Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Sewing: A Jacket and Another Dress

I've got good news and less good news and I'm going to take the initiative to lead with the less good cuz why not get it over with? I remade the Hepworth dress, that which served as the backbone of the Appalachian milkmaid bridesmaid dress (made for my sister last year). I did it as I said I would, in contrasting fabric skirt/bodice, the bodice being stretch Japanese dot cotton and the skirt a great rayon denim in dark blue.

Let me say, my workmanship is stellar. Honestly, I could wear this thing inside out and it would look good. I used beautiful fabric, the properties of which I predicted fairly well. I took my time (well, the fucking pattern gave me a run for my money and it took 10 hours over 2 days). Point is, I had nowhere I had to be so it was, ahem, relaxing. When something didn't work, I ripped it back and fixed it (Lord, the tedium). There are about 8000 steps to making this thing and it doesn't even have sleeves?!

In the end, I put it on my dress form to photo for y'all and I was SO underwhelmed, I couldn't stand it. Admittedly, it looks like shit on the dress form (the trajectory of my bust is not adequately duplicated, by it, to show off the perfectly fitted princess-seamed bodice and you know I'm not taking a picture of myself this week). But seriously, it's the most boring dress on the planet. Last time I made this (over 63 muslins and a version for my sister), I thought it was the materials and colour schemes that brought out its conservative side. But honestly, it looks almost as boring in my sassy black dot / dark denim combo and I don't know how it's possible. There's just something weak about the Hepworth. Don't misunderstand - it's well-drafted; it's a good pattern if you like "suburban traditional". For me, alas, there's no edge.

One other thing: The fit is good. I mean, I could certainly continue to refine it if I made it again (though why would I?). I managed to produce a woven dress (yeah, with 10 per cent stretch woven fabric, but still) that fits pretty darned well. Isn't that my holy grail (sort of)? But I've just spent 4 paragraphs talking about something I can't be bothered to show you. So let's call this the not so good news.

The good news is that I also made the StyleArc Harper Jacket for the third time and I've really got the hang of it this time. Literally. (I gave away the other two versions to people who liked them as I wasn't convinced about a) the fit on me or b) the finishing techniques.)

One jacket 3 ways!

Open - which is actually very pretty and drapey on a real person. It doesn't grip on me like it does on the fabric dress form. Trust me, it's flattering.

Half-closed - I've opted to use the interior closure to show you this version (but you could do it either way)
Fully closed - this version has an interior eye (attached to the seam allowance on the right shoulder) and an exterior one (that pokes through the seam allowance on the left side). Both hooks are on the edges of the tails of the cardigan jacket.

 In case you want to see how the interior closure works, here you go:

The eye is attached to the seam allowance and the hook reaches up to hang from it. If you finish the seams, you can stitch the hooks directly onto the seam allowances at the bodice hem (where it meets the centre front) and you won't need to bother with the fabric patch (designed to rest over the top of the finished area to conceal the stitched closure). At least I think that's what it's supposed to do.
Note that I can't confirm this is how it's supposed to work. I find StyleArc instructions practically useless and their photos inevitably confuse me but I think this is what they were getting at.

The back:

A lot of peeps have indicated that they don't like the jacket closed for themselves but I find it very flattering and practical. I made this for Irish weather (which is apparently 16 degrees and partially cloudy, pretty well constantly).

Unfortunately you can't see how pretty the fabric is in real life. I got it for 10 bucks a metre (half price) at FabricLand. (It was one of the pieces I had to buy twice because I confused it for another material I needed 0.5 a metre of and, if I hadn't bought more, I'd only have had half a metre of it to work with). It's got great drape but it's really structured. And the colour is rich. This garment looks expensive, which is just how I like 'em.

