A Silk Dominique

Ah Dominique, je t'adore.  

And there endeth the extent of my hazy recollections of A Level French.

What a truly wonderful pattern the Combinaison Dominique is.  I've had it for about six months and finally summoned the energy to tackle the French instructions the week République du Chiffon released the pattern in English.  

But, you know what, it actually wasn't that hard.  The diagrams whilst few, are very informative and as with all sewing patterns, the instructions are very repetitive so once you've worked out what "endroit contre endroit" and "surpiqûre" and "parementure" mean, you can pretty much work it out.  (Oh and I think that's "right sides together", "topstitch" and "facing" in case you were wondering.)

And there's always Google Translate ...

I've been wanting to make a jumpsuit for a while but none of the patterns I could find really appealed until I saw Isabelle's version of Dominique which is the perfect combination of structured and casual due to the pattern design, her fabulous choice of fabric and the fact she is so effortlessly cool.  

Around the same time I was also hunting for fabric for a skirt I was making my wonderful aunt for her birthday.  I don't know why but I decided on silk noil not really having a clue what it felt or looked like and thought this would work well for both projects and promptly ordered 4 yards in navy from Fabric.com.

When it arrived I loved the weight and slubby nature of the weave, and it was a gorgeous deep rich navy but the smell, well I wasn't expecting that.   And then when I washed it it faded a lot to a more french navy, didn't entirely remove the smell and it developed a more mottled appearance.  I was pretty disappointed as it wasn't what I had envisaged for the skirt at all.  

However, for the jumpsuit it turns out to be pretty perfect, it feels absolutely glorious, the mottled appearance of the fabric fits with the relaxed design and it has enough weight to hold the pleats and the shape of the bodice.   In these photos I'd been wearing this all day and it doesn't look too baggy in the rear.

Over the last few years I have become much more content with my figure.  Not that much has changed, just now I accept that this is my body and I need to look after it and appreciate it for what it does and has given me, rather than give it a hard time and worry about the bits that aren't as I would like them.  That said, my BF bottom has always been my 'asset' of choice for denigration and, despite the above declaration of recently found love for all my assets, I am still less than convinced about my rear view in a jumpsuit.  But you know I can't see it and I love the jumpsuit, so who cares ...

After spending a long time looking at the pattern measurements and measuring and re-measuring my body and asking instagram for advice on the best time to make alterations - i.e. before or after making the first muslin / toile - I made a number of alterations to the pattern which seem to be fairly standard for me.  I added: 

  • an inch to the bodice at the bottom of the yokes,

  • two and a half inches to the length of the trousers,

  • I then did a full butt adjustment adding one and a half inches to the back crotch length and one inch to increase the back hip measurement.

I was so completely pleased with myself when I tried the muslin on and aside from a few minor tweaks, it fitted really well.  I am slowly getting better at intepreting what changes I need to make to accommodate my figure.

The additional alterations I made included:

  • Adding an inch to the shoulder width - I've recently become aware of how square and broad my shoulders are.

  • Adjusted the length of the placket facing to accommodate the bodice changes I made initially

  • I also had to add some height to the pocket pieces to ensure they were caught within the waistline seam. I don't think this is an error with the pattern as it is beautifullly drafted, but can't think why my other alterations would have made them too short.

  • I then also added a further inch to the back bodice at the centre back waistline, blending it to nothing at the side seams. This probably isn't technically correct, but I only needed extra length there and the resulting fit is pretty good as it gives me more room to move and increases the blousey appearance of the bodice.

I can't tell you how much fun this was to make.  Sometimes more complex, muslin involving projects can seem like a bit of a slog to me, but I enjoyed every minute of this, even when my french failed me and I really didn't know what I was doing.  The silk is beautiful to work with and I love the details of this design, such as the way the collar pieces are curved which you think is going to make it impossible to attach to the neckline, but you work it out and the curve then gives the collar some volume and doesn't sit completely flat.  I love that attention to detail. 

I kind of mimicked the whole 80s vibe République du Chiffon had going on with their sample versions and chose embossed gold 'metal' shank buttons. I've realized that 3/8 inch buttons are my preferred for button down blouses, bodices etc. I'm not sure proportionally if they work, but I always feel half inch are too big.

I'm not sure I need another jumpsuit in my life, but I'd really like to make this again; perhaps a short version for next summer.  Or using the bodice for a pleated shirt dress might be fun.

I have at least five other RduC patterns and this is one of the more challenging ones, so now I know I can make sense of 'les etapes de montage', I really should get on with the others.

Have you tried any of République du Chiffon's patterns?  And isn't that just the perfect name for a sewing related company?!

See you soon x

I hate bias binding!

I really hate bias binding.

I hate the bought stuff, it's always so stiff and bizarrely unmanageable given its intended purpose.  And I always buy the wrong colour / size / type.

I hate making the stuff. It's so fiddly and impossible to sew or cut straight and always involves second degree burns.

