Monday, 6 November 2017

A few wrap skirts

At the end of last year I was approached by a small business to see if I was interested in making some dancewear for them. I was, and earlier this year was asked to make some wrap skirts, and a short time later some small circle skirts for younger dancers. The business is Dancers Dance.

There were several fabrics for the skirts. Here I'm cutting out the lovely floral ones. My pattern was made years ago from some hydrographic maps a friend gave me. They have lasted well!  

Lately I've been finding the rotary cutter great for cutting out chiffony type fabrics. I find there is less fabric movement than when I use scissors.

Then it was on to the sewing machines. In the photo below I'm using the overlocker to stitch a rolled edge hem on the lovely red lace.

Pinning on a label before I attach the bias ribbon.

With these skirts I was able to find bias ribbon for the red and floral ones.. However for the other colour the only good match was too narrow. So I had a hunt for a matching fabric and found a satin that I could make my own bias ribbon from. I did a post on how I do this here.

In the photo below I'm stitching the two pieces together so I can cut the strips in one continuous piece. I hadn't done this before and it worked well.

All cut and put through the bias binding machine ready to go.

The only problem was that it was a bit too soft and I could see it was going to be a pain to sew! Soft, floppy and not holding the creases well. What to do?

After a bit of a think I went and bought a can of spray starch to see if that would help.


It was pretty interesting smelling . . . ventilation needed! I did spray the fabric on some baking paper but it still made a bit of a mess on the ironing board while I was ironing it. The ironing board cover can be washed though so that's o.k. I had to re-do the folding and ironing by hand but it is a calming kind of thing to do with the radio playing in the background. I used a bias folder to help and the trick with the pins is one I read about years ago.

Below it's all ironed, folded and ironed again . . . and holding it's shape and creases!

Just a closer view below.

I was able to apply the bias ribbon easily once it held it's shape. It will soften over time however that won't matter once it is stitched on.

Below is the first set of skirts. Each colour is in several different sizes.

Soon after making these skirts I was asked to make some more. These were in a lovely purple lace.

The other ones were of a pretty floral lace and these were circular skirts for younger dancers.

If you scroll down the Dancers Dance page in the link above you might spot a few of the skirts.  😍 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Romantic tutu for AHA

Earlier this year I was approached by a dancer's mum about making a costume for her daughter for the Alana Haines Awards. I was excited, and also a bit nervous, as this would be my first tutu for this biennial competition which is highly regarded "down under", the competition that is! I made a costume 2 years ago for the last competition which I posted about here.

After a bit of research and thought I decided to go with a bodice pattern from Tutus That Dance partly because time was a little short. I chose the one that best fit Miss K's measurements and then lengthened it to suit.

I had some invaluable help from Margaret who I did a workshop with about 5 years ago. There were a couple of techniques I wasn't sure of and Margaret generously shared her knowledge with me. You can find Margaret here and here. Thanks so much, Margaret 😂

Miss K's dance was from Flower Festival in Genzano. It required a peasant girl style romantic tutu. Once all the materials were to hand I made a start on a toile/mock-up to ensure the best fit.

Pattern pieces traced off and lengthened. Once the toile was right I got onto the actual bodice.

Laying out the pattern pieces. Note to self:- 0.75mtr or 1mtr of fabric for older girls especially if a basque is needed . . . 0.5mtr was just enough! It's a gorgeous colour, which changes shade with the light. It is silk and was lovely to work with.

Tracing round the pattern pieces before I cut them out - the weights are fishing weights :)

This is what was left over! Enough for piping so all good.

 Circular skirt all cut out. There will be only one seam down the back of the skirt.

I decided to sew a French seam for the skirt as it encloses the raw edge and for the sheer chiffon looks neater than overlocking I think. Not that it will be seen from the stage but I'll know!

French seam completed and edges of opening turned under.

Here is the front of the bodice and I'm playing around with the inset which needs to look like a peasant blouse.

The back bodice.

