Dahlia print dress

Dahlias are a fav and I found a stunning variety to design my own fabric through Contrado UK for this Summer ‘little black’ dress. It’s still 30C here in Sydney so it’s still quite hot.

This print has great colours true to the image I used.

This is my third designer fabric print effort and I’ve really loved creating the fabric design, colour and balance for clothing.

This Simplicity 1357 dress is fairly straightforward to make and is perfect for hot, humid Summer days.

Simply hanging

The fabric I’ve chosen this time is a much firmer fabric so again I pondered on the dress style would work for me once the fabric arrived on my doorstep.

You can order Contrado fabric samples as there are 98 to choose from and I relied only on the detailed product descriptions on their website. This fabric is exactly what I wanted to work with.

This Lucent fabric is a “lightweight, shimmering double faced sateen fabric. Made of a satin weave, constructed of woven poly-based straight set filament fibres. This shiny, substantially opaque material is a high lustre fabric which is very light and airy, weighing only 120 gsm.”

The print panels are 50cm lengths and 139cm width. I placed the 3 dahlias across the panel and I used this print ‘side on’. 

Work in progress make with plain rayon fabric added to the side seams

I really love this huge print and then used a plain black rayon fabric on the back that has a similar shine to it. 

This rayon has enough shimmer to match the printed Lucent fabric

I’m saving the other two panels for another dress/coat that has a defined waistline but I have to think about where to place this print. I’m thinking of and asymmetrically placed dahlia. I may need to reflect on this idea for a while.

Happy dancing in the finished dress

Back to the print. Using the plain black fabric for the back allowed me to add enough of it on the front panel as the front hem width is about 10cm wider than the panel. It’s worked out quite nicely. There’s a balance to this dress with the print is very rewarding for a home sewer like me. 

The hem stops just under the dahlia and I can safely wear heels or flat shoes with this dress and it’s still balanced.

Ready to head out for the weekend

So this is the last of my three fabrics I created through Contrado and I hope this has encouraged you to try designing your own fabrics too.

Hats and tailoring

Making hats has been an easy transition using my tailoring skills and tools I already own.

Take this basic straw hat for example. I was able to shape the brim with my Prym ham and a steam iron.

The finger guard has been useful to ensure my fingers don’t wear out with all the hand stitching involved.

The internal Petersham tape is hand sewn inside the hat so it keeps it’s size and shape.
These Prym Love pins were easy to use and didn’t tear into the straw.
Straw can tear quite easily if you’re not careful.

As you can see, I used my previous hat as reference to ensure I was able to use the right stitches for each step of the process. Lots of waxed threads were used.

Both hats have hat wire along the brim so they keep their shape.

January was when I blocked this black felt hat at Catherine’s studio in Rozelle.

 I love the fedora crown shape

The brim was stretched out as far a possible so I had lots of brim width options.

 Then Catherine suggested I use this zipper edged trim. This trim suits my sewing addiction.

I finished the brim edge with a 25mm petersham tape. 

I was able to find a petersham tape colour at EM Greenfields for the straw hat. I bought the straw hat and crown trim from Catherine.

Remember that you get a 10% discount when you purchase any Prym product from Minerva Crafts website using this discount code ‘MARIA’.

I like that I now have two urban hats that fit my head. Cheers.

Lace work to date

The past week has been all about guipure lace – buying it, planning a skirt/dress with it, manipulating it for shape, placing it on a garment for the ‘wow’ you want. 

In the past I’ve used various laces and fine fabrics.

This peplum top made in 2015 uses a sequinned lace provided my Minerva Crafts UK.

The original version of this fabric was used for a gold dress I wore to the Minerva meetup a few years ago.
The key to making this fabric more wearable was to interline the fabric and then line it.

This top also uses a knit mesh with lace detailing made last year. For this top I only underlined the front and back bodices.

This dress made in 2014 was a remnant lace that was lined and not interlined. Quick and easy especially as I used my block pattern.

Lace comes into it’s own when you use such small pieces for bras.

 This off-white bra using pin up girls pattern wasn’t underlined

This gold bra has a light underlining.

While this dress using fabric from Selective Fine Fabrics uses a printed cutout fabric, I still had to interline it. When I bought it last year, Louisa spent time with me testing the fabric with a number of coloured poplins to find the best underlining that would still let the colours in this print pop. White underlining was the best version.

This crazy print used a bone coloured lace along the shoulders. The fit was good but I’ve since passed this dress onto someone else.

I really enjoyed blending this green Chantilly lace over blue fabric that I bought from Pitt Trading.

There’s a lot less flower placement to worry about with such a delicate lace.

Oh my goodness. in 2013 I used a corded lace on this Beatrice dress by Sew Chic patterns and tried to keep the shaped hem on the skirt and sleeves. The fit was this dress needed more work but it was worth making because it has an unusual neckline.

Navy lace pieced over satin from a design I saw on Pinterest was the inspiration for this navy lace dress using fabric from White Tree Fabrics two years ago.

