Thursday, 15 September 2016

Last of the Summer Sewing! Blue Off (Then On Again) Shoulder Top

Well who can resist sneaking out in another summer garment?  As the mercury nudges 26 degrees this week suddenly Autumn mist and chill mornings seem very distant still.  Just as I'm gearing up for some light layers, coats and cover-ups (a new mac, long line 'coatigan' pattern and some lightweight wool tweed are all currently out of the cupboard and onto the project pile) we're all back to shorts, floaty tops and summer dresses, hurray!

I made this back in late August actually, but have just around to writing about it.  This is because I photographed it and then promptly took some of it apart again and re-jigged it.  More on that shortly.

This is a Cynthia Rowley pattern, a very simple design and easy to sew up.  I liked the deliberately expansive shape of the top and sleeves, combined with lots of bare shoulder for interest.  The shape is really lovely I think, especially when combined with little shorts, skinny jeans or something equally slim fitting on the bottom half.  The fabric I chose is a cotton poplin in blue, a little like a lightweight chambray, and has just enough structure to hold the shape nicely whilst still being soft.

Now, confession time.  I DO think this top looks good on.  I DO NOT like wearing it.  Such a shame!  It is basically the most impractical top ever.  In order to move around in it, you have to remain rigidly upright with arms by your sides, as it restricts the use of ones arms to such an extent that even raising them to waist hight causes the elastic to rise up and off the shoulders.  Absolutely any raising of the arms at all means the neckline pings upwards.  I had thought that this garment could be reserved for activities that require the bare minimum of animation, like sitting in a bar drinking wine.  But no!  Even putting an elbow on the table, or raising a glass to my lips, has the immediate effect of releasing the elastic from its stretched position around my upper arm, to its preferred position somewhere around my neck.  So very irritating.  This is basically my upward-arm-swing limit.

That's why it ended up being taken apart and re-sewn, as I thought it might require the elastic loosening a little to make it sit in place.  I unpicked the casing around the neckline and added some extra few inches o the length to the elastic, basting it back together and adjusting a few times to see if it improved things.  It didn't.  That neckline remains coiled and ready to spring at any moment.  Unless I basically made it so loose that it would risk going the other way, i.e. downwards (and thus an even more major wardrobe malfunction), there really is no hope for it.

I'm keeping it in my wardrobe for now, incase I think of anything else I can do to resolve the issue.  I might make the elastic super-loose and add two small shoulder straps.  Would that work?  Maybe.  As we can surely be only days away now from the cold snap of Autumn to arrive, then this top's days are numbered in any event.  In the meantime, I love this time of year and am enjoying these few extra days of warmth.  The garden is blooming, the tomato crops are bountiful and the apples are especially delicious when freshly gathered, still warm and scented from the sunshine.  Now if I could just reach up far enough to pick one ...

Friday, 19 August 2016

Beach Blues - Off Shoulder Blue and White Dress, Simplicity 1418

Here's my last summer dress make of the season - probably (not promising!) and also my favourite this year.  In breezy, beach blues and whites, I made it just in time for a gloriously sunny holiday by the sea in Filey, England.  That is to say I took the unfinished dress with me on holiday and actually finished hand sewing the hem one evening while I was away. I'm always up against the wire when it comes to deadlines.

This is made from a quite substantial blue and white striped cotton that I originally bought back in the spring with pyjamas in mind.  But pyjamas can wait, as long as the sun shines I'm sewing dresses!  The design of this one is off-the-shoulder with a fitted bodice and the skirt has four deep pleats from the waist.  The pattern I used is Simplicity 1418, which offers a number of bodice styles, including various sleeves and shoulder straps and a version with a low cut back panel, or lace up back.  It's actually a great basic dress pattern and you could take it in lots of different directions.  I decided to make this up with a plain, higher back panel on the bodice, as the back needed to stay up with the dropped sleeves and I also needed strapless bra coverage.

The hefty pleats at the front and back give the skirt a fair amount of volume, which works well in this full bodied fabric at midi length.  I actually added around 6 inches to the recommended skirt length to make this a midi dress rather than finishing on the knee.  I don't have many dresses this length but the proportions felt right for this shape and it's easy and flattering to wear.

