making up instructions as I was confident enough to make it myself. However, if you are new to sewing it might be worth either keeping the magazine with the pattern or just the pages where they give you instructions on how to make up, then the two won’t get lost!

I use the resealable freezer bags to store my patterns, its easy to see what they look like but there is also room for my adapted patterns too. (I can never get the pattern back into the envelope).