Ankara Etta dress and Panda Hawthorn Dress

Two dresses in one post!

The other month I sewed a wax print Ankara dress in such a horrendous rush that I ended up stupidly stressed out about it. But I am pretty happy with how it came out:

Despite numerous late nights sewing, and a lot of patience and understanding from my husband (thanks P!), I very nearly didn’t finish it in time for the wedding I was making it for. I was hand stitching at 11pm the night before! And there is a lot of sloppy work on the inside that I’m not totally proud of. So I swore never to sew anything on a deadline ever again.

But then of course… I had another wedding to go to this summer. And wouldn’t it be nice if I could make a dress for that too…?

I bargained with myself that if I didn’t finish it a week before the wedding, then I’d buy myself a dress as a treat instead. But HEY LOOK, I managed it with a week to spare, and entirely stress-free! Behold my Panda Hawthorn:

I have made a Hawthorn before, but the bust darts came out so nipply that I only wore it once and I felt ashamed the whole day long. I think I still have things to learn on the pointy dart front, but I’m much happier with how these turned out.

I lowered the bust dart points so they were below my apex, and then I also sewed them to a point about 1/2″ below that and then tapered gently to the real end. This, plus a hefty helping of steam, made my panda darts less pointy. Still not perfect, but much less distracting.

Things that went wrong making this dress:

  • I ignored the print when cutting out the pieces, and ended up cutting a new front bodice piece so the pandas were more prominent. Lesson: think about print placement even if you think you might want a random distribution.
  • I made a collar and then ended up cutting an entire new set of collar pieces because I wanted more pandas. There are pandas on both sides of the collar now ūüźľūüźľ
  • The darts initially came out nipply again so had to redo them at least three times.
  • I sewed all the skirt buttons on half an inch too high and had to redo them! I am really good at sewing buttons now.
  • I bias bound both armholes before realising they were pinching my underarm. I tried to get away with only redoing the bottom and not having to use more binding, but it was a hot mess of tucks and puckers. So I unpicked both armholes and refaced them both with fresh tape.

Removing the bias binding from the armhole

And the things that went right:

  • Gosh this is a lovely fabric to work with. It’s Lady McElroy Panda Retreat cotton lawn, and it’s lush. It presses well and doesn’t crease too badly by itself. Shame it’s so ¬£¬£¬£
  • The pattern is easy to sew and the instructions are clear. A very fun sew.
  • I feel good wearing this thing. I love the silhouette, I love the print, I love the fabric, I love the buttons. It feels very me!

Despite all the adjustments and do-overs, I really enjoyed making this one. I never felt frustrated once, which I wouldn’t have expected if you told me how many things I was going to end up doing twice. The repetition felt like iterative development – each time I did something again I knew it was getting better and better.

The wedding that I made this dress for was yesterday, and it was a wonderful joyous day (congratulations T & L!). I even met a new sewing friend (hi A!) and we talked sewing and cats all through dinner. Superb.

I can also confirm that the Hawthorn is a good dress for dancing the night away in. Not that I really make a habit of that!

Finally, my panda dress made its maiden voyage at a very timely moment – I learned at the wedding that two twin pandas have just been born in Belgium! Fingers crossed for those little beasties. The twin pandas on my collar are now dedicated to them.

Dress: Colette Hawthorn

Size: 2 throughout

Alterations: lowered bust dart by 1″, lowered armscye by 3/4″

My measurements at time of making: full bust 35″, waist 28.5″, hip 36″

Outfit Along and Sewing Update

Hey… that’s not a sewing project!

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This wool is for the Outfit-Along¬†which I’ve impulsively decided to take part in. If you’ve not heard of it,¬†this event runs for the months of June and July,¬†and to take part you have to knit one garment and sew one garment to make up a whole outfit. I’m going to be making the official OAL patterns –¬†the Zinone knitted lace top and the¬†Hollyburn skirt – but you don’t have to go with those as long as you make a whole outfit.

I haven’t knitted anything proper in about a year – the last serious¬†knitting project¬†I made was a baby blanket for my niece last June. I’ve¬†been musing about picking up my knitting needles again as¬†I don’t want to lose the skill, so when the¬†OAL popped up on my blog feed the other day, the timing was perfect. Plus, I already mentioned that I have another Hollyburn skirt on my sewing plans. There was no way I couldn’t sign up!

