Dagenham Dress

This was going to be a series of work in progress posts, but since it all progressed rather quickly and to a deadline, and injuring my wrist at rehearsal a couple of weeks ago made typing difficult, it’s ended up as a fait-accompli post instead!

I’ve been rehearsing over the last few months for a production of Made in Dagenham. It’s set in the 1960’s and is based on the true story of the women workers of the Ford factory in Dagenham who went on strike for equal pay. It’s a fun show with great music and of course it requires lots of great costumes in keeping with the 60s era. My character in particular needs several different outfits and since the wardrobe mistress has her hands full costuming everyone else, I offered to have a crack at making a dress for myself.

I’ve never really sewn a garment on my own from scratch before. I did a bit of dressmaking as a teenager, though only simple skirts, and always under the tutelage of my mum. My mum and I also worked together to make my wedding dress several years ago. I’ve wanted to have a go at something a bit more ambitious ever since I got a sewing machine for Christmas a couple of years ago, but until now had only ever done simple mending jobs, or basic projects like my crochet hook roll and Pumpkin’s pencil case.

So, after a little bit of procrastinatory research, I decided the only this to do was to bite the bullet and throw myself into it. A trip to the local fabric store and I was equipped with pattern, fabric, lining material and a zip.

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I was a good girl and put the fabric straight into the washing machine when I got home. Then read the pattern properly and realised I would need a few other things. Cue another hasty trip to a different haberdashery shop for interfacing, carbon paper, tracing wheel and a rotary cutter.

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Since I was between sizes, I had a go at grading the pattern out at the waist and further at the hips. I made a toile out of the lining fabric to begin with to check the fit and ended up adjusting the grading a fair bit. The red line above shows my first attempt.

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Tin cans make excellent pattern weights!

 

I spent a long time laying the pattern out and tracing it using the carbon paper and wheel. I still took a big deep breath before I started cutting it. (Rotary cutting wheels are awesome by the way!) There were quite a lot of moments throughout the project where I found myself starting to question each new step and whether I was doing it right or was going to risk messing up what I’d already done. I just told myself to suck it up and get on with it. I’m not always very good at doing that. Often projects sit and linger when I can’t quite bring myself to do the next step for fear of messing up.

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Once I was happy with the toile I moved onto the main fabric. I thought it could be a big challenge having to do all the pattern matching, but in fact having the lines to keep me on track really helped.

Sewing the shoulder seams would have been easier if I’d fully unpicked the lining after using it as a toile. I did have to unpick it all eventually, otherwise the construction wouldn’t have worked. Pulling the whole thing right side out through the shoulder straps required some mental gymnastics, but was easy enough. I would need to think through the seams allowances better if I was doing it again, in terms of which way they lie and trimming them better before flipping it through, as they ended up being a little bulky, but that’s just how you learn, right!?

Inserting the zip was a similar story. I’ve only done a zip once before – on Pumpkins pencil case – and never an invisible zip. The first side went in fine. The second side took me a couple of attempts and then when I flipped it round I discovered it was twisted anyway, so I had to unpick that side again and reposition it before stitching again. Fortunately it went in right first time after that and I was very pleased with the pattern matching.

This was the point at which I fell over at rehearsal and sprained my wrist, so the dress rested for a week before I could get back to it. But with the show looming I had to push on. I basted the sides together and my wardrobe mistress kindly helped to check the fit and mark the hemline and it was fairly straightforward after that, just a little slow.

The hem was the bit that I procrastinate over the most I think. With everything having gone together so well up to that point, I really didn’t want to mess it up at the final hurdle. I pinned and repinned and basted and pressed and eventually took a deep breath before chopping off the excess length. I hand sewed the outer fashion fabric for a neater finish on the outside and machine stitched the lining.

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I’m incredibly proud of the finished garment especially given it’s the first time I’ve made something like this, and to wear it onstage and pretend it’s a designer outfit is a fantastic feeling. I’m absolutely loving doing the show too. I got my nails done last week to help me get into character as well. So unlike me, but they complement the dress perfectly! Here’s to more successful sewing!

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More knitting, less blogging.

I’m sure I’ve been knitting a lot more again recently, but somehow I keep managing to forget to take photos of things, and though I’ve continued reading various blogs, I’ve not had much inclination towards actually writing anything. Actually, that also has a lot to do with life being very busy (though, when is it not!?) at the moment with rehearsals and kids and househunting (and all the stress wrapped up in that) etc. I knew that buying/selling/moving house is reckoned to be one of the most stressful things you can go through in life. Our first house purchase was fairly straightforward, but this move just seems ridiculously stressful and uncertain, and beset by problems of all types, and we haven’t even got to the packing stage yet!