Keeping the bodice covered! There is a small grandson in the house, he was under four when I was making this so I kept the bodice covered, pushed to the back of my table going with the out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle. Also his mum told me she has told him Grandma will be very angry if he touches her sewing things! Dragon-granny! He does leave things alone but likes to help grandma sew or "zo" as he says :)

Piping for the base of the bodice. Trimming the edge to an even length. It's the first time I've made piping and attached it for something like this so I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Piping attached. I took my time doing this, basting it before sewing it. There was no more silk so I had to get it in one go!

Lace attached to the top edge. The lace provided was a straight piece so I pleated it to add a bit of detail and depth to it. Stitch, fold, stitch repeat . . . until done.

Gathering the net for the underskirt.

Hooks and thread eyes for the bodice. Also a bit of the trim that went around the top and "vee" of the bodice.

Small plastic snap to keep the skirt opening closed.

The finished bodice.

Not the best photo with the lighting, but this is one I got before I handed the tutu over.

Photo credit :- P Pang

This photo shows the the lovely Miss K, as well as the back of the bodice.

Here are two photos of Miss K performing her dance during the AHA awards.

Amber Griffin Photography

Amber Griffin Photography

I really enjoyed making this tutu for Miss K. As usual I learned a lot. Miss K was happy with it as were her mum and the dance teacher.

I was able to see photos of other dancers costumes in the photos and thought Miss K's measured up pretty well against the others  😃

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Romantic tutus for RCDC

At the end of last year a friend asked if she could pick my brains about romantic tutus as she needed to make some for her daughter's dance studio. I helped out with making some costumes a couple of years ago and there are blog posts about it here and here.

After talking with S for a short time she said that this type of costume isn't her forte so I offered to make them for her. She had a whole pile of other sewing to do. After a bit of persuasion S accepted my offer.

This is how it all starts - a quick drawing with a description, then all the measurements written down. I was able to take M's measurements as I was there at the time. S took all the others.

Quite a number of measurements. Often the measurements are similar enough that I only need to make a few sizes, not all individual ones. As you can see the notes have been well handled and have become a bit crumpled!

I was able to use the patterns from last time, and after making up a couple of samples was able to get on with the actual costumes. 

The tulle that was supplied was all there was to work with. So I measured the length and then divided it between the number of costumes, allowing extra for the largest costume so that it would have the same fullness as the others.

I put a pin in the tulle for each metre so that I could keep count - once the tulle was all folded I could count the pin heads and know how many metres I had. Since I was interrupted a few times this was great as otherwise I would most likely have noted it down incorrectly!

My container of weights kept the tulle still as I used the edge of my mat for a straightedge. This worked really well for this tulle which was folded in half.

The net that was the underneath layer was slightly stiffer which was good as it supported the softer top layer of tulle. I was able to fold it as I usually do and cut it with the rotary cutter.

Making sure I label all the pieces as I go so the right piece of net ends up on the matching leotard!

All the pieces of net and tulle ready.

The leotard material was actually a good match for the purple tulle above but has come out more blue than purple in the photos! Here I'm marking the line for the back waist. The line dips slightly, it's not straight across as you would think.You might notice the crotch is not stitched up which is because I decided to stitch the net and tulle on before I stitched the crotch closed and added the elastic to the leg-holes.

This is just a closer view showing how I marked the mid-point with a pin so I could accurately mark the lines on either side evenly.

For the rest you are going to have to use your imagination as to the end result! There was a short time frame - and I completely forgot to take a photo before I delivered the tutus  😒

I am hoping that I will get a photo at some stage. If and when I do I'll update this post.

The important things are the tutus fit the dancers well and they looked good onstage. The dancers were happy with them as was the dance teacher.

UPDATE 17/10/2017

I've received a photo of the girls in their costumes so here it is.

Brady Dyer Photography

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Wedding attendant dresses

This project harks back to 2015 when I was asked by a teacher at the dance studio if I would be able to make her dress for a wedding that she was Best Woman at. Yes, that's right best woman to the groom  😁  I agreed . . .   and then, as happens sometimes, one dress became four dresses! How so? Well, the three bridesmaids were having trouble finding anyone to make their dresses. There was one thing to consider in that only the best woman lived in Wellington. Where were the bridesmaids living? One in Auckland, one in Christchurch and, wait for it, . . . one in London, England!