I have to say that this fit and flare, full skirted style is probably not my usual go-to shape for a dress though.  It's a little too fifties in the shape and cut for my usual taste.  Although vintage and particularly fifties era is a very popular silhouette just now, it isn't usually the look I go for personally.  However the clean blue and white stripe along with the off-the-shoulder sleeves brings a more fresh and contemporary look, and it's just as happy to be on the beach as a day dress as revved up with heels and a biker jacket in the evening.  

The shoulders feel surprisingly secure, despite their unusual floating appearance, this thanks to an elasticated casing travelling underneath each one to hug the upper arm.  I like the wide scoop of the neckline this gives, both at the front and back.  The zip is concealed at the side seam, so the back neckline has the same clean and uncluttered finish.

I was curious to see how it felt to wear under a jacket, given the dropped sleeves, but it was fine and not annoying at all, as some elasticated drop sleeves can be.  I wore this on the beach all day, occasionally throwing on my battered old navy leather jacket when the clouds rolled in, and it held its shape beautifully. 

So a bit about the construction process.  I cut a UK size 12, going straight into my striped fabric without preparing a toile.  I can tell by measurements pretty much whether a dress is going to fit ok, and as long as there are seams and darts to adjust, there is the opportunity for me to tweak along the way. I did end up letting out the bodice side seams about half an inch under the arms.  I always forget how much my ribcage flares at this point and, although the rest of the dress fitted fine, I did need the extra ease for breathing room here.  

The dropped sleeves really need to fit well and it's worth spending some time on this  because otherwise they end up being too large and droopy, causing them to crease and drop, or they will restrict your arms if too tight.  I would recommend basting these on with the elasticated casings in place underneath, and then adjusting to fit before finally sewing them in place.  They should feel secure and hold your upper arm, keeping their shape without flopping down or creasing up, but with the actual sleeve itself appearing to just follow the neckline in a smooth upward curve.  This meant a fair bit of finagling around and trying on, but the rest of the dress is very simple and easy to sew up so you can afford to apply some concentration on this stage in the process.  These casings shouldn't show at all, but they're very clever at keeping things in place.

I decided to fully line this garment, the instructions for which aren't included in the pattern (the pattern includes front and back facings only).  I used a very lightweight cotton to keep the dress cool and airy - it's cream rather than white, because that is what I had to hand, but actually it doesn't matter as the outer fabric is quite thick. To line this dress you can basically cut out the bodice and skirt sections again and make up in the same way, attaching as you would the facing instructions.  I hand stitched the lining around the zip on the side seam.

So I'm back home from holiday now and sadly that is my last summer sojourn this year.  We were so lucky to have two fabulous holidays this year in both Spain and the UK and I'm already missing barbecues on the beach, seafood by the bucket load and drinks by the sea as the sun goes down (and making friends with heavy machinery - isn't this the cutest tractor though?!  Just me on the that one?).  

Anyway I'm hoping for an indian summer here in England, so that I can keep wearing this through September.  It is most definitely a garment to make the most of tanned shoulders and strappy sandals, so I'll be making sure both the dress and my shoulders gets as much air time as possible before the autumn.  

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sewing for Spain, Khaki Shorts

Hola!  Just back from Spain and thought I'd do a quick update on my holiday sewing.  I wanted a couple of quick and easy holiday items and wow, what a joy it has been, after such a dismal start to the holiday season here in the UK, to sew up some real summer clothes!  

My trip to La Cala de Mijas in Spain provided all the opportunity I needed to catch up on wearing my much missed summer clobber.  With temperatures up to 36 degrees on some days, having light cotton clothing was essential.  La Cala is a really pretty little seaside town in Malaga on the Costa del Sol and provided the perfect get away for some sun, swimming and sangria based activities.  There is an open square down near the seafront, surrounded by cafes and bars, including a wonderful artisan ice cream place.  A perfect spot to hang out in the heat of day and watch the world go by.

So in anticipation of needing light clothes that pack small (Ryanair flight and we had one suitcase between 4 of us!) I made several more Burdastyle tops similar to this, including a jungle print version (yes another palm print variation!) in a very fine voile.  I didn't take any pics in Spain of the top, but here it is being tested out the week before on one particularly scorching afternoon at a picnic.  I've already blogged the variations on this and can whizz them off the machine fairly quickly now.