April seems to have turned into birthday central in the last couple of years. My youngest Pickle, my niece and my mum, as well as various friends and children of friends all seem to have their birthdays within just a few days of each other. My niece requested some clothes for her doll, so when I mooted the idea of knitting a little something, my mum helpfully provided me with a bag full of assorted yarn and knitting needles while I was staying with her during the holidays. Fortunately I had my preferred circulars with me, so I had a go at winging it on a little jumper, inspired my a doll’s cardigan my mum found for me. Unfortunately, my estimation for how big to make the neck hole was a little off (dolls have BIG heads!) and I got rather frustrated and I left off before making sleeves for it, instead making it into a little tank top type thing with button down shoulders. It was more than a little dodgy, but hey, button practise is good for kids, so mum claimed it for use by her childcare children.

On returning home, I got a little more accurate information on the size of the doll, and then rooted around Ravelry for a suitable pattern, which turned out very much better! Apologies for the terrible quality phone-photo, but it turned out rather sweet.

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Pattern: Sweater from Snickerdoodle by Kristen Rettig

The pattern was good and easy to follow. I made the mistake of slipping stitches at the start of rows for the first few rows, which distorted the front edge a little, but you can’t notice it much when the buttons are done up, and my nearly 4 year old niece won’t mind anyway! The buttons were chosen by Pumpkin. I really liked the top-down seamless construction, and want to try it again on a bigger garment at some point. It was a very quick knit and has been safely packaged off to my niece today.

I’ve got a couple more things on the go at the moment; a pair of fingerless gloves for the hubby (which may or may not get done til the weather gets colder again!) and another baby ripple blanket which I’ll hopefully get finished very soon.

Snuggly

I realised I was rather chilly this evening whilst putting Pumpkin to bed. I found myself mentally skimming through my wardrobe for an appropriate jumper or cardigan I could throw on for the evening, and you know which one sprang to mind? Yes, my newly finished cardigan of doom snuggliness!

It’s been finished for a week now, and I still haven’t managed to get any decent photos, so here’s a quick shot I took on my phone, and a close up of the buttons I used.

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As you can see, it’s a little short in the body, which is a little frustrating, given that I thought I had added some extra length into it, but it’s certainly not a fatal flaw. The sleeves are lovely and long, so I can tuck my hands into them to keep warm.

The collar is a little gapey at the back of the neck, but again, not fatal. The fit around the waist could also have been a little closer, but it has a bit of shape to it, and a bit of ease means it’ll fit over layers of clothing in the winter without being too bulky.

All in all, it’s really not bad for my first ever knitted garment!

It’s done!

It’s done, it’s done!

The cardigan of never-ending doom is really, truly, actually, completely, wearably finished! Buttons and everything.

It won’t win any prizes, and I may not even wear it out of the house! But it is finished. Hurrah!

Pictures to follow, hopefully.

Excuse me while I happy-dance around the room.

Maybe now I can allow myself to work on some other things again and more regular blogging may resume.

Happy feet!

It’s been a while coming, but I have something off the needles again at long last. The anniversary socks are finally finished!
They got put down for several weeks, while I was occupied doing my most recent show, as well as reading more, but I took them on holiday with me and with the time to concentrate on it,  I managed to make a start on the heel. When I got back I knew I needed to get the heels finished, or I’d lose my place in the pattern and I’d have to rip back. Once the heels were done, I had the momentum to get them finished.

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I procrastinated a little over the bind off, but went with what was in the Earlybird sock pattern; Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. I actually ran out of yarn on one sock, but had plenty left on the other, so I did a russian join using the end of the other ball and had enough to finish. It meant there’s a bit of a sharp colour change just at the end on one of them, but I don’t think it looks too bad, and won’t be seen much as trousers will cover the top anyway.

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They’re a little longer than I expected, and a little shorter than I’d like, but they’re a good fit and quite comfortable to wear.

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It was my first time using real sock yarn. I love the colour changes. I think doing two at a time using magic loop is the right way to do it, as I know I’d suffer badly from second sock syndrome if I tried knitting them separately. Toe-up was great as I could use every last bit of my yarn without panicking about running out or wasting lots. I liked the heel flap construction – it made sense and gives a nice fit, although I did end up with a teeny tiny hole in the corner, which I guess is just about experience with where to pick stitches up from. I’d go down a needle size in future as the fabric is a little looser than I’d like, but all in all, happy feet!

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