LEARN // Shirtdress-Making with Fashion Makerspace

 

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Hello hello! It seems that every time I start a blog post I seem to be apologising for an absence… things have been slightly crazy in this neck of the woods – I had my wisdom teeth removed, the family has been in a frenzy over my sister’s upcoming nuptials and work was a beast – in other words, LIFE has been happening as per usual. Some really exciting stuff is in the works though! I’m currently putting the finishing touches (which means hand-stitching an enormous circle skirt *cries*) on my evening gown for my sister’s wedding and I’m JUST beginning work on my own wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses *squee*! Since I’ve obviously got wedding on the brain (and on my instagram), I’ve been toying with the idea of a series following the progress of my handmade wedding (#Stitch&GetHitched maybe?) – how ’bout it folks! Would that be something you’d be interested in? Drop me a comment / message and let me know!

Okay okay, enough of my babbling – we all know you’re really here for the sewing stuff. Way back in March this year, I reviewed Fashion Makerspace’s basic pattern making class and mentioned that I had signed on for the intermediate series of classes focussed on the drafting and sewing of a shirtdress. This is the result – a labour of love, this baby is double layered shirtdress with a fancy 2 piece collar and tower sleeve plackets that has quickly become a staple in my wardrobe. It’s perfect for those “dressy-casual” days where you have to look presentable but don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard – usually church or casual Fridays at work – and the best part? You can put in any amount of ease that you like whilst drafting which means this beauty is BUFFET-OPTIMISED. Oh yes, I could eat a cow in this thing and still look respectable. That, my friends, is the mark of a good dress.

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Like the basics course, this intermediate course lasted 10 weeks of 2.5 hours each. I took the classes with 2 other ladies and had both Dan Lin and Hailey teaching us at the same time. As before, Dan Lin taught the drafting segment and Hailey the construction portion, but both of them were well equipped to give us pointers on any parts of the course that we needed help with. I cannot stress enough how brilliant this teacher to student ratio is – essentially, this meant that even though I had a little more drafting and sewing experience than my fellow classmates, I didn’t feel hampered by the pace of the class since I could get advice from one instructor whilst the other was helping another student out! This is particularly wonderful if you have lots of random (and usually irrelevant) questions like moi (#sorrynotsorry).

What this also means, is that even though the class is pitched at an intermediate level, you could probably get by even as a confident beginner sewist with only a little drafting experience under your belt. You may have to work a little harder at the drafting stages to catch up with the basics of drafting a bodice block, but the luxury of having a small group lesson will go a long way to helping you to truly understand the drafting and construction process – as opposed to simply following instructions.

 

 

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Personally, I found the construction segment to be a lot more challenging than the drafting bit – possibly because I had never attempted shirt-making before. That being said, the ladies at FMS really do make an effort to walk you through every step of the process from the interfacing to the top stitching and they will do whatever it takes to ensure your shirtdress comes out looking like a success. Trust me on this! My chosen fabric – a Robert Kaufman Lightweight Chambray Shirting – was so sheer that I had to do a fully lined version of the shirtdress that required some serious thinking on Hailey’s part to figure out (whoops paiseh). The only boo-boo that they couldn’t undo was the exceptionally large space between the 7th and 8th buttonholes of my shirtdress – not very smart of me, I know. (Immediately after screwing up I went out and got me one of these – they are a dream to pleat with let me tell you)

In my previous review, I wrote a little about how it was a pity that the course couldn’t factor in some time for a muslin fitting. It’s understandable, of course, that a toile-fitting process just isn’t practical given the limited amount of time that the students have to draft and sew up such an involved garment. However, having garnered a little more sewing experience, I’m really starting to appreciate the importance of doing a toile to work out all your fitting issues before producing the final product – I also tend to learn a LOT about my body quirks and fitting techniques whenever I do. In this case, I was lucky and got a near perfect fit on my first try – but if you do decide to attend one of FMS’ classes (and if you have the time and sewing experience), I would highly recommend doing up a toile of your draft in your own free time before cutting into your fashion fabric. I’m sure the ladies would be more than happy to help you address any fitting issues you encounter!

 

 

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All in all, I would definitely recommend this class (like duh, given how in love I am with my new shirtdress *insert a bajillion heart eyes emoticons here*). The great part is that I now have a ready draft so that I can produce this over and over again, in various iterations – sleeveless, tunic, maxi etc etc. Just be sure to write down the drafting and construction steps after every lesson – one of my classmates did this and I wish I had had the foresight to do the same! The construction process has so many steps that I wouldn’t be able to replicate it exactly without guidance the next time around – looks like I’ll be looking to the Grainline Archer shirt or Sewaholic Granville pattern for help with that!

Tldr;

Class title: Sewing & Pattern-making INT: Work-Shirtdress  – The next round of lessons is actually slated to start in just over a week – go and check it out if you’re interested!