 I still wear this skirt that has a few layers of fabric to make it the colour I wanted.

Both the lace and underlining fabrics had colours that I would look great in. Pairing them together resulted in a more wearable skirt.

Seriously even the lining is a bit loud, but really suited this skirt.

Lastly I’ll show you this skull lace from Minerva Crafts from a year ago.

It’s a mesh knit and I really loved the fact it has a skull pattern and not florals.

That’s my working with lace history and now I’ve cracked working with guipure lace through Susan Khalje’s workshop so you’ll see more about this in the coming weeks.

Technical blogger problem

My domain was renewed but the steps to attach it to blogger don’t match with the advice from GSuite.
If anyone knows how to reestablish my domain name to my blogger account, please let me know. Blogger settings seem to not work.
I hope I can fix this problem soon. It’s not simple or I’m missing the obvious☹️

12 hours later: still not getting anywhere even though I paid for my domain names 2 days ago…
Commenting has also disappeared.

another 24 hours later: G suite account and blogger account aren’t linked but domain is paid for. Commenting is back.
I’ve been getting more help through GSuite twitter than anywhere else.

Ya gotta laugh by this time.

Another 12 hours later: Domain name is paid for. Comments have disappeared again. Now to wait until I can link the name to the blog again.

Now that everything has been resolved, GoDaddy sorted the issues out 5 days after this whole saga began.

Three Sisters print

A good friend of mine takes great landscape photos so he supplied me with a beautiful photo of the Three Sisters (Blue Mountains in New South Wales) now used on this digital print fabric using Contrado.co.uk Using digital prints is addictive.

Choosing the fabric
When I was trawling through the fabrics available from Contrado, I chose this soft French crepe fabric to compliment the clouds around the landscape although I didn’t have a garment in mind. I wasn’t worried about what I would make from this fabric. I just knew this was too good an opportunity to be hamstrung by the next step of creating this into a garment.

Grace of Badmomgoodmom sent me a link to this post and I’m so glad she did. Grace is very knowledgeable about a lot of things so I was very grateful for her note.

Figuring out what to make
Once this fabric arrived in the post, I checked out the dimensions and handled it for feel, drape and if it crushed easily. It does crush but it’s so soft, flowy and irons perfectly.

I use time to reflect on my projects so I put this fabric aside and then I pattern stashed dived and came up with three patterns options – a semi-fitted sleeveless top, a flowy top and a flowy dress.

The flowy top is what I decided to use. It’s Victory Patterns Simone pattern from a few years ago and I picked up this pattern from a destash we did at Port Macquarie that Sewbusylizzie ran 2 years ago.

The ‘How-to’

The panel is 50cm long so I had to decide on what I would use to balance this print to be in the right place for me.

With all the inspiring lace skirts that were being made at Susan Khalje’s Sydney course, I found a lace remnant in my stash and a firm knit fabric to balance into this print.

The reviews for this pattern showed the front opening is quite low and on me, it felt uncomfortable so I raised it by 5cm.

This fabric is really soft, has a bit of stretch and is still a firm weave so it was easy to sew. I’ve used french seams on the sides.

Below is the work appropriate version Three Sisters digital print using Butterick 5608 using the third panel I ordered. The rest of this blouse uses a cream coloured rayon remnant for the sleeves and back.

Butterick 5608

With the heat and humidity we’ve had this Summer, I’m getting used to wearing flowy tops on weekend. I still need to wear shaped clothes so I think I can safely pair this with skinny jeans, or a fitted skirt or shorts.

Is that it?

I have one more digital printed fabric that I’ve made through Contrado UK that I’ll show you in a couple of weeks time. 

Now you’ve seen two out of three fabrics I’ve designed through Contrado and I feel this has been a great design journey.

Couture sewing part one

Last November I saw Susan Khalje was coming to run her couture workshops in Australia. I booked into the 6-day couture workshop in Sydney and created this strapless dress using Minerva Crafts John Kaldor Floral Print Slinky Satin Dress Fabric.

I have sewn enough now to want to raise my sewing skill and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to learn from Susan.

Minerva Crafts were happy to supply me with all the couture sewing fabrics and notions to learn couture sewing and make up a fully structured strapless dress. This made me realise how enabling Minerva Crafts is with their range of fabrics and notions and I’ve seen inside Minerva’s amazing warehouse too!

Susan Khalje has worked in a New York couture house and she passes on her couture sewing knowledge through her workshops in Baltimore and now through Craftsy courses.

The dress
Vogue 1174 is a classic strapless dress and reviews of this pattern show it does have its challenges so it made sense to get Susan’s expertise on fit, design balance and construction to come up with this cocktail dress. 

For me, the end result is I can use the outer dress and lining patterns for up to four strapless dress variations.

Susan maintains all patterns are a starting point. When you have that philosophy, it becomes easy to make the adjustments you need to have well-fitted clothes.

