Pretty party dresses

Thursday 20 December 2012
Seriously, how busy is this time of the year? I know Christmas is on the same date every year but these last few weeks of December seem to go by faster each year for me! And why do we feel it necessary to meet up with every single friend and acquaintance during the Christmas season? Next year I vow to have more dinner parties and get togethers in the months of July - October, so I don't feel bad if I can't make each event.

That said though, you know you've hit a bit of a lull in your social life when your nearly four year old has more parties to attend than you do! Aside from a few casual bbq's and a night out with some girlfriends I had no proper Christmas parties to attend and therefore no need for me to sew any pretty party frocks for me this year.  Anna however had two parties last weekend and demanded new dresses to wear to both, which I was happy to oblige because I'm sure the time will come soon enough when she demands I buy her new dresses, not sew them.

Using Style 2168, a 1977 vintage pattern that I've used once before I managed to turn out two dresses in quick succession.

The first is made of a cotton poplin bought from Spotlight from one of their many sales a while back, in an ultra cute pink apple print:

apple dress

I don't think there's another time in your life when you could wear such a cute fabric and not be considered quirky or eccentric, but it's just right for a little girl who likes to spin and twirl:

apple dress

The second dress was for a Minnie Mouse birthday party, so naturally I've made it from a red and white polka dot cotton, also from Spotlight (I should consider charging them for advertising for the amount of times they get mentioned here on my blog!):

minnie mouse dress

minnie mouse dress

I finished the neckline and sleeves in white bias tape trim, and also sewed some bias tape around the waist seam too, but since I knew Anna would want to wear this all the time I didn't want it to look too much like a Minnie Mouse costume so I left the trim at that.  Paired with some mouse ears the outfit looked way better than the store bought polyester numbers that the other girls were wearing.  Funnily enough it's the mouse ears that Anna hasn't stopped wearing everywhere and with everything.

So how is everyone else's Christmas preparations coming along? We're hosting a bbq at our house on Saturday so I need to give the house a thorough clean tomorrow as well as start preparing some food.  Thankfully I was realistic enough not to plan to sew many Christmas presents, and I got the one princess dress for Anna finished as well as a few little purses.  Sadly though I doubt I'm going to have time to make my December Burda garment, but oh well there's always next year!

Not Burda for a change: Butterick 5600

Thursday 13 December 2012
Whilst I'm immensely proud of myself for keeping up with my Burda a month challenge, it does feel like all I'm ever sewing these days are Burda patterns.  I have a few non Burda patterns on my to do list, but they keep getting pushed back each month when the new magazine arrives.  But since I'm still trying to decide on the fabric for the December Burda dress, I decided to make view c (the green dress) of Butterick 5600 which has been on my list for ages because it's a breastfeeding friendly dress:

Aside from the button up front, I like the longer sleeves with the button tab, the collar band and the waist ties.  Too bad then that I picked a fabric that pretty much hid all of those details!  I used a cotton poplin with a small black and white small floral print from the stash which is a good summer weight fabric for a simple summer dress, but the print was far too busy for any of those details to be obvious:

I did think about making the collar band and front band in a plain white fabric to contrast with the dress, but the print is actually a creamy white and all the white fabrics I had were too stark to match properly.  I then thought about putting some piping around the edge of the collar band and front band, but it was the same issue really with the mismatch in colours.

This is the perfect summer dress for me: the longer sleeves and higher neckline give me the sun protection I need but since it's made from cotton poplin it's still cool enough to wear on a hot day.  These photos were taken after I came home from a playgroup christmas party - two hours of standing around holding Toby (who is still sick and clingy) whilst being in the middle of a horde of small kids around a table of far too sugary foods, a jumping castle and a token dad dressed up as Santa handing out presents on a very hot day and it still looks pretty good!  Admittedly I did brush my hair to take this photo, but the dress remained pretty much uncrumpled.

And the dress is very practical, with two in-seam pockets.  I used to hate side pockets on my clothes because it adds bulk to a place where don't require any more bulk thanks to my saddlebag thighs, but these days practicality wins out and pockets are always useful these days to carry around the bits and pieces that are needed with small children (just got to remember to take those tissues out before washing!):

That side view isn't too flattering, but as you've all pointed out in the past in real life we don't often stand around posing like our photographs! Overall though, I'm pretty happy with this dress, and it works really well for nursing.  I only had to unbutton the top two buttons to be able to feed so there wasn't acres of skin on display.  It is a simple style and easy to sew, but it seemed to take ages because of all the little pieces involved and my inability to sew on the waistband casing straight twice.  If I make this again I would probably use a solid fabric and do a ton of topstitching around those bands, and maybe lengthen the sleeve a little so that it is a real folded up sleeve with a button tab instead of it being hemmed to the length of the tab.

