Saturday, March 30, 2019

Pattern Review: Frankie & Ray Breezeway Top in white linen

Jo of Frankie and Ray had been teasing the release of the Breezeway Top pattern on her Instagram for a while and we thought it looked like another winner. So I jumped in and made one as soon as the patterns arrived. It doesn't disappoint!

With a generous, roomy fit, gentle v-neck and optional back pleat and sleeve cuffs, the Breezeway Top is quick and simple to sew, with just enough detail to make it 'polished casual'.

I used our White Lithuanian Linen - this one is unwashed which lowers the price (and the original fabric's environmental impact through energy and water use). I even skipped pre-washing (gasp!) because I knew the Breezeway Top was generously sized. You can see the fabric below with its flat finish and clearly separate fibres. In this photo I'm stitching over the underarm point twice to reinforce it.

We find these 'unwashed' linens tend to be overlooked in favour of the - admittedly prettier - gently rumpled pre-washed ones. I'm here to say give them a go! It doesn't take long at all for them to achieve a lovely lived-in feeling. They even ought to last longer because the fibres have not been partially broken down. We DO of course love our washed linen fabrics, but please don't be turned off by their smooth, flat siblings... they are in fact the very same cloth. (You can find more information about our linens, with some comparison images, in this blog post from a few years back.)

Here's the finished top, after a wash and iron.

I chose the white linen because I thought it would make a great shop sample, both for the pattern and the fabric. My natural tendency would be to choose pattern or colour for myself. But once I'd tried this sample on I didn't want to take it off... and what the heck, it only takes one metre of linen, so I made another for me.

On my second version I decided to try the 'cap sleeve'. The finish will be familiar to those of you who have made the Frankie & Ray Box Top: simple, clever and neat. Without the cuffs, it's more layerable for the approaching cooler weather. Here it is just off the machine, pre-wash:

The trickiest part of this pattern is probably finishing the v-neckline with bias tape. Don't be intimidated; the instructions are good and the end result is neat and secure (except when my shop-dwelling machine - decades overdue for a service poor thing - decided to skip stitches right at the point, argh). The second time I thought I could try applying the bias tape without pins until I got to the point, then using a pin to execute that manoeuvre on the spot. In short: nah, use all the pins, or you may be spending some quality time with your unpicker, like me.

A couple of steps I added to the neckline finish:
- I staystitched* the raw edge to stabilise the neckline early on, because the binding isn't added until later in the construction and my linen could easily have stretched out.
- I understitched** the bias to the neckline seam allowance before turning the whole thing to the inside, to help the bias roll in nicely and not peek around the outside. (I particularly wanted to do this because I only had cream bias tape, not white.)

(*Staystitch: a line of straight stitching through a single layer of fabric, close to the cut edge, to help stop it from stretching out during handling. **Understitch: sew a facing to both layers of seam allowance where the facing is joined to the main garment, close to the stitching line. This helps produce 'turn of cloth' so the facing sits fully inside the garment and does not show from the outside.)

And of course, what does it look like on a human?

PATTERN: The Breezeway Top by Frankie & Ray
FABRIC: 100% linen, white 245gsm, 150cm wide, 1 metre
SIZE: S, no alterations (the fit is generous, the length just right on me at 5'3"/163cm) and yes, this sample now lives in-store so you can see it in person and try it on!
COMMENTS: Like the Frankie & Ray Box Top, I can see this being a great pattern to make again and again in different fabrics. It would be easy to embellish with patch pockets, a raw-edged bias finish neckline, shirt-tail hemline and other ideas. I could even imagine making one from a light woven wool as an easy throw-on top layer for winter. Jo, the designer, told us that the sleeve from her Friday Shirt pattern will fit this top so that would be a great option too - perhaps in a soft brushed cotton/flannel like these.

Easy, breezy, comfy Breezeway!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Pattern Review: Papercut Ravine Dress in Hemp/Silk

Heckin' fancy! We don't do a lot of 'fancy' here at The Drapery. But sometimes, occasion calls. And fabric and patterns answer.

