Monday, July 29, 2013

Aussie Curves: Homemade

Showing off my new do again (I know I need to colour the roots - shut up):

Here's my pretty dress what I made all by myself!

Have been anticipating this final week of Aussie Curves for a long time. I knew I wanted to make something FABERLOUS (correct spelling) for this final week as I did once actually know how to sew quite well. I studied fashion design originally before switching to journalism and completed a Cert IV in Clothing Production where we did pattern making and the like. 

Unfortunately my skills have been left to fester for a while and mainly only manifest themselves when a hem needs to be taken up (which is pretty often cos I'm a short-arse and all fat-bitch shops seem to think all fat bitches are giants). 

In spite of this I knew I wanted to sharpen my rusty skills for this challenge and make use of a favourite bit of fabric that's been decorating the foot of my bed for the past couple of years. So this is how the above dress started it's life: 

This is a gorgeous hand-appliqued cotton wall-hanging that I bought from the night markets in Luang Prabang when backpacking through Laos just over four years ago.

The fun shapes and bright colours have been calling to me from the foot of bed though: "Wear meeeee ......weeeaaaar meeeee Eeeeevieeee". So it was time to answer the call and make it into a frock.

I was to do this with the help of my trusty antique Singer sewing machine which I think was amongst one of the first electrified versions as it's quite similar to the old cast iron treadle machines and it weighs a friggin TON. It was originally built into a table/cabinet but we didn't have the storage for the table so Mum took it apart for me and had it serviced by a Singer machine repair place. 

Ever since then it's been my favourite machine. It's so sturdy and reliable, it can sew through any fabric from the lightest chiffon to the heaviest denim or leather as well as stretch and jersey without pulling and distorting the fabric or jamming. It only does straight stitch though - nothing else, so I borrow Mum's newer machine to do zig-zag to finish the seams as I don't have an overlocker. 

My first step was to make the pattern. I only bothered to do this for the top half as I knew I wanted to do a gathered style skirt which probably wouldn't require a perfect pattern. When I studied clothing production at TAFE nearly ten years ago, we all made custom pattern-blocks for each other based off the measurements of a work-partner in the class. You got to keep the patterns that were made for you as custom-fitted pattern blocks that you could then base all future patterns on.

Being out of practice though and because I only had a teeny amount of the special appliqued wall-hanging fabric and didn't want to ruin it, I decided to make a toile first.

A toile is like a practice version that you make out of cheap calico first to test the pattern - bridal couturiers often do this when making bespoke wedding dresses.

Lucky I did this because the pattern did fuck up. It was only made by another TAFE student afterall so it couldn't be expected to be perfect. It was way too long in the armhole/bust area which I found was easily fixed by pinning out a few cms of fabric. I then adjusted the paper pattern to reflect where the pins were in the toile.

Note that while for the front part of the toile I made it in a standard non-stretch calico (similar to the cotton woven fabric of the wallhanging) I opted for a stretch jersey on the back half to make it more stretchy and comfy. Hence I also adjusted the pattern to make the back more fitted or it might turn out a bit saggy.

Next step was sewing time!

For the shape of the bottom, skirt-half of the dress I traced and copied the style of the ASOS peace sign smock dress that I'm wearing here. It fit quite nicely and I liked how the hem curved down at the back. Because of my prominent bum I often find it a bit of a problem with straight-hemmed skirts that climb up a lot shorter at the back so this style was perfect for me.

As a kind of cheat to get the gathered waistline to sit properly and be stretchy and comfortable, I took note from my friend, designer Gisela Ramirez who very kindly made me this dress for my birthday this year:

She had used a wide piece of elastic as a waistband inside the dress and it meant that the stretch fabric on the top half of the dress sat properly with the non-stretch fabric of the skirt. Additionally it just meant that it fit properly and was really comfy. So I copied her technique with my skirt, except that I just gathered it rather than doing the box-pleated style as I didn't have a huge amount of fabric.

Obviously the narrow piece of wall-hanging fabric was nowhere near enough to make up a whole dress (to swathe my bod anyway - maybe there'd be enough for a toddler, or Victoria Beckham) so I just used it as a centre panel on the top and bottom pieces of the front of the dress. I filled in the side front panels and the back skirt piece with a black woven cotton fabric and then as I mentioned earlier, I used the stretch jersey at the top-back for comfort.

So TA-DAH! Behold the final result! I used jersey binding at the armholes and neckline. I did a pretty neat job of it too but I just realised it looks a bit messy in the photos. Please note - that's just because I didn't realise that the neckline was turned under in the photos - it's not my shoddy sewing I swear!

I'm still adjusting to my new hair. I'm loving the style though. It's just those roots - blurgh! Must fix them ASAP.

How great is that fabric though? I love the colourful appliqued animal shapes.

Here's the backview - with the stretch-jersey fabric at the top and the black woven cotton at the bottom and the side-panels:

I've kept the outfit simple to show off the dress. I'm just wearing it with my uniform of black leggings as well as red jelly flats from Rubi Shoes

Obviously this outfit is a bit more summery but I've already worn it twice in winter - once with a black long sleeve top underneath and once with a yellow blazer over the top, so it can definitely be worn year-round.

So yes, all in all am rather smug with my sewing efforts and feel motivated to do it again more often! I hope you all like it too!

Have been anticipating this final week of Aussie Curves for a long time. I'm proud to say I've been taking part in these challenges since the very first challenge and while I've missed a few along the way, I've participated in most of them and I've made it to the end of the first year. I've really enjoyed taking part in them as they're such a great motivator, without which I might never bloody post anything, so thank you to Danimezza the founder of the Aussie Curves group, it's been a great year and I'm looking forward to it's continuation in future!


  1. It looks amazing! I've always wanted to learn dressmaking, so I'm well jealous of your MAD SKILLZ! :D (Also: miss you! x)

  2. You too cool. This is such a cute dress made better by the fact that your fabric is so special! Love the finished product! Make more things so as I can see them!

  3. Oh and this is one fat bitch who IS a giant and appreciated the extra material fat stores use to fit my long fabulous fat legs!

  4. This is awesome! It looks absolutely amazing!

  5. This is so freaking cool, I love your tutorial and your sewing machine is awesome!
    It turned out AWESOME

  6. Applause!!! What a great dress - fantastic fabric. I'm so paranoid about cutting up my nice fabric that I always toile >.<

  7. Wow, your dress is amazing! You talented wee thing, you!

  8. Love this post. The dress is very cute

  9. So impressed with your sewing skills, this dress is fantastic and looks so great on you!

  10. I used to have a sewing machine like that but that was mmm quite a number of years ago. Amazing that you have one in working order! And you are right, they weigh a ton.

  11. I am in awe of your sewing talent! The dress is fabulous! I'm also very impressed you use that old machine.


  12. I love the haircolor, cut, and exposed roots! Adds dimension ;) What a talent to be able to sew- oh I wish, I wish!

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