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!