On the topic of fit. I've written about this jacket on a number of occasions. Here you can see how it was originally way too long and big, but on the second go round (scroll down to the stripey version contained within the same post), I was starting to get a sense of the right proportions for me. The Harper fits VERY large, out of the envelope. You should size down and then be prepared to make it smaller still if you're slim in the arms or narrow in the shoulders.

My latest version is more compact still. I made the arms and shoulders a little bit narrower, shortened the height of the armscye and finished all the seams (turned them under), which shortened the overall length by another half inch. The pattern instructs that you leave all of the seams unfinished. Look, I like a raw seam as much as the next girl, but the outcome of NO finishing is that it looks, well, unfinished, like something you made using a beginner pattern. If you're new to sewing (though not too new) - this is a great pattern as written. Otherwise, it's easy enough to turn under a seam. I agree that the seams are long (and it's hard to keep the topstitching entirely consistent) but it really clarifies what finishing actually does for a garment. There's not much to look at on this jacket so every detail counts.

At any rate, while this isn't my most gorgeous stitching (it's adequate, but not perfect), the fit and fabric are great, which is all anyone's going to care about. I'm glad I gave this one another go.

Thoughts or feelings? Have you made either of these garments? Do you like the Harper?


  1. Good job on finishing these two garments in such a short amount of time! I don't find the Hepworth dress boring, at least in the pattern you used last time. A v-neck dress that flatters a larger bust but obscures enough cleavage to make it office appropriate? A swingy bottom half that suggests but doesn't pinpoint one's lower curves? I'd love a dress like that. I'd prefer it with sleeves and pockets, but everything else looks perfect for my life. Okay, maybe my life IS boring. I still have to wear clothes for it.

    I'd love to see the Hepworth dress on you in a more outre color, maybe acid green. Or at least give it another chance in the brightest red you can handle. I suggest pockets. Once you put your keys and phone in a dress's pockets, you'll be halfway in love with it already. And don't say a phone is too heavy for the fabric. That's a technical challenge it shouldn't take you more than 279 hours to conquer. In other words, about the average amount of time you spend on any sewing project, hehe.

    The jacket is gorgeous. I can imagine exactly how flattering it is on a narrow framed, busty woman with small shoulders and a relatively short torso.

    1. Thanks! You know, some people really enjoy the Hepworth. Let's call it a mismatch for me. And you are making it sound really good. Hmmm... I may have to give it one more go. And I'm sure I can sort out the phone-in-pocket sitch in 250 hours TOPS! Ha! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Love the jacket. Gorgeous! I'm a bit "meh" about the Hepworth dress. It's never really grabbed me. Time to move on????

    1. The thing is, I may be "forced" to try to alter the Hepworth once more - if only because it's a woven pattern that fits in the bust (a miracle). Am I into it at this point? Nope.

  3. Love your jacket and it should serve you well for our weather! We're mostly in single layers the last few weeks, but an extra layer is always good to have on hand. It's a warm sunny almost 20 degree day and supposed to improve this week. I hope you enjoy Kerry - it's a beautiful place, and very popular with tourists and Irish holidaymakers too.

    1. Oh thanks for the feedback - I've been looking at the radar like a crazy person and I see that the weather's potentially going to be quite a bit warmer and sunnier than I planned for?! I sense I may have to buy a couple of T shirts because I've brought 1 and worn it 3 times and I'm about to lose my mind with the saminess of my suitcase wardrobe.

  4. Your best option would be to pick something up in Dublin. I haven't much experience of clothes shopping in Kerry, but there will be less options (there are a couple of big towns but the nearest city is Cork). This week is expected to be warm - (although anything above 20 is enough reason to hit the beach here).:)

  5. Quick edit - It looks like Kerry will be a bit cooler /cloudier than here (I'm in the southeast) and Dublin. Although mostly dry so it should be nice for touring the ring of Kerry.

  6. Well done. Definitely going to add this pattern making idea to my collection.

  7. Fab sewing patterns here! I’m so inspired to do this. I especially love the casual dresses. Stunning.