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I’ve already made my gauge swatch, and it was bang on first time, which was nice. If you’re not a knitter, you might¬†not know what a gauge swatch is. Basically,¬†if two knitters knit the same square¬†using the same wool and the same needles, the finished square¬†may not come out the same size. This is because different knitters have different tension, meaning they may hold their wool more loosely or tightly as they sew – it’s really down to¬†personal preference as to what feels good when you knit.

Therefore, before starting a new knitting project, you always have to make a gauge swatch – a test square – to calibrate your particular tension against what the knitting pattern expects. Otherwise you might end up with¬†a top that’s 50% bigger than it’s supposed to be! If your sizing is a bit off then you change the size of your needles and try again. Lucky for me, my gauge swatch was just right. I’m going to chuck it in the washing machine and see if it can cope, because let’s face it, I’m too lazy for hand-washing.

Anyway – that’s enough about knitting –¬†what about my sewing projects?¬†Well –

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This week I finished a Bettine dress in this¬†gorgeous teal filigree¬†fabric from Chinatown. I absolutely adore¬†it – except for the small fact that the hem of the skirt is far too narrow and I can barely put it on! Why didn’t I learn from my previous Bettine?¬†Totally¬†gutted. I’m not giving up on it though – I’m¬†going to buy¬†some more of the fabric to replace the skirt with a slightly differently shaped one. I’m also thinking¬†of putting a side zip and waist band onto the¬†old skirt so I can wear it on its own.

And this is what’s on my sewing table now:

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Hawthorn cutting chaos. I still haven’t found a way of cutting out fabric that I like. I used to pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and then cut around them, but I always ended up shaving a bit of the pattern piece off. So now I draw around the pieces and cut them after, but it’s extremely tedious and it’s hard to draw¬†accurate lines with¬†tailor’s chalk. What’s your favourite way to cut fabric?

Chilli Bettine Dress

Yet another Tilly and the Buttons piece… I made this Bettine dress! With chilli print fabric! Because spicy food is my favourite¬†food!

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Making this dress felt¬†a lot like cheating. It has extremely simple construction as it is targeted at absolute beginners. I think I’m in the “advanced beginner” camp by now, so this was a doddle to put together! I made the version without pockets (not a fan of how they look) and omitted the cuff tab, which meant I was left with very few pattern pieces and very few seams. And no darts! It was a very quick make, to the point that it seems like I barely did anything to the fabric for it to turn into a dress.

 

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I¬†did a 1.5″ full bust adjustment¬†on the front bodice piece because I am a C/D cup and Tilly’s patterns are drafted for a B cup.¬†When you¬†execute an FBA, you increase the length of the bodice piece. Typically, there is a¬†horizontal dart on the bodice which then gets redrawn to consume that extra length of fabric, but this dress has no darts! Tilly recommends ease-stitching the extra length in¬†which I found very straight forward.

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The¬†fabric¬†came from Malin Textile at Chinatown and I paid S$11 (¬£5.50) per metre for it, down from S$13 (¬£6.50). It frayed like crazy while I worked with it, which was irritating. But it came out so cute!¬†It’s a fun dress.¬†I like the kimono sleeves. They’re different.

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It’s not at all easy to pull over¬†my¬†head though. I have to do a very awkward wiggle dance to put it¬†on. It’s probably because I cut a size 1 for the hips whereas I’m a size 2 plus FBA in the bust, and¬†the skirt¬†is a tulip shape so it narrows towards the hem. As there are no closures, the narrow hem needs to go over my head and past the bust when I put it on, and it takes a fair bit of encouragement to coax it to where it’s supposed to be.

 

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A much more graceful wiggle than the one I had to do while getting dressed.

I’m not sure what I could do to fix that next time, though. My first thought was to try it with an A-line skirt, but I¬†think the skirt¬†does need to hug the hips in order to balance out the bagginess on top. Maybe I will just try it in a jersey, once I’ve learned how to sew with knits. And I’ve already ordered a couple of knit patterns so that won’t be too far away!

Palm Print Megan

My palm print Megan dress is finished!

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The fabric is by Sevenberry and I’m in love with it. It’s light, but has some structure. It holds a crease when you want it to, but doesn’t crease through wear. It’s great!

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I really like this dress. I put most of it together very quickly without much thought, which was rewarding¬†after how long my first Megan took me. But when I was about to put the sleeves on¬†my husband commented that it actually looked really good without sleeves. So I thought I’d have a go at making bias tape and using it as a facing. It took me a whole day to figure¬†it out, but I got there in the end – one new dress, two new skills. And he¬†was right! The Megan is brilliant¬†without sleeves.