The funniest bit about taking these photos is that Anna insisted on having her photo taken too, and then she proceeded to pose just like I had been! Her mannerisms are so grown up sometimes it's scary:


Summer sniffles

Tuesday 11 December 2012
We've been one sick household this week just past.  It's cruel irony that now that the weather has warmed up we've all been laid low with summer colds instead of being out and about in the sunshine.  Poor little Toby has copped it the worst though - his cold turned into an infection in his sinuses with inflamed tonsils and an ear infection which has meant he's been in a fair bit of pain and general unhappiness.  Which also means exhaustion for us, because he hasn't wanted to sleep laying down so there were two nights last week when I slept sitting up in an armchair holding him.  Not great sleep quality as you can imagine......

I did manage to pop out last week to the Spotlight sale, but only bought the buttons and zippers I needed and not any fabric that I definately didn't need.  The store I went to (Birkenhead Point, absolutely hopeless) didn't seem to have any ponti fabric let alone the stripey one I wanted so I still don't know if it was on sale or not but I didn't get any.  Did anyone else score some bargains?

I didn't to get out to the Tessuti $10 remnant sale last weekend though, which is a pity because there is usually always something of interest on those tables.  We did all swarm around the remnant table on our Sydney sewists meet up day so maybe the good stuff from the city store was gone anyway!

On the upside however I was home last week to receive all the parcel deliveries that arrived, and now not only is all my christmas shopping done, but they're also all wrapped! Sorry to rub it into any of you that are still to do your shopping, but with two small children it's good to be organised.

I also managed to spend a little bit of time in my sewing room, making some more little shorts for Toby this time from new lengths of fabric although my husband the comedian did ask if I had refashioned a tea towel when he saw these checked cotton seersucker shorts:

And look at this ultra cute elephant print cotton poplin bought from Spotlight, made up in a simple style but with a white rib waistband to give it a board short look:

Both are from McCalls 6016, the same pattern I used previously - isn't it amazing how changing small details like the pockets can make them look quite different?

I have traced out my planned December Burda pattern, but am still agonising over the fabric choice.  I must get started on it though - I want to end the year on a high note!

edited to add: Amy - a few posts back you asked where I donated my husbands suits, well I haven't actually done it yet because they are still sitting in my car, but the Metro Migrant Resource Centre in Sydneyham accepts them as part of their Dress for Work program and is where I plan to take them when I get my act together!  Also if you have any women's work wear to donate check out Dress for Success, located in Marrickville.

Hmmm, interesting!

Tuesday 4 December 2012
Last weekend I was reading an article in the free magazine that comes with the Sunday Telegraph newspaper about women and their finances at various life stages, when this picture that accompanied the article struck me as very familiar:

Clearly I have a strong memory for remembering the unnecessary, because when I pulled out the Burda magazine from September in 2009 (back in the good old days when it was BWOF) I discovered it is from the same photo shoot as used in the magazine for dress #112:

Maybe this explains why the photos in Burda magazine are sometimes more artistic and over the top stylistic than useful for seeing the detail of the clothing - because they are destined to be in magazines other than just a sewing magazine!

Thanks to all those who left a lovely comment about my stripey dress in the last post.

Gail - your observation about being able to breastfeed from the excessive underarm openness of the original design was so hilarious I laughed out loud!

Janine - this fabric is in the knit section of Spotlight, but instead of being on a roll it's wrapped around flat cardboard like quilting fabric.  There was quite the range of striped and plain colours in the two Spotlights near me.

RebeccaHoward - I think Spotlight is getting better fabric these days, in amongst the awful colours and polyesters there are some nice printed cotton sateens, Japanese lawns that are very similar to Liberty at a quarter of the price, the Lisette range of fabrics and some lovely vintage floral printed cotton plisse that I'm trying very hard not to buy!

Angela - Spotlight is a chain of fabric/craft stores here in Australia, I think it's probably similar to Joann's in the US.  And you're right about Toby being a bit of a handful, he is so wriggly and  reaches out to grab anything he can get hold of especially if it belongs to his sister!

Carolyn and Debi - it just so happens that I received another Spotlight catalogue in the mail yesterday and winter ponti is advertised at $4/m down from $14.99/m so fingers crossed it includes this range so I can stock up on some more (but not too much of course!).  For everyone else in Australia sewing patterns are also half price at Spotlight from Thursday, which is the cheapest we'll ever get - no such thing as 99c sales here!