First out of the holiday suitcase though were my newly made shorts, completed the day before we left and which I have to say got worn probably 5 days out of the whole week.  I made them out of very lightweight cotton poplin in a khaki or olive green shade, then customised them a little with black grosgrain ribbon at the pockets and orange embroidered details.  Not many decent photographs of me wearing them in Spain due to only taking family holiday snapshots instead of posing properly.  But here they are working hard on the beach.

I really, really love them and, considering they were made from scraps and an existing well used trouser pattern, they were the best value item in my suitcase by far!  Just the right combination of comfort, practicality and a little bit of sass.  And they go with everything.  Capsule wardrobe gold, right there.

The pattern I used is actually a modified version of the cropped trousers I made back in March here and again in May here.  They are from Simplicity 1430, which includes trousers, jacket, top and the shorts.  The grosgrain ribbon added to the edge of the pockets add a little military precision to them, finished at the bottom seam with a flash of orange stitching.  Excuse the colour being off here in this photo below, but you can see where I've stitched across where the pocket opening meets the side seam.  It does a practical job of holding the grosgrain in place and stopping the seam straining when I shove my hands in my pockets.  

Once I'd sewn that little bit of orange, I began to consider another embellishment somewhere, and settled on personalising my shorts, quite literally putting my name on them.  I love the monogram trend and the way you can have your high street purchases emblazoned with your name nowadays - bomber jackets are popular for this.  I'm putting my new fad down to holiday spirit.

I wore them with black and the jungle print top mostly during the holiday, so just kept changing the coordinating top around. Here I've taken some better photos of these after getting home this weekend, and decided to wear them with baby pink for a change.  

Khaki or olive green is really versatile when it comes to pairing up with different colours, brights or pastels work equally well. The straight cut leg and the ribbon on the sides makes them a bit smarter than they would otherwise be in this colour I think.  Instead of being a loose safari style, they are a bit sharper so could be smart-sh (with a blouse and jacket maybe), as well as casual. Also the poplin (cotton with a little poly mix) doesn't crease, which is a huge bonus for holidays.  They really do hold their shape, both packed into the suitcase and after being worn all day in the heat.  

The wide waistband and double button are also a good feature.  Practical, comfortable and flattering, especially after a large tapas meal and several cervezas.  And ice cream!

And so we're home again and it's time to think of making a few last summer things so that there's time to wear them before the end of the silly season.  A whole week away from the studio has given me lots of time for considering my next project and as I'm lucky enough to be going away again soon (in the UK this time) one more summer dress may be on the cards.  I'm determined to hang on to that holiday feeling!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

When Rain Stops Play, Cora App and Inspiration

What do you do when for quite a while, your sewing inspiration hasn't match the weather conditions?  When all you want to create are cool summer garments in airy silks and crisp cottons and yet the temperatures barely rise to the teens most days and we have had on rotation: sideways rain, torrential rain or squally, gusty wind containing heavy downpours of rain.  I was beginning to wonder, seriously July, was it even worth you turning up?  With such a miserable attitude you could have just stayed at home in bed and let October make an early entrance instead - at least we'd have known what to expect!  I kept dashing outside into the garden every time it stopped hurling down in torrents to gather up what was left of my poor battered flowers and bring them indoors.  Wearing summer clothes just didn't seem to be an option.

Trying to take photographs in actual daylight of me wearing anything I've made, without looking like I've been dragged through a hedge, has been something of a challenge too.  Maybe I should have sewn up a raincoat! What I have been doing is quite a lot of holiday planning instead, as we're off to Spain and so it is very likely to be warm and dry there.  Even so, I've been doing much less sewing than expected in the last few weeks and although things have been busy at work, including a few days trip to Liverpool Biennial and lots of travel generally that has eaten into my sewing time, I'm convinced that my mojo has been somewhat dented by the spectacularly unseasonal weather conditions here in the UK.  Whilst Liverpool and the Royal Liver Building still looked impressive from my hotel window, this had to be snapped quick before the view was obscured once again in grey mizzle.

There is no shortage of creative inspiration just now though. A trip to London last week saw the opportunity to see Duro Olowus' curated show 'Making and Unmaking' at Camden Arts Centre.  An eclectic mix of artists, all of whom have played a role in inspiring Duro's lusciously opulent, contemporary fashion designs.  A feast of inspiration from textiles, craft, painting, film and photography, it's on until September 2016 if you are down that way.

