Mad Men Challenge 2: Part 3: Working it

Well, hello.

A working girl’s day never seems to end, not for Megan, not for me.

Where did I put it? Oh here. No of COURSE I'm efficient, Sir.

My colleague and inspiration, Megan.

We work in the same office and wear the same uniform (several colour ranges to choose from, though – very liberal). Thing is, they deduct the cost from our salary, so I made my own instead. STICK IT TO THE MAN.

I covered the draping of this make here and the construction here as my tale is too long for one post – why not pop over?

This is me hard at work in the office (click first image for carousel and captions):


This is me hard at work sewing my uniform (again, click first image for carousel and captions):


Thank goodness I’m behind a desk, so the boss can’t see I haven’t finished the skirt (=started on it yet)! My plan is to sew a Hollyburn skirt (my red one here) in the same mustard fabric and wear as faux dress, or separately, as it might get a LITTLE too mustardy… especially as it doesn’t even come with a lovely hot dog.

Here’s a GREAT trick: I cut the sleeves on the bias for extra movement so I can reach lever arch files on the top shelf and just for general movement. Turned out SUPER! But dang – I forgot to remove some ease and lose some pouffy-ness. Next time.

After all that work AND I got also all the filing done, it’s drink o’clock, don’t you agree?

Wine while waiting for the cocktail getting mixed

Wine while waiting for the cocktail getting mixed

Mingling the night away

Mingling the night away

(OMG did I see Megan disappear somewhere with… DON?!)

Thank you SO SO much, Julia Bobbin, for hosting this cracking challenge. When Harry is old enough to go to school, why don’t you come and work with Megan and me?


Mad Men Challenge 2 – part 2: Construction

Moving on from the oh-so-much-FUN draping and drafting the pattern (read the full story here), next up is the construction. Oh, first up: choosing fabric…

After making the toile, ironing out any mis-matches, I went onto cutting the fabric. Fabric… I so wanted nice fabric, as I’ve been trying to up my game recently. I had either stretch woven fabric or double-knit in mind, but couldn’t for the life of me find any, especially in lots of plain colours. So I went to Simply Fabrics in Brixton and later to my local West-African shop on Rye Lane, Peckham, which are both brimful with a rainbow of poly-blends (£1.50/metre). It’s cheap by price tag, cheap by touch, but what can a hue-hungry girl do?

In Brixton I found a mustard tone, and decided that would be my main colour no matter what. Then paralysis set in. I must have stared motion-less for half an hour at all the rolls. WHY is it so hard to just pick three colours? I did settle for a stone grey and a greyish pink in the end, only because by then the shop keeper had asked 187 times if I needed any help and I was worried he’d call the Social Services (it only just dawned on me that I could have replied yes to his question).

At home, the motion-less stare continued, not helped by the trip to the Rye Lane shop with another bag full of more colours, as the grey and pink (for the neckline) made my face look like a dirty blotch-fest.

Must have gone through a hundred colour combinations -  these didn't cut the mustard

Must have gone through a hundred colour combinations – some of the ones that didn’t cut the mustard.

Nothing like a deadline though to get you moving. In the end I went for an off-white, the stone grey AND A DARK GREY I HAD IN MY STASH ALL ALONG. Now we can start.

Click the first image to start the carousel and see the full captions:

In words:

Let’s face it, the polyblend is just not nice to work with. At all. At aallll. It can’t take the iron heat well at all, and no steam allowed or it all goes ripply-gooey. I LOVE the pressing required when sewing, so that’s a real downer. It’s so hard to get anything crisp, boo. Little ripples is seen here and there near the seams, which steam would normally have taken care of.

Super-proud of my pinning bits of fabric to each pattern piece to avoid stupid mistakes when cutting the fabric. Fifteen pattern pieces in all, see. I stay-stitched (from edge to centre, turn, repeat) top and bottom of every single fabric piece (21 of them – woah). The toile I made was so out of whack in the end it was like liquid, especially the neckline pieces, so I better had. It so helped!

As it turns out, the neckline was still flapping about like a good’un, even with the stay-stitch. So annoyed, as I could have avoided that by increasing the curve (I think). Putting the facing piece made it a LITTLE bit better, but my chest seems hollow above the bust and more care is needed for the future in this area.