Sorry Dilly for teasing you with tales of our hot weather, but I'm much rather the cold to the excessive heat being a fair skinned red headed that just cannot handle the heat.  And a white Christmas sounds so romantic and traditional!

Bonus Burda of the month: 11/2012 #136B

Sunday 2 December 2012
We've had a mini heatwave the last few days so I haven't been able to take any photos without looking like a sweaty, frazzled mess but I promise I made this latest project from the November issue in the month of November.  How's that for tackling my Burda challenge head on and then some? Admittedly, the dress I chose to make is easy peasy, but still - two garments from the one issue in the same month!

I chose to make 11/2012 #136B, a very simple kimono sleeve dress with no shaping other than very curvy side seams:

Not my usual style, since I always feel the need to cinch in my dresses with vertical darts in the front and back, plus a swayback adjustment and a narrow shoulder adjustment. But one of my good friends recently wore a similar style dress in a stripe knit which looked fantastic so I decided to copy the look using the multi colour stripe ponti that I've been wanting to use for a while:

Remember I asked you all whether I should make a dress or skirt from this fabric? Well I'm glad I went with the dress option because I love, love, love this dress! It's so comfortable because the ponti (a Japanese ponti from Spotlight) is very soft and has enough stretch for comfort but isn't thin enough to be clingy.  Plus it's fairly casual in a nice way, and I think it looks really flattering.  Even better, I took this photo after I'd been out shopping and it's hardly wrinkled at all.

Of course, being a Burda pattern there had to be some issue with it.  Foolishly, I didn't notice on the pattern diagram or the model photo in the magazine nor when I was tracing out the pattern that side seam finished well below the bust line and not under the armpit like a normal dress.  And in my humble opinion, there is nothing more unsexy than a flash of side cleavage even if you are a supermodel with a spectacular bust.  You can see in the photo below that the armhole opening is slashed almost to my waistline:

This would be ok if I had planned to make this as a winter dress to be worn over another layer, but since it's a summer dress I knew that I didn't want to wear anything under it so I decided to try to modify it to make it a more standard kimono style before hacking in half to make a skirt.  The photo below shows the new seamline where I sewed it to a point under my armpit and back down to the sleeve hem, as opposed to finishing so low:

I could have taken the seam straight across from the point to the sleeve edge instead of angling it downwards, but I wanted to keep the flutteriness around the sleeves so I didn't want to reduce the width of the sleeve at the hem line.  I think it works too, because now the sleeve is closed up under the arms but isn't puckered or bunched up and I've still maintained that flowiness around the shoulders:

Making that change doesn't restrict arm movement at all, and nor is it too tight across the bust line so it was a good save.  I much prefer this fabric in a dress to a skirt because I just don't know what top I would have worn with a skirt.

And best of all, check out the seam matching at the shoulder line:

To get that seam matching I did have to slide the front piece along the back piece until the lines matched, which meant there was a bit of overhang at the sleeve edge and neck edge:

But I just trimmed the sleeve edge to make it even and the loss of that bit of length from the sleeve and at the neckline isn't too noticeable and was worth it for that chevron effect.  (Just ignore that horrible amount of skin under my arms and nude coloured bra strap you can see - this was before I sewed up the side seam).

The other change I made to the pattern was to draft a facing for the neckline because I didn't want any visible top stitching since I wouldn't be able to match the thread colour to the fabric.  Because this is an 'easy' style in the magazine, the pattern instructions called for neatening the seam edge, folding and stitching which is what I would have done if this was a solid fabric colour, but I think the neck facing looks cleaner for this fabric.

My final verdict: when Spotlight has it's next sale on fabric (probably any minute now since it seems to happen very regularly) I'll buy some more of this fabric in a different colourway and make another version or two of this dress.  Sure it's not nursing friendly, but these days I can't feed Toby unless we're in complete isolation anyway because he gets so distracted so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

And speaking of Toby - yes Angela he is standing.  A little too early for my liking, because he surprised me one day by standing up in his cot and I hadn't pulled the sides up yet so thankfully he hadn't toppled out but I freaked out anyway! He is such a strong little boy and he seems to be hitting his physical milestones much earlier than Anna, so much so that I need to get started on babyproofing the house because he's very nearly crawling too.

So now I need to finish the year on a high note and make something from the December issue.  It arrived in Friday's mail, and I think it's going to be a little tough because there isn't too much in there catching my eye at my moment.  But I shan't let Burda beat me - I'll find something I'm sure.