I sing in a choir and as with many similar musical groups, black is the main requirement for performance wear. It's not a colour I wear otherwise, and I needed a new option for our concerts in the Adelaide Fringe.

We recently received these very special Hemp/Silk fabrics (leftovers from a local designer/maker). I teamed the black one with the Ravine Dress pattern from Papercut Patterns' latest 'Geo' collection. 

Bias cut and backless, in slinky black... who even am I? It was quite out of my comfort zone but it somehow seemed promising.

On the roll this fabric has a slight pleated texture. A close look reveals intermittent shiny stripes, which we assume is the silk portion, and the matte part the hemp. I gave it a prewash and the pleating became more pronounced, and the width of the fabric therefore reduced. So much so, my pattern pieces wouldn't fit! What to do? It was almost like a knit in its ability to stretch and spring back.

I decided to give the fabric a very light, steamy press (not letting the full weight of the iron rest on the fabric) to stretch it back out, at least enough to fit my pattern pieces. Then I crossed my fingers and cut. My only deviation from the pattern was to cut two longer tie strips to go across the shoulders at the back, so I could tie a bow, instead of the single, optional narrow cross-piece. The bodice is the most unusual shaped pattern piece I've ever used, and this is the most unusual fabric I've ever worked with. Where would this adventure end?

Not fully considering the properties of bias cut, I was expecting that some pieces might end up with the pleats running different ways, highlighting the panel lines of the pattern. However the fabric layout ensures that the grain runs the same way all over. This means that the pleats wrap in a spiral around the dress, and the panel lines become a bit lost. I guess they're just a subtle feature in my Ravine Dress.

The assembly of the dress happens quite quickly. I opted for a simple zigzag seam finish. This fabric doesn't seem to fray much and I wanted to keep the seams as flexible and bulk-free as possible to allow the fabric pleats to do their springy, pleaty thing.

When I first tried the dress on, it was very long because the fabric had stretched out further. I didn't want to hem it shorter because this would mess with the panel lines. So I threw it in the wash to see if the pleats would work their shrinky magic again. They did! I also raised the underarm a bit with some simple taking in at the seams: about 3cm at the underarm pivot point, tapering to nothing either side, into the sleeve and bodice.

The neckline and back V are finished with self-bias, turned to the inside and topstitched. One side stretched out a bit more in the sewing and I had to unpick and adjust at the back until it sat evenly. Thankfully the same flexibility of the fabric that made it stretch out also made it easy to muck around in the back seams without distorting anywhere else.

Have a look below at the bias ties, which look a bit like macaroni!

I wouldn't normally choose a low V back pattern for myself, because of the implications for underwear (or lack thereof). However for my choir performances, the back view would rarely be seen, and I wore a fitted black singlet top underneath. I would like something a bit fancier but I was running very short on time. Initially I thought I'd need a full slip underneath in case the fabric was a bit sheer, but in its washed, pleated form it's really decently opaque, even under stage lights.

And here it is being worn.

Ultimately, whilst this dress is quite a style departure for me, I'm really pleased with it. It's cool and comfortable but also feels 'dressed up'. As a bonus, now the dress is finished it's definitely zero-iron. It can be gently folded or rolled in a bag and carried to a gig, then pulled out and it's ready to wear. I've washed it on a wool cycle using soap nuts (wool wash would also be good) and draped it horizontally over an indoor drying rack to prevent stretching.

This is a clever pattern and special fabric that's actually easy-care, and now I'm very tempted to make something - maybe more casual-fancy - with the white version, too.

The Ravine Dress would also be gorgeous in a drapey fabric like our Tencels and Cupros, or take on a  more casual elegance in washed linen or a double gauze.

Maybe you've been tempted by a 'style departure' project, too. It's worth a try now and then!

- Jane & Fiona xx