The fabric
This fabric has a silky feel and it acts like silk even though it’s a polyester fibre. The weave and feel really is silky. I picked this silky feel fabric for this workshop to build my fabric handling skills. I looked at all of the John Kaldor prints on Minerva Crafts website and this classic print was available. Bingo. Choice made!

The lining is a similar weight to the fashion fabric so again, the fabrics I needed were all available through their website.

Foundation bodice
The dress pattern suggests horse hair canvas for the foundation bodice but this felt really harsh against my skin so I used calico to build the foundation bodice. 

Calico is easy to get in various weights and this medium-weight calico gave me a firm and seamless structure to the dress bodice.

Once I finalised the foundation bodice, I overlayed the dress fashion fabric and lining to better structure the dress fit. It took 4 fittings to get the bodice shape right.

Couture techniques
Setting up a toile wasn’t my idea of fun but it’s actually worth doing for a great finished product. I’ll normally make a wearable toile but making a toile that you use as your ‘laboratory’ is so much better for a great fitting garment. Putting the time in beforehand pays off.

Thread tracing seam lines and using 2.5cm seam allowances are essential when you are aiming for a great fit too.

Warning:  This pattern has 27 pieces. Just remember that when you’re using an old tracing wheel to trace out your pattern. Do yourself a favour and buy the Prym Tracing wheel. It’s ergonomically designed so your wrist doesn’t get fatigued.

I’ve taken advantage of the Prym products I’ve been given and the ergonomically designed tools are worth treating yourself once you step into couture sewing. The glass head pin, shears, tracing wheel and measuring tools have made a difference to my sewing and I can sew for a long time and not get any muscular strains.

Each fashion fabric piece is interlined with silk organza and I’ve thread-traced every stitching line. The 2.5cm seams act as facings so no pattern facings were included.

Even the skirt pocket pieces are interlined.

Did I say that we basically sewed 10 hours days for this 6-day workshop? The first three days I still did my usual 6am gym workouts before the workshop but by day 4, I needed my energy to get through the final 3 days the gym didn’t happen for the rest of the week. I did use this energy for homework or dinners/breakfasts with some of the ladies who came to Sydney from other parts of Australia.

While I didn’t sew in a hand-picked zipper , Susan demonstrated this and a few other techniques to the class throughout the 6 days.

Final pattern pieces
They look something like this…

As you can see, the pattern pieces are on the calico. They’ll remain here for now and I’ll use these again for future strapless dresses.

There are separate pattern pieces for the lining dress and outer dress. This means I can make up to 4 different strapless dresses from these pieces.

After the course
After such an intensive workshop, I found it difficult to come back to reality. I sewed some cozzies and felt more grounded.

However I still needed to finish off the bodice and hems. In a way, sewing cozzies was a way to practice sewing with swimwear elastic for a closer dress bodice fit.

There were 2 issues that needed ‘fixing’ along the top of the bodice.

1 The top of the bodice while keeping me in shape, the bodice was keenly pointing to the sky but not hugging my body.
2 I used calico for the foundation layer and the calico edge was peeking out at the top of the dress bodice.

Solution to issue 1: I machine sewed swimwear elastic across the front of the bodice. This meant I had to unpick my hand stitching; machine sew on the elastic; re-hand stitch the foundation to the bodice while pulling it taunt.

Solution to issue 2: I hand-stitched self made bias using the John Kaldor fabric. This has resulted is a really lovely internal finish as well as resolving issue 2. If the foundation layer peeks above the dress, you’ll only see more of the fashion fabric. I’m happy with this result.
Watching Netflix helped me stay focused while hand stitching the bias to the top of the bodice.

Issue 3: There was one other issue…hooking up the foundation layer…by Mr V. I used pliers to adjust the hooks so Mr V can help me dress. So you could say, there’s a reality aspect to this dress aside from couture sewing I had to resolve.

Having an organza layer under the fashion fabric is really useful. I hand sewed the hem onto the organza layer. This also keep the shape of dress skirt. The lining is hemmed separately.

Wrapping it up

My initial idea was to play a velvet trim somewhere on the dress for some definition. Susan placed the trim on the waist and fashioned a bow for me. I’ve now hand sewn this on the dress.

There are faux straps that I’ve also prepared for a different feel to the dress. These faux bra straps are made from the fashion fabric and give the dress a subtle change.

This wider fashion fabric ribbon gives this dress a ‘50s vibe to it.

So this same dress, with the same shoes can be worn at least three different ways.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of my couture sewing journey. Thanks to Susan for travelling to Australia and running these workshops.

A big thank you to Vicki and the team at Minerva Crafts for providing me with all the fabrics and notions for this workshop. The name of everyone who packs each online order is on the label of your purchase.

Also a big shout out to Prym products for providing me with all their ergonomic sewing tools that have made this workshop more enjoyable. Remember there’s a 10% discount on all Prym products when you apply the discount code ‘maria’.

Next month, I’ll be making the couture lace skirt in Susan’s class and sharing what I learnt with you. You’ll love the fabrics I’ve chosen too!