Back at home I have traced a lovely Burdastyle dress from the June magazine issue with some cotton floral/camouflage fabric waiting to go and have been seriously eyeing up the crisp, white Bermuda shorts from the July issue too.  I have four meters of floaty sunset-orange and black chiffon waiting to be turned into a billowing maxi dress.  I have a pattern for a cute pair of tailored shorts already cut and the khaki cotton to make them up with.  No, there is absolutely no shortage of delicious sewing fodder or ready-to-go projects in the pipeline that I really can't wait to stitch up and wear.  But when on earth am I going to wear them?  Answer is, on holiday and I'm counting down the days now.  Even some things made back in early summer, have rarely seen daylight when by now they should have been in regular circulation.  As the weather made a major turn for the better this week, I did seize the opportunity and loved wearing my palm print dress yesterday (made back in April).  This was snapped at the bus stop on my way to work and I was so happy to set off without a coat, brolly and sans socks!

So the answer to the question of what to do, was to hunker down, regroup and reorganise. While the rain stopped play, there is something to be said for having the time to just sort out my sewing space and organise it properly so that it's ready for action. Including holiday sewing plans and having the opportunity to re-appraise my boxes of stash fabric with my new friend, Cora.

I was reading the wonderful Oonaballoona's blog this week (such inspiration, style and colour when all around is grey and gloomy) and found out about the brand new app called Cora, launched a couple of weeks ago to catalogue and organise your stash fabric.  The creator of the app sews herself so its a very practical app, and the idea is that you can photograph your fabric, catalogue it by size of piece, colour, fabric type and so on and then whenever you need to check what you've got it's all there at your fingertips - great! You can try it for free with a limited number of fabric entries to see if you like the idea and then purchase the full version for unlimited fabric.  It took about a nanosecond messing around with the free version for me to purchase this, as it is really simple to use, and so very handy.  I can imagine the next time I'm standing in a fabric shop, all eyes and full of ideas thinking "Yes I probably do need to get some of this sunset coloured polyester chiffon for that maxi dress I'm planning to make" then I'll be able to stop, quickly check the app on my phone and discover that I have exactly the right amount of fabric already in my stash in the colour and pattern I require!  Thus saving money, time and not adding further to the stash mountain monster.  Genius.  It is also great for when you're stuck on a lengthy phone call and you need something to play with on your phone to pass the time.  

But also it has taught me, during my cataloguing session this evening, that impulse buying random stuff must stop if I don't have a pattern or use in mind.  I mean why did I purposely buy one meter of black snakeskin pleather last year?  Who knows, I don't.  But now it has been captured by Cora, I have organised the fake snake and it is in my sights and under my control.  No more impulse buying small amounts of simulated serpent skin for me, oh no.

Looking ahead in the sewing forecast, there is a heatwave around the corner, holidays are coming, yay!  Spain beckons and I've loved bringing together my new holiday wardrobe.  I even managed to creep into the garden during sunny evenings this week and do some hand stitching.  I've missed my garden this year.  These are the khaki shorts coming together, now complete with some fun hand stitched embellishments.

So here's hoping for more sunshine to come, in which case I may have to change into at least four different outfits every day just to to catch up!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

If You Like Pina Coladas, and Upcycled Lace Curtains.

"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain" went the old 1970's tropical rock tune  (also revived in the first Shrek movie - name that tune folks!  Answer at the end).  Both of these, i.e. cocktails and inclement weather, have been a theme this last week.  Also the 1970's. As you will know there's nothing I like better than an excuse to dress up and go 'out out', especially if I'm in the company of friends who are also happy to jump on the dressing up bandwagon.  Also if there is the slightest whiff of a theme then I'm on it!  My friend 'A' very kindly invited a bunch of us for cocktails and dinner last week, with a footnote that she would be hosting as Margot from The Good Life.  Anyone who wanted to join in the general 1970's vibe was welcome to do so.  

One thing that's great about being able to sew and having access to a whole heap of 'interesting' stash fabric, is that a themed occasion or fancy dress invitation usually provides the opportunity to have some fun using up whatever has been lying around.  In this case, the theme of the evening was 1970's and the fabric waiting for its moment in the sunshine was... wait for it.... this! 

