Wednesday, 30 January 2013

I seem to be acquiring bargain vintage dresses at quite a rate this year. I fell in love with the print of this dress and decided it was worth the £4 asking price, but the odd polo shirt collar thingy was definitely pushing the granny look to it's limits (see... just look at that sad face!).

Twenty short minutes of pinning, snipping and stitching later... bye bye weird collar, hello happy scoop neck!

So, in the interests of spreading a bit of self-pride and happiness around, I thought I'd share my technique, using a dress that I love as my neckline template and applying a bias binding facing.

You will need:
  • Double fold bias binding tape - enough to go round your new neckline plus around 5 cm extra.
  • Pins, tape measure, scissors, thread and sewing machine.
  • A dress or top with a neckline you like.

Step 1:  Unpick the collar seam so that you are able to work out your new neckline without weird Mr Bad Collar getting in the way. I didn't need to unpick the whole collar, just the section where my revised neckline would be coinciding with the original.   (Of course, if your garment is collarless you can skip this bit - lucky you!)

Step 2:  Take a dress or top with a neckline that you love and place the garment you are altering inside it, aligning shoulder seams and centre fronts.

Step 3: Using your favourite dress/top as a template, mark out the new neckline with pins.

Step 4: Remove your dress/top template and check that the pin markers are aligned nicely. Make sure that your revised neckline is symmetrical and even. My dress had a centred zip in the back so I tried not to alter the back neckline too much in order to avoid the need to lower the zip.  I  needed to adjust my pins around the shoulder slightly so that the curve of the new neckline at the front faded in nicely to the original back neckline.

Step 5: This is the scary bit! As the fabric of my dress had a slight stretch, I ummed and ah-ed about whether to cut the new neckline or stitch the bias on first. In the end I took the plunge and very carefully cut the new neckline shape before applying my bias binding.
Important: Be aware that the pins are marking your finished neckline, so you need to add a seam allowance to create your cutting line. Your seam allowance should be half the width of your bias binding tape. I took the slightly risky approach of doing this by eye as I was cutting, but if you have a very special dress or if it cost more than a posh sandwich, I would suggest you draw or mark your cutting line- including the seam allowance - first.  Remember to add the seam allowance to the neck side of your sewing line, not the body side  (otherwise you may end up with a very plunging neckline!).

Step 6: Open up one side of your bias binding, place the right side of your bias tape onto the right side of the dress and pin in place along the fold of the tape, making sure that the edge of your bias tape and the edge of the neckline are aligned. If you have a fastener at some point along the neckline, as I did, extend the ends of the bias tape about 2.5cm on either side of the opening.  If your neckline is solid, without an opening, then fold one of the ends of the bias tape to the inside and overlap your tape to create a neat finish.

Step 7: Carefully stitch all the way around your neckline along the fold of the bias tape, making sure you reinforce the beginning and end of your stitching.

Step 8: Clip into your seam allowance as necessary, then fold the bias tape over to the wrong side of the dress and press.

Step 9: If you have a fastening to contend with, fold the ends of your bias tape under and slip stitch in position. Now, top-stitch all around the neckline, close to the edge, in order to keep the tape folded under. For extra security, you could also add a couple of whip stitches to attached the bias facing to the shoulder seams.

Step 10: Give your wonderful new neckline a final press, then try on your dress and strike a pose!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

First make of the year

Drum roll please for the first completed sewing project of 2013.... ta dah!

It's certainly very ummm... paisley isn't it! Actually, I'm pretty pleased with this little number for a variety of reasons.

First, the pattern and fabric come from a batch of vintage goodies that a lovely colleague donated to me after clearing out the house of a beloved family member. My love of vintage is partly all about the continuation of something with a bit of history, and that sense of linearity is all the more special when there is a personal connection involved.

Second, the original 70s pattern (Style 3756) was sized for a 32" bust and needed some alteration to fit. I used the cut and spread method to add 1/2" width and height to the yoke and this also involved fiddling about with the sleeve heads (eek!). So, I was both slightly astonished and immensely pleased when it all worked perfectly first time without any extra adjustments needed. Result!

Third, I decided to line the dress to add some body and swing. This decision just happened to coincide with a silk sale at Oxford's favourite haberdashery. So, guess what, my paisley 70s smock is lined with the finest silk for a little bit of extra glamour (okay, so the glamour effect is slightly taken away by the woolly tights and legwarmer combo, but I know it's there!). I've not worked with silk before, and try to avoid light fabric if I can  (I'm a wimp that way), but was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was to work with - top tip though: a lovely sharp shiny new needle in your machine makes a world of difference!

Fourth and lastly, I added the bow as a little bit of contrast to all the swirly whirly stuff going on and made a last minute decision to stitch the bow bit of the bow (must be a proper name for that... loopy parts maybe??  No, that really doesn't work does it!) in place. I think it worked out okay.

So, despite the fact that the reaction from Mr Loulabelle to my 70s smock dress was a rather ungratifying "yes, it's rather smocky isn't it", I am pretty pleased with the number 1 make of the year and shall put myself at the top of the class!

PS: Apologies for the poor photo quality- the light has been pretty shoddy recently. I had to resort to an outdoor shoot and what you can't see out of shot in the first pic, is the piles of snow! Brrr, it was cold and clearly getting a good focus slipped my chilly mind!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

New (old) dresses for a new (old) age

Wow, how did it get to be mid January so quickly? Time is doing all kinds of odd things at the moment - as of this weekend I'm apparently a mere 5 years from 40. I'm pretty sure there has been a big mistake. But perhaps that explains why I've been tucking my vest into my tights recently?

Anyway, while I continue to ponder the passing of time, I thought I'd share the results of some recent retail therapy at Oxford's Thursday antiques market.

These vintage beauties came to a grand total of a tenner for the pair. I may be getting old, but I can still spot a bargain! Oh, and thanks to my nephew, I recently rediscovered the joy of the whoopee cushion - so maybe all is not lost after all.


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