Class duration: 10 lessons of 2.5 hours each

Class size: I believe it varies, but for my class it was 2 instructors to 3 students.

What do I get out of it?: A ready drafted shirt-dress pattern with lots of pattern-hacking potential! We’re talking mandarin collars, sleeveless shirtdresses, blouses, maxi… AND a first-hand demonstration of all those fiddly shirt-making construction techniques (like the age-old Burrito method).

Would I recommend it?: Judging by how much I’ve been wearing my shirtdress, of course! Good things must share, you know!

Disclosure: FMS offered me a discount to try the class and if I liked it, to write a review on the course – as always, however, all the opinions expressed on this site remain 100% my own.

 

Pattern Review // Megan Nielsen Pattern’s Axel Skirt (Version 3)

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… And I’m back with Part 2 of my post on the Axel Pattern! (For Part 1 of this post relating to version 2, refer here.)

Now, remember I said yesterday that I had a severe lack of me-made workwear because everything I made was too casual? If version 2 is a reflection of my current wardrobe, version 3 is the projection of what I wish my me-made collection looked like. Daring, stylish, classic and able to be sewn in less than 2 hours. That’s right folks, va-va voom version 3 took me all of half an hour of cutting and 1.5 hours of sewing on an overlocker and a sewing machine for the twin needle top stitching – that’s a winner in my books!

… Which is not to say that I didn’t have my problems with this make. This black version you see here is actually my THIRD attempt at version 3. The first try was a brown double knit (with very little stretch) which never saw the light of day as it was unbearably tight. I believe some other testers had the same feedback and Megan has since informed us that an additional 2cm of ease has been added to the final version of the pattern.

 

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I had grand plans for my second attempt using the leftover fabric from my Lisbon cardigan – a double-sided sweater knit with about 50% stretch. The idea was to make an Axel that was completely reversible, front and back, inside and out – AND I SUCCEEDED, only to find once I tried it on that the slit was scandalously high on me (like Jessica Rabbit high) and I didn’t quite savour the thought of accidentally blinding the world with my bum crack.

For those curious on how I did it: I used flat felled seams on the side and centre seams and used black bias binding (and exact match for my underside) for the hems. I also ironed in the seam allowances of the waistband before topstitching it on – very effective on a loose weaved knit that hides your stitches completely. This article from Colette was very helpful in pointing me towards techniques I could consider! Unfortunately this reversible dream had to go in the sin bin as I couldn’t figure out how to fix the slit issue without forgoing the reversible aspect of it completely.

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Thank goodness third time’s the charm or I really would have thrown in the towel by then. Given that I’ve already given you a lengthy run down of the problems I encountered in the first 2 tries, let me give you the concise edit of what exactly I did for attempt number 3.

Fabric – Mid weight black jersey knit with 70% width wise stretch and 50% stretch along the grain. This was a much better choice than the other 2 versions – the double knit was too stiff and didn’t have enough stretch (minimum 30% recommended) and the sweater knit was too loose and had dismal recoverability.

Alterations – (1) I cut the back piece (without the slit) on fold, eliminating the seam allowance of 1.5cm. (2) I lowered the starting point of the slit by 9cm (I now realise that I could have been more daring and lowered it only by 5-7cm) and connected that point to the original hemline as shown on the pattern, resulting in a wider V-shaped slit. (3) I took 5.3cm off the bottom of the skirt to make it between knee and true midi length. (4) I narrowed the height of the waistband by half.

Fit – Most of my fit problems were alleviated by making the alterations above and taking into account the additional 2cm ease included. I’m still not quite comfortable with the length of the skirt at present so I may take a little more off the bottom in time to come!

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What I loved – How fast it easy it is, how clear the instructions are, that it’s reversible and that it’s easily customisable (with the sashes from v2 / lengthening and shortening).

All in all, I think this is a fantastic pattern and I will definitely use it again, perhaps with a higher slit this time? In the right fabric it’ll be a great workwear and casual wear staple and I can’t get over how quick and easy it is to make – perfect for a first knit / serger project! I’m already dreaming of a maxi / true midi version like this. What do you guys think of this new pattern? Do knit skirts work for you?

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Megan Nielsen’s Axel Pattern for free in exchange for helping to pattern test this pattern prior to its release. Be that as it may, my opinions, views and terrible posing above are completely my own. 