I have to admit, my first thought was perhaps to go as Barbara, wearing overalls, wellies and with one of my more obliging hens tucked under one arm.  But then I thought that Barbara would absolutely rise to the occasion if asked to dinner, and would probably come up with a fabulously Heath Robinson style outfit recycled from something that had been lying around.  Perhaps the curtains? 

When we moved into our current house several years ago, the previous owners' taste in decor was very 1980's rococo and it was beautifully preserved in all its decadent glory.  Bedrooms were festooned with brown and cream swagged wallpaper, extravagantly moulded ceiling plaster, gold and crystal cherub light fittings, gold carpet and every window draped in meters and meters of frothy cream lace.  Romantic eh?!  Actually the flying cherub chandelier lights are genuinely, completely fabulous and are here to stay.  I love them.  However the curtains were swiftly replaced, if not enterely jettisoned altogether, having found their way into my stash in the box reserved for 'potential fancy dress or craft supplies'.  I had thought they might reappear as Bride of Dracula one year, or some similar comedy use.  But with the current trend for lace everywhere on the high street, and a bit of a 1970's flashback occurring along the aisles of fashion stores this year, I thought I'd sew up something similar for the party and bring the curtains back to life.

I used the 'colour block tunic' pattern that I blogged about here, to make a basic top.  I used cream cotton lining fabric left over from a previous project (which now I think about it may also have been curtains!). The cream lace was layered over the cotton to make the top panel of the bodice.  This time I inserted the back zip in the normal way, not as an exposed one as I did previously.  Both the zip and button were oddments from my stash.

I didn't finish off the sleeve hem in the way prescribed, just turned it under and stitched around and then I attached huge cuffs made from a generously sized circular piece of lace.

These very exaggerated cuffs were fashioned out of a simple circle, cut from the lace using a dinner plate as a template.  I then cut out a smaller round hole in the lace circle, slightly off-centre, and pinned it to the inside of the sleeve hem, pinning it around in pleats and folds to ease the volume of fabric into the sleeve-hole with most of the gathering at the back.  Excuse the lack of photo's as I describe this bit, but I was rushing through.  The idea was to have the longer length of cuff at the back so that it draped nicely down, but leaving my hands and wrists free of froth.  Also the circle shape meant no seam needed.  I think I pretty much achieved the look I was after, although I think the positioning could have been slightly better (with the long edge more towards my elbow rather than inner arm as here).  I stitched the cuffs in place along the inside hem.

The edges of the cuffs are deliberately left un-hemmed and unfinished.  Partly this is because the lace fabric doesn't fray at all anyway, and partly because this project had to be made in one afternoon before the taxi arrived to whisk both me and my party outfit away. I was determined to minimise the steps needed to get it finished, pressed and ready to rock!  The finish on the sleeves where the lace is attached wasn't great though and looked awkward and obvious, as you can see above, with just a top stitched hem.  So in order to finish this neatly I cut out some of the lace motifs and hand stitched them in place to cover the join.  I left the scalloped edges loose, giving a slightly feathered effect on the edge going into the cuff.  

So here it is, finished in under 3 hours and in the style of every good Great British Sewing Bee remake challenge, the transformation is complete!  

And check out those strides!  These cream leather flares complete the 1970's ensemble and were a last minute Eureka moment when I remembered them in the depths of my wardrobe.  They are French Connection, butter soft leather, fully lined and with a split up the back!  Yeah Baby!  I got these gorgeous but completely bonkers flares from a French Connection sample sale back in the early 2000's in London.  It was one of those warehouse sales where everything is piled up on tables and spilling out of boxes.  There were no changing rooms and no mirrors and basically you had to grab a black bin liner and go round flinging in anything that looked vaguely wearable.  The key to a successful haul was to take along a trusted friend (and make sure your underwear had plenty of coverage), then both of you could strip off in the aisles to try on your bag of clothes, while shouting 'yep' or 'nope' at each other in turn.  Pretty much everything was super-cheap, and I remember we both grabbed a pair of these trousers (hers were bright pink though) but when we got to the point of paying, realised that they were a lot more expensive than we had expected.  We reluctantly decided to leave them at the till and paid for the rest of our haul. Outside in the car park, we were appraising what we'd got, rummaged into the bags and there they were!  The lovely man who had taken our money had seen our disappointment at being unable to afford them, obviously felt a bit sorry for us and had thrown in our leather trousers as a surprise!   