Hmmmm. This needed a little thought! Since I had been asked well ahead of time once I got my head around a few logistics I felt it would be o.k. to go ahead. The best woman and two of the bridesmaids were apparently similar sizes which would make things easier. Also the dress pattern was the same for the four of them.

Here is the pattern below, View C with a sash tied at the back. A link to the updated version is here

I checked on Pattern Review to see if this pattern had been reviewed and it had. Reading the reviews was helpful as there were a few things I could watch out for when fitting the toile.

First up I measured the best woman. I then tinkered with my measurement chart in Excel to highlight the measurements that were needed and put an X in the boxes that weren't necessary. I developed my chart from a combination of a couple of charts, one being a standard measurement chart the other a specific tutu measurement chart. Since I make all sorts of things it is handy to have all the different measurement possibilities on my chart.

Once the tinkering was done I sent the chart by email to the Christchurch and London girls along with a set of instructions in how to measure, with some diagrams as well for good measure. The Auckland girl was down for a weekend so I was able to measure her in person. When a couple of weeks had gone by and I hadn't received a return email from London I emailed again, this time remembering to mark it high priority. Just as well as my first email had gone into cyberspace!

While the emails were winging their way about I got on with the toile of the dress for Miss A, Best Woman. Here it is below, and the fit was pretty good! From that I was able to make the necessary adjustments for the other three girls, once I had all the measurements in hand.

Then came one of the fun parts. The toile for London was sent by "tracked and signed for" courier, as was the Christchurch one. The cost of these was covered by the bride. Miss A was traveling to Auckland so was able to take that one up and bring it back with her. Again I sent instructions, and asked the girls to take photos for me when they fit the dresses. I was glad I had as it made a big difference being able to see the dresses on their bodies.

Close-up of neckline

The two that had been sent by courier were returned pretty promptly and in the case of the London one within about three weeks. The fit of them all was pretty good, a bit on the large size so needed taking in, but better than the girls needing to figure out how much to add in!

All that done it was time to move on with the actual dresses. These were of . . . chiffon! and lined of course. I do not know what it is about chiffon and I, it seems to have a dangerous attraction to me!

The best woman's dress was grey with a lavender sash, the bridesmaids were lavender with a grey sash. One thing I hadn't made before was a lined sleeveless dress with an invisible zip. I did have a lesson with Andy G to go over it as I learn best by watching and doing. For good measure I found this video online which I found really helpful as I was able to watch it several times and pause it when needed while I was actually sewing the first one. I also did a test run with some of the scraps . . . better to stuff that up than mangle the dresses!

I took a lot of photos whilst making these dresses, and they are some of the "lost lot"  😒  I had posted some on Instagram and found them on my phone so have a few. Below is Miss As' dress on Hetty before the final fitting for the hem.

I was able to get Miss A's dress sorted and finished without too much stress. I had been given to understand the bridesmaids would all be in Wellington around a week before the wedding, which was on 28 December. In actual fact the earliest they were all able to be available was 26th December! So that afternoon I did the first actual dress fitting. Below is the photo of the girls after I've done a bit of pinning. They still needed a fair bit of work! The little white tags have their initials on to make it easier to tell the dresses apart, especially Misses V & R.

L > R: Miss V, Miss R, Mrs M

The next day, around 9;00 pm or so in the evening, I was able to do the 2nd and final fitting for the hems! There had been a pre-wedding rehearsal and dinner, plus I hadn't got as much as I wanted to done - I needed to grab a few hours sleep after all!

I think from when I did the first fitting to dress handover was about 46hrs and we were down to the wire!  😅  The finishing takes time, under-stitching facings, hand stitching the shoulder seams of the linings closed, and the lining to the zip, handmade eyes for the hook on the back of the dress. But they did get done! Below is one of the finished bridesmaid dresses complete with sash.

I hope to receive some photos from the wedding at some stage. For now these will need to suffice. I learned so much from this project, not just sewing technicalities either!

One thing I know for sure - if ever asked to do anything like these again I would ask more questions and only agree if the wedding attendants were all in the city and available for fittings at least a week before the wedding! One lives and one learns  😎