In all the excitement, I never really stopped and thought of seam finishing. I just constructed along having a whale of a time, and just pinked away for speed. I don’t have an overlocker, but could have used a zig-zag, then trimmed the surplus seam allowance. I do think that could have stretched the edge though, which would not keep it crisp. So I just pinked the bejesus out of everything – it just feels sooo nice. I pressed all seams away from the white fabric to avoid them shine through.

Another thing I skipped all together was lining. I normally line with a nice-to-the-skin cotton, but I felt too lazy (I just re-typed that five times before deciding to tell you the real reason why I didn’t).

It all came together like a dream. I had a few places where the panels didn’t quite line up easily and perfectly, but we’re talking a millimetre or two. Even the invisible zip went in OK, lining up the different panels reasonably well. I ad-hoced a zip seam binding. Simple enough with bias tape, but it was a little tricky to keep it all straight. I am happy with the end result, as the binding gives the seam nice strength and support, I just need to stitch it on better, s’all.

I was hoping to line up the sleeve strips with the waist strips, and yep they do.

I had added 3cm hem allowance, but 2.7 of them must have gone fishing because it felt very short. So a simple narrow hem had to do the job. Love making them!

Woah, how long is this post?! Coming up: The Finale.

Mad Men Challenge 2 – part 1: Draping

So Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men Challenge 2 is the first project for me and my dress form Dollface. So exciting!

I’ve been draping on the stand instead of using and fitting a commercial pattern, and boy has it been liberating! The pattern stage has been like going to work as a ballerina instead of going to work ploughing an acrid plot of land the size of China with only an elderly donkey to help.

My inspiration choice had to be a design which made me need to chop up and manipulate the pattern. So far my makes have been mainly fitting a pattern, then straight onto construction.

So how about this little Megan number?:

Where did I put it? Oh here. No of COURSE I'm efficient, Sir.

I analysed the sections of Megan’s dress design, to work out the best way to knock-off this construction. Not too taxing.

With great gusto I gathered the Swedish tracing pattern, pins, scissors, knitting wool, ribbon, markers and Gertie’s drafting posts (Since then I’ve bought some PROPER designer tape!) and I went over to Dollface.

I tell you, I’ve had the best time ever. It was easy, fun and creative a la Kindergarten every moment of the way.

Click the first image to start the carousel and see the full captions:

In words:

I pinned bits of paper to the different sections one by one, drawing in the lines from the design lines. It’s so simple and intuitive. This paper is a good substitute for fabric: it behaves like calico, but you can see the design lines through – a real bonus.

I played around with the front bust darts, tried various positions until I settled for what I think might compliment the design the most. I NOW know that it was all too much to gather in just one dart, the angle at the bust point comes in too steep and the dreaded bullet boob was the result. I should have made a vertical dart towards the waist, that would have disappeared into the midriff section, just like the back top dart did.

Not shown in the photo carousel: I traced each pattern piece, truing up lines and curves with my French Curve and added seam allowances (1cm for the smaller pieces, 1.5cm sides and shoulders). I added 0.5cm ease in centre front (BUT FORGOT in the centre back), as unlike Dollface I sometimes need to reach things.

Oh yes, sleeves… tricky lil things, aren’t they? I followed two different tutorials showing how to draft one based on an existing bodice. This one is easy to do but gives a more basic fit. I wanted to compare, so I also followed this beauty (here, here, and here). I ran out of time but REALLY wanted to see where I ended up with following the most exciting tutorial I found (Softly spoken Sten Martin’s video), but maybe just as well I ran out of time, because the first two… please!



Both turned out with quite frankly ludicrous shapes! I treated myself to cut the second one (the one shaped like a frog jaw from underneath) in fabric and fitted on my muslin just so I could have a really good laugh/cry. It didn’t disappoint in THAT respect. I EVEN did a full bicep (a.k.a. fat arm) slash and spread alteration – why know when to stop?

Dodgy sleeves - bodice is the problem

I was convinced I had followed the tutorials right, which meant the problem was the bodice. Tricky! How am I supposed to know if the BODICE’s scye is OK – one inch more or less isn’t a big deal on the actual bodice?!

In the end I jumped off the learning curve and took a short-cut and just used my tried and true basic pattern (a 100% bastardised New Look 6808, but the armscye and sleeve has miraculously survived all attacks) to re-shape my new bodice. But who can resent 12 hours of trying instead of 10 minutes of easy solution?

Comparing with tnt pattern

I then called it a day for the pattern making stage of this project, and moved on to the construction fun.