So I'm not sure this outfit is entirely channelling Barbara Good.  More Mark Bolan.  In fact my hair has definitely got some 70's T Rex frizz going on in all this damp weather.  

But it was great fun to make, even more hilarious to wear and totally free.  My friend hosted a truly rocking dinner party, helped along by some absolutely fabulous friends in their brilliant outfits, gallons of fizz and truly tropical cocktails.  Here's one in soft focus, which is obviously deliberate and in homage to the cinematography style of the era and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that at this point in the evening I could neither focus my eyes or my camera phone.

"Yes I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain
I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne"

Answer to name that tune is Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes from 1979.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Peach Moiré and Black Lace, Burdastyle Bustier

Ok, before we begin can I say that, even the title of this post is WAY out of my comfort zone, both in sewing terms and personal clothing style!  Firstly black lace and peach satin do not feature as a rule in my every day or even occasional wardrobe.  Secondly I don't think I've every owned or wanted to wear a bustier.  Until now.  

Stylistically speaking, I left behind baring my midriff to the world several years ago before I had two children (ok let's be honest, it was probably a good few years before that even) and though I'll very happily wear a cropped top with the right outfit, the idea of a 'bustier' is nowadays designated very definitely in my mind as underwear and not outerwear.  Or fancy dress.  And then came along a tiny scrap of pale peach coloured, vintage satin moiré that I picked up as part of a mixed bag from a charity shop haul.  I would never have purchased this kind of fabric deliberately, but that's the great thing about having a bit of a lucky dip into a thrift shop or jumble sale heap.  So having made its way to my stash, it grabbed my attention and made me want to experiment with its shiny, shimmery loveliness.  I mean where do you even see moiré on garments these days?  So redolent of vintage evening wear and yet so resigned to the history books, hardly ever reinvented.  Whilst I was wondering what to do with it, Burdastyle magazine (June 2016) had just come out and provided lots of inspiration for summer sewing.  The limited amount of fabric I had suggested the bustier, pattern 114, as a realistic option and the 'underwear as outerwear' vibe seemed to chime with the peachy satin.  

I've been toying with the idea of making up some lingerie, perhaps starting with something such as a slip or camisole as a first project.  I have a Tilly and the Buttons Fifi set of came and shorts waiting to be made up and in addition having purchased the latest Great British Sewing Bee book 'From Stitch to Style' (on amazon for an amazing reduction to £9.99 at the moment, which is basically the equivalent to what you'd probably pay for most patterns if you were buying individually) and I have been seriously considering having a go at the bra pattern.  I've never attempted anything like this before and would definitely classify a bra as 'scary fiddly sewing that's out of my league'.  The bustier seemed like a good place to start, having some of the elements of cup shaping, measuring and fitting, but with my fabric that cost next to nothing it could be made up as an experiment or toile.

The pattern recommends the use of bias tape to reinforce the neck edge first of all, but as the moire has quite a bit of body I chose not to, but I did stay stitch all the armhole and neck edges to be sure they didn't stretch.  

The front sections require you to sew a neat corner in the joining seam line, sewing half way along, clipping right to the stitching and then turning the fabric piece ninety degrees and continuing at a right angle.  This creates the bust shaping.  It's crucial that you get a perfect direction change and neatly joining rows of stitches when sewing this bit or else when you turn the fabric piece around half way through, you get a bubble right on the bust point.  I did the first one absolutely perfectly and then fluffed the second one!  You can see here where the stitches done quite meet properly and a bubble has appeared.  Most unflattering.  I unpicked and restitched it so that it lies completely smooth.

This garment is required to be fully lined and so I chose some quite substantial, good quality cream satin lining left over from my trench coat for a really luxurious finish on the inside.  I also plan to wear this bustier without a bra, so both the main fabric along with a substantial lining provides some supportive structure.  