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The one thing in this pattern that I’m still unsure about is the¬†length of the dart tucks on the front of the bodice. One of my¬†original fit adjustments was to lengthen the bodice, but I didn’t know what to do with the dart tucks so I left them as they were. I think I need to lengthen them by the same amount so that they lie flat.

palm-megan-side

See how that dart tuck billows out just a touch¬†at the bust? I think the bodice¬†fit is pretty good apart from that. I can’t easily get that part of the bodice under the machine now it’s been fixed to the skirt, so I¬†tried to hand sew it flat – turns out¬†I still don’t have any¬†patience for hand sewing. Might¬†try slip stitching it later. I don’t think it’s a big deal though, I’ll just mark the dart longer on my pattern piece and bear it in mind next time.

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I’ve done quite a few Tilly patterns in a row now, and it’s time for me to branch out. I finished a Bettine dress yesterday and¬†I’ll be posting about that soon, but¬†I’ve ordered some Colette and Sewaholic patterns to get a bit more variety in my me-made wardrobe.

Speaking of which, I signed up to Me-Made May! I’ve pledged to wear at least two pieces that I’ve made myself each week in the month of May. Looking forward to it!

Making Another Megan

Firstly, a brief announcement: my blog has a new name!¬†Cotton on Cotton is now Cotton Noodle.¬†I changed it because wanted something that wasn’t so close to the name of an established brand. Picking a name is hard, and it’s even harder the second time around as you have something to compare it to.¬†The new name quietly¬†alludes¬†to the fact that the blog was born in Singapore. Or maybe¬†I was just hungry.
Anyway, back on topic… Here’s my work-in-progress:

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After putting all that effort into fitting the Megan pattern, I’ve kicked off another version.¬†This fabric is a Sevenberry cotton that I managed to find¬†in the chaos¬†of¬†Singapore’s Mustafa Centre. I like¬†that¬†the palm print is quite busy,¬†while¬†the monochrome stops it from¬†being loud. This is going to be another work dress so I want it to be¬†relatively subdued.

I lowered the neckline a touch, giving it a soft V-shape.¬†I’m also considering keeping¬†it¬†sleeveless. Otherwise, I’ve kept the same alterations as last time.

I’m having loads of fun making this one. I think as I’m getting better at sewing, and have to stop and refer to instructions less and less, I am getting more of that rush of joy that comes from creating something with my own hands. It’s this feeling that makes me love being a maker. I’ve been a knitter for a few years, so it’s nothing new to me –¬†but¬†I am enjoying¬†how sewing brings this sense of gratification and pride more often, as garments are faster to finish. Yup, I think I really like sewing.

I made a Megan dress!

Behold… I made a Megan dress!

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A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of¬†Love At First Stitch¬†by Tilly Walnes,¬†from the Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City. (If you’re in Singapore, I really recommend the sewing book section there – there are a lot of books that have paper patterns included, including those from bloggers like Tilly, Collete Patterns and Gertie. I got a little over¬†excited in the shop!)

I’d read the reviews for Love At First Stitch so I was pretty hyped for the book. And it totally lived up to expectation! It’s a gorgeous book, very beautifully put together – and Tilly has a lovely conversational way of writing which makes you feel like you’ve known her for years.

 

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Shamelessly copying one of Tilly’s poses from the book

 

But I’ve gotta say, I found the Megan dress a real challenge. Nothing to do with the pattern or instructions – but just getting the bodice to fit. The pattern is drafted for a B-cup, but I am a C/D, so I knew I was going to need a full bust adjustment.¬†But I wasn’t expecting¬†that I would end up making six muslins of the bodice…

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The five discarded bodice pieces that didn’t make the final muslin
And on the plus side, I am now an expert at sewing darts after having done about 30 of them as part of this muslin saga!

In the end, I made a 1.5″ full bust adjustment, lengthened the bodice by 1/5″, and took 2″ out of the back neckline. I also shortened the hem by 2″.

And now it’s all finished! The fabric is a cotton poplin I bought at Spotlight.

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I’m really proud of it. I’ve made it for work to force myself to wear the stuff I make on normal days rather than saving it for special occasions.
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There are a few errors in it, but I’m okay with that (I’m telling myself). I’m not too crazy about the dart tucks around the bodice as they don’t seem to lie properly, and the zip is a bit stiff. But it’s all cool, because I made a dress!
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