I hate applying it: I hate the fact that it is really hard to get it to lay flat around a neckline. In fact it pretty much never does. I hate that invariably because top stitching is preferable at the last step, one ends up with bits that don't get caught by the stitching and then you have to either hand stitch it (if like me you can't face unpicking the damn thing) or bodge it by unpicking that bit and sewing it again. I don't hate, but I don't love the row of stitching it leaves on the right side of a garment, when what you'd really like is a clean finish.  See also second degree burns above.

I know there are a million tutorials out there for how to make and apply perfect bias binding. I've read most of them. Doesn't change the fact it is still a pig to work with. Which is probably why there are a million tutorials. 

I would rather set in a sleeve than have to deal with a bias bound armhole.  I'd rather deal with a flappy facing or line the whole damn thing than summon up the patience to perform a bias bound neckline.  

So whenever I'm working on a pattern that requires it, my heart sinks and I brace myself for a couple of evenings of burnt fingers, swearing and being wholly dissatisfied with the end result. Which probably explains why I make so few woven tops.

I can count on one finger the projects where I'm happy with the binding - my Republique du Chiffon / Robert Kaufman Lucie Dress.  But this is tainted by the fact I really want to lengthen the straps a little to make it fit me better which would be simple given the piping/ yoke situation, (i.e. I can just recut the small yoke pieces and replace them), but I cannot face having to remake all that bias and do it all again. 

I'm also not the biggest fan of facings.

I think it might be time to invent a new method of finishing edges.  

Anyone with me?

Disclaimer: I appreciate the majority of these pet hates are due to operator error (OE), but oh my god it's frustrating.

Sewing by numbers

People often kindly remark 'how creative' when I mention that I made what I'm wearing myself.  I feel a bit uncomfortable about this.  I consider myself a moderately creative person and there are some immensely creative people in the sewing world, but when I've simply found a pattern, put it with some fabric I like and followed some instructions, it feels more like the sewing equivalent of painting by numbers than a truly imaginative creative process. 

See what I've done with the pose here?

These trousers embody that sentiment.  Whilst I'll admit that having a vision of an item of clothing or an outfit and being able to make it from scratch does fall into the bracket of creative endeavours, these trousers, in fact this whole outfit, are pure ready-to-wear rip off.

Image from  The Daily Look   

Image from The Daily Look  

I'm not sure how I stumbled across this (duh, Pinterest), but I saw the above picture and completely fell in love with everything about the outfit: The loose silhouette, the colour palette, the baggy pants with statement florals, the mix of florals and stripes, the layering.  Everything (well except the slightly trashy shoes). 

So after not being able to get it out of my head for a few days I started summoning supplies to see if I could emulate it and this is what I came up with.

I really like these trousers; they are comfortable, the fabric is the right amount of floral without being twee or overpowering (I'm looking at you neon neoprene party dress) and I like the super high waist, the pleats and (mostly) how they fit.  I added an inch and half to the crotch depth and probably could have done with less. (Note for next time as I'd love to make a cropped pair in the summer.)  And added three inches to the length (of the version with cuffs - but didn't cuff them). Other than that no pattern alterations, although I did consider adding welt pockets to the back, but as I've never done them before and I had no excess fabric, I didn't want to risk a bodge job.  So welt pockets saved for another day. 

The tee was also made by me to replicate this look and gets worn all the time.  It's a lovely lightweight cotton knit using Grainline's Scout Tee - which I've adapted before (here) but never made straight out of the packet and I love it.  The neckline, fit across the shoulders and loose style are perfect and so comfortable for everyday wear.  I love the idea of layering it over a shirt, although it looks a bit odd without the jacket it has to be said.

Whilst I was hoping with the layering I could wear the trousers this winter, they are totally impractical for my day-to-day life: they need to be worn with heels, they're not very warm and I trip over them a lot.  Perfect for marching 15 blocks through the snow pushing a double stroller ...  

So; impractical, sewn by numbers and a total rip off of someone else's idea. Just like most of the stuff on the high street. Oh well, at least they're better made, I don't have sweatshops on my conscience and they fit me. 

Outfit details.  

Tee: grey stripe fine cotton knit from Mood using Grainline Studio's Scout Tee pattern.

Jacket: I was going to make one using Republique du Chiffon's Bernadette pattern, but I already have one white jacket in my closet, I don't really need another, so I ditched that idea.  This is from Zara, more than a few years ago.

Shirt: Pale denim also from Zara a few years back, (without being a total sycophant, I'd use Grainline's Archer if I was going to go all out and make the whole outfit).

Trousers: Pattern is Vogue 8836 and the fabric is a lovely drapey rayon challis from Harts Fabric. (I haven't sewn with rayon challis before and now I get why everyone raves about it.  But I'm confused as it's not something I've come across in the UK - is it known by another name?  Viscose??)

Shoes: Ridiculously high stack heels from Hobbs in the UK. 

See you soon x