New Year, New Skills: Sewing and Pattern-making Basics at Fashion Makerspace

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Has it been 4 months since my last post?! (Bad, bad blog owner!). When I last wrote in November, I had grand plans for a Christmas outfit (didn’t happen), a New Year outfit (also, didn’t happen), a Chinese New Year outfit (miracle of miracles, this one actually materialised) and Christmas presents for family and friends (all of which, did not happen… lol). The truth is, towards the end of last year and the start of 2016, I completely lost my sew-jo. It happens to the best of us, I suppose.  At first, I was overloaded with work commitments, then I went on a couple of overseas trips and more recently, my family has had to deal with the loss of a very beloved grandfather. Though no one was pressuring me to post or sew anything, I spent the entire period being weighed down by self-imposed sewist and blogger’s guilt. That made my time away from the machine even more stressful! So this year, I’ve made a resolution to slow down, enjoy my hobbies to the fullest and not to stress out over them. If I get home late from a long day of work and cutting out pattern pieces feels like a chore – I’ll leave it off till another day. If I feel really crummy about having to set my alarm for 6 in the morning just to photograph my latest make before work – it can wait till the weekend. Hobbies are for leisure and enjoyment and I sure want to keep them that way! ^^

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That being said, I haven’t been completely out of action these last 4 months. Last year, I visited the lovely ladies from Fashion Makerspace (FMS) for the first time and spent an extensive part of our meet-up bemoaning the lack of pattern-making classes in Singapore outside of the formal design schools (who charge an arm and a leg by the way). Imagine my glee when a little while later I got an invite from FMS to try out their new Sewing and Pattern-making Basics class (!!) which was targeted at beginners. This meant that I would be drafting a full outfit from scratch based on my own measurements and then sewing it up over the course of 10 lessons – I found this astounding. As a complete beginner I had previously taken a pattern-making class (conducted in Mandarin no less… who was I kidding?!) which took me no less than 5 weeks to complete the drafting and sewing of a simple A-line skirt. That FMS’ plan was to finish a full outfit in 10 weeks seemed a little ambitious to me. I was wrong, of course; all of us in the class finished the entire syllabus within the 10 weeks with time to spare. If you’re interested to hear more about my experience with FMS, then read on below!

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I attended a total of 10 lessons (2.5 hours each) from November 2015 to January 2016 which covered the drafting of a bodice sloper, skirt sloper, reverse peter pan collared blouse and A-line skirt, as well as the construction of both the blouse and the skirt. The drafting and construction ran concurrently throughout the course – this meant that we began with the skirt sloper and the skirt draft, and then tackled the skirt construction whilst simultaneously learning to draft our bodice slopers and blouse drafts. I thought this lesson structure was really helpful – one week we were learning about drafting concepts and the next we were seeing them in action being translated from our paper drafts into 3-d garments. Nothing like seeing theory in practice to drive home a point!

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Would I recommend this class to anyone else? Definitely! I was in a class with 2-3 other ladies who had very little experience with garment sewing and they did superb. Even as a fairly confident sewist, I took away a lot of new information on things I thought I knew well – like setting in sleeves and sewing darts! All 3 of the ladies who run FMS are professionally trained and have experience working in the fashion industry which means that they have a wealth of knowledge both in pattern-making and sewing that I shamelessly took every chance to tap on (and which they were totally nice about!) >< Some of the completely random out of syllabus tips I got from them included – their favourite fabric shops, serger troubleshooting, small bust adjustments, the best places to buy certain elusive notions, feedback on one of my unrelated drafts… the list goes on! (A big thank you to  Danlin and Hailey for being so patient and tolerating my gazillion irrelevant questions!)

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My only complaint (if you can even call it one, given that it’s mostly my own fault) is that I don’t care much for the eventual blouse I ended up with. For one, I made a poor fabric choice in picking a cotton lawn that was both too lightweight to hold the weight of the collar and wrinkled like crazy (all that wrinkling you see up there was from putting on the garment sheesh). Second, the reverse peter pan collar isn’t really my style. I did have the option of leaving off the collar but I wanted to get in some practice inserting the collar and then was wayyyy too lazy to unpick it. Lastly, as the course didn’t build in time for toiles/muslins, we had very little time for fitting.  This meant that the top I ended up with is a little too tight around the armholes – which you can see from the pulling around my bust and shoulders.My draft has since been adjusted based on my feedback, so I’ll definitely give it another shot! As it is, I’ve already put my bodice block to good use in self-drafting a new dress for Chinese New Year – watch out for a post on that coming next week! As for the skirt, it’s perfect for the office (roomy enough to hide my lunch belly and tight enough to look business-formal) which makes it a winner in my books!

Tldr; 

Class title: Sewing & Pattern-making Basics: Womenswear

Class duration: 10 lessons of 2.5 hours each

Class size: I believe it varies, but for my class it was 2 instructors to 3-4 students.

What do I get out of it?: A bodice sloper, a skirt sloper, a peter pan top with keyhole neckline, an A-line skirt and patterns for both these garments made to your measurements. Oh and a skill upgrade and new friends, of course!

Would I recommend it?: But of course! I’m already in the midst of taking classes in the next instalment – the intermediate pattern-making and sewing class for a shirt dress. I learnt a ton and I’m sure you would too!

 

Disclosure: FMS offered me a discount to try the class and if I liked it, to write a review on the course – as always, however, all the opinions expressed on this site remain 100% my own.