Friday, March 20, 2015

We heart it - the Surface Art Wrap Skirt

The oh-so-versatile Surface Art Wrap Skirt.
Here made up in Umbrella Prints hemp/organic Cotton Grand Hearts in Smokey black.
If there's one pattern we recommend time and time again for beginner sewers, it could well be this one - the Wrap Skirt by Surface Art. This skirt is a great way to dip your toe either into or back-into sewing garments. And who can go past the simple wrap skirt as a handy wardrobe staple? Not me, apparently - I've made three of them.


Look! It's just three main pieces, plus a narrow interfaced waistband. There are a couple of ties on the inside to prevent wardrobe malfunctions, and a button to finish off. Because it's a wrap skirt, there are no tricky fitting issues since you can just move the button to get the fit spot on. Sizes from XS to XL are all covered in the one pattern.

Excuse the hopper-ball flare. This version of the skirt made up in Mid Century Vessels, cotton/linen.

The pattern can be found on our website here

Plus, we've a stretch denim version of the kit on our website now too.

We also have a number of wrap skirt kits in store. These include everything you need to hit the ground running and make a wrap skirt of your own (once you've pre-washed your fabric, of course). 

- Fiona & Jane xx

Thursday, March 19, 2015

There's life beyond the Box Dress in Stylish Dress Book 2!

It's described as 'Midi-Length Jumper Dress' (in the American meaning of 'jumper'), but I think of it as The Apron Dress. For obvious reasons.

Yep, it's this book again, from which we are always banging on about the Box Dress (pictured on the cover, and featured on our blog here, here and here).
And here is pattern G:

It could hardly be simpler (much like the Box Dress), yet has that particular Japanese style: very simple lines in precisely the right places. That little back pocket? Perfect! (I'm not sure if it has a grubby mark on it in the picture below or if that's the result of tweaking the lighting, but please excuse for the sake of actually getting this blogged!)

 This is made up in our Stretch Denim - the 'black' colourway, which is still quite blue, but not as blue as the indigo. It's a great mid-weight denim and the little bit of give adds extra comfort factor to an already superbly comfy dress. Mine is a bit shorter than the pattern intends, but a bit longer than I might usually wear: a good compromise. I eked this out of 1.2m (size M) but I would recommend 1.5m to avoid pattern-tetris-panic, and double your desired finished length for a directional print or 110cm wide fabric. Nevertheless, how satisfying is it when this is the entirety of your scraps? :

 We think the Apron Dress would also look great in many of our linens, for example the mid/heavy weight natural, or any of the plain coloured washed linens. Or it could be fun in a Japanese linen/cotton blend print.

The pattern instructions indicated double lines of top-stitching in many places. With a style this plain, it's just the right decorative touch. I only stitched double lines on the pocket top and the hem, but used a coloured cotton throughout.
It's just plain Gutermann cotton thread; I'm not sure I've really mastered the art of using proper topstitching thread (tension issues) and I was happy for this to be just a subtle touch. The stretch of the denim combined with the topstitching has made some of the edges a little wavy straight off the machine, but after a wash it should all settle into place. I omitted the interfacing recommended for the front and back facings, because of the weight of my fabric, but in hindsight perhaps the top front could have used some stabilising in the seam.

You might have noticed that I'm wearing the Apron Dress with another Alabama Chanin top. I've worked on the fit and am really loving this one, so should blog about it soon!

(By the way, my necklace, which I love, was from The Spotted Quoll who I found at Bowerbird.)

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Alabama Chanin ALL the things

Are you familiar with the Alabama Chanin books and distinctive style?
Natalie Chanin's second book, available at The Drapery, $44.95
They're the creation of Natalie Chanin, who hails from, clearly, Alabama USA. Her signature style is hand-stitched garments made from organic cotton jersey, with various embellishments including reverse-applique and beading. You can buy her beautiful hand-made-in-the-USA ready-to-wear garments, at understandably substantial prices (oh look here's one named for me), or you can read her books and tackle the projects yourself.

I've been wanting to try this for ages... oh you know, the never-ending project list? Anyhow the planets aligned and I had a go at a fitted top. I just used the most basic construction method and no embellishments since this was really just a test for fit. I used a double layer of fine cotton jersey that was a gift from a destashing friend.
It's not perfect but I'm rather liking it all the same! You can see it has a tendency to fall off my narrow, sloping shoulders, but I think I can remedy this by taking it in at the centre back seam. I already shortened it a bit at the shoulders. The four-panel construction means there is a lot of shaping, and in double-layer jersey, I feel more comfortable than I expected in a garment this fitted.
 It's entirely hand-stitched, which doesn't take as long as you might imagine. It can be quite a soothing, meditative thing to do. I used Gutermann upholstery thread, and like to use a thimble, especially when working with up to 6 layers of fabric such as on these felled seams. Probably one of the most labour-intensive parts is simply the frequent re-threading of the needle. The thread is used double. A length no longer than your forearm is recommended to avoid tangles. A useful tip I read in Natalie Chanin's first book was to thread up a whole lot of needles before you start, so you can just pick up a new one each time and get right on with stitching. I'll definitely try that next time!

This pattern comes with multiple cut-off points that mean it can make a top, tunic, short or long dress and short or long skirt. (I believe there are patterns very similar to this in each of her books; this one was from her third book which I purchased some time ago.)

My top ended up a slightly odd length. I wanted to make sure it wasn't too short, and had plenty of fabric, so cut it quite a bit longer than the 'top' version. What I didn't think of then was that the seam construction means you can't really just chop it off at the bottom without a lot of re-stitching. In any case I quite like this length with my Grainline Moss skirts.

At The Drapery we have a selection of organic cotton knits - most Australian-made - that are ideal for the Alabama Chanin style.  They are light, pure cotton (no spandex) and quite stable.
Top to bottom: Chocolate, Muted Donkey, Grey Marle, Navy, Kelp.

So far, this is feeling a bit addictive. I'm now working on a skirt from the same pattern, and aim to make another top with a few fitting adjustments. The fabric I used on this first garment probably has a bit more stretch to it than the fabrics we have in the shop, so I need to try fitting with the 'proper' fabric. Then when I feel that's right I would love to make a dress with embellishments. Maybe it will be a nice winter-by-the-fire project this year? And a wrap would be nice... and the wrist-warmers... and a long skirt....

- Jane & Fiona xx