The lining is made up in the same way as the main fabric pieces, then matched to the main garment with right sides facing, sewn along the armholes and neckline, and then turned right side out again.  The photo above is of the back section, where  you can see I had to cut the centre back with a centre seam, as there wasn't enough satin lining to cut it on the fold.  You can see below also where I used the iron on too hot a setting, which wrinkled the lining slightly.  A scary moment as having used every scrap, I couldn't have cut out another.  This whole project was running on fabric fumes actually!  

As with most Burdastyle instructions, they are minimal and have no diagrams, which for me requires a rather 'glance and go' approach.  I'm quite a visual person and am still getting used to not panicking and having a crack at patterns that assume a certain degree of sewing skill, and so after getting confused with some of the construction order as described, I did find it a lot easier just to ignore the instructions and go by instinct.  For this garment at least it's pretty easy to see how it all fits together.  This also allowed me to go about adding the alternative closure and various design details as required along the way.

The limited main fabric meant that I cut very minimal seam allowances in some areas, particularly the length of the bottom bands.  It turned out that actually I did need to have more ease than I expected here in order to be comfortable (and to actually breathe) as I have quite a barrel shaped chest that flares out quite a bit over the ribs.  I hadn't accounted for this in my measurements unfortunately.  So with no seam allowance to use up, the solution I came up with was to place the closure at the very edge of the side seam, then add a joining strip of wide grosgrain ribbon over the closure to neaten it.  This gave me an extra half inch or so breathing space overall.

I planned all along to modify the pattern by including a deeper band at the bottom edge, for which I chose some exceptionally lovely vintage black lace. This is providing a little more coverage lower down, but remains partly transparent to keep the cropped, bustier look.  I was lucky to inherit several boxes of beautiful lace ribbon, trim and handmade pieces from my Grandma, but have not often had an opportunity to use them.  My Grandma was given them many years ago by a friend who I believe worked in the lacemaking industry.  Which is fascinating as this was years and years ago before I moved to Nottingham to live, where lace making has played a major role as one of the key industries during the last century.  I lived for a while in an historic, converted lace factory when I first moved to the city and have since learned a lot about the history and skill of lacemaking.  I must get round to a blog post about lace, and unpack those boxes of treasures to look at them properly one day.

I chose to bring the black element through into the bodice with the addition of two bands of ribbon, one slim satin ribbon at the front and another of wider grosgrain at the back.  Both are secured in the side seams and then hand sewn using a subtly decorative single row of pick stitch along the length.  

This seemed the best way of going about attaching the ribbon on a two-way curved area, as if I'd stitched both top and bottom lengths using the machine, it is likely that there would have been puckers along the way as the straight grain ribbon tries to make its way around my circumference and to follow the upward curves along the bust edge seam.  Then the lace flowers, cut from the same trim as the bottom band, were hand appliquéd to the bodice.

I chose to use a row of hooks for the side closure, similar to a bra fastening, rather than the recommended zip.  One thing you should consider with this pattern is that it calls for a 6 1/2 inch open ended zip, which are hard to find and certainly not available as a standard size stocked by most haberdashers.  There are online haberdashers that will make bespoke zips for you to your requirements, but these are likely to be more expensive and require a bit of research if you want a particular colour etc, so be aware and plan to order before you start making.  These hooks are on a pre-made backing purchased by length and feel secure when fastened, if a little tricky to do up/undo myself.  There's no doubt the zip option would have probably been more practical here.

I do like this pattern very much now I've tried it out.  It is well designed, the attention to detail is all there and the finish both inside and out is very good.  I did a fair amount of fussing and finagling with my version, but only because I deliberately went a 'off piste' with the construction and embellishment, but I loved making this unusual piece. The grain lines and water like ripples really react to the light, satisfying my magpie's eye and attraction to all things bright and shiny.  

I think the black lace and grosgrain bring a contemporary element to the look and the hand stitched embellishment gives the detail and finish of a couture piece.  To peek through from underneath a tailored blazer, this has just enough impact to look interesting without making me feel too exposed around the middle.  I think I will need to get used to the idea of wearing it without something layered over the top, but the key will be to keep everything else simple and even slightly on the masculine side, such as with a pair of higher waisted, peg leg or tuxedo trousers.  Perhaps with the addition of some low lighting and a little 'dutch courage' provided by my favourite cocktail bar, I might be persuaded to bring the bustier from underwear to outerwear, and let it shine.